Victorian (and later) citizenship – inclusion and exclusion

Notes from Defining the Victorian Nation: Class, Race, Gender and the Reform Act of 1867 by Catherine Hall, Keith McClelland and Jane Rendall (2000)

From the Introduction, pp. 1-70
Quoting Margaret Mylne, writing in the Westminster Review 1941: “In my younger days it was considered rude to talk politics to the ladies. To introduce [the topic’ at a dinner party was a hint for us to retire and leave the gentlemen to such conversation and their bottle. But the excitement that prevailed all over the country at the prospect of the Reform Bill of 1832 broke down these distinctions, while the new, and it seemed to us, splendid idea of a ‘hustings at the Cross of Edinburgh’ drove its inhabitants, both male and female, half frantic with delight.” (p. 29)

From “The citizenship of women and the Reform Act of 1867” (Rendall, pp. 119-178)

p. 121 – “The reform crisis of 1830-2 prompted some consideration of women’s claim to the franchise. The Tory landowner from Halifax, Anne Lister, regretted in her diary that women of property were unable to exercise the vote, though they might, as she herself did, strive to influence the electoral process. In August 1832 a petition to the House of Commons from Mary Smith of Stanmore asked for the vote for ‘every unmarried woman having that pecuniary qualification whereby the other sex is entitled to the said franchise’. Matthew Davenport Hill, a radical Unitarian, endorsed women’s suffrage in his election campaign in 1832 in Hull. BUt the Reform Act for the first time defined the voter as ‘male'”

“In October 1865 the death of Lord Palmerston signalled the possibility of a renewal of interest in parliamentary reform, as Lord Russell, who was strongly committed to moderate reform, formed a new ministry. In November 1865 the Kensington Ladies Debating Society put on their agenda for discussion: Is the extension of the parliamentary suffrage to women desirable, and if so under what conditions?”

“p. 158 “The Education ACt of 1870 for England and Wales provided that women who were municipal and parish voters could also vote in school board elections. Any woman, married or not, could stand as a candidate… as Elizabeth Garrett and Emily Davies in London and Lydia Becker in Manchester did successfully in 1870, setting important precedents for the holding of public office. In Wales, Rose Mary Crawshay, wife of the Merthyr ironmaster, Robert Thompson Crawshay, and an active supporter of the women’s suffrage campaign, was elected a member of the Merthyr School Board in Match 1871…. In England and Wales, single or widowed women ratepayers were qualified to vote for and to become Poor Law Guardians, though none stood for office until 1875, when Martha Merrington was elected … in Kensington… But a high property qualification meant only the affluent were able to serve.”

p. 173 In the pages of the Englishwoman’s Review and elsewhere, suffragists never ceased to assault the conditions of English marriage as outmoded and ‘barbaric’ inheritances of a past world. Speaking of and denying differences in male and female intellect to the Manchester Ladies Literary Society in March 1868, Lydia Becker spoke of ‘the long dark of our race’ and ‘the dawn of a brighter day’. In private she wrote that the paper ‘made quite a commotion’ in the Manchester Anthropological Society.”

p. 177 “Developments in the 1870s were to be less favourable, even as the relationship between advanced liberalism, radicalism and the leadership of the working class movement drew closer. The increasing place of trade union concerns within that leadership did not encourage claims for women’s suffrage. Nor did Gladstone’s ministry encourage the cause… And the retreat of Lancashire Liberalism and the discarding of older political machines dating from the Anti-Corn Law League movement may also have affected this heartland of the women’s suffrage movement.”

p. 60 In the 19th century Britain maintained free entry to all foreigners and prided itself on its rights of asylum, one of the famed ‘English’ liberties…. In the 13th century Jews and Flemings were deported, amongst others, in the 16th and 17th centuries, religious recusants of varying persuasions. From 1823, however, to the end of the century, no refugee was expelled from Britain or prevented from coming…. IN 1848 an act was put on the statute books for two years, but was never implemented…. As Lord Malmesbury put it in 1852 in a moment of English complacency: ‘I can well conceive the pleasure and happiness of a refugee, hunted from his native land, on approaching the shores of England, and the joy with which he first catches sight f them; but they are not greater than the pleasure and happiness every Englishman feels in knowing that his country affords the refugee a home and safety”.

From Hall’s chapter “The nation within and without”, pp. 179-233
p. 180 “There was no legal category ‘citizen’ until 1981 when the British Nationality Act created a number of different forms of British citizenship. From 1986 citizenship would only be accord to UK-born or naturalised people and their UK-born or naturalised children, and three categories of citizenship were established: British citizenship, British Dependent Territories citizenship and British oversees citizenship. Prior to the legislation of the late 20th century, all peoples of the British Empire enjoyed the status of subject, subject to the laws and rules of the state, sharing the so-callled ancient liberties of the protection of the crown.” (p. 180)

p. 182 “It was not until the reaction against east European Jewish immigration in the late 19th century that migration into Britain was first regulated with the Aliens Act of 1905…. The beginnings of decolonisation in the post-war era inspired the 1948 Nationality Act, which reaffirmed the rights of subjecthood to all members of the British Empire. This was an act designed … to maintain Britain’s unique position as the ‘metropolitan motherland’ and demonstrate to the world that the UK was still the centre of a great commonwealth of nations. … This definition opened the way to the arrival of large numbers of West Indian, South Asian and Irish migrants in the 1950s and 60s, which led in turn to the Immigration Act of 1962 that differentiated on racial grounds who had the right to enter Britain.”

Now that’s what you call an insult…
Thomas Carlyle thought democracy brought “blockheadedism, gullibility, bribeability, amenability to beer and balderdash”. (p. 185)

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