Reform of Parliament Flashcards Preview

Protest, Agitation and Parliamentary Reform in Britain 1780-1928 > Reform of Parliament > Flashcards

Flashcards in Reform of Parliament Deck (29):

What is a Constitution?

A set of laws and agreed principles that set out rules on how a country's governed.


What is a constituency?

One of the areas into which the country was divided for election purposes. These varied considerably in geographical size and population.


What were the three type of constituency in 1780?



How many MPs could each constituency vote in?

County (188MPs)
University (5MPs)
Boroughs (465)


What was a borough?

A town or small city that had once been given special privileges by royal character.


Who were able to vote in counties?

'40 shilling freeholders'- anyone who owned land or property that was worth 40 shilling (£2) a year.


Who could vote in a Scot and lot borough?

All adult males who paid local taxes (the 'Scot and lot') such as poor relief, could vote.


Who could vote in open boroughs?

Men who met various qualifications, such as the direct payment of the local poor rates. In Preston, the vote was given to all men, whether resident or not, who were in the constituency at the time of the election.


Who could vote in potwalloper boroughs?

All men who occupied a house ('who had a family and boiled a pot') could vote. This resulted in a large electorate (at least 700 men).


What was a self-perpetuating clique?

A small group of individuals who had the power to maintain their position indefinitely.


What was a rotten borough?

Areas which have once been areas of economic activity, but over time had become depopulated, but still retained their parliamentary representation. In some extreme cases, there were 10 or 20 voters in a borough.


What was a pocket boroughs?

Boroughs where the size of the electorate was small; the biggest landowner in the areas had huge influence and was able to get himself or his nominee elected. 'Pocket boroughs' as the landowners were seen to have them in their 'pocket'.


Who could vote in University's?

Members of the University.


What was a corporation borough?

Voters were the members of the town council. These were self-perpetuating cliques who filled vacant seats on the council by nomination rather than election.


What was plural voting?

Where voters had more than vote.


Why was there plural voting?

- Most constituencies elected 2 MPs to the Commons, therefore eligible voters received 2 votes (one for each MP).
- Boroughs wer located within counties, and the wealthy met the requirements for both elections-thereby securing 4 votes.
- Landowners owned land all over the country and this meant that they could vote in multiple boroughs and counties.


Example of a county which had multiple boroughs within it?

-Returned 2 MPs for being a county
-Contained 4 boroughs


What were the problem with boroughs?

Many of the boroughs had been important in pre-industrial times but now how tiny populations and weren't very important, still retained 2 MPs. New towns such as Manchester ( pop 182,000) and Birmingham (pop 144,000) had no borough MPs (still were represented through their county).


What was the issue with the county representation?

Favoured the rural south, counties were much smaller in the south but still retained the same number of MP's as a much larger county.


How many MPs in total were voted into the House of Commons?



How many electorates were there in 1780?

Estimated that in Wales and England there were 214,000 voters (11% of adult males) out of a population of 8 million.


How often did elections take place in 1780?

Atleast one every seven years, had to be called a monarch died.


What was the problem with elections?

-Very corrupt and bribery was rife
- Some boroughs there were the same number of candidates as there were seats available, no point in a election.


What was virtual representation?

The MPs weren't their to represent their voters, but to represent the interests that made up the economic and political life of the nation.


How many MPs did each county return to the House of Commons?

2 MPs


How many seats in the House of Commons were controlled by aristocrats in the 1780s?

Over 200 seats


What are some defences for the un-reformed electoral system?

- Lasted hundreds of years, why change it when Britain was the most advanced industrial nation?
- As long as there were people in parliament who represented all parts of society, then it didn't matter which constituencies any of them happened to represent.
- Pocket and rotten boroughs allowed for the emergence of talented and young men to rise up, for example Robert Peel.


What does 'vested interests' mean?

In politics, individuals or groups of people who benefit from existing political arrangements, usually at the expense of others.


What are some criticisms of the unreformed electoral system?

-Elections were very corrupt and there was a lot of intimidation of voters.
-Wealthy landowners controlled many boroughs and could vote in multiple counties and boroughs.
-Industrialisation in the Midlands and north-east, led to emergence of middle-class. Didn't believe there interests were being met by the MPs in parliament and wanted reform.