1845 Chartist Land Plan - killed off by lawyers

diggers350 tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sat Sep 5 01:55:10 BST 2009

The National Land Company - was an interesting kind of 'Building Society' and the government report reads like sour grapes of the slaveowner seeing his slaves realise their captivity and understand how to release the bonds

see also

Dig deep: the Chartist Land Plan
This page introduces the Chartist Land Plan, which aimed to resettle industrial workers on smallholdings by collecting small share contributions from Chartists and allocating farms by lot. 

Millions signed the three great Chartist petitions of 1839 to 1848. Thousands were active in those years in the campaign to win the vote, secret ballots, and other democratic rights that we now take for granted.

Chartist Ancestors lists many of those who risked their freedom, and sometimes their lives, because of their participation in the Chartist cause. The names included on the site are drawn from newspapers, court records and books of the time, from later histories and other sources. 

With the Chartist movement demoralised by the rejection of the second great Charter of 1842, and many of its leaders on trial or in prison in the wake of that year's general strike, Feargus O'Connor led his supporters away from political action and into a plan for resettling urban workers on the land.

The Chartist Land Plan originated in speeches made by O'Connor at Chartist conventions in Birmingham in 1843 and Manchester in 1845, but it was only after the London convention of 1845 that the Chartist Land Co-operative Society was formed. This was later renamed the National Land Company.

Its aim was to sell 100,000 shares, the money from which would be used to buy estates. These would then be parcelled out by lot among the members, who would receive between two and four acres each.

In four years, the National Land Company attracted 70,000 shareholders, raised more than £100,000, acquired a total of 1,118 acres (the first of which, Herringsgate [in some sources given as Heronsgate] near Watford, was renamed O'Connorville), but succeeded in establishing just 250 smallholders. Its other sites were at Lowbands, Snigs End, Minster Lovell and Great Dodford in Worcestershire.

Opinions vary on the wisdom of the scheme. For many it was a utopian and even reactionary nonsense, doomed to failure both because it would inevitably disappoint the bulk of subscribers who failed to gain a smallholding from the lottery while diverting the Chartist movement from its objectives. But it may also be considered an inspired way of reawakening the enthusiasm of the many workers dismayed and alienated from political activity by the failure of the Chartist petition.

Either way, the scheme collapsed in recriminations by 1851, having failed to find a proper legal basis for its activities, and embroiling O'Connor in arguments about its finances. An utterly damning account of the land scheme's history, which puts much of the blame on the unrealistic and increasingly insane O'Connor, can be found in The Chartist Land Company by Alice Mary Hadfield (David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1970). 

--- In diggers350 at yahoogroups.com, james armstrong <james36armstrong at ...> wrote:
> Extract from "British working class movements " GDH Cole
> Select Documents.
> The Chartist Land Scheme
>  (a) From the Second Report of the Select Committee on the National Land Company.
> (1848) page49.
> From the Rules of the Chartist Cooperative Land Society 1845.
> Objects of the Society 
> To purchase land on which to locate such of its members as may be selected for that purpose, in order to demonstrate  to the working classes of the kingdom , firstly the value of the land, as a means of making them independent of the grinding  capitalist; and ,
> Secondly to show them the necessity of securing the speedy enactment of the "People's Charter", which would do for them nationally what this society proposes to do sectionally; the accomplishment of the political and social emancipation of the enslaved and degraded working classes  being the prominent object of the society.  
> (b) From the First Report  of the Select Committee on the National Land Company (1848)
> p.5.
> Circular of the National Land Company (1847)
> A Happy Home for Honest Industry, National Land Company  provisionally registered;
> Shares £1.6s each payable by instalments  of 3d, 6d, and 1S. per week.
> The objects aimed at by this company  are, the elevation of the character and social improvement of the condition of its members . The means by which the company  propose to realize  these objects , so laudable in themselves, and so desirable to all , are so moderate as to place them within the reach of the poorest in  the community. Benefits: The advantages which the company  guarantees to its members are as follows: The subscriber of two shares of £2.12. 0, entitles himself to a house, three acres of land  and £2.10s.0.;  the subscriber of four shares or £5.4.s.0, to a house, four acres of land , and £30.   The annual rent charge which will be made by the company  on its allotted members for  the aforesaid benefits  is regulated by a principle which will, in every case, prevent its becoming a burden  to those who will have to bear it. The company affords great facilities to  its members to become freeholders of their dwellings and allotments , as the interest charged on the capital expended  in the completion of an allotment  is redeemable by a process by which every industrious and provident member may avail himself.  

> c) From the Sixth Report of the Select Committee (1848) p111
> 1 THAT The proposed provisions of the Friendly Societies Acts 

> will not include the National Land Company within these Acts.
> 2 THAT The National Land Company is not consistent with the principles upon which Friendly Societies are founded 
> 3THAT, The National Land Company as presently constituted is an illegal scheme
> 4 THAT, It appearing to this  Committee by the evidence of several witnesses that
> the books of the proceedings of the National Land Company , as well as the accounts of the Company , have been most imperfectly kept
> 5 THAT, considering the great number of persons interested in the scheme that powers might be granted
..if they shall so desire
.. to wind up the undertaking 
> Summary of GDH Cole's comment (in "Hist. of the Brit. Work. Class p115
> The Chartist Land scheme was in no way socialistic . His (O'Connor's) and Owen's  schemes appealed to the land hunger of 
. Thousands of  workers rushed to support  O'Connor's scheme 
felt that work on the land might be a way of escape  from factory tyranny.
> The schemes had an excessive sketchiness and optimism  in their  financial arrangements  based on  too favourable estimates of productivity
 A great Press agitation against it was begun
. (untrue) charges that O'Conmor was stealing the funds
> Most of the £90,000 collected from small subscribers and a good deal of his own money was lost.
> In 1851 the National Land Company was wound up."
> James,  Dorchester 
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