West Riding Chartist delegate meeting, 1839

This page carries a detailed account of one local delegate meeting in the West Riding as the Chartist movement waited to hear how MPs would respond to the first petition.

With the National Convention busying itself for the presentation of the first Charter to Parliament and deliberating on its next moves over the early summer of 1839, the Chartist movement in the country continued to meet and carry on the day-to-day business of building support for the cause.

This debate and the organisational work that followed would eventually boil over following the rejection of the petition into rioting, the arrest of much of the Chartist leadership and, in south Wales if not more widely, the possibility of armed rebellion.

In the month between the presentation of the petition on 14 June and its dismissal by MPs on 12 July, meetings all over the country received reports from the Convention and made their plans.

Delegates to the West Riding Chartist delegate conference, 1839.

One report from the Northern Star (15 June 1839) shows the level of co-ordination and awareness of the Convention’s deliberations, at least in the West Riding of Yorkshire, a Chartist stronghold and at this point the home to the Star. The full report is set out below.

The paper’s account of a meeting of 25 delegates from Radical Associations across the region shows delegates to have been aware of the Convention’s proposal to send “missionaries” out to spread its message, and to have engaged fully with that process.

There was also strong support for “exclusive dealing” – doing business only with shopkeepers who demonstrated their support for Chartism.

Interestingly, there is no mention in the report of any consideration being given to some of the more contentious “ulterior measures” then being considered by the Chartist movement as a whole, both inside and outside the convention. It is hard to believe that neither the proposal for a “sacred month” (or general strike) or of the use of armed force as a “defensive” measure was discussed. It is known that all over the country Chartist localities were acquiring pikes and other arms in large numbers, and the authorities were similarly manoeuvring troops to deal with armed conflict. Most likely, such matters were discussed – and probably at length – at the West Riding meeting, but not placed on public record.

Finally, the report introduces, for the first time, a young Jonathan Bairstow. Then only 20 years old, according to a later account by R G Gammage, and the representative of Queens Head at the delegate meeting.

Bairstow would go on to be a highly regarded Chartist lecturer, and was among those arrested and tried along with Feargus O’Connor in 1843 before disappearing from the movement.

What follows provides an interesting insight into at least some Chartist concerns in June 1839.

West-Riding Chartist Delegate Meeting

A meeting of Delegates from the Radical Associations in the West-Riding of the County of York, was held on Monday last, June 10th, 1839, at the house of Mr William Wass, grocer, in Heckmondwike, Mr Thomas Vevers, of Huddersfield, in the chair, the following are the names of the Delegates and the places where they represented:-
Dewsbury – Mr Sam. Healey
Orsett and Gawthorpe – Mr John Harris
Bradford – Mr John Arran
Great Horton – Mr Wm. Burrows
Queenshead – Mr J Bairstow
Bowling Lane – Mr Henry Hodgson
Leeds West End NU – Mr Jas. Illingworth
Leeds Central NU – Mr Henry Hancock
Leeds East End NU – Mr Wm Rider
Barnsley – Mr John Widdop
Hanging Heaton – Mr Ed. Newsome
Batley – Mr Thos. Mann
Spinkwell – Mr Francis Law
Heckmondwike – Mr Abel Goodall
Huddersfield – Mr Jas. Crossland
Liversedge – Mr M Matthews
Henley – Mr Ed. Haigh
Birstal – Mr Wm. Fox
Kirkheaton – Mr Jas. Dronsfield
Halifax – Mr Robert Tetley
Lepton – Mr Thos. Vevers
Chickenley – Mr T. Broadhead
Wakefield – Mr J. Appleyard
Mirfield – Mr B. Pearson
Almondbury – Mr A Donkersley

The following sums for the National Rent were received:-
Mag Dale, near Henley, per E. Haigh £0 9s 0d
Wakefield, per J Appleyard £2 0s 0d
Mr Bussey’s Balance £3 3s 6d
Mr L Pitkeithley’s Balance £3 3s 4d

The following resolutions were agreed upon and passed:-

Moved by Mr Robert Tetley, seconded by Mr John Arran,- “That Mr Samuel Healey, of Dewsbury, be appointed to act as permanent secretary for the Radicals of the West-Riding.” – Passed unanimously.

Moved by Mr Joseph Appleyard, seconded by Mr Jonathan Bairstow – “That it is the opinion of this meeting that, according to the resolution of Dr Fletcher in the National Convention, that the general expenses of the missionaries, during the recess, should be defrayed out of the Conventional funds.” – Passed.

Moved by Mr Robert Tetley, seconded by Mr John Arran – “That Mr Peter Bussey be allowed his salary, as a member of the National Convention, during his mission through Scotland, subject to the consideration of the Convention at its meeting, whether it should be reimbursed or not.” – Passed.

Moved by Mr James Illingworth, seconded by Mr Jonathan Bairstow – “That a number of missionaries be appointed to agitate various parts in the West-Riding of Yorkshire, for the purpose of spreading the principles of Radicalism, and making known the objects of the People’s Charter, and the benefits that are likely to be derived therefrom, and that they (the missionaries) be paid out of the Radicals’ West-Riding Fund.” – Passed.

Moved by Mr John Haigh, seconded by Mr Samuel Healey – “That two be the number of missionaries that are to be appointed for agitation.” – Passed.

Mr William Ashton, of Barnsley, and Mr Geo. White, of Leeds, were the pesons appointed for the Radical mission; but the Secretary having received a letter from Mr White, in which he states that he cannot accept the office on account of his employment, which prevents him from doing so, in consequence of such circumstances, it is expected that Mr Jonathan Bairstow, of Bradford, (who was put in nomination for such office at the delegate meeting,) will have to proceed with Mr Ashton on the mission.

Moved by Mr Abel Goodall, seconded by Mr James Crossland – “That 6d per day be given to each of the missionaries for expenses and wages during the days they are agitating, and that they continue to be the missionaries for one month.” Passed.

Moved by Mr Joseph Illingworth, seconded by Mr John Widdop – “That the missionaries commence their labours on Monday next, June 17th, and that they be requested to report the progress of their missionary labours every week in the Northern Star, and the places also they intend to visit the week following; and that they also be requested to recommend to all readers of the Northern Star that they may meet with in their mission, to send them off to places where they are not so much known as soon as they have done with them.” – Passed unanimously.

Moved by Mr Samuel Healey, seconded by Mr John Arran – “That the following places, with the villages in their route, be visited by the missionaries during the month: – Doncaster, Pontefract, Knottingley, Wakefield, Harrogate, Knaresborough, Wetherby, Aberford, Tadcaster, and Boroughbridge.” Passed.

A letter from Earl Stanhope was here read, announcing that his Lordship had presented the address to the Queen, agreed at Peep Green on Whit-Tuesday last. The letter was received with much pleasure, and the following resolution was then brought forward: – Moved by Mr John Arran, seconded by Mr Abraham Dunkerley – “That the thanks of this meeting be given to the Right Honourable Earl Stanhope for his unwearied exertions in behalf of the people, and for his kindness in presenting the above mentioned address to the Queen.” Passed unanimously.

Moved by Mr Abel Goodall, seconded by Mr Henry Hodgson – “That as many publicans have from threats of the authorities refused the use of their rooms to the Chartists, it is the duty of every delegate at this meeting to impress on the members of the association to which he belongs to abstain from all such houses, and also from all shopkeepers who are not favourable to, and support the principles of the People’s Charter, leaving such persons to seek their future support from the said authorities and men of their cast.” Passed unanimously.

A vote of thanks was also given to the Hanging Heaton Radical Association for the suggestion of the above resolution.
Moved by Mr John Arran, seconded by Mr Jonathan Bairstow –“That this meeting requests that Mr Hill (editor of the Northern Star) will render to the Radicals of Leeds all the assistance which he possibly can at their public meetings.” – Passed unanimously.
Moved by Mr Samuel Healey, seconded by Mr William Fox –“That the best thanks fo this meeting are due to Mr and Mrs Wass for the kind and comfortable manner in which they have accommodated the delegates this day, and also for their willingness and kindness in offering to accommodate them in future.” Passed unanimously amid much applause.

Moved by Mr Abraham Dunkersley, seconded by Mr Henry Hancock – “That a meeting of delegates of the various Radical Associations in the West Riding of Yorkshire, be held at this house on Monday, July _, 1839, and that every delegate bring with him proper credentials from the Association which he is to represent.” Passed unanimously.

After the disposal of some other business of minor importance, a vote of thanks was given to the Chairman, and the meeting separated.

Samuel Healey, Secretary.