The Great Reform Act 1832
Passed by the Whigs, leader Earl Grey
Pressure for reform in 1930
o Extra-parliamentary pressure became so intense, reform became inevitable.
o French revolution had influence on British political life, reformist ideas created, this involved people who were excluded from the franchise (conditional factors).
o Many w/c people especially in industrial tows becoming increasingly politicised, large number of pamphlets spread political ideas. Most influential was William Cobbett’s, Weekly Political Register (conditional factors).
o Early 19th century saw growth of large political meetings in many parts of the country, some of these focused on a single issue such as, Corn Laws but many including the Peterloo meeting of 1819 demanded comprehensive reform of parliament (conditional factors).
o Tory party been in power since 1812, but in late 1820s party unity began to fragment due to issues like religion (contingent factors).
o Country faced severe economic crisis in late 1820s, the harvests of 1828-30 were poor resulting into higher food prices (contingent factors).
o Agricultural distress spread in southern and eastern England, hardship experienced by workers was so severe in 1830 sparked Swing Riots (arson and destruction of machines in large scale, 19 men executed, 500 transported & 600 imprisoned) (contingent factors).
o Extra-parliamentary protests became more organised notably Thomas Attwood’s Birmingham Political Union created in 1830 (contingent).
o Events in France once again influenced reform activity in Britain (contingent).
o W/C people prepared to take up issue of franchise reform (contingent).
Impact on the franchise
o Old 40-shilling franchise retained, gave the vote to tenant farmers who rented property worth £50 a year.
o Swept away number of borough qualifications, standard borough franchise established, enfranchising male householders with a house worth £10 a year.
o English counties electorate increased by 55% from 240,000 voters to 370,000.
o English boroughs electorate rose from 200,000 men to 280,000 an increase of 40%.
o It appeared radical but was hedged around qualifications.
o Many men in industrial towns moved around in search of employment so were disqualified of the vote.
o Rents in London much higher so could meet the £10 property requirement but rents in northern towns such as, Manchester and Leeds much lower.
o Many people bitterly disappointed with the act, skilled working class though they’d be admitted into the franchise but borough franchise of £10 was too high for them.
Redistribution of seats
o Disenfranchised 56 boroughs in England and Wales and reduced another 31 to have onlt one MP.
o Created 67 new constituencies.
The Second Reform Act 1867
Passed by Conservatives, leader Benjamin Disraeli
Revival interest of reform
o Unlike 1831-32, no substantial pressure for reform from outside the parliament before 1865
o Economic distress of the late 1840s began to decline followed by the sustained growth of the Industrial Revolution drove Britain.
o No real grievances and drive demands for reform, 1850s and early 1860s were free from political agitation.
o By 1865, developments at home and abroad reawakened interest…