Outline of Franchise Proposal

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Outline of Franchise Proposal Powered By Docstoc
					 The Electoral System and
  Parliamentary Reform
          Sarah Richardson
(extra handout with facts and figures
         on timetable page)
•   Introduction
•   The franchise before 1832
•   Who voted and how?
•   Pressure for reform
•   1832 Reform Act
•   Did anything change with reform?
Is Hogarth’s Election Entertainment a good summary of the electorate
and the way elections were conducted in the eighteenth century?
               The ‘rage of party’
Some historians argue electoral participation and activity was
  high in this period:
• The size of the electorate: Plumb estimates electorate of
  200,000 in William’s reign and about 250,000 in 1715.
  Holmes looks at total electorate rather than numbers
  voting giving figure of 340,000 voters by 1722: around 1 in
  4 adult males who could vote.
• The triennial act of 1694: there were 10 general elections in
  the following twenty years. The number of contests was
  never lower than 86 and only 30 constituencies failed to
  have a poll in the years between 1691 and 1715. After 1715
  only an election every 7 years. Number of contests
  averaged below 40.
             Hanoverian period
Holmes: after 1715, in the counties there was a
  ‘prolonged electoral coma’ and the boroughs were ‘all
  but wholly anaesthetised’.
• very few voters were free to vote as they wished,
  Namier arguing that ‘not one voter in 20 could freely
  exercise his statutory right’
• electorate was thoroughly venal and regarded the vote
  as a piece of personal property
• elections were exclusive concerning only political and
  social elites
• political issues were unimportant in election contests
  and ideology had little part to play.
                 Hanoverian period
More positive interpretations by Frank O’Gorman in Voters, Patrons
  and Parties and J A Phillips in Electoral Behaviour in Unreformed
  England and The Great Reform Bill in the Boroughs.
• electoral system was controlled by local elites, but with difficulty
• electoral system was never closed, despite its antiquated and
  unrepresentative features.
• electoral politics became an increasingly active and participatory
  experience because of traditions of popular independence, rise of
  the press and the growth of an articulate and educated public
• electoral politics were local with variety of local traditions and
  cultures involved
• But do O’Gorman and Phillips focus on large, open and not very
  typical constituencies?
                  County franchise
• The franchise was a mixture of systems dating back to the medieval
  period and based on the early modern areas of wealth and
• English counties based their representation on an act of 1430 which
  enabled 40 shilling freeholders to possess the vote - a uniform
• Counties tended to be large open constituencies, rarely under the
  control of a single aristocrat
• No residence qualification so ‘outvoters’ could perform a crucial
• Largest county was Yorkshire with around 10,000 voters. Kent,
  Norfolk and Northants had about 6000. The smallest counties were
  Carnarvonshire and Rutland with around 500 voters.
• Some towns had county status, including Lincoln and York
              Borough franchise
Not uniform:
• Inhabitant boroughs (55). All residents could vote
• Burgage boroughs (41). Burgages were ancient pieces of
  real estate and property from which the right to vote was
• Corporation boroughs (19). Right to vote was restricted to
  members of the corporation.
• Freemen boroughs (100) where only freemen could vote.
• University boroughs of Oxford and Cambridge. Franchise
  restricted to Doctors and Masters of Arts of the
  Universities. Cambridge had a Whig tradition and Oxford a
  Tory one.
           Wales, Scotland, Ireland
• Wales: 12 one member counties and 12 one member boroughs,
  totalling 24 seats in all. County franchise was 40 shilling freehold.
  Boroughs divided into 1 corporation borough; 9 freemen boroughs
  and 2 inhabitant boroughs
• Scotland joined the English system after the Act of Union in 1707.
  There were 30 one member counties and 15 districts of burghs
  returning 1 MP each, thus totalling 45 seats in all. Scottish boroughs
  were very venal employing a method of indirect election. In
  counties, Scottish electoral qualifications were based upon the ‘old
  extent’ and electorates were small ranging from around 21 to 240
• After 1801 the Irish constituencies consisted of 32 two member
  counties, 2 two member boroughs (Cork and Dublin), 31 one
  member boroughs and the university seat of Trinity College Dublin
  returning a total of 100 MPs.
                        Who voted?
• It is very difficult to ascertain who a typical voter was in the
  eighteenth century?
• The borough electorates varied dramatically from all resident
  inhabitants to just the members of the corporation.
• In counties local interpretations of the 40 shilling freeholder varied.
  In Cheshire there were a substantial number of ‘leases for lives’
  voters but in Yorkshire assessments of who qualified for a vote
  differed from parish to parish.
• Women were not excluded from the franchise by law – this was an
  innovation of 1832.
• Elaine Chalus has uncovered evidence of women appointing male
  proxies to vote on their behalf. As the right to vote was often based
  on property, single women or widows owning that property could
  qualify for the vote.
                 Poll books
• Evidence of who voted comes from poll books
• Act of 1696 for regulating parliamentary
  elections required written return of the poll
• Between 1696 and 1872 (secret ballot act) the
  returning officer of every county election (and
  from 1711 every borough election) had to
  return a copy of the poll
• These were held in Crown office of Chancery.
  In 1907 they were destroyed.
• Local copies do survive.
Early manuscript poll book
for Bedfordshire, 1684/5.
Showing names of voters and
their residences
Early printed poll book from
Bedfordshire in 1705.
                  Contested Elections
Year   Boroughs       Counties          Total   %
1761   42             5                 47      18
1768   62             11                73      27
1774   71             15                86      32
1780   65             3                 68      26
1784   66             8                 74      28
1790   67             8                 75      28
1796   56             6                 62      23
1802   67             8                 75      28
1805   55             7                 62      23
1807   59             13                72      27
1812   59             5                 64      24
1818   84             12                96      36
1820   66             11                77      29
1826   78             11                89      33
1830   75             10                85      32
1831   65             13                78      29
• Crowds at election contests could be numbered in
  thousands, rather than hundreds.
• Candidates processed to the hustings in a great parade, led
  by flag bearers and bands playing the raucous election
  songs of the time.
• Successful candidates were ‘chaired’ through the streets
  and alleyways of the town. Chairs vividly decorated with
  the colours and symbols of the new members of
• Losing candidates could also be chaired and if the
  successful MPs were particularly unpopular, effigies were
  carried round the town before being ceremoniously and
  publicly burnt.
Typical Hustings Scene
Hogarth – Chairing the Member
            Parliamentary Reform
• Economic reform (often supported by Tories): removal from
  voting of government placeholders and pensioners,
  distribution of more seats to counties. Eg Wyvill’s Yorkshire
  Association called for the redistribution of seats to
• Fairer representation of interests (often supported by
  Whigs). Eliminate some of the rotten boroughs and re-
  distribute their seats to major unrepresented towns.
  Supported patronage making a distinction between
  nomination and influence respectively.
• More radical proposals: broader franchise; redistribution of
  seats; shorter parliaments; secret ballot. Move away from
  representation of property towards representation of
  people (See Cartwright, Take Your Choice!)
           Pressure for Reform
• Burdett’s group attempted to chip away at the
  resistance to reform:
• Tierney introduced measure to curb election
• Burdett raised reform in a debate about
  economic reform
• 1820 Grampound disenfranchised & seats
  redistributed to Yorkshire
• Catholic Emancipation 1828
• Russell introduced bills for the reform of Penryn
  and East Retford. Passed in the Commons but not
  in Lords.
              Political Unions
• 1829-30 reform agitation revived
• July 1829 London Radical Association was formed
• December 1829 Birmingham Political Union led
  by Thomas Attwood
• In Leeds and Manchester unions were split
  between w/c & m/c. In Leeds were 4 rival
• Francis Place formed National Political Union in
  October 1831 which aimed at co-ordinating
  agitation. Failed to replace the BPU
• William Lovett and Hetherington set National
  Union of the Working Classes.
Medal struck in 1830 to support
                                        Text: The Reform Bill Nothing Less.
political unions. On this side is a
                                        Bust of Earl Grey
bust of Thomas Attwood (founder
of political unions) Text: The purity
of the constitution. The peace and
safety of the kingdom.
       Nature of Political Unions
• LoPatin argues are direct links between
  political unions and the Corresponding
  Societies of the 1790s.
• Also represented moderate m/c. Attwood
  argued should represent the ‘industrious
• Greatest concentration in North and the
  Midlands – in all over 120 individual political
  unions were formed between 1830 and 1832.
• Ultimately, they endorsed the reform
  objectives of the Whig ministry
             Election of 1830
• Only 89 seats were contested and only 175 new
  members were returned to Commons.
• But public opinion was vocal was clear & was
  against Wellington's administration
• Brougham and Grey made it clear they would
  press for reform.
• Wellington came out against it. On the eve of
  Broughams motion government were defeated
  on minor issue & resigned
• On 17th November 1830, for the first time, a
  ministry pledged to parliamentary reform took
             Draft Reform Bill
• 50 boroughs lost franchise; 54 lost 1 MP; 6 towns
  given 2 MPs & 22 towns 1 MP; 6 more seats given
  to London; 22 counties were to have 2 extra
  seats; 7 1 extra seat;
• Was in favour of the secret ballot
• Recommended higher qualification of £20 to
  mitigate effects of ballot
• Five year parliaments to be introduced.
• Non residents lost their right to vote;
• More polling places & voter registration Ideas of
  responsible citizenship accepted but concepts of
  universal rights rejected.
                       From Bill to Act
•   24 January 1831 cabinet amended the committee's draft - striking out the
    proposal for the secret ballot and lowering the franchise again to £10
•   1 March 1831 bill was introduced to the Commons by Russell.
•   22 March at the second reading the Bill was passed by only 302 votes to 301.
•   18 April bill defeated at its third reading by 299 votes to 291.
•   May 1831 general election with Whig landslide.
•   Second Reform bill introduced and won its second reading by 367 votes to 231
•   In committee stages Marquis of Chandos won amendment that fifty pound tenants
    at will could enjoy the franchise in the counties
•   21 September bill defeated in Lords by 41 votes.
•   Grey introduced slightly amended third bill.
•   13 April 1832 Lords rejected the third Reform bill by 184 votes to 175.
•   May days: Britain close to revolution.
•   Wellington attempted to form a minority ministry but failed
•   Grey used the creation of peers as a threat and in September 1832 the bill got
    through the Lords with a majority of 9.
•   The first election to be held on the new franchise was December 1832.
             What changed?
• Were continuities: procedures and rituals
  survived; patrons used same techniques
• But Lords, monarchy, church and people all
  changed roles after 1832
             Electoral effects
• Over 40 pocket boroughs survived + 12 which
  regularly returned same families
• 8 English boroughs with electorates less than
• Southern rural bias continued. London under-
      Positive electoral changes
• Registration: boosted party organisation and
  canvassing; candidates could locate voters
  accurately; encouraged people to see
  themselves as voters
• Number of voters participating increased
  dramatically after 1832
• Partisan voting is the norm (97% of Newark’s
  electorate cast straight party votes in 1841)
                                       Number of Voters 1831-1839







                  1831   1832   1833      1834          1835    1836   1837   1839
Election   No. of Voters

1826              106,397

1830                88,216

1831                74,638

1832              390,700

1835              272,946
•   Participation increases
•   Organisation of elections
•   Public more politicised
•   2 main political parties benefited
•   National politics increases
•   1832 was an opportunity

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