parliamentary reform - aide memoire

Fact time. 
Key points from this story:
  • during the American revolution, Major Cartwright called for what essentially became the Chartist six points sixty years later - annual parliaments, universal male suffrage, secret ballot, etc.
  • It took until the French Revolution and Paine's Rights of Man (1791-2) to popularise the idea that the vote should be based on something other than the possession of property. Yet the battles around the reform bills in 1830-2 in parliament were focused solely on the possession of property, in its various forms. Even many of the working class men campaigning for the vote in the 1830s and 40s still framed the debate within the notion of property - arguing that labour was a form of property and therefore gave them a right to representation. It would arguably take until 1884, the third reform act, for parliament to recognise the 'rights of man' - representation based on some idea of equality.
  • the redistribution of seats was always arranged for political benefit rather than on some genuine belief in equal representation.
  • secret ballot not achieved until 1872; payment of MPs not until the early 1900s; we still don't have annual parliaments.

1688 - establishment of the idea of a constitutional monarchy, without a written constitution. King, Lords, and Commons are supposed to 'balance' each others' power.
1760s - John Wilkes challenges the government's right to remove him from his seat, three times.
1776 - Major John Cartwright, Take Your Choice!
1780s - Yorkshire Association pushes for moderate reform in parliament; achieves economical reform. Westminster Association calls for more extensive reform, on Cartwright's model. Achieves nothing.
1791-2 - Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, parts 1 and 2. One of the most important treatises that spreads the idea that the right to vote should be divorced from the possession of property. 
1790s - first working-class reform groups form. London Corresponding Society promise 'members unlimited'. 'Two Acts' of 1795 mark highpoint of government repression of radicals.
1810s - the 'mass platform' becomes the central tactic of radical reformers. First female reform societies. Huge demonstrations across the country.
16 August 1819 - Peterloo
1830-2 - reform groups re-emerge and press for the parliamentary reform act. 
the battle for the Reform Act:
23 February 1830 – Lord John Russell’s redistribution plan.
May 1830 – Daniel O’Connell moves for manhood suffrage, secret ballot and triennial parliaments – received only 13 votes.
28 May 1830 – Russell’s motion for redistribution. Defeated 223 to 117.
26 June 1830 – death of George IV. William IV accedes to the throne. General election.
July 1830 – revolution in France.
2 November 1830 – Wellington made a speech in the Lords against reform.
Ministers defeated in the Commons on a civil list vote and resigned. Grey’s ministry formed.
November 1830 – Manchester Political Union established
December 1830 – Henry Hunt won by-election in Preston.
December 1830 – committee set up to draw up reform bill
Late 1830-early 1831 – ‘Swing Riots’ across southern England
March 1831 – Hunt and O’Connell established Metropolitan Political Union.
1 March 1831 – Lord John Russell introduced first reform bill to the Commons
23 March 1831 – Reform bill passed its second reading by 302 to 301 votes.
20 April 1831 – William IV advised to dissolve parliament by the cabinet.
Late April 1831 – general election gave Grey’s government majority of 140
24 June 1831 – reform bill re-introduced by Russell.
22 September 1831 – Commons passed reform bill by 345 to 236.
8 October 1831 – Lords defeated the bill on its second reading, 199 to 158.
Late 1831 – serious rioting in Nottingham, Derby, and Bristol. Large demonstrations across the country.
12 December 1831 – third reform bill introduced.
18 December 1831 – second reading in Commons passed 324 to 162.
23 March 1832 – third reading in the Commons passed 355 to 239.
14 April 1832 – Reform bill passed second reading in Lords by 184 to 175.
7 May 1832 – ministers defeated on a motion to postpone consideration of disenfranchisement clauses until the rest of the bill had been sanctioned.
7 May 1832 – huge meeting of political unions in Birmingham.
8 May 1832 – Grey asked William IV for the creation of 50 new peers. King refused.
9 May 1832 – ministers resigned. William IV asked Wellington to form government. Massive petitions from across the country calling upon the kign to stop supplies.
15 May 1832 – Wellington gave up his commission. William IV forced to recall the Grey ministry.
18 May 1832 – William IV reluctantly gave a pledge to create new peers.
19 May 1832 – Wellington agreed to support Grey.
4 June 1832 – Reform bill passed on third reading in the Lords 106 to 27.

56 rotten boroughs abolished.
30 boroughs lost 1 MP.
143 seats made available for redistribution.
      65 seats to the counties.
      22 large towns, including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and London, given 2 MPs.
      21 smaller towns given 1 MP.
Scotland awarded 8 extra seats.
Ireland given 5 extra seats.

The total electorate out of a population of 24 million was 813,000, or less than 15% of adult males.
Chandos Clause, which enlarged the county electorate by 30% more than the Whigs wanted.

Scotland: Fifteen fold increase in electors to 65,000
Still only votes for 1 in 8 men (1 in 5 for England).
Ireland: only 5% of Irish men could vote

M. J. Turner, The Age of Unease: Government and Reform in Britain, 1782-1832 (2000)
N. LoPatin-Lummis, 'The 1832 Reform Act Debate: Should the Suffrage Be Based on Property or Taxpaying?', Journal of British Studies, 46:2 (2007), 320-45


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