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Contexts and Conclusions

1832 - a watershed?

Changes in the distribution of seats by the 1832 Act


Seats disenfranchised:

55 boroughs returning 2 MPs -110

Higham Ferrers -1

30 boroughs deprived of 1 MP -30

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis return 2 MPs not 4 -2

Total -143

Seats enfranchised:

22 boroughs to return 2 MPs +44

19 boroughs to return 1 MP +19

26 counties divided, each returning 2 MPs +52

Yorkshire split into 3, each returning 2 MPs +2 rather than 4 for the whole county

Isle of Wight made a county with 1 MP +1

7 counties to return 3 MPs +7

Total +125

Net reduction in English seats 18


3 counties given an additional MP +3

2 new boroughs enfranchised +2


Additional MPs for Edinburgh and Glasgow +2

Perth, Aberdeen and Dundee to return 1 MP +3

Paisley, Greenock and Leith to return 1 MP +3


Additional MPs for Belfast, Dublin University, +5

Galway, Limerick and Waterford

Net increase 18

Voting Qualifications after 1832

English Counties

1. 40 shilling freeholders

2. £10 freeholders

3. £10 copyholders

4. Tenants with a yearly rent of £50

5. Leaseholders for 60 years at clear yearly value of £10

6. Leaseholders for 20 years at clear yearly value of £50

7. Freehold mortgagees with a clear yearly value of £10

8. Leasehold mortgagees with a clear yearly value of £10

9. Trustees in receipt of requisite rents

10. Beneficed cleargymen

11. Annuitants from freehold or copyhold

12. Holders of life offices with emoluments arising out of lands worth at least 40 shillings

13. Purchasers of redeemed land tax worth at least 40 shillings

14. Irremovable schoolmasters, parish clerks and sextons

15. Proprietors of tithes and rent charges worth at least 40 shillings

16. Joint tenants whose separate interests amounted to 40 shillings freehold or £10 leasehold

17. Owners of shares in mines, rivers, canals, fairs, markets etc.

NB. No person could vote in a county in respect of property which would confer on hima qualification to vote for a borough; but a freehold in a borough of the annual value of 40 shillings and under £10 entitled the owner to vote for the county. If a property was above £10 and occupied by a tenant, the tenant could vote for the county.

English Boroughs

1. The ancient franchise holders in boroughs not disenfranchised if their qualifications existed on the last day of July in the year for which they claimed, and if they had resided for 6 months in the borough or within 7 miles, and their names were on the register.

2. Occupiers, either as owners or tenants of any house, warehouse, counting house, shop or other building, either with or without land, of the clear yearly value of £10 within the borough, providing they had been in possession 12 calendar months prior to the last day of July in the year of the claim and had paid before the 20th July all the poor rates and assessed taxes payable from them in respect of the premises previous to the April prededing.

3. Lodgers if sharing with other lodgers and the value divided by the number of lodgers came to £10 each

Scotch counties

1. Persons possessed of franchise before 1831, or who would have possessed it - tenants in chief of the Crown with lands of 40 shillings (old extent) or of £400 Scotch valued rent

2. Owners of land of £10 annual value

3. 57 years leaseholders and life holders with a clear £10 annual value

4. 19 years leaseholders with a clear £10 annual value

5. Yearly tenants at a £50 rent

6. All tenants whose interest cost them £300

Scotch cities, burghs and contributory districts

1. Occupiers of houses of £10 annual value with non-resident true owners

2. Husbands jure uxoris after the deaths of their wives

Irish counties

1. £10 freeholders

2. Leaseholders for lives and copyholders of estates of £10

3. 60 years leaseholders and their assignees of estates of the same value

4. 14 years leaseholders of £20 estates

Irish cities and boroughs

1. £10 occupiers

2. Resident freemen if admitted before March 1831

Number of individuals voting at general elections (England and Wales)

(Source: D Beales, Parliamentary History, 1992)

1826 106,397

1830 88,216

1831 74,638

1832 390,700

1835 272,946



a) abolition of pocket boroughs removed King's Friends, thus more reliance on 'party'

b) House of Lords' role was diminished

c) Aristocracy retained their 'cultural hegemony' but see theses of Mayer, Rubenstein etc who argue that politically and economically they were still dominant

d) Monarchy - a shadow of its former self

e) Anglican church also under attack after Catholic Emancipation and Reform

f) the people were incorporated into politics


a) pocket and propietory boroughs remained

b) distribution of seats remained anomolous

c) Electoral patrons persisted

d) Corruption remained - Sudbury and St Albans disenfranchised for venality

e) Electoral practices such as exclusive dealing, cooping and deference still continued


a) Registration changed electoral practices and gave the electorate some substance

b) Participation increased. Number of voters actually voting trebled and turnouts were much higher

c) Ushered in a period of partisan voting which was not established in the unreformed system