The Age of George III

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The Society for the Supporters of the Bill of Rights (SSBR)

In 1769, following the Middlesex election fiasco when John Wilkes was prevented from taking his seat in parliament even though he had come top of the poll on four separate occasions, a group of young lawyers and merchants formed the SSBR. The movement was led by John Horne Tooke.

The immediate aims of the SSBR were:

Before long, they emerged as advocates of extensive reform programmes including legal reform. They condemned General Warrants and the taxation of the American colonists; they criticised the refusal of judges to allow juries to decide what constituted libel. They also took up reforms of a political nature, calling for legislation to exclude all office holders from the House of Commons. They demanded a secret ballot, shorter parliaments and an end to bribery in general elections.

The SSBR printed pamphlets, broadsheets and political leaflets containing their demands. The organisation wanted the government to be more answerable to the people and more democratically representative. It has been said that Chartism had its early roots in the demands and methods of the SSBR, which brought new methods into popular politics: it

Now public opinion was being heard, a new dimension was added to politics.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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