Social and Political Leadership in Preston 1820-60: chapter 2.4

Politics and Preston Society 1826 to 1832

See also: Nigel Morgans’s Desirable Dwellings

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4. Society and the Politics of Parliamentary Reform 1830-32

D.C. Moore has argued for a re-interpretation of the 1832 Reform Act in terms of the sociological premises of its architects, suggesting that it was intended as a cure for social change rather than a concession to it (97). Although his work concentrated mainly on the counties, and on social and political connections which were clearly vertical and hierarchical, his findings are probably much more applicable to urban politics than he himself seemed to think. Even in Preston’s huge popular electorate, the ‘free and independent elector’ was an ideal in the minds of only a minority of moralising liberals, such as Joseph Livesey (98). His opposite, the deferential voter, was explicitly recommended by the Tory Pilot (99), and while freedom and independence may have been attempted in the early 1830s, thereafter collective political behaviour became both easier to manage and more conspicuous in practice, and its vertical integration probably more marked.

The political alignments and divisions caused in Preston by the Reform question dissected the community with delicate accuracy. In the early spring of 1831 public meetings show an open community giving superficially united political support for the reform of parliament. But by December of 1832 the reforming and popular parties were not only divided but split internally. The first result of the Reform Act in Preston was a huge victory for Whig and Conservative candidates of the traditional landed ruling class. In the course of this development political conflict overflowed into poor law affairs.

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97. D.C. Moore, ‘Concession or Cure: the Sociological Premises of the First Reform Act’, Hist. J. IX, 1. (1966) p.43; and other works cited in introduction.
98. Joseph Livesey, The Moral Reformer, Vol. II, No.9, 1 September 1832, pp.261-5.
99. Pilot 14 August 1830.

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