Updated: Oct 23, 2019
Peterloo Massacre - During the summer of 1819, there was a gathering of 60,000 people in St.Peter’s Field in Manchester to listen at a couple of leading reformers. In that day, Local Officials sent soldiers who killed 11 and injured 400. The government was on the Local Officials side, stopped such public meetings and silenced those who wanted reform.
During this time the middle class reformers were pushing the Parliament with the desire of more democracy because of the low wages put by the Parliament.
Early Attempts at reform
Even though Great Britain had a Parliament in contrast to all the other European nations over the past hundreds of years, the Parliament was not so democratic. No women had voting rights and not so many men had voting rights either. Only 6% of the men could vote of The house of commons and The House of Lords inherited their position, which implies that only a small amount of people controlled the political system of Britain.
During 1688, the election system ignored the population changes. Rural districts with small populations called “Rotten Boroughs” represented The House of commons. But Manchester and Birmingham, who were growing industrial centers had little representation.
Reform Bill of 1832
This reform was a success and grew in numbers and economic power, thus the middle class finally demanding to vote and gain a stronger representation in the Parliament. The Parliament passed this reform which extended Suffrage (right to vote) and reached 20%, but no more because the voters still had to own a specific amount of property, thus no urban or rural workers could vote.
The Chartist movement of 1838
A group of people created and called the Chartists stroke back, demanding the secret ballot, male suffrage as well as the members of the Parliament to be paid a salary so the poor could afford to work. However this movement did not accomplish what it wanted until the completely died out 1850, but most of them did become law.
The Corn Laws of 1815
The law put taxes on imported grains, thus keeping the price of the grains high and increasing the cost of the bread. The workers favored this law but the city dwellers did not because the of the high prices on the major food in the working class which was bread. By the 1840’s Britain faced crop failure, this removing the law so that they can import the grains cheaper and so the bread price decreased.
During the 1700’s and 1800’s, two political parties Whigs led by Liberal William Gladstone and Tories led by Conservative by Benjamin Disraeli competed against each other to gain the vote of the middle class men who were gaining more voting powers. A similarity between these two political parties is how they both promised extended suffrage to the people.
Benjamin Disraeli wanted to improve the country and considered himself “A conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution and a radical to remove all that is bad”. On the other hand William Gladstone was a conservative before he changed and became a strong liberal. In similarity to each other they both were prime ministers from the mid 1860’s to the early 1880’s.
A constant competition between the two went on and on. 1866, Gladstone introduced the bill to extend voting rights for the working citizens, which did not pass. Disraeli tried to pass the same bill again knowing that this bill will sooner or later pass through and so he wanted the conservatives to get the credit. 1867, the bill passed and nearly doubled the number of people with the right to vote with both liberal and conservative support. They continued competing and passed social reforms after reforms, but the people did not really believe that these two parties did much for them, thus creating the Labour party in 1900’s led by Ramsay MacDonald.
5 years later the Parliament finally introduced the secret Ballot and by till 1885 many Bill reforms were passed, thus nearly all the men had voting rights. When it came to the women, they had to work harder until 1928 where they finally could vote.
The house of commoners passes a bill wanted to reduce the power of The house of lords by reducing their veto. With The house of lords resisting, the king helped by threatening any lord who would vote for that bill.