Electoral Reform in England and Wales: The Development and Operation of the Parliamentary Franchise, 1832-1885

By Charles M. A. Seymour | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE REDISTRIBUTION OF SEATS

Importance of the redistribution of 1832--Distribution of county
seats before 1832--Distribution of borough seats--Advantage of
the South--Numerical anomalies--Nomination--Disfranchisement
proposed by the government--Opposition of the Tories--Their
arguments--The disfranchising clauses--Schedule A--Schedule
B--Character of the disfranchised boroughs--Difficulties in pass-
ing the disfranchising clauses--Charges of gerrymandering--The
enfranchising clauses--Schedule C--Opposition to the new metro-
politan seats--Schedule D--Division of the counties--Opposition
of the Tories and Radicals--University representation--Principle
of the redistribution.

THE determination of voting rights was by no means the most important task attempted by the legislators of 1832. It is true that the power of the aristocracy in elections rested largely upon the restricted character of the franchise and that the new qualifications, by increasing the number of voters, did much to break the control of the borough patrons. But of equal or greater importance was the redistribution of seats. This provided for the representation of the populous industrial districts of the Northwest, and deprived the southern boroughs, most of which were controlled by proprietors, of much of their preponderant influence in the House of Commons. The redistribution was certainly tentative and incomplete, leaving the industrial sections of the country inadequately represented; but as the first assault upon the electoral predominance of the small boroughs, and thus upon aristocratic influence, it may be regarded as a significant factor in the democratization of representative institutions.

-45-

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