Stations in life

Stations in life: the belief that the position in society into which you were born was ordained by God, and not to be questioned. In the 1840s one verse of the popular hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful expressed it this way:

The rich man in his castle.
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The hymn is still popular, but this verse is usually omitted.

In practice British society was far more fluid than this concept would suggest, and there were other ideas current in the 1830s that modified any concept of a fixed caste system.  It was also a time of great political turmoil.  The Great Reform Act of 1832 was the first attempt to extend the right to vote beyond the rich and privileged, but many thought that it did not go far enough.  The Chartist Movement grew in popularity in Britain’s cities during the 1830s, calling for adoption of the People’s Charter. Planks of the Charter varied over time, but included manhood suffrage (the right of all men to vote), secret ballot and payment of MPs.  Some of those who travelled on these nine vessels had links to the Chartist Movement.

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