After the working class began to understand that a monopoly on power ‘allowed the wealthy to continue their oppression of the poor’ (August, 2007: pg.75) this resulted in the working class rioting and protesting for political reform. It all began in 1830 when governments ‘excluded workers from suffrage, failed to address social grievances, crushed union organizations, instituted the new police to discipline working-class communities, and introduced the punitive Poor Law.’ (August, 2007: pg.75) The Poor Law was set by the government to help look after the lower classes sick and elderly and thus they were sent to workhouses. However, the working class became angry by how they were being treated and began to revolt. Working men, such as Emanuel Lovekin, ‘fashioned for themselves new institutions which taught both literacy and governace, they transformed themselves into a social and political force to be reckoned with’ (Griffin, 2014: pg.185)
Emanuel Lovekin’s experience with politics and protest can be described as ‘’a spell with the Chartists that brought him perilously close to the wrong side of the law’ (Griffin, 2007: pg.166) He became secretary of a local branch of Chartists, where his revolting lead to him standing trial after the 1842 Pottery riots. The riots began by the colliers who were furious by the pay reduction that was imposed on them and they soon began to protest. Like many colliery workers, Emanuel actively took part. He stated that he had meetings ‘almost every night, and now and then very large gatherings.’ He describes one riot to be ‘very large one in South Staffordshire, as the potteries, and there was one with us in Shropshire’ however fortunately for Emanuel he described it as ‘not a very serious matter.’ He furthered this by stating that ‘Still it resulted in getting a few imprisoned’ where Emanuel also had to stand for trial but was given another chance.
After Emanuel’s involvement with the Chartists, he expressed how he was very close to ending up in prison by stating ‘Probably learnt a lesson from my after life, for I was more careful in what society I meet up in’. Although he does not say he regrets ever joining the Chartist movement, perhaps he felt that he rushed into rebelling without thinking of any consequences that may happen. Although he was not in any serious trouble after being caught, he decided to move away from political activity and decided to roam about looking for other work to do. His experience with the Chartists and protesting suggests to me that the government were not taking great care of the working class people. Emanuel perhaps felt that he had to protest in order for his voice to be heard. However after nearly ending up in very serious trouble, Emanuel decided to move away from protesting and decided to find another job to help support him.
Although politics was not the main point of his memoir, he did actively take part when it came to defending his rights as a working class person by attending various meetings and becoming the local secretary. He wanted to help revolt so that his voice could speak for thousands of other working class people who were affected by the government’s cuts and laws. He perhaps felt proud to stand alongside other working class men. This attitude is reflected throughout his autobiography as he never gave up working hard to provide for his family and he also never gave up believing in his faith. Standing with the chartists illustrated to me that he wanted change, not only for himself but for other working class people like him also.
August, Andrew. The British Working Class, 1832-1940. Harlow, England: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.
Griffin, Emma. Liberty’s Dawn. Hampshire: Yale University Press, 2014. Print.
Lovekin, Emanuel. ‘Some notes of my life’, MS, pp.32 (c.7,000 words). Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Useful Toil. Autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1974), pp.290-6.