Essay: THE PETITION GAME: Look Before Signing

WHEN the Chartists marched on Parliament in 1839 to protest the plight of Britain's working class they did not, as some feared, batter down the doors. Instead, in a tactic they were to use twice more in the next decade, they brought forth a scroll that stretched for three miles and contained 1,200,000 signatures. Each time the lawmakers bluntly rejected their demands. Despite this failure, the Chartist movement was a dramatic expression of a right that runs threadlike through Anglo-American history, secured in Eng land first by the barons, then by Parliament, and...

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