So what has chartism actually done? Let’s begin by looking at full suffrage. Although it originally began as for males only, suffrage, or the right to vote, now includes females as well.
Before the charter (see last month’s post) got through, only a small percentage of the population could actually vote, but 100% of the population had to pay taxes. To quote the American revolutionists, they had “taxation without the right to representation”. They thought that if they had to pay taxes, you should have a say in who represented them in parliament. Imagine being told you had to pay taxes and could do nothing to change that.
The government didn’t agree with this. Several years earlier, The Reign Terror had occurred in France where “commoners” were in charge and France went in to disarray. The politicians feared that a similar thing would happen in England if “commoners” had the right to vote.
The right of everyone to vote has changed everything.* People can have a say in who they think will best represent them and their needs in parliaments. Without the right for everyone to vote, politicians would be elected by a small number of people who could influence the politician to do things that would only benefit them and no one else in the electorate.
* In countries where people have the right to vote.