The Reform Bills

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

The political evaluation in England resulted in the establishment of Parliamentarian Democracy in the nation. This was not made easier. It took nearly a century to pass all the reform bills and make their acts.


THE NEED FOR THE FIRST REFORM BILL:

  • The principle of the distribution of seats in Parliament was defective.

  • According to the age-long arrangement, each borough and county was allowed, 2 representatives.

  • The parliament was thinly populated due to the revolutions like the Agrarian and Industrial.

  • The custom of the right to vote made any free-holder, having an income of 40 shillings a year could vote at Parliamentary elections.

  • Yet, the big tenant farmers holding land for leases was not provided with the right to vote.

  • The price of corn was high due to the Corn Law of 1815. A lot of the poor were affected.

  • For all these problems the solution remained in more reasonable representatives of people in Parliament. To make this happen a reform bill is to be made an act.

FIRST REFORM BILL:

  • Earl Grey, the Prime Minister introduced a Reform Bill in 1831, during the reign of William IV.

  • After the readings of the House of Commons, it was sent to the House of Lords where it was rejected.

  • This made the House of Lords a bad reputation.

  • As a result, Grey resigned from his job.

  • The Duke of Wellington was appointed as the Prime Minister. He failed to bring people to his ministry. He advised the King to bring back Grey.

  • Once again Grey introduced the Bill and the King supported it. Even though the House of Lords had one hundred absentees, the bill was passed on 7th June 1832.

1. Its Result:

  • 56 rotten boroughs- deprived of representatives for having a low population of less than 2000.

  • 32 boroughs- were given only one seat for having less than 40,000 people. (22 receiving – 2 members each and 21 receiving – 1 member each.)

  • 65 seats – added to English Counties.

  • 8 seats – added to Scottish Counties

  • Five – added to Irish Counties.

  • Right to vote, the adult franchise – was extended.

  • For people – all householders in towns who paid ten pounds annual rent- in the counties to all who held a 40 shilling freehold or were ten-pounds copy-holders or fifty-pounds lease-holders.

  • The new parliament consisted of 658 members in the House of Commons.

2. Impacts:

  • The power was shifted from King and Lords to the common people of the middle classes.

  • The number of voters became high as the property qualification was lowered.

  • About 2,20,000 received the right to vote.

  • The Whigs became more powerful.

  • This bill showed people that anything can be stopped or changed through protests.

THE PEOPLE’S CHARTER:

  • When the Reform Bill was made law, it was celebrated by the common people as if it is a victory.

  • Yet the wages were low and food was valued.

  • A new party named The Chartists arose. Their activities were called the Chartist Movement.

  • It influenced the workmen greatly.

  • This party drew a plan to reform the Parliament which was called the People’s Charter.

  • This Bill was unaccepted by both the Whigs and the Tories.

  • They planned to put down the movement by imprisoning the leaders.

  • However, some demands came into practice later.

SECOND REFORM BILL:

  • Gladstone introduced the second Reform Bill but was rejected in the House of Common itself.

  • Some years later in 1867, Benjamin Disraeli introduced the Bill to the Parliament and was passed.

1. It’s Results:

  • The franchise qualification was lowered in counties and increased the number of electorates.

  • In towns, the franchise was given to all male householders and lodgers paying 10 pounds as rent.

  • According to this all workmen who lived in towns got franchises.

  • Yet the agricultural labourers and miners remained without the right to vote.

THIRD REFORM BILL:

  • It was passed on 1884, by Gladstone in his period as a Prime Minister.

  • The act of franchise was extended also to householders in counties.

  • The Redistribution Bill was passed.

  • The small rotten boroughs seats were abolished and were distributed.

  • England was divided into electoral districts.

  • This bill passed the power control of the Government to the people and made England Democracy.

FOURTH REFORM BILL:

  • The bill became an act in 1918.

  • It gave the right to vote to all men aged 21 and all women aged 25 and above.

  • The age difference was abolished in 1928.

  • The equality of women and men was officially approved.


Sources:

Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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