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Wilkes and Parliamentary reform

In the years following his unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament Wilkes built up a power base in the City of London and became Mayor in 1774. He was able to use his influence in the City to force the Government to relax the restrictions on the reporting of Parliamentary debates, thereby establishing the freedom of the press to report Parliament.

In 1774 Wilkes was finally elected as MP for Middlesex, which he represented until 1790.

This report of  a debate from 21 March 1776 relates to a motion made by Wilkes on the subject of  Parliamentary Reform, the first such motion to be made on that subject. In his speech he highlighted the unfairness of the current system and in particular the issue of boroughs with small numbers of electors which returned members to the House of Commons. It was not until 1832 that legislation addressed that subject. 

Wilkes died on the 26th December 1797 and was buried in Grosvenor Chapel, Westminster.


Parliamentary History of England, Volume 18



Catalogue number

Parliamentary Archives, BOOK/5266