|Long title||An Act further to amend the Laws relating to the Representation of the People in England and Wales.|
|Citation||30 & 31 Vict. c. 102|
|Territorial extent||United Kingdom|
|Royal assent||15 August 1867|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
The Representation of the People Act 1867, 30 & 31 Vict. c. 102 (known as the Reform Act 1867 or the Second Reform Act) was a piece of British legislation that enfranchised part of the urban male working class in England and Wales for the first time. It took effect in stages over the next two years, culminating in full enactment on 1 January 1869.
Before the Act, only one million of the seven million adult men in England and Wales could vote; the Act immediately doubled that number. Moreover, by the end of 1868 all male heads of household were enfranchised as a result of the end of compounding of rents. However, the Act introduced only a negligible redistribution of seats. The overall intent was to help the Conservative Party, yet it resulted in their loss of the 1868 general election.
For the decades after the Great Reform Act of 1832, cabinets (in that era leading from both Houses) had resisted attempts to push through further reform, and in particular left unfulfilled the six demands of the Chartist movement. After 1848, this movement declined rapidly, but elite opinion began to pay attention. [ citation needed ]It was thus only 27 years after the initial, quite modest, Great Reform Act that leading politicians thought it prudent to introduce further electoral reform. Following an unsuccessful attempt by Benjamin Disraeli to introduce a reform bill in 1859, Lord John Russell, who had played a major role in passing the 1832 Reform Act, attempted this in 1860; but the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, a fellow Liberal, was against any further electoral reform.
The Union victory in the American Civil War in 1865 emboldened the forces in Britain that demanded more democracy and public input into the political system, to the dismay of the upper class landed gentry who identified with the US Southern States planters and feared the loss of influence and a popular radical movement. Influential commentators included Walter Bagehot, Thomas Carlyle, Anthony Trollope, Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill.Proponents used two arguments: the balance of the constitution and "moral right". They emphasized that deserving, skilled, sober, thrifty, and deferential artisans deserve the franchise. Liberal William Gladstone emphasized the "moral" improvement of workingmen and felt that they should therefore have the opportunity of "demonstrating their allegiance to their betters". However the opposition warned against the low-class democracy of the United States and Australia.
Palmerston's death in 1865 opened the floodgates for reform. In 1866 Russell (Earl Russell as he had been since 1861, and now Prime Minister for the second time), introduced a Reform Bill. It was a cautious bill, which proposed to enfranchise "respectable" working men, excluding unskilled workers and what was known as the "residuum", those seen by MPs as the "feckless and criminal" poor. This was ensured by a £7 annual rent qualification to vote—or 2 shillings and 9 pence (2s 9d) a week. This entailed two "fancy franchises", emulating measures of 1854, a £10 lodger qualification for the boroughs, and a £50 savings qualification in the counties. Liberals claimed that "the middle classes, strengthened by the best of the artisans, would still have the preponderance of power".
When it came to the vote, however, this bill split the Liberal Party: a split partly engineered by Benjamin Disraeli, who incited those threatened by the bill to rise up against it. On one side were the reactionary conservative Liberals, known as the Adullamites; on the other were pro-reform Liberals who supported the Government. The Adullamites were supported by Tories and the liberal Whigs were supported by radicals and reformists.[ citation needed ]
The bill was thus defeated and the Liberal government of Russell resigned.[ citation needed ]
The Conservatives formed a ministry on 26 June 1866, led by Lord Derby as Prime Minister and Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were faced with the challenge of reviving Conservatism: Palmerston, the powerful Liberal leader, was dead and the Liberal Party split and defeated. Thanks to manoeuvring by Disraeli, Derby's Conservatives saw an opportunity to be a strong, viable party of government; however, there was still a Liberal majority in the House of Commons.
The Adullamites, led by Robert Lowe, had already been working closely with the Conservative Party. The Adullamites were anti-reform, as were the Conservatives, but the Adullamites declined the invitation to enter into Government with the Conservatives as they thought that they could have more influence from an independent position. Despite the fact that he had blocked the Liberal Reform Bill, in February 1867, Disraeli introduced his own Reform Bill into the House of Commons.
By this time the attitude of many in the country had ceased to be apathetic regarding reform of the House of Commons. Huge meetings, especially the ‘Hyde Park riots', and the feeling that many of the skilled working class were respectable, had persuaded many that there should be a Reform Bill. However, wealthy Conservative MP Lord Cranborne resigned his government ministry in disgust at the bill's introduction.
The Reform League, agitating for universal suffrage, became much more active, and organized demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of people in Manchester, Glasgow, and other towns. Though these movements did not normally use revolutionary language as some Chartists had in the 1840s, they were powerful movements. The high point came when a demonstration in May 1867 in Hyde Park was banned by the government. Thousands of troops and policemen were prepared, but the crowds were so huge that the government did not dare to attack. The Home Secretary, Spencer Walpole, was forced to resign.
Faced with the possibility of popular revolt going much further, the government rapidly included into the bill amendments which enfranchised far more people. Consequently, the bill was more far-reaching than any Members of Parliament had thought possible or really wanted; Disraeli appeared to accept most reform proposals, so long as they did not come from William Ewart Gladstone. An amendment tabled by the opposition (but not by Gladstone himself) trebled the new number entitled to vote under the bill; yet Disraeli simply accepted it. The bill enfranchised most men who lived in urban areas. The final proposals were as follows: a borough franchise for all who paid rates in person (that is, not compounders), and extra votes for graduates, professionals and those with over £50 savings. These last "fancy franchises" were seen by Conservatives as a weapon against a mass electorate.
However, Gladstone attacked the bill; a series of sparkling parliamentary debates with Disraeli resulted in the bill becoming much more radical. Having been given his chance by the belief that Gladstone's bill had gone too far in 1866, Disraeli had now gone further.
Disraeli was able to persuade his party to vote for the bill on the basis that the newly enfranchised electorate would be grateful, and would vote Conservative at the next election. Despite this prediction, in 1868 the Conservatives lost the first general election in which the newly enfranchised electors voted.
The bill ultimately aided the rise of the radical wing of the Liberal Party, and helped Gladstone to victory. The Act was tidied up with many further Acts to alter electoral boundaries.
Four electoral boroughs were completely disenfranchised by the Act, for corruption:
Seven English boroughs were disenfranchised by the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1868 the subsequent year:
Three of these (Honiton, Thetford, Wells) had two MPs, but had been due to have their representation halved under the terms of the 1867 Act. However, the 1868 Act disenfranchised them altogether before the reduction in representation took effect. The other four boroughs had had one MP since 1832.
The following boroughs were reduced from electing two MPs to one:
Three further boroughs (Honiton, Thetford, Wells) were also due to have their representation halved under the 1867 Act, but before this reduction took effect they were disenfranchised altogether by the 1868 Scottish Reform Act as noted above.
The Act created a number of new boroughs in Parliament. The following boroughs were enfranchised with one MP:
The following boroughs were enfranchised with two MPs:
In addition, the Act adjusted the representation of several existing boroughs. Salford and Merthyr Tydfil were given two MPs instead of one. Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester now had three MPs instead of two.
The reforms for Scotland and Ireland were carried out by two subsequent acts, the Representation of the People (Ireland) Act 1868 and the Representation of the People (Scotland) Act 1868.
In Scotland, five existing constituencies gained members, and three new constituencies were formed. Two existing county constituencies were merged into one, giving an overall increase of seven members; this was offset by seven English boroughs (listed above) being disenfranchised, leaving the House with the same number of members.
The representation of Ireland remained unchanged.
The unprecedented extension of the franchise to all householders effectively gave the vote to many working class men, quite a considerable change. Jonathan Parry described this as a "borough franchise revolution";the traditional position of the landed gentry in parliament would no longer be assured by money, bribery and favours, but by the whims and wishes of the public. However, to blindly consider the de jure franchise extensions would be fallacious. The franchise provisions were flawed; the act did not address the issues of compounding and of not being a ratepayer in a household. The compounding of rates and rents was made illegal, after it was abolished in a bill tabled by Liberal Grosvenor Hodgkinson (this meant that all tenants would have to pay rates directly and thus qualify for the vote). The preparation of the register was still left to easily manipulated party organisers who could remove opponents and add supporters at will. The sole qualification to vote was essentially being on the register itself.
The Liberal Party was worried about the prospect of a socialist party taking the bulk of the working-class vote, so they moved to the left, while their rivals the Conservatives initiated occasional intrigues to encourage socialist candidates to stand against the Liberals.[ citation needed ]
Trollope's Phineas Finn is concerned almost exclusively with the parliamentary progress of the Second Reform Act, and Finn sits for one of the seven fictional boroughs that are due to be disenfranchised.
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, was a British politician of the Conservative Party who twice served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He played a central role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party, defining its policies and its broad outreach. Disraeli is remembered for his influential voice in world affairs, his political battles with the Liberal Party leader William Ewart Gladstone, and his one-nation conservatism or "Tory democracy". He made the Conservatives the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire. He is the only British prime minister to have been of Jewish birth. He was also a novelist, publishing works of fiction even as prime minister.
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties in the United Kingdom with the opposing Conservative Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party arose from an alliance of Whigs and free trade-supporting Peelites and the reformist Radicals in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and then won a landslide victory in the following year's general election.
The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that introduced major changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. It abolished tiny districts, gave representation to cities, gave the vote to small landowners, tenant farmers, shopkeepers, householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more, and some lodgers. Only qualifying men were able to vote; the Act introduced the first explicit statutory bar to women voting, by defining a voter as a male person.
Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, was a British statesman. He was styled Lord Robert Cecil before the death of his elder brother in 1865, Viscount Cranborne from June 1865 until his father died in April 1868, and then the Marquess of Salisbury. He served as prime minister three times for a total of over thirteen years. He acted as his own foreign minister. He avoided alignments or alliances, maintaining the policy of "splendid isolation".
Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, 1st Earl of Cranbrook,, known as Gathorne Hardy until 1878, was a prominent British Conservative politician, a moderate, middle-of-the road Anglican. He held cabinet office in every Conservative government between 1858 and 1892 and notably served as Home Secretary from 1867 to 1868 and as Secretary of State for War from 1874 to 1878.
The 1868 United Kingdom general election was the first after passage of the Reform Act 1867, which enfranchised many male householders, thus greatly increasing the number of men who could vote in elections in the United Kingdom. It was the first election held in the United Kingdom in which more than a million votes were cast; nearly triple the number of votes were cast compared to the previous election of 1865.
The Radicals were a loose parliamentary political grouping in Great Britain and Ireland in the early to mid-19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.
The Conservative government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that began in 1866 and ended in 1868 was led by Lord Derby in the House of Lords and Benjamin Disraeli in the House of Commons.
The Reform Bills were a series of proposals to reform voting in the British parliament. These include the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, and 1884. The bills reformed voting by increasing the electorate for the House of Commons and removing certain inequalities in representation. The bill of 1832 disfranchised many boroughs which enjoyed undue representation and increased that of the large towns, at the same time extending the franchise, and was put through by the Whigs. The bill of 1867 was passed by the Conservatives under the urging of the Liberals, while that of 1882 was introduced by the Liberals and passed in 1884. These latter two bills provided for a more democratic representation.
The Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was a piece of electoral reform legislation that redistributed the seats in the House of Commons, introducing the concept of equally populated constituencies, a concept in the broader global context termed equal apportionment, in an attempt to equalise representation across the UK. It was associated with, but not part of, the Representation of the People Act 1884.
West Riding of Yorkshire was a parliamentary constituency in England from 1832 to 1865. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Leeds was a parliamentary borough covering the town of Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. It was represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1832 to 1885.
Manchester was a Parliamentary borough constituency in the county of Lancashire which was represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its territory consisted of the city of Manchester.
Northern West Riding of Yorkshire was a parliamentary constituency covering part of the historic West Riding of Yorkshire. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the bloc vote system.
Eastern West Riding of Yorkshire was a parliamentary constituency covering part of the historic West Riding of Yorkshire. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the bloc vote system.
Southern West Riding of Yorkshire was a parliamentary constituency covering part of the historic West Riding of Yorkshire. It returned two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, elected by the bloc vote system.
William Ewart Gladstone was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on four separate occasions between 1868 and 1894. He was noted for his moralistic leadership and his emphasis on world peace, economical budgets, political reform and efforts to resolve the Irish Question. Gladstone saw himself as a national leader driven by a political and almost religious mission, which he tried to validate through elections and dramatic appeals to the public conscience. His approach sometimes divided the Liberal Party, which he dominated for three decades. Finally Gladstone split his party on the issue of Irish Home Rule, which he saw as mandated by the true public interest regardless of the political cost.
The Reform League was established in 1865 to press for manhood suffrage and the ballot in Great Britain. It collaborated with the more moderate and middle class Reform Union and gave strong support to the abortive Reform Bill 1866 and the successful Reform Act 1867. It developed into a formidable force of agitation at the very heart of the country.