The Parties Stand on Their Heads

  • John Prest


The events of the 1835 registration, when, ‘rather than yield the slightest advantage to the adversary’, the franchised populations of whole parishes were ‘immolated on the altar of party zeal’,1 convinced everyone that something must be done, and it was generally understood that a new Bill, based upon the experience of the original registration in 1832 and the three annual revisions of 1833, 1834 and 1835, would be introduced in the next session. Although extremist editors of the Tory press sought to exploit dissatisfaction with the registration system in order to discredit the Reform Act as a whole, moderate Conservatives welcomed the prospect of putting an end to abuses which lowered politics in the esteem of the public, and in theory at least it ought to have been easy to bring the parties to agreement. But even in the comparatively ‘quiet’ days of 1834 it must have been apparent that any new procedure for the registration of voters could not but affect the franchise; and in a period when the parties were still trying to count their gains and losses at the registration of 1835 it was inconceivable that any measure could be drafted which would not be thought to be framed for electoral advantage. Party begets party begets party, and the prospects for reform were not as bright as they seemed.


Registration System Registered Elector English System 1835 Registration Secret Ballot 


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  1. 27.
    A.D. Macintyre, The Liberator (1965) p. 299.Google Scholar
  2. 28.
    S. Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell, 2 vols (1889) vol. 1, p. 132.Google Scholar
  3. 50.
    John C. Alcock, Registry Cases Reserved for Consideration and Decided by the Twelve Judges of Ireland, pt 1: Nov 1832 to June 1837 (Dublin, 1837) pp. 55–6.Google Scholar
  4. 52.
    Thomas Welsh, Registry Cases Comprising All the Published, and Many of the Recent Unpublished, Decisions in Ireland, Respecting the Registration of Voters, under the Irish Reform Act and 10 Geo. IV c. 8 (Dublin, 1840) pp. 126–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Prest 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Prest
    • 1
  1. 1.OxfordUK

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