Popular virtue

Continuity and change in Radical moral politics, 1820– 70

Author: Tom Scriven

This book is the first in-depth study of the changing nature of moral politics within working-class Radicalism between 1820 and 1870. It highlights how Radicalism's attitudes to morality and everyday life shifted from a festive and libertarian culture to a more austere and ascetic politics. This has been done through study of the lives, activism and intellectual influences of a number of key leaders of working-class Radicalism. This culture emphasized moral improvement, temperance and frugality after the 1840s. Although the London Working Men's Association (LWMA) has often been regarded as elitist and reluctant to adopt a leadership position within organised Chartism, several key members were instrumental in forming the organisational basis for Chartism outside of London. These tours illustrate how not only Vincent but many Chartist activists achieved success by adopting the festive and populist ethos evident amongst London Radicals. In reality the advocacy of teetotalism and education were part of a popular ethical turn within the movement, and O'Connor's attempts to present the danger of a split movement was 'artificial'. The principles and strategies that William Lovett and Henry Vincent developed over the course of 1840 became accepted as a core aspect of Chartist political culture. By 1842, Ethical Radicalism became hegemonic within the movement after 1842 largely because of the constitutional, peaceful, and moral politics of electoral interventions. Working-class moral politics was a product of working- class Radicalism in the first half of the century rather than a post- Chartist imposition.

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