“Unity” conference 1842

This page reports on a conference called to unite middle class supporters of “complete suffrage” with the working class Chartists, but which ended in a final split between the two. The table at the end of the report lists 398 delegates to the conference.

Throughout 1842, after the rejection by Parliament of the second People’s Charter petition, moves were made to try to unite the middle class reformers of Joseph Sturge’s Council of the Complete Suffrage Union and the more working class National Charter Association in a single body.

In April of that year a conference organised in Birmingham made considerable headway in bringing the two organisations together around a common programme. Despite the doubts of some CSU delegates about the value of annual Parliaments, the ballot and the payment of MPs, substantial agreement was reached on all substantive questions of aims and policy – until the question of the name of the new organisation arose.

In his The Decline of the Chartist Movement, first published in 1916, Preston William Slosson writes:

“[William] Lovett and the other Chartists insisted that, having adopted all the points of the Charter, the conference should adopt the name as well; the Complete Suffragists wished some other name to be chosen, regarding the old term as too much associated with the physical-force methods of the past. The delegates could reach no agreement upon the point, and wisely determined to let the question remain unsettled until December. Some practical rules and methods of action were provisionally agreed upon, the conference adjourned, and the Chartists for the first and last time entered upon a campaign with considerable middle-class support.”

A second conference to try to determine a common programme was called to take place in the saloon of the Mechanics Institution, New Hall Street, Birmingham from 27 to 30 December 1842. Weeks of jockeying for position now ensued, with each faction trying to send the most delegates (and with the Chartists trying to ensure that their supporters were sent as delegates of the Complete Suffrage Union’s branches so that the costs would not fall on their supporters).

Things did not start well. T.Beggs, a Nottingham delegate, presented a series of resolutions, supporting the six points of the Charter, asking that the conference support “such means only for obtaining the legislative recognition of them as are of a strictly just, peaceful, legal and constitutional character” and – the principal sticking point – take as the basis for discussion a Bill of Rights prepared by the council of the Complete Suffrage Union.

Slosson reports:

“The two measures were substantially identical, as both parties to the conference admitted, but there was an absolute deadlock over the term ‘Chartist’. Lovett, as leader of the Chartist faction at the conference, proposed in the interests of harmony that both bills be withdrawn or both be considered clause by clause. But all attempts at conciliation failed, and Lovett’s original motion carried by the decisive majority of 193 to 94.”

When it became clear that the Charter had the support of the majority of delegates, Joseph Sturge resigned from the chair and withdrew from the conference with many of his supporters to continue their discussions at Wilkins’s Temperance Coffee House. Further splits followed as the conference went on, and by its end the 300 to 400 delegates present at its opening had fallen to just 37.

From this date on Feargus O’Connor was to be the undisputed leader of the Chartist movement (as well as the proprietor of its main newspaper, the Northern Star ) for the best part of a decade, until he in turn was edged out by the more radical socialist element associated with Ernest Jones and George Julian Harney.

The names below are those listed in the Northern Star of 14 January 1843 as having been delegates at the conference. The table also records their votes on two key questions before the conference. Broadly, those supporting the amendment were Chartists, and those supporting the motion were complete suffragists.

The following footnote appears beneath the table in the original report and – to some extent – provides a key to the voting.

[Note-In the foregoing list, the Italic a means absent; and neu means neutral. The othre marks explain themselves. It is right that we should state that all the neutrals are not set forth. The marks were not entered at the time opposite the name of the delegates, by the Secretary, he only taking down the votes. The votes are rightly set forth: but seven of those represented as absent, were present, but declined to vote. From memory we have picked out seven out of the fourteen; but are not able to recognise the other seven. – Ed. N.S.]

Delegates to the “second Sturge conference”, Birmingham 1842

NameRepresenting (location)For the MotionFor the Amendment
Source: Northern Star, 14 January 1843
Wm BradieAirdriea
Joseph ForsterAlnwick1
James AtkinsonAlnwick1
James H WilsonAberdeen1
John MitchellAberdeen1
William ChiltonAberdeen1
Archibald McDonaldAberdeen1
Alfred AnthonyArnold1
William TalbertArnold1
Charles CrawfordAbroath1
Archibald PrenticeAbroatha
Abraham DuncanAbroath1
Peter HigginsAbroath1
William ThorntonAbroath1
Feargus O'ConnorAbroathdblerturn
Patrick O'HigginsAnderston1
William ParkesAnderstondblerturn
Laurence PitkethleyAnderstona
Andrew HarleyAnderstona
William CottonBarrhead1
James VickersBelper1
William BeesleyBlackburn1
Rev William HillBlackburn1
George MortimerBlackburn1
Mellin MooreBlackburn1
John VallanceBarnsley1
Frank MirfieldBarnsleya
Rev T.SpencerBath1
John HopkinsBath1
Matthew HallBromsgrove1
Henry ProsserBromsgrove1
Joseph Hume MPBrechina
Thomas KayBury1
Edward MurlissBury1
Benjamin SkidmoreBilstona
John WhiteBilston1
John SmithBradford1
Peter DriverBradford1
John ArranBradford1
Joseph HammondBradford1
Charles SturgeBridport1
Charles ClarkeBridport1
Robert CockerillBanbury1
Robert K PhilpBanbury1
Thomas HillBridgewater1
Arthur O'NeilBirminghamneu
Francis ParkesBirminghama
Feargus O'ConnorBirmingham1
George WhiteBirmingham1
John FollowsBirminghama
John HorsleyBirmingham1
G.RolfBradford (Wilts)1
C.TrumanBradford (Wilts)1
Peter SibrceBradford (Wilts)a
Joseph GardnerBradford (Wilts)1
John EyreBuckby (Long)1
Arthur AllbrightBristoldblerturn
John PalmerBristola
Felix W.SimeonBristol1
Henry OnionBristol1
Robert Henry WilliamsBristol1
John NewmanBristol1
Thomas RowlandBasford (New)1
George HarrisonBasford (New)1
Con MurrayCampsie1
Jno BlanchfieldCrawley Rowley &c1
Thomas WoodsCambridge1
Richard ThurlbornCambridge1
John WinfieldCambridge1
John HuntCambridge1
Walter ThornCarlisle1
George RichardsonCarlisle1
Rev E.S.PryceCupara
William MorganCuparneu
William BiggCupara
John E.WynnCupara
Jonathan BurridgeCrediton1
Samuel SidwellCrediton1
Edward MiallColchester1
William LovettColchester1
Rev J.AlsoppColchestera
Augustus NewtonCheltenhama
William HollisCheltenham1
William MilsonCheltenham1
Richard WorkmanChalford1
Thomas TaylorChalford1
Arthur AlbrightCeres1
Richard DellCeres1
Peter HoeyCoventry1
John StarkieCoventrya
James AdamsDunshalt1
Andrew FlemingDunfermline1
James InglisDunfermlinea
John WestDerby1
Herbert SpencerDerby1
Samuel PendleDerby1
William DavidsonDundee1
Charles BuckleyDoncastera
Thomas WrightDoncaster1
Robert ClarkeDoncastera
Arthur AlbrightDoncasterdblerturn
Charles ChalkerDartmoutha
Hugh HuttonDartmoutha
John HumphreyDumfries and Maxwelltown
-- PattersonDumfries and Maxwelltowna
George WestleyDevizes1
Charles WatsonDevizes1
William AkermanDevizes1
John ThomasonDalkeitha
Rev Dr RitchieEdinburgh1
Robert LoweryEdinburgh1
John DunlopEdinburgh1
Henry RankinEdinburgh1
Joseph SturgeEdinburgh1
Thomas S.Duncombe MPEdinburgha
John BrownEast Wemysa
Charles ThorpeElderslie1
William CooperForfar1
Julius PalmerFalmoutha
William DaviesFalmoutha
Josiah PumphreyFalmouth1
Henry MorganFalmoutha
George AndersonGlasgowa
Thomas AncottGlasgow
James MoirGlasgow1
James AdamsGlasgow1
Samuel KiddGlasgow1
John ColquhounGlasgow1
Rev Robert BlairGalashielsa
Charles ForthGreenwich1
Robert SomersGatehouseneu
George RobertsGreenock1
William Watkins WynnHammersmith1
James McVittyHebden Bridge1
Moses SimpsonHanley1
James FrenchHanley1
William WebsterHull1
Edward Preston MeadHull1
Daniel MoloneyHull1
William PadgetHull1
Archibald WalkerHamilton1
Thomas DaviesHawick1
Edward TaylorHalifax1
Benjamin RushtonHalifax1
James ShawHuddersfield1
Thomas VeversHuddersfield1
William CunninghamHuddersfield1
Edward ClaytonHuddersfield1
Henry VincentIpswicha
William FraserIpswich1
William GarredIpswich1
Rev P.MursellIpswicha
Rev William RobinsonKetteringneu
Edward JenkinsonKetteringa
William CottonKilmarnockdblerturn
Joseph CobleyKirkaldy1
Dr GloverKirkaldyneu
William StutelyKendal1
William HarrisonKendala
Joseph PerryKendal1
Joseph GardnerKendaldblerturn
Joseph FirthKeighley1
John FieldKing's Lynna
F.EvansKing's Lynna
Joseph CorbettKing's Lynna
James FowellKing's Lynna
Colonel ThompsonKirrimuira
John MaynardLondon - Southwark1
John RoseLondon - Southwark1
John KelseyLondon - Southwark1
John FussellLondon - Southwark1
John George DronLambeth1
John SewellLambeth1
Henry RossLambeth1
James B.BrownLambeth1
John CampbellFinsbury1
Henry HetheringtonFinsbury1
John Humphries ParryMary-le-bone1
Thomas LucasMary-le-bone1
Robert BuchananMary-le-bone1
Thomas M.WheelerMary-le-bone1
Reverend Dr WadeTower Hamlets1
W.RobsonTower Hamlets1
P.McGrathTower Hamlets1
G.WilsonTower Hamlets1
James ChristopherWestminster1
Ruffey RidleyWestminster1
William ClarkeWestminster1
Edward MantzCity of London1
Charles BolwellCity of London1
Joseph SturmeyLye Waste1
Bernard McCartneyLiverpool1
William JonesLiverpool1
Thomas Smith EsqLiverpool1
Henry JonesLiverpool1
Samuel CowanLiverpool1
Thomas FraserLeeds1
William BrookeLeeds1
Joshua HobsonLeeds1
William BarronLeeds1
Josiah PumphreyLesliedblerturn
Francis DickinsonLeslie1
Robert PickenLeith1
John SkevingtonLoughborough1
Thomas CooperLeicester1
Jonathan R.H.BairstowLeicester1
James DuffyLeicester1
Robert JacksonLeicester1
William Smith LyndonMansfield1
Reverend William HillMansfielddblerturn
William TullisMarkincha
John ChildsMarkincha
Reverend George CheatleMarkincha
Richard JenkinsonMarkinch1
Richard WhitemanMarket Harborough1
Benjamin CarterMarket Harborough1
John OwenMelkshama
Joseph A.LanderMelksham1
William MillsMerthyr Tydvil1
B.HabardMerthyr Tydvil1
-- EvansMerioneth1
Daniel O'ConnellMaryhilla
Joseph GardnerMaryhilldblerturn
James LeachManchester1
Christopher DoyleManchester1
William DixonManchester1
Jeremiah LaneManchester1
Thomas RailtonManchester1
Samuel FoxNewburgh1
Feargus O'ConnorNewcastle-upon-Tynedblerturn
William HopkinsNewcastle-upon-Tynea
Thomas PierceNewport, Isle of Wight1
Samuel BeanNottingham1
Thomas BeggsNottingham1
Thomas MorganNewtown (Montgomeryshire)a
John LaneNewtown (Montgomeryshire)a
Hugh HuttonNorthwicha
Peter SibreeNorthwicha
Jacob DixonNorthwicha
James GreenNorthwich1
Richard CollinsNewark1
James SaundersNewark1
-- ClarkeNorthamptona
-- ThomeNorthamptona
-- BarkerNorthamptona
Henry ChappellOldham1
Francis LordOldham1
James GreavesOldham1
John WestOldhamdblerturn
John CrowderOldham1
Charles McEwanPollockshaws1
Patrick BrewsterPaisley1
Robert CochranePaisley1
Joseph CorbettPaisleydblerturn
William MattinsonPreston1
Richard MarsdenPreston1
Henry SansumRenfrewa
Patrick BrewsterRenfrewdblerturn
William ParkesRedditch1
Charles McEwanRutherglendblerturn
James TaylorRochdale1
Thomas LivseyRochdalea
James MillsRoyton1
Thomas LeesRoyton1
Lawrence HeyworthReading1
George GoodrickReading1
James VinesReading1
Henry JamesReadinga
James SaundersRadford1
John WilmotRothall1
Reverend T.SwanSudbury1
John WaltersSudburya
George LambertSudbury1
Robert WrightSudbury1
Samuel PaulStroud1
Reverend William StokesStewarton1
Feargus O'ConnorStrathavondblerturn
George WhiteStrathavondblerturn
John ChanceStourbridge1
Edward BerleySelby1
Thomas ClarkeStockport1
John AtkinsonStockport1
Reverend H SollyStirling1
William LeaslieStirling1
John ChildsStirlingdblerturn
Colonel ThompsonStirlingdblerturn
F.C.Cooper EsqSouthampton1
John J.EcklessSouthamptona
David PottsSouth-Shields1
George AshtonSouth-Shieldsa
James HendersonSaltcoats1
John Patterson ReidSaltcoats1
Joseph SturgeSunderlanddblerturn
Thomas ThompsonSunderland1
James WilliamsSunderlandneu
William OliverSutton-in-Ashfield1
William ParkerSutton-in-Ashfield1
Walter InglisStonebere1
Robert McFarlaneSalforda
John MillerSalforda
John MillingtonSalforda
George SmithSalforda
William HackettSmethwick1
Mark GilbertSmethwick1
Rebard AbbottSheffielda
Samel ParkesSheffield1
George J HarneySheffield1
William BeesleySheffielddblerturn
James WattsTrowbridge1
Christopher DickinsonTonbridgea
James FieldenTodmordena
Henry ShephardTodmorden1
William BramanTauntona
William HarrisonTauntondblerturn
Con MurrayVale of Levendblerturn
John PowellWest Bromwich1
George WilkesWest Bromwich1
John HumberWolverhampton1
John WillcoxWolverhampton1
Benjamin DanksWednesdbury1
William ThomasonWednesdbury1
Charles FrenchWarwick1
James GreenWarwick1
Henry FrenchWarwicka
Joseph ShephardWarwick1
John SextyWinchcomb1
John CrowWalsalla
Andrew AitkenWalsalla
John GriffithWalsall1
John MasonWalsall1
William GentWellingboro'1
James RobinsonWellingboro'1
Robert HardyWorcester1
Henry StoneWorcester1
Charles SharpeWorcestera
John HawkinsWorcester1
James HardingWorcestera
-- GriffithsWorcestera
Joseph F.TaylorWoodbridge1
Rev. H.TaylorWoodbridgea
William TaylorWestburya
John CollinsWestbury1
James Bronterre O'BrienWooton-under-Edgedblerturn
James ButlerWooton-under-Edgedblerturn
Joseph EamesWest Kilbride
John GibbonsWest Kilbridea1
Joshua HobsonWooldaledblerturn
Rev W.HillWooldaledblerturn
[Note-In the foregoing list, the Italic a means absent; and neu means neutral. The other marks explain themselves. It is right that we should state that all the neutrals are not set forth. The marks were not entered at the time opposite the name of the delegates, by the Secretary, he only taking down the votes. The votes are rightly set forth: but seven of those represented as absent, were present, but declined to vote. From memory we have picked out seven out of the fourteen; but are not able to recognise the other seven. - Ed. N.S.]