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 IV
EFFECTS OF REFORM UPON CONSTITUENCY AND
PARTY

Numerical effect of the Reform Act--Number of new voters in
counties--The tenant electors--Their support given to the Con-
servative party--Effect of borough freeholder vote in counties--
Disappointment of the Liberals--Effect of reformed franchises
upon the borough electorate--Gradual elimination of ancient
right voters--Such voters generally support Liberal party--
Their corruption--Weakening of working class electoral power
by the Reform Act--Labour vote generally cast for Liberal
party--Effect of the new franchises on nomination in boroughs--
Electoral power of patrons lessened by the increase in number
of voters--Advantage won by the Liberal party--Effects of the
redistribution--Electoral power of the South lessened--Increase
in area of the boroughs--Effect of redistribution on nomination--
Advantage won by the Liberal party--The new boroughs gener-
ally Liberal--General character of the effects of reform--
Continued power of the aristocracy.

THE foresight of those who predicted that the importance of the Reform Act lay in its ultimate rather than in its immediate effects, was largely justified by the number of electors registered in 1832 under the reformed qualifications. The legislation of that year, it was soon realized, would not increase the total electorate nearly as much as had been generally anticipated by either the friends or the foes of parliamentary reform. The Tories, we may remind ourselves, had constantly, if vaguely, dilated upon the enormous constituencies that would result from the Whig measure; and Russell represented the mass of Whig opinion when he calculated that the whole electorate of England and Wales would be approximately

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