Ch 12 The Triumph of Industrial Capitalism Pt

CH.12-THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

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CHAPTER XII: THE TRIUMPH OF INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM

SECTION 4: THE ROOTS OF LIBERALISM

 

IN 1793, THE TORIES GATHERED THE PROPERTY OWNING CLASSES BEHIND THEM, WHILE THE WHIGS WERE STILL A SMALL SECT BASED ON TRADITION AND SENTIMENT RATHER THAN GENUINE CLASS INTEREST.

THE LANDOWNERS, CITY MERCHANTS AND FINANCE OLIGARCHY, WHO USUALLY ENDED UP BUYING LANDED ESTATES AND SHOWED GREAT APPTITUDE FOR ACQUIRING THE CHARACTER AND OUTLOOK OF THE LANDOWNERS, KEPT HOLD OF THE REINS OF POWER.

THROUGHOUT THIS PERIOD, POLITICS IN ENGLAND COMPRISED THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN GROUPS WITHIN THE TORY PARTY.


THE INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISTS CONTINUED TO BE THE OUTSIDERS. THEIR STRENGTH LAY IN THE NORTH, AND, ALTHOUGH THEY DID BECOME LANDOWNERS, TO ACQUIRE POLITICAL STANDING THEY WERE A CLASS APART.

THE CORN LAWS BECAME THE CENTRE OF THE DISPUTE. THERE WAS A SPLIT BETWEEN THE INDUSTRIALISTS AND LANDLORDS, WHICH CULMINATED IN PETERLOO, AS PREVIOUSLY DESCRIBED.

BY 1820, THERE WERE SIGNS OF CHANGE. THE REVIVAL OF THE WHIGS, MADE UP OF THE ARISTOCRATIC OLD GUARD, AS WELL AS THE NEW COMMERCIAL CLASS, CAME TO CALL THEMSELVES ‘THE LIBERALS’. THEY EVEN ATTRACTED THE INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISTS AND MIDDLE CLASSES.

EQUALLY IMPORTANT WAS THE BREAK UP OF THE TORIES. LARGE SECTIONS JOINED THE WHIGS TO PASS ‘THE REFORM BILL’. A GROUP LED BY CANNING, PALMERSTON, PEEL AND OTHER MODERATE TORIES CAME TO THE FORE, AND A CONFLICT WITH THE HIGH TORIES, LED BY WELLINGTON AND ELDON, FOLLOWED.

NEW SITUATIONS CALLED FOR NEW TACTICS. THE ‘SIX ACTS’ HAD PREVENTED ONE REVOLUTIONARY CRISIS, BUT, FOR THE FAR SIGHTED RULING CLASS, SUCH METHODS WERE UNLIKELY TO BE EFFECTIVE IN THE FUTURE. SO, THEY AVOIDED COERCION WHENEVER OTHER METHODS WOULD SERVE. THE RESULT WAS MORE LIBERALISM.

BETWEEN 1820 AND 1830, PEEL CHANGED THE CRIMINAL CODE. ALTHOUGH THERE HAD BEEN THE DEATH SENTENCE FOR TRIVIAL CRIMES, CRIMES HAD ALWAYS INCREASED, AND THE ‘NIGHT WATCHMEN’ WERE HOPELESSLY INADEQUATE TO CONTROL EVEN PETTY THEFT. PEEL AND OTHER REFORMERS REALISED THAT CRIMES WOULD DECREASE IF PENALITIES COULD BE BETTER ENFORCED. HE ESTALISHED THE ‘PEELERS, A NEW POLICE FORCE, FIRST IN LONDON AND THEN IN THE PROVINCES.

IN POLITICAL TERMS, THE POLICE HAD THE ADVANTAGE OF STRENGTHENING THE POWER OF THE STATE WITHOUT SERIOUS RISK OF INTERNAL DISORDER. THIS COINCIDED WITH A DECLINE IN POLITICAL AGITATION AFTER 1820. IT ALSO MADE IT POSSIBLE TO RELAX CENSORSHIP OF THE PRESS AND WITHDRAW MANY OF THE SPIES AND PROVOCATEURS FROM RADICAL AND WORKING CLASS ORGANISATIONS.

RATHER THAN PROVOKE DISORDER, IT WAS WISER TO AVOID IT WTH THE PARTIAL REPEAL OF ‘THE COMBINATION ACTS’ OF 1824. SO LONG AS TRADE UNIONS WERE ILLEGAL, THERE WERE GROUNDS FOR CONSPIRACY. FRANCIS PLACE WAS LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR PERSUADING HIMSELF AND THE GOVERNMENT THAT LEGALISED TRADE UNIONS WOULD BECOME UNNECESSARY, DECAY THEN DISAPPEAR.

HUSKINSON, AT THE BOARD OF TRADE, SET ABOUT REVISING THE TANGLE OF TRADE TARIFFS. PROTECTION HAD BEEN NECESSARY BUT WAS NOW A NUISANCE TO INDUSTRY, WHICH HAD NO VISIBLE RIVALS AND ONLY WISHED TO SELL ITS GOODS AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE, WHILE PRODUCING THEM AS CHEAPILY AS POSSIBLE.

THE NAVIGATION LAWS WERE CONSIDERABLY MODIFIED, AND THE GENERAL EFFECT OF PARTIAL FREE TRADE WAS TO PROMOTE THE IMPORT OF RAW MATERIALS AT THEIR LOWEST PRICE.

AFTER 1822, CANNING BECAME FOREIGN SECRETARY AND ADOPTED A LIBERAL STANCE. AFTER WATERLOO, ENGLAND TAGGED ON TO THE ‘HOLY ALLIANCE’, CONSENTING RATHER THAN PARTICIPATING. BUT THE REAL DANGER DEVELOPING WAS THE EUROPEAN DOMINANCE BY AUSTRIA, PRUSSIA AND RUSSIA.

CANNING FELL BACK ON THE ‘BALANCE OF POWER’ PRINCIPLE AND UNDERSTOOD FRANCE’S SITUATION. FRANCE WAS NOW A RESPECTABLE POWER WITH A BOURBON MONARCHY. HOWEVER, IT WAS REPRESSING A DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION IN SPAIN. CANNING DID NOT INTERFERE, BUT HE SENT AN ARMY TO PROTECT PORTUGAL AND MADE IT QUITE CLEAR THAT NO INTERFERENCE IN SOUTH AMERICA WOULD BE TOLERATED.

THE SPANISH COLONIES IN AMERICA HAD CUT THEMSELVES LOOSE DURING THE NAPOLEONIC WARS AND WERE AN IMPORTANT MARKET FOR BRITAIN. FURTHER TROUBLE IN EUROPE DEVELOPED WHEN THE GREEKS REVOLTED AGAINST TURKISH RULE. CANNING SAW THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPLIT THE HOLY ALLIANCE WITH THE DEFEAT OF THE TURKISH NAVY BY THE BRITISH, FRENCH AND RUSSIANS AT NAVARINO IN 1827, BUT HE WAS CAREFUL NOT TO ALLOW RUSSIAN CONTROL OF THE NEW GREEK STATE.

THE WHIGS COOPERATED AND IT SEEMED MIGHT MERGE WITH CANNING’S TORY LIBERAL GROUP, BUT THE DEATH OF LORD LIVERPOOL IN 1827 LAID BARE THE DISSENT AMONG THE HIGH TORIES, AND CANNING FORMED A MINISTRY OF HIS OWN WITH WHIG SUPPORT.

THE WHOLE POLITICAL SCENE WAS ONE OF ‘CONFUSED INCONSEQUENCES’ UNDERPINNED BY PERSONAL SQUABBLES. THIS OPENED THE WAY FOR THE NEW CLASS OF THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION TO ACQUIRE DIRECT POLITICAL POWER.

HARDLY HAD WELLINGTON TAKEN POWER THAN HE WAS FACED WITH EITHER CIVIL WAR OR THE EMANCIPATION OF CATHOLIC IRELAND. HE CHOSE THE LATTER, EVEN THOUGH FOR THE HIGH TORIES THIS WAS UNTHINKABLE. IT LED BY ACCIDENT TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TORY PARTY, WHICH WAS LEFT WITH NO LEADERSHIP OR DIRECTION.

CANNING’S TORIES MERGED INTO THE WHIGS, RATHER THAN THE OTHER WAY ROUND, AND, WHEN IN THE LATE 20S TRADE REVIVAL TURNED INTO SLUMP, THE UNREFORMED PARLIAMENT MEANT THERE WAS NO EFFECTIVE CHANNEL OF RESISTANCE FOR CHALLENGING THE WHIG’S POWER, DESPITE THE DISCONTENT OF THE HUNGRY MASSES.

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