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Liberal Politics 1815 1924 Revision Notes

History Notes > British History VI: 1815-1924 Notes

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Liberal Politics 1815-1924 Revision What does 'retrenchment' mean?
Cuts in the size of government bureaucracy, cuts in the size of military establishment, cuts in government expenditure.

L.T. Hobhouse, 1911: 'to foster the development of will, of personality, of self-control...Liberalism is the belief that society can safely be founded on this self-directing power of personality, that it is only on this foundation that a true community can be built, and that so established its foundations are deep and so wide that there is no limit that we can place to the extent of the building.

The Liberal desire is for decentralisation, combining nationalism with efficient, devolved government.

Colin Matthew, 'Public Life and Politics', ed. Matthew, The Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 2000). Peelites, Liberals, Whigs and Tories, 1852-74o o

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In December 1852 after G.E, the Tories are replaced by a coalition government. They were the embryonic Liberal Party:
? Whigs, Liberals, Peelites, Radiclas. Though Peelite in economic measures, it politicised issues Peel would have avoided.
? They appeal to the middle-classes and artisans.
? Palmerston-Gladstone government (1859-65): Drew together many aspects of mid-Victorian social and political life.
? MPS are Anglican, but many are also Roman Catholics, Nonconformists, Jews and secularists.
? In class, it has the great Whig landowners, but represents the industrialcommercial middles classes, yet equally, supported by most of those artisans that had the vote. Liberals were the party of progress and thus, favoured extension of the franchise right? [Though in 1865, they were the only government to get reelected - the current system works for them]
? 1866 Reform Bill - splits the Liberal government and leaves Lord Derby to pick up the pieces.
? There is a Liberal majority in the H of C, though, so they reshape what becomes the 1867 Representation of the People Act.

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A new household suffrage in the boroughs extended the vote to the heads of al household, though with a stiff residency requirement.
? Gave nearly 50% men the vote by 1868.
? Is this a move towards universal suffrage so as to create masssupport for right-wing government?
The General Election of 1868 produced a Liberal government headed by Gladstone.
? Campaign focused on Irish disestablishment, integrating all the religious forces that made up the Liberal Party, including Anglicans who believed Irish Churches were an embarrassment.
? Features of Gladstone's first ministry
? Likes the "big bills" that keep the party together. Irish Church disestablishment (1869) Elementary Education Acts (1870) - a national system of elementary education. University Test Abolishment - Oxbridge (1871) Secret Ballot Act (1872)
? Liberals disagree on big objectives. Religion.
? Secularists wanted religious reform as the first step to a secular society.
? Thus, trick is to keep several issues running at once. But this fails in 1873, when Gladstone's Irish University Reform measure fails ?
they limp to failure in the 1874 General Election.
? Tories: Depicted Liberals as a threat to Empire and a danger to property. No longer the case that non-Anglicans automatically don't vote for the Tories - a success of Disraeli?

Tories, Liberals, Liberal Unionists, 1874-1901??Disraeli cavorted Liberal initiatives as Tory social reform He focused on issues of foreign policy, the Eastern Question, Afghanistan, South Africa. Gladstone is re-elected comfortably in 1880. Gladstone's Second Ministry Gladstone is drawn into many difficult political issues, made difficult to tackle due to his broad-based support across the country: o Ireland.
? The Irish Land League created a quasi-revolutionary movement and Parnell, leader of the Irish home Rule Party.
? Gladstone broke it up through incarcerating leaders and conciliation (the Land Act of 1881).
? Gladstone's ministry disintegrates over Ireland. o South Africa.
? 1884 Reform Act o Extended household suffrage to all counties AND Ireland.
? Liberals attempted to devolve parliamentary power from Westminster.
?????Irish Question - 1885

?????Salisbury manipulated the Irish Q, flirting with the Home Rulers and {are they though?]
promising Home Rule.

?????Gladstone's Third Ministry
?????In January 1886, Gladstone's third ministry was set on enquiring into Irish Home Rule. o April 1886 ? introduces a Land Bill for Ireland (to buy out the Anglo-irish landowning class)

o A Home Rule Bill
? Party splits over this issue.
? Salisbury, supported by the Liberal Unionists (anti-Home Rule Liberals), stabilised conservative politics on the basis of opposition to constitutional change.
?????Gladstone's Fourth Ministry o After getting re-elected in 1892 [Parnell is discredited]
o The Commons passes the Irish Home Rule Bill ? which is rejected in the H of L and the H of L mutilate many other Liberal measures passed in the Commons.
?????Lord Rosebery comes to power in 1895, but resigns, finding it all a little too much!
?????Salisbury: o Forms a coalition with Joseph Chamberlain and the Liberal Unionists. o Known as "Hotel Cecil" ? and kept Home Rule at Bay. o Major issues ? the war with the Transvaal and Orange republics in South Afrcia in

1899. Late Victorian Politics
?????Has much changed?
o No:
? Oxbridge educated, Anglican elite still dominates. o

Yes:Britain became a religiously more plural society [John Bright the Quaker, Chamberlain the former Unitarian, Asquith the Congregationalist]
?????Interesting chat: o There is a severe agricultural depression in the late 1870s. o

Peter Ghosh and Lawrence Goldman, Politics and Culture in Victorian Britain (Oxford, 2006). Chapter 5: Peter Ghosh, 'Gladstone and Peel'??

Peel - founder of modern Conservatism or pioneer of Gladstonian Liberalism?
o A teleology is sought between Peel and politics after him. Ghosh thinks 'Peel' is not representative of British politics after 1829 o ? he was not a party politician. o 'Peel-Gladstone' teleology doesn't exist. I Peel did not grasp the traditional and constitutionalist culture of England. He did not subscribe to the Whig Interpretation of History. o Why?
? Peel's background:

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Son of a manufacturer. Identified still with the apolitical notion of "wealth-getting" along with the notion of party avoidance.
? Office was thus an individual sacrifice, not a social obligation ? the reverse for the hereditary ruling class. o The wealth of his father (PS1,700,000!) led his politics as a search for security for the family property. His notion of the 'constitution' was: o Hierarchy o Authority o Property - the maintenance of order and the cause of good government
? Liberty is merely the derivative of property ? the people were free to apply themselves 'to the honest pursuits of industry' [a claim made at Tamworth, 1835]. o Peel does not place importance on the English Constitution as a guarantor of liberty.
? Instead, he saw no difference between the French and English Constitutions ? the 'same consequences' of the French Rev could happen in Britain. Belief in the importance of executive power. o Spawned from his wartime experiences - Peel is particularly anxious of this.
? His involvement in Irish politics (since 1812) and his marriage to General Floyd's daughter made him particularly conscious of the fragility of social order. o Nostalgic of Walpolean era when an executive, and not party, ruled. o Abhorred appeals to 'public opinion'.
? Kept potentially vitriolic issues under wraps [Protestantism before 1829, Reform in 1831, distress in 1841-2].
? Corn Law ? repeal was a pre-emptive high political act, not a necessary measure based on Peels apprehensions as to the possible consequences of a future food scarcity in England. o He believed in 'one-man' rule, in Robinocracy beholden only to the monarch. An ode to post-Walpole: o Peel wanted to place the repression of discontent, formerly over-reliant on extraordinary and politically vulnerable measures such as the suspension of habeas corpus, on a more regular, statutory, and bureaucratic basis: such the common threat linking his Irish and English police forms and his law reforms. o Imposition of a property tax to buttress political stability. o He had a pretty low view of the public ? they are "inevitably doomed", can only be restrained by a police force, law and coercion.
? A far-cry from the landed elite's assumption that social hierarchy was the unforced product of centuries-old community of ideas or sentiment. Not functional as a politician Couldn't come to terms with resurgence of party politics in peacetime. 1832 ? did not give it more than a fleeting verbal acceptance ? he would still rule the way he did before!
o Tamworth Manifesto, 1834 ? a re-commitment to a depoliticised, executively led, semi-institutional government. 1832 - killed Peel?

o???

After all, it annihilated the power of the executive to manage elections that redressed the modest centralisation of government that would follow in the late 19th-Century [that Peel liked]

II Is Peel the precursor to 'Gladstonian Liberalism'?
o Historians have plotted a timeline of Victorian liberalism as running from Peel to Gladstone, and not via the path of a continuous Liberal tradition based on the commitment to 'Civil and religious liberty' of the 1780s.
? A submission of 'party' to the canonically elevated big personality history or the notion of 'liberalism' as a notion of modernity, free of party.
? This is a belief that 19th C politics was about the economy. In reality, Gladstone was intellectually detached from Peel. o He knew he had to be a 'party man' when entering politics.
? Though he did fret over which party he should join. o His agenda was religious (later libertarian) ? thus, he was attached to an extent to constitutional issues at centre of the "party agenda". Economic issues were not important to Gladstone.
? C of E
? Ireland Union. Financial politics o Sees link between Gladstone and Peel o Would have been unthinkable for G to be Chancellor of Exchequer without serving at the Board of Trade under Peel. o But unlike Peel,
? Gladstone sees abolition of income tax and not its preservation as good for preserving social hierarchy. o In 1853, Gladstone's budget statement [on income tax] said Peel's doctrine of imposing income tax on foreigners was incorrect. Economics: o Peel was happy to sanction the growth of the army and navy in 1846 + the expenditure for them.
? A most unGladstonian action! In the naval scares of 1859-60 or 1884-5 we see a very different course of action taken. Free trade: o Peel could have been made to a saint of free trade regarding 1846, but this didn't happen. o In Gladstone's 1860 or 1861 budget speeches were symbolic concluders to the 'era of Protection', but Peel is just not mentioned. o Free Trade is seen as a victory for Cobden.
? Gladstone takes his name in 1865, upon Cobden's death, but also in 1890, when the Mckinley Tariff is brought to light.
? Strange, Gladstone thought that even Peel supported Cobden's claim to heralding in the Corn Law repeal.
? He knew that Peel's conversion to a dogmatic free trade had been 'belated' because it originated from a concern for social stability, not enthusiasm for truths of political economy per se.
? Cobden had fomented class hostility that Peel hated, so its strange Peel named him architect of a reforme proposed for quite opposite reasons.

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Gladstone, a man of party, criticised Peel for trying to individualise himself at the expense of the party. o From 1845-55, he utterly annihilates Peel and Peelism.
? Peel was to blame for the prevalent anarchy of the Tory Party in 1846. o Yet Gladstone is also well capable of looking beyond the confines of 'party'.
? Good government in the national interest was not merely compatible with, but was the product of, a polarized and balanced two-party system. Fill in the gaps III Gladstone had a very ambivalent relationship with Robert Peel. o He revered Peel's moral probity and was sympathetic to what he perceived as Peelite ideas about good executive government and for Peel's supposedly orthodox party leadership between 1833-46. o But then in 1855, he resolved that Peelite ideas were, as distinct from Conservative politics, and were a dead-end.
? Trying to make economic-fiscal issues central to party allegiance, as Peel had done in 1846, lead only to party dissolution and chaos. Conclusion: It is thus difficult to trace a Peel-Gladstone teleology on the basis of a Liberal tradition defined around tariff and economic policy. What do we mean by the 'Liberal Party' or indeed, 'Liberalism'?
In 1974: Colin Matthew wrote that Victorian Liberalism was "an undefined standard". o Is it 'Liberalism', the ideological construct?
? Within this category, free trade liberalism is particularly predominant. o Do we mean the 'Liberal Party', which [since the 1960s] is viewed as a coalition of forces with no essential unity?
? Matthew challenged this view in his Gladstone Diaries. He refuted the claim that the Liberal Party was identified through religious or parochial contexts and that liberalism was not a n exact creed and that Liberal MPs were little more than "men of good will".
? In reality, he states, the Liberal Party "moved from being the party amongst which free traders were most likely to be found, to being the chief free trade party in European politics, with an absolute commitment to the doctrine which survived as the article of party faith virtually unchallenged until 1929"1 o Or do we mean the 'Liberal government', a one-party hegemony where the identity of Liberalism rests on its social assumptions and parliamentary modus operandi rather than on specific political doctrines or polices?
An odd state of affairs. o How does a party who were in power for most of the 19th Century, not have a clear sense of who they are.
? It was only as late as 1885, when A.Reid wrote Why I am a Liberal. o Well, party identities were taken as self-evident. Gladstone did not reject party, he saw it as a vehicle to conduct politics The Liberal was first and foremost a constitutional reformer, while a Conservative was a constitutional defender. o Neither party had an "ideology" - the term was not known in Britain.

1 Colin Matthew, The Gladstone Diaries 6 vols (Oxford, 1978), v, p. xliv.

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The only thing holding the parties together was a belief in the intrinsic goodness of the Constitution, a goodness also defined in the marriage of political liberty and social order.
? It may have made the party ideologically weak - but party was a practical tool. Thus, it didn't matter to Gladstone, whether he was Liberal or Conservative; but he was not unrealistic because his thinking about what these two terms meant, was pretty ordinary.

Chapter 6: Martin Ceadel, 'Gladstone and a Liberal Theory of International Relations'Gladstone: considered a prophet of twentieth-century liberal internationalism. A foreteller of the League of Nations.Jonathan Parry, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (Yale, 1993).??

Introduction Liberalism dominated British politics in the 19th Century. Between 1830 - 1886, the Liberal Party won 12/14 elections. For Parry, there is a coherent Liberal approach to politics The official Liberal Party was formed in 1859. o But the experience of Liberalism was far more widespread.

Chapter 1: Public Opinion and 'liberal toryism'?In 1815, two things happen: o Public opinion rises o Middle-class becomes coherent. Canning plays to both as the founder of 'Liberal Toryism', a notion that ministers weren't part of an oligarchy but were uniquely responsive to moral, virtuous, commercial sentiment. o Political sleight-of-hand In 1830, Liberal Toryism lost the confidence of the 'middle-classes', who put their trust in a 'Whig' government. o The Whigs did not bring about 1832 as a response to popular clamour though.
? It was a libertarian pursuit
? Whigs always blamed Tories for betraying the principles of 1688: undermining the liberty of Parliament and strengthening the personal influence of the king and the arbitrary power of his ministers.

Chapter 3: The Whigs and parliamentary reform

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