DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Guns for Slaves
The slave trade had a major impact on Britain's economy. Ships loaded with goods left Britain for the West African coast. There, commodities were bartered for all manner of tropical products, including humans. Military supplies were regularly shipped to forts in West Africa. Royal African Company schedules reveal a methodical record-keeping system for exchanging brass rods, cutlery and guns manufactured in Birmingham.
The Triangular Trade
Ships rarely travelled empty. British shipbuilders constructed specially built vessels for the slave trade. Ships designed to carry human cargo from Africa would be converted to hold raw materials such as rum, tobacco, molasses and sugar, collected from the West Indies. To complete the cycle known as the 'triangular trade', these raw materials were then brought back to England to be turned into manufactured goods. These goods were then sold on at considerable profit in Britain and Europe.
The 1832 Reform Act was the result of a long struggle both in the streets and in Parliament, but although it enfranchised some, it had little real impact on the lives of the working classes.
Until the 1830s, Britain's elections were neither representative nor balanced.
A range of factors determined whether you were eligible to vote, including whether you lived in a county or a borough and whether your area was eligible to send an MP to Parliament at all.
In a few places all men could vote, but in the vast majority of locations it depended on whether you owned property or paid certain taxes.
Some boroughs, such as those in the rapidly growing industrial towns of Birmingham and Manchester, had no MPs to represent them at all.
At the same time, there were notorious 'rotten' boroughs, such as Old Sarum at Salisbury, which had two MPs but only seven voters.
There were also 'pocket' boroughs – those owned by major landowners who chose their own MP.
Moreover, with no secret ballot, voters were easily bribed or intimidated.
A range of factors, including a popular campaign by the Birmingham Political Union, caused many people to begin to realise that change was necessary.
The Prime Minister at the time, the Duke of Wellington, remained defiantly against reform, but he was forced out of office.
King William IV asked the Whig, Earl Grey, to form an administration and he used his position to pursue reform of the electoral system.
The path of the resulting reforming Bill through Parliament was extremely tough and its being finally passed on 4th June 1832 was only as a result of widespread public unrest and the resignation of Earl Grey.
In its final form the Reform Act of 1832 increased the electorate from around 366,000 to 650,000, which was about 18 per cent of the total adult-male population in England and Wales.
The vast majority of the working classes, as well as women, were still excluded from voting and the Act failed to introduce a secret ballot.
The working classes felt betrayed by an act which made no real difference to their lives.
However, the reform of Parliament had begun, and this paved the way for the popular agitation of the Chartists.