Major Provisions of the Reform Act of 1832 in England
Reform Act 1832
It was a reaction of many years of people who had criticized the electoral system as unfair. For example, there were constituencies where there were only a handful of voters who elected two MPs to parliament. In these rotten towns, with few voters and no secret ballot, it was easy for candidates to buy votes. Yet cities such as Manchester that had developed during the last 80 years had no parliamentarians to represent them.
In 1831, the House of Commons passed a reform bill, but was defeated by the Tories-dominated House of Lords. There were riots and serious disturbances in London, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Yeoville, Sherborne, Exeter and Bristol.
The riots in Bristol were some of the worst in England in the 19th century. They began when Sir Charles Weatherall, who was opposing the Reform Bill, came to open the Court of Assis. Public buildings and homes were set on fire, causing over £300,000 in damage and twelve people killed. Of the 102 people arrested and tried, 31 were sentenced to death. Army Commander Lieutenant-Colonel Brereton was court-martialed in Bristol.
There was a fear in the government that unless there was some reform, there might be a revolution in its place. He saw the July 1830 Revolution in France, which overthrew King Charles X and replaced him with the more liberal King Louis-Philippe, who agreed to a constitutional monarchy.
In Britain, King William IV lost popularity as standing in the way of the Reformation.The rotten boroughs were removed and the new towns were given the right to elect parliamentarians, although the constituencies were still of unequal size. However, only men who had assets worth at least £10 could vote, which cut off most of the working class, and only men who could pay to stand in election could be MPs. Huh. This reform was not enough to quell all the protests.
As the 19th century progressed and memory of the violent French Revolution faded, there was a growing acceptance that some parliamentary reform was necessary. Unequal distribution of seats, expansion of franchise and ‘rotten cities’ were all issues to be addressed.
In 1830 the Tory prime minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was a staunch opponent of parliamentary reform. However, there was growing support for limited change within his party, partly because expanding the franchise would exploit the wealth and influence of Britain’s growing middle class.
When the Tory government was later removed in 1830, Earl Grey, a Whig, became prime minister and pledged to undertake parliamentary reform. The Whig Party was pro-reform and although two reform bills failed to be taken to Parliament, the third was successful and received Royal Assent in 1832.
The bill was passed because of Lord Grey’s plan to persuade King William IV to consider using his constitutional powers to create additional Whig peers in the House of Lords to guarantee the passage of the bill. Upon hearing of this plan, Tory peers refrained from voting, thus allowing the bill to be passed, but avoided the creation of more Whig peers.
first reform act
The Representation of the People Act 1832, popularly known as the First Reform Act or the Great Reform Act:
In England and Wales 56 boroughs were denied voting rights and another 31 were reduced to only one MP. done
67 new constituencies created
Expanded franchise property qualifications in counties to include small landowners, tenant farmers and shopkeepers
Cities created a uniform franchise, voting for all households and some occupants paying an annual rent of £10 or more.
Another change brought about by the Reform Act of 1832 was the formal exclusion of women from voting in parliamentary elections, as the Act defined a voter as a male person. There were occasional, though rare, instances of women voting before 1832.
Limited change was achieved but for many it did not go far enough. Property qualification meant that most working men still could not vote. But it was proven that change was possible and calls for further parliamentary reform continued over the next decades.