This is an abstract of the 1832 Reform Act – or to give its official title, the Act to Amend the Representation of the People in England and Wales. The Act was intended to ‘correct divers abuses’ in the electoral system, by regulating who could vote and how they were represented.
The frontispiece of this item shows William IV surrounded by four men who were instrumental in campaigning for and drafting the Reform Act: the Prime Minister Earl Grey, Lord John Russell, Lord Brougham and Lord Althorp.
Before 1832, whether a male individual was able to vote depended on a number of factors, including whether he owned property, lived in a county or a borough, or paid certain taxes. The organisation of boroughs was particularly haphazard. Some densely-populated boroughs in industrial towns had no MPs to represent them, whereas other ‘rotten’ boroughs had more than one MP representing fewer than 10 voters. Women were unable to vote.The first sections of the Reform Act contain lists of boroughs that would no longer send members to Parliament (usually because they contained too few voters) and new boroughs that would have representation.