The Essay: Reasons for the Growth of British democracy

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Events in the 1860s - The British government supported the Italian people in their fight for democracy against the autocracies of Austria and Naples in the War of Italian Unification 1859-61. The government also supported the victorious North and Union cause during the American Civil War. The Union were fighting to gain freedom and political rights for Blacks – questions were asked. Why would the government support the extension of democracy in Italy and America but not in Britain? John Stuart Mill (a famous philosopher and Liberal MP, in particular challenged Gladstone to draft a reform bill in light of the American Civil War. Furthermore, some British textile workers even chose to accept wage cuts rather than work with cotton picked by slaves in the USA as a sign of support for the North. Such actions and arguments convinced some politicians that the skilled working class were respectable and responsible members of society who had a ‘moral conscience’ and therefore deserved the right to vote.

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