French Revolution or Peasants' Revolt? Petitioners and Rebels in England from the Blanketeers to the Chartists

Poole, Robert
April 2009
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Apr2009, Vol. 74 Issue 1, p6
Academic Journal
Coming from Manchester in 1817, the march of the 'Blanketeers' has generally been taken to be something to do with the industrial revolution: at least an eruption of distress, at most an attempted revolution. This article returns to the sources to show how both the march and the attempted risings that followed were related to a coherent national strategy of petitioning and remonstration for parliamentary reform that began with the London Hampden Club and ended with the Pentridge rebels. Gradualism had not yet been invented. Petitioning, remonstration, and rebellion were all constitutionalist strategies, related to episodes from the English past such as the 'peasants' revolt' of 1381 and the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. The appeal was as much to the throne as to parliament. Much about the agitation of 1816-17 prefigures the Chartist experience: the constitutional forms of petitioning and remonstrating, the shift of the initiative from London to the provinces, the dilemma over 'ulterior measures', and the appeal over the head of parliament to the crown. The paper identifies a mixed tradition of popular monarchism and 'Robin Hood republicanism' running from the early modern period and the Jacobites to the Chartists and beyond.


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