The Tory governments in the period of 1822-30 Essay
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How accurate is it to describe the Tory governments in the period of 1822-30 as liberal Tory.
Some historians believe that in this period of history the Tory government were liberal as they intended on reforming some aspects of how the country was governed and run. While other believe that the Tory governments were not liberal at all and there was only a few liberal Tories while many didn’t want any such reform such as catholic emancipation or parliamentary reform.
In 1822 Liverpool’s decided on a catholic reshuffle in government, this meant that new men were brought into the government to replace the ones who had either lost there jobs or died or who had received other jobs. The new men that came into the government who brought new ideas which could have been passed through the cabinet and there ideas could have led to them becoming more liberal. This is because people such as Peel came from rich middle class families in the city who wanted to see that industrialists could have more a say in the running of the government. The cabinet reshuffle was liberal as it was a clear change in personnel in government, suggesting a change in think and policies.
Also the new men who were brought into were less aristocratic that the old, they weren’t lords who owned large amounts of land they were more upper middle class; a different background meant different views. Finally there views were more liberal for example Canning wanted more religious freedom while Robinson wanted free trade. However all of the new members of he cabinet were still part of Liverpool’s government before 1822 and supported repressive policies, supported anti-radical legislation.
Also the new people were only brought in due to practical reasons. Liverpool’s felt that he had to bring Canning into government as he had many supporters. The ideas that were introduced during 1822 the ideas had already been spoken about before this time. Finally the government was really unpopular and they wanted to change there image, no clear movement in a liberal direction. Overall the cabinet reshuffle isn’t any proof of a move towards liberalism as it was only done for practical reasons and even if people such as Canning wanted change he would have been outvoted in the cabinet anyway.
During the period of 1822 – 27 the country saw a strong economic growth, some people believe that this was a key reason why radical ideologies decreased during this time as they was better living standards and more jobs circulating in the economy. During this period the government undertook a number of important economic reforms which suggested that the government was moving away from protection and towards free trade. The Tories were moving more liberal as Liverpool himself was known to be a supporter of some of these ideas and in one speech admitted that there needed to be a reduce on tariffs and taxes on imports.
One of the reforms that were introduced was the reduction of custom duties on imports, this encouraged demand and stimulated the economy. It benefited the new manufacturing industries and increased employment. Another reform was the introduction of the reciprocity of duties act 1823, this allowed trade agreements with individual countries. There was also changes to the navigation laws which also improved trade as it meant that Britain as the ban with Holland stopped. Most importantly there was a relaxing of the Corn Laws, this allowed foreign wheat to enter the country without any duty once the price of British wheat rose.
On the other hand it could be argued that the implementation of these liberal reforms are more of an example of continuity of government policy rather than a clear break with the past, the government didn’t really embrace the idea of fair trade and they only saw it as a way of making more money for themselves. Even though the Corn Laws were changed they weren’t really amended to suit the poor. Overall I think that the Tories were liberal in there economic reform as it didn’t successfully increase trade and profit and reduced tariffs on many good, however they could of done much more and it seemed that many of the reforms that were introduced the ideas had already been spoken about before.
Peel tried to reform the home office in this period, one of the ways in which he intended on doing this was reforming the penal system. The penal code was far too severe over 200 offences including minor ones like stealing a loaf of bread, damaging Westminster Bridge and impersonating a Chelsea pensioner were punishable by death. Another 400 were punishable by hard labour in the convict settlements of Australia. In practise the system broke down because the juries often refused to convict if it meant execution for a trivial offence and many criminals went unpunished. Peel seemed to be a liberal reformer as the death penalty was abolished for over 180 crimes and it was left for the judge to decide whether the death penalty should be imposed. Punishments for other offences were less severe.
The barbaric practise of burying suicides crossroads with a stake through the heart was abolished. He was open about his motives and he understood the need for change. On the other hand Peel relied much on the work of Henry Hobhouse, the diligent and experienced under secretary he had inherited from Sidmouth. If Peel opened the way to the Whig reforms which reduced the number of capital crimes he did so unintentionally. Only noticeable change in the criminal law arrived only in the 1830’s under the Whig government. Another reform in the home office was the prison reform this was because the conditions in prisons were poor. They were overcrowded. Filthy, insanitary and disease ridden; child offenders were put with hardened criminals. The jailers were unpaid and were paid only by the prisoners themselves. The jails act removed some of the worst abuses of the prison system. Magistrates were to inspect prisons at least three times a quarter. However there was nothing liberal about this reform, Peel did little about the shortcomings in penal provision.
Peel believed that evil should be punished and he supported the use of corporal punishments such as the whip and the treadmill. In other words, his aim was not to liberalise the prison regime. Rather, his aim was to make it work in a more uniform manner. Also, he was merely building on his experience as chief secretary of Ireland where in 1814 he had established an efficient police system. Gash points out that the 1823 jails act had been prepared by parliamentary committee and accepted by the government in 1821, he was simply implementing legislation that had been accepted by the government three years earlier. At first it seemed that the new reforms were very liberal as there seemed to be much change, however Peel was after more convictions and wanted to gain more control in certain aspects of the home office.
Peel also wanted to amend the trade unions the combination laws got rid of the ban on trade unions; they had been banned since 1799 because it was felt that they posed a threat to the stability of the state, especially when unity was needed during the middle of the Napoleonic war. The amending act 1825 permitted trade unions to exist for the purpose of negotiating about wages and hours of work, but they were not allowed to molest or obstruct. It seemed that Peel was trying to be more liberal as he was going against traditional views by allowing trade unions and it gave workers many more rights and made there bosses give them a fair wage, suitable hours and acceptable living conditions.
Conversely, the amending act was much less liberal than the previous act and certainly restricted such liberties so the Tories cannot be seen as liberal on this front. When this act was passed the government introduced a second committee which recommended the tightening of the law. Even though the act was passed the trade unions were still restricted of freedom of action. Also as soon as it became clear that workers would take advantage of the new legislation the government backtracked and passed the amending law. This suggests that the aim was to restrict rather than to encourage union activity. It was, in other words, an illiberal rather than liberal measure.
During this period of history there was much discrimination against Roman catholics. Roman catholics in the UK were regarded as second calls subjects as they didn’t have the same rights and freedoms of conformists. In Ireland all land and wealth was in the hands of a small group of Protestants. The wealth and status of the Anglican Church stood in stark contrast to the positions of the Catholic Church which relied on the contribution, of its congregations. Some Catholics could vote if they held enough land but they were prohibited from holding any public office, this meant that they could not change the existing situation.
Catholic emancipation would be the government giving the same right stand freedom as conformists; this would mean that they would be able to become MP’s or to work for the government. This would mean that they no longer were second class subjects and had the same rights as Protestants. On the face of it, it seemed that the some Tories supported it and it gave more rights and freedom to catholics. However, it was only passed to stop a civil war and even after the emancipation the Tory party split over it, which shows that all Tories were not liberal and they didn’t want change.
There was growing demand for parliamentary reform in the 1820’s the new middle class wanted representation. As the old system was out of date and the distribution of seats did not reflect the population changes in the country. There was also no secret ballot which meant that the franchise was open to corruption and bribery. Some Tories were in favour of parliamentary reform, as people such as Canning were brought up from an industrial background and because of this wanted to see them areas get more of say in the running of the country.
Surprisingly also some Ultra Tories eventually supported reform as they could see that there was no other way they were going to stay in power unless there was some slight reform. But some Tories were completely opposed to reform, and they opposed even the slightest amount of reform. Some Tories only supported reform as they wanted to bring down Wellingtons government because they thought it would produce a parliament opposed to catholic emancipation.
Overall I believe that the Troy government during this period was not liberal. This is because that some of the reforms they did implement were for just practical reasons and they were just a continuity of ideas that had been mentioned in years before. There were no huge changes that could suggest that the Tories were liberal and also only some Tories supported reform while some didn’t want to see any change. But during this period there was slight change in the government and it could be seen that the Tories were gradually becoming more liberal and if they had won the next general election they could have pushed on with liberalism.