Ch 13 Liberal Ascendancy

CH.13-LIBERAL ASCENDANCY

Hits: 1852

CHAPTER XIII: LIBERAL ASCENDANCY

SECTION 4: THE SECOND REFORM BILL


THE WHIGS PROGRESSED TOWARD LIBERALISM DURING THE TENURE OF PALMERSTON, WHO DIED IN 1865 AFTER HAVING CHANGED SIDES FROM THE TORIES.

LORD JOHN RUSSELL WAS WEAKENING. SO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE PARTY PASSED TO GLADSTONE, WHO MAINTAINED CLOSE RELATIONS WITH THE RADICALS, HEADED BY BRIGHT.

HIS ALLIANCE COMMITTED THE PARTY TO FURTHER REFORM.

AGITATION BY THE TRADE UNIONS (AS EARLY AS 1861), THE LONDON TRADES COUNCIL AND THE COBDENITES TOOK UP THE CHALLENGE AND THE LONDON WORKING MENS ASSOCIATION WAS FORMED.

IN 1866, GLADSTONE INTRODUCED THE REFORM BILL, WHICH WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT TO THOSE ON THE LEFT.

IT RECEIVED ONLY MODERATE ENTHUSIASM WITHIN THE LIBERAL PARTY AND WAS OPPOSED BY THE TORIES.

THE £10 PROPERTY QUALIFICATION WAS REDUCED TO £7, BUT TORY ROBERT LOWE EXPRESSED THE OPINION THAT, IN PRINCIPLE, “THE WORKERS AS WORKERS WERE UNFIT FOR FRANCHISE.”

IT WAS ONE INSULT TOO FAR AND MADE REFORM A CLASS QUESTION AND ALMOST A QUESTION OF HONOUR. THE RULING CLASSES WERE AMAZED BY THE REACTION.

HUGE DEMONSTRATIONS, WHICH INCLUDED THE WORKERS AND LOWER MIDDLE CLASSES, DEVELOPED INTO RIOTS WHERE HALF A MILE OF RAILINGS WERE TORN UP AS WEAPONS.

ALL THIS, AND JUST AT THE TIME OF THE FORMATION OF A TORY GOVERNMENT LED BY DISRAELI.

THE REFORM AGITATION CERTAINLY FRIGHTENED THE TORY PARLIAMENT INTO ACTION. AS A CONCESSION, DISRAELI BROUGHT FORWARD HIS REFORM BILL OF 1867.

THIS BILL GAVE THE FRANCHISE TO ALL HOUSEHOLDERS, INCLUDING THE MINERS, AND WAS MADE UNIFORM IN BOROUGH AND COUNTY.

JUST AS IMPORTANT WAS THE BALLOT ACT OF 1872, WHICH ABOLISHED OPEN VOTING AT THE HUSTINGS. WITHOUT THIS ACT, THE EXTENSION OF FRANCHISE WOULD HAVE BEEN LITTLE MORE THAN A BAD JOKE TO AGRICULTURAL WORKERS.

THE REFORM BILL OF 1867 WAS THE BASIS FOR THE FORMATION OF AN INDEPENDENT PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS.

THE CHARTISTS HAD BEEN THE AGITATIONAL PARTY OF THE DISENFRANCHISED.

THE LABOUR PARTY, HANDICAPPED AS IT WAS BY ITS ORIGINS IN BOURGEIOS RADICALISM AND THE OPPORTUNISM OF ITS LEADERS, GREW UP WITH ONE FOOT IN THE TRADE UNIONS AND THE OTHER IN PARLIAMENT.

IT WAS NEVER GOING TO HAVE THE SOLIDITY OF THE CHARTIST MOVEMENT.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE LABOUR PARTY TOOK A GENERATION, BUT THE IMMEDIATE ADVANTAGE WENT TO THE RADICALS.

IN 1868, THE LIBERALS WERE RETURNED.

THE WHIGS HAD LONG DEPARTED TO THE TORIES, AND, WHEN GLADSTONE FORMED HIS GOVERNMENT, BRIGHT RECEIVED A CABINET POST.

IN THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED, CONCESSIONS TO SOCIAL REFORMS WERE MADE ON THE BACK OF THE MASS DEMONSTRATIONS OF THE PREVIOUS TWO YEARS AND BECAUSE BOTH PARTIES WERE FORCED TO BID ELECTORALLY FOR WORKING CLASS SUPPORT.

THERE WAS LITTLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE INTERNAL POLICIES OF BOTH PARTIES FOR THE NEXT 12 YEARS.

UNIVERSAL ELEMENTARY EDUCATION CAME WITH THE ACT OF 1870.

IT HAD NOT BEEN IMPORTANT FOR THE WORKING CLASS TO BE LITERATE, BUT NOW, WITH FOREIGN COMPETITION AND HIGHER LEVELS OF EDUCATION IN GERMANY, THE US AND ELSEWHERE, IT WAS AN OBVIOUS NECESSITY.

AT THE SAME TIME, ENGLAND BECAME THE COMMERCIAL CENTRE OF THE WORLD, AND AN INCREASING NUMBER OF CLERKS AND SUPERVISORY WORKERS WERE REQUIRED.

FINALLY, THE WORKERS THEMSELVES WERE SHOWING A DISTURBING TENDENCY TO EDUCATE THEMSELVES, AND THIS CAUSED CONCERN THAT THINGS MIGHT DEVELOP ALONG SUBVERSIVE LINES.

THE REFORM OF THE CIVIL SERVICE WAS PREVIOUSLY THE PRESERVE OF THE ARISTOCRACY AND ITS HANGERS ON. THE RESULT WAS A BUREAUCRACY THAT WAS NEITHER CAPABLE NOR HONEST.

IN 1870, POSTS WERE THROWN OPEN TO PUBLIC EXAMINATION, AND THE MIDDLE CLASSES STAFFED THE OFFICES.


THE NOTABLE EXCEPTION BEING THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND DIPLOMATIC CORPS, WHERE SOCIAL QUALIFICATIONS CONTINUED TO WEIGH HEAVILY, AND THESE REMAIN IN THE HANDS OF THE UPPER CLASSES EVEN TODAY.

A SIMILAR SITUATION WAS EFFECTED WITHIN THE ARMY IN 1871, WITH THE ABOLITION OF THE PRACTICE OF PURCHASING COMMISSIONS.

THESE REFORMS BY THE LIBERALS AGAINST THE ARISTOCRACY AND ESTABLISHED CHURCH, WHO LOST THEIR VIRTUAL MONOPOLY OF ELEMENTARY EDUCATION, COMPETED WITH THE TORIES, WHO CONCENTRATED ON FACTORY LEGISLATION, HOUSING AND SANITATION.

TOWNS WERE GROWING UP UNCHECKED, UGLY AND BARBAROUSLY UNHEALTHY. SLUMS AND THE FEAR OF CHOLERA, INADEQUATE DRAINAGE AND WATER CONTAMINATION AFFECTED ALL CLASSES.

OUTBREAKS OF DISEASE IN 1849 AND 1854 CONCENTRATED EFFORTS, CULMINATING IN THE PUBLIC HEALTH ACT OF 1875.

GLADSTONE’S DECLARATION THAT “MY MISSION IS TO PACIFY IRELAND,” WITH ‘PACIFY’ BEING THE OPERATIVE WORD, SHOWED THAT FOR ALL SECTIONS OF THE RULING CLASSES, IRELAND WAS A CONQUERED PROVINCE TO BE GOVERNED IN THEIR INTERESTS, PEACEFULLY IF POSSIBLE.


THE WHOLE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE LIBERALS AND TORIES OVER THE IRISH QUESTION WAGED DURING THE LATE 19th CENTURY.

DIFFERENES WERE MERELY TACTICAL, AND IT WAS ONLY AMONG THE WORKING CLASS THAT THE BELIEF WAS HELD THAT IRELAND WAS A NATION WITH THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE ITS OWN DESTINY.

HOWEVER, THE OUTSTANDING EVENT OF THE PERIOD WAS THE PURCHASE AND CONTROL OF THE SUEZ CANAL, HELD BY KHEDIVE OF EGYPT, BY DISRAELI WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF ROTHCHILDS.

IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BRITSH EMPIRE AND FOR THE CLOSE COOPERATION BETWEEN THE TORY GOVERNMENT AND POWERFUL INTERNATIONAL FINANCE OLIGARCHY.

AS THEY GREW IN POWER AND EXERTED DOMINANCE IN BANKING AND INDUSTRY, THE ROTHCHILDS, GOSCHENS, BARINGS AND THE LIKE EXERCISED INCREASING INFLUENCE ON BRITISH POLICY IN PARLIAMENT.

THE LIBERALS DIMINISHED AS A PARTY OF THE MIDDLE CLASS, AND THE LABOUR PARTY ROSE ON THE BACK OF ITS MASS BASE AMONG THE WORKERS.

IT IS ENTIRELY CHARACTERISTIC THAT THE TORIES, WHO CEASED TO BE REALLY REPRESENTATIVE OF THE LANDOWNERS, ADOPTED THE PRETENTIOUSLY SELF CONSCIOUS ‘MERRY ENGLAND’ PROPAGANDA PATTER, RECONCILING THE ENGLISH ARISTOCRACY TO THEIR POSITION OF JUNIOR PARTNER IN THE FIRM OF IMPERIALISM UNLIMITED.

IT WAS INDEED IMPORTANT FOR THE BRITISH BOURGEIOSIE TO LEARN NEW WAYS, FOR, IN THE LATE 1870S, A DEEP SOCIAL CRISIS WAS UPON THEM, WHICH COULD NOT BE OVERCOME AS LIGHTLY AS WOULD HAVE BEEN THE CASE IN THE BOUNDING YEARS OF DOMINANT LIBERALISM.

NEXT, CHAPTER XIV

THE ORGANISATION OF THE WORKING CLASS

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