KS3 > Political Reform > Constituencies > Monmouth
The constituency of Monmouth represented the towns of Newport, Monmouth and Usk.
Although the MPs for Monmouth were Whigs or Conservatives, many people in South East Wales were politically radical in the first half of the 19th century. The mines and ironworks of the valleys led to increased population growth and hard working conditions. Men could lose their jobs if coal or steel prices fell and there was no welfare state to support them. Relations between the mine and steelworks owners and the workers were often bad, and there were a number of strikes.
In the 1830s South Wales saw a rise in support for Chartism. The movement’s leader in the area was Henry Vincent, who published the newspaper The Western Vindicator. Facing economic difficulties and with no political voice, many working-class men and women supported the movement in meetings and petitions.
After the first Chartist petition was rejected in 1839, many in the movement were split about what to do next. Some argued for a national strike, whereas others wanted a violent uprising to demand working class political rights.
In November, 5000 men marched on Newport under the leadership of John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones. It is unclear exactly what they had planned. Some historians believe that they hoped to start an uprising, especially as a number of Chartists were carrying weapons. Others have argued that most men were marching to protest about the arrest of Henry Vincent, who was being held in the city’s Westgate Hotel, and the weapons were just to protect themselves.
The marchers arrived outside the Westgate Hotel, unaware that a small force of troops was waiting. At 9.20am a gun battle broke out between the Chartists and the soldiers, killing 22 and wounding over fifty marchers, and seriously wounding two soldiers. The leaders were arrested and initially sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered – the punishment for treason – but this was reduced to transportation to Australia.
Despite the failure of the rising, there was still a large amount of sympathy for Chartism in South Wales throughout the 1840s when the movement gradually petered out.
Borough in Monmouthshire, South Wales
Parliamentary constituency from 1660
The MP for Monmouth, Reginald Jones Blewitt, was a well-known critic of Chartism and a local paper owned by Blewitt, the Monmouthshire Merlin, often said so!