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Late Victorian Era Politics: Monarchy, Parliament, Houses, Right to vote

The English government under the rule of Queen Victoria was a monarchy which also comprised of a Parliament. The Parliament was a Bicameral legislature which consisted of The House of Lords and The House of Commons. The said houses would meet separately and passed a bill as law by majority votes. However, for the bill to passed, it was necessary that both the houses accent to it.

The reform act of 1832

The members of the House of Lords not elected by public voting and Lord Chancellor was appointed to supervise its activities. On the other hand, the members of the House of Commons were elected by public voting. In the initial years of the Victorian period, there were two strong political parties, The Whigs and the Tories (Conservatives). These were the first political parties in England who dominated the political field throughout the Victorian reign.

The Whigs were in favor of growth of the Parliament and wanted to restrict the royal power. Towards the end of 1850, the Whigs became Liberals. They were of the opinion that Parliament should all the decisions and all men should have a right to vote and elect members. In 1858, Lord Palmerston, the Prime Minister of England resigned from his post after the Orsini plot against Napolean III, the French emperor fell out.

Tories, the other dominant party was in favor of monarchy. Many rich officials belonging to high posts were members of this party. Their view about voting was exactly opposite to that of the Whigs. Tories believed that only those men who were rich and owned large plots of land should have the right to vote.

Acts of legislation gave more of the working and scope for the middle class to vote. The said Acts were known as the Reform Acts which were passed in 1832, 1867 and 1884. In 1760s William Pitt advocated Parliamentary reform. One of the important political unions which supported the reforms was the Birmingham Political Union headed by Thomas Attwood.

The first Reform Act was represented in 1832 by Lord John Russell to the House of Commons. According to this Act, men who owned a house worth than ten pounds. This meant that on an average one in five men would get the voting right. The 1867 Reform Act provided for the right to vote to all those who owned a house, irrespective of its value. It increased the number of voters.

The 1884 Act included poor people’s right of voting. Farmers and rural workers were given voting right under this act which instantly escalated the number of voters. However, women had no right to vote in either of the three Act.

But the situation changed in 1918 when an act was passed which gave them the right to vote equal to men. As per this act women, over 30 years of age and men over 21 years of age could vote. The Equal Franchise Act,1928 gave the right to vote to all who were 21 years of age.

The right to vote gave social power to the middle class, the working class, the framers. This also gave them the power to influence the politics and Parliament. It was felt that women should not be a part of politics of business and so their right to vote was crushed until the act of 1918 was passed which gave them right to vote. The women felt that to participate in politics and business, education is necessary.

Queen Victoria never supported the concept of education to women. She felt that if they were to be on the same footing as men, it would be against the rules and principles of morality.

Despite all this, a few schools and colleges for girls were started like North London Collegiate School for Girls, Queens College in London, Cambridge colleges Girton and Newnham. The Whigs supported this change. Such was the political scenario in the later years of the Victorian Era.