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Chartism Test Questions: 3

That Englishmen have a right, in extreme cases, to have recourse to physical force to free themselves from an unendurable tyranny, is a truth so important and so undisputed that it forms the very foundation of our system of government. it is not only admitted, but it is even asserted, reiterated, defended, and justified, by the most zealous of the Tory writers upon the Constitution of this country..

But although this is upon all sides admitted, it is also upon all sides agreed that this is a fearful remedy, which, like hazardous, extreme, and painful operations in surgery, is only to be brought into action in very extreme cases, when all ordinary courses of treatment have failed. Physical force is a thing not to be lightly had recourse to; it is the last remedy known to the Constitution....

Nothing but a simultaneous rising at the same hour all over the kingdom could give you a chance of success by arms even that would give you but a slender chance, and that you cannot effect. Retain your arms then, for it is possible that you may have to use them in your own defence, with the law and the Constitution upon your side. But use them not until that time comes. Pursue the course of peaceful agitation press forward your great cause under the watchwords of 'Peace, Law, Order'. it may be delayed, but it must prevail. Continue these acts of buccaneering folly, and you and your children are slaves for ever.

From 'The first essay in physical force', The Chartist, 12 May, 1839.


  1. On what earlier occasion had Englishmen had 'recourse to physical force to free themselves from an unendurable tyranny'?
  2. When, according to the source, was force to be used?
  3. According to the source, why should weapons be retained?
  4. What evidence is there in the source to suggest the writer was a supporter of 'moral force'?
  5. The first petition was ready for presentation on 7 May 1839. What did the Chartists do between then and the petition's presentation on 14 June to 'persuade' MPs to accept it?
  6. What effect did the rejection of the petition have on the Chartist movement?
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