The fall of duke Wellington’s government in November 1830 is regarded as one of the most important turning point and a very pivotal moment in British history. So decisive and seemingly unexpected, was the downward turn in the duke’s political fortune and his government, meant is was caused by an array of reasons. From the standpoint of the 2 major parties, the political stature of Britain was quite weak. As a result of arguments and internal splits within the government, the tory party for the first time in many years had become apart of the minority. The small liberal wing of the tory party, the canningities had left in 1828 after a series of disagreements with the Wellington, whereas the Ultra’s, who were loyal to Wellington and Peel, left the Tory party mainly because the of the passing of catholic emancipation in 1829.
Another issue that caused the disintegration of Wellington’s Tory party was not only just catholic emancipation, but also the fact that the duke and peel had to announce it. The Act of C.E was passed in April 1829, with a total of 173 Tory MPs against it. The ultra Tories believed that Catholic emancipation was an assault on the British Constitution, Although many Tories sympathised with Peel, they hated Wellington for falling to catholic pressure and judged him as misguided, or even two faced because he had always been a opponent to Catholic Emancipation. There was also widespread opposition in the country at large, because many in many cities like Liverpool and Manchester, there were many immigrants. This not only fractured Wellington’s capability as leader, but his government as well because the Tory party was now split 3 ways: the canningities soon to be allied with the Whigs, and also the separate faction of ultra’s who felt betrayed by Wellington.
But one of the key factors that essentially solidified end of the Wellington’s government, was the speech that he read out in the New parliament meeting of November 1830. In trying to win support from the ultras, he made a speech in which he said he saw no need to consider and change in the current parliamentary system, an opinion rarely shared by other, This can be argued as one of the worst political “own goals” in British History as he clearly missed the mood of the moment, as there was genuinely a big concern over parliamentary reform.
Wellington’s argument seemed entirely wrong almost to the point of stupidity as there was immense support towards parliamentary reform from both inside and outside parliament. Another issue that pushed Wellington’s government to the brink, was the ever growing power of the Whig party. The Whigs were now pushing for parliamentary reform and they were now more stronger and more confident.
They had support of the canningites, who were experienced in parliament and the support of the new King William IV, they had a monarch who was not opposed to them like King George the IV had been. Some ultra tories who felt betrayed by Peel and Wellington united with the Whigs and Canningities to defeat the government. By 1827- 30, the divisions within the Wellington’s government had become to severe, the various arguments between factions limited it’s political aims and capability. The Whigs had a big part to play in further fracturing Wellington’s government through it’s alliances with the canningities and the ultras, so inevitably had a big part to play in the demise off Wellington’s government.
How close to revolution did Britain come in 1830-32?
A revolution can be defined as a drastic and far reaching change in a country’s way of thinking and behaviour. It is usually due to the fact that political change fails to respond to social or economic distress. In Britain, The growing pressure to change an unrepresentative electoral system was strengthened by the deteriorating economy. Against a backdrop of poor harvests, rising rates of unemployment and revival of radical demands for reform – it could argued that at face value, Britain extremely close to revolution from the years of 1830 to 1832.
An issue that helped in pushing Britain to the brink of revolution was the crisis caused by the harvest failure, high prices and unemployment. These were some of the many issues which cause unrest within the countryside, as their was protests ranging from the destruction of machinery to the burning of corn. So the swing riots of 1830-1831 had begun. The significance of the agricultural disaster of 1830 and the swing riots, is that is can be argued as one of the initial steps which caused the rebellious and revolutionary attitudes of the people of Britain to grow.
A crucial issue that almost caused a revolutionary climate in Britain between 1830-32 was the issue of parliamentary reform. Although changes had been made, like redistributing seats to more industrially centred places like Manchester and Leeds, so giving the middle class factory owners more political power and significance, the fact remained that house of Lords and the government as a whole, was still saturated with Aristocracy. The public were being let down and felt that the house of lords was clearly out of touch with the working and middle classes’ wishes, and example of this was the rejection of the second reform bill by the Lords in 1831, which caused widespread anger throughout the country.
Although many groups and coalitions were formed to support the great reform act, one of the most notable political societies’ was the Birmingham Political union. The need for change, and so revolution can be clearly seen in formation of this union, as a crowd of over 15,000 arrived on it’s first meeting. It was inspired by the works of the Catholic Association in attracting mass membership and being well organised, without any form of violence. To gain support, The BPU’s polices were mainly targeted at middle and working classes, but there were other important coalitions like the MPU (Metropolitan Political Union) which was dominated by artisans and craftsman, who had be radicals in the years of 1819. Ultimately, the union of these various craftsmen, businessmen, lawyers and workers increased the tensions and sense of uneasiness with the government, so once again spurs the idea that Britain was edging closer to revolution.
As well as pressure from the BPU, Francis Plaice made London the central place of opposition of the Lords, but not the Whigs. Whereas elsewhere by 1832, there were cases of violent protests which appeared throughout the country. Riots spread from the small rural areas to the large industrial towns, as the tensions concerning reforms increased drastically.
One extreme case of rioting was in Bristol, when a violent mob burned down almost all of there town centre. All these different forms of protest suggest that, revolutionary circumstances like the overthrowing of Charles X in France or the demolition of Tsar in Russia, was rapidly becoming an inevitability in Britain. Arguably the only thing that prevented full scale revolution was the desire of the Whig party and there newly elected leader lord grey’s partial support towards reform, and efforts in turning violent protests into ” safe and legitimate reform.”
However there were major political issues that suggested that, Britain wouldn’t have a revolution just yet, unlike it’s neighbour France. Since the late 1770’s the Lord grey had handled issues over parliamentary reform, but in 1831 he finally got his moment. Although the Whigs only partially supported the idea of parliamentary reform, Earl grey was enough of a politician to realise that in the defeat of the first 2 bills and public disturbances, some change will be needed to mediate the situation. A quote for Grey states that ” The principle of my reform is to prevent the need for revolution”. Grey was very aware of the public’s opinion and knew that situation would only get worse if they were inhibited any form of change. Grey motives were clear from the start as his idea of “reforming to change” was faï¿½ade to stop Britain becoming a democratic country, and so helped prevent a revolution.
Although the Whig party still headed for aristocracy and believed that the amount of property was the basis for representation, the small amount of change or daresay “reform” allowed them stop further rebellions and prevent Britain disintegrating, and also helped the poor and working classes. Redistribution was vital in preventing the working classes from rebelling, as they could take seats from seemly useless places like Old Sarum and Dunich to newly industrialising cities. The Whigs wanted to protect aristocracy, but firmly believed that to strengthen the constitution they had to give the franchise to people with new forms of property and intelligence, which meant that middle class factory owners could now sit as an MP and vote. There were other changes which allowed the Whigs to control the situation with the public, and so prevent a revolution, this included 31 small boroughs losing half their Mps and also mean that boroughs of less than 2000 votes were totally disfranchised.
Britain was going through bleak times with a deteriorating economy and unemployment rate, and prominent cases of radicalism and violence. The public were being let down and felt that the house of lords was clearly out of touch with the working and middle classes’ wishes: all these factors contributed to the urgent need of political reform, suggesting that to a certain extent that revolution was quite close, if the situation was left not dealt with any longer it probably would have occurred.
However It must be said that Grey was speaking the truth when he said the bill was an aristocratic measure that was introduced to prevent the need for revolution. He was very clever in his methods of introducing a small amount of change to delay revolution, and restore order to Britain. Ultimately, aspects of the Whig party ensured that revolution could occur, on the face of it, it shows that they changed the political map forever, but in truth it was a limited, but clever change to preserve there current constitution. So in conclusion, I must say that although to a certain extent Britain had come close to a revolution, but the actions of grey and his Whig party in preventing revolution, meant that that to a slightly further extent Britain had not come close to a revolution.