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Reform Act of 1832

The British Reform Act of 1832 introduced the first changes to electoral franchise legislation in almost one hundred and fifty years. It met strong opposition from the Tories, who had defeated earlier bills, and it required pressure on William IV and the resignation of Earl Grey's Whig government to pass.

The Act extended the franchise into the middle classes. Propertied male adults paying a annual rent of 10 or more (2 in the rural counties) could vote. The vote was also extended to those with copyhold tenure of 10 or more and leaseholders or tenants-at-will paying 50 in rent. These changes increased the electorate from 435,000 to 652,000 (1 in 7 males) and gave greater political influence to urban centres in the north while leaving the rural areas under aristocratic control. The Act also abolished 56 rotten boroughs and removed one MP from boroughs with less than 4,000 inhabitants.

About 300,000 more men were able to vote.

However, parliament was still under the thrall of the gentry and there was still great disparity between the size of constituencies. Despite the hopes of Lord John Russell that further reform would never be necessary, popular pressure led to greater changes.

See also: Reform Act of 1867, Reform Act of 1884, Representation of the People Act, 1918, Representation of the People Act, 1928, Representation of the People Act, 1948, Representation of the People Act, 1969.