When we use the word Liberal, its intended meaning is open to opinion. The person or group is very open-minded and open to change. The Tories during 1822-30 appeared to be very Liberal at this time. They appeared to be changing their minds on a number of issues, such as Religious Freedom, Political Rights and Free Trade. They also appeared to be changing their attitudes about people’s freedom of expression. The Six Acts, created to prevent people grouping together, in fear of a revolution.
This Act was abolished as the masses appeared to be content with life, and not in an uproar with the country.
The Tories appeared to be Liberal with the supposed arrival of new men into the Cabinet. Lord Goderich was introduced as Chancellor of the Exchequer. William Huskisson became President of the Board of Trade. With George Canning also becoming Foreign Secretary. These new men brought with them new ideas and propositions to the House of Commons.
Compared to the previous men they appeared brilliant. But the truth was these men were not new at all. They were simply back-benchers from the Cabinet, rarely seen doing anything.
They were brought forward into the main Cabinet in order to please the people. Compared to the old Cabinet they were nothing new, but to the people they appeared radical and open to change. Really it was just their better ability of conveying ideas to the Commons, which made them appear brilliant. All their supposed new ideas were also nothing new. They were all ideas that had been thought up years ago, from the years of Pitt. These ideas were postponed due to war or economic crisis, and the new Cabinet simply set the ball rolling again.
On the Economic side of things, a lot changed. The Corn Laws were placed on a sliding scale by 1828, ensuring cheaper food prices for all. Duties on trade relaxed. With reduced costs for materials, it paved the way for wage increases in the workplace. With lower taxes, foreign countries were ready to trade with Britain. Compared to the previous Protectionism trade of previous years, this appeared absolute Free Trade. And with the Reciprocity of Duties Act and relaxation of the Navigation Acts, trade seemed to be booming. But these changes weren’t totally Liberal. The sliding scaled for the Corn Laws may have reduced the cost of corn, costs remained high. Rather that 80s a quarter, it was reduced to 70s.
It may have seemed to be paving the way to new, cheaper living, but very little changed. Although trade was rather free, compared to previous years, it still remained tightly controlled. Free Trade only appeared in order to benefit the Government, not in order to help the people. The Exchequer received increased income from the heightened trade. But most importantly it reduced the increasing problem of smuggling, which was a big problem during the times of high taxation in trade. The cheaper costs of materials for factories and other such workplaces, did not create the wage increases expected. People still suffered with a low wage and poor living conditions.
Socially the country experienced great change. The Penal Code was rewritten. Sentences for crimes were lessened, to ensure the Law was easily enforceable. Previously many people were seen not guilty due to the high penalty of death for such minor offences such as stealing. The Gaols Act cleaned up the prisons of the country. Trade Unions were once again legal, and allowed people to discuss disputes with their manager over items such as pay and work hours. But these Trade Unions were not allowed to strike, thus making them rather powerless. Such reforms in the Penal code and new Acts such as Gaols, were in fact not new at all. They were all thought up during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, and were placed on the back-burner of Governmental issues. But with the “new” group of people in Cabinet, now was the time to pass these changes.
Politically little changed. Nothing was changed about the electoral system itself except for Grampound. In 1821 Grampound was disenfranchised. It lost its MPs because it was a rotten-borough. The seats were moved to Leeds by the House of Commons. Leeds being a large industrial city. But the House of Lords intervened and forced the seats to go to Yorkshire instead, where they knew there would be little opposition from the people. This goes to show that despite all changes the House of Lords still had overall power in the Government. Ironic since they are the only ones who are not voted into Parliament. Lord John Russell gets 164 votes for his reform Bill but the Commons still opposed to the proposition, believing that the people were content with what they had and that there was no need for reform.
Religiously nothing would have happened if it wasn’t for Daniel O’Connell. If he had not won the vote in the bi-election, despite him being a Catholic, this would not have happened. In 1829 Catholic Emancipation was finally allowed, which gave the Catholics and Non-Conformists the same rights as Protestants in the country. The Government only allowed it due to the fear of rebellion in Ireland, which they could not allow no matter what. Also the Test of Corporations was repealed in 1828.
In conclusion the Liberal Tories were in fact the same as they had been in previous years. They were no more Liberal than before. The only reason the appeared Liberal was due to the apparent new men on the Cabinet, whose ability to speak well in the Commons, made them appear very liberal. Almost all ideas they brought forward had been created in the days of Pitt. They just re-ignited the flame and set the ball rolling again.
The only things that may have appeared very Liberal would have been the passing of Catholic Emancipation and the idea of Free Trade. But these two ideas were only created to appease problems the Government faced. The uprising and possible rebellion in Ireland forced them to pass Catholic Emancipation. While the increasing problem of smuggling and evasion of trade duties, meant the Government needed to relax the laws on trading. Also compared to the Whig Reformers of 1830-41, they could not possibly be called Liberal Tories