Modern Street Ballads

After any great National movement, the ferment takes some time to subside. Many agitators find their occupation gone, and look around for some other strife to stir up. There is always an advanced Radical school in every nation, and after the Reform Bill was settled, “the People’s Charter” took its place. What was required were the six following “points”:—Universal Suffrage, Vote by Ballot, Annual Parliaments, Payment of the Members, the Abolition of the Property Qualification, and equal Electoral Districts. In 1838 they made armed demonstrations in several parts of the country, and rioting took place in 1839. In 1848 monster petitions in its favour were presented to Parliament, and on April 10 of that year 200,000 men were invited to assemble on Kensington Common, and march to the Houses of Parliament. About one-tenth of them appeared, and, having full knowledge of the number of troops and special constables who would oppose their progress, they thought “discretion the better part of valour” and dispersed to their homes. This was the last of “the Charter.”


What a row and a rumpus there is I declare,
Tens of thousands are flocking from every where,
To petition the Parliament, onward they steer,
The Chartists are coming, oh dear, oh dear,
To demand equal justice, their freedom and right,
Pump handles and broom sticks, lawk, how they can fight!
The nation they say is o’erwhelmed with grief;
A peck loaf for twopence, and four pounds of beef.

Hurrah for old England and liberty sweet,
The land that we live in and plenty to eat,
We shall ever remember this wonderful day,
See the Chartists are coming, get out of the way.

Such a number together was never yet seen,
Hurrah for the Charter, and God save the Queen!
And when that the Charter, Old England has got,
We’ll have stunning good beer at three halfpence a pot:
A loaf for a penny, a pig for a crown,
And gunpowder tea at five farthings a pound:
Instead of red herrings, we’ll live on fat geese,
And lots of young women at two pence a piece.

The bakers and grocers, look how they do laugh,
With dustmen and coal heavers armed with a staff.
Five thousand old women, oh, how they do sing,
With frying pans, fenders, and big rolling pins.
There’s Russell, and Bobby, old Nosey, and Hume,
With pistols and bayonets, muskets and brooms,
Load away, fire away, chatter and jaw,
Shoot at a donkey and knock down a crow.

See the lads of old Eton for liberty crow,
Repeal of the Union and Erin-go-bragh!
Peace and contentment, then none can we blame,
Plenty of labour, and paid for the same;
Some are rolling in riches, and luxury, too,
While millions are starving with nothing to do;
Through the Nation prosperity soon will be seen,
Hurrah for the Charter, and God save the Queen!

Such constables there are in London, now mark,
Tailors and shoemakers, labourers and clerks,
Gas light men, pick pockets, firemen too,
Green grocers, hatters, pork butchers, and Jews:
Lollipop merchants, and masons a lot,
And the covey what hollows “Baked taters all hot.”
They are sworn to protect us, and keep well the peace,
To frighten the Chartists and help the police.

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