To What Extent Does the Reform Act of 1832 Deserve Its Title “Great”?

2577 Words Feb 22nd, 2013 11 Pages
The title, “great” is reserved for a select few characters and documents in history. Alfred earned his through establishing stable change, peace and improvement. So too the Magna Carta, which brought about greater justice and freedom for the common man and limited royal influence. In the same ways, the reform act of 1832 warranted the title. It was by no means a revolutionary measure, nor “the final solution of a great constitutional question” as Russell had put it, but both symbolically and physically, it spelt change for Britain. This in itself showed its greatness – despite Pitt having attempted reform in the 1780s, and the issue having repeatedly returned to parliament, no reform had been achieved. The fact that finally after so much …show more content…
Getting bills past the commons was no longer a difficulty: the second reform bill passed by 140 votes. The lords, however, declined the second bill by a majority of 41. On the very same day, rioting began in Derby and Nottingham and spread throughout England over the following days. Britain had never been so close to revolution in October 1831: with no police force (other than a minor presence in London), the army too small and too poorly trained to cope and rioting across the country, all the signs were in place for a rebellion in frustration of lack of reform. Nottingham castle was burnt down, Bristol Bishop’s Palace was attacked, killing 12 and injuring 400, prisoners in Nottingham were set free, the church was specifically targeted (as 21 of 26 Bishops had voted against reform) and there were widespread disturbances and mass demonstrations. The situation was far more serious than the 1790s or 1819; the repressive legislation that had worked then would not here. Reform was necessary to avert revolution. Similar activities continued after the failure of the third reform bill; although slightly less frenzied, activities such as withdrawing savings from banks to precipitate an economic crisis were just as damaging. Finally (after Peel refused to serve under Wellington, so the government remained with Grey), the reform act was passed. As soon as news of this spread, civil disruption quietened. The reform act was great for many reasons, one of the most important