Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2013
Chartists uprising

Chartists uprising

November 4, 1839: John Frost leads 1,000-5,000 fellow Chartist sympathizers to Newport, Monmouthshire. Newport was a coal mining center in South Wales and by 1830 it was the country’s leading coal port, even larger than Cardiff. After 1830, with migrants coming from England looking for work, the town began to change. Welsh was no longer the most common language and many considered the area to be “un-Welsh.” The St. George Society went so far as to eventually consider Newport to be philosophically part of England. It remains geographically in Wales.

Chartism was a movement for social and political reforms in the United Kingdom. The following six goals were stipulated by the Chartists. Suffrage for all men 21 and over; equal-sized voting districts; secret ballots; the end of property requirements for Parliamentarians; pay for Members of Parliament; and annual elections. It was one of the earliest working class labor movements in the world. Some groups were “physical” while others were called a “moral force” based on their willingness to endorse violent protest.

The Chartism movement lasted from 1838-1848. On June 9, 1838 William Lovett met with friends in Covent Garden, London and first listed the aims of the group. The men met several times and the movement grew. The petition was finally placed before the House of Commons where it was not only rejected on July 12, 1839, but they also convicted Henry Vincent, one of the Chartist leaders, of illegal assembly. By fall there were reports of Chartists having been taken prisoner. They were said to be held at Newport’s Westgate Hotel.

Thousands of men, led by John Frost, marched to free their comrades. They were slowed by heavy rains and as they neared the city, many men were less enthusiastic. They were more concerned with their jobs than with great causes. The mayor of Newport was overwhelmed by the size of the uprising and deputized 500 Special Constables. Troops were also called in. Both sides were armed and shots were fired from both forces. The outnumbered soldiers were better armed. Between 10 and 24 rioters were killed and ≈ 50 wounded. Another 200 were arrested. Frost was found guilty of high treason. Many of the protestors were given transportation to Melbourne. This was the last large scale armed rebellion on mainland Britain.

“The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left – the King of England, the King of Spades, The King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds.” – King Farouk of Egypt

“What is a rebel? A man who says no.” – Albert Camus

“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made.” – Oscar Wilde

“When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.” – C. P. Snow

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Newport has been a port city since the Normans built a castle there during medieval times. The area was given borough status around 1120. It was granted a charter in 1314. It finally made city status in 2002. Today, there are about 145,000 people living in the city itself which covers about 70 square miles and about 310,000 in the metropolitan area. The city is not particularly diverse with 90% of the population Caucasian. The next highest percentage is 5.4% Asians followed by 1.7% Black. The city, together with Cardiff, forms a combined metropolitan area that is home to slightly more than one million people. After this uprising, power shifted over to Cardiff which became the largest coal exporting port by the 1850s. The city’s motto is “Terra Marique” which means “By land and sea” – an appropriate watchword for a port town.

Also on this day: Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.
Nighty Night – In 1847, chloroform’s anesthetic properties were discovered.

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