The 1832 Reform Act

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  • Created by: kt6382
  • Created on: 12-03-14 13:34

First Parliamentary reform act was passes in 1832. In 1830 new agitation for reform seemed more widespread than before. This was shown in the general election of autumn 1830 when candidates who were favour of reform did well, resulting in the election of a Whig government which decided to introduce a Reform Bill. The Whig Leader, Charles Grey was in favour of reform. 

Why did calls for Reform Revive in 1830? 

  • There had been a steady increase in businessmen, manufacturers and merchants who resented parliament's domination by landowners. They felt that the landowning faction in parliament looked after their own interests. They wanted the system to change to give the middle classes more representation in the Commons. Basically, the merchants and manufacturing groups felt under-represented in parliament.  
  • Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 had weakened and split the tory party enabling pro-reform Whigs to form a government.  The success od the Catholic Association in forcing the government to reform also encouraged those wanting reform of parliament, it proved well organised and direct pressure could be successful. 
  • There was a Downturn in the economy which hit both agriculture and industry: there were widespread protests against irregular employment and low wages. 
  • In rural areas these were Captain Swing protests after the name on threatening letters to landowners. Eventhough the violence had dies down by 1831, the outbreaks of violence had been alarming enough to convince many Whigs that moderate reform was the best way to avoid revolution. 
  • Unrest in industrial areas such as Manchester and Oldham In May 1831 the whole area of around Merthyr Tydfil was in rebellion against wage cuts and unemplyment; in June the army was sent in to restore order, resulting in deaths, arrests and punishments of 'ringleaders' by transportation and hanging. 
  • Poor Harvests in 1829-30 caused more hardship for the working classes in both the countryside and industrial areas. 
  • Pro-reform organisations were set up, such as the Birmingham Political Union (BPU) formed by Thomas Attwood.  Other cities followed suit and these organised themselves into a nationwide movement called the National Polticial Union, winning the support both of the middle classes and working classes. They were encouraged by the victory of the Catholic Association gaining the rights of Catholics to become MPs. 
  • Short Revolution in France in July 1830- the unpopular King Charles X was overthrown and replaced by King Louis Philippe. Main effect was to send shockwaves through many of the ruling classes, again prompting many to consider reform as a way of preventing revolution. 
  • New king in England (William IV) in 1830 was prepared to go along with some moderate changes.  

Supporters of the Parliamentary system did not think it needed changing despite its many problems. Many of those benefitted from the system worried reform would affect them. There was also a fear that some reform would not be enough, and once it begun, calls for more change would increase, and that campaigners would not be satisfied until they had…


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