GRA - Supporters and Causes of Parliamentary Reform


Instability and Splits in the Tory party

  • Instability: LP resigned in 1827, and two short-lived ministires followed (Canning and Goderich). Wellington came 1828, who split the party into Canningites, Ultras and Wellington supporters
  • Parliamentary reform arguments: Wellington refused in 1828 to consider moderate parliamentary reform of seats. Liberal Canningites like Huskisson then resigned. 
  • Catholic Emancipation: Ultra Tories Wellington and Peel reluctantly passed RCE 1829. This split the party even further. Ultras were betrayed, and some liberals wanted more. It encouraged parliamentary reformers, showing that there were MPs who would support amendments to the constituion. 
  • The splits in the party also decreased their votes, for there were two Tory parties: the Tories and the Ultras. This helped increase Whig support. It meant it was the perfect time for the Whigs to push for reform 
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Pressure from middle class

  • The wealthy businessmen and manufacturers class was growing
  • There was a powerful middle-class element in the reform movement
  • By the late 1820s, they had motives for wanting reform in the changing society. The industrial revolution that the m/c had wealth and influence but lacking political power
  • Some businessmen were MPs, but mostly they resented the domination of parliament by landowning interests. Landowners protected their own interests, but manufacturers had to pay import duties, tax and wanted laws to increase free trade
  • They wanted moderate parliamentary reform to give them more representation in the Commons to improve their interests
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Economic Circumstances: Slump and Unrest

  • An economic slump fuelled rural riots and urban trade union activity
  • Some politicians feared that both unrests would stretch law and order to breaking point and so many saw moderate reform as a way to avoid revolution

Rural unrest:

  • There were harvest failures, high prices and unemployment hitting agriculture in the South and many revolted
  • Labourers rioted against low wages and irregular employment
  • Expressed hatred towards tithes and Poor Law; Smashed machines and burned corn
  • Swing riots: threatening letters signed by 'Captain Swing', which alarmed landowners. The Whig government acted decisively towards them. They weren't enough for revolution, but they convinced many Whigs that moderate reform was the best way to avoid revolution. In patriotic S.England, supposed to be peaceful -> made then more worrying

Industrial unrest:

  • Many workers demanded the vote, and thought improvement would only come through a Parliament elected by them. Many workers felt the country was getting wealthier but they were getting poorer.
  • Trade Unions were now legal from 1824 and strikes broke out which caused issues.
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Ideas of Radicals and Reformers

  • Many radicals called the system 'Old Corruption' and they argued bribery and corruption were used to hold on to an astristocratic dominated society. There was an uneven organisation of constitutions. Believed the aristocracy monopolised the political system. 
  • Cobbett and Hunt were two radicals wanting change.
  • But radicals were not a single party and had different views e.g. Hunt wanted universal suffrage and opposed Whig Reform Bills. Burdett felt this unnecessary
  • Cobbett argued the GRA should be supported as a first step
  • Appealed to w/c but not part of it.
  • Although radicals had large followings, they had a lack of clarity and coordition, rendering their effectiveness limited.
  • Bentham and supporters had called for reform for years. Although he was seen as extreme at first by the 1830s some began to be taken up in unexpected quarters e.g. Thomas Attwood and the emergence of political unions
  • Political unions like the BPU had achieved an alliance between the m/c and l/c and Grey feared this would fuel radicalism and so felt moderate reform was necessary
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Political Alliance of Middle and Working Class

  • Closer relationship formed between m/c and w/c. The m/c were the backbone of the industrial revolution and in numbers, had influence and power as well. 
  • Thomas Atwood founded the Birmingham Political Union in January 1830, claiming distress could only be solved by a reform in the Commons and a union of the two classes
  • The BPU asimed to unite the classes, and similar unions emerged such as the National Political Union
  • Key aims of these unions = universal male suffrage, annual parliaments, secret ballots. They uses peaceful protesting so the gvt had no reason to suppress it
  • The BPU was exceptional at combining the classes.
  • However they may have agitated politicians by attracting huge crowds, wanting reform, being organised, and demonstrating that m/c would support reform. 
  • This made some Whig reformers, like Earl Grey, aim to split this alliance and persuade the m/c that moderate reform was the only way to support their future. 
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European Revolutions

  • 1830 - Revolution in FRA overthrew Bourbon King Charles X. It put Louis Phillipe on the throne 
  • Led to increased power for the m/c at the expense of the older and church ruling elite
  • Uprisings appeared in Belgium and the Hasburg Empire
  • Revolutions encouraged BR reformers and also frightened many ruling classes to give way to moderate reform, for they feared revolution. Many wanted to let the m/c into the system to avoid the spread of revolution to BR which may overthrow the aristocracy
  • These revolutions had appeared from the elite trying to rule the m/c
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William IV

  • George IV, opposer of reform in parliament died in 1830. 
  • This raised expectations for reform even higher. 
  • His successor, William IV, wasn't enthusiastic for reform. However, he realised that it was necessary to solve the worst problems of the exisiting system, and accept some changes to parliament
  • The election after the new monarch was July-Aug 1830 and supporters of reform, like Whigs and Canningites, did well. However, Wellington, who remained PM, refused to consider it and he was forced out of power shortly after. Whig gvt led by Early Grey came to power.
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The Whig Party and Government

  • Key Whigs by 1830 = Earl Grey, Lord Durham, Lord Brougham and Lord Russell
  • All were passionate about reform and good speakers. 
  • Many Whigs were from aristocratic backgrounds like the Tories but they understood the new industrial forces shaping socirty, as many Whigs came from the rising m/c. 
  • Some Whigs backed reform as a way of harming the electoral chances of the Tory Party who benefitted more from pocket/rotten boroughs
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