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 XI
THE DISTRIBUTION OF SEATS AND ITS EFFECT
UPON ELECTORAL POWER BEFORE AND
AFTER 1867

Necessity of redistribution after 1868--The distribution of 1832-- First Reform Act did not recognize principle of uniform representation--Advantage of the boroughs in representation--And of the South--Claims of the counties--Disadvantage of the manufacturing districts--Advantage of the landed interest through small boroughs--Absolute and relative electoral strength of the small boroughs--Movement for redistribution--The Chartists-- Hume--The Eclectic Review--Both Liberals and Conservatives opposed to radical redistribution--Disraeli's theory of representation--His defence of the small boroughs--Supported by Gladstone--Question of redistribution in 1866--Principle of grouping boroughs--Disraeli's proposals of 1867--Extended slightly--Power of landowners little reduced by redistribution of 1867-1868-- Borough boundaries--Urban districts not cut out from counties-- University representation--The minority provision--Its effects-- Attitude of parties towards the redistribution--Effect of the redistribution upon party strength--Anomalies of distribution after 1868--Continually accentuated--Electoral strength of small boroughs and the South--Upper classes profited thereby.

THE suffrage anomalies which persisted in counties and boroughs after 1867, and which were in part actually emphasized by the act of that year, were by no means the sole object of Radical attack. The power which the landed aristocracy exercised in elections certainly depended to a large extent upon the restrictions placed upon county voting rights. But a more important factor in the electoral strength of the landlords was the uneven distribution of seats. Notwithstanding the extent of the redistribution of 1832, there remained numerous small rural boroughs through their control of which the upper

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