The Great Reform Act and its aftermath - 1830 to 1860

Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.”

Robert Byrne

                Unusually there were no petitions presented to Parliament in the years 1825 to 1829 calling for reform.   Things were about to change.   With the death of a King and a General Election in which parliamentary reform became an issue petitions shot up in number.   In 1830 there were no less than 645 petitions, many of them being quite vague in their call for reform.   The number of signatures on the petitions was never counted, but we know that at least 25,000 signed one from Birmingham, which was still underrepresented in Parliament.   Peterloo, suspension of habeas corpus, threats to liberty, victimisation, all contributed to a feeling that Parliament needed reform.   Petitions were the outlets for the frustration of the people.   Many of the petitions demanded universal suffrage.

To the horror of almost every MP, 280 of the petitions specifically insisted on the secret ballot to protect voters from victimization by their landlords and masters.   Even more than the spreading of the franchise, the ballot threatened the control over elections that had been up to that time wielded exclusively by the rich.   The frenetic, drunken farce whereby results of elections were publicly “declared” was wide open to bribery.   Secret ballot votes were unpredictable and much more difficult to bribe. "The Vote" by P. Foot

Voters had to go and vote publicly which made it easier for agents to check that they had done as they were told.

A petition is a formal written request from one or more people to the Sovereign, the Government or to Parliament.   The right of the subject to petition the Monarch for redress of personal grievances has probably been exercised since Saxon times.   It was recognised in Magna Carta and more explicitly in an Act passed by Henry IV in 1406.   The Bill of Rights of 1688 restated that right in unambiguous terms, " ... it is the right of the subjects to petition the King, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal"

The first known petitions to the Lords and to both Houses of Parliament date from the reign of Richard II, but seem to have become widespread from the reign of Henry IV onwards.   In 1571 a Committee for Motions of Griefs and Petitions was first appointed.   In Medieval times receivers and triers of Petitions were appointed by Parliament to collect Petitions.   Some cases would be referred to local courts: major matters were reserved for Parliament itself.

With the increase in the influence and importance of Parliament during the reign of Charles I, petitioning became one of the main methods of airing grievances by those classes not represented in Parliament.   The House of Commons began to appoint committees specifically to examine petitions; particularly those concerned with religious liberties.

By the Restoration, disorderly scenes resulting from mass presentations of petitions led to an act against tumultuous petitioning in 1661, which limited the presentation of a Petition to a maximum of 10 people.   This act, with amendments, is still in force.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, petitions generally dealt with personal or local grievances.   But from the Restoration and eighteenth century period, as the Commons' judicial functions ceased, it became more common to make representations or complain about matters of public policy.   Petitions were traditionally read before the start of debates, and by the 1830s this was taking up a considerable amount of time in the chamber. Radical MPs often used the petitions system as a way of getting frequent, unscheduled, debates on subjects on which they felt strongly.   It was also used as a way of obstructing government and other business as their debate preceded the main business of the Day.   The average number of petitions presented annually to the Commons in 1785-9 was 176.   By 1811-5, this had grown to over 1,100; and in the years 1837-41, the figure was almost 17,600.

The phenomenal rise in petitions demonstrated a greater awareness in the people of politics and a greater ability to mobilise.   It was important because it was the one action the people, who were not part of the electorate, could take to show their views.   It also indicates that up until 1830 there were those in Parliament that wanted to hear them.   The middle classes wanted representation and there were those in parliament that wanted to represent them.

In 1830 the House of Commons consisted of 658 members, of those England and Wales returned 513, Ireland 100 and Scotland 45.   In total they represented 40 English counties, 179 boroughs, 24 cities, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, 12 Welsh counties, 12 Welsh boroughs, and the Scottish and Irish constituencies.    They broke down into 122 county MPs. 432 borough MPs, 100 from Ireland and two each from Oxford and Cambridge.   By the end of the eighteenth century the counties had fallen almost completely under various “influences”.   Often such seats were regarded as hereditary, and elections were rare because arrangements could be made to avoid the cost of fighting them.   Ireland was massively over represented but it was also a hot potato, which the politicians were loath to touch.

English and Irish counties were each represented by two MPs irrespective of size and population.   Yorkshire for example had 17,000 electors while Rutland had only 609.   The Scottish and Welsh counties had only one MP each, and both Scotland (45 seats) and Wales (24) seats were under-represented compared with England’s 489 seats.   Scotland had only one more member than Cornwall, where the population was one eighth of that of Scotland and those Scottish seats were controlled by less than 150 patrons.   Similarly since the Act of Union in 1801 the Irish elections were almost entirely controlled by 50-60 landowners.

It was the boroughs, however, returning two-thirds of the House of Commons, which really determined its political composition.   Most of them had obtained the right to send two members to Parliament some 300 years previously, but in the meantime their size had changed considerably, in some cases almost beyond recognition.   Moreover, the Industrial Revolution had resulted in a shift of population to the Midlands and North of England and in the growth of large towns, while the boroughs were concentrated in the South.   Thus Cornwall, with a population in 1831 of 300,000 returned 42 borough members plus two county members, whereas Lancashire, having 1,300,000 returned only 14.   Such large towns as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, returned no MPs.

In the counties, the uniform qualification for the franchise, established in 1430 still remained.   It was simply the ownership of free land or tenement to the value of 40s a year.   In the period from 1430 to 1832 inflation went up by approximately 145% so there was some increase in the electorate during this period solely on the grounds that 40s in 1832 had less value than in 1430.   Elections took place at the county court and often extended over many days.   No list was prepared.   Those claiming the right to vote attended in person and merely swore on oath that they were qualified.   Often this qualification had been obtained by the device of carving off a small portion of land, a “faggot”, from a larger freehold, each part having a value in excess of 40s.   Since there was no secret ballot, electors could be intimidated or bribed by rich patrons.   Sometimes the holders of certain church offices were considered to be freeholders – the bellringer at Westminster Abbey was allowed to vote in Middlesex.

The borough franchise, unlike the county, was irregular, depending on local custom, although both types of seat elected two members of parliament with each elector having two votes.   Some boroughs were fairly democratic.   Thus in the “scot and lot boroughs,” a liability to pay the local poor rate was accepted as the qualification to vote, while in the “potwalloper” boroughs, all persons having a single room with a hearth in it were deemed to be able to “boil their own pot” and so were enfranchised.   The majority of boroughs, however, contained only a limited number of electors.   Sometimes the franchise was enjoyed by all the hereditary freemen; in others, the “close boroughs”, it was restricted by charter to members of the municipal corporation, usually self elected, often non-resident, and existing solely to receive bribes from a prospective MP.   But the greatest anomalies occurred in the “burbage boroughs”, where the right to vote was frequently based on common law and vested by custom in the occupation or ownership of an ancient tenement or parcel of land.   At both Old Sarum in Wiltshire and Midhurst in Sussex, small plots of land on which nobody resided were sufficient to return two members, while Gatton in Surrey, although turned over to parkland enjoyed a similar right.   Dunwich, once in Suffolk, was now under the waters of the North Sea.   Altogether there were 56 boroughs with fewer than 40 voters each, and two MPs represented each of them in the House of Commons.   Mr. Canning” remarked Walter Bagehot, “was an eloquent man, but even he could not say that a decaying tree stump was the people.”

In O’Gorman’s book Voters, Patrons and Parties it states that: According to the Whig historian Creevey, the borough franchise had originally been uniform and was based on an ability to contribute to MPs wages.   However successive kings had deliberately abandoned the financial qualification in order to create a subordinate class of needy boroughs.

Two significant consequences stand out from this irrational system of franchise.   First, the right to vote was severely limited.   In 1831 only about 435,000 of the total population of 20 million people could vote.   The ratio of voters to population also varied from place to place.   Winchester, with a population of 9,000, had 60 voters, while Scotland, with a population of 2 million had only 3,000.   Secondly, seats came under the control of powerful patrons, often-great landowners, who either actually owned the “pocket” or “rotten” boroughs, or were in a position to bribe or intimidate the electors.   These patrons could either sell the seats to the highest bidder or look to their nominees for support in Parliament when they sought office or honours.   No wonder the Younger Pitt exclaimed: “This House is not representative of the people of Great Britain; it is the representative of nominal boroughs, of ruined and exterminated towns, of noble families, of wealthy individuals, of foreign potentates.”
In 1830 attention was focused on parliamentary reform and this became the dominant issue in the election which followed upon the death of George IV in June of that year.   George IV’s daughter and only child Princess Charlotte, who had died in childbirth in 1817, had predeceased him leaving the succession to his eldest surviving brother William IV.   Under the rules of the day, a general election was always called on the death of the monarch.   This was a hangover from the days when the monarch was effectively the government so a change of monarch meant a change of government.   Britain’s voting system was desperately in need of revision.   The aristocracy had parliamentary seats in their gift.   The Earl of Lonsdale, formerly Sir James Lowther, for example controlled nine, his dependable and servile MPs being known as the “ninepins”.   Yet the Duke of Wellington opposed the abolition of these rotten boroughs, his Government continued until November, when he resigned, and Lord Grey, the Leader of the Whigs committed to reform, became Prime Minister.   This was the first time since 1708 that a Government had fallen after a General Election.   But it took eighteen months of political crises and the threat of revolution before Grey’s Reform Bill was passed into law.
In the General Election of June to August 1830, Henry Brougham, one of the brightest men of the time, threw himself into the race to become the MP for Yorkshire.   To be elected for Yorkshire required real campaigning and Brougham demonstrated his appetite for it.  
Based in York where he pleaded at the Assizes every day, Brougham, one of those frantically energetic men, flung himself round every town within a thirty mile radius of the Minster and, according to his legal colleague, Denman, was addressing 70,000 voters a day before getting back to York at midnight.   It was the beginning of a new and furious style, which would not die out till the 1960s. "Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce.
Brougham had an interesting parliamentary history.   In 1810, the Duke of Bedford, a Whig aristocrat, offered Brougham, the parliamentary seat of Camelford.   The constituency only had twenty voters and they were all under the control of the Duke of Bedford.   Although Henry Brougham disapproved of this corrupt system he accepted the seat in order to enter the House of Commons.
He soon established himself as one of the leading radicals in Parliament.   His first campaign in Parliament was against slavery and in 1810 he played an important role in making participation in the slave trade a felony.   The Duke of Bedford had financial problems and had to sell Camelford in 1812 and Brougham had to find another seat in the next election.
In 1815 Lord Darlington offered Henry Brougham the vacant seat of Winchelsea.   Like Camelford, Winchelsea was a pocket borough.   Unable to find a seat which he had a chance of winning, Brougham accepted Lord Darlington's offer and the following year became M. P. for Winchelsea. Brougham remained MP for Winchelsea until February 1830.

In the General Election of 1830 Brougham was returned for Knaresborough in Yorkshire, one of only four representatives for Yorkshire. However, he only represented Knaresborough for a few months.   He had based his campaign on three issues of electoral reform.   They were tri-ennial parliaments, the transfer of seats to great industrial towns and the widening of the franchise to town-dwelling householders.   He also pledged to fight for the abolition of the slave trade.   As a result the Morning Chronicle committed itself to reform and The Times began to espouse the cause.

 In November 1830 the Tory government led by the Duke of Wellington fell, and the Whigs came to power under Lord Grey.   It was considered impossible to leave the popular Brougham out of the government, although his independent political standing was thought to be a possible impediment to the new administration.   He was offered the position of Lord Chancellor, which he accepted, and on 22 November he was raised to the peerage as Baron Brougham, of Brougham in the County of Westmoreland.   He was to remain in this post for exactly four years.

In 1830 few people foresaw the momentous events which were about to happen.   Democracy was about to take a great leap forward.   You would not have realised this during the General Election campaign.   Only about 25% of the seats in England and Wales were contested.   Many grievances were aired including parliamentary reform and the abolition of slavery but none dominated the campaign.   Today it would be unthinkable for there not to be a contest in all seats.

The antiquated structure of the English electoral system was defensible only if it produced administrations that both worked and were acceptable to public opinion.   Once executive government faltered (as Grey thought it was faltering under Wellington) and the system came under hostile or even merely objective scrutiny, its anomalies and abuses were obvious.   The aristocracy had adjusted itself to the eccentricities of the electoral constitution until it had become as intimate and comfortable as an old suit of clothes and its oddities praised as possessing rare and subtle virtues.   Nor were its defenders without some justification.   What is important about any organisation is how it works, not how it is constructed.   When Wellington in November 1830 said that it would be impossible for anyone to devise such a good legislature as that which already existed, since “the nature of man was incapable of reaching such excellence at once”,  he was right in the sense that the parliamentary constitution of 1830 was the product of time, history, the growth of conventions, and the rationalization of defects.   It was an institution which nobody would ever have deliberately framed but which did perform the important functions of linking however inefficiently the executive and the legislature, representing however imperfectly the great interests of the country, and responding however tardily to important shifts of public opinion – even to the extent of reforming itself when the time came.   Treasury boroughs provided safe seats for hardworking ministers; nomination boroughs gave openings for penniless young men of talent; rotten boroughs allowed middle-aged merchants and manufacturers to enter the House; popular constituencies provided a democratic element. "Aristocracy and People" by N Gash
The conduct of elections in the early nineteenth century was often done in an atmosphere of bribery and corruption.   Because there was no secret ballot everyone, but more importantly the candidates, knew how each elector voted.   The inevitable result was a combination of intimidation and bribery.

The simplest argument in favour of reform was the need to root out Old Corruption.   The 1832 edition of John Wade’s Extraordinary Black Book (first published in 1820) contained a 700 page expose of places, pensions, reversions, sinecures, nepotism and pluralism in the court, the Church, the Privy Council, government departments, colonial establishments, municipal corporations, guilds, fraternities, the judiciary, the City, the military and so on. "A Mad, Bad, & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton

 Reversions were the legal right to possess something when its present holder relinquishes it.   In some seats, which had small electorates the candidacy could be bought or sold.   In these seats there would often be no contest.   The local landowner would buy the votes with gifts to the electors.   He could then sell the candidacy for a considerable sum of money.

In constituencies with large electorates, candidates resorted to outright bribery in the way of cash payments, jobs, government posts, contracts, and sometimes-free beer.   An election in Liverpool in 1830 cost the two candidates over £100,000 between them.   The voting lasted the usual 15 days and the state of the contest was known from day to day.   They were paying £15 a vote at the beginning, but on the last day, with the candidates neck and neck, each vote was costing £150. "Mastering Modern British History" by N. Lowe.

Bribery on occasion was expensive but the fruits of membership of Parliament could be great.   Following the demands of agriculture, parliamentary sessions usually ran from late January until July.   Business began about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.   In 1830 things were about to change:

On 28 May Daniel O’Connell, now the elected MP for Clare showed his most radical face yet.   O’Connell demanded universal suffrage and, before his motion was defeated by one of the biggest margins ever, he set out the bald figures of corrupt representation: only 134 MPs out of more than 600 were elected in any proper meaning of the word; 240 were under the direct influence of peers. "The Vote" by Paul Foot 

At the time it is thought that no less than 350 MPs owed their position by patronage.   Of the 350, 213 seats were in the hands of 87 peers.   The other 137 seats were in the hands of wealthy commoners.   It is no wonder that an increasing number of people were offended and outraged by this distortion of democracy.   It is also no wonder that the House of Lords opposed reform.   After all, a few peers controlled a third of the House of Commons.   One of the main opponents of reform was Sir Robert Dundas.   He set out the central argument against universal suffrage:

As long as aristocracy is essential to the Constitution and Crown; as long as that class of individuals has a large proportion of the land and wealth of the country, property will have its due weight in returning Members to Parliament, whether the right of voting is placed in the most popular and uniform basis, or is varied or restricted as at present.”

With the press in favour of reform, in his November 1830 speech Wellington dropped a clanger.   It was one of the greatest clangers ever made in Parliament.   He not only stated his total opposition to reform.   He went on to say:

"Britain possessed a Legislature, which answered all the good purposes of legislation, and this to a greater degree than the Legislature ever had answered in any country whatever”. "Hansard Parliamentary Debates Series3 I 52-53 (2 Nov 1830).

  The legislature was probably better than any other nation had to offer at the time but Wellington had lost the plot.   He had become a lame duck Prime Minister.   The end was in sight.

  A Select committee of Parliament had recommended in 1830 that “all expenditure not affecting the dignity and state of the Crown and the personal comfort of “Their Majesties” should be removed from the Civil List”.    When Wellington had to take a decision on the Civil List (income allocated to William IV) he was in hot water.

  The final crisis stemmed from a proposal by Goulburn to cut £161,000 from a budget of about £1,250,000 for the new King’s Civil List.   This was a lot, but the Opposition said it was not enough, and on 15 November Henry Parnell, backed by Althorp and Hume, moved for the appointment of a select committee.   In the vote that followed, a substantial number of members normally thought of as pro-government voted with Parnell, and to the minister’s amazement the motion was carried by 233 to 204. "Letters of Dorothea, Princess Lieven, during her residence in London" by L. G. Robinson 

  Wellington resigned immediately.   Joseph Hume had made his name arguing for the legalisation of trade unions.
 By March 1831 more than a thousand petitions in favour of reform had been presented to Parliament.

 The growth of the popular Press, the repression following the Napoleonic Wars and the weak and unstable governments of the 1820s, all encouraged the middle classes to intensify their demands.  

 Charles, Earl Grey as Prime Minister, headed the Government, which took office in November 1830, after Wellington’s resignation.   This was the same man who had stood beside Fox some forty years earlier and had called for parliamentary reform.   It was not therefore a surprise that one of his first acts as Prime Minister was to appoint Lord Durham, Lord Privy Seal, to chair a Committee on Parliamentary Reform.   This Committee put forward sweeping proposals for reform.   They even contemplated direct representation from the colonies, though this was rejected on the grounds that it would be difficult to implement.

Every Bill has to have three readings in the House of Commons and three in the House of Lords before it becomes an Act of Parliament.   The first readings are a formality but after that the debate starts.

In preparing the Reform Bill Earl Grey and his Ministers were prepared to compromise in order to ensure the passage of the Bill through Parliament, as long as the compromise did not threaten their power or wealth.   The property qualification for voting would remain in place.   At first it was proposed that it be raised to £20, but this was quickly abandoned when it was realised that St. Germain in Cornwall would end up with one voter electing one MP.    Finally it was agreed to set the amount at £10, which was five times what it had been previously.   This would now mean that the electorate would consist of about 8% of the male population, double what it had previously been.

Lord Durham’s Committee, whose report was adopted by the Whig Government, recommended three things: first disfranchisement of the decayed towns (all the nomination and some of the rotten boroughs); secondly, enfranchisement of large towns, hitherto unrepresented; thirdly, the adoption of a uniform franchise for all boroughs.   The Government decided that half measures would be useless.    When, therefore Lord John Russell rose in the House of Commons, on the 1st of March 1831, to introduce the Reform Bill, he was prepared with a sweeping measure.   A gasp of astonishment arose from the crowded benches as Lord John read out the terms of the Bill.   Over fifty boroughs, returning two members each, were to be disfranchised, and fifty more were to lose one member out of two.   At the end of his speech Russell read out the lists of the doomed boroughs; each name was greeted with ironical cheers, loud laughter, or rude comments.   Few members supposed that the Bill would ever become law. A History of Britain Section 5 1688-Present Day by E. Carter & R. Mears.

The numbers of boroughs scrapped and reduced to one member were slightly altered during the passage of the Bill.
Earl Grey’s Cabinet did not set out to produce a fair and democratic system of elections.   What they tried to do was to meet the concerns of the public, which had been, voiced the loudest.   The main proposals in the Bill were as follow:

1             Sixty rotten boroughs to be abolished.

2              Forty-seven small boroughs to lose one Member.

3             Thirty-four Members to be allocated to the so far unrepresented important    towns.

4              Fifty-five extra Members to be allocated to the under represented county constituencies,

5              Limit the duration of the poll to two days, and

6              Provide an official register of electors.

7               A £10 uniform borough franchise to be imposed

 To exclude everyone below an arbitrary £10 line would mean either that the line would have to be lowered bit by bit, or else that those below it would turn against parliamentary institutions altogether. Hansard Parliamentary Debates series 3 1346 Peel (3 Mar 1831)

The Bill did not give all manhood suffrage and it did not propose annual parliaments but it did catch the imagination of the public and received widespread support, which helped its success.   Many people wrongly believed it would give them the vote.   Lord John Russell promised the new industrial towns the vote, but not everyone in them.

When Russell, who at the time was paymaster of the forces, presented the Reform Bill to the House of Commons, something quite new was proposed – single seat constituencies.   This was a radical departure from the two member constituencies, which had served the House for six hundred years.   Perhaps it was an indication that with the development of the railways communication was getting easier and faster.   The Rocket designed by Robert Stephenson had been the clear winner in the locomotive trials held in 1829 to decide the motive power for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.   Robert learnt his engineering skills from his father George.   Not all the constituencies were to be single member seats.   Russell started by listing twenty towns where it would apply.

 It was proposed that towns with an electorate of less than 2,000 should have their representation in Parliament abolished and they were to be merged into other constituencies.   Higham Ferrars in Northamptonshire lost out, as did Gattin, Old Sarum and Ilchester.   Wendover, the former seat of Canning and Edmund Burke and which had been in the gift of the Duke of Grafton was another to lose out.

Lord Stormont, MP for Aldborough, protested that his town was made a borough by Edward I, and that it had not grown any smaller since.  Macaulay responded:  “Does the noble Lord remember the change that has taken place in the country during the last five centuries?   Does he remember how much England has grown in population while Aldborough has been standing still?”

London gained another eight members.   Scotland, Ireland and Wales gained respectively five, three and one new seats.   There were in total 106 new seats making a grand total of 596 seats in the House of Commons.   About an extra half a million voters were added to the electorate for the House of Commons.   This was great progress for democracy, but even Lord John Russell had some doubts about the secret ballot.   He said “Men of rank and title may still desire to have power over the multitude.   But would the ballot really protect them?”   The people were going to have to wait some time more before they would get the protection of the secret ballot.   Initially the Bill included the provision for a secret ballot but after Prime Minister Grey opposed it, it was dropped.   The Bill was published on 1 March 1831 and debated in the House of Commons for nine days.   Within the Bill Russell proposed an electoral register compiled by parish officers.   The duration of polling was cut to two days with Russell expressing the hope that “the time will come when the machinery will be found so simple that every vote may be given on a single day”.   In due course he was proved to be right.

The debate in Parliament on the Reform Bill produced some classic speeches on democracy – many now sadly forgotten.   Henry Hunt, who had made many speeches throughout England calling for radical reform, who was to have spoken at St Peter Fields, Manchester, scene of one of the most disgraceful massacres in British history spoke about that meeting in the House of Commons.   Hansard reported his speech verbatim but included a fuller description in the margin.   Hunt said of the Manchester meeting:

“as peaceable and orderly as that now assembled in the House of Commons for as peaceable and constitutional an object – the attainment of constitutional reform; when that meeting took place, there was a real massacre.   A drunken and infuriated yeomanry [loud cries “No”. “No” and Question!] a drunken and infuriated yeomanry with swords newly sharpened [reiterated cries of “No!” and “Question”] – with swords newly sharpened, slaughtered fourteen and maimed and wounded 648 [shouts of “No!” and “Question”].   Where was the man who will step forward and say “No”, I say again (said the hon. Member in a tone of voice louder and louder still which was almost drowned by still more violent cries of “No” and “Order”) that on that day, a drunken and infuriated yeomanry murdered fourteen and cut and maimed 648 as peaceable and well disposed persons as any he saw around him.”

Hunt supported the Bill, but would have liked it to go further.   He wanted enfranchisement of the working class and a secret ballot.   According to Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates Hunt said: “the best vote, was that which came from the industrious artificer or manufacturer, who earned from 30s to £3 a week”.   He spoke with experience   Now he was the MP for Preston but shortly after the Peterloo massacre when he had been a candidate “400 families were afterwards in the year 1820 expelled from their homes in consequence of voting for him”.

One customary argument for the open declaration at the hustings was that it was the “manly” thing to do.   But manliness did not extend to tolerating such evidence.   Hunt’s account was greeted, says the record, by “Loud cries of “Question”.   But never much troubled at the giving of offence, Hunt went on to answer the alternative squirming claim, that the ballot would lead to hypocrisy, observing that “at the Clubs of the highest classes in England, the Ballot was constantly resorted to as a means of avoiding the odium of a vote; but if a man was to say in these clubs that the Ballot made its members hypocrites, he would have his heart made a very cullender [sic] with bullets”. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce.

 Francis Place, a leading figure in the agitation for reform saw the real significance of the Bill when he said it would lead to further changes.   What was the Tory reaction to the Bill? 

Russell sat down and Peel declined to speak, so the task of answering him fell to Inglis.   An antiquarian who just eleven days later was appointed a Commissioner of Public Records, Inglis had no difficulty in showing that despite what Hallam and Russell claimed, representation had never been linked to population.   When a medieval king had needed money he had summoned his free barons (Lords) and the representatives of communities (Commoners), but he had chosen the latter “arbitrarily, and without reference to numbers”.   Old Sarum had been favoured, not because it was populous (it never had been) but because Edward I had wished to bestow a personal favour on the Earl of Salisbury by giving him a right of nomination to the Commons.   In other words, nomination had always been the basis of the franchise; because it was linked to taxation it was originally a burden, but now it was seen as a privilege. "A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton

Inglis spoke:

 “Nothing is more certain than that boroughs were created by the mere will of the King, sometimes at the requisition of a favourite”. "Hansard Parliamentary Debates series 3 ii 1098 

When he did speak, Sir Robert Peel looked to the future with some foreboding.   He thought that the Bill would be the thin end of the wedge.   He was right, of course, although the time scale would turn out to be longer than he envisaged.   As Hansard reported him:

“But these are vulgar arts of government; others will outbid you, not now, but at no remote period – They will offer votes and power to a million men, will quote your precedent for the concession and will carry your principles to their legitimate and natural consequence”.   He admitted to “feelings of pain and humiliation”.   Peel was prophetic, but his prophesy was not to be realised for ninety years.

 opponents of the Bill endeavoured to defend the existing system on various grounds, e.g. that the system had been designed by “the wisdom of our ancestors” and ought not to be meddled with, or that it had in the past produced some very able statesmen, and a new system would not be likely to produce better.   Many of these arguments were answered by Macaulay, who made one of his greatest speeches on the second night of the debate.   He pointed out that the overwhelming feeling in the country demanded Reform, and that if it were not satisfied there would be a revolution. "A History of Great Britain"Section 5 by E Carter & R. Mears. 

On 2 March Macaulay said “Who flatters himself that he can turn this feeling back? … We have had laws.   We have had blood.   New treasons have been created.   The press has been shackled.   The Habeas Corpus Act has been suspended.   Public meetings have been prohibited.   The event has proved that these expedients were mere palliatives.   You are at the end of your palliatives.   The evil remains.   It is more formidable than ever.   What is to be done?”

Building up to a great peroration, Macaulay who enjoyed unprecedented popularity, asked the Commons to “reform that you may preserve…Renew the youth of the State…The danger is terrible.   The time is short.” and warned them of the danger of resisting the people.   Following this great speech nearly all the following speakers assumed that the main point of the Bill was to enfranchise the middle classes.

Lord John Russell had grave concerns about what might happen if there was no reform.   Once again quoting from Hansard he shows his fear:

a total separation between what he might call the constituted authorities and the mass of the people”.   If you govern, “without the confidence of the nation” then that “would be said not only to have denied Reform, but to have betrayed the people”. Perhaps what might be worse “the country would come to a species of Reform which might indeed be termed revolution”.   Opposition to reform could lead to the very revolution the anti-reformists most feared.

Greville put it with his special skill of concision: “The people are unanimous, good humoured and determined; if the Bill is thrown out, their good humour will disappear, the country will be a scene of violence and uproar and a most ferocious parliament will be returned, which will not only carry the question of Reform, but possibly do so in a very different form.”   Greville’s judgement had a conclusive ring: “Reform the people will have, and no human power, moral or physical, can now arrest its career”. "The Greville Memoirs" by L. Strachey and Roger Fulford. 

The second reading of the Bill proved to be quite dramatic.   At seven successive sittings the proposals were debated into the small hours of the morning – at this time a sitting of the House of Commons quite frequently went on to an hour or two after midnight

The debate on the Bill came to its conclusion with the vote on second reading on 22 March 1831.   The mood in the House of Commons was moving slowly against reform:

Russell made a last despairing speech, first scaring the MPs that unless they brought in reform, the people would bypass them and “introduce a representative system in which the higher classes would be but little considered”.   He reassured them once more: “I deny altogether that the measure would have the effect of rendering the House a democratic assembly – what I propose will not one jot advance democracy”.   His favourite word was “final”.   This he insisted, was, absolutely and beyond dispute, the “final” measure of reform that the House of Commons would ever have to pass.   These promises later earned Russell the nickname Finality Jack. "The Vote" by Paul Foot

In his speech, Lord John Russell dealt briefly with the arguments raised, and concluded with an affirmation of his faith in the electors whom he proposed to enfranchise: “if” he said, “there is that tendency to republicanism which is said to prevail in the country, there will be no use in refusing their wishes to the people.   I firmly believe however that if the people are properly represented, they will not make that revolution which honourable gentlemen dread.   I must continue to place my confidence in the good sense, in the habits and in the interests of the intelligent people of this country; and I will tell those who are opposed to that principle that no power they possess could control or govern the people.   For the institutions of the country to be stable, they must be founded on the general regard.”

 This was a superb ending to a speech, which effectively acknowledged that in the final analysis sovereignty rests with the people and not with Parliament.   The debate produced some great speeches.   One came from John Hawkins, the Member of Parliament for St. Michaels, a nomination borough.

 “A tall ungainly young man with a strong squint in one eye, spoke with great fluency and precision during nearly an hour, gaining much upon his audience, until the House became quite silent" "Recollections of a Long Life" by Lord Broughton.

  According to Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates he identified:

   “that class of antagonists…who always entertain a sincere conviction at any given moment that the present is not the right moment for the discussion of this question, and they arrive at such conviction by this ingenious dilemma.   When the people are clamorous for Reform, they tell us that we ought not to concede such a measure to the demands of popular turbulence; and when the people are silent, that silence is proof of indifference, and therefore the measure need not be passed".

  Cicero had been one of the great orators and pleaders in Roman times.   The critical vote on the second reading of the Reform Bill came on a procedural motion moved by Sir Richard Vyvyan, a Cornish, and pro-Royalist Tory Baronet.   He moved an amendment to the Bill “That the Bill be read a second time this day six months”.   The effect of this amendment if passed would have been to kick the whole issue of reform into the long grass.   The Government had to defeat the amendment for the reform to progress.

When the division came it was the tradition at this time for the “Yes” votes to file into the lobby to be counted, whereas the “No” votes stayed in their seats to be counted.

 The vote took place amid scenes of high drama and excitement.   It was so close it was repeated twice.   At first it appeared as though the “Yes” vote had won by giving themselves 303 votes to the Government’s 302.   In the end after repeating the vote twice it was agreed that they only had 303 votes to the Government’s 304 thus losing the amendment.   The majority of one for the Government was decisive.   It convinced the Tories that they would have difficulty in governing with the House of Commons constituted as it was.

When the question was put, the historian Macaulay described what happened: “The crowd overflowed the House in every part.   The “Ayes” and  “Noes” were like two volleys of cannon from opposite sides of a field of battle.   When the opposition went out into the lobby, an operation which took twenty minutes or more, we spread ourselves over the benches on both sides of the House; for there were many of us who had not been able to find a seat during the evening.”   Then the opposition began to come in and as the last one entered and was counted, “Charles Wood, who stood near the door, jumped up on a bench and cried, “They are only three hundred and one.”   We set up a shout that you might have heard to Charing Cross, waving our hats, stamping against the floor and clapping our hands.   The tellers scarcely got through the crowd: for the House was thronged up to the Table and the entire floor was fluctuating with heads like the pit of a theatre.   But you might have heard a pin drop as Duncannon read the numbers.   Then again the shouts broke out and many of us shed tears: I could scarcely refrain.   And the jaw of Peel fell; and the face of Twiss was as the face of a damned soul; and Harries looked like Judas taking his necktie off for the last operation.   We shook hands and clapped each other on the back and went out laughing, crying, huzzahing into the lobby.”

 "The decisive vote was that of John Calcraft, who had been an Opposition MP during Liverpool’s administration, held minor office under Wellington during 1828-30, turned Whig again in 1830, then – finding his own seat (Wareham) threatened with disfranchisement – spoke violently against the Reform Bill, but changed his mind at the last moment and voted for the second reading.   He killed himself six months later, correctly imagining himself to be hated by both sides equally". "A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People" by B. Hilton.

 It is interesting to see how MPs voted from the different parts of the United Kingdom.   The English and Welsh MPs voted against reform by 241 to 238.   The Scots by 26 to 13 and the Irish voted in favour by 53 to 36.   It is one of the supreme ironies that one of the most important steps forward in democracy in the United Kingdom was only made possible by the Irish, most of whom did not want to be part of the United Kingdom anyway.
With such a small majority on the second reading there was no hope that the Bill would survive the Committee stage of the Bill, let alone passage through the House of Lords.   A few weeks after the dramatic scenes at the second reading the Government was defeated in Committee.
On the third reading of the Bill:
 debate still dragged on into the morning following its second day and the result, announced in sudden calm and silence at 4.30a.m. was a not unexpected defeat for the government of eight (299-291).   The Tories caught between not wanting an election and not wanting to let the Reform Bill pass, had finally chosen a way to jump. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce
 According to Lord Broughton in his “Recollections of a Long Life” the government‘s response from Graham was “Well never mind; then we must have it the other way, the process will be longer, that’s all”.  
Grey asked the new King William IV to dissolve Parliament.
 All through 1831 there had been intermittent popular protest against one thing or another, the most serious of which had occurred in June in Merthyr Tydfil where 24 people had been killed and 70 wounded:
Insurgents had moved around the town under big white banners carrying the single word REFORM.   The reform they were calling for was completely different from that proclaimed by the Whig ministers.   In the debates in the Commons in March, John Wilson Croker had singled out the petitions from Merthyr to demonstrate to the House that the people there wanted much more than the disqualification of a few rotten boroughs.   They wanted the right to vote in secret for the government of their choice.   The people of Merthyr, Croker had reported, demanded annual or biennial parliaments, a secret ballot and universal suffrage. "The Vote" by P. Foot.
    This critical General Election was fought under the existing rules whereby nominees of the peers were expected to follow the instructions of their Lords and masters when elected.   The voters still expected to be bribed with money or food or both:
    Lord Yarborough would sell his seats in the Isle of Wight to the government for a sum quoted between £4,000 and £20,000 for them to fill with men to vote for the disenfranchisement of such seats."Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce
    This was the crunch.  By a piece of irony the forces of democracy had to bribe their way, so that democracy could win.
  In the new House of Commons which was elected after the dissolution the majority in favour of the Bill had risen from 1 to 135 and this in turn made it possible for the House of Commons to take on the House of Lords in the first of a series in the battle for power which was to last for the next two centuries and has still not been resolved.
 In the 1831 General Election:
Reformers captured seventy-three out of eighty two English county seats; only six of the twenty-five English county members who had voted against the second reading of the first Reform Bill survived; only Shropshire returned two anti-reformers. "A Mad, Bad, and Dangerous People" by B. Hilton.
One aspect of the Tory Party, which still lives on today, is the desire for power.   With power you can do things, without it you can do nothing.   The Lords were about to lose some power.   They would fight with all the tools at their disposal to hold on to it.   The House of Commons with the backing of the people were about to become the dominant House in Parliament.   Although it would take another eighty years before the domination finally ended.
Commenting on the General Election:
Macaulay made the routine point that Ultras and extreme radicals (“the friends of despotism and Jacobin agitators”) needed each other for the purpose of mutual incitement and flesh-creeping.   But his classic and rather comfortable Whig conclusion, that the sensible men of the middle had now taken care of all that, got him into a shouting match with the opposition back benches who took against his reasonable claim that the election demonstrated acceptance of Reform. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce.
The Mirror of Parliament edited by John Henry Barrow records Macaulay’s words:
England has spoken, and spoken out, from every part of the kingdom where the voice of the people was allowed to be heard; it has been heard from our mightiest seaports – from our provincial capitals – from our populous counties”. 
MR MACAULAY. “…I speak from calculations made from the late returns, and I repeat that from all those places to which I have referred, a suitable answer has been given to the Royal appeal which sought the opinion of the people on this great question of reform.   Sir, we are all now reformers”.
Macaulay believed that the Ultras were those whose extremism made them obstacles to change.   Lord John Russell introduced another version of the Reform Bill in July 1831.  
The second reading was not much more than an exercise in statutory grumbling, a limping jog round a required track with none of the racecourse buzz attending the contest of the first Bill.   The outcome, a majority at 136, larger, said Greville, than the Tories had expected, showed 367 for the Ayes 231 for the Nays.   As far as the Commons went, Macaulay had been right about the election having decided for Reform. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce.
 After the second reading of the Bill it went into Committee on 12th July 1831.   There it struggled through for 40 parliamentary days until finally on 22nd September the third reading was passed by 346 votes to 237 – a majority of 109.   Crowds, which had gathered in the streets around Westminster, cheered the result in spite of the fact that the vote still had a property qualification attached to it.
Henry “Orator” Hunt – a reformer – in a speech in Leeds at the end of a triumphant autumn tour said:
“I am not for disenfranchising any man, but if any, it should be the rich man.   I say to the rich man: “You have got money, you have got influence, you have friends to protect you; but the poor man has nothing on earth to protect him except his political rights”.
The next hurdle was to get the Bill passed by the Lords, some of the strongest opponents of democracy being the Bishops.   There were 21 Bishops in the Lords and all were antagonistic to democracy and were determined to oppose the Bill.   They did.

Members of the House of Lords who sit by virtue of their ecclesiastical offices are known as Lords Spiritual.   Formerly, the Lords Spiritual comprised a majority in the House of Lords, including the Church of England’s Archbishops, Diocesan Bishops, Abbots, and Priors.   After 1539, however, only the Archbishops and Bishops continued to attend, for the Dissolution of the Monasteries suppressed the positions of Abbot and Prior.   In 1642, during the English Civil War, the Lords Spiritual were excluded altogether, but they returned under the Clergy Act 1661.
The debate in the Lords lasted for six days from the 3rd to the 8th October 1831.   Grey was at home here having sat in the House of Lords since 1807 and in the Commons for twenty years.   He argued that the Bill was needed to stop a revolution.   Wellington and almost all the Bishops argued that the Bill would create a revolution.
Grey, with his experience knew how to hit hard in the Lords, though perhaps in the end not hard enough.   He reminded them that at the start of each parliamentary session they voted amongst their standing orders (rules for the conduct of debates) “that it is unconstitutional and illegal and moreover a high breech of the privileges of the Commons House of Parliament for any peer to interfere in the election of Members to serve in that House?”   He went on “Are your Lordships then prepared to say that this principle of the Constitution is not violated when peers are allowed to nominate and send into the House of Commons persons who being there are competent to propose and to amend and alter their votes of supply…?    He continued by contrasting the situation in Scotland and England: “The boroughs in Scotland are sixty six in number, in which the electors consist of Magistrates who annually re-elect each other without any control by the people; and the whole number of electors in these boroughs is 1,440 or an average of about twenty in each borough”.    Scottish representation was “Strange, anomalous, monstrous and absurd”.   Basically it was derived from the English system. He questioned how one can one “avoid the inference that the Representation of England in so far as it is composed of the members representing decayed and corrupted bodies, is equally strange anomalous, monstrous and absurd.
Bear in mind that the 1,440 electors, which Grey referred to elected 45 MPs to the House of Commons.   The population in Scotland at the time was 2.6 million.   Grey played on the great fear of the Lords that the country could be on the verge of revolution.
He went on “The odious power possessed by some of your Lordships does not help to increase the legitimate influence; and I verily believe that if you resolve to maintain the nomination boroughs, the whole voice of the United Kingdom will be raised against you…”   “You are asked only to give up that which is odious, unjust and unconstitutional, and by retaining which the security of the House may be shaken.   Lay not that flattering unction to your souls.   Do not believe that the desire for Reform will abate… the time is past when a smaller measure of Reform would satisfy the people.   You must either take this Bill, you must, I repeat adopt this Bill or you will have instead of it, a call for something infinitely stronger and more extensive!”   Referring to the Duke of Wellington he said: “Following the Noble Duke, I would say: The time is come; things can no longer remain as they are; we must do something for the removal of a system which has long been odious in the eyes of the country.   Disregard clamour then, I say again to your Lordships, but consider the importance of public opinion honestly expressed; and, if it be necessary, yield to it!”
Lord Plunkett, who had been the Attorney General for Ireland intervened.   “Would their Lordships please get into their heads the fact that the constitution, so far from being a great bundle of unalterable perfection, had spent its history changing.   Where was the complex land tenure by which early Lords had been entitled to sit there?   Where were the thirty mitred abbots present in the Lords until Henry VIII swept them out?   “Are not the people of England to be trusted?”
Lord Eldon, a coal merchant’s son and Lord Chancellor opposed the Bill.   “My Lords sacrifice one atom of our glorious Constitution and all the rest is gone”.   He concluded that “this Bill will be found, I fear from my soul, to go the length of introducing in its train, if passed, Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments and Vote by Ballot”.   He was right on two of his forecasts but it was a long time before they were realised.
 The vote eventually was taken at six o’clock on a Saturday morning and was on an amendment calling for a six month laying aside of the Bill.   It was rejected by 199 votes to 158, a majority against reform of 41.    Interestingly proxy votes were taken, perhaps because of the hour.

 At this time a peer could give his vote in the British parliament by proxy, by getting another peer to vote for him in his absence, temporal peers only being privileged to vote for temporal, and spiritual peers for spiritual.   
 Immediately on hearing the result of the vote in the House of Lords on the Reform Bill a wave of anger swept across the country.   The “Morning Chronicle” appeared with a border of black – the traditional sign of mourning.
 Nobody was prepared for the great outburst of popular indignation that followed the Lords vote.   Within weeks, Nottingham, Derby and Bristol were engulfed in turmoil.
 In Nottingham, the huge castle of the Duke of Newcastle, a prominent opponent of the Reform Bill, was burned to the ground.   He had expelled tenants for voting against his candidates creating much resentment.   With the result in the House of Lords the excuse was created for a riot:  
 Anger in Nottinghamshire owed a good deal to the character of the Duke of Newcastle.   Henry Pelham Clinton was a character out of melodrama, ready probably to water the workers beer and happy to meet Reform by evicting tenants known to support it with the words “May I not do what I will with mine own?”   After his castle and other property had been burned down in the riots, he demanded of Melbourne the chairmanship of the commission, which should try his suspected enemies. Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act by E. Pearce.
 Subsequently three men were hanged for the damage done to Nottingham castle.
 In Derby the jail was broken into and all the prisoners released.   For four days gangs roamed the streets seeking out those that had opposed the Reform Bill.   When found, the gangs smashed their windows.   Troops had to be sent in to restore order.
 The worst riots took place in Bristol.   They were primarily aimed at the Bristol Recorder, Sir Charles Wetherell MP.   He had bitterly opposed the Reform Bill, showing contempt for the new electorate saying that it would be beneath his dignity to have to canvass the new voters.   Pomposity was his by-word, but it was soon to be pricked:
 The news, much publicised, that he was coming with an armed guard to celebrate the defeat of the Reform Bill by opening the Bristol Assizes was greeted with something close to an insurrection.   For seven days, the city was held by unnamed and unknown young men, many armed with muskets.   Their chief target was the hotel where Sir Charles was staying.   So menacing was the crowd that besieged the hotel that Sir Charles, who had made much of his “determination to uphold the King’s peace” by going to Bristol against government advice, had to flee over the rooftops in his underclothes in the middle of the night.   The four prisons in Bristol were burned to the ground.   So were fashionable Queens Square, the Mansion House, the Customs House and the Bishop’s Palace.   Seventy people including several soldiers, lost their lives before the large military force dispatched to the city by Home Secretary Melbourne prevailed. "The Vote" by P. Foot
 About 400 people were injured in the Bristol riots and three troops of cavalry were deployed to restore order.   Four men were later hanged for the Bristol riots.
The Church and the Bishop also came under attack in Bristol.   Not only was the Bishop’s palace burnt down but also books were taken from the cathedral and burnt.   Thomson in “The Making of the English Working Class” quoted Charles Davies shouting at the time of the riots “Down with the churches and mend the roads with them.”   It cost Davies his life.   He was hanged for his shout.   Freedom of speech was still to be established.

In London the Duke of Wellington had the windows of his London home, Apsley House at Hyde Park Corner smashed.   The windows were shuttered and remained so until Wellington’s death in 1852.   However, disorder did not rule everywhere.   In Birmingham 100,000 people attended a protest meeting which went off without incident.   Similar protest meetings were held throughout the country.

Government Ministers were shaken by the violent disturbances in Bristol, Derby and Nottingham.   They knew that there was no end in sight to these kind of disturbances without drastic action being taken.   There was only one answer – a new Reform Bill.   On 12 December 1831 Lord John Russell presented the new Bill to the House of Commons.   It passed its second reading by 324 votes to 162.

The debate in the Commons passed relatively quietly and quickly.   Macaulay was quoted approvingly by the excellent parliamentary speaker, Edward Stanley (Earl of Derby) “forms of government must give place to forms of society; that governments were made for men, not men for governments.”

However, at a moment of triumph it is worth registering one point which Hunt made in that late intervention: “in one manufactory in the town of Leeds, in which 130 men are employed, at comparatively high wages – only three will be entitled to vote under this Bill”. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce.

Thus, it is seen that a uniform franchise can entrench disenfranchisement.   The big hurdle and the last fence in this Grand National of Parliamentary Reform were now about to take place.  The Bill faced the House of Lords with its large majority against the Bill.   Would they dare to oppose it again?   Would the King become involved?   Would there be more riots.   The country was in turmoil.   Would the Lords ignore the risks in their actions?   There is great danger if the Constitution gets too far away from the public consensus. The consensus of opinion was that the House of Lords would vote against the Bill.   The big question was therefore whether the King would agree to the creation of sufficient Peers to force the Bill through.   Grey knew that without this threat the Bill was doomed.   He decided that he must see the King, so in early January 1832 Grey went to Brighton to see William IV to put forward the proposition of creating more Peers.   To their surprise the King indicated his acquiescence, but wanted Grey to put his proposition in writing.   He did by way of sending to the King the minutes of their discussion.

The King’s letter replying to the minute of their earlier discussion was reasonably satisfactory in that it set no limit on the ultimate number of peers who might have to be created.   But in the way of royalty with its passion for blood and genealogy, William wanted to confine creations to eldest sons, collateral heirs and, slumming it, “Scotch and Irish peers of large property”. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce.

 In spite of being, by implication, derogatory to Scotch and Irish Peers with not so large property this was a major breakthrough.   The King had climbed down and recognised the strength of the movement for reform and/or the dangers posed by not accepting reform.   Grey now had the ultimate threat to the Lords – pass the Bill or we will decimate you to a point where we will get the Bill through anyway.

The new Bill was presented to the Lords and debate began on 9th April 1832.
The second day, 10th April, began with a speech by the Roman Catholic Earl of Shrewsbury, recorded in Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates:

 It appears to me my Lords that the Constitution of this country has never yet been anything but a beautiful theory, subject to perpetual contradiction in practice… We have been perpetually engaged in most wasteful and unjust wars… We have a poor and unemployed population – a population starving in the midst of plenty… we have always had a government supporting itself by patronage and keeping a large army of occupation and a numerous catalogue of useless and burthensome offices”.

 In a barely disguised attack on the aristocracy, Lord Shrewsbury, the premier Earl of England said: “Your extravagance, - your disregard of the interests of the country – your absolute tyranny over the people of Ireland – the bitter fruits of which you are now reaping- all these things are exposed in their true light until in my opinion, we now stand for judgement before the people.”    He looked forward to the start of “open government”.   He also looked forward to reform of the House of Lords.   Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates records him saying about a government’s majority that it should not depend on “keeping up a disproportionate number of officers in the army and navy”,... “translating a right reverend prelate from a poorer to a richer see or by advancing noble Lords from lower to a higher degree of the peerage – nor by reinforcing the House with every man who has voted for a certain number of years in support of the Minister.   It appears to me that if the House of Commons be reformed, this House must also be reformed”.

This was historic speech making, a prelude to almost two hundred years of debate about the composition and status of the House of Lords and made by a Catholic who had only just seen the Catholic Emancipation Act go through Parliament.

The debate finished and a division was called at 7am on the morning of 14th April 1832.  Was this the last but one act of a dying opposition to reform or did the Lords have more up their sleeves?   The vote went 184 in favour with 175 against including once again proxy votes.   Those voting against included two Royal Dukes, ten ordinary Dukes and fifteen Bishops.

The Committee stage of the Bill was about to begin in the Lords.   In an attempt to increase the pressure on their Lordships a massive protest meeting was held in Birmingham attended by 200,000 people.  Thomas Attwood told the crowd “I would rather die than see the great Bill of Reform rejected or mutilated in any of its great parts or provisions.”    He hinted that armed insurrection might be needed to reinstate the Whigs.   How close were we to revolution?   The Revd. Sydney Smith, Canon of St. Paul’s, later recalled the time as a “hand-shaking, bowel disturbing passion of fear”.

 On 7th May the Duke of Sussex, a Royal Duke and younger brother of the King, who had spoken in favour of reform, presented a petition from the Lord Mayor and Common Council of the City of London.   The King sent him “to Coventry” refusing to speak to him for some time.   The Duke of Sussex was the sixth son of George III.

As the debate in committee began Lord Lyndhurst moved an amendment to postpone any further discussion on enfranchisement until all the Tory amendments to restore rotten boroughs had been dealt with.   Lyndhurst won, with the government suffered a humiliating defeat by 151 votes to 116.   The Bill was about to trigger off a national crisis.   Should the Government call the bluff of the House of Lords and create sufficient new Peers to ensure the progress of the Reform Bill to completion?   Did the House of Lords think that the Government would take this action?   Would the King contemplate such action and if it came to it would he act?   Would riots break out in the streets once the people realised what had happened?   If there were riots could the army be relied upon to control them?   All these questions were swirling around the atmosphere in the hothouse of Westminster.   The answers came quite quickly:

On 8 May Prime Minister Grey and Lord Brougham, his Lord Chancellor, went to Windsor to ask the King for permission to create 60 new peers; and to offer their resignations if he refused that permission.   The King refused permission for the new peers and accepted the Minister’s resignations.   The Duke of Wellington then scratched around the meagre and demoralized talent on the Tory benches to try to form a new Tory government committed to getting the Bill through Parliament.   He tried a repeat of his performance with the Catholic Emancipation Bill, which he had forced through Parliament three years earlier against his own and his colleagues’ better judgement.   This time he met with stiffer resistance.   Robert Peel, on whom the Duke based most of his hopes, refused point blank to have anything to do with such blatant hypocrisy.   So did Croker and several other anti-reform Tories. "The Vote" by P. Foot

   William offered to create the second sons of peers as peers, who would have kept matters proportionately the same but Grey saw through it.   The King had gone back on his word.   The Government had resigned.   Another Government had not been formed and on top of all this demonstrations were beginning on a huge scale.
Mass meetings materialised as if from nothing – in London and Liverpool reformers meetings shouted the new slogan: “More Lords – or none!”.   The worst news for Government and Opposition came from Birmingham, where the reformer Thomas Attwood had used his mighty voice to bellow to a monster meeting of 200,000 at Newhall Hill that no one should pay a penny of their taxes until the Bill was passed.   He reminded the vast throng, which constantly interrupted him with cheers, that the Government had no right to levy taxes on people who could not vote. "The Vote" by P.Foot

Attwood finished his speech by reminding his audience of their right to carry arms – a blatant and sinister threat.   Was the country on the verge of revolution?    The components were there for dramatic change and the atmosphere was combustible.   Large crowds can get out of hand especially when they are pent up and rousable.   Would we witness another Peterloo?   London could be particularly vulnerable.   The size of the crowds suggests a widespread interest and involvement in politics – a key component in the emergence of democracy.   One MP wrote in his diary “the whole country is in a state little short of insurrection”.  For six days, under mounting pressure the Duke of Wellington toiled away at trying to form a Government but eventually he had to confess his failure to King William.   The King now had no choice.   With great reluctance he had to agree to Grey’s request to create more Peers.   His answer was given to the House of Commons by Althorp “Ministers, having what they conceived a sufficient guarantee for being able to pass the Reform Bill unimpaired, retained their office”.   Grey returned to power.   Debate on the Bill resumed.   But now the Tory peers knew they were beaten, so absented themselves from the House of Lords when the issue came before it.   On 4 June 1832 the Bill passed its third reading in the Lords by 106 to 21 and on 7 June it received the Royal Assent.   The King had not needed to create new peers after all.

   At last the deed was done.   In spite of all the trials and tribulations the Reform Bill was now the Reform Act 1832.   It was fairly modest in what it achieved but it was a major step on the road to democracy.   The genie had been let out of the bottle.   The people would ensure that this genie of democracy would never be put back into it, or would they?    Hegel called the British constitution after 1832 “the furthest advance in world history of the principle of freedom.”   That advance would take another 100 years to achieve the democracy, which we recognise today.   The franchise had been increased and in some cases was now more uniform.   Some rotten boroughs had gone.   Nevertheless some 54 individuals still controlled some 73 MPs and this would last until the second Reform Act of 1867.

 The measure, which created shock and amazement in the Commons when Russell read out its schedules on 1 March 1831, was incremental, limited and inordinately safe.   Disappointment would show most sharply later in the decade in the Chartist movement.   The nomination borough was not dead. "Reform! The Fight for the 1832 Reform Act" by E. Pearce
So what was achieved?   The Reform Act 1832 contained three main provisions.   First, it redistributed seats.   56 rotten boroughs were completely disenfranchised (111 seats) and 30 lost one member, Weymouth was reduced from four to two members, thus allowing the transfer of 143 seats to the large towns in the North of England.   22 new two-member boroughs and 19 single member boroughs were created in England.   Seven counties received a third member; twenty-six were divided into two districts each with two members; the Isle of Wight was given a separate member; Yorkshire an additional two members – a total additional county membership of sixty-two.   England therefore lost 143 seats and gained 125 – a net loss of eighteen.   In Wales there was a total gain of five seats, Scotland had eight new burgh seats and Ireland had a total gain of five seats.   Second, it widened the franchise.   In the counties, to the traditional 40s freeholders, it added £10 copyholders and £10 long leaseholders, and £50 short leaseholders and tenants at will occupying land or tenement at a minimum rental of £50 per annum.   In the boroughs, the various customary rights to vote were abolished and replaced by a uniform requirement – the occupation of any premises of an annual value of £10.   Last, the Act provided for the annual registration of qualified electors.   Only if a person’s name was on the electoral register could he vote.   Eligible voters had to register for a fee of one-shilling (5p).
  Judged by its immediate effects, the Act may seem rather insignificant.   It did not achieve a democratic franchise; to an already small electorate of 435,000, 217,000 voters were added, a 50% increase giving a total electorate of 652,000, which was still only about 18% of the total adult male population in England and Wales.   Indeed, the decrease in the value of money in the middle of the century, whereby the annual value of houses was raised to £10, had a far greater effect.(This, together with the growth in population, produced an electorate in 1866 of about a million.)   Nor did it bring about complete equality in the geographical distribution of voting power.   Many small boroughs in the south of England still retained at least one member and there 1 in 4 voted, whereas in the large manufacturing towns the proportion was only 1 in 45.   There were 35 boroughs with less than 300 voters, although Westminster now had 11,600 and Liverpool 11,300.   The South was over represented; 370 MPs came from South of a line from the Wash to the Severn.   Above that line, where there was a larger population there were only 120 MPs.   Scotland, Ireland and Wales were under-represented.   In the counties the position of the landowners was strengthened by the fact that many tenant farmers that now had the vote felt obliged to support their candidates.
  Moreover, the old corruption continued, for while the electorate ceased to be in the pockets of borough-mongers, it was yet small enough to be bought.   Elections were still marked by intoxication and violence.   John Hobhouse who coined the term “His Majesty’s Opposition”, paid out a total of £6,000 to encourage the electors of Nottingham to support him in the elections of 1834 and 1837.   The absence of the secret ballot still allowed pressure to be put on the electors:  

 A lack of balance remained between south and north, county and borough.   There were enormous differences in the size of constituencies.   It is possible that with the increased party activity and greater number of contested elections after 1832 bribery and corruption actually increased.   In the smaller boroughs family and personal control still sometimes decided the outcome of elections; even the newly enfranchised towns were not entirely exempt from this type of special influence. "Aristocracy And People" by N.Gash.
  Constitutionally, however, the effects of the Reform Act were fundamental and far-reaching.   The system of nomination was replaced by the principle of election.   Members of Parliament remained aristocratic, with land and trade interests predominating, but they were no longer independent of the views of their constituents.   Since ultimate sovereignty now rested with the electorate, parties were extended from Parliament to the country.   The Act was a catalyst for the development of political parties.   On the other hand, the Sovereign lost the controlling voice in the composition of his ministry; within two years William IV was to discover this, for he was unable to retain Peel, a Tory, as his Prime Minister because the electorate had returned a Whig majority to the House of Commons.   Instead, the Cabinet had to be chosen from the Party having the support of the Commons and thus it became directly linked with the extended Party system.   Lastly, the vesting of political power in the electorate increased the importance of the representative body, the Commons, at the expense of the Lords.
  The Act is also important because it gave more political sovereignty to the electorate by giving the vote to the lower middle classes and swept away the foundations of the peers’ power to nominate members.   This increased the possibility of strife.   But this political sovereignty had to be reconciled to the supremacy of Parliament.   It extended the party system from Parliament to the country, linking parties with the Cabinet system of government, developing an Opposition to take over many of the traditional functions of Parliament, formalising the relationship between the Commons and the Lords, and modifying parliamentary procedure to secure effective government in the face of determined obstruction and to economise in time in order to cope with increased State activities.   Henceforth legislation had to consider the new voters; and never again would the Lords control the composition of the Commons.   But for a generation yet, country gentlemen continued to predominate in the Commons.   The working class got nothing from the Bill for which they had campaigned:
 The 1832 Reform Act did not introduce democracy for all but it did show that the ancient system could be successfully assaulted.   Political awareness rose and the people became aware they had more clout.
 The electorate had increased:
However, this was a long way from being democratic: large sections of the population – agricultural labourers and the vast majority of industrial workers – still had no vote.   Certain boroughs which already had something approaching a democratic franchise, had a smaller electorate than before; at Preston everyone who spent the night before the election in the town had been allowed to vote, but under the new system all the workers were excluded and the Radical Henry Hunt lost his seat as a result.   The continuing unfairness of the new system was shown in another way: over Britain as a whole, one in seven adult males now enjoyed the vote; however while this worked out at one in five in England, it was only one in eight in Scotland, and even worse, one in twenty in Ireland. "Mastering British History" by N. Lowe. 
Of itself the extra 217,000 voters does not make much difference.   What does make a difference is that there is a closer connection between voter’s wishes and the structure of parliament.   More importantly, the MPs were more independent of their sponsors and more bound to party loyalty.   The change is a cumulative one.   In effect the average MP moved away from being either a placeman – loyal to his sponsor – or a lone operator able to bribe his way into parliament and/or in a rotten borough into people who had to campaign to get into parliament.   As such there was a rapid move towards having to have views as the key distinguishing feature of each MP combined with being able to know each elector (campaigning) and being able to represent a set of views which were easier for an elector to understand if the MP was part of a party.   While this did not happen at once it was a very big change over time.  
In the 1830s the total adult population of England Wales and Scotland was about 13 million.   By 1839 the total electorate had crept up to 858,270.   Of the total number of MPs, a third (219) were elected by fewer than 1,400 votes in their constituencies.   Half the MPs were closely related to or descended from peers.   217 were sons of peers or baronets.   It took a long time for this number to reduce.   By 1860 it had fallen to 180 and by 1880 there was a further small reduction to 170.   Of over a hundred sinecure offices MPs filled a half of them.   Parliament was still a place to get a position and make money out of it.   The system was still rotten and needed much reform, but at least a start had been made.   In the 1842 General Election the total votes cast was 593,445 being approximately 70% of the electorate.
The Reform Act 1832 only affected England and Wales.   Separate Reform Acts were required for Ireland and Scotland.   In Ireland there had been a review of the situation at the time the Act of Union was passed in 1800.   At this time many, if not most, of the smaller boroughs were eliminated, so only minor adjustments were necessary to the size of constituencies.   The real problems arose from the franchise where only recently, at the time of the Catholic Emancipation Act 1829 the freeholder qualification was increased from 40 shillings to £10.   However various forms of leaseholder qualifications were introduced by the Irish Reform Act 1832, in the county constituencies, which increased the size of their electorates.   Against this, particularly in the urban areas the £10 freeholder qualification resulted in smaller electorates in many constituencies.   This had a bigger effect than in England due to Ireland being a poorer place.   Property and corruption once again became dominant forces in determining the results of elections.
   In Scotland the case was different.   “It is giving us,” wrote Cockburn, the Edinburgh advocate who became the Whigs solicitor general, “a political constitution for the first time”.   It was not surprisingly that the Scots identified themselves wholeheartedly with the fortunes of the English Bill.   When it passed its second reading by one vote in March 1831 towns and villages all over Scotland were illuminated and in Edinburgh and Dundee reform mobs celebrated the victory with riot and window smashing.   The combination of narrow oligarchies in the burghs and the “superiority” system in the counties provided Scotland with a pre-reform electorate of only about 4,500 for its thirty counties and sixty-six burghs – less than the number who voted for Romilly and Burdett in the one constituency of Westminster at the 1818 general election.   The post-Union system was in effect little more than a series of virtual pocket boroughs.  Except for the retention of the burgh groupings, the whole structure was remodelled by the Scottish Reform Act of 1832.   The £10 household franchise was uniformly imposed on the burghs, though this, in the less affluent northern kingdom failed to produce as large an electorate in the smaller burghs as the Scottish reformers would have liked.   The grouping of the burghs avoided, however, any unduly small constituency.   With an average of over 1,300 voters each the Scottish urban seats could stand comparison with any part of the United Kingdom.   In the counties also the new electorate – the £10 property owners, leaseholders and tenants at will – did not result in such large constituencies as might have been anticipated.   There were a number of reasons for this: the small size of many Scottish counties, the absence of the 40s freeholders who supplied the bulk of the English county electorate and the restrictive definition of the new qualifications.   With an average of just over 1,100 voters each the Scottish county constituencies as a class, were smaller than the burghs.   Even the largest Scottish County (Perthshire) was smaller than all but three English counties.   The predominance of the landlord influence was therefore assured.   The balance was to some extent redressed by the addition of eight to the fifteen pre-1832 Scottish burgh seats.   Of the new total of twenty-three seats, nine were given to large individual towns - two each to Edinburgh and Glasgow, one each to Aberdeen, Paisley, Dundee, Greenock and Perth.   With this powerful reinforcement of the direct urban interest and an almost fifteen-fold increase of the total electorate to 65,000, a new political era had dawned for Scotland. "Aristocracy and People by N. Gash

                The increase in the electorate in Scotland meant that only 12% of the adult population had the vote.

Prior to the nineteenth century the parties in Parliament were held together by historical, family and local ties rather than political ideas.   Unlike modern parties, which have a programme dealing specifically with all major points at issue, the eighteenth century Whigs and Tories made no promises as to their particular policy if returned to power.   In contrast, their main aim was quite simply to enjoy the spoils of office.   The same accusation is made of politicians today.   Parties existed only in Parliament.   When voters could be bought instead of being wooed by promises of political action, candidates had little need to consider the wishes of the electorate.   In any case, few seats were ever contested and general elections as we know them today did not exist.
One product of the 1832 Reform act was the modern Prime Minister, with the backing of a political party.   Peel was quick to appreciate the new situation and saw that to form a government, his party had to be supported by the electorate.   Hence his Tamworth manifesto in 1835 heralded ideas designed to appeal to the voters, and the old Tory party received the new name of “Conservative”
The real impetus to political parties sprang from the Reform Act 1832.   Although bribery continued, it was now practically speaking impossible to buy sufficient electors to ensure a majority in Parliament.   Thus it became necessary to organise support at the poll, and the parties extended their activities to the country.   Through a seemingly minor requirement of the Reform Act, a person’s name had to be on the electoral register before he could vote.   This was not always easy, especially where an illiterate person had to establish a voting qualification.   This seemingly minor requirement had a significant impact.   Hence the parties organised local “registration societies”, which compiled and revised electoral lists. 
One small but important incident took place also in 1832 Joseph Pease became the first Quaker to be elected to the House of Commons.   On seeking to affirm instead of take the oath, he was ordered to withdraw until a parliamentary Committee allowed him to affirm and thereby retain his seat in the Southern Division of Durham.   This was a breakthrough in assailing the barriers of religious discrimination.

The religious tenets of Quakers forbade them from swearing oaths (because it was regarded as sacrilegious) and an Act of 1696 had given them the right to make affirmations in place of most required oaths.   This right was periodically renewed and finally made permanent in the mid 18th century, when the same privilege was extended to Moravians.   Because the provisions did not apply to the parliamentary oath, however, a Quaker elected to Parliament in 1699; one John Archdale was consequently unable to take his seat.   He refused to take the oath and the option of affirmation was denied him.    The Quakers and Moravians Act 1833 enabled both Quakers and Moravians to make a solemn affirmation, omitting the phrase "So help me God".   The Moravian Church is a mainline Protestant denomination.   Its religious heritage began in late 14th century Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic).   Atheists had to wait until 1886 when Gladstone, a high Anglican, passed the Affirmation Act, before they could take their seats in Parliament.
The 1832 Reform Act explicitly confined the franchise to “male” persons.   The Great Reform Act was the first time in our history when women were specifically excluded from voting – a major setback for democracy.   In practise it probably made little difference, for few women met the property criteria for voting.   However there were some property owning widows and spinsters and when the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 imposed the same requirements this was another setback for democracy.   Since 1739 they had been able to vote in most parish and Poor Law elections thanks to a court ruling.   Now they didn’t even have that.   Shame.  
The huge increase in petitions forced Parliament to have a look at what could be done and in 1832 Sir Robert Peel engineered the establishment of a select committee to investigate the presentation of petitions.   The Committee’s recommendations resurrected the idea, first mooted in the civil war period, of establishing committees to examine petitions, in order to take them out of the chamber of the House.   Its report was debated immediately after Parliament reassembled, but the Government did not completely remove petitions from the floor of the House.
Many radical Members objected to any alteration of the procedure, largely upon the grounds that petitioning was the only form of redress open to the vast majority of people who were not electors.   A Committee was, however, established and special morning (actually noon-3 p.m.) sittings were held to deal with petitions.   These sittings lasted until 1835.   After this, a rule appears to have been regularly applied to prevent debate arising out of petitions, which the Speaker enforced; though it was not a standing order.
Most of the Palace of Westminster was burnt down in 1834.   Whilst the new palace was being built, the Commons were given a temporary home in the ancient hall called the Court of Requests in Whitehall.   The Commons found themselves very comfortable in it.   As this chamber had a lobby at each end, they took the opportunity to improve the method of taking a division: from then onwards all the members voting went out into either the aye lobby or the no lobby, and were counted coming back.

The new Houses of Parliament were deliberately sited adjacent to the River Thames unlike the buildings that burnt down.   This was done at the request of the Duke of Wellington who wished to ensure that if Parliament was besieged by a mob then parliamentarians could be evacuated by boat.   It is an indication of the atmosphere surrounding Parliament that not only was this taken as a serious suggestion but it was acted upon.
In 1834 William IV dismissed the government and invited Peel to form a ministry, even though the Tories lacked a majority in the Commons.   He did it with the feeble excuse that Lord Althorpe had died and he said the Ministry could not do without him.   William was the last sovereign of England to dismiss a Government on his own account.   A General Election had to be held (January 1835) and although the Tories gained many seats, Peel was well short of a majority.   Nevertheless he was Prime Minister from December 1834 until April 1835 (known as “Peel’s 100 days”), but was repeatedly defeated and forced to resign.      After Peel’s resignation William IV had no choice but to recall Melbourne (Prime Minister 1834, 1835-41) and the government which he had sacked; this demonstrated that the traditional practice, of the Commons supporting whatever Prime Minister the King wanted, no longer applied; it was one of the by-products of the Reform Act 1832 and it confirmed that the monarch would from then on play less and less part in politics:
Peel was the last Prime Minister to be installed by the King against the wishes of a large Commons majority and the first to issue an explicit address, ostensibly to his constituents but really to the country.   He called his Tamworth Manifesto a “frank and explicit declaration of principle”, unlike the usual “vague and unmeaning professions” espoused by politicians.   In reality his promises to correct “proven abuses”, redress “real grievances”, and support “judicious reforms” were platitudinous.   The document’s significance was not substantive but political. "A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton.
 The aristocracy still had an important role in British politics.   In 1833, 217 of the Members of the House of Commons were the sons of peers or baronets.   Although Peel was the son of a manufacturer most governments were lead by a member of the House of Lords - Wellington, Grey, Russell, Melbourne and Palmerston, whose ambition was to be a Minister of a Nation, rather than a political Party, Derby, Aberdeen, Salisbury and Roseberry.   Peel was the exception:
 So long as most cabinet posts of importance were held by peers, two important consequences followed.   One was that most members of the government had not been elected by any constituency, but sat in the Lords in their own right.   The other was that debates in the House of Lords were every bit as important, politically, as debates in the House of Commons.   The absence of at least half the members of the Government from the House of Commons and its debates meant that debates in the upper House were extremely important. "England in the Nineteenth Century by D. Thomson.
In spite of the Reform Act, not much changed in the composition of the Government or in the importance of the House of Lords.   During 1834 there was an attempt to raise once again the question of Ireland.   O’Connell moved a motion for the repeal of the Union.   It was massively defeated by 523 votes to 38, with only one English member voting in favour of it.   Nevertheless the Government remained sensitive to the Irish issue, and over the next six years tried to ensure that the Catholics got their fair share of patronage:
Catholics were allowed to work in Dublin Castle for the first time, and even invited to sit on juries, a particularly sensitive issue since it meant they were trusted to adjudicate on acts of civil disobedience perpetrated by their co-religionists.   Orange marches were prohibited, Catholic meetings to protest against the tithe were allowed to proceed and green bunting was ostentatiously deployed on official occasions. "A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton.

Under Speaker Abercrombie (1835-9) the principle was recognised that the Speaker should not participate in debate.

Democracy is not only applicable to central government but to every level of government including that at the most local level.   At the end of the eighteenth century local government was still based on ancient divisions and on the principle that service should be unpaid.   This gave useful training in the work of government, but it led to avoidance of duties.   There was much inefficiency and corruption.   The vestries of the parishes often became closed bodies, permanently controlled by a local oligarchy, which filled vacancies, by co-option.   Profits were made out of the commuted payments of the local inhabitants who wished to avoid unpaid parish duties.   The corporations of the boroughs were no better.   They too were often closed bodies, and sometimes the mayor did not attend even to be sworn in to office.   Jobbery was rife, and membership of the corporation was regarded solely as a source of illegal gain.
The government and running of towns was confused and inefficient.   There were about 250 boroughs each with its own corporation (mayor, councillors, and aldermen) which ran the town’s affairs.   There were wide variations in how the corporations were chosen and how they functioned, but the disturbing feature was that in 186 of them, only the members of the corporation itself were allowed to vote; they normally re-elected themselves or brought relatives or friends on to the council.   These small cliques (known as closed corporations) fixed the local bye-laws and taxes and it was impossible for the mass of the ratepayers to get rid of unpopular councils by voting them out.   Most of the corporations used their privileges for personal and party advantage (the majority were Tories) and ignored matters such as water supply, drainage and street cleansing which they were supposed to look after.   Even more ludicrous was the fact that most of the newly expanded industrial towns had not been recognised as boroughs and had no corporation at all.   Here living conditions in overcrowded slums were a threat to public health; in 1831-2 there was a cholera epidemic, which began at Sunderland and spread across the country causing thousands of deaths.   It was perhaps inevitable that once the Whigs had accepted the principle of parliamentary reform, local government reform would soon follow. "Mastering Modern British History" by N. Lowe
 The problems in local government were recognised and lead to the creation of a Royal Commission on Municipal Corporations, which reported in 1835.   The Report said:

 In most cases an exclusive and party spirit belongs to the whole council.   Members of these councils are usually self-elected, and hold their offices for life.   They are commonly of one political party and their activities are mainly directed to secure the ascendancy of the party to which they belong.   Individuals of different political opinions are, in most cases, systematically excluded from the governing body…. These councils, so far from being the representatives either of the population or of the property of the town, they do not even represent the privileged class of freemen.   Being elected for life, their activities are unchecked by any feeling of responsibility…. To this system may be traced the carelessness often observed in the execution of their duties… The common council of the city of London presents a striking exception to the system of self-selection for life, and it provides a remarkable instance of the absence of those evils which we refer to.   The councilmen of this city are annually elected by a numerous electorate and for a long series of years have watched vigilantly over the interests of their constituents "Contemporary sources and opinions in Modern British History" by L. Evans & P.J.Pledger
During the course of a thorough investigation the Commission dug out some interesting facts.   Many town corporations often failed to carry out their duties and restricted the number of people eligible to serve on them.   In Portsmouth, which had a population of 46,000 only 102 freemen were allowed to take part in the government of the town.   Corruption was rife and took many forms.   A lot of charities were supposedly supported by Corporations but often this led to clear abuse and the members of the Corporation filling their own pockets rather than spending the charity’s money on the reasons for which the charity existed.   The Exeter Corporation owed £17,000 to various charities.   Schools with large endowments found themselves prey to the vultures lurking in the Corporations.   A school in Coventry with an annual income of £900 only had one pupil.   Nevertheless two masters were employed at a cost of £700 to teach him.   Legislation was inevitable.
One proposal of the Commission was for there to be universal suffrage.   For the Lords this was a step too far and during its passage through Parliament this was changed so that the suffrage was based on similar grounds to those included in the 1832 Reform Act.   What a shame that this huge step forward in democracy was not implemented.   Perhaps it was because the members of the Commission were mainly Whig radicals and they just alienated the Tory Peers.   We would just have to wait.   The Act was partisan in nature, because the closed boroughs were havens of Tories who exercised lots of local patronage and controlled charitable bequests.
In 1835 The Municipal Corporations Act was passed.   The main provisions included in the Act were:
·         The closed corporations were abolished; borough councils were to be elected by all the male ratepayers who had lived in the town for three years and had paid the poor rate.
·         Councillors were elected for three years at a time, one third to be elected annually.
·         Councillors would choose the mayor who would hold office for one year and a group of Aldermen who would hold office for six years.
·         Each borough was to have a paid town clerk and treasurer and accounts were to be properly audited.
·         It was compulsory for councils to form a police force; councils were allowed, if they so desired, to take over social improvements such as proper drainage and street cleansing.
·         Towns and cities, which had no councils, could apply to become boroughs.

 Perhaps it is not surprising that there was considerable opposition to the Bill as it went through Parliament.   The House of Commons gave it a smooth ride but when it reached the Lords the Tory Peers and their friends cut up rough with it.   They believed that it was taking away their perks and privileges.   The opposition would have been stronger were it not for the fact that Peel and Wellington had no stomach for a fight on reform so soon after they had received a drubbing over the 1832 Reform Act.
The importance of the Act can be judged from the fact that it settled the relationship between central and local government, more or less for the next 100 years:        
There was a vast improvement over the previous system, and the Act established the principle of elected town councils.   This was a great step forward.   At the same time there were a number of failings:
·         By making it optional instead of compulsory for the new councils to make social improvements, the Act missed an opportunity to do something positive about public health.   By 1848 only 29 boroughs had taken any action.   One reason for this was that ratepayers were often mainly interested in keeping the rates down.
·         Many towns failed to become boroughs because the procedure was complicated and expensive.   In 1848 there were still 62 large towns without councils.
         Although the Act appeared to be more democratic than before, it was mainly of benefit to the middle classes.   Very few working men were wealthy enough to be ratepayers.

  the new municipal franchise was actually narrower than that enacted for parliamentary boroughs in 1832.   For although household or ratepayer suffrage might seem a good deal more generous than the £10 occupier qualification decreed for Westminster elections, it was limited by a stipulation that voters must have resided and paid rates for at least three years, whereas only one year was requisite in the case of the parliamentary franchise. "A Mad, Bad, & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton
 William IV died in 1837 and was succeeded by Queen Victoria, the daughter of his deceased younger brother, Edward, Duke of Kent.   Following the customary practise, a general election took place after the death of the monarch.   However, this was the last time the custom was to be followed.  
 The passing of the 1832 Reform Act and the 1835 Municipal Reform Act did not quell the appetite for democracy.   Many people wanted more and more they were determined to get.   Following the success of a campaign against the high stamp duty on newspapers the London Working Men’s Association was formed in 1836 by William Lovett and others involved with the campaign.   The Association demanded a more representative and democratic parliament.   They decided to draw up a petition showing their demands.   Thus was born the Chartist Movement.   It emerged from disillusion with the 1832 Reform Act.   The less wealthy wanted more power.   They had hoped to get democracy and they hadn’t.   Even worse in some boroughs such as Preston and Westminster they had lost votes.   There were still “pocket” boroughs and bribery and corruption continued.   There was still intimidation because there was no secret ballot.
The decision to proceed by way of parliamentary petition led to involvement with radical MPs like Roebuck and Leader.   The campaign for support in the provinces led to association with such bodies as Attwood’s Birmingham Political Union, which had a strong middle class element.   Yet the aims of those who composed the Charter were not class aims.   They thought the organisation of society faulty, government corrupt, legislation biased and popular education defective.   But they did not want to attack property or restrict liberty.   They were essentially reformists not revolutionaries. "Aristocracy and People" by N. Gash
The Chartist petition set out the grievances and then listed their demands.   It said:
“It was the fond expectation of the people that a remedy for most of their grievances would be found in the Reform Act of 1832… They have been bitterly deceived… The Reform Act has transferred power from one domineering faction to another, and left the people as helpless as before…
We perform the duties; therefore we must have the privileges of free men.   Therefore we demand universal suffrage.   To be exempt from the corruption of the wealthy and the violence of the powerful, the suffrage must be secret.   We demand annual parliaments and …for every representative chosen, a fair payment for the time which he is called upon to devote to public service”.
The petition drawn up by William Lovett (cabinetmaker) and Francis Place (tailor and a pioneer in the study of birth control} in February 1837 set out six demands:
·         Equal representation – the division of the country into equal constituencies so that there should be no favours;
·         Universal manhood suffrage – “every male person over the age of 21 shall be entitled to have his name registered as a voter”;
·         Annual parliaments, so that the peoples mandate should be regularly reviewed;
·         No property qualifications for Members of Parliament;
·         Vote by secret ballot, to avoid bullying or bribing  from masters and landlords; and

·         Regular sittings of Parliament during the year and payment of Members who attended.

 Equal representation has not been achieved although from 1885 onwards various attempts have been made.   Universal manhood suffrage was achieved in 1884.   We have never had Annual Parliaments.   Property qualifications for MPs were abolished in 1858.   The secret ballot was achieved in 1872 and payment of Members of Parliament started in 1911.   To obtain democracy was a long haul.
The first draft of the first petition referred to persons instead of males but it was thought that this would delay the achievement of male suffrage so was dropped.   We were still in a predominantly male culture.
William Lovett believed that the Chartists could gain their victory by peaceful means.   Pamphlets and peaceful demonstrations would, he thought, convince MPs.   This ignored the fact that most MPs were quite satisfied with the electoral system after 1832; they did not want a more democratic system.   There were few MPs prepared to speak in support of the Chartist Movement.
The Peoples Charter was published in May 1838 and caused great agitation throughout the big cities of the realm.   It expanded the principles set out in William Lovett’s petition as follows:
1.            A vote for every man of twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
2.            The Ballot – To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3.         No property qualification for Members of Parliament – thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
4.             Payment of Members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
5.          Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
6.      Annual parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with a ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelvemonth; and since members when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.
  Looked at from today’s perspective the first five points have been accepted in principle although there are still enormous differences in the size of constituencies.   The last point on annual Parliaments has not been implemented and if it had been we would have moved more towards a direct democracy than the representative democracy which we have today.   The error of the Chartists was that they did not understand single-issue politics, unlike the Anti-Corn Law League which achieved its aims in 1846.
  The policy of the Chartists was to hold large mass meetings in various towns, with the object of getting the Government, and the ruling classes generally to listen to their grievances.   Many people expected that mass meetings would be prohibited by Melbourne’s government, but Lord John Russell, in 1838, made a notable declaration on this question.   “The people have a right to meet”, he said,   “It is not from free discussion that governments have anything to fear.   There is fear when men are driven by force to secret combinations.   There is fear, there is danger, and not in free discussion”.   These words, spoken by an English aristocrat and a great statesman, indicated a trust in the people such as no other government in Europe would have dared to show.   With one or two exceptions the trust was justified.   Russell’s speech could not of course, be taken as meaning that the Ministry would tolerate disorder.   Chartists met in Birmingham in 1838 where there was a riot in the Bull Ring, followed by the sacking of several shops; and at Newport (Mon.) the Chartists tried to seize the town.   In both instances order had to be restored by the military. "The Vote" by PaulFoot

Newport was a very serious riot.   Miners from the neighbouring villages led by John Frost and Zephaniah Williams marched on Newport, where the Mayor, with a small force of troops had his headquarters at the Westgate Hotel.   The Chartists were armed, and fired at the hotel.   The Mayor read the Riot Act, whilst the bullets whistled past him.   He then ordered the soldiers to fire.   20 Chartists were killed, many wounded, and the rest fled in confusion.   John Frost was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but this was commuted to transportation to Tasmania.   In 1856 he was given an unconditional pardon and returned to Newport in triumph.   Zephaniah Williams made his fortune in Tasmania when he discovered coal there.
The Peoples Charter was adopted by delegates from all parts of the country at the meeting in Birmingham in 1838.   It said: “The House of Commons is the People’s House, and there our opinions should be stated, there our rights ought to be advocated, there we ought to be represented or we are serfs”.
For over a year the Chartists diligently collected signatures on their petition until eventually: 
On 12 July, the Chartists’ great day, the climax of all their activities for a year or more, the national petition was brought by carriage to the House of Commons carrying a million and a half signatures.   Much was made by the petition’s enemies of double-signing and false entries.   But even if all these mostly bogus allegations were taken into account, the genuine signatures represented more than twice the entire electorate for the House of Commons.   The mildest possible motion – to debate the petition in a Commons committee – was moved by Thomas Attwood, the veteran banker who had been associated for years with the leadership of the campaign for universal male suffrage in Birmingham. "The Vote" by Paul Foot
 Lord John Russell wound up the debate in the House of Commons.   For the House of Commons to accept proposals from the working class would be a step too far.   The conclusion was inevitable.   Only 46 MPs wanted the petition to go to Committee for further deliberation.   235 MPs, including Disraeli, were against.   Disraeli had entered the House of Commons in 1837.   His maiden speech was drowned in laughter except for the ending, when he said ”ay and though I sit down now, the time will come when you will hear me”.
On the day of the vote and also on the following day riots broke out in Birmingham, all to no avail.   Parliament had decided so far and no further:
By 1839 the liberal Morning Chronicle was calling on the government to rally reformers by declaring in favour of triennial parliaments, ballot and household suffrage.   The previous year, on Grote’s ballot motion nearly two hundred regular supporters of the ministry voted for it against a motley majority composed of some sixty official whigs and the full strength of the Conservative opposition.   When the ballot was made an open question the following year the number in its favour rose to 217, including seventeen members of the government and court. "Aristocracy and People" by N. Gash
George Grote continued to support the ballot for the rest of his public life.

At a meeting of the Chartists in 1839 the slogan 'peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must' was adopted.
In 1841 the first Jewish Baronet was created - Isaac Lyon Goldsmid.   The Oath of Allegiance was still a bar to Jews entering the House of Commons.
There was a General Election in 1841, the significance of which was that it demonstrated how polarised politics was becoming and showed a large increase in participation.
Nearly all constituencies returned two members and all voters were entitled to cast two votes.   If two Tories and two Whigs stood for election, voters could choose either to split between a Whig and a Tory or to vote “straight” for two Whigs or two Tories.   If two Whigs and one Tory stood, then a Whig voter could either split or vote straight, but a Tory voter would “necessarily” have to spit or else “plump”, i.e. vote for the Tory candidate and not use his other vote. "A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton
Although the 1832 Reform Act only increased the electorate by about 45 per cent, by 1841 the numbers voting had gone up by 500 per cent.   There were also far fewer split votes.   It is estimated that the number of split votes in the 1841 General Election was as low as 6 per cent.
For the first time in British history a government was overturned, not by the King, not by a vote in Parliament, but by a vote of the British people.   After the Election the Chartists decided to make another attempt to pressurise Parliament with another petition but:
when a second National Petition with about 3,320,000 signatures was presented in 1842 it was defeated even more heavily than before (287-49).   This second rebuff was followed by an outbreak of industrial disruption, which came to a head during the third quarter of 1842 with a general strike affecting twenty-three counties."A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton 
The number of signatories on the petition was huge, bearing in mind that the total population in 1841 was about 15 million.   Peel’s government acted boldly and ruthlessly by arresting 500 trade unionists and Chartists.   Effectively this brought Chartism to an end.   Many of the middle classes withdrew their support when the movement looked to be embracing violence.   By October 1843 over 15,000 protesters had been arrested.   Perhaps one of the biggest drawbacks to Chartism was that it did not have a charismatic Leader.   Throughout the country meetings were held, Kersal Moor in Salford, Blackheath in London, Blackstone Edge in Manchester and Peep’s Green in Yorkshire, all hosted meetings of the Chartists:

 The outward face of Chartism was its journalism (“the platform”), monster meetings (Kersal Moor, Blackheath, Blackstone Edge, Peep’s Green), and torchlight processions, but its inner life was bureaucratic, consisting of local and national committees, unions, conventions, and associations, each with its own carefully defined rules and constitutions.   Participation in such bodies conferred status on the unfranchised, but a fascination with agendas, motions, resolutions and minutes may explain why most Chartists retained a subaltern mentality, unable to develop any genuinely alternative vision of society"A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton
After a debate on 14 April 1842, the House agreed by 268 votes to 46 to a Government motion to introduce new standing orders relating to petitions.   These precluded any debate on the merits of a petition following its presentation, and this is essentially the current practice.   Surprisingly, the 1842 changes did not significantly reduce the number of petitions. The number of petitions rarely fell below 10,000 per session in the nineteenth century; in the long session of 1893-94 the number received was 33,742.
The end of the 19th century showed a marked reduction in the number of petitions presented, although enormous numbers of petitioners signed some. The Times in 1901 considered that belief in the efficacy of individual appeals to Parliament had not entirely died out, "but if the man in the street could see how unceremoniously the ordinary memorial is dealt with, his belief would not long survive".   From the First World War onwards, possibly reflecting such a sentiment, or possibly also the extension of the franchise, the number fell away almost to nothing.
For the first time, in 1844 an entire constituency was abolished and disenfranchised for corruption.   The dubious honour went to Sudbury.   The House of Commons was beginning to be mindful about its reputation.
Officially, until 1845, no member of the public was allowed to be admitted to Parliament when it was sitting – and women were not given access until 1916.   There were still those in Parliament who believed that its deliberations should be held in secret, but there was a growing feeling of confidence and a move to more openness.   The era of “word of mouth” reports was coming to an end.
Hansard was the main report of both oral and written parliamentary proceedings.   Its origins go back to the 17th century, when unofficial - and often suppressed - printings of debates in Parliament began production.   Suppression stopped in 1771 following a legal battle by John Wilkes MP

In 1803, William Cobbett started printing records of debates, simply called 'Debates'. It was the first organised attempt to record proceedings.   Due to insolvency, Cobbett sold the contract for Debates in 1812 to Thomas Curson Hansard, son of Luke Hansard, the British Government's printer (although Thomas' business was independent).   Hansard put his name on the report in 1829
The Irish question would not go away and in 1844, in the only speech by Disraeli which was complimented by Sir Robert Peel, he told the House of Commons: “That dense population in extreme distress inhabits an island where there is an established church which is not their church and a territorial aristocracy the richest of whom live in distant capitals.   Thus you have a starving population, an absentee aristocracy and an alien church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world.   That is the Irish question”.
By 1845 the State, in the shape of Sir Robert Peel’s Tory government, had ceased pretending that the established Church of Ireland was ever likely to become a national church for Ireland.   By endowing the Catholic seminary at Maynooth, they were, in the words of the Duke of Wellington, ensuring that Irish priests were at least educated in Ireland, where the State could overhear what they were taught, rather than in Rome or some equally dangerous Catholic city.   The Maynooth grant was bitterly unpopular among the Protestant Ultras who formed a sizeable faction in both Houses of Parliament, but it was recognition of reality.
By the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847, and by later acts, there can now be no more than 26 Lords Spiritual, always including the five most important prelates of the Church in the House of Lords.   The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham, and the Bishop of Winchester sit there as of right. Membership of the House of Lords also extends to the 21 longest-serving other diocesan bishops of the Church of England.   Our democracy is still distorted by religion.   Even today the appointment of Bishops is in the hands of the Prime Minister
The Treason Felony Act was passed in 1848 making it a serious crime to call in print for the abolition of the monarchy a crime which will one day be tested in court.   At present if you call for the abolition of the Monarchy a “blind eye” is turned on it.   How long will this last?
By 1848 the Chartists had presented three petitions to Parliament.   The third and last petition was completed in April 1848 and this time contained five points (secret ballot was the one omitted) and was reported to have been signed by five million people.   The Royal Family was so scared they went to the Isle of Wight.   Anti monarchy revolutions were breaking out all over Europe.   Was one about to start in the United Kingdom?   No wonder the Royal family went to the Isle of Wight.   Chartism made one final last gasp:
Another petition was drawn up, said to be signed by five million persons; O’Connor boasted that half a million men would bring it to the House of Commons.   But the Government forbade the procession; and the great petition was ignominiously carried to the House in a cab.   There it was examined and found to contain not five million, but less than two million signatures, some of which were plainly fictitious and had been added in malice or jest.   The ridicule which greeted this discovery was the deathblow of Chartism, which shortly afterwards faded out of existence. "A History of Britain 1688-Present Day" by E. Carter & R. Mears
The problems with the petition were not the only problems facing the Chartists.   The prosperity of Peel’s England also eased unrest.   Then came the final blow:
in 1847-8 the final phase of Chartism had come and gone, and is usually seen, not as a climacteric, but as an anti-climax.   This is because of what happened at Kennington Common on 10 April 1848, when about 150,000 demonstrators (estimates vary) dispersed after being faced down by 4,000 police and 85,000 volunteer special constables, many of whom were working men themselves.   The event stiffened elite resolve, and prompted the Commons to throw out a third petition with derision just a few days later, but the idea that it was a fiasco and that Chartism died with a whimper is a myth. A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People" by B. Hilton
  The meeting had passed off peacefully, just as its convenors intended, but later there were serious disturbances at Bishop Bonner’s Fields on 4 June.

 Just as in 1842 the Government bided its time until it was sure that it had got middle class opinion behind it, then more arrests and prosecutions followed.   The strong arm of the State had squashed democracy at birth, but perhaps the economic boom, which was just beginning, had the greatest impact of all.   When people have work poverty diminishes, so calls for action based on poverty, fall on stony ground.
 From 1849 the long mid-Victorian boom set in. Economic prosperity is not conducive to electoral reform and for the time being reform went off the agenda.   Why did the Chartists seek a political solution? The National Reformer published on 15 January 1837 quotes James O’Brien as saying: “Knaves will tell you that it is because you have no property you are unrepresented.   I tell you, on the contrary, it is because you are unrepresented that you have no property.   Your poverty is the result not the cause of your being unrepresented.”   Later in 1848 he disassociated himself from the Chartist revival.   Perhaps this was really a clash between politics and economics and this time economics won.
The 1840s were a time of slow progress towards democracy.   Indeed it suffered a number of setbacks.   The Chartist movement captured the public’s imagination but it was becoming increasingly clear that in times of economic prosperity democracy does not advance.   Nevertheless the movement set the agenda and helped to soften up a generation, which would implement its wishes over the next forty years.
On 29th June 1850 Sir Robert Peel made a speech which resonates today.   He said in the House of Commons “You will not advance the cause of constitutional government by attempting to dictate to other nations... If you succeed I doubt whether or not the institutions that take root under your patronage will be lasting.   Constitutional liberty will be best worked out by those who aspire to freedom by their own efforts”.
There was an extraordinary occurrence in the House of Commons in 1851.   David Salomons, a Jew, having been elected, made a speech although he had not taken the oath.   He was asked to withdraw and for his pains was then fined £500 – a huge amount of money for the time.   He later became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of London in 1855.
The population of the United Kingdom in 1851 was now 21 million having almost doubled in half a century.
In 1852 another constituency was abolished and disenfranchised for corruption.   This time it was St. Albans that was disgraced.
In 1854, an important Act was passed, consolidating and amending previous Acts relating to the offence of bribery at elections.   It was known as the Corrupt Practices Act.    Candidates were required to produce itemised accounts of their expenditure for examination by an election auditor.   Parliament was beginning to take corruption seriously.
As an indication of how some parliamentary elections were still being conducted it is interesting to look at the election of Lord Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (later Lord Salisbury) for Stamford in 1854.   Stamford was a pocket borough of the Marquess of Exeter.   Not surprisingly Lord Robert was returned unopposed.   Lord Robert was the son of Lord Salisbury and as the son of a peer could stand for election to the House of Commons.   He went to Stamford after the Mayor moved the writ on Thursday 16th August.  The election was to take place the following Monday:
The only real interest in the poll shown by Cecil’s constituents reported the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury after he was elected, was the customary scramble at the close of poll for the timber from which the hustings were made.   The whole proceeding, from opening speeches to the declaration, took less than an hour.   Nor was Cecil opposed in any subsequent election in the fifteen years he sat in the House of Commons.   This was just as well for he held a low opinion of his electors.   When in 1867 his brother Eustace, then Tory MP for South Essex, complained that he had been addressed by some of his constituents in a Brittany hotel, Cecil commiserated: “A hotel infested by influential constituents is worse than one infested by bugs.   It’s a pity you can’t carry around a powder insecticide to get rid of vermin of that kind”. "Salisbury Victorian Titan" by A. Roberts.
Husting is derived from an old Norse word meaning “thing”.   The "husting" was usually a platform or pavilion, which was a temporary structure erected at the place of election.   The returning officer (in most borough constituencies the Mayor or equivalent civic dignitary and in county elections the High Sheriff of the county) was responsible for the detailed timing of the election and the provision of a suitable husting.   County elections took place at a single place of election, which was usually the county town or a large town.
In the Salisbury Review Cecil set out his view of electioneering as:
Days and weeks of screwed-up smiles and laboured courtesy, the mock geniality, the hearty shake of the filthy hand, the chuckling reply that must be made to the coarse joke, the loathsome, choking compliment that must be paid to the grimy wife and sluttish daughter, the indispensable flattery of the vilest religious prejudices, the wholesale deglutition of hypocritical pledges.

 So much, for the contempt, in which some Members of Parliament held their electorate.
 In 1856, it was determined necessary to add a peer learned in law to the House of Lords (which exercised certain judicial functions), without allowing the peer's heirs to sit in the House and swell its numbers.   Sir James Parke, a judge, was created Baron Wensleydale for life, but the House of Lords concluded that the peerage did not entitle him to sit in the House of Lords.   Lord Wensleydale was then compelled to take his seat as a hereditary peer.   The Government then introduced a bill to authorise the creation of two life peerages carrying seats in the House of Lords for judges who held office for at least five years.   The House of Lords passed it, but the bill was lost in the House of Commons.   The issue of Life Peerages was not to be finally resolved for another hundred years.
 Jews were finally admitted as Members in 1858, but like Catholics no Jew could offer counsel to the monarch on ecclesiastical matters.   Lionel de Rothschild took his seat when the parliamentary oath was changed from an exclusively Christian one.   He had made four successful attempts to be elected at two General Elections, the first in 1847, and two by-elections.   Finally he was allowed to sit as an MP.   He sat as an MP for sixteen years although ironically, once there he never made a parliamentary speech.
Jews were enabled to sit in the House after the passing of the Jews Relief Act 1858 which permitted the omission of the words ‘on the true faith of a Christian’ from the oath in individual cases.   This phrase first made its appearance in the oath of allegiance introduced in 1609 when its intention would not have been expressly to exclude Jews, as they were, at the time, prohibited from entering England anyway.   It was to be used with that effect subsequently however, as, together with the requirement that the oath of allegiance be sworn on the New Testament, this effectively barred Jews from entering Parliament.

This was the culmination of changes commencing with the emancipation of Catholics.   It is an indication that Parliament was slowly opening its doors to all of the people. 
in 1858 the House again felt the need to ban professional advocacy in terms that strike a chord nearly 140 years later over the activities of members who are not barristers but public relations consultants: “That it is contrary to the usage and derogatory to the dignity of this House that any of its members should bring forward, promote or advocate in this House any proceeding or measure in which he may have acted or been concerned for or in consideration of any pecuniary fee or reward”. "Parliament under Blair" by P. Riddell.
Increasingly desperate, Lord John “Finality Jack” Russell continued to push for further reform after his Act of 1832, but he could never satisfactorily reconcile the desire to increase the franchise with the establishment’s protection of their interests.   His first attempt was a Bill in 1852, which was withdrawn.  The second, in 1854 had many “fancy franchises”; allotting extra votes to people with inherited property, or large bank balances.  It collapsed.   The House of Commons can be a cruel place and when mockery greeted Russell’s third Bill he burst into tears and withdrew it.   In 1860 he had another try, this time he dropped the fancy franchises and proposed that the voting qualifications in the towns be reduced from £10 to £6 and from £14 to £10 in the counties, together with a small redistribution of seats.   The Bill passed its second reading but became bogged down in committee.
 In 1858 The Tory Prime Minister, Lord Derby, whose ancestors came with William the Conqueror when he invaded England and who headed a minority government and was heavily influenced by Benjamin Disraeli, decided to try and outflank the Liberals by proposing his own Reform Bill.   This was a rehearsal for the second Reform Act, which was to come nine years later.   The 1859 Bill copied much of Russell’s Bill of 1854, but in addition brought the rural “qualification” into line with the borough “qualification”.   This would have added about 200,000 to the electorate.   It included “fancy franchises”, for clergy, doctors, schoolmasters, university graduates, government pensioners. Fundholders and possessors of £60 in the savings bank would all qualify.  It was a moderate measure but a small extension to democracy.   Two Cabinet Ministers, Walpole and Henley resigned.   The Liberals in an attempt to cause mischief in the Tory ranks voted against the Bill.   They succeeded in defeating the government and in doing so forced the Tories to call a general election, which they lost.
 Lord Palmerston returned as Prime Minister.   His Cabinet included seven peers, two sons of peers and three baronets.   The aristocracy was not dead and the House of Lords still had a significant role.
Robert Cecil was returned in the general election as one of the two MPs for Stamford, the other was Sir Stafford Northcote.   Forty-four electors attended the polling in the town hall.   The pocket borough was not dead.   One interesting development at this time was a proposal introduced by Cecil to have postal voting, perhaps to encourage the middle and upper classes to vote.   His Bill to do this failed.   Robert Cecil, with all his wealth feared the working class.   In a book “Oxford Essays” published in 1858 he wrote “the poor voters are numerous, the rich voters are few; and the few voters are absolutely and entirely at the mercy of the many”.   Democracy to Cecil was a situation where eight workers would have seven Rothschilds at their mercy.

 The whole issue of reform had become flat.   It remained so for most of Palmerston’s last administration from 1859 to 1865.
By 1860 where were we on the road to democracy?   Since 1832 the population had doubled to over 20 million.   The electorate had not increased proportionately.   By the year of Palmerston’s death in 1865 it only totaled 1,056,000.   Legally, for the first time, women did not have the vote and there were no signs of them getting it.   Also women could still not stand for Parliament.   Only one in seven men had the vote.   180 Members of Parliament were the sons of peers or baronets.   The House of Lords, which had about 400 members was unelected and unaccountable, so the few that could vote could only vote for a part of the legislature.   Nevertheless there had been some progress in the male suffrage.   The Reform Act of 1832 had been a major step forward.   Wealth was still a qualification for voting.   Some progress had been made in eliminating religious discrimination.   The first Jewish MP sat in the House of Commons, but Roman Catholics suffered from discriminatory legislation.   They were not full citizens.  
   For those that had a vote they were not of equal value.   Many constituencies were pocket boroughs.   Bribery and corruption were exercised on a large scale and intimidation continued.   There was no secret ballot.
  The majority of the population did not have the vote so the concept of minority protection had not yet appeared on the horizon.   Slavery had been abolished so racial discrimination had legally been eliminated.   The Chartists had raised awareness about democracy but had not achieved their objectives.   Some foundations for future change existed and in particular the key concepts had been developed, and hence were called for.   The issue now was about pushing them through.
 Much had been achieved in this period but it was a slow progress and there was a long way to go.

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