Ch 12 The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism Pt

CH.12-THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

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CHAPTER XII: THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

SECTION 5: THE REFORM BILL

 

BY 1830, THE ECONOMIC CRISIS HAD REACHED ITS HEIGHT. FACTORIES CLOSED. UNEMPLOYMENT AND A FALL IN WAGES LED TO REVOLTS IN THE SOUTH AND ALSO TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF ORGANISED TRADE UNIONS IN THE NORTH, WITH RUMOURS OF ARMED REVOLUTION WIDESPREAD.

THE REVOLUTIONS IN PARIS AND BELGIUM FUELLED THE TENSE ATMOSPHERE.

WHEREAS IN 1816 THE DEMAND FOR REFORM HAD COME FROM THE WORKING CLASS, IT WAS NOW THE MIDDLE CLASS THAT RECOGNISED THE DANGERS OF MERE REPRESSION.

AGITATION FOR REFORM WAS THERFORE   WIDESPREAD. LOVET AND THE OWENITES CREATED THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WORKING CLASS AND OTHERS CREATED THE ‘ROTUNDISTS’. THE CHARTIST’S FUTURE LEADER O’BRIEN REVEALED THAT THE WHIGS TALK, BUT DO LITTLE, AND ARE THE PETTY MASTERS - THE ‘POOR MANS GUARDIAN’.

THE MIDDLE CLASS NATIONAL POLITICAL ASSOCIATION PRODUCED REVOLUTIONARY SCARE WITHIN CAREFULLY CONTROLLED LIMITS.

THE ROTUNDISTS ATTRACTED THE MOST ADVANCED SECTIONS OF THE WORKERS. THE REFORM BILL GARNERED THE ENTHUSIASTIC SUPPORT OF THE MAJORITY, BUT PRODUCED LITTLE BENEFIT.

SINCE 1760, THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE POPULATION HAD CHANGED. GREAT NEW TOWNS OF MANCHESTER, LEEDS, BIRMINGHAM AND SHEFFIELD HAD NO OR LITTLE REPRESENTATION.

THE REFORM BILL HAD TWO SIDES. ONE REGULARISED FRANCHISE AND GAVE THE VOTE TO TENANT FARMERS IN THE COUNTIES IN ORDER TO INCREASE THEIR LANDLORDS’ INFLUENCE. THE OTHER GAVE THE VOTE TO OCCUPIERS OF HOUSES VALUED OVER £10 PER ANNUM IN THE BOROUGHS - THE TOWN DWELLING MIDDLE CLASSES.

IT EVEN PROPOSED TO TAKE THE VOTE AWAY FROM A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE. THE BILL DID THOUGH SWEEP AWAY THE ROTTEN BOROUGHS.  THE AUGUST 1830 GENERAL ELECTION GAVE MORE SUPPORT TO REFORM, BUT NOT TO THE WHIGS. HOWEVER, IN NOVEMBER, WELLINGTON WAS FORCED TO RESIGN, AND THE WHIGS TOOK OFFICE JUST IN TIME FOR THE ODIOUS ACT OF STAMPING OUT REVOLTS IN THE COUNTRY.

IN THE FOLLWING MARCH, NEW PRIME MINISTER GREY AND LORD JOHN RUSSELL INTRODUCED THE REFORM BILL, WHICH WAS CARRIED BY A MAJORITY OF ONE. THE TORIES WERE LIVID BUT MANAGED TO DEFEAT THE WHIGS IN COMMITTEE, AND A NEW ELECTION WAS HELD IN THE MAY WHEN ALMOST EVERY SEAT WITH ANY KIND OF POPULAR FRANCHISE WAS CARRIED BY THE WHIGS, GIVING THEM A MAJORITY OF 136.

THE BILL WAS PASSED BY THE COMMONS BUT REJECTED BY THE LORDS.

SIGNIFICANTLY, IT WAS THE CHURCH, THROUGH THE BISHOPS, THAT MOST OF THE OPPOSITION CAME.

THE LORDS WERE GIVEN A LESSON TO THINK OVER. BRISTOL WAS BURNED DOWN. WELLINGTON AND THE BISHOPS’ HOUSE WERE ATTACKED, AND PETITIONS WERE RAISED ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY. DEMONSTRATIONS WERE STORMY.

IN DECEMBER, A NEW BILL WAS INTRODUCED AND PASSED BY A SMALL MAJORITY IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS. THE TORIES EMASCULATED THE BILL IN COMMITTEE, AND, BY THE MAY, THE GOVERNMENT RESIGNED AGAIN. WELLINGTON EVEN TRIED TO FORM A NEW GOVERNMENT BUT WAS UNABLE TO GAIN SUPPORT FROM EVEN DIEHARD TORIES AND RESIGNED AFTER NINE DAYS.

THE WHIGS RETURNED.  WILLIAM IV PROMISED TO CREATE ENOUGH PEERS TO FORCE THE BILL THROUGH THE LORDS. BEFORE THIS WAS ENACTED, THE BILL WAS PASSED INTO LAW IN 1832.

IT INCREASED THE ELECTORATE FOURFOLD TO 670,000, OUT OF A POPULATION OF 14 MILLION. ITS IMPORTANCE CAN HARDLY BE EXAGGERATED.

IT PLACED POWER IN THE HANDS OF INDUSTRIALISTS AND THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND THE LIBERAL PARTY WAS FORMED, WHICH DOMINATED POLITICS FOR 55 YEARS, HOLDING OFFICE FOR 41 OF THESE YEARS. THE TORIES WERE ONLY ABLE TO GOVERN BY CARRYING OUT LIBERAL POLICIES. WE HAD THE REPEAL OF THE CORN LAWS AND THE REFORM BILL OF 1867.

THERE WERE THREE THINGS THIS REFORM BILL DID. FIRSTLY, IT CREATED THE POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRED BY THE ECONOMIC REVOLUTIONS OF THE PRECEDING TWO GENERATIONS. SECONDLY, IT ALTERED THE POLITICAL BALANCE BETWEEN COMMONS, LORDS AND THE CROWN. THE COMMONS GAINED AT THE EXPENSE OF THE LORDS AND, HOWEVER FRAUDULENTLY, CLAIMED TO BE THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PEOPLE.

THE CROWN LOST ANY MEANS OF DIRECT INTERFERENCE IN PARLIAMENTARY POLITICS, BUT ITS IMPACT REMAINED STRONG. ALTHOUGH ITS OVERT POWER OF INFLUENCE CEASED, AS DID CORRUPTION, THROUGH COVERT LEVERAGE OVER THE RULING CLASSES, PRIVATE CONTACTS AND FOREIGN STATES, IT RETAINED ITS STANDING ABROAD, MORE SO THAN IN HOME AFFAIRS.

THE THIRD AND MOST IMPORTANT CONSEQUENCE OF THE PASSING OF THE REFORM BILL WAS UNINTENDED AND INDIRECT. THE WOKERS WHO HAD DONE MOST OF THE FIGHTING GAINED LEAST AND WERE EVEN EXCLUDED FROM THE BENEFITS. IT WAS NOT ACCIDENTAL THAT AFTER 1832 THE MASSES TURNED AWAY FROM PARLIAMENTARY POLITICS TO REVOLUTIONARY TRADE UNIONISM. WHEN THE LIMITATIONS OF THIS WEAPON HAD BEEN EXPOSED, THEY BUILT UP THE CHARTISTS MOVEMENT - THE FIRST INDEPENDENT POLITICAL PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS

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