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The Politics of English Dissent, 1832–1848*

  • R. G. Cowherd (a1)


During the two decades after the passage of the great Reform Bill, the protestant Dissenters exerted a large influence in English politics. They were the staunch advocates of both liberal and humanitarian reforms. They first desired to abolish slavery. After that they wished to expand the areas of religious liberty to achieve a better social status for both themselves and the Irish Catholics. They strove diligently for a national system of religious education, comprehensive enough to include all the sects. Inasmuch as free trade appeared to them to be corollary of religious liberty and in keeping with their humanitarian sentiments, they joined enthusiastically in the crusade against the Corn Laws. Though they did not achieve all their aims, they did much to transform the Whigs into a Liberal party more representative of the middle classes, and to move the whole nation along the road from aristocracy to democracy.



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1. Halévy, E., History of the English People, (New York, 1950) III, 63.

2. Maccoby, S., English Radicalism, (London, 1935) 18321852, p. 72.

3. London, Times, 12 6, 1832.

4. Evangelical Magazine, 1832, p. 308; and Baptist Magazine, 1832, p. 581.

5. London, Times, 11 7, 1832.

6. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, XXIV, 714.

7. Ibid., XXV, 886.

8. Ibid., XXIII, 606.

9. Greville, Charles C. F., A Journal of the Reigns of George IV and William IV, II, 309310.

10. Lord Melbourne Papers, p. 209.

11. Parker, Charles, Sir Robert Peel, II, 284

12. For a summary of his Ministry, see Peel, to Croker, , 04 14, 1835, Croker Papers, II, 72.

13. Eclectic Review, 3rd series, XIII, 53.

14. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, XXVIII, 78.

15. Webb, S. and B., Local Government, II, 391. Russell estimated that nine-tenths of Dissenters were excluded from the corporations.

16. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, XXVIII, 557.

17. Eclectic Review, 4th series, V, 23.

18. London, Times, 07, 1837.

19. Annual Register, 1837, (History), p. 240.

20. Walpole, Spencer, Life of Lord John Russell, I, 285.

21. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, XLV, 280.

22. SirKay-Shuttleworth, James, Four Periods of Public Education, pp. 179181.

23. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, XLVII, 757.

24. Russell, John Earl, Recollections and Suggestions 1813–1837 (London, 1875), p. 375.

25. Parker, , Sir Robert Peel, II, 548.

26. Congregational Magazine, 1842, p. 417.

27. Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, LXVII, 84.

28. Parker, , Sir James Graham, I, 344.

29. estimate, Edward Miall's, Nonconformist, III, 577. See also Life of Edward Miall, p. 91. In the House of Commons on July 25, 1843, Joseph Hume said 25,535 petitions with 4,064,832 signatures had been sent in against the bill; and 170 petitions with 312,669 signatures for it. See Hammond, , Age of the Chartists, p. 197.

30. Parliamentary Debates, LXIX, 1568.

31. Parker, , Sir Robert Peel, II, 560, 652.

32. Cobden, Richard, Speeches on Questions of Public Policy, (London, 1870), p. 183.

33. The factory act of 1847 established a ten-hour day.

* Read at the joint session of the Conference on British Studies and the American Historical Association at Chicago, December 30, 1953.

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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