How great was the Great Reform Act?
The effectiveness of the Great Reform Act, an act brought about in 1832 to increase the fairness and overall proportionality of the UK electoral system, can be judged on the variety of outcomes that the act produced.
O one side of the argument, it can be said that the Great Reform Act, although did make some changes to the UK electoral system, does not deserve its title of “great”, because it made sections of the working class feel betrayed by the terms of the Act, leaving them feeling that they had hardly benefited from the whole thing. They thought that the fact that they (the working classes) were forced pay a yearly rental of £10 or more in order to vote- a uniform property qualification- was contradictory to the purpose of the reform itself- it ended up excluding, rather than including certain members of society, and showed why the self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ Tories may not have been so liberal after all.
It was also mandatory for all voters to enlist in the army if they wanted to vote, something , although understandable given the time of the reform and the situation Britain was in, not very liberal and potentially very discouraging for men who felt like they wanted to vote. Not only was the voting of the working classes restricted due to the act, but a more obvious point is that not everyone could vote- women for instance were still kept out of the picture.
Although the abolition of rotten and open boroughs do obviously present clear benefits in terms of increasing proportionality and overall fairness, it is key to remember that thousands of working class people (potwallopers- men were eligible to vote if they had a fireplace big enough to hang a pot) actually lost their right to vote due to the abolition of such aspects. Open voting was also a very ‘corrupt part’ of the voting system that the act had failed to abolish, and so open voting allowed land owners and aristocrats to bully, bribe, violently persuade and intimidate people into voting for them. 31 small borough also lost 1 or 2 of their MP’s, which although helps reduce corruption and proportionality, in a way stopped certain sections of society being represented.