Reform Bill, any of the British parliamentary bills that became acts in 1832, 1867, and 1884–85 and that expanded the electorate for the House of Commons and rationalized the representation of that body.
The Representation of the People Act 1832 (also known as the 1832 Reform Act, Great Reform Act or First Reform Act) was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom (indexed as 2 & 3 Will. IV c. 45) that introduced major changes to the electoral system of England and Wales.
- 2 & 3 Wm. IV, c. 45
- 7 June 1832
- An Act to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales
- Lord Grey, Prime Minister
The Representation of the People Act 1832, known as the first Reform Act or Great Reform Act: disenfranchised 56 boroughs in England and Wales and reduced another 31 to only one MP created 67 new constituencies broadened the franchise's property qualification in the counties, to include small landowners, tenant farmers, and shopkeepers
Great Reform Act, 1832. The first major reform of the representative system since the time of Cromwell. The demand for reform at the end of the 18th cent. had been tainted by association with the French Revolution and it was not until the Whigs came to power in 1830 that there was any prospect of successful legislation.
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- The Unreformed House of Commons
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After the Act of Union 1800, sometimes referred to as the Act of Union 1801, the unreformed House of Commons was composed of 658 members, of whom 513 represented England and Wales. There were two types of constituencies: counties and boroughs. County members were supposed to represent landholders, while borough members were supposed to represent the mercantile and trading interests of the kingdom. Counties were historical national subdivisions established between the 8th and 16th centuries...
Statutes passed in 1430 and 1432, during the reign of Henry VI, standardised property qualifications for county voters. Under these acts, all (male) owners of freehold property or land worth at least forty shillings in a particular county were entitled to vote in that county. This requirement, known as the forty shilling freehold, was never adjusted for inflation; thus, the amount of land that it was necessary for one to own in order to vote was gradually diminished over time. Nevertheless...
A large number of House of Commons constituencies, especially those with small electorates, were under the control of rich landowners. These constituencies were known as nomination boroughs or pocket boroughs, because they were said to be in the pockets of their patrons. Most patrons were members of the nobility or the landed gentry who could use their local influence, prestige, and wealth to sway the voters. This was particularly true in rural counties, and in small boroughs situated near a...
Early attempts at reform
During the 1640s, England endured a civil war that pitted King Charles I and the Royalists against the Parliamentarians. In 1647, different factions of the victorious parliamentary army held a series of discussions, the Putney Debates, on reforming the structure of English government. The most radical elements proposed universal manhood suffrage and the reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies. Their leader Thomas Rainsborough declared, "I think it's clear, that every man that is to liv...
Aftermath of the French Revolution
Support for parliamentary reform plummeted after the launch of the French Revolution in 1789. Reacting to the excesses of the revolution, English politicians became steadfastly opposed to any major political change. Despite this reaction, several groups that agitated for reform were established. A group of Whigs led by James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale and Charles Grey founded an organisation to advocate for parliamentary reform in 1792. This group, known as the Society of the Friends of...
Reform during the 1820s
Since the House of Commons regularly rejected direct challenges to the system of representation by large majorities, supporters of reform had to content themselves with more modest measures. The Whig Lord John Russell brought forward one such measure in 1820, proposing the disfranchisement of the notoriously corrupt borough of Grampound in Cornwall. He suggested that the borough's two seats be transferred to the city of Leeds. Tories in the House of Lords agreed to the disfranchisement of the...
First Reform Bill
The death of King George IV on 26 June 1830 dissolved Parliament by law, and a general election was held. Electoral reform, which had been frequently discussed during the preceding parliamentary session, became a major campaign issue. Across the country, several pro-reform "political unions" were formed, made up of both middle and working class individuals. The most influential of these was the Birmingham Political Union, led by Thomas Attwood. These groups confined themselves to lawful means...
Second Reform Bill
The political and popular pressure for reform had grown so great that pro-reform Whigs won an overwhelming House of Commons majority in the general elections of 1831. The Whig party won almost all constituencies with genuine electorates, leaving the Tories with little more than the rotten boroughs. The Reform Bill was again brought before the House of Commons, which agreed to the second reading by a large majority in July. During the committee stage, opponents of the bill slowed its progress...
Third Reform Bill
After the Reform Bill was rejected in the Lords, the House of Commons immediately passed a motion of confidence affirming their support for Lord Grey's administration. Because parliamentary rules prohibited the introduction of the same bill twice during the same session, the ministry advised the King to prorogue Parliament. As soon as the new session began in December 1831, the Third Reform Bill was brought forward. The bill was in a few respects different from its predecessors; it no longer...
The Reform Act's chief objective was the reduction of the number of nomination boroughs. Two hundred and three boroughs existed in England before the Act. The fifty-six least consequential of these boroughs, as measured by their housing stock and tax assessments, were completely abolished. The next thirty least consequential boroughs each lost one of their two members of parliament. In addition Weymouth and Melcombe Regis' entitlement to four members was reduced to two members. In total t...
The British political landscape was modernised and energised by the passage of the 1832 Reform Act. Local Conservative Associations began to educate citizens about the Party's platform and encouraged them to register to vote annually, as mandated by the Act. Press coverage of national politics in the local press was joined by in-depth reports on provincial politics in the national press. Grassroots Conservatives therefore saw themselves as part of a national political movement during the 1830...
The Reform Act did very little to appease the working class, since voters were required to possess property worth £10, a substantial sum at the time. This split the alliance between the working class and the middle class, giving rise to the Chartist Movement. Although it did disenfranchise most rotten boroughs, a few remained, such as Totnes in Devon and Midhurst in Sussex. Also, bribery of voters remained a problem. As Sir Thomas Erskine May observed, "it was too soon evident, that as more v...
Several historians credit the Reform Act 1832 with launching modern democracy in Britain. G. M. Trevelyan hails 1832 as the watershed moment at which "'the sovereignty of the people' had been established in fact, if not in law." Sir Erskine May notes that "[the] reformed Parliament was, unquestionably, more liberal and progressive in its policy than the Parliaments of old; more vigorous and active; more susceptible to the influence of public opinion; and more secure in the confidence of the people," but admitted that "grave defects still remained to be considered." Other historians have taken a far less laudatory view, arguing that genuine democracy began to arise only with the Second Reform Act in 1867, or perhaps even later. Norman Gash states that "it would be wrong to assume that the political scene in the succeeding generation differed essentially from that of the preceding one." E. A. Smith proposes, in a similar vein, that "when the dust had settled, the political...Full original text of the Act as passed: "Cap. XLV: An Act to amend the Representation of the People in England and Wales.". The statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. 2 & 3 W...Bloy, Marjie. The Reform Act Crisis.Spartacus. 1832 Reform Act.
The Representation of the People Act 1832, commonly known as the Reform Act 1832, was an Act of Parliament (2 & 3 Will. IV)that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of the United Kingdom.
The Reform Bills were a series of proposals to reform voting in the British parliament. These include the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, and 1884.
On 7th May 1832, Grey and Henry Brougham met the king and asked him to create a large number of Whig peers in order to get the Reform Bill passed in the House of Lords. William was now having doubts about the wisdom of parliamentary reform and refused.
-Passed in 1832 with help of King William IV (He created enough new peers in House of Lords to assure passage of a 3rd reform bill)
- related to: reform bill of 1832 definition