The Passing of the Great Reform Bill

The Passing of the Great Reform Bill

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The Passing of the Great Reform Bill

The Passing of the Great Reform Bill

Read FREE!

Excerpt

In spite of recent changes in its letter, and a great and growing modification of its spirit, the Constitution as we know it wears, to all intents and purposes, the shape it assumed in 1832. To parody a famous phrase, that year is now the limit of constitutional memory. The passing of the Great Reform Bill takes us suddenly into another air; we leave the remote world of the eighteenth century, peopled by the heroic ghosts of Pitt and Fox and Canning, for the era of Peel and Palmerston, of the corn-laws and the Crimea. The old aristocratic system begins to crumble, and the feet of the nation are set in the path that leads to democracy. It is generally known that this mighty change in our polity was not carried through without a struggle, and it is lightly said that the country was brought to the verge of revolution. But the actual facts of the struggle are not well known. When Roebuck and Molesworth wrote, the private letters of the time were not available, and they were unable to check the oral traditions they received. Since their day most of the important documents have come to light, but the story of the Reform Bill has never been fully told.

This book was mainly written in the summer of 1912 as a dissertation for a Trinity fellowship. It is more concerned throughout with negotiations behind the scenes, and with the working and effect of popular opinion, than with the course of events in Parliament. The endless debates have been exhaustively quoted and described in various books, and except in the last weeks of the contest do not seem to require detailed treatment. I have thought it better to gather together the ideas and opinions they express in a separate chapter, and to set beside them other political views of the time. I have also omitted to follow the course of the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills. Important as they were, their fate was always bound up . . .

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