This site uses cookies, your continued use implies you agree with our cookie policy.

Stop 2 - Friars House

Take me here now

About Whigs, Tories and Chartists

The spectrum of politics in 1839

The Government met the Chartist challenge with force

In John Frost's day there were two main parties

The Tories represented the interests of conservative landowners and long-established elites who had dominated politics for over 100 years. They were also known for supporting the Church of England and disliking the idea of allowing Roman Catholics or  Nonconformists (Methodists, Quakers, Baptists, etc.) to go to university or become Members of Parliament

The Whigs were more progressive, believing that the political system needed to change (a bit) to represent changes in British society such as the growth of cities and the middle classes. In the 1820s and 30s the Whigs had been successful in abolishing slavery, removing many of the restrictions on Roman Catholics, and reforming Parliament.

But many people in Britain, particularly among the working classes, felt that neither party had their interests at heart. Inspired by the revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789) they imagined a more democratic and equal way of sharing power that did not link votes to wealth and property ownership. 

In 1838 these radical thinkers created the People's Charter, which demanded voting rights for all adult males and the possibility for ordinary men to be elected to Parliament. The Chartists found immediate and huge support in the industrial areas of Britain.

The rise of Chartism was a serious challenge to the existing political parties and social elites for power. They had reason to be afraid - the Americans and the French had both shown that when people are denied rights by their rulers, they sometimes go ahead and sieze those rights anyway. 

More Pages...