The Age of George III

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Pitt's 1785 Reform Bill

Pitt had read Bentham's Fragment on Government (1776), and realised that Constitutional reform was needed. This applied especially to the re-allocation of parliamentary representation. Pitt was the first PM to attempt to update the Constitution, which has been seen as indicating his progressive outlook. Perhaps more importantly for Pitt, it would win the support of the country gentry and satisfy the still-existing Country Associations which backed reform. Pitt relied on the support of the Independent Gentlemen and he had promised to introduce some measure to reform parliament. Interestingly, he chose to do this as a Private Member so that - should the Bill be defeated - the government would not have to resign. The 1785 Reform Bill was proposed that:

There was no suggestion that industrial towns would get representation, but new ports like Liverpool and Bristol would, since they were bigger and more important as yet. The commercial interest was still more important than manufacturing interest and Pitt recognised the need to support commerce. The Bill was defeated 248 : 174 because Fox and his supporters, the borough-mongers and placemen killed it. These men feared a loss of influence and said there was a danger of giving in to public opinion.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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