During 1831, the Reform Bill, which would provide the industrial towns of Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford, and Leeds with greater representation in the House of Commons was being debated. The bill passed the House of Commons on September 22nd of the year, but was defeated in the House of Lords soon after.
One outcome of the Lord's vote was the Reform Riots, with Bristol especially affected, toward the end of the month. There were other disturbances prior to the eruption in Bristol, and Walter Scott writes in his journal [October 12, 1831] about mob violence in London, ‘…Among other feats of the mob on Monday, a gentleman who saw the onslaught told me two men got on Lord Londonderry's carriage and struck him; the chief constable came to the rescue and belaboured the rascals, who ran and roared. I should have liked to have seen the onslaught—Dry beating, and plenty of it, is a great operator of a reform among these gentry. At the same time Lord Londonderry is a brain-sick man, very unlike his brother. He horsewhipped a sentinel under arms at Vienna for obeying his consigne, which was madness. On the other side all seems to be prepared. Heavy bodies of the police are stationed in all the squares and places supporting each other regularly. The men themselves say that their numbers amount to 3000, and that they are supported by troops in still greater numbers, so that the Conservative force is sufficiently strong. Four o'clock—a letter from the Duke saying the party is put off by command of the King, and probably the day will be put off until the Duke's return from Scotland, so our hopes of seeing the fine ceremony are all ended.’