The Conservative Leadership 1832–1932

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His Acts included measures to provide suitable housing and sewerage, to protect the quality of food, to improve workers rights including the Climbing Boys Act which banned the use of juveniles as chimney sweeps and to implement basic standards of education. In , Disraeli was made the Earl of Beaconsfield, but continued to run the government from the Lords. He persuaded Queen Victoria to take the title 'Empress of India' in and scored a diplomatic success in limiting Russian influence in the Balkans at the Congress of Berlin in He retired in , hoping to spend his remaining years adding more novels to his already impressive bibliography, but died just one year later.

William Ewart Gladstone , Liberal, - Upon taking office for the first time Gladstone declared it his 'mission' to 'pacify Ireland' - a prize that was always to elude him.

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Nonetheless, Gladstone was to become the dominant Liberal politician of the late 19th Century, serving as prime minister four times despite earning Queen Victoria's antipathy early in his career. She famously complained that 'he always addresses me as if I were a public meeting'. He had started his career as an ultra-conservative Tory, but would end it as a dedicated political reformer who did much to establish the Liberal Party's association with issues of freedom and justice.

But Gladstone also had his idiosyncrasies. He made a regular habit of going to brothels and often brought prostitutes back to 10 Downing Street. In an era when politicians' private lives were very private, his embarrassed colleagues nonetheless felt it necessary to explain his behaviour as 'rescue work' to save 'fallen women'. Benjamin Disraeli , Conservative, On being asked to become prime minister following the resignation of the Earl of Derby, Disraeli announced: 'I have reached the top of the greasy pole'.

He immediately struck up an excellent rapport with Queen Victoria, who approved of his imperialist ambitions and his belief that Britain should be the most powerful nation in the world. Unhappily for the Queen, Disraeli's first term ended almost immediately with an election victory for the Liberals.

Conservative Leadership 1832-1932

Despite serving as an MP since and twice being Chancellor of the Exchequer, Disraeli's journey to the top was not without scandal. In , he was forced to apologise in court after being accused of bribing voters in Maidstone. He also accrued enormous debts in his twenties through speculation on the stock exchange.

Disraeli suffered a nervous breakdown as a result, but eventually paid off his creditors by marrying a rich widow, Mary Anne Wyndam Lewis, in Earl of Derby , Conservative, - The introduction of the Reform Act made Derby's third term as prime minister a major step in the true democratisation of Britain. Simply put, it created more than 1. Versions of the Reform Act had been under serious discussion since , but had always foundered on Conservative fears. Many considered it a 'revolutionary' move that would create a majority of 'working class' voters for the first time.

In proposing the Reform Act, Benjamin Disraeli, Conservative Leader of the House of Commons, had warned his colleagues that they would be labelled the 'anti-reform' party if they continued to resist. The legislation was passed, and also received the backing of the Liberals under their new leader, William Gladstone. Earl Russell , Whig, - Viscount Palmerston , Liberal, - Earl of Derby , Conservative, - The property qualification - the requirement that a man must own property in order to stand as a member of parliament - was finally abolished during Derby's second term as prime minister.

It meant that members of parliament MPs were no longer drawn exclusively from the 'propertied' classes and could realistically be 'working class'. This fulfilled one of the six conditions set out by the Chartists - supporters of the Third Chartist Petition, written in It demanded universal male suffrage votes for all adult men , secret ballots rather than traditional open ballots , annual parliamentary elections, equal electoral districts some had less than voters, while others had many thousands , the abolition of a property qualification for MPs, and payment for MPs which would allow non-independently wealthy men to sit in parliament.

Viscount Palmerston , Liberal , - Earl of Aberdeen , Tory, - It was something of a cruel irony that Aberdeen came to be blamed for blundering into the dreadful Crimean War. As plain George Hamilton Gordon he had made a successful career as a diplomat and had done much to normalise Britain's relationships with its powerful neighbours. Vivid reports from the front by WH Russel of the Times have since led to the Crimean being styled the first 'media war'. His reports publicised the squalor and disease that were claiming more soldiers' lives than the fighting, and inspired Florence Nightingale to volunteer and take the first 38 nurses out to treat the wounded.

In , Aberdeen conceded to his critics and resigned. Earl of Derby , Conservative, Earl Russell , Whig, - Confronted by the Irish Potato Famine, declining trade and rising unemployment, Russell still managed to push through trade liberalisation measures and limits on women's working hours. A dedicated reformer, he nonetheless presided over the rejection of the Third Chartist Petition. Set out , it demanded universal male suffrage votes for all adult men , secret ballots rather than traditional open ballots , annual parliamentary elections, equal electoral districts some had less than voters, while others had many thousands , the abolition of a property qualification for members of parliament MPs , and payment for MPs which would allow non-independently wealthy men to sit in parliament.

Already rejected once by parliament in , the petition had gathered 5 million signatures by Presented to parliament a second time, it was again rejected. The Chartist movement slowly petered out, even as revolutions blazed across Europe, but many of its aims were eventually realised. Sir Robert Peel , Tory, - Peel's second term as prime minister was nothing short of tumultuous. Economic depression, rising deficits, Chartist agitation, famine in Ireland and Anti-Corn League protests crowded in. A raft of legislation was created to stabilise the economy and improve working conditions.

The Factory Act regulated work hours and banned children under eight from the workplace , the Railway Act provided for cheap, regular train services, the Bank Charter Act capped the number of notes the Bank of England could issue and the Mines Act prevented women and children from working underground. But a failed harvest in provided Peel with his greatest challenge. There was an increasing clamour for repeal of the Corn Laws, which forbade the import of cheap grain from overseas. Powerful vested interests in the Tory Party opposed such a move, but in the end Peel confronted them and called for repeal.

After nearly six months of debate, and with the Tories split in two, the Corn Laws were finally repealed. Defeated on a separate issue, Peel resigned the same day, but was cheered by crowds as he left the Commons. The 'Peelite' faction of the Tories is widely recognised as the foundation of the modern Conservative. Campaigning on his so-called 'Tamworth Manifesto', Peel promised a respectful approach to traditional politics, combined with measured, controlled reform. He thereby signalled a significant shift from staunch, reactionary 'Tory' to progressive 'Conservative' politics.

Crucially, he pledged to accept the Reform Act, which had recently increased the number of people eligible to vote. Peel won the election, but only narrowly. He resigned the following year after several parliamentary defeats. Peel is probably best remembered for creating the Metropolitan Police in while Home Secretary in the Duke of Wellington's first government. The nickname 'bobbies' for policemen is derived from his first name. Duke of Wellington , Tory, Viscount Melbourne , Whig, In a bid to repress trade unions, Melbourne's government introduced legislation against 'illegal oaths'.

In March of the same year, six labourers were transported to Australia for seven years for attempting to provide a fund for workers in need.

Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby

They became known as the 'Tolpuddle Martyrs'. Melbourne himself was notoriously laid back. When first asked to become prime minister he declared it 'a damned bore'. Having accepted, he would often refuse to allow his cabinet colleagues to leave the room, insisting 'I'm damned if I know what we agreed on. We must all say the same thing. Introduced in March , the bill scraped through the Commons by a single vote, but was thrown out at the committee stage when the bill is debated in detail - sometimes called the 'second reading'.

Parliament was dissolved and the general election was fought on the single issue of the Reform Act - an unprecedented event in British political history. The Whigs won the election and passed the bill, but the House of Lords with a majority of Tories threw it out, sparking riots and civil disobedience across the country. With the spectre of France's bloody revolution clearly in mind, William IV eventually agreed to create 50 Whig peers to redress the balance in the Lords if the bill was rejected again. The Lords conceded and the Act was finally passed into law.

After all his efforts, Earl Grey is principally remembered for giving his name to a fragrant blend of tea. Duke of Wellington , Tory, - Wellington's first term in office was dominated by the thorny subject of Catholic emancipation. Catholics were permitted to vote, but were not allowed to sit as members of parliament MPs and had restrictions on the property they could own. Initially, the 'Iron Duke' was staunchly in favour of the status quo, but soon came to realise that emancipation might be the only way to end conflict arising from the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland in He became such an advocate that he even fought a duel with the 10th Earl of Winchilsea over the issue.

The Earl had accused him of plotting the downfall of the 'Protestant constitution', but then backed down and apologised. They still had to go through the ritual of the duel at Battersea Fields, with both men deliberately firing high and wide. Wellington eventually drove the legislation through, opening the way for Catholic MPs.

Viscount Goderich , Tory, - George Canning , Tory, Canning finally became prime minister after a long career in politics, only to die of pneumonia days later. He had famously fought a duel in with his bitterest political rival, Lord Castlereagh, and was shot in the thigh. Castlereagh committed suicide with a penknife in , after becoming depressed about his falling popularity. Earl of Liverpool , Tory, - Liverpool is the second longest serving prime minister in British history after Robert Walpole , winning four general elections and clinging on to power despite a massive stroke that incapacitated him for his last two years in office.

Liverpool became PM at a time when Britain was emerging from the Napoleonic Wars and the first rumblings of 'working class' unrest were just beginning to be felt. Staunchly undemocratic in his outlook, Liverpool suppressed efforts to give the wider populace a voice. He was unrepentant when, in , troops fired on a pro-reform mass meeting at St Peter's Fields in Manchester, killing eleven - the so-called 'Peterloo Massacre'. Trade unions were legalised by the Combination Act, but were so narrowly defined that members were forced to bargain over wages and conditions amid a minefield of heavy penalties for transgressions.

Liverpool's one concession to popular sentiment was in the trial of Queen Caroline on trumped up adultery charges. The legal victimisation of George IV's estranged wife, who was tried in parliament in , brought her mass sympathy. Mindful not to provoke the mob in the wake of Peterloo, the charges were eventually dropped. Spencer Perceval , Tory, - Perceval bears a dubious distinction as the only British prime minister to be assassinated.

As chancellor of the exchequer he moved in to 10 Downing Street in , before rising to the office of prime minister two years later. His 12 young children - some born while he was in office - also lived in the PM's crowded residence. Against expectations, he had skilfully kept his government afloat for three years despite a severe economic downturn and continuing war with Napoleon. He was shot dead in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May by a merchant called John Bellingham who was seeking government compensation for his business debts.

Perceval's body lay in 10 Downing Street for five days before burial. Bellingham gave himself up immediately. Tried for murder, he was found guilty and hanged a week later. A shadow of his former self due to failing health and suspected alcoholism, Pitt nonetheless accepted. Pitt did not have long to savour victory before Napoleon defeated both Russia and Austria to stand astride the whole of Europe. Heartsick, utterly exhausted, penniless and unmarried, Pitt died on 23 January at the age of Henry Addington , Tory, - Addington secured the Peace of Amiens with France in , but would see Britain plunge into war with Napoleon again just two years later.

He also passed the first Factory Act into law. The Act was the earliest attempt to reform working conditions in factories. It set a maximum 12 hour working day for children and addressed issues like proper ventilation, basic education and sleeping conditions. But he was generally poorly regarded, prompting the satirical rhyme 'Pitt is to Addington, as London is to Paddington' - a reference to his distinguished predecessor as prime minister, William Pitt.

William Pitt 'the Younger' , Tory, Pitt 'the Younger' was the youngest prime minister in British history, taking office at the tender age of just But his youth did not seem to disadvantage him as he threw himself into the manifold problems of government, holding on to the top office for 17 years - fifteen years longer than his father, Pitt 'the Elder'. His first priority was to reduce the National Debt, which had doubled with the loss of the American colonies in George III's mental illness then threw up the spectre of a constitutional crisis, with the transfer of sovereignty to the erratic Prince of Wales only narrowly averted by the king's recovery.

Further threats to the monarchy emanated from across the Channel, with the bloody French Revolution of and subsequent war with France in War increased taxes and caused food shortages, damaging Pitt's popularity to the extent that he employed bodyguards out of fear for his safety. In a bid to resolve at least one intractable conflict, he pushed through the Act of Union with Ireland in , but the related Emancipation of Catholics Bill was rejected by the king a year later.

Groomed by George III to lead his parliamentary supporters, North was fiercely loyal to his king, whose policy it had been to 'punish' the American colonials. The American War of Independence, reluctantly entered into by both sides, had been prosecuted at the king's behest in retaliation for their refusal to pay more towards their own defence. As hostilities progressed, North's blundering and indecision worsened an already difficult situation, and by it was clear that the outcome was likely to be a disaster.

He begged George III to be allowed to resign, but the king refused to release him until the war was over. North has since become the yardstick for prime ministerial mediocrity, with later PMs being criticised as 'the worst since Lord North'. Duke of Grafton , Whig, - An unremarkable prime minister, Grafton had a quite remarkable appetite for extra-marital affairs and openly kept several mistresses. Also, bribery of voters remained a problem.

As Sir Thomas Erskine May observed, "it was too soon evident, that as more votes had been created, more votes were to be sold". The Reform Act strengthened the House of Commons by reducing the number of nomination boroughs controlled by peers. Some aristocrats complained that, in the future, the government could compel them to pass any bill, simply by threatening to swamp the House of Lords with new peerages. The Duke of Wellington lamented: "If such projects can be carried into execution by a minister of the Crown with impunity, there is no doubt that the constitution of this House, and of this country, is at an end.

They compelled the Commons to accept significant amendments to the Municipal Reform Bill in , forced compromises on Jewish emancipation , and successfully resisted several other bills supported by the public. During the ensuing years, Parliament adopted several more minor reforms. Acts of Parliament passed in and increased the number of polling places in each constituency, and reduced polling to a single day. Neither party strove for further major reform; leading statesmen on both sides regarded the Reform Act as a final settlement. There was considerable public agitation for further expansion of the electorate, however.

In particular, the Chartist movement , which demanded universal suffrage for men, equally sized electoral districts, and voting by secret ballot , gained a widespread following. But the Tories were united against further reform, and the Liberal Party successor to the Whigs did not seek a general revision of the electoral system until The s saw Lord John Russell introduce a number of reform bills to correct defects the first act had left unaddressed.

However, no proposal was successful until , when Parliament adopted the Second Reform Act. An area the Reform Act did not address was the issue of municipal and regional government. As a result of archaic traditions, many English counties had enclaves and exclaves, which were mostly abolished in the Counties Detached Parts Act Furthermore, many new conurbations and economic areas bridged traditional county boundaries by having been formed in previously obscure areas: the West Midlands conurbation bridged Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire, Manchester and Liverpool both had hinterlands in Cheshire but city centres in Lancashire, while in the south Oxford's developing southern suburbs were in Berkshire and London was expanding into Essex, Surrey and Middlesex.

This led to further acts to reorganise county boundaries in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many historians credit the Reform Act with launching modern democracy in the United Kingdom. Trevelyan hails as the watershed moment at which " 'the sovereignty of the people' had been established in fact, if not in law".

Norman Gash states that "it would be wrong to assume that the political scene in the succeeding generation differed essentially from that of the preceding one". Much of the support for passage in Parliament came from conservatives hoping to head off even more radical changes.

Earl Gray argued that the aristocracy would best be served by a cautiously constructive reform program. Most Tories were strongly opposed, and made dire predictions about what they saw as dangerous, radical proposals. However one faction of Ultra-Tories supported reform measures in the order to weaken Wellington's ministry, which had outraged them by granting Catholic emancipation. Historians in recent decades have been polarized over emphasizing or downplaying the importance of the Act.

Phillips, and Charles Wetherell argue for its drastic modernizing impact on the political system:. Likewise Eric Evans concludes that the Reform Act "opened a door on a new political world". Although Grey's intentions were conservative, Evans says, and the Act gave the aristocracy an additional half-century's control of Parliament, the Act nevertheless did open constitutional questions for further development. Evans argues it was the Act, not the later reforms of , , or , that were decisive in bringing representative democracy to Britain.

Evans concludes the Reform Act marked the true beginning of the development of a recognisably modern political system. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. United Kingdom legislation. Main article: Unreformed House of Commons. Politics portal United Kingdom portal English law portal. The American Historical Review. Scotland: A Very Short Introduction. Neale pages — Grampound was one of the 31 boroughs disenfranchised but was disenfranchised prior to the Reform Act in Citizenship in Britain: A History.

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II, pp. I, pp. II, p. Transaction Publishers. Lings [] 4CP In the case of Regina v. Harrald [] 7QB it was ruled that married women, otherwise qualified, could not vote in municipal elections. This decision made it clear that married women would be excluded from the operation of any Act enfranchising women for the parliamentary vote, unless special provision to the contrary was made.

Manchester UP. Picket Line Press. The Interpretation Act cap. To enable Wales to retain all of its existing borough seats the Act therefore simply increased, where necessary, the number of towns in these groupings and created entirely new groupings for Beaumaris and Montgomery. Their numbers dwindled by death, and by apparently only one ancient right "potwalloper" remained a registered elector.

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Speck, A Concise History of Britain, pp Phillips, and Charles Wetherell. Blackstone, Sir William. Commentaries on the Laws of England. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Gash, Norman. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Lady Holland and Sarah Austin. London: Brown, Green, and Longmans. Marcus, Jane ed. Women's Source Library Vol. London: Routledge. May, Sir Thomas Erskine. May, Thomas Erskine Phillips, John A.

American Historical Review , vol. Women's Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain, — Past and Present , no. Reform or Revolution? A Diary of Reform in England, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Alan Sutton. Thorne, R. The House of Commons: — London: Secker and Warburg. Trevelyan, G. British History in the Nineteenth Century and After — Aidt, Toke S. The Great Reform Act. London: Hutchinson Press. The Passing of the Great Reform Bill. Cannon, John. Parliamentary Reform — New York: Cambridge University Press. Christie, Ian R. New York: St. Martin's Press. Conacher, J. Doull, James Ertman, Thomas. The Great Reform Act of London: Methuen and Co. Foot, Paul London: Viking. Fraser, Antonia Maehl, William H.

Morrison, Bruce.

Whiggery and Reform, — The Politics of Government. London: Macmillan. O'Gorman, Frank. Parliamentary parties and their leaders provided the prestigious centrepiece of Victorian politics. Yet the function of party within the political system was never static. Since the 17th century, parties have assumed a shifting reference to the monarchy, the notion of ministerial responsibility, loyal opposition, a changing electorate and extra-parliamentary organisation. The midth century was a crucial period in this long process of change. During these years parliamentary politicians redefined their relations with the national political community, while within Westminster itself party alignment was being redefined so as to shape the political configurations of the future.

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This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Bagehot, The English Constitution , R. Crossman ed. Resolution: Global London, p.

Google Scholar. See G. CrossRef Google Scholar. See A. Kriegel ed. See N. Gash, Mr. Secretary Peel Resolution: Global London, p. The translation of an opposition tradition into government policy, however, was an obligation calculated to distress. See also Google Scholar. Lord Butler ed. Southgate ed. Robson ed.