The Reform Act of 1832

  • John Prest


When Wellington’s government fell in November 1830, and the Whigs, led by Earl Grey, came into office, they were committed to a reform of Parliament. The spectacular features of this reform were to be the redistribution of seats and the extension of the franchise, and these are the ones which historians have paid most attention to, but the Reformers were also committed to an improvement in the conduct of elections through the establishment of a register of electors, and Brougham later said that he regarded the system of registration as perhaps the most important part of the constructive clauses of the whole scheme.1 For this reason the Whigs dealt with redistribution, the extension of the franchise, and the registration of voters all in one Bill. No doubt there was an element of tactical risk in this, for opponents could seek to exploit flaws in the registration system in order to discredit the Bill as a whole, but the risk was counterbalanced by the advantages of steering the registration clauses onto the statute book with the help of the popular breeze in favour of disfranchising Old Sarum and giving representatives to Manchester.


Registration Procedure Poor Rate Select Committee Occupation Qualification Annual Registration 


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  1. 7.
    J. D. Chambers, An Examination into Certain Errors and Anomalies in the Principles and Detail of the Registration Clauses of the Reform Act, with Suggestions for their Amendment (1832) pp. 14–15.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Prest 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Prest
    • 1
  1. 1.OxfordUK

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