On the 4th May, 1842, Thomas Duncombe presented to Parliament a Chartist petition signed by 3,250,000 people. As well as demanding the six points of the Charter the document also complained about the "cruel wars against liberty"; and "unconstitutional police force"; the 1834 Poor Law; factory conditions and church taxes on Nonconfotmists. It also included an attack on Queen Victoria, contrasting her income of "£164 17s. 10d. a day" with that of "the producing millions". The Chartists were furious when the House of Commons rejected the petition by 287 votes to 47.
This decision was followed by a series of strikes in the industrial districts. It started in the Midland coalfield, and spread during August to Scotland and to the textile industry in Lancashire and Yorkshire. In some cases, striking workers stopped production by removed the boiler plugs from the steam engines in their factories. As a result, these industrial disputes became known as the Plug Plot.
Some workers argued that they would remain out on strike until the People's Charter became the law of the land. A conference of trade union leaders in Manchester also passed a resolution linking the strikes to the demands for universal suffrage. The strikes were supported by George Julian Harney and Thomas Cooper who had earlier advocated a withdrawel of labour, the Sacred Month, as a strategy to obtain the vote. Feargus O'Connor, the leader of the Physical Force Chartists, who had argued against previous plans for a Sacred Month, denounced the strikes in his Northern Star and even suggested they were being organised by the Anti-Corn League.
The prime minister, Sir Robert Peel favoured a non-intervention approach to the problem, but the Duke of Wellington argued for troops to be sent in to deal with the strikers. Eventually Peel agreed with Wellington and Sir James Graham, the Home Secretary, and the army were dispatched to the trouble areas. Leaders of the strikes, including the members of the Manchester Conference who had voted for linking the dispute with the Chartist demands, were arrested. Several Chartist leaders such as Feargus O'Connor, George Julian Harney and Thomas Cooper were detained. Out of the fifteen hundred people arrested, seventy-nine were found guilty and sentenced to between seven and twenty-one years' transportation. By the end of August rioting had come to an end. Most strikers returned to work but the cotton operatives of Lancashire and the Staffordshire miners held out for another month.