Lovett, William

Political radical and Chartist, born on 8 May 1800 in Newlyn, near Penzance. His Yorkshire-born father, a captain of a small coasting vessel, was drowned before his birth, and he was brought up by his mother as a strict Methodist. He was for a time a BC local preacher. With a limited schooling, he was apprenticed to his uncle as a rope maker and then a great uncle accepted him on his fishing boat. In 1821 he moved to London, finding employment as a carpenter and cabinet maker. Here he came under Owenite influence, ceased to be a Methodist, although retaining its ethical values, and became a freethinker, still advocating temperance. He became an Owenite co-operative and trade unionist.

In June 1836 he became secretary of the London Working Men's Association, which aimed to achieve equal political and social rights. Helped by Daniel O'Connell and a few radical MPs, the Association drew up the 'People's Charter', which was published in 1838, and Lovett became its secretary. He was a 'moral force' Chartist, believing in change by moral, and not, physical, force. After opposing a police attack on a peaceful crowd in Birmingham in 1840, he was committed to prison until July 1840, where he wrote Chartism or a New Organisation of the People (1841). He now formed an educational body, the National Association for Promoting the Political and Social Improvement of the People, in the hope that workers and their children would better themselves. This was linked to Sunday Schools and Lovett believed teaching methods should be founded on kindness and compassion. He was active also in the Anti-Slavery League.

He ended his days as a teacher of anatomy and died impoverished in London on 8 August 1877.

  • William Lovett, Life and Struggles of William Lovett (1876)
  • G.H.D. Cole, Chartist Portraits (1941)
  • Edward Royle, Chartism (1996)

Entry written by: DCD and NADS
Category: Person
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