Ch 10 Whig England

Ch.10-Whig England

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CHAPTER  X: WHIG ENGLAND

SECTION 2: PARTY POLITICS


ANNE WAS TO FOLLOW WILLIAM, IF HE HAD NO CHILDREN, BY THE ACT OF SUCCESSION OF 1701, WHICH FIXED ENGLISH SUCCESSION TO THE HOUSE OF HANOVER.

IN 1710, THE TORIES WERE OPPOSED TO WAR AND GAINED POWER, EVEN THOUGH THEY KEPT CLOSE CONTACT WITH THE STUARTS, A STRATEGY OF ‘LOOKING BOTH WAYS’. HOWEVER, THE QUESTION OF SUCCESSION HAD BECOME AN IMPORTANT ONE.

BOLINGBROKE, A TORY LEADER, WAS A CHARLATAN WITH INFLATED PLATITUDES, BUT HE REALISED THE SUCCESSION OF THE HANOVARIANS WOULD DESTROY HIS PARTY AND PREPARED A COUP D’ETAT.

JACOBITIES WERE INSTALLED, REPLACING MODERATES IN THE TORY PARTY. JACOBITE OFFICERS WERE ALSO INTRODUCED IN ARMY AND NAVY. MAGISTRATES AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WERE PURGED, BUT, BEFORE LONG, ANNE DIED (1714), AND THE WHOLE SCHEME COLLAPSED.

BOLINGBROKE HAD NEITHER THE REALISM NOR THE RESOLUTION TO LEAD A COUNTER REVOLUTION AGAINST THE HANOVARIANS, SO, FROM 1714 TO 1761, THE WHIGS HELD OFFICE WITHOUT SERIOUS CHALLENGE.

THE TORIES RETIRED TO THEIR ESTATES TO GRUMBLE. THE TORY PARTY THAT RE-EMERGED IN 1761 WAS VERY DIFFERENT TO THE ONE OF 1714.

PROSPERITY REIGNED FOR THE LANDOWNERS OF THE 18th CENTURY, FEW TORIES BOTHERED TO ATTEND PARLIAMENT AND HALF-HEARTED JACOBITISM WAS POLITICALLY DEAD AFTER 1715. THE HANOVARIANS WERE HERE TO STAY.

IN SCOTLAND, THE STRUGGLE WITH THE HIGHLAND CLANS TO PRESERVE THEIR TRIBAL ORGANISATION AGAINST THE LOWLANDERS AND ENGLISH BOURGEOISIE CONTINUED.

THE JACOBITE CAMPBELLS KEPT THE FEUD ALIVE, BUT THE REST OF SCOTLAND WAS NOT JACOBITE, ALTHOUGH THEY DID HATE THE ENGLISH .

THE ACT OF UNION SECURED BY THE WHIGS (BUT NEVER BY THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE) IN 1706 FUELLED THIS HATRED. IN 1707, THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT PASSED AN ACT OF SECURITY AIMED AGAINST THE HANOVARIAN SUCCESSION.

THE WHIGS WERE FACED WITH A BREAK BY SCOTLAND, AND IN 1704 THE ALIENS ACT BANNED ALL IMPORTS FROM SCOTLAND UNTIL THE HANOVARIAN SETTLEMENT HAD BEEN ACCEPTED.

THIS ROBBED THE SCOTTISH CATTLEMEN OF THEIR MARKETS, AND TROOPS WERE MOVED NORTH, BUT THE CORRUPTION OF THE SCOTTISH LORDS AND PARLIAMENT PROVED MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN THE ACT OF UNION.

SCOTLAND GAINED THE RIGHT TO TRADE WITH ENGLISH COLONIES, BUT HER UNDERDEVELOPED INDUSTRY SUFFERED FROM ENGLISH COMPETITION.

POLITICALLY, SCOTLAND BECAME ‘ONE ROTTEN BOROUGH’ CONTROLLED BY THE DUKE OF ARGYLE, HEAD OF THE CAMPBELLS.

THE JACOBITE RISING AS A RESPONSE TO THE ACCESSION OF GEORGE I IN 1715 WAS DOOMED FROM THE START, AND PEACE REIGNED, WITH MILITARY ROADS BUILT THROUGHOUT THE HIGHLANDS.


IN 1745, WHEN ENGLAND AND FRANCE WERE AT WAR, THE ‘YOUNG PRETENDER’, GRANDSON OF JAMES II, LANDED IN SCOTLAND. THERE WAS LESS SUPPORT FOR THE ‘45’ THAN FOR THE ‘15’, ALTHOUGH IT WAS MORE SPECTACULAR.

5,000 HIGHLANDERS MARCHED AS FAR AS DERBY WITHOUT SERIOUS OPPOSITION AND CREATED A PANIC IN LONDON, BUT THEY RETREATED AS FAST AS THEY HAD COME AND AT CULLODEN, NEAR INVERNESS, WERE ROUTED.

THIS LED TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CLAN SYSTEM, AND CHIEFS WHO HAD TAKEN PART WERE REPLACED. TRIBAL ACTIONS WERE SUPPRESSED. EVEN THE BAGPIPES WERE CLASSED AS AN INSTRUMENT OF WAR AND BANNED.

CHIEFS TURNED LAIRDS BEGAN THE SYSTEMATIC EVICTION OF CROFTERS, WHO WERE REPLACED BY SHEEP FARMS. 40,000 HIGHLANDERS EMIGRATED TO AMERICA, AND MORE WENT TO GLASGOW SLUMS AND OTHER INDUSTRIAL CENTRES, INCLUDING THE FISHING PORTS.

THE FINAL DEGRADATION TOOK PLACE WHEN SHEEP GAVE WAY TO DEER, WHICH REQUIRED NO SHEPHERDS OR LABOURERS AT ALL. THIS OCCURRED AFTER THE INFLUX OF AUSTRALIAN WOOL IN 1870 WHEN PRICES COLLAPSED. DEER FORESTS BECAME MORE PROFITABLE THAN SHEEP.

IN SCOTLAND, AS IN IRELAND, THE SUFFERING OF THE MASSES WAS LARGELY DUE TO THE LEAP FROM TRIBAL TO BOURGEOIS SOCIETY, CONCENTRATING IN A FEW YEARS WHAT HAD TAKEN CENTURIES OF FEUDALISM TO BRING ABOUT IN ENGLAND.

THE POLICY OF THE WHIGS WAS SIMPLE: TO AVOID FOREIGN WARS, AS THEY WERE HARMFUL TO TRADE AND REMOVED ALL TAXES, EVEN FROM LAND. WALPOLE SUCCEEDED, AND CALM CAME TO ALL POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE MASSES.

IT WAS IN THE AGE OF WALPOLE THAT THE CABINET SYSTEM TOOK SHAPE. PARLIAMENT TOOK OVER FROM THE CROWN. THE CABINET WAS (AND IS) IN FACT A COMMITTEE FORMED BY THE LEADERS OF THE PARTY TO REPRESENT THE RULING SECTION.

NOMINALLY CONTROLLED BY PARLIAMENT, IT REALLY CONTROLS PARLIAMENT, AS LONG AS THE PARTY HAS A MAJORITY THERE. (THAT’S DEMOCRACY? NO, IT IS NOT.)

THE SYSTEM IN WALPOLE'S TIME WAS NOT AS DEVELOPED AS TODAY. WAS IT RESPONSIBLE TO PARLIAMENT OR THE CROWN? TECHNICALLY, TODAY’S GOVERNMENT IS HER MAJESTY’S, BUT WALPOLE NEVER TOOK THE TITLE OF PRIME MINISTER, WHICH WAS CONSIDERED FOREIGN TO THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION AT THE TIME, ALTHOUGH HE ACTED AS PRIME MINISTER.

WE CAN SAY THAT THIS WAS THE TIME THE BOURGEOISIE DIRECTLY RULED ENGLAND, AND THE CABINET WAS ITS INSTRUMENT.

CHANGE WAS EASY. GEORGE I AND II WERE PETTY AND RATHER STUPID GERMAN PRINCES WHO WERE MORE INTERESTED IN HANOVER THAN ENGLAND. IGNORANT OF ENGLISH AFFAIRS, THEY LET WALPOLE AND THE WHIGS RULE.

CORRUPTION AT THIS TIME WAS SYSTEMATIC. AFTER ALL, ONLY 245,000 WERE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE, BUT TORY HISTORIAN JB NAMIER SAID:

“TAKING ENGLAND AS A WHOLE, PROBABLY NOT MORE THAN ONE IN EVERY 20 VOTERS AT COUNTY ELECTIONS COULD FREELY EXERCISE HIS STATUATORY RIGHT.”

IN THE BOROUGHS, IT WAS WORSE: ONLY 22 PARLIAMENTARIANS HAD VOTES OVER A 1,000, AND 33 HAD ONLY BETWEEN 500 AND 1,000 VOTES. AS FAR AS POSSIBLE, ELECTIONS WERE AVOIDED AS THEY WERE TOO EXPENSIVE.

A GENERAL ELECTION COULD BE CONTESTED BY THREE OR FOUR MEMBERS. EACH CONSTITUENCY RETURNED TWO MEMBERS, SO BARGAINING EXISTED AND INTERESTS CONFLICTED. VOTES WERE BOUGHT OR OBTAINED BY FRAUD OR INTIMIDATION.

ON THIS BASIS, PARTY POLITICS BECAME LESS A MATTER OF POLICIES AND MORE ONE OF SIMPLE PERSONAL AQUISITIVENESS. IT BECAME NORMAL FOR A GENTLEMAN “TO GET HIS BREAD BY VOTING IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.” THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE WAS “TO FIND PASTURE ENOUGH FOR THE BEASTS, THAT THEY MUST FEED” ( PIGS IN THE TROUGH?).

FOR 50 YEARS, THE WHIGS FED AND GREW FAT WITH LITTLE OPPOSITION, BUT FEUDS AND SPLITS FELLED WALPOLE IN 1742. HOWEVER, ENORMOUS WEALTH HAD BEEN CREATED, AND MANY SAW THAT THEIR RICHES COULD BE MADE GREATER THROUGH OPEN COLONIAL WAR.

DISPUTES AROSE FROM TRADE WITH THE SPANISH COLONIES, AND, BY APPEALS TO GREED AND WORSE, WALPOLE PAVED THE WAY FOR THE WAR OF JENKIN’S EAR IN 1739, WHICH WAS SOON TO BE SWALLOWED UP IN THE GENERAL EUROPEAN CONFLICT OF AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION.

 WALPOLE’S REIGN ENDED WITH PITT, WHO WAS THE GRANDSON OF A GREAT NABOB, A BITTER, ARROGANT, THRUSTING IMPERIALIST* WHO CUT THROUGH THE ROTTEN WHIGS.

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 18th CENTURY, ENGLAND STOOD ON THE VERGE OF BOTH THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION AND ANOTHER ROUND OF GREAT WARS. FOR A TIME, PARTY POLITICS VANISHED.

*IMPERIALIST IS USED IN THE POPULAR SENSE RATHER THAN THE TECHNICAL SENSE GIVEN TO IT BY LENIN AND USED LATER

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