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Failure Of The Campaign For Parliamentary Reform

2171 words - 9 pages

Failure of the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform

There were numerous reasons that accounted for why the campaign for
Parliamentary reform failed in its objectives in the period 1780-1820,
with arguably the most significant factor being that those in
Parliament did not actually feel the need to reform the electoral
system because of the lack of unified pressure from the British
public. There was a substantial call for Parliamentary reform between
1780 and 1820, but the separate groups which were pressing for reform
did not unite and failed to appeal to the wider regions of the
population and therefore, reform was not at the top of the agenda
between these decades. The representation of Britain in the House of
Commons certainly did not reflect the composition of the country, as
Cornwall sent 44 members to Parliament, which was only one fewer than
the whole of Scotland combined. Large industrial towns such as
Manchester and Birmingham, consisting of 320,000 people, did not send
a single representative to the upper chamber of Parliament. Various
rules and qualifications such as a minimum level of income and
possessing a large enough fireplace were often required to vote in a
General Election, rules which were being called into question by
various groups in society such as the London Corresponding Society.
However, although these aspects of Parliament were clearly
undemocratic, the campaign for reform failed because the general
British public did not impose their views on those in power which
would result in reform coming about within Britain's sole governing
body.

Parliamentary reform was not the only target of reformist proposals in
the late 18th century, early 19th century. For example, religious
non-conformists and their supporters were much more concerned with
obliterating discriminatory legislation against them, dating from the
reign of Charles II. Other groups in society, such as the evangelical
reformers were beginning to build up support and having an increasing
say in matters over the issue of the slave trade. This shows that
parliamentary reform was not the only issue of importance for the
British population and many resources were devoted to other movements
to that of reforming Britain's governing body.

The French revolution of 1789 arguably decreased the chances of any
form of Parliamentary reform taking place in the period 1780-1820. The
French revolution had a profound and abiding influence on the
intellectual climate within Britain and on the development of British
politics both inside and outside of parliament. With a revolution
occurring just across the British channel, many radical groups in
Britain were encouraged by the situation in neighbouring France and
attempted to maintain the movement of such a revolution by bringing it
to Britain. Reformers such as...

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