Liberal Unionist Party
The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party, formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party. Led by Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, the party formed a political alliance with the Conservative Party in opposition to Irish Home Rule; the two parties formed the ten-year-long coalition Unionist Government 1895–1905 but kept separate political funds and their own party organisations until a complete merger was agreed in May 1912. The Liberal Unionists owe their origins to the conversion of William Ewart Gladstone to the cause of Irish Home Rule; the 1885 General Election had left Charles Stewart Parnell's Irish Nationalists holding the balance of power, had convinced Gladstone that the Irish wanted and deserved reinstatement of Home Rule for Ireland and so end 85 years of union. Some Liberals believed that Gladstone's Home Rule bill would lead to independence for Ireland and the dissolution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which they could not countenance.
Seeing themselves as defenders of the Union, they called themselves "Liberal Unionists", although at this stage most of them did not think the split from their former colleagues would be permanent. Gladstone preferred to call them "dissentient Liberals" as if he believed they would come back like the "Adullamites", Liberals who had opposed the extension of the franchise in 1866 but had come back to the main party after the Conservatives had passed their own electoral reform bill in 1867. In the end it did not matter what the Liberal Unionists were called, the schism in the Liberal party grew wider and deeper within a few years; the majority of Liberal Unionists, including Hartington, Lord Lansdowne, George Goschen, were drawn from the Whig faction of the party and had been expected to split from the Liberal Party anyway, for reasons connected with economic and social policy. Some of the Unionists held extensive landed estates in Ireland and feared these would be broken up or confiscated if Ireland had its own government, while Hartington had suffered a personal loss at the hands of Irish Nationalists in 1882 when his brother was killed during the Phoenix Park Murders.
The anti-Home Rule Liberals formed a Committee for the Preservation of the Union in early 1886, were soon joined by a smaller radical faction led by Joseph Chamberlain and John Bright. Chamberlain had taken office in the Gladstone government, formed in 1886 but resigned when he saw the details of Gladstone's Home Rule plans; as Chamberlain had been a standard bearer of radical liberalism against the Whigs, his adherence to the alliance against the Gladstonian Liberals came as a surprise. When the dissident Liberals formed the Liberal Unionist Council, to become the Liberal Unionist party, Chamberlain organised the separate National Radical Union in Birmingham; this allowed Chamberlain and his immediate allies to distance themselves from the main body of Liberal Unionism and left open the possibility that they could work with the Liberal party in the future. In 1889 the National Radical Union changed its name to the National Liberal Union and remained a separate organisation from the main Liberal Unionist Council.
Historian R. C. K. Ensor reports that after 1886, Gladstone's main Liberal Party was deserted by the entire whig peerage and the great majority of the upper-class and upper-middle-class Liberals. High prestige London clubs that had a Liberal base were split. Ensor notes that "London society, following the known views of the Queen ostracized home rulers". Chamberlain used anti-Catholicism to build a base for the new party among "Orange" Nonconformist Protestant elements in Britain and Ireland. John Bright popularised the catchy slogan, "Home rule means Rome rule." The 1886 election left the Conservatives as the largest party in the House of Commons, but without an overall majority. The leading Liberal Unionists were invited to join the Conservative Lord Salisbury's government. Salisbury said he was willing to let Hartington become Prime Minister of a coalition ministry but the latter declined. In part, Hartington was worried this would split the Liberal Unionists and lose them votes from pro-Unionist Liberal supporters.
The Liberal Unionists, despite providing the necessary margin for Salisbury's majority, continued to sit on the opposition benches throughout the life of the parliament, Hartington and Chamberlain uneasily shared the opposition Front Bench with their former colleagues Gladstone and Harcourt. In December 1886, when Lord Randolph Churchill resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Salisbury offered the position to Goschen, by far the most conservative of the leading Liberal Unionists. After consulting Hartington, Goschen agreed to join the Conservative government and remained Chancellor for the next six years. While the Whiggish wing of the Liberal Unionists cooperated informally with the Conservative Government, the party's Radical Unionist wing held a series of meetings with their former Liberal colleagues. Led by Chamberlain and Sir George Trevelyan, the Round Table Conference was an attempt to see if reunion of the Liberal party was possible. Despite some progress, the problem of Home Rule for Ireland could not be resolved.
Neither Hartington nor Gladstone took a direct part in these meetings, there seemed to be no other Liberal statesman who could reunite the party. Within a few months the talks were over, though some Liberal Unionists, including Trevelyan rejoined the Liberal Party soon after; the failed talks
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major parties in the United Kingdom with the opposing Conservative Party in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The party arose from an alliance of Whigs and free trade Peelites and Radicals favourable to the ideals of the American and French Revolutions in the 1850s. By the end of the 19th century, it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and won a landslide victory in the following year's general election. Under Prime Ministers Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith, the Liberal Party passed the welfare reforms that created a basic British welfare state. Although Asquith was the party's leader, its dominant figure was David Lloyd George. Asquith was overwhelmed by the wartime role of coalition Prime Minister and Lloyd George replaced him as Prime Minister in late 1916, but Asquith remained as Liberal Party leader; the pair fought for years over control of the party.
Historian Martin Pugh in The Oxford Companion to British History argues: Lloyd George made a greater impact on British public life than any other 20th-century leader, thanks to his pre-war introduction of Britain's social welfare system. Furthermore, in foreign affairs, he played a leading role in winning the First World War, redrawing the map of Europe at the peace conference, partitioning Ireland; the government of Lloyd George was dominated by the Conservative Party, which deposed him in 1922. By the end of the 1920s, the Labour Party had replaced the Liberals as the Conservatives' main rival; the party went into decline after 1918 and by the 1950s won no more than six seats at general elections. Apart from notable by-election victories, its fortunes did not improve until it formed the SDP–Liberal Alliance with the newly formed Social Democratic Party in 1981. At the 1983 general election, the Alliance won over a quarter of the vote, but only 23 of the 650 seats it contested. At the 1987 general election, its share of the vote fell below 23% and the Liberal and Social Democratic parties merged in 1988 to form the Liberal Democrats.
A splinter group reconstituted the Liberal Party in 1989. It was formed by party members opposed to the merger who saw the Liberal Democrats diluting Liberal ideals. Prominent intellectuals associated with the Liberal Party include the philosopher John Stuart Mill, the economist John Maynard Keynes and social planner William Beveridge; the Liberal Party grew out of the Whigs, who had their origins in an aristocratic faction in the reign of Charles II and the early 19th century Radicals. The Whigs were in favour of increasing the power of Parliament. Although their motives in this were to gain more power for themselves, the more idealistic Whigs came to support an expansion of democracy for its own sake; the great figures of reformist Whiggery were Charles James Fox and his disciple and successor Earl Grey. After decades in opposition, the Whigs returned to power under Grey in 1830 and carried the First Reform Act in 1832; the Reform Act was the climax of Whiggism, but it brought about the Whigs' demise.
The admission of the middle classes to the franchise and to the House of Commons led to the development of a systematic middle class liberalism and the end of Whiggery, although for many years reforming aristocrats held senior positions in the party. In the years after Grey's retirement, the party was led first by Lord Melbourne, a traditional Whig, by Lord John Russell, the son of a Duke but a crusading radical, by Lord Palmerston, a renegade Irish Tory and a conservative, although capable of radical gestures; as early as 1839, Russell had adopted the name of "Liberals", but in reality his party was a loose coalition of Whigs in the House of Lords and Radicals in the Commons. The leading Radicals were John Bright and Richard Cobden, who represented the manufacturing towns which had gained representation under the Reform Act, they favoured social reform, personal liberty, reducing the powers of the Crown and the Church of England, avoidance of war and foreign alliances and above all free trade.
For a century, free trade remained the one cause. In 1841, the Liberals lost office to the Conservatives under Sir Robert Peel, but their period in opposition was short because the Conservatives split over the repeal of the Corn Laws, a free trade issue; this allowed ministries led by Russell and the Peelite Lord Aberdeen to hold office for most of the 1850s and 1860s. A leading Peelite was William Ewart Gladstone, a reforming Chancellor of the Exchequer in most of these governments; the formal foundation of the Liberal Party is traditionally traced to 1859 and the formation of Palmerston's second government. However, the Whig-Radical amalgam could not become a true modern political party while it was dominated by aristocrats and it was not until the departure of the "Two Terrible Old Men", Russell and Palmerston, that Gladstone could become the first leader of the modern Liberal Party; this was brought about by Palmerston's death in 1865 and Russell's retirement in 1868. After a brief Conservative government, Gladstone won a huge victory at the 1868 election and formed the first Liberal government.
John Edward Redmond was an Irish nationalist politician, MP in the British House of Commons. He was best known as leader of the moderate Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 until his death in 1918, he was leader of the paramilitary organisation the Irish National Volunteers. He was born to an old prominent Catholic family in rural Ireland, he took over control of the minority IPP faction loyal to Charles Stewart Parnell when that leader died in 1891. Redmond was a conciliatory politician who achieved the two main objectives of his political life: party unity and, in September 1914, the passing of the Irish Home Rule Act; the Act granted limited self-government within the United Kingdom. However, implementation of Home Rule was suspended by the outbreak of the First World War. Redmond called on the National Volunteers to join Irish regiments of the New British Army and support the British and Allied war effort to restore the "freedom of small nations" on the European continent, thereby to ensure the implementation of Home Rule after a war, expected to be of short duration.
However, after the Easter Rising of 1916, Irish public opinion shifted in favour of militant republicanism and full Irish independence, so that his party lost its dominance in Irish politics. In sharp contrast to Parnell, Redmond lacked charisma, he had little success in arousing large audiences. Parnell always chose the nominees to Parliament. Now they were selected by the local party organisations, giving Redmond numerous weak MPs over whom he had little control. Redmond was an excellent representative of the old Ireland, but grew old-fashioned because he paid little attention to the new forces attracting younger Irishmen, such as Sinn Féin in politics, the Gaelic Athletic Association in sports, the Gaelic League in cultural affairs, he never tried to understand the unionist forces emerging in Ulster. Redmond was further weakened in 1914 by the formation by Sinn Féin members of the Irish Volunteers, his enthusiastic support for the British war effort alienated many Irish nationalists. His party had been hollowed out, a major crisis—notably the Easter Rising—was enough to destroy it.
John Edward Redmond was born at Ballytrent House, County Wexford, his grandfather's old family mansion. He was the eldest son of William Archer Redmond, MP by Mary, daughter of General Hoey, the brother of Francis Hoey, heir of the Hoey seat, Dunganstown Castle, County Wicklow. For over seven hundred years the Redmonds had been a prominent Catholic gentry family in County Wexford and Wexford town, they were one of the oldest Hiberno-Norman families, had for a long time been known as the Redmonds of'The Hall', now known as Loftus Hall. His more immediate family were a remarkable political dynasty themselves. Redmond's grand uncle, John Edward Redmond, was a prominent banker and businessman before entering Parliament as a member for Wexford constituency in 1859. After his death in 1866, his nephew, William Archer Redmond, this John Redmond's father, was elected to the seat and soon emerged as a prominent supporter of Isaac Butt's new policy for home rule. John Redmond was the brother of Willie Redmond, MP for Wexford and East Clare, the father of William Redmond, whose wife was Bridget Redmond.
Redmond's family heritage was more complex than that of most of his nationalist political colleagues. His mother came from a unionist family, his uncle General John Patrick Redmond, who had inherited the family estate, was created CB for his role during the Indian mutiny. John Redmond boasted of his family involvement in the 1798 Wexford Rebellion; as a student, young John exhibited the seriousness. Educated by the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College, he was interested in poetry and literature, played the lead in school theatricals and was regarded as the best speaker in the school's debating society. After finishing at Clongowes, Redmond attended Trinity College, Dublin to study law, but his father's ill-health led him to abandon his studies before taking a degree. In 1876 he left to live with his father in London, acting as his assistant in Westminster, where he developed more fascination for politics than for law, he first came into contact with Michael Davitt on the occasion of a reception held in London to celebrate the release of the famous Fenian prisoner.
As a clerk in the House of Commons he identified himself with the fortunes of Charles Stewart Parnell, one of the founders of the Irish Land League and a noted'obstructionist' in the Commons. Redmond first attended political meetings with Parnell in 1879. Upon his father's death in 1880, he wrote to Parnell asking for adoption as the Nationalist Party candidate in the by-election to fill the open seat, but was disappointed to learn that Parnell had promised the next vacancy to his secretary Timothy Healy. Redmond supported Healy as the nominee, when another vacancy arose, this time in New Ross, he won election unopposed as the Parnellite candidate for the seat. On election, he rushed to the House of Commons, made his maiden speech next day amid stormy scenes following the arrest of Michael Davitt a Land League leader, a
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a British politician, army officer, writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament. Ideologically an economic liberal and imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was instead a member of the Liberal Party. Of mixed English and American parentage, Churchill was born in Oxfordshire to a wealthy, aristocratic family. Joining the British Army, he saw action in British India, the Anglo–Sudan War, the Second Boer War, gaining fame as a war correspondent and writing books about his campaigns. Elected an MP in 1900 as a Conservative, he defected to the Liberals in 1904. In H. H. Asquith's Liberal government, Churchill served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty, championing prison reform and workers' social security.
During the First World War, he oversaw the Gallipoli Campaign. In 1917, he returned to government under David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, was subsequently Secretary of State for War, Secretary of State for Air Secretary of State for the Colonies. After two years out of Parliament, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move seen as creating deflationary pressure on the UK economy. Out of office during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in calling for British rearmament to counter the growing threat from Nazi Germany. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was re-appointed First Lord of the Admiralty before replacing Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1940. Churchill oversaw British involvement in the Allied war effort against Germany and the Axis powers, resulting in victory in 1945, his wartime leadership was praised, although acts like the Bombing of Dresden and his wartime response to the Bengal famine generated controversy.
After the Conservatives' defeat in the 1945 general election, he became Leader of the Opposition. Amid the developing Cold War with the Soviet Union, he publicly warned of an "iron curtain" of Soviet influence in Europe and promoted European unity. Re-elected Prime Minister in 1951, his second term was preoccupied with foreign affairs, including the Malayan Emergency, Mau Mau Uprising, Korean War, a UK-backed Iranian coup. Domestically his government developed a nuclear weapon. In declining health, Churchill resigned as prime minister in 1955, although he remained an MP until 1964. Upon his death in 1965, he was given a state funeral. Considered one of the 20th century's most significant figures, Churchill remains popular in the UK and Western world, where he is seen as a victorious wartime leader who played an important role in defending liberal democracy from the spread of fascism. Praised as a social reformer and writer, among his many awards was the Nobel Prize in Literature. Conversely, his imperialist views and comments on race, as well as his sanctioning of human rights abuses in the suppression of anti-imperialist movements seeking independence from the British Empire, have generated considerable controversy.
Churchill was born at the family's ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, on 30 November 1874, at which time the United Kingdom was the dominant world power. A direct descendant of the Dukes of Marlborough, his family were among the highest levels of the British aristocracy, thus he was born into the country's governing elite, his paternal grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, had been a Member of Parliament for ten years, a member of the Conservative Party who served in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. His own father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had been elected Conservative MP for Woodstock in 1873, his mother, Jennie Churchill, was from an American family whose substantial wealth derived from finance. The couple had met in August 1873, were engaged three days marrying at the British Embassy in Paris in April 1874; the couple lived beyond their income and were in debt. In 1876 John Spencer-Churchill was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, with Randolph as his private secretary, resulting in the Churchill family's relocation to Dublin, when the entirety of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.
It was here that Jennie's second son, was born in 1880. Throughout much of the 1880s Randolph and Jennie were estranged, during which she had many suitors. Churchill had no relationship with his father, his relationship with Jack would be warm, they were close at various points in their lives. In Dublin, he was educated in reading and mathematics by a governess, while he and his brother were cared for by their nanny, Elizabeth Everest. Churchill was devoted to her and nicknamed her "Woomany". Visits home were to Connaught Place in L
1906 United Kingdom general election
The 1906 United Kingdom general election was held from 12 January to 8 February 1906. The Liberals, led by Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman, won a landslide majority at the election; the Conservatives led by Arthur Balfour, in government until the month before the election, lost more than half their seats, including party leader Balfour's own seat in Manchester East, leaving them with their lowest-ever number of seats. The election saw a 5.4% swing from the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party, the largest-ever seen at the time. This has resulted in the 1906 general election being dubbed the "Liberal landslide", is now ranked alongside the 1931, 1945, 1983 and 1997 general elections as one of the largest landslide election victories; the Labour Representation Committee was far more successful than at the 1900 general election and after the election would be renamed the Labour Party with 29 MPs and Keir Hardie as leader. The Irish Parliamentary Party, led by John Redmond, achieved its seats with a low number of votes, as 73 candidates stood unopposed.
This election was a landslide defeat for the Conservative Party and their Liberal Unionist allies, with the primary reason given by historians as the party's weakness after its split over the issue of free trade. Many working-class people at the time saw this as a threat to the price of food, hence the debate was nicknamed "Big Loaf, Little Loaf"; the Liberals' landslide victory of 125 seats over all other parties led to the passing of social legislation known as the Liberal reforms. This was the last general election in which the Liberals won an absolute majority in the House of Commons, the last general election in which they won the popular vote, it was the last peacetime election held more than five years after the previous one prior to passage of the Parliament Act 1911, which limited the duration of Parliaments in peacetime to five years. The Conservative Party's seat total of 156 MPs remains its worst result in a general election. A coalition between the Conservative and Liberal Unionist parties had governed the United Kingdom since the general election of 1895.
Arthur Balfour had served as Prime Minister from 1902 until 5 December 1905, when he chose to resign over growing unpopularity, instead of calling a general election. Balfour had hoped that under a Liberal government splits would reemerge, which would therefore help the Conservative Party achieve victory at the next election; the incoming Liberal government chose to capitalise on the Conservative government's unpopularity and called an immediate general election one month on 12 January 1906, which resulted in a crushing defeat for the Conservatives. The Unionist government had become divided over the issue of free trade, which soon became an electoral liability; this culminated in Joseph Chamberlain's resignation from the government in May 1903 to campaign for tariff reform in order to protect British industry from foreign competition. This division was in contrast to the Liberal Party's belief in free trade, which it argued would help keep costs of living down; the issue of free trade became the feature of the Liberal campaign, under the slogan'big loaf' under a Liberal government,'little loaf' under a Conservative government.
It commissioned a variety of posters warning the electorate over rises in food prices under protectionist policies, including one which mentioned that "Balfour and Chamberlain are linked together against free trade... Don't be deceived by Tory tricks"; the Boer War had contributed to the unpopularity of the Conservative and Unionist government. The war had lasted over two and half years, much longer than had been expected, while details were revealed of the existence of'concentration camps' where over 20,000 men and children were reported to have died because of poor sanitation; the war had unearthed the poor social state of the country in the early 1900s. This was after more than 40% of military recruits for the Boer War were declared unfit for military service, while in Manchester 8,000 of the 11,000 men, recruited had to be turned away for being in poor physical condition; this was after the 1902 Rowntree study of poverty in York showed that a third of the population lived below the'poverty line', which helped to increase the calls for social reforms, something, neglected by the Conservative and Unionist government.
The Conservative and Unionist Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour, had been blamed over the issue of'Chinese Slavery', the use of Chinese-indentured labour in South Africa. This became controversial among the Conservative Party's middle-class supporters, who saw it as unethical, while the working class objected to the practice, as white emigration to South Africa could have created jobs for the unemployed in Britain. Protestant Nonconformists were angered when Conservatives pushed through the Education Act 1902, which integrated denominational schools into the state system and provided for their support from taxes; the local school boards that they controlled were abolished and replaced by county governments that were controlled by Anglicans. Worst of all the hated Anglican schools would now receive funding from local taxes that everyone had to pay. One tactic was to refuse to pay local taxes; the education issue played a major role in the Liberal victory in 1906, as Dissenter Conservatives punished their old party and voted Liberal.
However the Liberals failed to repeal or modify the 1902 law. Another issue
1892 United Kingdom general election
The 1892 United Kingdom general election was held from 4 July to 26 July 1892. It saw the Conservatives, led by Lord Salisbury, win the greatest number of seats, but not enough for an overall majority as William Ewart Gladstone's Liberals won many more seats than in the 1886 general election; the Liberal Unionists who had supported the Conservative government saw their vote and seat numbers go down. Despite being split between Parnellite and anti-Parnellite factions, the Irish Nationalist vote held up well; as the Liberals did not have a majority on their own, Salisbury refused to resign on hearing the election results and waited to be defeated in a vote of no confidence on 11 August. Gladstone formed a minority government dependent on Irish Nationalist support; the Liberals had engaged in failed attempts at reunification between 1886 and 1887. Gladstone however was able to retain control of much of the Liberal party machinery in the form of the constituency organisation known as the National Liberal Federation.
Gladstone used the annual NLF meetings as a platform to consolidate various Liberal causes the Newcastle meeting of 1891, which gave its name to the radical Newcastle programme. This programme placed Irish Home Rule first, followed by Welsh and Scottish disestablishment, reduction in factory work hours, free education, electoral reform, land reform, reform or abolition of the House of Lords, the removal of duties on basic foods; this programme would be disowned by the party leadership following the Liberal defeat in the 1895 election. The election saw the election of Britain's first Asian MP, with Dadabhai Naoroji being elected for Finsbury Central. MPs elected in the UK general election, 1892 Parliamentary franchise in the United Kingdom 1885–1918 Spartacus: Political Parties and Election Results United Kingdom election results—summary results 1885–1979
Merthyr Tydfil (UK Parliament constituency)
Merthyr Tydfil was a parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan. From 1832 to 1868 it returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, in 1868 this was increased to two members; the two-member constituency was abolished for the 1918 general election. A single-member constituency existed from 1918 until 1945 and, by the 1950 general election, it had been renamed Merthyr Tydfil; the constituency was abolished for the 1983 general election, when it was replaced by the new Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency. Merthyr was regarded as a Liberal seat throughout the nineteenth century and after the landmark election of 1868. There were tensions within the constituency and these were manifested by the rivalry between Merthyr and Aberdare, which became more pronounced as the latter grew in importance after 1850; the constituency was affected by the debate about working-class representation. Thomas Halliday contested Merthyr as a'labour' candidate as early as 1874 and the return of Keir Hardie in 1900 was a notable landmark in the growth of the Labour Party.
From 1922 onwards, Merthyr was a safe Labour seat. The Great Reform Act of 1832 was the first significant review of the arrangements for the election of MPs to the House of Commons, Patterns of representation had remained unchanged for centuries and no recognition was given to the growth of urban settlements in the wake of the industrial revolution; the discontent of the late 1820s, culminating in serious disturbances in 1831, including the Merthyr Rising persuaded the government to take action in favour of reform. Within the Act of 1832 the one significant change in Wales was the carving out of a new parliamentary constituency, centred at Merthyr Tydfil, from the county of Glamorgan; the Parliamentary Boundaries Act 1832 defined the new Parliamentary Borough of Merthyr Tydvil in great detail: From the Point on the North of Merthyr Tydvil at which the Northern Boundary of the Hamlet of Gellydeg meets the River called the Great Taff, along the Great Taff, to the Point at which the same is cut by the Southern Fence of Cilsanos Common.
When the constituency was established the vast majority of the electorate were resident in Merthyr Tydfil and its environs, such as the industrial township of Dowlais. In contrast the electorate of the neighbouring Aberdare Valley was small, numbering 3,691 compared with 22,083 in Merthyr; the first member for Merthyr Tydfil was Sir Josiah John Guest who served, albeit with some opposition until his death in 1852. Guest was succeeded by Henry Austin Bruce who, served with little opposition until the Second Reform Act of 1867. Bruce was a prominent Liberal although associated with the less radical wing of the Liberal Party and was criticised for his role in events such as the 1857 Aberdare Strike; the Representation of the People Act 1867, which increased the number of members returned to two widened the constituency boundaries. To the existing parliamentary borough were added some additional parts of the parish of Aberdare, part of the parishes of Merthyr and "Faenor", part of the district of Mountain Ash.
The same boundaries were retained in 1885, can be seen on the boundary commissioners' map. Merthyr Tydfil saw one of the most remarkable contests of the 1868 General Election. Resulting directly from a tenfold increase in the electorate. Henry Richard was returned at the expense of Henry Austin Bruce. Bruce had served as member since 1832 and his position was secure until the reforms of 1867. Thereafter, the immediate interest appeared to be in who would occupy the second seat rather than whether or nor Bruce would be re-elected