The Second Reform Act to the end of the Century 1860 to 1900

This was the period when democracy reached out beyond the wealthy, the monied classes and the landed vested interests.   One of the most prominent thinkers and campaigners for democracy in the 1860s was the philosopher and social reformer John Stuart Mill.   He believed that as the working class were denied the vote they were not represented in Parliament so had no one to speak for their interests.   In 1861 he wrote:
       It is evident that the only government which can fully satisfy all the exigencies of the social state is one in which the whole people participate; that any participation, even in the smallest public function, is useful; that the participation should everywhere be as great as the general degree of improvement the community will allow; and that nothing less can be ultimately desirable than the admission of all to a share in the sovereign power of the state.   But since all cannot, in a community exceeding a single small town, participate personally in any but some very minor portions of the public business, it follows that the ideal type of a perfect government must be representative”. "Considerations on Representative Government" by J.S.Mill
Mill makes the case for representative government, but does so in an age when the microphone had not been invented or, more important, the Internet.   His vision is rather like that of Athens where the maximum number participating in direct democracy was ruled by the size of the crowd that could hear, hence his reference to a small town.   His aspiration of representative democracy was made at a time of limited communication.   But today with the Internet the possibilities of the whole population participating are endless.   Will direct democracy make a comeback?   This is a major question on the road to democracy.
St James’s Hall in Piccadilly was the largest indoor meeting place in London, and on 28 March 1863 it was full to capacity. The meeting had been called by the newly formed London Trades Council, which brought together the trade unions in the city.   The Trade Unions were starting to take an interest in democracy, broadening their appeal from just the labour conditions of the poor and in the process were involving academics.   Edward Beesly, a history professor at the University of London spoke about the emancipation of British workers:
“Our governing classes may refuse to enfranchise you.   They may shut the door of the House of Commons in your face and value themselves on their cleverness.   But when there is a need, you know how to make your voice heard... We are met here tonight, we say it openly, not merely as friends of emancipation but as friends of reform" (loud cheers).
 They may call themselves Whigs and Tories, but they have borrowed the motto of your societies – “Union is Strength”.   For they have found one cardinal principle on which they can agree.   It is the key to the whole political situation…Shall I tell you what this all-absorbing sentiment is?   It is the fear of you (applause).   Over and over again I have heard it as a proof of the danger of entrusting you with the franchise.   Now, fellow citizens, when you are seriously bent on having the franchise and tell them so plainly, of course they will have to give way… This is the first time, I believe, that the trade unionists, of London have met together to pronounce on a political question, but I am sure it will not be the last”. The Vote by P. Foot
The speech was greeted with wild, prolonged cheering.
In 1864 the charismatic Italian revolutionary and military commander Garibaldi caused a sensation when he visited London on a European tour.   Much to Queen Victoria’s annoyance Palmerston received him.   He was greeted by a rally of 50,000 people and feted in the salons of St. James’s.   An appalled government took fright and ordered him out of the country.

A protest rally was called at Primrose Hill, but the Home Secretary banned it.   As tens of thousands gathered in support, truncheon-wielding policemen dispersed them.   The result was the formation of the Reform League, a precursor of the Labour Party.   The National Reform League was established in 1865 to press for manhood suffrage and the ballot.
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The following year in 1866 the Reform League challenged the government’s right to ban a public rally in Hyde Park in favour of a widened franchise.   Sheer weight of numbers broke down the park gates and instigated the “Battle of the Railings”.   Even the arrival of the Grenadier Guards with drawn sabres failed to disperse them.
The following year the Reform League returned to Hyde Park and led 200,000 people through its gates.   This time the police wisely stayed away.   The rally was peaceful and dispersed with “Three cheers for the Queen”.   The official record laconically remarked that “not a plant was disturbed, nor a leaf or a flower touched”.
These huge demonstrations are massively important, particularly bearing in mind that there was no mass public transport other than the burgeoning railways.   There was no telephone.   All the people had were “word of mouth” and newspapers.   Nevertheless they were a huge force for change.   With revolutions in France and across Europe the political classes were very wary of these demonstrations, fearful that they might lead to our own revolution.   From Peterloo to the Chartists the people had discovered a way of putting pressure on the politicians.   The politicians had to respond.   The legislation, which followed, was made in the context of these immense demonstrations.
In a debate in parliament in 1864 the Prime Minister, Palmerston, stated “I entirely deny that every sane man has a moral right to a vote”.   Gladstone referring to the Lancashire cotton workers, whom he admired, retorted that it was “a shame and a scandal that bodies of men such as these should be excluded from the parliamentary franchise”.
The anti-reform Palmerston died in 1865 but not before he had won the General Election of that year.   He was the last Prime Minister to die in office.   On his deathbed his last words were “Die, my dear doctor, that is the last thing I shall do.”   Palmerston was not wholly anti-reform, but he was unwilling to take the initiative.   He summed up his approach by saying, “Oh, we cannot go on adding to the statute book ad infinitum”.   By now the elections had become more and more disorderly with bribery and entertaining on the increase.   The object of plying the voters with drink was to persuade them to vote for you, or if they favoured the opposition, to make them so drunk they were incapable of voting.  This was a return to the bad old ways of the eighteenth century.   The male adult population of England and Wales had increased to over 5 million of which just over 1 million had the vote.
Since the 1832 Reform Act more people had moved into the industrial areas in great numbers but constituencies had not been altered and no new constituencies had been created.   The pressures for extending the vote were building up.
For the first time in an election postal votes were allowed for the University seat of Oxford.   This enabled the country clergy to swamp the London barristers and resident fellows who usually determined the result of the election.   It was no surprise that his Conservative opponent defeated Gladstone.   Due to the different way in which Oxford conducted its elections it was able to determine its own rules for their conduct.

The total votes cast in the 1865 election, which Palmerston won, had been 854,856 for 922 candidates, of whom 303 were unopposed.   The total electorate was some 1.36 million out of a total population of 22 million.   The vast majority of the people were still disenfranchised.   Change was on the way.   
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 W.L. Guttsman in his book “A Plea for Democracy” quotes James Bryce on the eve of the second British Reform Act of 1867 saying that “the social progress of democracy has outrun its political progress”, which was ominous because “there is nothing more dangerous than a democratic society without democratic institutions”.
A democratic society was one in which the mass of the people played an active rather than a passive role, and in which the old traditions of deference and subordination had been replaced by a sense of equality among the people – the feeling that one man, or even one person, is as good as another, or at least has an equal right to be respected and listened to.   Thus there is inevitably a link between democracy and equality.   Only when enough people possess a strong sense of their own worth and rights can the demand for a popular franchise, or equal political rights, be made to any effect. "Democracy" by A. Arblaster
This view of a democratic society is an idealised view.   The tradition of deference still persists in many parts of society.   It is easier said than done to eliminate it.   Equality of opportunity is probably more attainable than just pure equality.
There were little more than 400 Peers in the House of Lords in 1867.   Membership had gradually doubled since the Act of Union with Scotland in 1707.   It was to continue to increase, for it was a very useful tool of patronage for a Prime Minister to have.
One casualty of the 1865 General Election was William Gladstone.   Gladstone had always opposed parliamentary reform but when Edward Baines introduced a Reform Bill he spoke in favour of the measure.   In his speech Gladstone pointed out that only one fiftieth of the working classes had the vote.   He argued that this was unfair and that the law should be changed to increase this number.   However, this was very much a minority view and Baines's proposal was defeated by 272 votes to 56.
In the general election of July 1865, Gladstone lost his seat of Oxford University,   having alienated the voters by his support for electoral reform.   Gladstone moved to South Lancashire and became one of its three Members of Parliament. After the death of Palmerston, the Whig Prime Minister, in 1865, Lord John Russell, the new Prime Minister, asked Gladstone to become leader of the House of Commons as well as Chancellor of the Exchequer. 
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With the construction of the railways between 1830 and 1860 there was an accelerated redistribution of the population.   Lord John Russell and Gladstone introduced a moderate reform bill on 12th March 1866, which proposed to give the vote in the boroughs to householders paying £7 a year rent, instead of £10, and in the counties to tenants paying £14 a year rent, instead of £50, i.e. the lower middle classes.   This was expected to bring in an extra 400,000 voters.
This was a disgraceful act of opportunism making democracy dependent on wealth.   These were similar proposals to those that Russell had tried to introduce in 1854 but failed when the Crimean War broke out.   They were described as “fancy franchises”. With the £50 savings qualification in the counties also proposed, Liberals claimed that 'the middle classes, strengthened by the best of the artisans would still have the preponderance of power.   What a cynical abuse of power.   The Liberals clearly thought that it would strengthen their position with the electorate.   The principle of extension of the ballot was now becoming a cynical argument about the size of the electorate.   Positions were being taken out of self-interest.   This is a big shift in opinion.   The move towards democracy is in the right direction but it is moving at a slow pace.
There was strong opposition from the Conservative Lord Cranborne who thought the bill went too far although he supported postal ballots, changes in registration procedure and some redistribution of seats. Opposition was also provided by a section of the Liberals led by Robert Lowe, who claimed that the working classes were ignorant of politics, would be incapable of deciding who to vote for and would be open to bribery.   He believed that reform would lead to mob rule.   Bright nicknamed Lowe’s followers, “the Adullamites”, after a Biblical tribe which hid away in the darkness of a cave because it was afraid to face the world as it really was.   The debate followed exactly the same predictable course as all the previous debates on reform.

Lord Derby, the Tory leader, got it just about right when he wrote in his diary: “Bill discussed everywhere.   There is great excitement in the upper classes, not shared by the people”.   A great gulf was fixed between the House of Commons and the people, which all the developments since 1832 had failed to close.   More than a third of MPs (225of them) were either peers or the sons or grandsons of peers or baronets, represented almost equally in both parties (175 Tories, 150 Liberals).   More than a fifth (110) of the total came from 31 noble families.   No wonder Gladstone’s audience was apathetic. "The Vote" by P. Foot
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 The debate went on for eight nights; it was the longest debate on reform since 1831.   The Government depended on the support of the Radicals, especially those who had just been elected to Parliament.   One of these was the new MP for Westminster, quoted at the start of the chapter, John Stuart Mill, widely acclaimed as the outstanding intellectual of his time.   His book Considerations on Representative Government made the case for representative institutions in preference to oligarchy or benevolent dictatorship.   “In this country, for example”, wrote Mill “what are called the working classes may be considered as excluded from all direct participation in the Government”.   As a direct result, “when a subject arises in which the labourers as such have an interest, is it regarded from any point of view but that of employers of labour?”   He went on to clarify these issues in his speech.
  John Stuart Mill argued:
 There ought to be no pariahs in a full grown and civilised nation; no persons disqualified, except through their own default…. No arrangement of the suffrage, therefore, can be permanently satisfactory in which any person or class is peremptorily excluded; in which the electoral privilege is not open to all persons of full age who desire to attain it.   Significantly Mill advocated women’s suffrage, one of the first prominent MPs to do so.   He moved an amendment to the Reform Bill substituting the word “persons” for “man”.   The amendment was lost by 194 votes to 73, but it was a milestone on the road to women’s suffrage.
He went on to contest the principle that people’s right to vote should be determined by their property.   This criterion “is so imperfect”.   People were rich often by accident and to afford them electoral privileges because of their wealth “is always and will continue to be, supremely odious”.   On the other hand, there was a case, he argued, for giving electoral privileges to people of “mental superiority”, so although Mill was clearly a democrat, he could contemplate distorting democracy, but when democracy is distorted it is destroyed.
The Tories realised quite quickly that because few of the people would benefit from them there was no popular support for Gladstone’s proposals.   Benjamin Disraeli made the final speech for the Tories.   In a vicious attack and a rhetorical flourish he forecast that the House of Commons would be left with:
no charm of tradition; no families of historic lineage, none of those great estates around which men rally when liberty is assailed; no statesmanship, no eloquence, no learning, no genius.   Instead of these, you will have a horde of selfish and obscure mediocrities incapable of anything but mischief, and that mischief devised and regulated by the raging demagogue of the hour.
One can hardly think of anyone more raging in demagoguery than Disraeli when he finally sat down after this undemocratic speech.

The vote on the second reading, on 27 April, was carried by five votes (318 to 313).   There were no demonstrations outside the House of Commons, giving the impression that there would be no problems if the Bill was dispensed with.   As the Bill went through the House there were an increasing number of contested divisions, until finally on 18th June the Government were defeated on an obscure amendment by 315 votes to 304.   Disraeli and Lord Stanley, son of the Earl of Derby celebrated the defeat with champagne at the Carlton Club.  
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 One casualty of the June votes was Lord John Russell.   The opposition introduced an amendment to reduce the number of new voters, and when the Commons passed the amendment, Russell resigned.   It was a sad end to Russell’s career in politics, since he had hoped to bow out with reform as his crowning achievement.   The Earl of Derby took over on 26th June as Prime Minister with Disraeli as his Chancellor.
The votes in parliament were a misreading of the public mood for throughout the summer the people took to the streets in increasing numbers to demand the vote.   The main opposition in the country was led by the Reform League.   They thought it vital to embrace the more middle-class supporters of the Reform Union and were careful to avoid violence or illegitimate actions. Meetings were closely controlled with one reputedly having 10,000 stewards. They encouraged the orator, John Bright to speak at events as he was one of the Reform movement's intellectual leaders. He coined the famous phrase “England is the mother of Parliaments”.   Bright addressed meetings in Birmingham of 300,000 people, in the pouring rain in Manchester on 24 September at which 250,000 people attended, Leeds on 8 October, Glasgow, 16 October, and Dublin, 2 November.
The incoming Conservative government hoped to move slowly and introduce some mild reform in 1868, but the pressure on them was growing.
Both Disraeli and Derby were prepared to introduce a much more drastic bill than Gladstone’s if it would bring the Tories a long period in power.   Their problem was that Cranborne and his supporters in the cabinet threatened to resign if the bill went too far, so in February 1867 a measure was introduced which was so mild that it caused uproar in the Commons when it was read out.   It was obvious that the Liberals would not vote for it, and rather than be forced to resign Disraeli decided to risk upsetting Cranborne by introducing a more radical measure. "Mastering Modern British History" by N. Rowe.
This was primarily a political strategy designed to give the Conservative party control of the reform process and the subsequent long-term benefits in the Commons, similar to those derived by the Whigs after their 1832 Reform Act.   It was thought that if the Conservatives were able to secure this piece of legislation, then the newly enfranchised electorate may return their gratitude to the Tories in the form of a Conservative vote at the next general election.   As a result, this would give the Conservatives a greater chance of forming a majority government. After so many years in the 'stagnant backwaters' of British politics, this seemed most appealing.
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On 18 March Disraeli brought his Bill to the House.   He tried obfuscation by warning not to confuse “popular rights with democratic rights” but ended with an assurance to the dinosaurs on his own side:  We do not live – and I trust it will never be the fate of this country to live – under a democracy”.   The proposals were as follows: a borough franchise for all who paid rates in person, enfranchising another 237,000 people, and votes for graduates, professionals and those with over £50 savings.   Conservatives saw these last “fancy franchises” which brought in 305,000 votes as a weapon against a mass electorate.   He also proposed a reduction in the county qualification from £50 to £15, which would enfranchise 170,000 poorer men in the counties, but this was offset by further fancy franchises for the rich which added 139,000 votes.   Disraeli was now playing the same game as Russell.   He was not only reinforcing wealth as a criterion for democracy but education as well.   This could have been a real setback.
 With a total electorate of 1,056,000 Disraeli was proposing to add another 851,000 bringing the total up to 1,907,000.   This may seem like a large increase but remember the total of adult males was about 5 million, so less than 40% would have a vote and this did not include any women.   Until now, Disraeli was not a democrat but he was about to have his conversion.  
Nearly all the people other than the upper classes were outraged on the publication of Disraeli’s Bill.   They wanted one person, one vote, nothing short of universal suffrage would do.   The Reform League, which had kept quiet the previous year when Gladstone had published his proposals, this time, began to stir and to organise protests.   In spite of a ban, the Reform League organised a demonstration in Hyde Park on May 6 attended by 500,000 people.   This was a massive demonstration.   By now millions of people had demonstrated throughout the country in favour of more democracy.
On May 10 1867, as Disraeli's Reform Bill wound its way through the Commons John Stuart Mill moved an amendment to supplant the word “man” with the word “person”.   Mill’s amendment to Disraeli’s Bill was crushed – by 196 votes to 73.   But it blasted away an obstacle that had until then prevented the political rights of half the British people being raised in Parliament.   In the forty years after 1867 there were no fewer than 22 Commons debates on the question of women’s votes, all of them on proposals to allow women to vote on the same terms as men but now was not to be the time for women to get the vote.
The proposal was greeted again and again with the most ferocious hostility.   Answering Mill’s amendment in May 1867, Earl Percy, whose ancestors had come across the Channel with William the Conqueror and had enriched themselves with dubious land deals ever since, put the point plainly: “the real fact is that man in the beginning was ordained to rule over woman and this is an eternal decree which we have no power to alter”.

At the Hyde Park demonstration the troops and special constables who had been sworn in had to be stood down because of the vast crowds.   Confrontation would have been disastrous.   This was a humiliation for the Home Secretary who had tried to ban the meeting.   One week later on May 13 Spencer Walpole, the Home Secretary resigned.   His career was finished.
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 A week later still, on 20 May, by a stroke of the pen, which had not even been discussed let alone agreed by the Cabinet, Disraeli transformed his Reform Bill.   The architect of the transformation was Grosvenor Hodgkinson, an obscure solicitor who represented 710 voters at Newark and had until that day played very little part in the debates on the Bill, or in any others for that matter.   Hodgkinson proposed an apparently innocuous amendment obliging all householders to be registered as ratepayers.   At a stroke, this made new voters out of the hundreds of thousands of householders whose rates were “compounded” in rents they paid to their landlords.   They had been specifically excluded from the register by both Gladstone’s and Disraeli’s Bills.   When Hodgkinson’s amendment was posted, MPs were amused at his gall.   How could a dull Liberal backbencher seek to change the very nature of the Bill?   Everyone assumed that Ministers and even the Liberal front bench would oppose it.   Then, suddenly, on a sultry afternoon in a poorly attended House, Disraeli announced that he was accepting the amendment.   As the news sped round the Westminster dinner tables, it was met first by disbelief, then by horror.   The amendment would quadruple the number of enfranchised workers!   It would give votes to a million more people, most of whom had no wealth but their wages!   Lord Cranborne hurried down to the Chamber to denounce the amendment as “entirely an abnegation of all the principles of our Party”.   Robert Lowe shot out of the Cave of Adullam to express his horror at what the amendment would do to his ancient pocket borough at Calne.   “You will give us some Wiltshire labourers with eight shillings a week wages!” he exclaimed.   “What will their politics be?    With every disposition to speak favourably of them, their politics must take one form or another of socialism…we are going to make a revolution”.  "The Vote" by Paul Foot
   Disraeli having accepted the amendment then had to explain his actions to the Cabinet.   It was quite clear that they had been affected by the Hyde Park demonstrations.   The demonstrations had unnerved them.   Having already lost a Home Secretary it would have been too much to lose a Chancellor as well.   In the end they caved in and gave Disraeli their unanimous support.   It was the size and scale of the demonstrations, which unnerved the government.   Nothing had been seen quite like it since the days of the Chartists, but why did the Chartists fail, whereas these demonstration got a result?   Was it the strength of the politicians, or was this one of those seminal moments in British politics whose time had come.   What a contrast to 2003 when 2 million people demonstrated against going to war in Iraq.   The Blair government ignored them and even so was re-elected two years later.
   Disraeli feared that without concessions revolt in the country would increase.   Further amendments were made to the Bill in order to appease the people:
1) The undemocratic dual vote whereby an elector with property in both the country and the town could vote in both places was dropped.
2) The “fancy franchises” which gave votes to those with £50 savings was dropped.

3) The requirement for ratepayers to show two years residence was reduced to one year. 
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On the Third reading of the Bill on July 15 the man most opposed to the Bill – Lord Cranborne said “All the precautions, guarantees and securities in the Bill have gone….You are afraid of the pot boiling over… At the first threat of battle you throw your standard in the mud”.
   The Bill passed without a division.   Where were Lord Cranborne and his standard?
   Cranborne and two other cabinet members had resigned, but Disraeli pushed ahead with his bill.   This Conservative bill became law in 1867, and is more commonly known as The Second Reform Act.
                The terms of the Act were as follow:
·         Every male adult householder (owner occupiers and tenants) living in a borough constituency was given  the vote.   Male lodgers paying £10 for unfurnished rooms were also granted the vote.
·         Constituencies and boroughs with less than 10,000 inhabitants lost one of their MPs. The forty-five seats left available were distributed by  giving fifteen to towns which had never had an MP.   Giving one extra seat to some larger towns - Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.   Creating a seat for the University of London.   Giving twenty-five seats to counties whose population had increased since 1832.
·         The franchise in Scotland was brought into line with the English franchise, and seven seats were transferred from England to Scotland.
·         In Irish boroughs the vote was given to £4 ratepayers.
By treating the Irish differently from the rest of the United Kingdom meant that there was still no consistency in the franchise.   This was bound to lead to trouble.   Why should the electorate for an institution be treated differently?   This strikes at the heart of democracy, where each person should have a vote of equal value without qualification.
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In the counties, the Reform Act of 1867 reduced the property qualification of the leaseholder and copyholder to £5 and introduced as an additional qualification the occupation of a tenement of a minimum rateable value of £12.   This increased the county electorate by 50%, but as this did not include the agricultural labourer and voting was not yet secret, it still left the counties under the control of the aristocracy.   In the boroughs, however, the working man was enfranchised, for the Act amended the voting qualification to include every male householder occupying for one year a separate dwelling house and paying the poor rate, and lodgers who occupied for a qualifying period of one year lodgings to the annual unfurnished value of £10.   The Act also carried out a further redistribution of seats. The Reform Act, 1867, by adding about a million voters to the electoral register, almost doubled the electorate from 1.36 million to 2.46 million.   The most important effect was to enfranchise the majority of the working class in the towns. .   In the 1868 election, once the Reform Act was in force, 2,333,251 people voted for 1,039 candidates of whom only 212 were unopposed.   There was a significant drop in unopposed candidates – a sign that the political battle was hotting up.   Gladstone denounced Disraeli’s “diabolical cleverness”.   The Duke of Buccleuch said that nothing remained of the original Bill except its first word, “Whereas”.   Lord Derby described the Bill as a “leap in the dark” and in many ways it was, but we were still a long way from full democracy.       Other effects of the Act were as follow:
·         In the counties the voting qualification was high enough to keep agricultural labourers (the majority of the rural population) and people such as miners living in rural pit villages without the vote.   This was totally illogical discrimination, but was designed to preserve the power of wealthy farmers and landowners.   If democracy had to be conceded in the boroughs, the wealthy were determined to salvage at least something for themselves in the countryside.
·         Voting was still held in public; the lack of secrecy meant that working class borough voters were bound to be swayed by their employers and landlords.
·         The distribution of seats still left a lot to be desired.   Many small towns with only just over 10,000 inhabitants – such as Tiverton for example – still had two MPs like Glasgow which had over half a million.   The South and East were still over-represented compared with the industrial Midlands and North; Wiltshire and Dorset between them were represented by 25 MPs for a population of 450,000. Yet the West Riding of Yorkshire with over two million had only 22 MPs.
As time went on other results became apparent which had not been foreseen in 1867:
·         The increased borough electorates meant that there were too many voters to bribe; politicians began to realise that they must explain and justify their policies, and gradually the whole nature of politics changed as the election campaign in the constituencies became the accepted procedure.   The Liberals were the first to appreciate this, with Gladstone leading the way in the 1868 general election.
·         The creation of the large three-member constituencies like Birmingham and Leeds led to another development: the rule was that each elector could only vote for two candidates; this meant that, for example, one of the three Birmingham Liberal candidates might not poll enough votes to be elected, while the other two received far more than was necessary.   It was in fact, the Birmingham Liberals who first realised that this wastage of votes could be avoided by having a local organisation to direct the distribution of Liberal votes to make sure that all three candidates were elected.   The Conservatives soon followed suit and before long party organisations developed both at national and constituency level to whip up support at election time and to nurse the voters between elections. "Mastering British History" by N. Lowe
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The results of the 1867 Reform Act had a profound impact on our political culture.   The aim of the three member constituencies was to protect minorities – a simple form of proportional representation.
Equivalent reform in Scotland was passed in 1868 in a separate Act.   
  The Reform Act of 1867 gave an impetus to the formation of political parties.   The local organisation secured the election of the candidate, so the argument went, it would therefore select the candidate.   No one could foresee at this time how political parties would come to dominate politics.   Organisation was the key.   Joseph Chamberlain organised for the Birmingham municipal elections in 1864.   The Liberals organised for the General Election of 1868 and they were followed by the Conservatives in 1874 and onwards.
The registration societies (societies formed to ensure that each elector was registered on the electoral roll) thus developed into local party associations, carefully organised and associated with the central organisation for fighting elections.   By working together they realised they could be more effective.   Thus the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations was formed in 1867 and the National Liberal Federation in 1877.
The effect on the relationship between the two Houses was considerable.   The House of Commons was still further removed from the influence of the landed aristocracy and, through the links which were being forged by the new organisation of the parties, became much more closely identified with the middle and working classes.   As political power was now centred in the Commons, the Government found it desirable to have more of its leading ministers there, while it could afford to pay less regard to the possibility of opposition from the Lords.   One of the reasons for more power being centred in the Commons was that it could claim to have more democratic legitimacy – an argument which could not be refuted by the Lords.

The objects of subsequent reform were the elimination of coercion and bribery at elections, improvement in the registering of voters, and the simplification and extension of the franchise – measures that further undermined the influence of the old landed interests. 
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Under the Representation of the People Act, 1867 the duration of Parliament was made independent of the death of the Sovereign.
There was a small triumph for women in 1867 when Lily Maxwell, a ratepayer found herself on the electoral register so voted in a local by-election, the first time ever.
The Parliamentary Elections Act was passed on 31st July 1868.   This first step forward transferred decisions on disputed elections from parliamentary committees, which were highly partisan in character, to the Court of Common Pleas (now the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court), where the judges could decide the question with complete objectivity.
“At least”, Salisbury was told on joining the House of Lords, “it’s a place from which one can get to bed”.   Sittings began at 5 p.m. and were often concluded by 7 p.m., whereas in the Commons late nights were common.   Attendance in the Lords plummeted after the Glorious Twelfth, and Salisbury soon found the place lived up to all his Saturday Review criticisms of it as “the Paradise of Bores”.   Salisbury’s answer to the threat of the Lords “dying of inanition” was to insist on its rights and ceaselessly to talk it up as the constitutional equal to the Commons, arguing as he did in June 1868 over the Bill to disendow the Church of Ireland, that for the Lords to become “a mere echo and supple tool of the House of Commons was slavery”.   In order to justify this defence, Salisbury supported the creation of life peers – “we belong too much to one class.   We want more representatives of diverse views and more antagonism”, he wrote, and he put down an amendment to make all Appeal Court judges ex officio peers, like the senior bishops. Salisbury Victorian Titan by A. Roberts.
 Salisbury’s promotion of Life Peers foresaw their creation almost a hundred years later after Tony Benn campaigned for them.

 The people showed no gratitude to the Tories for passing the Reform Act of 1867.   In the General Election of 1868 the electorate returned the Liberals to power.   In total, 2,333,251 people voted for 1,039 candidates of whom only 212 were unopposed.
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Having won the General Election of 1868 Gladstone turned to the issue which was to dominate his career – Ireland.   He had a clear understanding of Ireland and also a clear conviction that people had certain rights, the most important of which was freedom.   He felt, quite rightly, that in religious matters freedom was denied to the Irish.   In 1868:
There was strong opposition in Parliament to any attempt to allow religious freedom to the Irish by relieving them of the tithe burden.   They had to pay tithes (a tax amounting to ten per cent of their annual income) to the Protestant church, even though they never attended its services, and at the same time,  they also had to support their own churches and priests.   This was clearly unfair.   The vested interests of the Anglican bishops and the Anglo-Irish landlords always opposed Catholic Emancipation, even though 88% of the Irish were Roman Catholic.   According to the 1861 census this meant there were 5.3 million Catholics out of a total population of 6 million.
 The Irish Church Disestablishment Act 1869 disestablished the Church of Ireland.   It repealed the law that required tithes to be paid to the Anglican Church of Ireland.   So, although the Church still existed in Ireland, Anglicanism was no longer the official state religion and Roman Catholics no longer had to pay tithes to it.
 The passage of the Bill through Parliament caused acrimony between the House of Commons and the House of Lords and only passed when Queen Victoria personally intervened to mediate.   Much of the Anglican Church’s property was taken and used to improve hospitals, workhouses and schools.   To everyone’s surprise Lord Salisbury voted in favour of the Act.  

 Church disestablishment received the thanks of the Irish Catholics but it also whetted their appetite for more freedom in the political sphere.   It was an important step forward to democracy for Ireland by taking religion out of the equation.
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 Under the Municipal Franchise Act of 1869 unmarried and widowed women were given the right to elect members of municipal councils in certain towns.   This was a welcome development but a blatant discrimination against married women who were not to get the vote until later.
In 1869, Lord John Russell brought a comprehensive life peerages bill forward.   He proposed that at any one time, 28 life peerages could be in existence; no more than four were to be created in any one year.   Life peers were to be chosen from senior judges, civil servants, senior officers of the British Army or Royal Navy, members of the House of Commons who had served for at least ten years, scientists, writers, artists, peers of Scotland and peers of Ireland.   The House of Lords at its third reading rejected the bill.   Russell was the third son of the sixth Duke of Bedford.   He was ennobled in 1861.
We see at this time a burst of legislation regarding electoral matters.   Parliament was responding to the demands of campaign groups and demonstrations, not with a big bang approach, but by chipping away at discriminatory practices, trying to pick off the arguments one by one whilst not conceding the major issue of one person one vote.   Jacob Bright presented a Bill in Parliament on women’s suffrage.   It passed second reading by 124 votes to 91, but Gladstone stopped it in Committee.   It took another fifty years before it was to finally be achieved.
In 1870 no less than four constituencies were abolished and disenfranchised for corruption.   The areas were re-allocated to adjoining constituencies.   It was beginning to look as though this was an escalating trend.   Two constituencies, Lancaster and Reigate had been abolished in 1867 for corruption, but these four – Beverly, Bridgwater, Cashel and Sligo proved to be the last.
The power of Royal patronage was diminished in 1871 when the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces was made subordinate to the Secretary of State for War.   The power of Royalty was by now mainly dependent on patronage.   There were attempts to move towards a Republic but they never posed a serious threat.   Questions were asked about the Civil List and in 1871 there were no less than fifty Republican clubs scattered around the United Kingdom, but the movement didn’t gain mass support.
It was commonly assumed throughout the earlier nineteenth century that the survival of the monarchy, and with it aristocratic privilege as expressed in the House of Lords, would prove incompatible with the march of democracy and the achievement of universal suffrage.   For that reason radicals and more extreme democrats were normally little opposed to the monarchy, because they thought it would perish in due course; and for that same reason the upper classes and especially the House of Lords itself resisted the progress of democracy as being likely to lead to republicanism. England in the 19th Century by D. Thomson

A small step forward for democracy was made in 1871 with the repeal of the University Test Acts.   Effectively this had meant that Anglicans were in a privileged position by being the only ones able to vote in elections to Parliament.   These Acts restricted admittance to Oxford and Cambridge Universities to Anglicans.   At this time and right up until 1950 the Universities each sent two members elected by the graduates to the House of Commons.   
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One of the great issues of democracy, which was still unresolved, was that of the secret ballot.   Voting was by show of hands.   The argument in favour of open voting was that if people did not have the courage to vote openly then they should not have the vote at all, that they should have the courage of their convictions and not be cowards.   This ignored the fact that by having open voting, bribery, corruption and intimidation were encouraged.
Voting still remained public, not secret, and although Ballot Committees and Ballot Societies had been active since 1832 the Liberal party was committed to secret ballot only after 1870 and passed it only at the third attempt in 1872.   So obvious a protection for the working class or even middle class voter against unjust pressure and victimization seems to us a natural corollary to the extension of the vote.    No more illuminating insight into the political mind of the mid-Victorians is offered than a study of the arguments produced against secret ballot.   Even so lucid and progressive mind as Sydney Smith’s had failed to see that there was nothing sinister or undemocratic in privacy of voting.   He argued that open voting was more dignified than the secretive protection of men who, if they were had not courage enough to proclaim their vote publicly were not fit to vote at all; and that men with the courage of their convictions should not be forced to vote secretly to save the face of cowards. "England in the Nineteenth Century" by D Thomson.
It took three attempts to get the legislation on secret ballots through Parliament, but Gladstone was determined to succeed in getting the secret ballot onto the statute book:
This was, after universal suffrage, the most cherished demand of the Chartists, who poured their most vitriolic scorn on the bribery, violence and farce of “open” elections.   Unless people voted by secret ballot, they argued, their votes could be bought or scared out of them by employers and landlords.   On 3 April 1871, the Commons gave a formal second reading to a Bill to provide for voting by secret ballot.   The formal reason for postponing a debate on the issue was to avoid “sitting through Passion Week”.   The real reason was more probably the tempestuous events in Paris where, two weeks earlier, the people had risen against their Government and installed a democracy far richer and deeper than anything previously experienced anywhere in the world.   The Paris Commune lasted from 16 March to 29 May, when it was crushed with the most brutal force.   Some 20,000 Communards were slaughtered, their Leaders arrested, publicly humiliated, stoned, tortured and executed. "The Vote" by Paul Foot

Was the fear of revolution one of the main reasons the secret ballot was introduced?   The secret ballot was passed by the Commons, postponed and then flung out by the Lords on the grounds that politics should not be conducted in secret.   Eventually the secret ballot Bill was passed and it became law in the Ballot Act 1872.   It was a just measure leading to more efficient electoral processes, but it was highly unpopular with landlords and employers who could no longer control the way their tenants and workers voted. The tenants at will, who became qualified in 1832, had still been compelled, on account of the insecurity of their tenure, to vote according to the wishes of their landlords.   The secret ballot put an end to this intimidation.   The Act also introduced the modern system of nomination; previously candidates were adopted at a public meeting and if no opponent came forward, the one person was automatically declared elected.
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There was nothing in the Ballot Act 1872 to stop bribery, but one could no longer check that the recipient of the bribe carried out his part of the bargain!
In 1872 an attempt was made to assassinate Queen Victoria.   This created a huge wave of sympathy in the country which effectively killed off the Republican movement.   Disraeli got on well with Queen Victoria, and their relationship became increasingly warm, even flirtatious, but she had little respect for public opinion and was firm that “she would never be Queen of a democracy”; and, without Albert at her side she had no interest at all in public appearances.          
  She was right.   Democracy still had some way to go.
  In his famous book The English Constitution Walter Bagehot spoke for the establishment when he said in its second edition published in 1872:
  “In plain English, what I fear is that both our political parties will bid for the support of the working man; that both of them will promise to do as he likes if he will only tell them what it is…. I can conceive of nothing more corrupting or worse for a set of poor ignorant people than that two combinations of well-taught and rich men should constantly offer to defer to their decision, and compete for the office of executing it.   Vox populi will be Vox diaboli if it is worked in that manner”.
   A small but important Act was also passed in 1872.   It was the Parks and Regulation Act which allowed the right of assembly in London parks and recognised Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner as the first place in Britain where anyone may protest without first obtaining permission, provided they were not obscene, blasphemous or inciting a breach of the peace.
  The law Lords, the original life Peers, were created by the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876.   There are now 12 serving law Lords, plus the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls.   They are called Lords of Appeal in Ordinary.

  Although the 1832 Act had provided for the registration of voters, it established no machinery for the purpose, and registration was left to the political parties with the overseers of the poor supervising.   From 1878 onwards a series of Acts created registration authorities.   The registration officers also decided on disputed qualifications, although there was a right of appeal to the County Court. 
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Having won the 1874 General Election Benjamin Disraeli was elevated to the House of Lords in 1876 when Queen Victoria (who liked Disraeli both personally and politically) made him Earl of Beaconsfield.   Lord Salisbury was Foreign Secretary.
With a light white feather quill, which can today be viewed in the Long Gallery at Hatfield, Salisbury signed the sixty-four-clause Treaty of Berlin in the Radziwill Palace at 2.30pm on Saturday, 13th July 1878, in time for Bismarck to go on his annual visit to the Kissingen baths.   When Beaconsfield signed, the title  “Prime Minister”, which had originated, as so many political sobriquets, as a term of abuse, was used officially for the first time. "Salisbury Victorian Titan" by A. Roberts
Democracy had not been achieved in spite of the many efforts made to bring it about.   In the 1874 United Kingdom General Election, the Liberals, led by William Gladstone, won a majority of the votes cast, but Disraeli’s Conservatives won the majority of seats in the House of Commons, largely because they won a number of uncontested seats.
The election also saw Irish Nationalists in the Home Rule League become the first significant third Party in Parliament.   The emergence of a third Party in our elections had the effect of distorting the results, particularly when First Past the Post for single member seats became the norm.
The Appellate Jurisdiction Act, which created Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords) to carry out the judicial work of the House as the final Court of Appeal, was passed in 1876.
In 1878, the blue-blooded Liberal frontbencher George Trevelyan, seconded by the up and coming young Liberal barrister Sir Charles Dilke, moved in the Commons that the urban franchise should be extended to the countryside.   They were defeated, but only just: 275 votes to 222.   The debate and even the vote underlined the weakness of the Tory case.   Though Robert Lowe was still there, fulminating about doom to come for the landed gentry, his arguments sounded thin and shrill even to his supporters.   Dilke did some calculations from the division lists.   The 275 had been elected by 1,083,758 electors, the 222 by 1,126,151.   The discrepancy arose from the enduring unevenness of parliamentary elections – from the plural voting, pocket boroughs, universities and other anachronistic constituencies which still existed and whose MPs voted unanimously against reform. "The Vote" by P. Foot

                We began to see some distortion in the value of a vote in the General Election of 1880.   This distortion continues today.   In the 1880 Election the Tories got 1,426,351 votes (42.46% of the electorate) compared to the Liberals 1,836,423 ( 54.66% of the electorate) but the Liberal vote gave them a majority over the Tories of 115 seats because the Liberals got 54% of the seats (352) against the Conservatives 36.3% of the seats (237).   Perhaps this was due recompense for their defeat in 1874 when the Tories under Disraeli with a similar small majority ended up with an 82-seat advantage over the Liberals.   The aristocracy was well represented in the Liberal government with six earls, a marquis, a baron, two baronets and only four commoners in a total Cabinet of 14.   170 Members of the House of Commons were the sons of peers or baronets.   The aristocracy retained their strength under the Premiership of Lord Salisbury.
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William Gladstone became the first Prime Minister to sit in the Commons.   As Prime Minister, Disraeli had sat in the Lords as Earl of Beaconsfield.
The problems of Irish independence dominated much of the latter part of the nineteenth century and once again in 1882 it raised its ugly head when law and order broke down.   Gladstone took strong measures to silence the Irish in Parliament as well as in the country, which eventually impressed the Conservatives.   Habeas Corpus was suspended and the Government resorted to the use of the guillotine in the House of Commons.   This stopped any filibustering by putting strict time limits on the speeches.   It is a device to curb free speech which governments should only use sparingly.
This silencing of the minority by the majority was denounced as illiberal and un-British by the Conservatives, but after the Irish continued to employ parliamentary rules to obstruct various important Bills of the Irish Secretary, W.E. Forster, cloture was introduced on 3rd February 1881.   Forster’s Coercion Bill, which gave the Government emergency powers and suspended habeas corpus, was introduced on 24th January, and after the maximum possible obstruction by Irish MPs it was passed using the cloture guillotine procedure on 2nd March. "Salisbury, Victorian Titan" by A. Roberts
In 1880 the property qualification for town councillors was removed enabling any householder to stand for election.   Two years later the Municipal Corporations Act was passed sweeping away the restrictions on what municipal bodies could do.
 Still to be resolved was the issue of corruption.   The Liberals were determined to tackle it.   Gladstone introduced a Bill in 1882, which eventually was passed into law in 1883.
 Gladstone’s Corrupt Practices Act 1883 required that election expenses should be proportionate to the size of the constituency, and specified the objects on which money might be spent.   It laid down maximum election expenses to be incurred by candidates in parliamentary elections, the sum being based on the number of voters.   In addition, corrupt practices were more closely defined, election agents were given the statutory duty of submitting accounts, and heavy penalties were imposed for a breach of the Act.   It also introduced rules about the type and number of carriages that could be used to take voters to the polls.   It banned such practises as the buying of food and drink for the voters.   Henceforth a man of moderate means could afford to fight an election.   This Act laid open the opportunity for working class candidates such as Keir Hardie from the Independent Labour party to fight elections.   It pinned down personal responsibility, thus making it more unlikely that a whole constituency be abolished as had happened in 1870.   It effectively stamped the worst kind of corruption which had previously distorted elections.

   With the successful passing of the Corrupt Practices Act the Liberal Party began to organise a countrywide campaign in favour of electoral reform.   Once again we were set for a clash between Lords and Commons.   With the death of Disraeli in 1881 the relationship between the two Houses had deteriorated further.   There was no doubt that reform caused bad blood between the two.   The classes were at war with each other.   The Reform Act, 1867, had produced an unstable situation.   One speech, in particular, delivered in 1883 by Joseph Chamberlain shook the Cabinet and horrified the Queen.   Lord Salisbury, the Conservative Leader, had attacked Chamberlain.   “Lord Salisbury”, said Chamberlain in reply, “constitutes himself as the spokesman of a class – of the class to which he himself belongs, who toil not neither do they spin, whose fortunes, as in this case, have originated by grants made in times gone by for the services which courtiers rendered Kings”.   1884 was to see the third major Reform Act of the century.
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The distribution of seats was still unfair, with many small towns having the same representation, two MPs, as large industrial cities.   Joseph Chamberlain led the demand for further reform.   He had the majority of the cabinet with him.   In the counties the voting qualification was so high that agricultural labourers and other workers were prevented from voting.   Thus, the scene was set for Gladstone to bring forward another Reform Bill.   He introduced the Third Reform Bill to the House of Commons on 28th February 1884.   The sole purpose of the Bill was to extend the franchise to the countryside on the same basis as that enjoyed in the towns.   Gladstone said the purpose of the Bill was to “strengthen the state” and that “the strength of the modern state lies in its representative system” arguing that the legitimacy of government depended on the degree to which it represented the people.   Universal suffrage though, was still some way away.
 On publication of the Reform Bill two issues raised their heads which were to have an impact on the decades ahead – Ireland and women.   As far as Ireland was concerned home rule was always more important than struggles for universal suffrage for the Westminster parliament, but if they could take advantage of those struggles then so be it:
    However much Chamberlain might “feel sure that England and Scotland would like a non-Irish session if we can keep the Irish quiet by fair words for the future”, two reforms in Great Britain were already beginning to cast their shadows as far as Ireland: the extension of the franchise and democratic local government.   Since a similar extension could scarcely be withheld from Ireland, a large reinforcement of the Nationalist contingent was to be expected in a future parliament: and both Chamberlain and the Prime Minister were disposed to see in “something more than county councils” – as previously in agrarian reform – the key to that problem which the extended franchise would aggravate.   However, these matters remained in abeyance – though Gladstone privately ruminated on “some fundamental change in the legislative relations of the two countries” – until in the session of 1884 the motion to exclude Ireland from the Third Reform Bill was defeated and the concordat of the autumn ensured that the Bill would pass and the number of Nationalist votes in an over represented Ireland would be trebled. "Joseph Chamberlain" by J.E. Powell
    There was a dramatic fall in the population of Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840s, which left Ireland grossly over-represented in Parliament.   This had to be rectified.   In the 1880 General Election, 63 Home Rule MPs were elected with a total of 95,535 votes, i.e. 1,516 votes each.   Contrast this with the Liberal vote, which required 5,218 votes for each Liberal MP.   The other issue, which had not been resolved – women still did not have the vote in National elections, and Gladstone’s Reform Bill made no attempt to rectify that position.   Although the Bill would allow an extra two million men to have the vote, there was nothing for women.

    Furious protests to ministers were greeted with an odd metaphor.   The Bill, it was argued, was like an overloaded ship.   There were far too many extra votes crowded into it.   To throw any more in would be to make the ship top-heavy.   The cargo, ran the argument, was so heavy that the women had to be thrown overboard. "The Vote" by P. Foot 
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   In her book “Women’s Suffrage” published in 1912, Millicent Fawcett contrasted the difference between the chivalry on board a sinking ship – “Women and children first!” – and the new political chivalry: “Throw the women overboard”.
   The one area on which Gladstone and Queen Victoria agreed was that women should not have the vote.
  The Tories under the leadership of Sir Stafford Northcote in the House of Commons were split on the issue of reform.   Most of them were instinctively opposed to any extension of the franchise.   How could they oppose granting the franchise to people in the country just because they did not live in towns or cities?   The second reading was eventually carried by 340 to 210.   This was unlike previous reform Bills where the vote was much closer.   It demonstrates how the weight of opinion had shifted.   On 26th June 1884 the third reading was carried without a vote against
  In the House of Lords there was strong opposition.   Salisbury and Northcote accepted the principle of reform but refused to countenance it unless it was accompanied by a redistribution of seats, done at the same time.   They hoped that the local difficulties caused at a local level by the redistribution would scupper or delay both bills.   Earl Cairns, the former Lord Chancellor, put forward a wrecking amendment on the second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords.   The amendment was carried on 8th July by 205 votes to 146, effectively killing the Bill.   Parliament was prorogued for ten weeks.
 Joseph Chamberlain made a series of strong speeches attacking the House of Lords and threatening their existence.   His rallying cry was “Peers v. The People.   Parliament was prorogued and attention now turned to the platforms, press and political meetings, which were supposed to give an indication of the people’s wishes.   To date there had been no large agitation for further reform.   There had been some big meetings in 1883, but little had happened during the passage of the Bill through the Commons.   Suddenly there was an outburst of popular outrage, sparked by the effrontery of the Lords overturning the Commons vote.

  The London Trades Council speedily organised a mass demonstration in Hyde Park.   On 21 July an estimated 30,000 people marched through the city to merge with at least as many already assembled in the park.   It was the spring of 1867 all over again, with seven separate mass meetings being held in different sections of the park.   “Down with the Lords – Give us the Bill” was the universal slogan.   The Radical MP for Southwark, Professor Thorold Rogers, likened the House of Lords to “Sodom and Gomorrah and the abominations of the Egyptian temple”.   Joseph Chamberlain told the biggest of the seven crowds: “We will never, never, never be the only race in the civilised world subservient to the insolent pretensions of a hereditary caste”.   His speech produced a furious response from Her Majesty the Queen.   Queen Victoria was opposed to the extension of the franchise – no one after all, had elected her – but she was much more concerned that the rising temperature of popular fury would sweep away her beloved House of Lords.   In August, Chamberlain held a series of enormous meetings in Birmingham at which he denounced the Lords with renewed fervour.   The Queen protested again – and again: on 6, 8 and 10 August.   In the pathetic belief that as many people supported the Lords as opposed them, she encouraged the Tory leaders to whip up counter-demonstrations in favour of the Lords and against the extension of the suffrage.   Lord Randolph Churchill obliged at once and urged Midlands Tories to organise a huge ticket-only Queen, Country and Lords meeting at Aston Park for 13 October.   Birmingham Radicals organised a mass purchase of tickets.   When the meeting opened it was immediately clear that the Tories were in a minority.   A near-riot ensued. Seats were ripped up and hurled at the platform.   “At last – a proper distribution of seats” was the triumphant shout of the demonstrators. "The Vote" by P Foot
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Salisbury responded in “The Times” to the 21st July meeting: “The employment of mobs as an instrument of public policy is likely to prove a sinister precedent”.
On 23rd July Salisbury addressed a crowd of 8,000 in Sheffield.   According to The Times he said that the government: “imagine that thirty thousand Radicals going to amuse themselves in London on a given day expresses the public opinion of the day… they appeal to the streets, they attempt legislation by picnic”.
Salisbury’s main argument was that it was now the duty of the House of Lords to protect the constitution.   There could be no extension of the franchise without a simultaneous redistribution of seats.   Two days later at a pro-reform meeting attended by 40,000 people in Leicester an effigy of Salisbury was burnt illustrating their contempt for the man.   Both sides of the argument were busy organising meetings, often on a huge scale.   At Manchester on the 9th August Salisbury and Lord Randolph Churchill (Winston’s father) spoke to a crowd of over 100,000.
"in mid- September the Duke of Argyll offered a compromise whereby the Lords would pass the Franchise Bill after a Seats Bill had been laid on the Commons table, Salisbury rejected it in favour of waiting for the Seats Bill to pass the Commons, as “we should look unutterably foolish” if the Government then lets the Seats Bill fall or get hopelessly amended in the Lower House after the Franchise Bill had passed all its stages in the Upper.   “I think the Government are in a hole”, Salisbury wrote to Drummond Wolfe on 20th September.   “It is not our business to pull them out”. "SalisburyVictorian Titan" by A. Roberts
Not all was sweetness and light in the Tory camp.   Some Tories actively attacked Salisbury for his approach including those that he might have expected to give him support.
On 10th October, Sir William Harcourt delivered a blistering attack on Salisbury, placing all the blame for the Reform impasse on him.   Despite being a Cecil, Harcourt intoned, “Lord Salisbury has nothing of the masculine confidence in the fibre of the English people that distinguished the councils of Elizabeth: his statesmanship belongs to a later period and is founded upon the model of the Stuart type.   His statecraft is that of Laud and his temper that of Strafford…. He never sees a voter, especially a Liberal voter, added to a constituency without thinking that he is going to have his pocket picked or that he is going to be robbed of some darling privilege.”  "SalisburyVictorian Titan" by A. Roberts

Sir William Harcourt was Home Secretary in Gladstone’s government and being a Cecil his attack had more poignancy.   Parliament reconvened on the 6th of November, by which time there had been no less than seven hundred meetings on the issue of reform, attended by over two million people in the period since it had last met.   
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Once again Gladstone brought a new, but similar franchise Bill to the Commons.   Once again, the Tories moved the same amendment.   The speeches bore witness to the mood of the country.   The Liberal MP for Liverpool, Samuel Smith, warned, “In the country, the agitation has reached a point which might be described as alarming.   I have no desire to see the agitation assume a revolutionary character which it would certainly assume if it continued much longer.”
Gladstone was now in a mood to compromise and a potentially explosive confrontation was avoided.   He tried to persuade the Tories to support the Bill.   He met with the Tory Leaders in secret and promised to bring in a redistribution of seats Bill.   On 11th November 1884, the Franchise Bill had its third reading in the House of Commons.   The Bill was passed by 372 to 232 votes and now it faced the Lords.   Would it be a repeat of 1832?   We shall see.   The Queen was so concerned about the constitutional crisis now facing the nation that she suggested that Gladstone and Salisbury meet and talk over a cup of tea in her presence.
  Just under a week after the Bill had passed its third reading in the Commons, on 17th November 1884:
 The morning papers had hinted that, if the Conservative leaders gave “adequate assurance” that the Franchise Bill would pass the Lords by Christmas, the Government would promise to carry a simultaneous Seats Bill which could receive its second reading in the Commons as the Franchise Bill went into committee in the House of Lords.   The dual passages through Parliament would thus be closely choreographed.   Salisbury immediately expressed his willingness to discuss such an arrangement, but only if the Franchise Bill did not come first. "Salisbury Victorian Titan" by A Roberts
  Over the next ten days Salisbury and Gladstone, in a spirit of co-operation secretly worked out how the Parliamentary seats should be redistributed.   Every little detail was examined.   Boundary changes, size of electorate, number of seats, number of members for each seat, composition of the members of the Boundaries Commission – all were discussed until eventually on 28th November Sir Charles Dilke, MP for Chelsea, drew up an agreement known as the “Arlington Street Compact” after the London address of Salisbury at 20 Arlington Street.   Nothing was left to chance.   But for his connection with a divorce case and his defeat in 1886 Dilke might have been Gladstone’s successor.
   During the consultative process every political idea was considered, even proportional representation.   Salisbury, surprisingly, did “not despair” of the idea “establishing itself at a later period”, as he told a correspondent on 3rd December.   “But it cannot be at a time when one party is in a strong predominance, and only dreams of perpetuating its rule.   If ever parties are so balanced that each is nervous about its future, they will be in a mood to listen. "Salisbury Victorian Titan" by A Roberts
                The Tories called off their opposition in the House of Lords and the Bill proceeded to a grudging Royal Assent.   The franchise was increased by over two million, and this franchise lasted until 1918.   The same franchise was extended to Ireland.
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The Representation of the People Act, 1884 (Third Reform Act):
(1) extended to the counties the household and lodger franchise which had been conferred on the boroughs in 1867;
(2)  re-modelled the occupation qualification so that in both the counties and boroughs a person occupying any land or tenement of a clear annual value of £10 obtained the vote;
(3)  instituted a new domestic service qualification giving the vote to any servant, such as a gardener, living separate from his employer, but not to one living in, such as a butler.
The main effect of the Act was to enfranchise the working man in the county, particularly the agricultural labourer.
 The percentage of men allowed to vote varied hugely from place to place.   In some urban constituencies, Wimbledon or Pudsey for instance, one in four men could vote.   In rural areas, such as Basingstoke or Carmarthen, the ratio of voters to the male population was one in eight.   On average, about one in six, about 17 per cent of the population were entitled to vote.   Given that half the population, women, could not vote at all, about 58 per cent of men had won the vote. "The Vote" by P.Foot
 There were still a few voters entitled to vote by “ancient rights”, about 35,000.   The “ancient rights” included some freemen and liverymen.   This is clearly still undemocratic but by now consisted of less than one per cent of the electorate.   The passing of the 1884 Reform Act was a significant step forward towards democracy, but all was not sweetness and light:
 Even after the Third Reform Act  the electoral system continued to discriminate against the poor  while many of the rich and middle-class  benefited from the survival of plural voting.   Certain categories of working class people were excluded entirely, among them paupers, domestic servants and soldiers living in barracks.   A lodger vote did exist, but few were able to meet its complex requirements, as a result of which many unmarried men, living in the parental home, where the father alone had the vote, were not allowed to vote in parliamentary or municipal elections.   The adult males who did not have the franchise included those who shared their overcrowded houses with other families – which meant they were not householders

Actual voting increased from 3,359,416 in 1880 to 4,638,235 in 1885 out of an electorate of 5,708,030.   40% of adult males still did not have the vote.   Having passed the Reform Act, Parliament now turned its attention to dealing with redistribution.  
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  The necessity of the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, arose because of the rapid influx of population from the rural to the new urban areas.   For instance, Calne (Wiltshire) had one MP for a population of only 5,000 whereas Liverpool’s three MPs represented over 450,000.   The Act, therefore, introduced two main principles – equal electoral districts and single member constituencies.   Boroughs with less than 15,000 inhabitants lost their MP and were made part of the neighbouring county districts.   One member represented areas of between 15,000 and 50,000 people.   Dividing the counties and larger boroughs into separate electoral districts brought about single-member constituencies.   This was a major change and a major development, in some ways setting back democracy for it eliminated an element of proportional representation.   Between 1868 and 1884 in County or Borough seats with three members an elector could vote for no more than two candidates.   In the four seat City of London he could not vote for more than three candidates.   Towns of over 165,000 inhabitants and all counties were split into divisions, which returned a single member each.   However, 22 towns with populations of between 50,000 and 165,000 and some universities retained 2 members apiece.   670 MPs now sat in the House of Commons most of which were returned in single member seats.
By removing MPs from the boroughs with less than 15,000 voters and reducing to one member those boroughs with less than 50,000 voters 142 seats were then redistributed among more densely populated areas.   In all 647 single member seats out of the total of 670 were created.   The Scottish universities together with Oxford and Cambridge still retained two members elected by a system of proportional representation with some large cities, which had well in excess of 50,000 voters. 
The Redistribution Act fixed new boundaries according to population.   There were still gross anomalies – even after the redistribution.   For instance, the boroughs in the South West had one member for a population of 28,000 while in the industrial North West the ratio was one to 58,000.   Tenants had to be resident for a full year before they could register to vote.   The university seats and some plural voting persisted, and the single-Member constituency system, a favourite of Lord Salisbury, protected Tory voters in the towns and cities.
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Whilst all the attention was being devoted to the major Acts of Reform, behind the scenes was an episode illustrating that religious discrimination was alive and well.   For five years the case of Charles Bradlaugh was a constant embarrassment to the Government:
Charles Bradlaugh was elected Liberal MP for Northampton in 1880.   A Radical of somewhat unorthodox views (for the time) he was an outspoken atheist and an advocate of contraceptives.   The trouble started when he refused to take the normal oath of allegiance because it included the words “So help me God”.   After a Commons select committee decided that he must take the oath Bradlaugh agreed, but a group of young Conservative MPs led by Lord Randolph Churchill stirred up the Commons to vote for Bradlaugh’s expulsion.   He was obliged to stand for re-election, but having again won Northampton, the same procedure was repeated when he tried to take his seat.   Churchill and his friends (nicknamed the Fourth Party) exploited the situation to divide the Liberals.   Gladstone and many Radicals supported Bradlaugh, but the Nonconformist Liberals were outraged at the presence of such an avowed atheist, and Bradlaugh was again expelled.   He was re-elected and expelled a further three times, but was prevented from taking his seat until the next parliament in 1885. "Mastering Modern British History" by N. Lowe
One other step forward in breaking down religious discrimination which occurred in 1885 was the peerage given to Sir Nathaniel Rothschild who became the first Jewish peer.
The Reform and the Redistribution Acts did not take us to full democracy, but were a large step on the way.   Women still did not have the vote and plural voting continued.   Plural voting gave a man a vote in every constituency where he held property.   This was clearly discriminatory and undemocratic.   It gave a premium to landholding.

There were two other effects of the Acts: most of the two-member constituencies were abolished putting a stop to the Liberal practise of running one Whig and one Radical candidate in each constituency.   The Radicals were a faction within the Liberal Party, originating in Manchester.   Because fewer Whigs could gain acceptance as candidates, the aristocratic Whig section of the Party began to shrink and the Radicals became the dominant wing of the Liberals.   In Ireland the changes meant that Parnell’s Nationalists dominated and could always be sure of winning at least 80 seats.   The two main Parties began to jockey for position over the Irish question.   Meetings were held between the Conservative whip, Rowland Winn and the Parnellite whip, Richard Power. 
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If Gladstone could be persuaded to think that the Conservatives were not fundamentally opposed to some kind of Irish separatism, he might be encouraged to come out in public with some actual proposals.   Thus when Power spoke to Winn in late February 1885, he was told that Salisbury would not diminish the Irish representation of 103 seats at Westminster, even though the post-Famine population could not proportionally justify the retention of so many.   The Parnellites’ votes were being actively bought by Salisbury, although as Winn insisted after a second meeting, “no arrangement, compact or agreement was come to between us, nor was anything of such a nature either asked for or alluded to by either of us”.   This is because it did not have to be; nods and winks were all it took. "Salisbury, Victorian Titan" by A. Roberts
On 9 June 1885 a combination of Tories and Irish, assisted by Liberal absentees, defeated the government on a budget amendment.   Gladstone resigned and Lord Salisbury, the Tory leader, formed a caretaker government with the support of the Irish Parliamentary Party.   Normally, a General Election would have followed the collapse of Gladstone’s government.   This, however, could not take place because the work of drawing up the new constituency boundaries, demanded by the Redistribution Act of 1885, was not finished.
Queen Victoria was becoming more reconciled to Gladstone.   On 2 October she said to him “Liberalism is not Socialism and progress does not mean revolution.”
  Lord Salisbury made a keynote speech at Newport on 7 October 1885 which was read by some Liberals as not entirely ‘closing the door’ on an Irish settlement.   Finally, on 21 November 1885, Parnell issued a ‘Manifesto to the Irish in Great Britain’ calling on them to vote for the Tories.   It seemed that the Tories were prepared to deal.
At last a General Election was held.   It took place between 24 November and 18 December 1885.   319 Liberals, 247 Tories and 86 Home Rulers were elected.   In addition to the official Party figures there were two independent Conservatives and 16 Independent Liberals elected.   In a touch of irony when added together the Conservatives with the Nationalists equalled the Liberals.   Parnell had hoped that Home Rulers would hold the ‘balance of power’ after the election, i.e. that the Liberals and Tories would each have roughly the same number of seats in parliament and that therefore the Home Rulers would be able to put into power whomsoever would grant Home Rule.   It was not to be. 
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One other striking thing about the result of this first General Election to be held after the Reform acts was the distortion in the result.    2.2 million votes went to the Liberals (6,894 votes per seat) 2.0 million votes went to the Conservatives (8,182 votes per seat) and 310,000 votes went to the Irish Nationalists (3,611 votes per seat).   This was the first General Election in which primarily single member seats were in effect and the voting system was based on first past the post.   Like many more election results to come it demonstrated clearly the distorting effect of this system of representation.   Parliament was not representative of the people.   The major distortion in this case was in the number of Irish Nationalist MPs.   Ireland was massively over-represented.   The Irish vote may also have effected the results in mainland Britain for as a result of the Reform Act there was a trebling of the Irish vote due to the enfranchisement of agricultural labourers.   There were a lot of Irish labourers in Great Britain who met the residence rules.
Just prior to the close of polling, Gladstone made his move.   On 15 December Gladstone approached A. J. Balfour, (Salisbury’s nephew), the Tory President of the Local Government Board urging a cabinet response to the issue of Irish government.   He believed it was of crucial importance in light of the recent victories of Parnell and the risk of violence in Ireland if the demand for Home Rule was resisted.
On 17 December 1885 Gladstone’s son, Herbert, speaking at Hawarden, announced that his father had been so impressed by the success of the Parnellites in taking 86 of the 101 seats in Ireland, that he was now convinced that Home Rule by orderly secession was possible.   He further declared that if Gladstone was elected Prime Minister he would introduce Home Rule legislation.   This was one of the most momentous changes in policy in British politics during the nineteenth century—‘the mighty heave in the body politic’.   By flying this ‘kite’, Herbert Gladstone hoped to break the Home Rule/Tory alliance and win the support of the Home Rulers for his father in his campaign to become Prime Minister.  
Herbert Gladstone gave his speech to the press.   He said that his father “with safeguards for the unity of the Empire, the authority of the Crown and the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was prepared to take office with a view to the creation of an Irish Parliament to be entrusted with the management of all legislative and administrative affairs, securities being taken for the representation of minorities and for an equitable partition of all imperial charges”.

This was something that Gladstone had been approaching for quite some time, but he did not formally adopt it as policy since he felt that his party was not yet ready to embrace Irish Home Rule as a cause.   He was presiding over a divided party, and the ensuing tension was also his raison d’être as leader—the Irish question was a sufficient ‘Supreme Moment’ to suspend his plans for retirement.
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On 20th December Gladstone sent another letter to Arthur Balfour promising that, if the Tories were willing to settle the “whole question of the future Government of Ireland”, his party would give their full support.   Hartington, (Duke of Devonshire) on 21 December publicly came out against Home Rule.
In a private letter to the Radical, Henry Labouchere, Chamberlain set out the proposition that Home Rule, except in a federal frame, was separation:
There is only one way of giving bona fide Home Rule, which is the adoption of the American Constitution.
1)       Separate legislature for England, Scotland, Wales and possibly Ulster.   The three other Irish provinces might combine.
2)       Imperial legislature at Westminster for Foreign and Colonial affairs, Army, Navy, Post Office and Customs.
3)       A Supreme Court to arbitrate on respective limits of authority.
...There is a scheme for you.   It is the only one, which is compatible with any sort of Imperial unity, and once established it might work without friction.
In spite of losing the election Lord Salisbury continued as Prime Minister of a minority government and when the new Parliament met on 21st January 1886 delivered a slap in the face to Parnell during his address on the Queen’s speech by promising a new Coercion Bill.   The Liberals craftily moved an amendment to the Address, not on Ireland but on allotments and smallholdings.   The Nationalists joined them in the division lobbies.   The Tory Government lost the vote and was turned out of office on the 26th January.   Gladstone once again became Prime Minister and set about drawing up the legislation for Irish Home Rule and perhaps surprisingly included Joseph Chamberlain in his Cabinet.
      It would be surprising if Gladstone, faced with the prospect – not for the last time – of governing with Irish votes, had not noted the consequences of a form of Home Rule so drastic as to eliminate Irish representatives from Westminster.   In Great Britain alone the Liberal Party still had a heavy majority.   This may have been among the motives which led Gladstone to frame the legislation initially upon the basis – logically indefensible, if the Union was to continue at all – that there would be no Irish MPs in the House of Commons. "Joseph Chamberlain" by Enoch Powell
      On the other hand Chamberlain took a totally different line.   He was quite prepared to contemplate actual separation.   In a letter to John Morley, the editor of the Fortnightly Review he wrote:
      "If we are to give way it must be by getting rid of Ireland altogether and by some such scheme as this: call Ireland a protected state; England’s authority to be confined exclusively to the measures necessary to secure that Ireland shall not be a “point d’appui” for a foreign country… The worst of all plans would be one, which kept the Irishmen at Westminster while they had their own Parliament in Dublin.
The clash between two titans of nineteenth century politics was warming up:

  On his part Gladstone foreshadowed an intention to “examine whether it is practicable to comply with the desire widely prevalent in Ireland for the establishment by statute of a legislative body to sit in Dublin and to deal with Irish as distinct from Imperial affairs in such a manner as to be just to each three Kingdoms.”   On his side Chamberlain promised to give “unprejudiced consideration to any proposals that may be made” while being assured of “unlimited liberty of judgement and rejection on any scheme that may ultimately be proposed”"Joseph Chamberlain" by Enoch Powell
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Chamberlain had been given the Local Government Board to look after by Gladstone and during January and February busied himself by drawing up legislation to create county, district and parish councils.   He was also looking at land acquisition.   In mid February Gladstone asked Chamberlain to circulate to the Cabinet a scheme for the purchase of land in Ireland to be administered by an elected central board.   The sums involved were considerable with an anticipated expenditure of £120 million on land purchase.   The Bill was placed before the Cabinet on Saturday 13th March 1886.
Chamberlain immediately asked what form of authority was envisaged as guaranteeing the repayment, and when Gladstone referred to “a separate Parliament with full powers to deal with all Irish affairs,” Chamberlain sent in his resignation but was persuaded to withhold it in anticipation of the details of the Home Rule Bill, enquiring through Harcourt whether it was “possible to discuss the matter on the basis of four bodies resembling the States governments in the United States"Joseph Chamberlain" by Enoch Powell
Chamberlain was now warming to the idea of a Federal solution to the Irish question similar to that of the United States.   In an article published in February 1886 in the Fortnightly Review under the headline “Radical view of the Irish Crisis”, thought to be written by Chamberlain it questioned whether federation was compatible with a hereditary House of Lords or indeed the Monarchy.   It concluded:
The scheme involves the absolute destruction of the historical constitution of the United Kingdom, the creation of a tabula rasa and the establishment thereupon of the United States constitution in all its details.   According to this precedent Ireland might have one or even two local legislatures, if Ulster preferred to retain a separate independence.   Scotland and Wales would each have another, and England would also have a Parliament and a Ministry of its own.   There would be over all an Imperial Parliament, charged entirely with the control of foreign and colonial affairs, military and naval expenditure, and customs and Post Office.   It may be that such a proposal would not be seriously objected to by consistent Radicals, and it is probable that it would work without friction and preserve a real union of the Empire for defensive and offensive purposes; but it is hardly conceivable that the people of Great Britain as a whole are prepared for such a violent and complete revolution.  
These discussions are a foreshadow of similar discussions which are taking place on the same subject some one hundred and twenty years later.
The Cabinet met on 26 March 1886.   The clash between Chamberlain and Gladstone was inevitable.   Gladstone wanted to immediately put down a resolution in the House of Commons proposing a legislature in Dublin with power over Irish affairs.   Chamberlain responded in a cross-questioning mode:
                He put four questions across the table to the Prime Minister:
1)            Was Irish representation at Westminster to cease?
2)            Was the power of taxation, including customs and excise, to be given to the             Irish legislature?
3)            Was the appointment of judges and magistrates to vest in the Irish authority?
4)          Was the Irish legislature to have authority in every matter not specifically                excluded by the Act constituting it or only in matters specifically delegated to it      by statute?

Gladstone, for once, did not refine or prevaricate.   He answered “Yes” to every one of the questions.   “Then”, said Chamberlain, “I resign”, whereupon he left the Cabinet room at once, accompanied by Trevelyan, the Secretary of State for Scotland.  "Joseph Chamberlain" by Enoch Powell


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