Talk:Reform Act 1832/Archive 2

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Specifically disenfranchising women

There's a sentence at the end of the second paragraph about this. I noticed it just now when looking the article over with respect to some Cheshire editing I'm in the middle of. I think some expansion of this is required, since it would seem to casual readers to be so unexpected. For example, would it mean that before 1832 there were some circumstances under which women could vote? Weere there cases when women actually voted? (I have a hazy memory of a radio program on BBC Radio 4 that discussed this quite a few years ago, and vaguely recall that it mentioned attempts by women to vote, but I don't recall whether the program ever said they were successful.) In section 1.2, there are sentences that appear on a cursory reading to contradict this claim, and so I think it does need attention. In any case, verified references are needed for this and all other deficient sections, but I agree that it could make a good candidate for a Featured Article if it was attended to by someone with the time and means to verify its claims with suitable citations better.  DDStretch  (talk) 13:46, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

The point is the Act specifically disenfranchised women for the first time in referring to every male person of full age. Previously, I think it would be right to say, it was simply taken for granted that women could not vote. Chrisieboy (talk) 13:02, 1 May 2008 (UTC)
I can appreciate that this may have been the case, but it does surely need some explicit reference to verify it, as the inference that it was taken for granted that women couldn't vote seems to need one, and isn't consistent at face-value with at least one later section. See, for example, the following paragraph from section 1.2:

Statutes passed in 1430 and 1432, during the reign of Henry VI, standardized property qualifications for county voters. Under these acts, all men who owned freehold property or land worth at least forty shillings in a particular county were entitled to vote in that county. This requirement was never adjusted for inflation; thus, the amount of land that it was necessary for one to own in order to vote was gradually diminished over time.[5] Nevertheless, the vast majority of individuals were unable to vote; the size of the English county electorate in 1831 has been estimated at only 200,000.[6] Furthermore, the sizes of the individual county constituencies varied significantly. The smallest counties, Rutland and Anglesey, had fewer than a thousand voters each, while the largest county, Yorkshire, had more than twenty thousand.[7]

(Note it seems to suggest the franchise was originally given only to male 40 shilling freeholders, but it needs a citation, as it isn't clear that the 5 verifies this statement.) In this light, both portions of text need clarification. Part of the problem will be that the act as described refers to county voters, and there were also borough voters for borough seats, for which the franchise was sometimes apparently in practice different (I speak from knowledge of the case of Chester.) When the article is improved I think this definitely needs attention.  DDStretch  (talk) 13:56, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

I am going to delete the following line yet again

"The Act also specifically disenfranchised women, sparking the British suffrage movement."

- if I get blocked for doing so I shall think myself saved a lot of further trouble.

Here are my reasons for deleting it.

It is wholly misleading. The Act had many aims - preventing women from voting was not one of them. It merely confirmed an exclusion which had appertained for centuries. If the word "male" had not been placed before the word "person" in a number of places in the Act this would not have enfranchised women. No one at the time would have seen the act as denying women the vote - because I’m sure no one at the time thought that women had the right to vote - “an insult to common sense” the Dean of Gloucester, Joseph Tucker, described the idea as being in a pamphlet he wrote in 1783 - and I'm sure that view was widely held fifty years later.

If any observers did see the Act as denying women the right to vote - at the time that is - precise citations need to be made.

Similarly I have never heard before that the Reform Act galvanised support for women's suffrage. What organisations were founded to support women's suffrage in the wake of the Reform Act? What pamphlets or books were written advocating that women should have the right to vote because of their omission from the Reform Act? What letters were written to the newspapers on the subject? Is it possible to cite any such evidence?

I'm prepared to be corrected. If, however, the sentence is simply reinstated without any firm citations being made and I am blocked from deleting it again - well at least it will give me material for quite a good article.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 16:09, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

I agree with the removal, as it is highly misleading at the moment, and for the reasons stated by Ned. It also then removes the apparent inconsistency with the later sections. Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom unfortunately is not reliable as it has no references in the crucial parts for this discussion, though it does suggest other areas in which women might have been able to vote (toygfh again it is unreferenced and hence unreliable).  DDStretch  (talk) 22:38, 4 May 2008 (UTC)

I have been advised that if there is any truth in the contention that women voted in national elections prior to 1832 it will be found in one or all of the following works:-

Elaine Chalus, Elite Women in English Political Life c. 1754-1790 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005)

Judith S. Lewis, Sacred to Female Patriotism: Gender, Class, and Politics in Late Georgian Britain (NY: Routledge, 2003),

Kathryn Gleadle and Sarah Richardson, eds, Women in British Politics, 1760-1860: the power of the petticoat (NY: St Martin's Press, 2000

I live some distance from a good library so it will be some time before I can check these books. I would be very interested to learn if any of these books can verify that women voted in national elections prior to 1832 - and if so to what extent.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 08:30, 7 May 2008 (UTC)

As a reference was requested, Marcus, Jane (ed.) Women's Source Library Vol.VIII: Suffrage and the Pankhursts (p.132) Routledge, London, 2001 discusses this point. Chrisieboy (talk) 14:56, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

Much thanks for the above reference "Women's Source Library".

I have made a search for the year"1832"in this work.

Few references come up. But one on page 132 refers to a court case circa 1867 in which "Evidence was given prior to 1832 women had a vote." But what evidence was this? How many cases were there? Does it refer to parliamentary elections or parish vestry elections?

I would still maintain that few people in 1832, if any, saw the 1832 Reform Act as being a great injustice to women. It was only some decades later it was argued it had been by suffragists who wished to make a political case - on very thin evidence, I suspect.

Similarly the ardent campaigner for parliamentary reform prior to 1832, T. H. B. Oldfield, argued England had a democratic system of governance in the Saxon period until it was overturned by the nasty Norman and Britain should go back to it (at least I think that's what he argued) - I don't know how many people to day would uphold his view of Saxon England.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 15:02, 9 May 2008 (UTC)

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth — meaning, in this context, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true. Chrisieboy (talk) 15:44, 9 May 2008 (UTC)
At the risk of repeating myself, the primary contention is, that for the first time, the Act specifically disenfranchised women in referring to every male person, and not that women were, in fact, enfranchised prior to its passing. To disprove this you need to point to an earlier Act of Parliament which specifically referred to every male persons, omitting reference to women. If you cannot, you should revert your edit, albeit with the inclusion of the reference I have provided above. Chrisieboy (talk) 18:06, 9 May 2008 (UTC)
In the absence of further comments in a timely fashion, I have reinstated the deleted sentence, with the addition of the above reference. Chrisieboy (talk) 13:30, 13 May 2008 (UTC)
I think one would have to specify an eariler act which referred to at least some men only having the franchise, since before taht time, not all men had the vote anyway. It seems pedantic, but one often is forced to be so in matters like this where the excat words used matter. In that respect, the paragraph from section 1.2 seems to specify male 40 shilling freeholders as having the vote, which may well satisfy your requirement since it necessarily would exclude women. The problem is that it doesn't seem to be adequately referenced, though I note in many other reliable sources for areas of the country, they mention this franchise. In any case, doesn't some harmonisation now need to be done to render your added sentence and the sentence in section 1.2 consistent with each other? It seems there are two claims encapsulated in the added sentence: (a) the exclusion of women formally for the first time, and (b) the catalyst for the women's suffrage movement, and section 1.2 is relevant with respect to claim a.  DDStretch  (talk) 13:47, 13 May 2008 (UTC)
Thanks to Chrisieboy for altering his requirement, as I suggested. There is perhaps still the need to adjust the wording a little so that the claim given in section 1.2 does not appear to be inconsistent with it: I think unless this is done, the reviewers for FA status may well jump up and down. I am sure it can be done somehow. Comments?  DDStretch  (talk) 16:06, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
As an elaboration, in section 1.2, we have the sentence: "Under these acts, all (male) owners of freehold property or land worth at least forty shillings in a particular county were entitled to vote in that county." Now, this is for county seats. If the original acts just said "40s freeholders", then it is an inference that this would exclude women, and so a clarification could be to state somewhere that although women and males were not explicitly mentioned, the customary interpretation of the law was that women were excluded. That would solve the problem of apparent inconsistency for the county seats. If, instead, the acts explicitly mentioned "male" (or something similar), then it becomes a bit more tricky, but may still be possible to make more consistent, when taking into account the borough seats.

For the borough seats, one gets the impression that the varied terms of the franchise were such that women could have been given the franchise in some circumstances, but that the customary interpretationwas that they were not able, or were prevented from voting, or had to have their husbands, or some other male people voting in their place (this much comes from the sentence: "In others, the payment of scot and lot, a form of municipal taxation, or property ownership constituted the chief criterion", which could have included some women who owned property of a certain value (they did exist prior to 1832). In this case, it seems to me that the customary interpretation of the law might be that women were not able to vote, but it would be good to have some explicit quote to that effect.

Note again the rather troublesome need to pay pedantic attention to the form of words used. Taken together, if the above possibilities can be realised, then the two sections can be made completely consistent by adding a sentence to the effect that although males and females were not explicitly mentioned, in every case, the customary interpretation was that of those people who satisfied the criteria based on property, etc, only males would be allowed to vote. I think such clarification would certainly add positively to the article.  DDStretch  (talk) 16:37, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

I was recently been able to consult these two books:-

Judith S. Lewis, Sacred to Female Patriotism: Gender, Class, and Politics in Late Georgian Britain (NY: Routledge, 2003),

Elaine Chalus, Elite Women in English Political Life c. 1754-1790 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005)

The first appears to make no claims for any woman having voted in the period the book covers.

The second does say (page 35): "it is impossible to conclude categorically that eighteenth century never voted" which clearly means the author had not been able to find an example.

Chalus also states that Derek Hurst in his book "The Representation of the People" (pages 18 -19" has pointed out the position of seventeenth century women - propertied widows in particular - was unclear and that in this period it is possible to find examples of women who believed they could vote, of candidates who tried to poll them and election officials ready to accept. In Hurst's words this was due to the "primitive state of electoral law and custom."

I suspect we only know of the examples Hurst refers to because they were petitioned against and in all probability ruled against. These decisions would be on record in the House of Commons Journals.

Quite clearly for a hundred years or more before the 1832 Act women had not voted - or if they had not even historians of the period can find an example.

It could be said that the 1832 Reform Act confirmed the unfranchised status of women - but this seems a trite statement to make. I am therefore once more deleting the statement: "The Act also specifically disenfranchised women" as it implies great numbers of women lost a right they had previously enjoyed. This was not so and is therefore wholly misleading. I would be very surpassed to learn that any woman alive in 1832 had ever voted.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 06:20, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

A person who does not have the vote can not be disenfranchised - you can't take away something from someone they don't have. In case there should be any doubt that women did not vote prior to 1832 here is a particularly good source that says they couldn't:-

A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Elections by Arthur Male published in 1820. - "Women cannot vote in elections" Page 165 "The right of voting at elections for members of parliament, constitutes the much admired and envied liberty of an Englishman. Women, infants, idiots and madmen are absolutely disqualified from the exercise of this privilege." Page 242. This book can be accessed on line using Google Book Search which, indeed, is how I discovered it.

Can the statement that the 1832 Reform Act disenfranchised women please be deleted?

Ned of the Hills (talk) 18:29, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

"sparking the British suffrage movement"

Women's suffrage was advocated before 1832. One person to do so was the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. I am not aware of any advocation being specificly prompted by the 1832 Reform Act. The movement for women's suffrage appears not really to have taken off until some thirty years later. I am therfore deleting the phrase "sparking the British suffrage movement" from the second paragraph of the article.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 06:31, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

Please see the recently added section on women's suffrage and stop deleting content without proper discussion here. This behaviour is disruptive to the encyclopedia and demoralising to other editors. I suggest you read Rover, Dr. Constance Women's Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain, 1866–1914 (pp.3 & 32) London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967 before making any further contributions. Chrisieboy (talk) 09:16, 18 June

2008 (UTC)

Dear Chrisieboy,

I have again deleted the following line:-

“The Act also specifically disenfranchised women, sparking the British suffrage movement.”

The credibility of Wikipedia relies on errors being corrected. If I am going to be “blocked” for correcting an error I shall have cause to write an article on the subject and submit it to some journal. This will not be good for Wikipedia.

There are two elements to the sentence I have deleted - the disenfranchisement of women - and sparking the British suffrage movement.

To say that the 1832 Reform Act disenfranchised women is wholly misleading, as I have written before. It implies women often voted in general elections before 1832. Can you furnish one example of a woman voting in a general election in the hundred proceeding years before 1832? I’ve made some attempt to discover such an example but have failed to do so. I would be very interested to know of an example. I doubt there is one.

Re: “sparking the British suffrage movement”. That phrase has a link to another Wikipedia page - “Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom” - the second line of which reads “Both before and after 1832 establishing women's suffrage on some level was a political topic, although it would not be until 1872 that it would become a national movement....” The 1832 Act might have given some stimulus to the idea that women should be able to vote but it didn’t spark that idea nor cause the idea to grow in to a movement.

You have suggested I read Dr. Constance Rover's "Women's Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain, 1866–1914". You cite two specific pages. It would be nice if you could quote from those two pages. Does Dr. Rover suggest women voted before 1832? Does she suggest the idea of women voting was never raised prior to 1832? Significantly her period of study does not begin until 34 years after the 1832 Reform Act. If you re-insert this line you should, I think, feel yourself obliged to quote from this book.

Mise le meas

Ned of the Hills (talk) 13:28, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

Dr. Rover is quoted in the article under the sub-heading Women's suffrage. Please do not make threats; if you wish to write an article, you are free to do so and (if it's any good) someone might even publish it, but bringing this project into disrepute to make a half baked point is not acting in good faith, which is a pre-requisite for your participation here. Chrisieboy (talk) 16:00, 11 August 2008 (UTC)

Dear Chrisieboy,

First - let me apologies for badly drafting two of my sentences in my last message - I have since corrected them

What you have inserted into the article is simply bad history by

a) implying women had the vote before 1832 and

b) the 1832 Reform Act gave a significant push for women’s suffrage.

You would appear to be the sole author of the “Woman’s Suffrage” section in the Wikipeada piece on the 1832 Reform Act.

The Wikipedea piece on the 1832 Reform Act is now, therefore, I suspect the only article on the impact of the Reform Act that gives any emphasis to the Act’s bearing on women’s suffrage. I have two books completely devoted to the Reform Reform Act neither of which mentions women’s suffrage.

The Rover quote you refer to appears to be this:-

“The passing of the Bill seven years later enfranchising "male persons" was a more significant event however; it was the inclusion of the word "male," thus providing the first statutory bar to women voting, which provided a focus of attack and a source of resentment from which, in time, the women's suffrage movement grew.”

Note that phrase “in time”. Note too the dates of the court case you appear to have cited Chorlton v. Lings [1868] 4CP 374 and Regina v. Harrald [1872] 7QB 361.

Resentment again the phrase “male persons” appears to have been something that arose much later than 1832 - and I suspect was more to do with the 1867 Reform Act than the 1832 Reform Act.

I suspect also the following is a quote from Dr, Rover’s book

- “The claim for the women's vote appears to have been first made by William Thompson in 1825......”.

This is not not correct. Jeremy Benthan advocated votes for women - that is a universal franchise - in his “Plan for Parliamentary Reform in the form of a Catechism.” published in 1817 which can be viewed online using Google Books. I doubt he was the first advocate of universal voting rights even in print - but his doing so in 1817 clearly means Thompson and Wheeler’s work was not the first. This perhaps also demonstrates that Dr. Rover history of this period was not overly sound.

It would seem the “Woman Suffrage” section is drafted solely to quote Dr Rover. Its last paragraph appears to have little if anything to do with the 1832 Reform Act. It can be written more pithily as follows.

The 1832 Reform Act confirmed the exclusion of women from the electoral process by employing the phrase “male persons” in its wording. The removal of this phrase in legislation later became a focus of the women’s suffrage movement.

It would be better still, however, if the Woman's suffrage section was removed altogether, I think, because if the Reform Act does have any relevance to woman's suffrage - of which I'm still very much doubtful - its minor when compared to its impact on electoral reform in general.

Whether I shall draft a piece on my endeavours to correct this article depends on whether you have the ability to carry out your threat to “block” my editing Wikipedia.

Mise meas,

Ned of the Hills (talk) 17:14, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

That's not how Wikipedia works I'm afraid Ned. You should spend a little time reading up on policies and guidelines too. In the mean time, please refrain from undoing other people's edits repeatedly. If you continue, you may be blocked from editing in accordance with those policies. Note that the three-revert rule prohibits making more than three reversions in a content dispute within a 24 hour period. Additionally, users who perform a large number of reversions in content disputes may be blocked for edit warring, even if they do not technically violate the three-revert rule. Rather than reverting, discuss disputed changes here and build a consensus. The revision you want is not going to be implemented by edit warring. The Women's suffrage section was, in fact, drafted to expand on the lead and to address your concerns that that particular statement was unverified. It is not. The inference that (this means) women were necessarily enfranchised before the passing of the Act is your own and I hope that the section clarifies that was not the case. The assertion is simply that the Act "specifically disenfranchised women" (for the first time). Are you really suggesting it did not..? Kind regards, Chrisieboy (talk) 16:46, 16 August 2008 (UTC)
I accept that what has been added and reinstated by Chrisieboy is verified information and should stay unless discussed and concensus reached here, but I think I should bring up again the apparent inconsistency that needs attention if we read the beginning of subsection 1.2, where we read "Statutes passed in 1430 and 1432, during the reign of Henry VI, standardised property qualifications for county voters. Under these acts, all (male) owners of freehold property or land worth at least forty shillings in a particular county were entitled to vote in that county." It does seem that some clarification is needed here. Although I don't know the details, it could be that at that time, women were not allowed to own property, and so having a property qualifier meant that all the freeholders who then had the vote would necessarily be men, even if the act might not have explicitly limited the vote just to men. Is there a possible clarification that could be made here?  DDStretch  (talk) 17:42, 16 August 2008 (UTC)
If I understand correctly, the disenfranchisement of women was an accepted part of common law, but not of the statute law until after the Act. It might be best to revise the lead to say "explicitly disenfranchised" rather than "specifically disenfranchised," which I think better captures the sense of what happened. Choess (talk) 14:42, 11 September 2008 (UTC)
This is now done. In response to DDStretch's remarks, which I have just seen at Wikipedia:Editor assistance/Requests#Great Reform Act; this is a wiki, please feel free to make uncontentious changes yourself. Chrisieboy (talk) 09:31, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

The word "explicitly" perhaps suggests the reformers of 1832 were particularly keen to do women down which I think is far from the case. The Act merely reflected the electoral norms of the time - the bar they introduced was introduced more inadvertently than consciously I would say.

The word disenfranchised certainly can't be used as it implies women were enfranchised previously. I quote here Wikipedia's own definition of what disenfranchisement means - the revocation of the right of suffrage. The only people disenfranchised by the Act were non-resident borough electors and those electors in boroughs that lost the right to elect MPs - (if that is they didn't qualify as county elector afterwards or in the case of Newport, Winchelsea and Corfe Castle as borough electors for neighbouring boroughs.)

It could be said

The Act of course left women un-enfranchised - indeed by specifying that "male persons" only were to enjoy the franchise rights the Act, inadvertently perhaps, also introduced the first legislative bar to women voting - though it was hardly needed as women were completely excluded from the electoral process by common law already.

But I wonder if even this should be said? The bar the Act introduced was of no great significance - it changed nothing - it is worthy of note as a curious 'side effect' but that's about it

Militant suffragists born after the Reform Act, however, sought to argue differently (e.g. Charlotte Carmichael Stopes in her book "British Freewomen"). They sought to argue that the Act had indeed disenfranchised women because they then could argue then that women's rights should be restored. This was good polemics but it was not good history. Saying the Act disenfranchised women is repeating a spin put on history made for political ends.

What ever relevance the 1832 Act has for women's suffrage should be kept to the wikipedia page that deals with women's suffrage - not in an article on the 1832 Reform Act. Placed in an article on the 1832 Act it totally unbalances it. The Reform Act had a far bigger impact on chartism which hardly gets a mention in the article.


Ned of the Hills (talk) 20:22, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

Agitation for women's suffrage occurred some time after the 1832 Reform Act and I've discovered no evidence to support the idea that the 1832 Reform Act particularly inspired it. Here are some relevant quotes:-

".....the agitation for women's suffrage is usually dated from John Stuart Mill's 1865 campaign to be elected to parliament, although the subject had been discussed much earlier." This comes from page 1 of "Votes for Women". By June Purvis and Sandra Stanley Holton.

The work of Jane Lewis referred to is  : "Before the vote was won: arguments for and against women's suffrage 1864 - 1896" which she edited - see page 1.

Both works can be viewed on line using Google book search.

The following is an extract from the from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica - which can also be found online

"There has been considerable discussion as to whether women had constitutionally a right to vote in England prior to the Reform Act of 1832 (see Mrs C. C. Stopes, British Freewoman). The discussion, however, is one of purely antiquarian interest, and the Reform Act made quite clear what had certainly been the recognized custom before, by introducing specifically the word "male" in the new franchise law (2 and 3 Will. IV., cap. 45, sections 19 and 20). The earliest known handbill representing the modern "women's suffrage" movement in England dates from about 1847, and in 1857 the first society was formed in Sheffield, the "Sheffield Female Political Association," due largely to the work of a Quaker lady, Anne Kent of Chelmsford. In July of the same year Mrs John Stuart Mill published an article in the Westminster Review. The earliest outstanding figure, however, is Lydia Ernestine Becker (1827-1890),........In 1858 the Englishwoman's Journal was started, and by this time there was a vigorous agitation for the alteration of the law relating to the property and earnings of married women. Among the leaders of that movement were Barbara Leigh Smith (Mrs Bodichon) and Bessie Rayner Parkes (Madame Belloc). At the same time a famous group of women, Emily Davies, Miss Beale and Miss Buss (founders respectively of the Cheltenham Ladies' College and the North London Collegiate School) and Miss Garrett (Dr Garrett Anderson), Miss Helen Taylor (John Stuart Mill's stepdaughter) and Miss Wolstenholme (afterwards Mrs Elmy), discussed women's suffrage at the " Kensington Society." A new era began with the election in 1865, as member for Westminster, of John Stuart Mill, who placed women's suffrage in his election address. From that time the subject became more or less prominent in each successive parliament. Mill presented the first petition in May 1867. In 1868 the case of Chorlton v. Lings was decided against women applicants for the vote by the Court of Common Pleas, and a similar decision was given by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Scotland....."

Ned of the Hills (talk) 06:29, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

The Reform Act did not formalise the ban on women voting.

Sir J. D. Coleridge, Q.C. (afterwards Lord Chief Justice) who was counsel for the early women's suffrage movement in the the Chorlton v. Lings test case brought in 1868 said of the 1832 Reform Act:-

“If we compare the phraseology of the sections, I think we must conclude that where women already had votes, as freeholders or burgesses, they were meant to retain them; but that where fresh votes were conferred on copyholders, then women copyholders were not to acquire the right of voting...."

In short Coleridge was arguing if women had the right to vote prior to 1832 the Act did not take away that right.

This quotation is to be found on page 44 of "The Suffragette movement. An intimate account of persons and ideals", by Sylvia Pankhurst, 1935.

Pankhurst herself in the same book (page 30) was careful to say that the Act only prevented women from enjoying the franchise rights it introduced.

"The Act of 1832, by employing the term “male person,” for the first time in English history, expressly debarred women from exercising the franchise it created."

It can not be said therefore that the Act even formerly excluded women from the electoral process. It did not therefore provide a statutory basis for their exclusion.

Obviously a number of writers have said otherwise but such writers have clearly relied on the words of others or have not considered the Act carefully enough and have focused solely on its use of the words "male person".

Ned of the Hills (talk) 16:12, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

"as measured by their housing stock and tax assessments"

I've changed the Provisions section where it says all boroughs with a population of less than 2000 were abolished. This is a frequent mistake. Two boroughs Newton in Lancashire and Brackley in Northamptonshire actually had populations above 2000.

When the first Reform bill was drafted the list of boroughs to be disenfranchised was indeed all those with a population under 2000. The same measure was used for the second bill. In the third bill however, the one which succeeded, a different measure was used based on housing stock and the amount assessed taxes a borough had to pay. Equal weight was given to each factor. Some very small boroughs escaped the chop because they were relatively affluent - e.g. Petersfield which had a population of less than one and a half thousand. Newton which had a population of over, 2,100 got the chop because it was poor.

Similarly those boroughs that were to lose one of their members of parliament were initially to be all those boroughs whose populations fell betwixt 2000 and 4000. But when the new method of assessment was introduced it actually transpired there were seven boroughs that had populations above 4000 that got to loose a representative - at least as far as the 1831 census was concerned. It has to be borne in mind that the Boundary Commission surveyed all these boroughs to assess their true and proper boundaries before the final list was drafted. The Commission's assessments I'm sure in a number of cases revised the populations of some of these seven boroughs below 4,000 - but I'm satisfied (looking at the figures for housing which I have to hand) that at least two of these seven had populations above 4000 - namely St Ives and Clitheroe.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 20:21, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

The smallest boroughs to survive

I have changed this line:-

A few small boroughs, such as Totnes in Devon and Great Yarmouth

to this:-

A few small boroughs, such as Totnes in Devon and Midhurst in Sussex

because Midhurst was the smallest boroughs to survive - its population prior to reform was less than 1,500.

Great Yarmouth was a relatively large borough - population 23,332 - it was therefore of a similar size to Macclesfield which the Act created a two member borough. Maybe it has been confused with Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight which had a population of under 600 and was abolished.

Totnes had the second smallest electorate of a two member borough post reform - 217 (Harwich was the smallest with 214).

Midhurst had its boundaries extended post reform to include a large rural hinterland so it ended up with a population of 5,751 and an electorate larger than Totnes.

Totnes' boundaries were also extended but it had less of an impact on its population size and it remained under 4,000.

Arundal appears to have been the smallest single member borough post reform as its boundaries were left unaltered - it had a population under 3000.

Sources: Brock - The Great Reform Act and Philbín Parliamentary Representation.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 14:53, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

The not so constant views of Dr. Constance.

The claim that the Reform Act "sparked" the woman's suffrage movement appears to be based on the following words that appear on page 3 of Dr. Constance Rover' s book Women's Suffrage and Party Politcs in Britain, 1866–1914 published in 1967

"...[the Reform Act provided] the first statutory bar to women voting, which provided a focus of attack and a source of resentment from which, in time, the women's suffrage movement grew."

Having now seen the book in question I'm able to say that Dr. Rover provides no evidence at all to back up this claim or any explanation as to why she makes it.

The evidence Dr. Rover does provides (page 3-5) rather refutes this claim. She lists the existence of only seven texts printed between 1832 and circa 1865 that supported female suffrage. Of these seven she quotes three in full none mention the Reform Act though two (both printed in 1838) mention the corn laws and poor laws.

An indication that the movement actually started in the 1860s can be gleaned from Dr. Rover's statement that: "From 1866 onwards articles and discussions on women's suffrage become too numerous to mention."

Her account of the early stages of the women's suffrage movement makes it quite clear the early advocates of women's suffrage were neither much concerned with or focused on the wording of the 1832 Reform Act.

"Much was made, particularly in the early days of the agitation that some women were entitled to vote as the law stood...." (page 31)

"The first Act of Parliament specifically excluding women was the representation of the People Act in 1832 and it was contended (prior to 'Chorlton v Lings)[1868] that women not covered by it could claim the vote." (page 32)

It is very hard to see how if early suffragists were of the opinion that the 1832 Reform Act did not exclude women completely from the electoral process why they should be much exercised by it.

I suspect it was some time after the women's suffrage movement was established that the 1832 Reform Act became a focus of attention for some in the movement - principally for propaganda purposes. It is this later development Dr. Rover I think sought to refer to - unfortunately she did so so ineptly it led her to making an inaccurate assertion.

The opening sentence of Dr. Rover's work describes a completely different "soil" from whence the women's suffrage movement developed:-

"The women's suffrage movement grew out of the changing relationship between men and women in the nineteenth century and is part of the larger movement for women's emancipation."

A different explanation and no doubt a lot more accurate.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 19:51, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Prof. Dianh Birch of the University of Liverpool made the point on today's In Our Time, that inclusion of the word "male" acted as an early catalyst for the women's suffrage movement. The programme on the Great Reform Act, which is well worth listening to, can be found on the BBC website. Chrisieboy (talk) 23:47, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

I have only just now seen Chrissieboy's reference to Prof. Birch's comments on the In Our Time program. I too heard it and using the Listen Again facility was able to transcribes her exact words:-

"one of the interesting things about the 1832 Reform Act was that for the first time women were formally disqualified from voting - the term male enters the language of the bill - so that it begins in a very kind of quiet way to build the early pressure for the female vote."

I subsequently emailed Prof. Birch to ask what evidence there was to substantiate this claim. She was good enough to reply but did not provide any evidence. She pointed out that the wording of the 1832 Act was resented in the later part of the 19c, which is true - there is clear evidence for this. But evidence of women feeling aggrieved at the time appears to be absent.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 12:34, 13 June 2009 (UTC)

Women electors before 1832 - a long time before.

The first book referred to in the article is "Suffrage and the Pankhursts" by Jane Marcus. Vol. VIII - Women's Source Library.

Specific reference is made to page 132 - presumably to support the contention that women were disenfranchised by the 1832 Reform Act

The reference transpires to be but a brief statement made by Emeline Pankhurst:-

"Evidence was given [in the Chorlton v Lings case ] that prior to 1832 women had a vote."

I have asked before was there any truth to this claim?

Answer came there none.

However an answer is provided by Emeline's daughter Sylvia in her book "The Suffragette movement. An intimate account of persons and ideals"

Sylvia notes (on page 44) that given in evidence in the Chorlton v Lings case were copies of election returns bearing the signatures of women "dating from 13 Henry IV; 2 Henry V; 7 Edward VI; 1 and 2 Philip and Mary; 2 and 3 Philip and Mary. In the last case the only signatory was a woman."

Perhaps no more than five examples of women having voted for a member of parliament were therefore presented - all occurring hundreds years before 1832 - the last example being in 1555.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 17:31, 28 September 2008 (UTC)

Reasons for deletion

I intend once more to deleted the claim that the Reform Act disenfranchised women and sparked the women's suffrage movement. My justifications for doing so I've already given above but in summary they are as follows:-

a) Why it can not be said the Act disenfranchised women.

To say some one has been disenfranchised implies they were enfranchised previously - especially when talking about an Act of Parliament which did disenfranchise people.

Wikipedia's own definition of what "disenfranchised" means ( is as follows:-

Disenfranchisement or disfranchisement is the revocation of the right of suffrage (the right to vote) to a person or group of people......

In case there should be any doubt that women did not vote prior to 1832 the following quote from a book published in 1820 makes it quite clear they didnt:-

"Women cannot vote in elections" - page 165 A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Elections by Arthur Male published in 1820.

Moreover even if women had been able to vote prior to 1832 the Reform Act would not have disenfranchised them. The act only specified that women were not to enjoy the franchise rights it introduced. This was the legal opinion of Sir J. D. Coleridge, Q.C. who was counsel for the early women's suffrage movement in the Chorlton v. Lings test case brought in 1868. He said of the 1832 Reform Act:-

“If we compare the phraseology of the sections, I think we must conclude that where women already had votes, as freeholders or burgesses, they were meant to retain them; but that where fresh votes were conferred on copyholders, then women copyholders were not to acquire the right of voting...."

This quotation is to be found on page 44 of "The Suffragette movement. An intimate account of persons and ideals", by Sylvia Pankhurst, 1935.

b) The Act did not spark the British suffrage movement.

According to the Oxford Dictionary a "movement" is - "a group of people working together to advance their shared political ideas"

If the Act really did prompt the development of a women's suffrage movement it would have begun immediately afterwards - in fact it began much later.

".....the agitation for women's suffrage is usually dated from John Stuart Mill's 1865 campaign to be elected to parliament, although the subject had been discussed much earlier." page 1 of "Votes for Women". By June Purvis and Sandra Stanley Holton.

Moreover Dr. Constance Rover in her book Women's Suffrage and Party Politcs in Britain, makes it quite clear also the early advocates of women's suffrage were neither much concerned with the wording of the 1832 Reform Act:-.

"Much was made, particularly in the early days of the agitation that some women were entitled to vote as the law stood...." (page 31)

It is very hard to see how if early suffragists were of the opinion that the 1832 Reform Act did not exclude women completely from the electoral process why they should be much exercised by it.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 11:38, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Please don't! Chrisieboy (talk) 11:41, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

I have investigated exhaustingly, and really quite needlessly, to discover if this sentence has any truth. It doesn't. If I were to leave it stand then the article is in error. I think you should have the good grace yourself to cut it.

mise le meas,

Ned of the Hills (talk) 12:07, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

I believe the sources given by Ned cast sufficient doubt on the sentence to requre it to be deleted. Although it was restored with a summary that mentioend "no consensus to delete" this is not an adequate reason under the circumstances, as there is also no consensus to retain the material, merely a plea by Chrisieboy of "please don't" which is not sufficient. The reason why it should not be deleted needs to be given to rebut the points made. Consequently I have re-deleted it pending sufficient reasons being given here to re-include it.  DDStretch  (talk) 19:33, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

You are starting from a false premise; to say someone is disenfranchised does not necessarily mean they were previously enfranchised. The OED (2nd ed.) defines disenfranchise as "v. (1) trans. to deprive of civil or electoral privileges; to disfranchise." In turn, "v. trans. to deprive of the rights and privileges of a free citizen of a borough, city, or country, or of some franchise previously enjoyed (b) esp. to deprive (a place, etc.) of the right of returning parliamentary or other representatives; to deprive (persons) of the right of voting in parliamentary, municipal, or other elections (c) transf. and fig. to deprive of or exclude from anything viewed as a privilege or right." For the record, I did not add the offending sentence to the lead, but I think it (and section 1.2.1) should stand.
The information is otherwise verified and stays — unless, of course, you build a consensus to remove it. In the mean time, as I have neither the time nor the energy for relentless circular arguments, enjoy talking to yourself... Chrisieboy (talk) 17:08, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

The purpose of an Act of Parliament is to implement change. The Reform Act certainly introduced change and did deprive some electors of their voting rights - e.g. most electors in rotten boroughs and non-resident freemen in other boroughs. It did not deprive women of the vote as for over 250 years they had been wholly un-enfranchised. To speak of an act of parliament disenfranchising anyone has to imply they had the vote beforehand.

Please note by the way, as I'm sure you have,it is now mentioned in the first paragraph in the "Effects" section that the Act specified that males only were to enjoy the franchise rights it introduced.

mise le meas

Ned of the Hills (talk) 21:37, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

1. "By the end of the nineteenth century, voting was more or less a right for all men over the age of 21, but women were completely disenfranchised." Blacksell, Mark Political Geography (p.116) Routledge, London, 2005.
2. "These concessions [beginning in 1832] were aimed at incorporating the previously disenfranchised into politics because the alternative was seen to be social unrest, chaos, and possibly revolution." Acemoglu, Daron and Robinson, James A. Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (excerpt, p.4) Cambridge University Press, 2005.
3. "Antislavery organisations politicised many, encouraged participation in the emerging democracies of the English speaking world, and offered a route to political participation for several disenfranchised groups: women in particular were active in abolitionist circles from the start." Carey, Brycchan Slavery and Romanticism in Literature Compass 3.3 (pp.397-408) 2006.
4. "For one thing, the women and ethinic minorities continued to be disenfranchised." Kiiza, Dr. Julius The Role of Opposition Parties in a Democracy Makerere University, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, 25 August 2005.
Chrisieboy (talk) 15:55, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

In all the citations you've provided the word disenfranchised is used as an adjective not as a verb.

When used as a verb (as in the article) it has to mean the right to vote has been taken away.

What you are actually trying to argue, I'm sure, is that the Reform Act put in to statutory form the exclusion of women from the electoral process.

This however, was not the view of the early supporters of female suffrage (see above). They believed the Reform Act left women with voting rights. Had they not believed this the Chorlton v Lings case would not have been brought.

To quote Dr. Constance Rover's book (page 33). "Prior to the decision of 1868 [i.e. the Chorton v Lings case] women claimed that they has the right to vote and had been prevented from using it by custom; after 1868 they contended they had been deprived of it by an unfair legal decision."

That "unfair legal decision" appears to have placed no reliance on the 1832 Reform Act. That's to say all I've been able to discover about the decision on the internet makes no mention of the 1832 Reform. The judges in the case seem to have justified the exclusion of women from the electoral process on "uninterrupted usage". (Google the names Willes Bovill Byles Keating Chorlton Lings to bring up what appears to be the fullest account of the decision on the net.)

The significance of the Reform Act as regards women's suffrage is that it had no significance at all! - not until, that is, many decades afterwards when, for political reasons, militant suffragist with a poor grasp of history, it would seem, began claiming the Act had disenfranchised women. Their re-invention of history should not be repeated in the article.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 09:23, 4 October 2008 (UTC)

This is getting silly. Please restore the information you have removed before I do. As I said before, the revision you want is not going to be implemented by edit warring. I am also a little concerned that your only contribution to the project appears to revolve around this single issue, including "flooding" this page. Chrisieboy (talk) 13:53, 4 October 2008 (UTC)

Why section 1.2.1 should be cut

Almost nothing in this section is relevant to the Reform Act. The information is adrift - it should really be in an article on women's suffrage. In fact the information is almost entirely taken from a book on the subject: "Women' Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain" by Dr Constance Rover - pages 2 and 3 and 224

Section 1.2.1 comes under a description of the electoral system pre-1832 - the one relevant thing it could say - that women couldn't vote - it doesn't say!

What it says is:-

a) there were supporters of female suffrage prior to 1832

True. But did such support bring about or shape the Reform Act? The answer is no - so it is not relevant to this article but an article on women's suffrage.

b) It notes that the phrase "male persons" was used in the Act which by implication placed a legislative prohibition on women voting. If this is to be mentioned it should be mentioned in the Effects section - 4.1 - which is now the case.

and finally

c) there is a paragraph dealing with events that ocurred long after the Reform Act - viz the Interpretation Act 1850 the Chorlton v. Lings case [1868] and the Regina v. Harrald case [1872] . These events have no direct link to the 1832 Reform Act. This information has no place in this article but is very relevant to an article on woman's suffrage.

For all these reasons, simply on the grounds of good editorship, this section should be cut.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 11:55, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

I don't know what your problem is with this. As you are aware, 1.2.1 expands on the sentence you object to in the lead. A note on the situation of women is relevant to a section discussing the franchise in the unreformed House. I have, however, moved the paragraph you refer to at (c) above to footnotes. Chrisieboy (talk) 21:41, 3 October 2008 (UTC)


Just visiting; very nice article. When are you nominating it for FA status? Tony (talk) 08:52, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

I believe there are factual issues that need sorting out first. They are discussed in some of the preceding sections.  DDStretch  (talk) 09:20, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Borough Franchises.

Franchise rights varied considerably even within the six broad gropings the article lists. Here are some of the reasons why:-

Some boroughs allowed non-resident electors to vote others didn't. Usually anyone in reciept of poor relief was prevented from voting - but I know of one borough (Hindon) in which even those on poor relief were allowed to vote and I think there may have been others. Some boroughs required electors to have been resident a year and a day before they could vote - in others (Preston seemingly) just a night's residence qualified. In Bishop's Castle electors also had to be 'legally settled' (that is entitled to poor relief if they had need of it.) In some freemman boroughs the freemanship of a borough was hereditary - in others the existing body of electors appointed freemen. In Cricklade copyholders were electors - a right unique to that borough.

Ned of the Hills (talk) 11:04, 4 October 2008 (UTC)

Composition of the Commons - second paragraph.

I have just now radically redrafted this paragraph. I hope it's considered an improvement.

I have cut this reference in doing so - May (1896), vol. I, p. 329. - which is unfortunate because it's a good reference. But I can't immediately see how to integrate it.

The list of boroughs re-enfranchised in the seventeenth century is to be found in "A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Elections" by Arthur Male published in 1820.* That parliamentarians were responsible for all of them after 1620 I know is correct but I can't find a ready citation.

  • NB - A PDF of Male's book can be obtained using Google book search - the list I've referred to is on pages xlix and l (or 464 and 465 using Google's pagination).

Ned of the Hills (talk) 16:51, 23 October 2008 (UTC)

Hi All, just pointing out a comment I made above. I have no doubt the content of the article is true (and well written), but some of the references dont match. Þjóðólfr (talk) 11:17, 21 July 2009 (UTC)