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Lovett, William

Lovett, William, born of humble origins in Newlyn, near Penzance in Cornwall, on 8 May 1800. He moved to London in 1821 and gradually established himself as a cabinet-maker, rising to the presidency of the Cabinetmakers' Society before the end of the 1820s. A self-educated man, Lovett became an ardent Owenite and participated actively in the early trade union movement. In 1836 he played a major role in the formation of the London Working Men's Association, which was intended to be an educational as well as political force for the improvement of the lot of the working classes in Britain by constitutional and peaceful means. He served as Secretary of the Association and was largely responsible for drafting its famous "People's Charter" in 1838.

Chartist activities led to Lovett's conviction and twelve months imprisonment for sedition in 1839-40, following his publication of a pamphlet denouncing police brutality. Thereafter, Lovett gradually lost his faith in the Chartist movement largely because of his distrust of the more militant supporters of Chartism and his intense dislike of Feargus O'Connor whom he viewed as an unprincipled demagogue. Nevertheless, Lovett's name remained associated with the so-called "moral force" wing of the movement. Following the Chartist collapse in 1848, Lovett became owner of the National Hall in Holborn and spent his last years promoting the cause of popular education which he always deemed essential for social progress. He died in poverty on 8 August 1877, one year after the publication of his autobiography.

Keith A.P. Sandiford


Cole, G.D.H. Chartist Portraits (London, 1965).

Hammond, B. William Lovett, 1800-1877 (London, 1922).

Hollis, P. (ed). Pressure From Without in Early Victorian England (London, 1974).

Hovell, M. The Chartist Movement (Manchester, 1918).

Ward, J.T. Chartism (London, 1976)

Weisser, H. "William Lovett (1800-1877)", Biographical Dictionary of Modern British Radicals (Brighton, 1984), II: 209-303.

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