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The People’s Manual, 1831

In 1831 and 1832 three attempts were made to pass the Reform Bill, a piece of legislation which contained measures to extend the franchise and tackle abuses in the political system. The first, in a House of Commons with a Tory (largely anti-reform) majority but a Whig (pro-reform) Prime Minister, floundered in March 1831. In response, the Prime Minister Lord Grey called a general election and the Whigs won a landslide victory, regarded as a public mandate for political reform. The second Reform Bill passed through the House of Commons and was referred up to the House of Lords, who rejected it in October 1831. The rejection triggered public violence, including riots in Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham and Derby (residences of several of the Peers who had opposed the Bill were targetted). The House of Commons passed a motion of confidence in the government, a new session of parliament was called and a third attempt was made to pass the Reform Bill. The period between the introduction of the third Bill in December 1831 and its passing into law in June 1832 was one of great political turbulence - Prime Minister Lord Grey resigned and was replaced by the Duke of Wellington, after the King refused to stack the House of Lords with new Whig peers who would support reform; faced with public agitation, a run on the banks and a failure to get enough support to form a Tory government, the Duke of Wellington in turn resigned; and the King recalled Lord Grey to form a new Whig ministry, with the tacit agreement that new lords could be appointed to get the Bill through parliament. With the encouragement of the Duke of Wellington, and before the composition of the upper chamber could be changed, the recalcitrant lords finally passed the Bill, and the Reform Act received royal assent on 7 June 1832.

'The People's Manual' was circulated in 1831, following the defeat of the second Reform Bill in the House of Lords. The pamphlet contains a series of short, hostile biographical profiles of the 199 Peers who had blocked the legislation.

The manual is included in the University of Warwick Library Special Collections (reference: DA540.P3) and can be read in full through our online collection of Warwickshire political ephemera, 1774-1874.

The Peoples Manual