Short Essay on the Significance of Reform Act of 1832



The Reform Act of 1832 introduced some revolutionary changes in the representative system and franchise system of England. In the constitutional history of England, it proved to be an era of significance. Tory members named it a revolutionary act because it shook up the roots of ancient conventions.

Famous historian, Trevelyan has called it, 'The Modern Magna Charta'. In fact the first Reform Bill was a great document of 82 provisions. The following were some of the significant effects of the Reform Act of 1832:

1. This Act enhanced the franchise threefold and the total number of the voters reached the figure of five lack. Thus, one person out of every 24 of the total population now came to possess the right to vote.

2. As a result of this Reform Act the political power slipped into the hands of the middle class in the towns and the rural area also. The landlords and farmers continued to maintain their supremacy in the counties.

3. The landlords were compelled to cooperate with the middle class people due to their decreased influence. Now it becomes essential for them to look after the interests of the voters.

4. The members of the Whig party and the liberals played a prominent role in passing this Act; therefore their supremacy was established in place of the Whigs.

5. It adversely affected the powers and rights of the king and the nobles. It also made it abundantly clear that the powers of the king had no significance in comparison to the powers of the House of Commons. In case of conflict, the king was forced to support the House of Commons and he had to act according to the wishes of the prime minister.

6. The principle of change was approved by the politicians due to this Reform Act. Real democracy was established in England after the Act of 1832 and the way to parliamentary reform was opened up.

7. It increased the significance of the House of Commons and it was organised on democratic principles; hence it became a representative body of the people.

8. It weakened the power of the lords and they lost the sympathy and respect of the people by opposing this Act.

9. This act changed the outlook of the Tories and the reformists began to assemble in the Whig party which came to be known as a liberal party.

Demerits of Reform Act

Undoubtedly, this was a revolutionary Act but the reformists were not satisfied with the Reform Act. They were of the opinion that it would be a final settlement of the demands for the reforms and that it would be a check on the growth of democracy for ever. It had the following demerits:

1. All the adult people were not given the right of franchise. Labourers, farmers and women were deprived of the right of vote.

2. This Act did not make any arrangement for secret ballot system, equality of constituencies and payment of salary to the members of the Parliament.

3. This Act failed to remove corruption and bribery.

In spite of all its merits and demerits, this Act was a great achievement. The Whigs continued making reforms for 21 years to come, with the help of this Act and improved the condition of the people and the country. Famous historian Green has written about it:

"The Act made the House of Commons the ruling and the choosing House, and the dashing principle laid down by Pym two hundred years before was now finally attested as one of constitution that in case of obstruction the Commons would leave the kingdom alone."

Ram say Muir also observes:

"The House of Commons became truly representative of the Nation. The Crown lost the power of influencing the Ministry and the Lords also received a terrible blow."