"A system in crying need of urgent and substantial reform" Discuss with relation to the political system of 1815

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Andrew Tait        Page         09/05/2007

“A system in crying need of urgent and substantial reform” Discuss with relation to the political system of 1815

In this question the focus is on the need to reform the political system which was in place in 1815. This meant that people who had a seat in parliament were often the aristocracy or gentry in British society. There was no salary paid to MP’s and therefore only a few people could afford to enter the field of politics. From this quote we can infer that it refers to the needs of a change in organization for the British political system to work fairly for the benefit of the entire British nation in the future. In order to answer this question it is clear that there were indeed people who wanted to reform the parliamentary system. However, there were also those who were content with the system that was already in place. Nevertheless, the question of whether it was right to want a reform will be assessed in this essay.

        One of the main criticisms of the political system of the system of 1815 was the idea of that it was in the benefit of the royal and aristocratic few in the expense of the majority of the British people. One of the leading voices in society which voiced this view was Tom Paine. He wrote a book called Right of Man which emphasised the need for change so that government was not based solely on tradition but in the control of the British people. This idea meant that reform was the only way of achieving this and that this was the only way of having a legitimate country. To argue that Paine had little influence over the force for reform is incorrect as his book was a best seller and was extremely significant in the thoughts of many in the middle and lower ranks. The idea of unfair representation and lack of appreciation of the entire country angered many who felt undesired. As a result they therefore wanted change so their opinions could be represented in parliament.

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        In addition, because the representation in parliament was not modernised to match the rapid urbanisation of Britain there was an imbalance in constituencies across Britain. People like John Wade (Radical Journalist) were discontent with the idea of rotten boroughs such as Old Sarum which had representation in parliament even though there were a total of a mere seven voters, whilst Birmingham with one hundred and eighty two thousand people did not have a direct representation in parliament. This showed many people at the time that unimportant seats were represented and the most important places were not given representation in parliament ...

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