GRA - Whig/Tory attitudes to reform, and why did the Whigs want it?


Whig attitudes to reform

  • 1780s - Rockingham was leader. Wanted to remove rotten/pocket boroughs. Admired US revolution
  • 1792 - leading Whigs created Society of the Friends of the People (inc. Cartwright, Grey), which wanted annual parliaments and a parl. reform bill. Disbanded 1793 due to threat of Pitt's Reign of Terror
  • Grenville = leader 1806. Wanted to abolish slave trade and rights for Catholics (latter opposed by George III).
  • Splits in Tories 1830 meant Whigs were for a parl. reform bill
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Tory attitudes to reform

  • Some conservatives e.g. Christopher Wyvill and the County Associations wanted parl. reform
  • When the FRA revolution broke out, however, attitudes to reform hardened, and seen as a threat to the est. order of the system.
  • Followed cautious approach of Edmund Burke.
  • Repression was seen as a necessary defence against anarchy
  • 1819: Cornish voters on trial for bribery -> borough lost MPs and seats redistributed to Yorkshire.
  • There were scandals were Tories sold their votes.
  • Some were in favour of reform. But when Canning and Peel had chance to give seats to Birmingham, they blocked it.
  • Ultra Tories opposed RCE and changes to the Corn Laws. Wellington believed in 1828 that the exisiting system was sound.
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Blandfords Bill and whether it WOULD have improved

  • Blandford, or Marquess of Blandford, was an Ultra Tory. However, he called for some dramatic reform

The Bill proposed:

  • A committe to report on corrupt boroughs, and identify areas to replace them. (would remove boroughs, but not change the system)
  • All male householders to vote, but voters must live in borough
  • Extend franchise to copy and leaseholders (may increase bribery)
  • Abolish property qualification for members
  • Pay members
  • Repeap Septinnial Act for more frequent elections
  • Exclude office holders from commons (would change the commons)

It ultimately failed but help Whigs push for own measures

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Outdated political system

  • Belief that change was long overdue
  • Powerful m/c had developed in industrialising BR, as well as social and economic change
  • Whig MPs had a tradition of calling for moderate reform for years. This included RCE and changes to the slave trade.
  • Earyl Grey was part of the radical society, SoFP in 1793
  • Boroughs were corrupt
  • Bipartisans (both parties knew corruption needed to be decreased e.g. Blandford)
  • Redistribution to North needed
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Avoid revolution

  • Building tension in BR could be eased with moderate reform, rather than massive change
  • Pitt and Liverpool's repressive actions had not helped to solve the unrest, however, in the the 'Liberal Tories' period there had been less unrest overall
  • By fixing the system now, it would precent further more radical change. e.g. BPU introduction called for wider representation of interests e.g. w/c voters, rights, conditions, pay
  • Unrest like Bristol riots and burning of Nottingham castle
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Preserve key features of system

  • Most Whigs thought that by allowing moderate reform, they could stop extreme demands for democracy
  • BR was prospering: it was the largest empire, economically advanced, and at the forefront of the IND revolution. If they fail and make the wrong move, they may get overtaken, leading to the collapse of the whole empire
  • However, they wanted IND seats to override agricultural seats, for cities make the country great
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Authority of ruling aristocracy preserved

  • m/c didn't want to destroy ruling system, only be a part of it
  • Conservative FRA King Charles X had been replaced by more liberal Louis Phillipe in 1830. He supported m/c and encouraged reform in BR -> therefore, increasing support for the BPU
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Win Whig support

  • Many Tories got into Parliament because of seats that Whigs wanted to remove e.g. rotten and pocket
  • New middle class electorate would brng grateful voters for the whigs, so they'll win more boroughs
  • By making parliamentary reform a priority, it would provoke a Tory opposition that would make them unpopular
  • Tory split -> thoguth reform would work to advantage and bring end to periods out of office
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Split middle and working class alliance

  • Disenfranchised m/c and w/c were bitter -> by welcoming the m/c into franchise, a revolution could be avoided
  • BPU, led by Thomas Atwood, wanted to join them, which was dangerous for the gvt
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