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 II
THE REFORMED FRANCHISES OF 1832

The Reform Act of 1832--Conditions under which it was passed-- Its general character--Electoral franchises in counties and boroughs--The 40s. freehold qualification in counties--Retained in 1832--Question of borough freeholders voting in counties-- Triumph of the Whigs--New franchises in counties--Leaseholders and copyholders--The tenant-at-will qualification--Protests of the Radicals--Increased electoral power of the great landholders-- Borough franchises, new and old--The ancient rights--Scot and lot, burgage, corporation, and freeman qualifications--Suggested abolition of ancient rights--Opposition of the ministers to freeman franchise--Freeman franchise retained--The new £10 qualification--Opposition of the Tories--Of the Radicals--General characteristics of the new qualifications.

THE long and gradual process by which electoral institutions in England have become democratic was inaugurated by the Reform Act of 1832. This measure was the first ever passed in England that dealt with the system of elections and parliamentary representation as a whole. Piecemeal legislation had been attempted and wholesale revision suggested for many years, but it was not until the beginning of the second third of the nineteenth century that conditions, political, social, and economic, culminated in thoroughgoing reform. These conditions have often been described.1The misery of the masses, consequent upon the termination of the great war, gave rise to general discontent with the governing classes. This discontent crystallized in a demand that the govern-

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1
Grego, Elections in England; Porritt, The Unreformed House of Commons; Veitch, The Genesis of Reform.

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