The Growth of Parliamentary Democracy c1785-1870

  • Created by: Marrigo
  • Created on: 21-09-18 17:51
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  • The Unreformed Parliament and its critics
    • The pre-reform franchise
      • Borough
        • Corporation: only members of the town could vote
      • Counties
        • All shires elected two MPs to Westminister
          • Franchise was based upon owning a freehold property worth more than 40 shillings.
          • Each county returned 2 MPs regardless of their size
      • Only 2% if the population could take part in an election
    • Demand for reform c1785-1820
      • 1780:London-Based Society for Constitutional Information (created by Major John Cartwright) promoted public awareness of the need for reforms by pamphleteers
    • The political demands of the manufacturing interests
      • Industrialisation (end of the 1700s) established a new British class (the middling class): owners of new factories, self-made men with a commercial drive that would translate into a political appetite big enough to consume the unreformed model of government
        • Was  located between the labouring classes and traditional landed aristocracy
        • Was a collection of individuals who carried out the potential to force political change as they were not only educated but also employers of thousands of workers who relied on their goodwill
        • favoured laissez-faire (government should have no control over economic matters)
  • Freemen:Anyone with a tittle of a freeman could vote
    • Scot and Lot: Anyone who paid poor rates could vote
      • Burgage: Anyone who owned this property could vote
        • Potwalloper: Householders who had a hearth that was big enough to boil a pot on could vote
          • Freeholder: freeholder with a property worth over 40 shillings
    • Corporation: only members of the town could vote
  • Thomas Paine 'The Rights of Man'- inspired a raft of young reformers who sought to bring greater democracy to the country
    • 1792:Sheffield Society for Constitutional Information had nearly 10,000 signatures on a national petition for manhood suffrage
  • end of Napoleonic Wars, when the government passed legislation to restrict trade, middle class fought back
    • Corn Law - aimed to protect British farmers from foreign competition now that war was over - prohibited the import of foreign corn until domestic corn prices rose to 10 shillings a brushel
      • Corn Laws drove up the price of bread which was a staple food source for the poor - employers forced to raise wages to maintain a healthy workforce
        • There was still a blatant unrepresentative distribution of seats in parliament which failed to reflect a huge migration of people to the cities
          • Increasingly it appeared to membeers of the growing urban middle class that as the providers of both employment and much of Britain's resources, they perhaps needed more of a say in how the country was to be governed
            • In their eyes the dominance of the landed gentry was declining; people were leaving the rural areas and moving in vast numbers to the cities for work supplied by themselves
    • favoured laissez-faire (government should have no control over economic matters)
  • rotten boroughs: used to be prominent in the medieval period but not anymore
    • Parliamentary seats and elections before reform
      • system created in the medieval period: distribution of the seats was based upon the importance of the constitution and did not reflect modern development 
      • Lack of secret ballots
        • intimidation and bribery were used and effective (rich landowners controlled these pocket boroughs)
          • 1801: Gatton in Surrey was 'bought' at auction for £90,000, so the 'owner' did not have to stand for election against a rival
  • allowed the wealthy to ensure their political dominance (in the houses of Commons)
    • intimidation and bribery were used and effective (rich landowners controlled these pocket boroughs)
      • 1801: Gatton in Surrey was 'bought' at auction for £90,000, so the 'owner' did not have to stand for election against a rival

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