GRA (UP) - The Reform Crisis 1830-32 and Passing the Act


1830: Wellington Gvt resigns

  • November 1830, Wellington's Tory gvt are forced to resign
  • The Whigs under Earl Grey form a minority gvt
  • Although Grey's cabinet was aristocratic, he felt he had to tackle the key political issue of reform
  • The question facing him was how to balance preservation of the traditional system, keep social peace and avoid breakdown of law and order that could potentially lead to revolution
  • He ordered a committee to frame a reform bill -> see quote for what he wanted -> he wanted to remove means of complaints forever, so no intelligent person can complain again. Want it to be final reform, and voting to be based on property (which wouldn't be universal)
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Russell's reform bill 1831

This proposed:

  • Abolishment of 100 rotten and pocket boroughs - MPs distributed to cities in the North and Midlands
  • Extend the vote. But £10 property qualification would exist in boroughs
  • It was a small and modest measure, which would change things enough to bring the business and manufacturing m/c into the system.
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Defeat of the first reform bill

  • March 1831: Russell's bill was jeered at by the Tories
  • It passed the first and second readings in the Commons by a majority of one.
  • But the Tories defeated it in the committee stage in a subversive way: Tory MPs deliberately add more radical things to the bill so that Whigs lose supporters as it is now too radical
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1831 General Election

  • Grey took initiative and persuaded William IV to dissolve parliament for a general election, held April 1831.
  • It became a national referendum on the issue of reform
  • Grey was victorious
  • Tories won in their rotten and pocket boroughs, but the Whigs made sweeping gains in the counties with larger electorates and won with a majority of 136 seats.
  • Grey saw this as a signal to proceed with plans for reform. He drew up a second reform bill
  • This majority ensured domination at committee stage -> confident to pass laws at Commons, although Lords could still block.
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Russell's second reform bill 1831

  • September 1831, Russell introduced a second reform bill that slightly different
  • Passed in the Commons by 109.
  • But the Lords were Tory dominated who opposed reform of the electoral system and they saw it as the first taste of democracy. They felt that reform of the Commons would lead to changes of the Lords.
  • The Lords could block any bill from the Commons by its power of absolute veto.
  • It was defeated in the Lords by 41, 21 were bishops. (21 out of 22 bishops in the Lords. This shows that the Church was not in favour of reform, and so dissenters were unhappy)
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1831 Riots

  • October 1831, there were riots and immediate public anger against the Lords
  • The Morning Chronicle had black borders as mourning for the bill
  • Riots and Derby, and Nottingham Castle was destroyed for it belonged to an unpopular Duke who evicted tenants for not voting how he wished.
  • During the Bristol riots, the Bishop's palace and public buildings were burned down. Cavalry were sent to restore order and 12 were killed and 400 seriously injured (somewhat like that of Peterloo).
  • In Birmingham, 100,000 attended Attwood's BPU protest meeting and Political Unions held meetings all over Britain.
  • Several Lords and Bishops who voted against it were attacked by mobs, and Wellington's windows were smashed.
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Third Reform Bill in the Commons

  • The Third Reform was passed in the Commons 1832
  • But in the committee stage in the Lords, the Tories passed an amendment in May to weaken the bill
  • Grey reluctantly asked William IV to create 50 new Whig peers in the Lords, which would be enough to give them a majority over the Tories in the Lords.
  • The King refused, worrying about the constitutional implications. Also, back then the Commons and Lords were equal. William IV was worried that another later King may want to do the same thing for something ludicrous (link to Pele quote)
  • Grey resigned May 1832
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The May Days Crisis 1832

  • William IV invited Wellington back to form a minority Tory gvt, even though they were currently split three ways
  • He accepted out of duty, and he wanted to produce a much watered down bill.
  • The public knew he was opposed, and if it were passed, it would be a diluted version
  • The outcry of the public reached revolutionary intensity. Mass demonstrations of 200,000 took place organised by Attwood (for as the Bill currently stood, the w/c weren't enfranchised.)
  • London: NPU led by Francis Place urged refusal to pay taxes, a takeover of govt and a run on the banks (urging people to close bank account and withdraw money, which would cause banks to collapse). They rallied cries -> see quotes
  • Most Tories saw Wellington's idea of diluted reform as another Wellington betrayal, and Peel refused to support him for he didn't want to switch ideals so soon after doing it with RCE
  • Wellington was forced to admit failure to form a government.
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Grey Returns

  • Grey returned as PM of a Whig gvt among public agitaion
  • King William IV was alarmed and agreed to create as many new Peers as necessary to solve the constitutional crisis and get the bill through the Lords
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The Great Reform Act 1832

  • The threat of creating new peers conviced the Lords to give way, so there was no need to create new Peers. In the long term, this was the correct thing for them to do so that the Tories could continue to dominate the House
  • Since there was no way to stop the bill now, Tory Peers stayed away in large numbers from Lords or abstained
  • 7th June 1832, the Bill passed the Lords by 106 to 22 MPs and received Royal Assent.
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