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Why Was The Reform Act Of 1832 Passed?

2519 words - 11 pages

Why was the reform act of 1832 passed?

There were several major factors involved in the build up to the reform act which all led to the government having to enforce the reform act to keep the people happy. The voting system was extremely out of date, having not been altered since the 18th century and the government had not taken into consideration the demographic changes with had taken place since then. There were many rotten boroughs (Areas which had low vote to high representation ratio) and yet many fast growing cities like Leeds and Manchester had little or no representation at all which meant that no proportional voting was in place. The swing riots was an explosion in Britain at the ...view middle of the document...

One of the main things which worried the government was the threat of revolution apparent in Britain. This was rife at the time in Europe, especially France, in a state of crisis and this put huge pressure on the government. One of the other two major inputs why the reform act became necessary was the severe economic problems which had hit Britain. Britain had never really fully recovered from the war and the economy was still suffering from this, along with the crippling factor of industrial revolution. This helped the businesses increase production greatly but the people of Britain suffered as machines took over their jobs and unemployment in the country rose significantly. This spread anger through the people as unemployment meant no income and therefore families were struggling to survive. This accumulated into a massive problem that the government were not acting on and so strikes and riots grew creating the swing riots in 1830 where workers attacked machinery and burned barns. This was a major panic for the Tory government and could be seen as a main reason to their demise as this showed the people no longer supported them.

I feel the other big reason/catalyst was the catholic emancipation act as this resulted in the split and weakening of the Tories. It meant that Catholics could now sit in parliament. The result was that it gave reformers more hope than ever before and that many Tories were outraged with Wellington and this split the party. It wasn't however just the above as a great stroke of luck hit for the reformers in June 1830 when George IV died as he was against reform. Although his successor, William IV was not very enthusiastic he was prepared to go along with some changes. A general election also had to take place and reformers were delighted with this and so reform candidates did well meaning that Wellington was thrown out and a Whig government came to power. Reform had been wanted by some individuals for many years however and so it wasn't such a sudden demand. Jeremy Bentham and his supporters had been calling for reform since 1817, where they called for general elections and votes for all men over 21. There were at first too extreme for people but by 1830 some of them began to be taken up. All of these were important factors as to why reform was necessary and people were demanding change. The big signs of hope for people, I feel were the catholic emancipation act and election as people saw a hint of change from the catholic act and the election meant people, although who could vote was limited, could put their views forward and try and bring in government who were supportive of people's views and changed the government to the current times instead of the system which was archaic, over 100 years old. As Thomas Attwood stated in 1830, "the general distress which now affects the country, can only be permanently remedied by an effectual reform in the commons." This shows me that individuals wanted reform and collectively...

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