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Earl Grey(1831): "The principle of my reform is to prevent the necessity for revolution

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Earl Grey (1831): "The principle of my reform is to prevent the necessity for revolution. There is no one more decided against annual parliaments, universal suffrage and the [secret] ballot than I!" To what extent was fear and pragmatism the major factors in the passing of the Great reform Act? There were a lot of major factors surrounding the passing of the Great Reform Act, with a continuous fear of revolution by the radicals and the collaboration of the working and middle classes. The situation worsened with the collapse of the Whig government and this led to the, somewhat pragmatic, eventual passing of the Act in 1832. One of the reasons why the Great Reform Act was passed was to get rid of the rotten boroughs. The rotten boroughs meant that by 1831, Lancashire with a population of 1.3 million had just 14 MPs, while Cornwall with only 300,000 was represented by 42 MPs. Borough electorates varied enormously: some like Liverpool had over 5,000 members, but some like Old Sarum literally only had a handful. They were controlled by the wealthy members of society, usually aristocrats. ...read more.


These produced a climate where the Tory Ultras were even willing to support reform in order to annoy Wellington and Peel and ensure that a wider franchise would reject issues such as emancipation! This led to the collapse of the Tories because they split over the religious issue. Had this collapse not occurred, the prospect of introducing reform under a Whig government might not have existed, and therefore this event was essential for the passing of the Bill. The Swing riots taking place at the time were also contributory; they meant that people were destroying and setting fire to new machinery. The new introduction of machinery had caused unemployment as skilled workers were no longer required. The unhappiness of the working class was evident and needed to be acted upon. Furthermore, the death of King George IV raised reform expectations even higher. George IV had not only been, arguably, the country's most unpopular monarch, but was also a staunch opponent of Roman Catholic emancipation and electoral reform. Under the Tories, he had never had to face the prospect of agreeing to the issue of reform, but was forced to agree to demands for emancipation just before his death. ...read more.


The May Days crisis of 1831 was a result of Grey's resigning. The country was in catastrophe and the King had to approach the Duke of Wellington to try to form a Tory ministry. Wellington's opinions on reform were well known and if any reform was passed the public knew it would be severely diluted. Potential of a revolution rose again. In the event, Wellington's attempts to form a government proved useless. William IV now agreed to the creation of the new peers to solve a major constitutional crisis. Accordingly, the King asked Grey to form a ministry four days later. Under sever public pressure, the anti-reform stance collapsed completely and the threat of the creation of the new peers was enough to convince the Lords that they had to give way. Most Tory peers abstained and the Bill on its third reading, by 106 and 22. On 7th June 1832, the Bill received Royal approval. Overall, the initial fear of revolution remained throughout the battle of introducing the Great Reform Act. However, despite anti-reformists opinions, Britain found itself in absolute catastrophe and action was needed to be taken. This then resulted in the growing extent of pragmatism being a major factor over the passing of the Bill, for fear of revolution. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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