Victorian Era Politics: right of vote, women’s rights, laws, parliament

Continued from Victorian-era politics

However, women had no right to vote in either of the three Acts. 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.

The Parliament after the French Wars in 1815 had passed important laws known as the Corn Laws. These laws were passed to curb the import of corn from outside and thus reduce the competition within the country. The law stated that price of the domestic corn should be at 80 shillings per quarter before any corn from outside is imported. However, the prices of the corn shot up and people had to spend more on food than anything else.

The prices, in turn, affected the market as not everyone could buy manufactured goods. As a result, the price of domestic corn was brought down to 73 shillings per quarter. The corn laws were however supported by most of the Tories party members. The purchase of domestic corn proved profitable to the landowners. Most of the members of the Tories party were rich and made more money from the domestic corn.

The Whigs completely opposed the corn laws. They represented the common people in the Parliament and felt that these laws were enacted to exploit the commoners. They were of the view that common people spend more on buying corn than on any other goods and this has affected their financial condition. In 1836, Anti-Corn Law Association was formed in London to protest against the exploitation.

It received a very little response. In 1839, the association was renamed as Anti-Corn Law League and was headed by Richard Cobden and John Bright. The League was established in Manchester. It made country-wide campaigns to repeal the laws.

Richard and John even tried to pressurize the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel to repeal the laws. The pressure was mounting on Sir Robert Peel but he did not want to repeal the corn law owing to economic and political pressures. Thus was the political situation in England during the Victorian times.

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