Passage of The Great Reform Act

The Great Reform Act (Often referred to as the Representative of People Act of 1832), was an legislation which changed the way Britain’s electoral system was managed. The electoral system was notoriously corrupt; several constituencies did not have secret ballots, and furthermore, certain members of Parliament could buy votes in their parish. The Parliament of the time was not representative of the people it was required to cater to. Paupers could not vote in most parishes, and even worse, there were constituencies like Manchester that had not had representation of any kind for 80 years.

There had been internal attempts to reform the system in 1831, but the House of Lords shut it down. This rejection of the people lead to widescale riots in most major English cities. Although all types of Englishmen participated in the rioting, the lower and middle classes were the ones who had the most influence on the passing of the Great Reform Act. Due to the French Revolution, King George IV was concerned that there could possibly be a similar revolt in the country. After several months of unrest with 300,000 pounds of physical damage (around 31 million today) as well as scores of arrests and executions, the Great Reform Act was passed into law in 1832. The law allowed for all men with at least 10 pounds of property to vote in elections, as well as fixed some of the issues surrounding bribery and unrepresented districts, but most paupers were prohibited from voting because of the property requirement.

Coulson, Ian. “The National Archives Learning Curve | Power, Politics and Protest | The Great Reform Act.” The National Archives, The National Archives of England,

Butler, J.R.M. “The Passing of the Great Reform Bill.”,

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