Disraeli’s second ministry Essay
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“Disraeli’s second ministry deserves the title a great reforming ministry” Discuss how far you agree with this view in relation to Gladstone first Ministry.
A great reforming ministry is a government which manages to radically alter the political and social scene, aiming to deal with the most pressing problems and creating a long term legacy whereby later ministries aim to protect and improve what has been achieved instead of trying to alter radically. This is why it becomes clear that Gladstone ministry and not Disraeli’s should be considered a great reforming ministry.
The aims of both ministries were radically different. Gladstone’s aims for his ministry when he came into power in 1867 were to try and create a more efficient and meritocratic society which removed privileges and advocated individualistic self-reliance. This ideology of beliefs were formed due to Gladstone long held religious beliefs which drove him and in the liberal ideas of equality of opportunity, tolerance and individualism he saw the best system to try and create a society based on Christian morals.
Throughout all his legislation Gladstone aimed for the fair and just decision explaining his desire to try and pacify Ireland. This is in contrast to Disraeli’s aims as Prime Minister from 1874. Disraeli had managed to finally get the conservatives elected after being out of power for over ten years, and he achieved this through radically modernising the Conservative party which was represented in his Tamworth manifesto speech where he proclaimed the aims of the Conservative party were to protect institutions and traditions, strengthen the empire and alleviate the condition of the people.
However Disraeli never had a clear agenda of reforms before he came into power instead his main aims were ensuring the continuation of power for the Conservative power, this meant Disraeli aimed not to disrupt his key support base of the middle and upper class and focused on reducing taxes. Additionally although due to his promise of alleviating the condition of the people he was forced to create social legislation to ensure minimal government intervention he aimed to make the acts permissive weaken their impact and focussed on areas which were non-controversial and where mild reforms could be implemented. This contrast reflects the differing impacts the two ministries wanted to achieve.
Gladstone’s ministries reforms had a substantial impact. The 1870 education act with the setting up of board schools to complement the existing structure of voluntary religious schools reflect Gladstone’s desire to try and create equality of opportunity and to encourage individual self-reliance. This reform became the very foundations of the mixed school system which is present today, reflecting the long term impact this reform had. Additionally Gladstone introduced key reforms to remove privilege and create a more efficient government and army with the 1871 civil service reforms which meant entry to the civil service could only be achieved through examination and the army reforms that were carried out between 1870-1872 whereby the act of purchase was abolished and instead officer class could only be achieved through merit and amount of time privates would have to spend in the army was reduced to encourage higher uptake.
This reflects the impact Gladstone was trying to achieve he didn’t shy away from attacking key sectors of power within society because he believed it was morally right and fair to remove privilege from the upper classes. This was particularity important for a working class which aimed to be free individuals who wanted the vote and an equal footing. Whilst Disraeli’s legislation although Important was hampered due to Disraeli’s desire to minimise the impact of reform and to only focus on non-controversial areas. The 1875 Artisans dwelling act is a clear example of weak legislation, the act meant that councils could compel owners of slums to sell their property and allow the council to knock-down the slums and then sell the land to private building firms. However the legislation was permissive so the council didn’t have to ensure slums were removed and it required councils to give compensation to the landowners and so by the end of Disraeli’s term the act had only been used in 10 councils making its impact very mild.
Whilst other acts such as the 1875 Agriculture holdings act show Disraeli is unable to make truly effective legislation because he wishes to protect the power base of the upper class. The act should of ensured that tenants that improve their land receive compensation but Disraeli made the act permissive and stated that if there was a condition in contract which stated the landowner didn’t have to pay compensation then the landowner didn’t have too. Due to this again the impact of the legislation was minor. Other legislation shows Disraeli’s opportunistic nature and aim to keep power such as the 1875 conspiracy and protection of property act which reformed a piece of Gladstonian legislation which banned peaceful picketing this act allowed peaceful picketing which Disraeli hoped would give the Conservative support from the trade unions, to try and weaken the threat from the Liberal party.
Even when Disraeli produced legislation which was aimed at alleviating the condition of the people such as the 1874 Factory Act which meant that by law women and children weren’t allowed to be made to work more than nine and half hours in a day but deliberately avoided the majority of the working population which was male and although the legislation had the impact of forcing factories to close earlier which effected male working hours as well it wasn’t the intention. Overall examining the legislation shows the difference in impact the two different ministries legislation had with Gladstone causing a huge impact whilst Disraeli’s showing only a very minor effect focusing on refining Gladstone previous legislation or reforming on very specific small issues to try and gain support.
However both ministries were flawed though, for all Gladstone large and influential reforms he was voted out in 1874 and although Disraeli aimed not to lose any support he also was voted out in 1880. The reason why Gladstone was voted out were that his legislation was so wide ranging it impact on nearly every sector of society and as such Gladstone also lost his wide spectrum of support. The upper classes disliking his aims of efficiency feeling that they were breaking the traditional power structure of society against their favour. The middle and working classes were effected by Gladstone’s controversial legislation which was highly unpopular at the time such as the Licensing Act of 1872 and the 1871 Criminal Amendment Act. Both of these act reflects sometimes Gladstone misjudgement on what was beneficial for the people and how to create a fairer society.
Also Gladstone failed in one of his key aims which was to pacify Ireland but he was the one of the few politicians who was truly trying to find a workable solution instead of coercion. Whilst Disraeli was voted out not because he had made a massive impact but because he was Prime Minister whilst the economy entered recession, this meant that his mild measure had even less impact and his expensive imperialistic aims were highly controversial. So due to the recession Disraeli failed to alleviate the condition of the people and his other aims meant his government appeared to stall resulting in his popularity dropping.
Overall although his legislation was occasionally flawed the overall improvement and effect that Gladstone’s ministry had on the country reflect a great reforming ministry. Gladstone’s Liberal beliefs in meritocratic and individual society have become corner stones of British society reflecting the ministries long term impact and legislation such as the licensing act although unpopular at the time has only been amended never removed by later governments as they see the positive impacts of the restriction of alcohol. This reflected against Disraeli’s achievement of mildly modify Gladstone’s legislation and avoiding awkward decision domestically or trying to alter the status quo shows that his ministry cannot be considered a great reforming ministry. As such I disagree with the view that Disraeli’s government was a great reforming government instead arguing that it was his predecessor Gladstone that was clearly the great reforming ministry.