1867 reform act

Published: 2021-06-25 12:15:05
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Category: Politics

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In 1867 the second reform act was passed by Disraeli, there were many factors which brought about the reform act and public pressure was definitely one of them however there were other factors which helped the 1867 reform act to be passed, such as the conservatives being opportunists, the personal ambitions of Disraeli and also the fear of unrest that pushed the act to be passed. Public pressure had a large part to do with the passing of the 1867 reform bill in many ways. Most working class men at this time felt they were ready for the vote, this lead to the creation of pressure groups these would campaign for enfranchisement.
In 1864 the national reform union was set up, this was mainly aimed at bringing the interests of the working and middle class men together in politics. Also created in 1864 was the reform league, although similar to the national reform union this was much more radical, it mainly aimed towards having universal male suffrage and a secret ballot. These groups would hold rallies of over 100,000 to try and put pressure on the government and get the bill passed, these groups doing this is significant evidence that public pressure could have been a large contributor to the passing of the act.
It could also be argued that not only was the government being pressured into reform by these groups but it was scared of the repercussions and outbursts that could follow if the act was not passed. During this time Britain had gone through many difficult times such as , economic depression, a cholera epidemic and quite high unemployment. This would make the government anxious about the current temper of the general public and therefore wouldn’t want to upset them. An example of the public unrest would have been the Hyde park riots of 1867, where railings were ripped off windows were smashed and there was great uproar.
This is then evidence that the bringing about of the 1867 reform act was also due to other reasons and not totally on pressure from the public, however it could be said that this fear of unrest was amplified by the pressure groups which would then suggest that public pressure was the main cause. Disraeli knew that to get this act passed and to stay in power he needed to take another step towards democracy, he wanted to attract the support of the back bench conservatives and the adullamites this is why the 1867 bill was much more moderate than the previous liberal 1866 bill.
In the 1866 bill Gladstone had introduced the enfranchisement of people paying more than ? 7 in rent in the boroughs and ? 10 in the counties. This I believe was simply to radical and this is why I think it failed. The failure of the previous 1866 reform act by Gladstone I would say is also a contributor to the passing of the 1867 bill as people were not happy with this and therefore Disraeli saw his chance to strike and get the conservatives back into power. It could also be argued that the 1867 reform was pushed through as an opportunist act.
At this time the conservatives had not been in power for over 20 years, at the time the liberal party was split, some wanting reform some not. The conservatives couldn’t miss this opportunity to get back into power or they could be out for another 20 years or even more. The death of Lord Palmerston in 1865 was a gateway as he had previously been the barrier to the idea of reform. The liberal party then didn’t sort out there problems and their government collapsed, this was when Disraeli saw the real opportunity and he put the conservatives in power in 1867.
I would say that the opportunist mind of Disraeli and the conservatives was a large contributor of the passing of the act as if Disraeli hadn’t of seized the opportunity when the liberals were weakened he may have never had the chance. In conclusion I would argue that yes the pressure of the people on the government was large contributor to the bringing in of the reform act however it was not the only thing pushing for the act to be passed, conservative opportunism and fear of riot and revolt are just two other reasons that could have considerably helped to pass the 1867 reform bill.

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