LWMA minute book.png
LWMA minute book.png


The London Working Men's Association was founded in the Summer of 1836 by William Lovett (1800-1877 - a former cabinet maker who became politically active in the reform movement in 1831/2); Henry Hethrington (1792-1849, a printer and publisher and co-founder in 1831 of the National Union of the Working Classes; James Watson (1799-1874 - a publisher and similarly a co-founder of the NUWC in 1831); and John Cleave (b c 1790 - a former sailor turned printer). Following the disappointment with the Impact of the 1832 Reform Act, the group met in the early summer of 1836 and issued a brochure in June setting out th rules of the association. The objects of the association were:
1 To draw into one bond of Unity the intelligent and influential portion of the working classes in town and country;
2 To seek by every legal means to place all classes of society in possession of their equal, political, and social rights;
3 To devise every possible means, and to use every exertion, to remove those cruel laws that prevent the free circulation of thought through the medium of a cheap and honest press;
4 To promote, by all available means, the education of the rising generation, and the extirpation of those systems which tend to future slavery;
5 To collect every kind of information appertaining to the interests of the working classes in particular, and society in general, especially statistics regarding the wages of labour, the habits and condition of the labourer, and all those causes that mainly contribute to the present state of things;
6 To meet and communicate with each other for the purpose of digesting the information acquired, and to mature such plans as they believe will conduce in practice to the well-being of the working classes;
7 To publish their views and sentiments in such form and manner as shall best serve to create a moral, reflecting, yet energetic public opinion, so as eventually to lead to a gradual improvement in the condition of the working classes, without violence or commotion;
8 To form a library of reference and useful information; to maintain a place where they can associate for mental improvement, and where their brethren from the country can meet with kindred minds actuated by one great motive—that of benefiting politically, socially, and morally, the useful classes. Though the persons forming this Association will be at all times disposed to co-operate with all those who seek to promote the happiness of the multitude, yet being convinced, from experience, that the division of interests in the various classes, in the present state of things, is too often destructive of that union of sentiment which is essential to the prosecution of any great object, that they have resolved to confine their members, as far as practicable, to the working classes. But as there are great differences of opinion as to where the line should be drawn which separates the working classes from the other portions of society, they leave to the members themselves to determine whether the candidate proposed is eligible to become a member.

In the Minute Book of the Association, for 18 October 1836, a set of resolutions were recorded including a demand for political reform to ensure that the country would be governed justly:
'To this end are wanted, Universal Suffrage, the Protection of the Ballot, Annual Parliaments, Equal representation, and no propoerty qualification for Members.'
These are five of the six principles later adopted in the People's Charter.

The LWMA was an elitist and respectable body. It had a membership fee of a shilling per month, and members had to be 'persons of good moral character among the working classes.'  Honorary members, not from the working classes, were also created as a way of linking to the more traditional political elite.  And this was not a mass membership organisation: there were only 291 full members at the organisations strongest, and it say its activism as involving publication and communication with the elite, rather than being orientated to mass mobilisation.