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rotten boroughs

rotten boroughs was the term used before 1832 to describe parliamentary constituencies where the voters had almost disappeared. A classic example was Old Sarum, which had been deserted since the inhabitants moved down the valley to Salisbury in 1220. But it was close run by other boroughs, such as Gatton in Surrey, which was down to 20 voters at the Restoration and only two 100 years later, or Dunwich, a once thriving port, which had long since crumbled into the sea. They were defended as affording opportunities for new non-landed interests—brewers, bankers, nabobs—to obtain representation. Chatham (Pitt) denounced them in 1766 as the rotten part of the constitution and declared they would not last the century. Most of them finished up in Schedule A of the Great Reform Act.

J. A. Cannon

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