The Second Reform Act of 1867
Parliament initially became troubled by the working classes 'thundering at the gates'. Curiously, writes Paul Adelman, it was the Conservative Party that benefited from Russell’s Reform Act.
The eighteen fifties was a period of apathy about Parliamentary Reform; but, from 1859-60 onwards, we can see the beginnings of a movement that was eventually to culminate in the Act of 1867. This was partly due to events at home—the expansion of Trade Unionism and, in particular, the growth of an articulate, politically-minded Union leadership, as well as the growth of that middle-class radicalism whose leader was John Bright.
Much more important, however, was the influence of outside events. The years between 1859 and 1865 were followed in rapid succession by one great crisis after another in foreign affairs—Italy in 1859, the Polish Revolt in 1863, the American Civil War 1861-65—each of which caused intense excitement in Great Britain, particularly among the working-class.