Reform Act 1832

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The Representation of the People Act 1832, commonly known as the Reform Act 1832, was an Act of Parliament (2 & 3 Will. IV) that introduced wide-ranging changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. According to its preamble, the act was designed to "take effectual Measures for correcting divers Abuses that have long prevailed in the Choice of Members to serve in the Commons House of Parliament."

Calls for reform had been mooted long before 1832, but perennially without success. The Act which finally succeeded was proposed by the Whigs led by the Prime Minister Lord Grey. It met with significant opposition from the Pittite factions in Parliament that had governed the country for so long (opposition was especially pronounced in the House of Lords). Nevertheless, as a result of public pressure, the bill was eventually passed. The Act granted seats in the House of Commons to large cities that had sprung up during the Industrial Revolution, and took away seats from the "rotten boroughs"—those with very small populations. The Act also increased the number of individuals entitled to vote, increasing the size of the electorate by 50–80%, and allowing a total of one out of six adult males to vote, in a population of some 14 million.

The full title is An Act to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales. Its formal short title and citation is the Representation of the People Act 1832 (2 & 3 Wm. IV, c. 45). The Act only applied in England and Wales; separate reform bills were passed in the same year for Scotland and Ireland.[1] Other reform measures were passed later during the 19th century; as a result, the Reform Act 1832 is sometimes called the First, or Great Reform Act.


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