His Majesty's Speech on the Reform Bill - A pamphlet from the Enoch Wood scrapbook

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Description:The Reform Bill was a momentous occasion in local and national politics.

A momentous occasion

All over the country, so-called 'rotten boroughs' were abolished. These were rural areas that returned their own MPs despite limited populations.

In their place, new boroughs were created in the growing industrial areas like Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.

In practice, this meant a shift of power away from sparsely-populated rural areas, towards the urban powerhouses of the industrial revolution.

What was new?

This pamphlet details the King's speech to both Houses of Parliament, as well as the new laws brought in by the Reform Act itself:

"The Reform Act, sanctioned by His Majesty:

  • Abolishes all Rotten Boroughs

  • Gives Members to Forty large Towns, now Unrepresented, and to Thirty Counties

  • Gives the Right of Voting to Leaseholders, Copyholders and Householders

  • Preserves the Right of Voting to all who now enjoy it, and to the Sons of Freemen and Apprentices

  • Disenfranchises no living man - but Enfranchises at least Five Hundred Thousand"

  • Who exactly were the 500,000 new voters?

    Although, Stoke-on-Trent received two MPs, very few of its people actually received the vote at this time.

    Most new voters owned or rented property of relatively high value, meaning the electors of Stoke-on-Trent remained very middle class.

    Because they owned little property, most working people were still not deemed eligible for the vote.

    The arguments would rumble on for many years, with many politicians argung that it was unsafe to give most men the vote, let alone women.

    Further Reform Acts in 1867 and 1884 gave more men the vote. Many more men, and women, would have to wait until February 1918 for their opportunity.

    Women did not receive equal voting rights until 1928.

    About this document

    This document was collected by Burslem pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood and is now among the collections at Stoke-on-Trent Museums.


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