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To What extent were the Tories Liberal and enlightened in the period 1822-1827

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The terms liberal and enlightened can be used to describe a number of different views, at this time they would have been the freedom of religion, political rights, the right to free expression and free trade. After the cabinet reshuffle of 1822 the newly formed cabinet made some changes which backed some of these views, but some they did not back. Traditional historians see the period before 1822 as repressive with the government trying to restore law and order whereas the historians see the period 1822-1827 as liberal and enlightened which are associated with the economic policies and reforms of the “second wave” ministers.

The second wave ministers had all served in the repressive periods. Indeed we can recognize the changes made with Evans’s view that “Liverpool’s government had never experienced anything so cathartic as an ideological conversion”. We can tell that there was no change in direction after the 1822 reshuffle. This reshuffle came about after the suicide of Lord Castlereagh which forced Lord Liverpool into the changes. These changes were to replace Castlereagh with Canning as foreign secretary and leader of House of Commons. Sidmouth was replaced by Peel at the home office.

Robinson became Chancellor of the Exchequer and Huskisson became president of the board of trade. We cannot assume that these new men were fully liberal in their outlook but they shared a desire for great efficiency in the running of the government. We must first look at what Peel did as home secretary. Peel made into a government policy the reform of the criminal law. He also made the penal code more sensible. He removed the death penalty from more than 100 offences. Punishments for other offences were made less severe. The jury system was also re-organized.

The government ended their use of spies’ aswell. These changes were seen as great liberal and humanitarian reforms but not tall reform as their was still severe sentences for getting into debt and their was deportation to Australia. Other changes made by Peel which greatly changed the law and order in the country were the jails act in 1823 which removed some of the worst abuses from the prison system. Magistrates would inspect the prisons. The main change in the prisons was to only allow women jailors to look after women jailors.

In 1823 the Gaols act was passed which attempted to improve the conditions that inmates had to endure in prison Peel also introduced The Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 which were introduced to catch criminals and prevent crime. The force was successful in its aims. The police force brought the nickname Peelers or Bobbies, named after there establisher. The force created another 3,000 full time jobs. We can now look at the role of Huskisson as president of the board of trade and he was arguably the most liberal in his views and actions of all of the ‘second wave’ of Tories.

His actions brought back the direction heading for free trade with other countries. The actions that he took which led us to believe that he wanted free trade were that he helped to form a number of reciprocity treaties with foreign governments which put lowered the import duties on vast numbers of goods. He also removed restrictions on the trade of British Colonies. This meant they could trade directly with foreign countries, instead of trading via Britain first. This allowed an imperial preference system where the duties were lower in Britain than anywhere else so this encouraged trade with the British Empire.

Huskisson also modified an absolute set of restrictions known as the Navigation Laws. These laws said that imported goods which before the modification had to be imported on British ships no longer had to be. As a result the high duties on British ships in European ports were stopped. This allowed more foreign trade. Finally Huskisson modified the 1815 Corn Laws. He introduced a sliding scale of import duties in 1828. This meant that if British wheat was selling at 73s a quarter, there would be no duty on imported foreign wheat, as the price fell, the duty increased.

There were a few problems that were brought about by these reforms. The government lost its income gained from import duties and there was a slump in exports caused by over-production. This intern caused increased unemployment and there was an outbreak of machine breaking. Some blamed Huskisson but he was taking Britain through the first steps towards free trade. However in the long term free trade would eventually be possible and this was good news for the country and the government.

Relations with foreign countries were improved. Also goods were able to be produced at a cheaper price. The British shipping industry also benefited We can now look at Robinson and what he did when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Some have said that he was instrumental in the revival in free trade but it was accepted that this was down to Huskisson. He produced budgets that helped increase prosperity from 1819 onwards but his budgets were regarded as a burden on the wealthier class and very harsh on the poor.

It was regarded that his predecessor Vansittart helped the revival to free trade and not him. We can say that Robinson was the least liberal of all the second wave ministers. He didn’t do enough to justify his thinking was liberal and enlightened. Robinson took credit for the economic boom that had taken place but this was not down to him but his predecessor. He was also able to inherit a budget surplus. Canning as the leader of the House of Commons was able to influence the general feeling of the government.

He was a great speaker and was willing to explain fully his policies and defend others; again we can say that his role was not as liberal and enlightened as Peel or Huskissons. The governments’ attitude towards catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform at this time was to ignore both issues at all cost despite the great importance of these two issues. After Lord Liverpool resigned in March 1827 after suffering from a stroke Canning took over but there was mass resignations in the government because they did not agree with Canning’s policies towards catholic emancipation and foreign affairs.

There was great controversy over whether to give Roman Catholics political rights. Although we can say that the second wave of ministers were partly liberal and enlightened in their views and actions they didn’t take enough action on other issues and matters with which we could give them this title of liberal and enlightened. They failed to address the awful conditions in the factories, child labour and dangers of mines. They also ignored reforms of parliament, health, poverty and education.

In conclusion I can say that the second waves of ministers were liberal and enlightened in certain areas but in other important areas they failed to address the problems. We can see this from their blatant ignoring of the problems with the problems with Catholic Emancipation and taking no action with the problems with parliament, health etc.. We can also say that there actions were extremely open-minded compared to the actions taken by ministers before them. But they however ignored important issues. After 1822 the ministers sought to restore free trade, to protect and to strengthen law and order.

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