We must further look at the issue of extinguishing “Gladstone and co”. This arguably was Disraeli’s only sought aim throughout the entire parliamentary crisis between 1866-67. The rivalry in this period between the two political juggernauts was at its “highest and most intense point” during this period. As the Conservatives had been out of power for 20 years, he was extremely desperate to regain power and the removal of Gladstone and destruction of the liberal party would do just that. Further mention is of Gladstone and Russell only passing and failing their bill in 1866, with this failure Disraeli knew passing a another act only a year later was bound to humiliate the liberals and possibly convince liberals to sway over to the Conservative party. This aim however, has had much debate and historians such as Blake have argued that “Disraeli had no aims, and simply was acting on opportunism”, Blake in this instance is correct in some aspects. It’s most certainly true that Disraeli during this period acted on opportunism as the Liberals were so badly split the opportunity of siding with the Adullamites was there to be taken, and in no manner did Disraeli plan to “extinguish Gladstone and co” in this period. However, it cannot be overlooked that Disraeli may have had this motive but not through the period of parliamentary reform, Disraeli was in fact much more interested in gaining political power for the Conservatives.
The public pressure aspect can be seen as minimal in the passing of the reform act. The key points being that the replacement of Russell by Derby in 1866 was followed by an increase in public interest and pressure in the form of demonstrations and meetings. In July disturbances occurred at the famous Hyde Park, during the course of which a 1,400 yard stretch of railings was pulled down and destroyed. This was less violent than the events in Bristol and Nottingham in 1831. But, as with the First reform act, the threat of violence has been seen as a significant factor in forcing the pace of history, essentially history was repeating itself. Trevelyan agrees, referring to the solidarity between the middle and the working classes which characterized the agitation in the country over which bright presided in the autumn. More recently R. Harrison has claimed that historians have underestimated the fears of these types of groups and revolutionaries. The Hyde Park demonstration appeared menacing and politicians were ready to concede limited measures at this stage to avoid having to grant universal suffrage in the future. The Conservatives were, therefore, pushed by disturbances into picking up reform again. More importantly, even Gladstone was converted to the idea of parliamentary reform by a great combination of radical and trade union pressure, essentially the pressure from below had the ability to really power for a big change in the electorate. There are however, huge flaws with this approach. The alterative argument is therefore that public opinion was not really a significant factor as it had been in 1832; Feuchtwanger describes public pressure as that, “the public reform movement did not do much than act the part of the chorus in a play”. Feuchtwanger here, does make a valid point. By 1866, during the worst of the riots, the damage to the liberal party had already been done and Disraeli knew that acting on this would benefit the Conservatives greatly. At this point the riots were meaningless and ineffective riots going on outside of the important motives. However, had the Reform union or Reform league campaigned for longer and increased violence, then the act in the Victorian period would’ve looked extremely different. More importantly Derby described the reform act as “a leap in the dark”, which arguably isn’t true at all and in a surprising sense, Disraeli succeeded well with this act. With the electorate being expanded from 1.4 million to 2.52 million, plus the prospect of changes were less traumatic for the future. These impressive changes to electorate imply that Disraeli wanted to impress the population and essentially gain substantial support for his party. Had the working-class and public pressure been such an issue, perhaps then the act would’ve been slightly better in order to prevent the worst possible scenario: a revolution.
Social change along with political climate set the basis for political reform to be passed. Even before the 1832 reform act, population was on the rise gradually and therefore meaning considerable amounts of bills would need to be passed in order to accommodate for the entire population. As in 1831, the population was at 24 million, a rather large number which was vastly on the increase. However, by 1861, the population had risen to 29 million, and even by 1865 the adult population stood at 5 million with 1 million only having the vote, therefore the extension in votes and redistribution of seats was drastically needed. However historians such as Walton argue that Disraeli was very much aware of the minor population rise, and had the increase in population been a more substantial threat, then “the act would’ve been passed much sooner”. In some aspects Walton is correct but the key fundamental point is missed. Granted the population rise was minor, but it still was a underlying “background” issue that needed solving. Disraeli may not have passed the act due to this rise in inhabitants but it certainly put reform on alert and arguably was a catalyst for Disraeli wanting political and party gain.
Overall, although there were several factors that arguably played a part, the strong desire to substantially benefit the Conservatives after being out of power for 20 years reflect the reason for Disraeli passing the 1867 parliamentary reform act. The drive for power was essentially always on Disraeli’s mind, if exploiting the liberals meant a chance of power, it was a certainty Disraeli would do what was necessary. Fundamentally, Disraeli ended up humiliating the liberals, not out of pure desire, but as an extra bonus for wanting to achieve power. Although, Seaman argues that “Disraeli wasn’t in a desperate hurry for power”, however this is absolutely untrue. Disraeli unremarkably wanted power, hence the siding with the Adullamites. Had Disraeli not wanted power, he wouldn’t of taken a momentous risk of not only passing the bill in 1867, but more intriguingly actually making the bill extremely radical enough to gain support from most of the electorate. It is clear that Disraeli had only one aim in mind: to gain a majority government with his party.