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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