The British electoral system in the early 1830s was outdated, unrepresentative and highly prone to corruption and patronage. The electorate was a small percentage of the population, and the assortment of boroughs and counties varied massively in the size of the electorate they contained. Each county elected two members until 1826 (when Yorkshire gained two more), but there were notorious ‘rotten’ boroughs that also elected two MPs with only a handful of voters. Worse still, the majority of boroughs were in the ‘pocket’ of one or other of the great aristocratic landowners, the MPs their puppets. Despite entrenched Tory opposition led by the Duke of Wellington, the Whig government of Lord Grey managed to pass the Reform Act of 1832. Although not comprehensive, the Act enlarged the franchise, improved voter registration, reduced voter fraud and adjusted the electoral system to more fairly represent the massive growth and shift in population since the Industrial Revolution.
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