May 8th William Lovett (Birth)










Born on this day in Newlyn, William Lovett (1800 – 1877) trained as a fishermens’ rope maker but seeing the potential of metal chains and expecting the loss of work in rope, he trained as a carpenter. In 1821, having finished his seven year apprenticeship, he travelled to London, finding work as a cabinetmaker.

Lovett attended evening classes at the London Mechanics’ Institute where he was introduced to the ideas of Robert Owen.  In 1831, his name was drawn for service in the London Militia (a force charged with keeping public order and joining the army in times of war.  A pacifist, Lovett refused and all his possessions were siezed as punishment.  His response was to form the Anti-Militia Association whose slogan was ‘No Vote, No Musket’ and his campaign resulted in the abandonment of the drawing of the names of those expected to serve and brought him to public attention.

Lovett believed that Parliamentary reform was essential in order to improve the lives of working people and he joined the  ‘National Union of the Working Classes’ which campaigned for annual parliamentary elections, universal male suffrage, secret ballots and the removal of the oppressive property qualifications for candidates.  In June 1836, Lovett and a few other radicals formed the London Working Men’s Association which drew up a charter of demands. 

In 1838, Lovett became the leader of this group which became known as ‘The Chartists’.

In 1839, Lovett was arrested for seditious libel after claiming in a speech in  Birmingham that the Metropolitan police was a ‘bloodthirsty and unconstitutional force’ and, upon conviction was sentenced to a year in Warwick Gaol. During this time, Lovett and a fellow campaigner, John Collins, wrote their book ‘Chartism, a New Organisation of the People’ which brought them to public attention.
Twelve months in Warwick Gaol severely damaged Lovett's health and he was forced to spend time recuperating in Cornwall before returning to London where he opened a bookshop. 

Under constant opposition from some other Chartists, Lovett decided to retire from politics and he devoted the rest of his life to developing working class education, forming ‘The National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People’.   Financed by subscriptions, the new association provided lending libraries and employed part time teachers and Lovett wrote school textbooks and taught at evening classes.  

His bookshop failed to make any money and he died in poverty on  August 8th, 1877.







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