[1832] - Reform Bill receives royal assent

Following the decisive victory of the Whigs at the 1831 general election, Grey reintroduced the Reform Bill to parliament. Although its opponents worked to retard its progress, the bill was eventually passed by the House of Commons by a majority of over a hundred votes. In the House of Lords, however, the Tory peers abstained from the vote, whilst the Lords Spiritual (the group of twenty-six bishops who also served in the Lords) voted against the bill. As a result, the Second Reform Bill was defeated by forty-one votes, provoking violence and demonstrations throughout the country.

Despite the defeat in the Lords, Grey’s administration continued in its efforts to reform parliament. As the new session began in December 1831, the Third Reform Bill was introduced. This was passed by an even larger majority in the House of Commons, before being sent up to the Lords. Recognizing the potential consequences of a second rejection of the bill, the Lords worked to radically alter its essential character. Consequently, Grey’s government determined that the only solution was to create a large number of new peerages in order to secure the passage of the bill. William IV, however, refused to do this, and on 9 May 1832 Grey resigned as Prime Minister. The Tory statesman, the Duke of Wellington, was called upon to form a new government as the rest of the nation appeared to be on the brink of revolution. In fact, such was the extent of the popular uprising that the king was left with no alternative but to change course. On 15 May he recalled Grey to office and agreed to appoint enough new peers to secure the passage of the bill. Eventually, the opponents of the bill in the House of Lords relented and the Great Reform Act of 1832 received royal assent.

Useful Links and Further Reading