Liverpool faced many economic and financial problems, as well as some political problems. Some of these problems included national debt, unemployment, wars with France and America and popular protest groups. Each of these factors also contributed to the popular unrest which occurred during this period. Liverpool was highly effective in defeating Napoleon and also in dealing with protest groups. Additionally he was also successful in bringing about some economic prosperity as well as reducing the deficit. However he was least effective in gaining the support of Prince Regent. Liverpool was most successful in winning the war with Napoleon in 1815. Liverpool had been the only person which had been able to defeat Napoleon to date which consequently made him seem unbeatable. During the war Napoleon implemented an ‘economic blockade’. In response the British tried to stop America from trading with certain countries, this hardened American opinion of the British and they now wanted independence. This eventually led to another war, however this was resolved in a few years.
Liverpool’s military success led to him gaining much support and therefore strengthening his position. Liverpool was also successful – to an extent – in restoring economic prosperity. The war had disrupted British trade and economy and it had also encouraged British economy to over specialise in war industries which resulted in inflation and rising prices. The Corn Laws which were implemented in 1815 caused bread prices to rise rapidly in the poor harvest of 1816; this angered many working class people and caused a lot of popular unrest, it also made Liverpool very unpopular, the corn laws benefited the upper classes. Additionally by 1815 Britain had and £861 million national debt and the deficit had reached £13 million. The income tax which had been imposed in 1799 and brought in £15 million was defeated by 37 votes and abolished in March 1816. This meant that the government lost a substantial amount of revenue therefore worsening the economic state of the country. Further the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815 caused depression as the economy shifted from a war economy to a peacetime one.
Liverpool’s government thought lower tariffs on imported goods would mean lower prices for costumers and therefore increasing demand and stimulating trade which would mean economic prosperity. Liverpool’s main source of revenue was the indirect tax. During this time the government was also under increasing pressure gain the support of the people as in the election of 1818 they had lost seats. The government was severely embarrassed over its handling of Peterloo, the spy system and the Queen Caroline Affair. Matters were only made worse by Castlereagh’s weak defence of the government position in each of the matters. The government was in deep embarrassment and on the verge of losing support from voters. As a response Liverpool shuffled the cabinet in 1822.
Canning was appointed as foreign secretary. This was highly controversial and further cabinet changes took places. This was an attempt to make the restore the people’s faith in the government and Liverpool hoped to regain some credibility. This reshuffle provided the impression of change, however this was not really the case therefore it wasn’t particularly effective in solving any problems. There was also much radical threat in Britain at the time. During this time Liverpool did several things to try and suppress radical action: introduced the six acts, suspended the Habeas Corpus and the Seditions meeting act. Also people were transported and some were executed due to Luddite protests. These acts allowed the magistrates to take action necessary in order to prevent any action which seemed revolutionary.
This made the government seems repressive and reactionary. This was also the first time any government had to deal with mass protest and therefore it could be said that perhaps for the experience they had, the government dealt with matters fairly effectively. Although there are perhaps better ways in which it could have been handled the government was somewhat effective in oppressing revolutionary protest. Liverpool was clearly most effective are regards military action – winning the war with Napoleon and also restoring the peace with America. As regards to the economic and financial problems Liverpool was somewhat successful in reducing the problem rather than getting rid of it.
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