GRA (UP) - Whig aims and motives for (limited) reform


Long term policy since 1790s

  • Some Whigs had been calling for moderate reform for years because of the corrupt system that fuelled radical arguments. 
  • For example Early Grey had previously been part of the Society of the Friends of the People and propsed moderate reform bills during the 1790s. 
1 of 9

Outdated Political System

  • Whigs believed change was long overdue
  • The Industrial Revolution was causing social and economic changes, including the rise of a proprited m/c. 
  • The political system, dominated by landed u/c was now out of step with new economic and social forces.
  • Grey argued that the system was outdated and that any men of property in the m/c should have a say in the running of the country 
2 of 9

Avoid dangerous alliance of middle and working cla

  • Disenfranchised m/c and l/c  were bitter and forming an alliance
  • This was dangerous because the m/c had money and the l/c had numbers
  • By welcoming the m/c into the franchise, it was hoped that a sweeping revolution would be avoided
  • The m/c would join the u/c in a broad property-owning alliance that supported the constituion. 
3 of 9

Authority of aristocracy saved

  • If m/c were given the vote they would not want to destroy the political system. 
  • They would rather defend and rally for the aristocratic system.
  • This would mean the aristocracy's power and right to govern would be saved by showing it is flexible and adaptive. 
4 of 9

Permanent fix to prevent future change

  • A moderate reform would end speculation and give a once-only permanent change to end all grounds for any future complaints or changes
5 of 9

Avoid revolution by solving political and economic

  • Unrest was increasing and unusually widespread between 1828-30
  • Small reform that was manageable would dampen this but repression would risk revolution. Dangerous public unrest would be defused efficiently 
6 of 9

Whig Party advantage over Tories

  • Many Tories got into Parliament because of the seats in rotten and pocket boroughs. The Whigs wanted to abolish these seats
  • A m/c electorate would be grateful to the Whigs and vote for them and give them support
  • Making reform appear sweeping may provoke fierce Tory opposition. This would make them unpopular
  • Timing: Tory splits between 1828 and 1830 over RCE and parliamentary reform made it a good time to push through change while the Tories were too unorganised to oppose it 
7 of 9

Key features of existing system preserved

  • Accept that moderate reform must be taken to make the key features of the existing system acceptable, rather than be forced to destroy the system and create a new radical democratic system.
  • Allowing moderate reform would be a conservative tactic to avoid extreme radical democracy
  • Even Grey was against annual parliaments, universal suffrage and secret ballots - see quote
8 of 9

Remembering these motives

ey features of exisiting system preserved

utdated political system

void a dangerous m/c and w/c alliance

ong term policy since 1790s

uthoirty of aristocracy saved

ermanent fix to prevent future change

void revolution by solving political and economic unrest

hig Party advantage over Tories

9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Pitt to Peel resources »