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‘Newport rising’

‘Newport rising’, 1839. Parliament's rejection of the first chartist petition in July 1839 placed the chartist leadership in a quandary. There was not enough support for a ‘sacred month’ (general strike), while to begin an even bigger petition seemed daunting. The physical force men argued for direct action. In the Welsh valleys, the situation was enflamed by the imprisonment of Henry Vincent in Monmouth gaol. But the march on Newport led by John Frost on 3 November can hardly have been intended as more than a mass demonstration. Troops had been moved into the Westgate hotel, where some local chartists were held captive, and opened fire, killing at least fifteen. Frost and two others were tried for treason, condemned, and sent for transportation. To rescue Vincent, they were in the wrong place, and even if Newport had been seized, it would scarcely have brought the government to its knees. The ‘rising’ was a show of strength that went wrong.

J. A. Cannon

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