'Working people met in their thousands
to swear devotion to the common cause.'
RADICALS HAD LONG had cause to complain that the progress of reform in n was nnnnnnnot proceeding fast enough. Lord Ashley's Factory Act of 1833 had limited the hours which children could be made to work and made it illegal to employ them under the age of nine in most textile mills, while the Mines and Collieries Act of 1842 had gone some way towards dealing with the exploitation of women and children in coal mines. But the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 had done little to ameliorate the miseries of the destitute who, by the abolition of outdoor relief, were obliged to seek shelter in workhouses as squalid as the one described in Charles Dickens Oliver Twist. There was also widespread dissatisfaction with the Reform Act of 1832 which, while welcomed by the propertied middle class, was a profound disappointment to radicals and the militant working class. There was dissatisfaction also with the failure of attempts to develop trade unionism; and this general discontent ensured that unrest had continued throughout the 1830s and well into the 1840s and helped to increase support for the movement for political reform known as Chartism.
The movement took its name from a People's Charter drawn up by a group of radicals who demanded of the Government universal male suffrage, annual parliaments, equal electoral districts, voting by ballot, an end to property qualifications for Members of Parliament, and the introduction of salaries for them. Support for these demands was loudly voiced at meetings held both day and night all over the country. One