A Few Late Reflections: Coleridge on the 1832 Reform Act
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In the last few years of his life Coleridge commented on the debates over, and the terms of the Representation of the People Act that was passed in 1832. It will be noted from the extracts printed below that Coleridge was not hostile to the idea of parliamentary reform as such; the conception of ‘idea’ which he applied to Church and State could, as he himself noted, open up possibilities for reform of the system of representation.1 Coleridge’s comments on the 1832 Act do not close off these possibilities, but they indicate that he thought the terms of the debate confused, and that he condemned what he saw as the rhetoric and rabble-rousing of extreme proponents of reform. In addition, he considered that the terms of the various proposals put before Parliament ignored the long-established relationship between property and political power in the English Constitution. Coleridge was especially concerned about the impact of a reformed House of Commons on the role of the House of Lords and, more significantly, given the argument of Church and State, on that of the Church of England.
KeywordsPractical Wisdom English Constitution Universal Suffrage Late Reflection Table Talk
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- 3.The Reform Act gave votes to 40-shilling freeholders, £10 p.a. copyholders, £50 p.a. leaseholders with twenty-year leases, £10 p.a. leaseholders with sixty-year leases and £50 tenants-at-will in the counties; in the boroughs existing resident electors retained the vote, and those occupying houses worth £10 p.a. gained it. For details see Michael Brock, The Great Reform Act (1973) pp. 138–9.Google Scholar
- 7.John James Park was Professor of Law and Jurisprudence at King’s College, London. His Dogmas of the Constitution (1832) was annotated by Coleridge; see S. T. Coleridge, Notes, Theological, Political and Miscellaneous, ed, Derwent Coleridge (1853). Blackstone is, of course, William Blackstone, author of Commentaries on the Laws of England (Oxford, 1765–9).Google Scholar