The Reform Act Of 1832 Essay

1418 words - 6 pages


Without external parliamentary pressure the reForm act of 1832 would never have been passed. To what extent do you agree with this view?It could be said that the Great Reform Act was a piece of legislation that was wholly expected; after all, the age of the Tudors had seen the destruction of the medieval privileges of Church and Baronage, and so it was the natural scheme of events that reform would inevitably arise and modify the constitution. So the question to be dissected here is not 'whether', but 'why' - why was the Reform Act passed in 1832? Was it due to a modification of the type or intensity of external parliamentary events compared to before? Either way, whether it was 'great' as was claimed, or a "Compromise stitched together" (Evans), the Reform Act was the product of substantial popular demand and critical parliamentary events. It shall be evaluated here that pressing agitation for reform coincided with Whig ascension to power and the collapse of the Tories, thus inspiring the rigour and vigour of calls for reform.The institutions being scrutinized for reform (parliament & the cabinet) were administered by a privileged group of borough owners, magistrates and members of close corporations in sympathy with the 'country gentlemen'. Protesting against the rotten boroughs and close corporations was "to utter seditious words against [our] matchless constitution", but since the industrial revolution, a fresh creative process emerged to adapt to the needs of the new type of society (an empowered economically powerful middle class) that would agitate for reform to synchronise parliament to its needs and desires. G.M Trevelyan predicted that "this new type of society was by its nature predestined to undergo perpetual change" - and so the flaw in the argument becomes apparent - "would never have been passed" is essentially misleading, as the focus of the question asks us for the significance of the date 1832.It could be stated that external parliamentary pressure stemmed from the direct inspiration of middle class opinion and under compelling fear of working class revolt (the French Revolution was still fresh in people's memories and the 1830 Bourbon Revolution a recent reality). The movement for parliamentary reform, it could be argued, was revived first of all by working men, seeing as their economic misery was most acute. Discontent helped create a very palpable atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, which intensified the pressure for reform. Luddite revolts as early as 1812 demonstrated how the political system was largely ignorant of the plight of the lower classes, plunged in an economic and social cesspit by the onset of mechanisation; the Spafield Riots of 1816 led by Henry Hunt saw the active popular demand for parliamentary reform, to create a more just society; The 'March of the Blanketeers' & subsequent 'Derbyshire Insurrection' screamed out the pressing need for representation of the poor and unemployed, so that their...

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