How Democratic Was Britain in 1867

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Democracy is government by the people, for the people. The second reform act of 1867 advanced Britain on its path to democracy although there remained many undemocratic aspects in the governance of Britain.

The 1867 reform bill did many things to increase democracy in Britain. It increased the electorate by a million meaning that one in three adult males were enfranchised. The act also redistributed seats in recognition of the shift from a large rural population to an urban one. 52 seats were abolished and these seats were given to new cities such as Leeds and Manchester and the larger counties gained MP's as all counties, regardless os size getting 2 MPs was deemed unfair.

Despite the changes which the second reform act brought, Britain was far from democracy in 1868. Although the number of people who could vote had increased by a million to one in three adult males this still meant that two thirds of men could not vote and women could not vote. Democracy is rule by the people so if the majority of 'the people ' can't vote then rule by the people cannot

be achieved. The reason why so few men could vote was that voting rights were still linked to property. In the boroughs adult male householders could vote after one years residence but in the counties the voting qualification remained the same from 1832. This meant that those newly enfranchised were mainly in the towns whilst their counterparts in the counties were at a disadvantage until this was rectified in 1884.

1867 did not address the problem of the relatively
small number of people who were able to
become MPs. There was still a property qualification which excluded many but more importantly was the fact that there was no payment for MPs. This meant that the vast majority of MPs were from the aristocracy. The middle classes could not afford to be away from their businesses for long periods of time as there was a possibility of their business collapsing without them there.

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