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.