NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
An Address to Leading Reformers
In 1841 the following Address was sent by William Lovett, John Collins, Henry Hetherington, John Cleave, George Rogers, and Henry Mitchel to the country's leading radicals proposing the formation of a National Association of the United Kingdom along the lines set out in Lovett and Collins "little work" entitled "Chartism - A New Organisation of the People". The recipients were asked in a cover letter to sign the Address prior to its publication.
To the Political and Social Reformers of the United Kingdom — Brethren, in addressing you as fellow labourers in the great cause of human liberty, we would wish to rivet this important truth on your mind:
You must become your own social and political regenerators, or you will never enjoy freedom. For true liberty cannot be conferred by acts of parliament or decrees of princes, but must spring up from the knowledge, morality, and public virtue of our population , Be assured, fellow-countrymen, that those who have hitherto been permitted to rule the destinies of nations, who in their madness or folly have cursed the land with wars, cruelty, oppression, and crime, will ever maintain their power and ascendancy while they have ignorant and demoralized slaves to approve of and execute their mandates. Though revolution were to follow revolution, and changes were to be continually effected in our constitution, laws, and government, unless the social and political superstructure were based upon the intelligence and morality of the people, they would only have exchanged despotism for despotism, and one set of oppressors for another.
If, therefore, you would escape your present social and political bondage, and benefit your race, you must bestir yourselves, and make every sacrifice to build up the sacred temple of your own liberties, or by your neglect and apathy bequeath to your offspring an increase of degradation and wrong. You cannot suppose that those who revel in the spoils of labour, and live by the wretchedness they have created, will be instrumental in promoting the political and social improvement of the people. They may talk of liberty while they are forging your fetters; may profess sympathy while they are adding insult to wrong ; and may talk of instructing you while they are devising the most efficient means for moulding you into passive slaves ; but they will contemptuously spurn every proposal for establishing equality of political rights and social obligations—the enduring basis of liberty, prosperity, and happiness.
Let every man among you, then, who is desirous of seeing the bounties of heaven made subservient to human enjoyment, who is desirous of seeing our land blessed with peace and human brotherhood, and the intellectual and moral capabilities man is endowed with springing forth in all their usefulness and excellence, anxiously enquire how he can best aid the holy cause of man's social regeneration and political freedom.
Tracing most of our social grievances to class legislation, we have proposed a political reform upon the principles of the People's Charter ; we have made it the polar-star of our agitation, and have resolved by all just and peaceful means to cause it to become the law of our country. Believing it to have truth for its basis, and the happiness of all for its end, we conceive that it needs not the violence of passion, the bitterness of party spirit, nor the arms of aggressive warfare for its support; its principles need only to be unfolded to be appreciated, and being appreciated by the majority, will be established in peace.
But while we would implore you to direct your undivided attention to the attainment of that just political measure, we would urge you to make your agitation in favour of it more efficient and productive of social benefit than it has been hitherto. We have wasted glorious means of usefulness in foolish displays and gaudy trappings, seeking to captivate the sense rather than inform the mind, and aping the proceedings of a tinselled and corrupt aristocracy, rather than aspiring to the mental and moral dignity of a pure democracy.
Our public meetings have on too many occasions been arenas of passionate invective, party spirit, and personal idolatry, rather than public assemblies for calmly deliberating and freely discussing national or local grievances; or as schools for the advancement of our glorious cause, by the dissemination of facts and inculcation of principles ; as it is by such teachings that our population will be prepared to use wisely the political power they are now seeking to obtain.
We are, therefore, desirous of seeing these means applied to a higher and nobler purpose, that of developing the mental and moral energies of our population, to the great end of their political freedom and social happiness. For as no earthly power can prevent an intelligent people from obtaining their rights, nor all the appliances of corruption permanently enslave them, we are anxious, above all things, in seeing them instructed in their political rights and social duties.
Although the attainment of political power is essential to enable them to improve to any extent their physical condition, yet we believe that a vast increase of social enjoyment might be effected (despite a corrupt and degrading government), if sobriety and moral culture were more generally diffused. And, therefore, we are desirous of seeing our political teachers disseminating unpalatable truths against drunkenness and immorality of every description, and, by precept and example, endeavouring to rescue our brethren from the thraldom of their own vices, and from servilely imitating the corruptions and vices of those above them.
As also the children of to-day will, in a few years, be called upon to exercise the rights and duties of men, it becomes our paramount duty to qualify them for their future station, and not permit them to be moulded to the several purposes of priestcraft, sectarianism, and charitymongers; but to devise, maintain, and execute a wise and just system of education, calculated to develop all the powers and energies God has given them, to the end that they may enjoy their own existence, and extend the greatest amount of happiness to all mankind.
With no disposition to oppose the associations already formed, but with an anxious desire to see all those interested in the social and political improvement of their fellow-men united in one general body to effect it, we propose that such an association be established, and that the following be its objects :-
National Association or the United Kingdom, for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People.
1. To establish in one general body persons of all creeds, classes, and opinions, who are desirous to promote the political and social improvement of the people.
2. To create and extend an enlightened public opinion in favour of the People's Charter, and by every just and peaceful means secure its enactment ; so that the industrious classes may be placed in possession of the franchise, the most important step to all political and social reformation.
3. To appoint as many missionaries as may be deemed necessary to visit the different districts of the kingdom, for the purpose of explaining the views of the association, for promoting its efficient organisation, for lecturing on its different objects, and otherwise seeing that the intentions of the general body are carried into effect in the several localities, according to the instructions they may receive from the general Board.
4. To establish circulating libraries, from a hundred to two hundred volumes each, containing the most useful works on politics, morals, the sciences, history, and such instructing and entertaining works as may be generally approved of. Such libraries to vary as much as possible from each other, and be sent in rotation from one town or village in the district to another, and to be lent freely to the members.
5. To print from time to time such tracts and pamphlets as the Association may consider necessary for promoting its objects ; and, when its organisation is complete, to publish a monthly or quarterly national periodical.
6. To erect Public Halls or Schools for the People throughout the kingdom, upon the most approved principles, and in such districts as may be necessary. Such halls to be used during the day as infant, preparatory, and high schools, in which the children shall be educated on the most approved plans the Association can devise, embracing physical, mental, moral, and political instruction ; and used of an evening by adults for public lectures on physical, moral, and political science ; for readings, discussions, musical entertainments, dancing and such other healthful and rational recreations as may serve to instruct and cheer the industrious classes after their hours of toil, and prevent the formation of vicious and intoxicating habits. Such halls to have two commodious play-grounds, and, where practicable, a pleasure-garden attached to each ; apartments for the teachers, rooms for hot and cold baths, for a small museum, a laboratory and general workshop where the members and their children may be taught experiments in science, as well as the first principles of the most useful trades.
7. To establish in such towns or districts as may be found necessary normal or teachers' schools for the purpose of instructing school-masters and mistresses in the most approved systems of physical, mental, moral, and political training.
8. To establish on the most approved system such agricultural and industrial schools as may be required for the education and support of the orphan children of the Association, and for instructing them in some useful trade or occupation.
9. To offer premiums, whenever it may be considered advisable, for the best essays on the instruction of children and adults, for the best description of school-books, or for any other object promotive of the social and political welfare of the people.
10. To devise from time to time the best means by which the members, in their several localities, may collect subscriptions and donations in aid of the above objects, may manage the superintendence of the halls and schools of their respective districts, may have due control over all the affairs of the Association, and share in its advantages, without incurring personal risk or violating the laws of the country.
Submitting those objects for your serious consideration, and resolving to make every possible effort to establish such an association,
We remain your devoted servants in the cause of human liberty and social happiness,
(from William Lovett, John Collins, Henry Hetherington, John Cleave, George Rogers, and Henry Mitchel)