Document from the Enoch Wood scrapbook - "Englishmen! Answer These Plain Questions."

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Date:1830 - 1832 (c.)

Description:One of the most keenly contested issues of the early 1830s was the proposed Reform Act.

The Reform Act

The politician Earl Grey wanted to re-jig the parliamentary system to make sure that growing industrial areas were properly represented in Parliament.

These areas were places like Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bolton and Stoke-on-Trent itself.

Up to 1831, the Potteries had been represented by the MP for Staffordshire.

Rotten Boroughs

Grey also wanted to shift power away from 'rotten boroughs.'

These were often rural areas that still had their own Members of Parliament even though fewer and fewer people were living there. Poorer farm workers were moving to towns in search of factory work.

In some cases, most or all of the land in rotten boroughs was owned by one wealthy gentleman. It seems difficult today to argue that the situation was fair.

"Answer these Plain Questions..."

The authors of this notice issue a stark challenge to the electors of the new towns.

Do you wish to be governed by your Worst Enemies?

They are described as "the men who bragged of corruption and openly said it was lawful."

In other words, they are the very landowning aristocrats and gentlemen whose power would be threatened by the Reform Act.

About this document

This document was collected by pottery manufacturer Enoch Wood and is now among the collections at Stoke-on-Trent Museums.


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