(Letter written March 1 1839, published March 21 1839)
This is a report from Matthew describing the work the National Convention has done since it first convened on February 4th. Matthew describes himself as the “secretary and convener of this metropolitan agitation committee,— procuring speakers for each meeting, arranging the places and advertisements, and collection of the money”. Matthew notes that a small number of delegates are making trouble, and may need to be expelled: “There are only some four or five men in the Convention with whom we shall have any trouble from their violence and indiscretion, and I should not wonder but that we shall be under the necessity of expelling these, not from any thing they say in the Convention, but from their unconstitutional language in other places, which as they are members of the Convention, is calculated to throw discredit upon the whole body.” At the end of the letter, there is perhaps a hint or foreboding of troubles ahead – Matthew recommends that most of the “National Rent” (donations to the Chartist cause) that was collected in Fife should be kept locally, rather than sent to London.
The following letter from Mr Matthew, Delegate to the National Convention from Fifeshire and Perthshire, has been received Mr Shepherd:—
No. 15, Black Friars Road, March 1. 1839.
Dear Sir,— Our preliminary work and our speeches spoken, we have commenced in earnest to cultivate the field of Radicalism. Fifteen of our number, whom we think best fitted to go out as missionaries, leave London this day, for the parts of the country which are most backward in the Chartist movement, while the remainder (about thirty-live) sit in the Convention, receiving reports from the missionaries, and at the same time carry on the political information of the metropolis and adjacent country by getting up public meetings, of which we had three last night, and four the night previous. There are required some four or five speakers of the Delegates at each of these meetings, so having the Convention sitting during the day, and these meetings in the evening, the time of the Delegates is completely occupied. I act as secretary and convener of this metropolitan agitation committee,— procuring speakers for each meeting, arranging the places and advertisements, and collection of the money,— so I have my hands full of work. From not more than 1,000,000 of signatures being forward and on the way, we were under the necessity of deferring the presentation of the petition, and we have adopted this scheme of missions and metropolitan agitation to give the town and country a fair opportunity of supporting the Chartist movement if it is so inclined. We consider unless we have a million and half of supporters it would be useless to present the petition. It would have no weight upon the House with a less number, and as considerable portions of England refuse to sign another petition, we think it best to get the present one as numerously signed as is possible. It will be the 5th of May till it is presented, so you have two months to work in extending its numbers. Every working man in Fife will I hope be upon the list by that time, and you can defer forwarding the new sheets to me till further notice; but the whole of the sheets for Fifeshire should be forwarded to one place in the county ready to be sent off by 1st May at latest. I have not requested the men of Fife to forward any money to London as yet. It, however, will be proper to send about L. 10 as National Rent, which you can do at your conveniency. This sum is needed for the payment of advertisements, printing, the Convention hall, and other general incidental expenses. I expect you will have a considerably larger sum than this ready in Fifeshire, but I think it better that a portion of the collected money be expended at home in getting the petition signed and in extending political information. 1 would recommend that some portion of the collected funds should be appropriated to the getting up of political lectures, either by keeping a lecturer in constant pay, or paying several lecturers for assistance at weekly meetings, held in convenient localities throughout the county. Hitherto we have had more than we require of funds in London, but the plan we are now proceeding with, of sending out missionaries, and of agitating the metropolitan districts at the sametime, will require considerable expenditure. I endeavoured to get the Convention to set to work about two weeks sooner, but the members were all intent upon their deliberative duties, that they would not go to work till the novelty of their new position had worn off. There are only some four or five men in the Convention with whom we shall have any trouble from their violence and indiscretion, and I should not wonder but that we shall be under the necessity of expelling these, not from any thing they say in the Convention, but from their unconstitutional language in other places, which as they are members of the Convention, is calculated to throw discredit upon the whole body. I would have written more frequently than I have done, but I thought you would see a fuller account of our proceedings, than I could have time to make out, in the True Scotsman. Besides, I have more work to do here than I can get done, and when I am writing to you necessary business is standing over. In regard to the National Rent put under the control of the Convention, there is no general rule regarding its amount or manner of collection. It consists of whatever sums the districts can spare for general purposes, after paying their own delegate and other local demands. In the case of Fife, which has no delegate to pay, I do not think it would be proper to send forward all the collected funds to the National Rent at the disposal of the Convention. The portion saved on their delegate should be spent on the county as above directed.— Yours truly,