Phase 4: (Whigs) Early Grey: 1830-1834 & Lord Melbourne 1835-1841.

  • Parliamentary reform.
  • Revolution.
  • Condition of England reforms.
  • Chartism 1838-1839.
  • Gunboat diplomacy (Palmerston).

What were the main features if the Reform Crisis b

Whigs were keen to avoid the breakdown of law and order and revolution.

They had to find a sustainable balance between preserving the trditional system and securing social peace and public order.

In March 1831 Lord John Russell introduced the first reform bill to Commons which caused popluar excitement nationwide.

The 1st aimed to redistribute 100 rotten boroughs and give seats to the industrial North and Midlands and a 10 pound qualification for voting rights within the boroughs. The Commons were alarmed.

1st bill manged to pass its secind reading into the Commons by one vote but was defeated in the Committee stage. Grey called 1831 general election, a national referendum on issue of reform. The Whigs increased their support and gained a majority of 130 seats. Grey continued & a2nd bill was soon drawn up.

It took 15 months before the bill was finally passed and illustrated the extent of Tory opposition to it, especilly in the House of Lords.

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The second and third Reform bills.


  • A second bill was introduced in summer 1831 and had managed to be passed through the Commons and the Committee stages by the following September. 
  • The Lords at this time were dominated by the Tories who opposed changing the electoral system. 
  • In October, the bill was defeated again by 41 votes.


  • In December 1831, a third bill was presented to the House of Commons.
  • At this point, the Whigs' Commons majority had risen to 162 and the anti-reformers only had a majority of 9. 
  • However, the bill was surprisingly defeated in Committee stage, March 1832.
  • This didn't weaken bill, Grey continued to pursue it and aimed to gain new peers. King William IV refused plea, Grey immediately resigned, May 1832.
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The days of May crisis: 1832.

  • As Grey had resigned, the King had no alternative but to approach the Duke of Wellington to attempt to form a Tory ministry.
  • The public were aware that the Duke was not totally for reform, so it a bill was to be passed, it would be severely diluted.
  • The public outcry reached revolutionary itensity: mass demonstrations were organised in Birmingham by Thomas Attwood and the BPU, London by Francis Place and his Political Union which urged a run on the banks, refusal to pay taxes and a proposed takeover of the local government. 
  • Wellington's attempts to form a new government were useless. William IV was now prepared to allow Grey to create new peers to solve a major constitutional crisis. The King asked Grey back four days later. Due to severe public pressure, the anti-reform  stance completely collapsed, threatening the Lords, so they gave way.
  • 3rd bill was eventually passed in 7th June 1832, receiving royal approval.
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Why were these Whig reforms introduced?

Industrialisation: Huge social pressures and problems which the Whigs attempted to solve. The Education grant, 1833 & the Factory reforms attempted to give children an education.

Pressure: The reform of the Church of England was a response to the growing number of Catholics and Non-conformists.The abolition of slavery was a response  to religious men such as William Wilberforce. Benthamism - the greatest good for the greatest number was behind the Poor law.

Money: The Poor law was also an attempt to keep costs down for ratepayers.

Political change: The middle class now had the vote so their interests had to be considered.

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The abolition of Slavery: 1833

Why was the reform needed?
By 1807, moral objection towards British involvement in continuing Atlantic slave trade was almost universal, out and in parliament. Between 1765 and 1813 there were 16 serious slave rebellions on British controlled island of Jamaica.
What changes did it introduce?

  • All slaves were to be set free within a year and were then to serve apprenticeships of upto 7 years with their former owners; to ease the transition from a slave economy to a wage-earner system.
  • The government paid 20million pounds compensation to slave owners.

It prohibited  trading of Africans into slavery in West Indies. British captains who were caught continuing trade were fined 100 pounds for every slave. But this law didn't stop British slave trade. If slave ships were in danger of being captured by British Navy, captains reduced fines by throwing slaves overboard.
Slavery itself was allowed to continue after a long campaign led by Tory MP William Wilberforce, encouraging smuggling of slaves in appalling conditions. It was not illegal until act passed, 1833, giving all slaves in British empire freedom.

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The Education Act: 1833

Why was it needed?

  • No education system: little interest in education gave no financial support.
  • Run by private individuals: Religious groups & companies of London.
  • Laissez-faire attitude.
  • Public, private and grammar schools had to pay: not affordable for some.
  • Curriculum in public & grammar schools had no maths, just Latin & Greek.
  • Curriculum in private schools included maths, sciences and languages.
  • The working-class didn't need schooling, they were better off working as the skills they needed for jobs were gained through experience.

What changes did it introduce?

  • For the first time, the government allocated a grant of 20,000 pounds towards erecting Church of England schools, which later extended to Catholic and non-conformist schools, provided that atleast half of the building cost had been raised privately.

How successful was the reform?
Although there weren't many changes made in the act, it was the first of many.

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The Factory Act: 1833

Why was it needed?

1000's of factories were being created due to the success of the industrial revolution, with no laws regulating the running of them, so dangerous machinery was used that could cause serious damage to workers. People were required to work long hours including young children with severe punishments for mistakes.

What changes did it introduce?

  • No child workers under the age of 9.
  • Employers must have an age certificate fir their child workers.
  • Children of 9-13 years couldn't work more than 9 hours daily.
  • Children of 13-18 years couldn't work more than 12 hours daily.
  • Children could not work at night.
  • Two hours schooling a day for children.
  • 4 factory inspectors appointed to enforce the new laws.

How successful was the reform?
This was the first of many acts dealing with working conditions and hours. The rules became more sternly enforced. No rules were introduced for male workers.

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The Municipal Corporations Act: 1835

Why was it needed?
The efficient running if towns needed to be resolved. Most towns were ran and functioned by the chosen corporations differently. In some towns, only members of these corporations could vote, showing corruption as they used privileges for personal gain and advantages. 

What changes did it introduce?

  • Closed corporations were banned; borough councils had to be elected by all male ratepayers who had lived in the town for three years.
  • Councillors were elected for 3 years at a time and a third of the council was to be elected annually.
  • Councillors would choose the mayor who would hold office for a year.
  • Each borough paid a town clerk and a treasurer. Accounts were audited.
  • Councils were required to form a police force.

How successful was the reform?
Organisation improved and the principle of elected town councils was established. Not every town applied to become boroughs as it was costly & confusing, mainly beneficial to middle class.

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Act for Non-Conformists: 1836

Why was it needed?
Non-Conformists (the Protestant Christians of England & Wales who refused to follow the governance and usages of the Church of England) and Roman Catholics could not marry in their own churches. The postal service before 1840 had been chaotic and inefficient due to the time it took to transport a letter.
What changes did it introduce?

  • The limited liabilities act ,1836: This reform encouraged investment by private investors through the idea of limited liability. If a company went bankrupt shareholders did not have to pay for the losses.
  • The introduction of the penny post, 1840: The penny stamp was introduced which intended to speed up the whole process.

How successful was the reform?
The limited liabilities company act encouraged people to invest in the new railway connecting Birmingham and London in 1837. The introduction of the penny post proved to be very helpful. The new system was far more effective that the previous system. Much use was of this in the anti-corn law league campaigns upto 1846. 

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1834: The Pool Law Amendment Act.

In 1833 Earl Grey, the Prime Minister, set up a Poor Law Commission to examine the working of the poor Law system in Britain. In their report published in 1834, the Commission made several recommendations to Parliament. As a result, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. The act stated that: 

  • No able-bodied person was to receive money or other help from the Poor Law authorities except in a workhouse; 
  • Conditions in workhouses were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help.
  • Workhouses were to be built in every parish or, if parishes were too small, in unions of parishes; 
  • Ratepayers in each parish or union had to elect a Board of Guardians to supervise the workhouse, to collect the Poor Rate and to send reports to the Central Poor Law Commission; 
  • The three man Central Poor Law Commission would be appointed by the government and would be responsible for supervising the Amendment Act throughout the country.
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Why did the Whigs fall in 1841?

  • The Whigs were not managing their budget well and had financial problems.
  • Peel had already been in office for 100 days in November 1834, so people had already seen what he had been like.
  • The Whigs had no understanding of the causes if unemployment.
  • Their reforms slowed down after 1836 when Melbourne replaced Grey and they did nothing to tackle mines of unhealthy towns or free trade.
  • The Poor Law Amendment Act and the Chartist rejection made them unpopular along with economic hardship.
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Foreign Policy under Palmerston 1830-1841.

Like Castlereagh and Canning, he believed in;

  • A balance of power.
  • Concert of Europe to maintain peace (with use of threat of war to keep it.)
  • Abolition of Slave trade.
  • To protect British trade.
  • Maintain British interests.

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The Eastern Question.

Problem: The Egyptians felt they had not been adequately rewarded for helping Turkey in Greek War of Independence so in 1832 they started to take Turkish land, Syria.

Actions: Turkey turned to Russia for help as Britain was distracted by the 1832 Reform Act. They secretly agreed the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi in July 1833, they agreed to allow Russian warships to enter the Mediterranean through the Straitts. Britain objected to this as it would affect their freedom to trade. In 1839, the Turks launched an invasion to recapture Syria but Egypt, with French help, defeated them. Palmerston was therefore concerned about French and Russian influence. The 1840 Convention of London saw Palmerston agree with Austria, Prussia and Russia to get rid of the Egyptian leader from Syria. The French were furious at being left out of it.

Success? Palmerston gained lots if credit. He preserved British interests and he discredited both France and Russia without resorting to war. Turkish independence was guaranteed. 

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The Opium Wars.

Problem: British merchants were involved in a lucrative trade in Opium. The Emperor of China wanted to stop this. In 1839, the Chinese authorities seized British owned Opium in Canton and prohibited trade with Britain.

Action: Palmerston demanded compensation and a guarantee that British trade would not be disrupted. When the Chinese refused he sent in the fleet to bombard Canton. The Chinese surrendered and the Treaty of Nanking was arranged. The Chinese had to give compensation and Britain gained Hong Kong. Six Chinese Ports were opened to British trade. The Chinese agreed to pay 6 million compensation for British losses.

Success? It was successful. However, Palmerston has been criticised for lacking moral leadership.

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Spain & Portugal.

Problem: The young queens Isabella and Maria were the democratic rulers but they were opposed by their uncles Carlos and Miguel. Palmerston was keen to prevent France acting alone.

Action: In 1834, Palmerston created the Quadruple Alliance of Britain, France, Portugal and Spain. He sent a fleet to the coast of Portugal and financed a naval expedition which defeated Miguel. In 1839, Carlos was also defeated.

Success? He managed to keep French influence to a minimum.

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The Belgium Question: 1830-1839.

Problem: Belgium was under Dutch rule and wanted independence. Palmerston was happy to allow independence but was worried they would turn to France for support and France would gain strategic influence along the Belgian coast. This fear was not helped when the Belgians chose Louis Phillipe's son as their king.

Action: Palmerston managed to get Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha appointed as king. The Dutch were unhappy and Palmerston did not want the French to support the Belgians alone as the Eastern powers would then get involved. He agreed to join with France to send a military force. In 1839, the Dutch finally accepted the new Belgian state and the treaty of London was signed. All the Great Powers promised to honour Belgian neutrality.

Success? Spectacular success. Palmerston displayed a consistent and firm line. He prevented the French getting involved on their own and protected British interests. He also used the Concert of Europe. However, he was also lucky that the Polish Revolt distracted Russia.

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The Polish Revolt & Relations with USA.

The Polish Revolt

Problem: The Poles rebelled against Russian rule.

Action: Palmerston let Russia deal with it. This preoccupied Russia at a time he was worried they might get involved in Belgium. 

Relations with USA

Problem: The main areas of conflict remained the slave trade and the borders with Canada.

Action: He agreed to recognise the independence of Texas in 1836 but on condition they renounced the slave trade. He wanted a right to search ships but the US government refused. 1840 he threatened war over the McLeod case. He was a Canadian who was put on trial for supposedly shooting a US citizen during the 1837 rebellion against British rule.

Success? He lost office before the matter become too intense.

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Examples of trade influencing foreign policy

Trade influencing Foreign Policy

  • The Eastern Question: Palmerston got involved and managed to overturn the Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi to prevent the damaging of British trade and he gained the Port of Aden at the same time.
  • The Opium Wars: In 1838, the Chinese government banned the trade in Opium as it was damaging the population. The Treaty of Nanking opened up Chinese Ports to Britain again.
  • Canning acknowledged Spain's Latin American colonies as independent as he realised they could be potential trading partners.

Balance of Power influencing Foreign Policy

  • It was important for British trade that they were free, so Palmerston created the Quadruple Alliance of 1834 for Britain, France, Portugal and Spain to act against the Alliance of Russia, Austria and Prussia and sent in the fleet to protect the rights of the princesses, with successful results.
  • Greek War of Independence, Britain got involved to prevent Russians gaining too much influence.
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Establishing friendly and stable governments influencing Foreign Policy

  • Belgium, in order to keep French influence out.
  • South America, the Monroe Doctrine with USA to protect South America and keep put French influence.
  • Spain & Portugal, Britain preferred to support the liberal governments rather than autocratic ones of the uncles and so they got involved.

Restraining Russia influencing Foreign Policy

  • Britain's main aim in the Eastern question was to prevent Russia from gaining too much from the weakening of Turkey.
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