Another new acquisition as part of our Heritage Lottery Fund Voting for Change project... The new Reform Bills: the franchise returns and the boroughs by R Dudley Baxter was published in London in 1866 with the backdrop of another Reform Bill widening the franchise going through Parliament.
It was a cautious Bill, which proposed to enfranchise "respectable" working men and exclude unskilled workers and what was known as the "residuum", those seen by MPs as the "feckless and criminal" poor. This was ensured by a £7 rental qualification which had been calculated as requiring an income of 26 shillings a week.
In this pamphlet Baxter is very exercised by the number of working class men who will potentially get the vote if the Bill goes through, which he believes to be much higher than others are stating.
'If this Bill passes', he writes, 'I do not see how it is possible to avoid the conclusion of the inevitable and speedy preponderance of the Working Classes'.
'Such a result will be welcome to a large party in the country, alarming to a still larger portion of thoughtful men. It is my province simply to point out the facts', he carries on somewhat disingenuously, 'without entering upon any discussion of their attendant good or evil'.
Baxter goes on to list boroughs in which the working classes will be 50% and over of electors - clearly a terrifying prospect... Salford comes in at number 3! And Manchester at 39.
He is also concerned that rents below £7 'will be raised in order to create votes'. In practice the evidence seems to be more that rental charges were consistently underestimated, to "keep out" potential voters...
In the event, the Bill was defeated, which was particularly important because the Liberal government which had proposed it then resigned.
In February 1867 Benjamin Disraeli, by then Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced his own Reform Bill into the House of Commons. He persuaded his party to vote for the Bill, which all but doubled the electorate, on the basis that those newly enfranchised would be grateful and vote Conservative at the next election. However the following year the Conservatives lost the general election.