Lord Liverpool

Lord Liverpool How convincing is the argument that the year 1822 marked a turning point in the way Lord Liverpools government approached its domestic policy ? On the face of it , the year 1822 did mark a significant turning point in the way Lord Liverpools administration dealt with its domestic policy . The importance of the cabinet reshuffle after the imminent death of Lord Castlereagh in 1822 , and the perceived move toward Liberal Toryism following this date has been well documented by a number of early historians , including W.R Brock and Spencer Walpole. With the changes of 1821-3 Liverpool was able to gather round him a group of liberal minded men ready to take whatever opportunities were offered for economic reforms The years of unrest , spanning from the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 to the cabinet reshuffle of 1822 would also seem to point to a much more tolerable and less repressive government after this date .The Six Acts of 1819 were a repressive low for Liverpools administration. What followed throughout the 1820s was a series liberal minded reforms led by Robinson , Huskinson and Peel , which did seem to change the nature of government .These men have generally been accredited with setting Britain on the road to free trade and Peel as home secretary successfully rationalised the legal system and legalised trade unions .However more recent Historians such as Eric Evans ,Cookson and Gash have persuasively argued that the Liberal Tory phase of the Lord Liverpool administration was a natural response to the improved economic circumstance brought about by a more prosperous and confident Britain .Reforms introduced during this period were not new ideas instigated by a more liberal minded party , but those which many Tories had supported since the Pitt administration of the 1780s .An economic revival simply meant that these ideas could be followed through without the threat of instability .As Historian Gash states, The 1820s economic recovery gave scope for a policy less driven by fear of revolution .In fact many progressive ministers had already served in the administration before 1822 , Robinson had been in government since 1809 and had these fixed views and beliefs prior to the cabinet reshuffle , as did many of his so called reactionary peers .As Eric Evans suggests , 1819 is a better candidate for a change in the Liverpool administration , although not one specific date can be given .It was 1819 that saw the first real steps toward Free trade ( Britain started the process of returning to the gold standard ) through Peels conscious efforts and links with economists such as Ricardo , this was to launch Britain into a new free market economy, one which had only been postponed by the out break of the Napoleonic wars . Free Trade was a highly debated issue throughout the early nineteenth century .

Pitt as Prime Minister during the 1780s had raised it as an important issue and many parallels can be drawn between his administration of 1783 to 1801 and the Liverpool government of 1812 to 1827 . It shows a Tory party intent on bringing in Free Trade measures well before 1822 . Legislation such as the Commutation Act introduced by Pitt increased the government yield on wines by 29 per cent , on spirits by 63 per cent and on tobacco by 39 per cent .This gave a government surplus of 1.7 million pounds by 1792 , 47 per cent higher than when Pitt came to office in 1783.Other Free Trade measures from Pitts administration included the expansion of British trade into the Orient. By reducing tariffs on Chinese tea for example Pitt induced the Mogul Empire to import Western manufactured goods as well as produce from other countries in the British Empire. Indian raw cotton, Asian spice and opium all began to enter China after Pitts India Act of 1784 , the legislation handed responsibility of Indian affairs to Henry Dundas and a new office for trade was created, the President of the Board of Control.

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The expansion of British trade under Pitt was to see domestic exports triple in the twenty years after 1784 and the governments increasing involvement in trade affairs was to become crucial in providing income to finance the Napoleonic wars only a few years later. Liverpools use of Free Trade is also very noticeable during the 1820s . Both the 1824 and 1825 budgets saw import revenues being dramatically cut , silk import duty by 30 per cent , manufactured goods duty reduced from 50 to 20 per cent and raw material import duties cut by half .Between 1821 and 1827 import revenue increased by a total 64 per cent due to the extra trade created . The apparent lack of Free Trade measures after 1792 until the early 1820s can be explained by a huge budget deficit created by the Napoleonic wars . It wasnt until the 1820s when the war had ended and the deficit repaid that Britain could resume its status as a free trading nation .The new found prosperity Britain was enjoying gave way to a more stable economy and a government which could bring in the Free Trade measures with out the threat of debt or public unrest .

increasing social stability by means of increased prosperity brought about by the freeing of trade .Liverpools government was always in favour of a Free Trading Britain as Pitts administration had been before him . The importance of economic circumstance to the introduction of Free Trade is demonstrated by two statements taken from Tory MPs at the time the legislation was being introduced. The first is from William Huskisson in 1825 explaining the value of tariff reduction to the British economy. The second extract is taken from a Tory MP speaking in 1830, he is a defender of protectionism and attacks the governments Free Trade policy. The documents show conflicting views over Free Trade from within the same party due to the time each speech was delivered. The first in 1825 during a period of economic prosperity when Free Trade was seen as the actions of the confident and optimistic, protectionism was not needed as Britain was experiencing an economic boom .The second in 1830 when British trade was in recession and protectionism once again became a pressing issue.

It was economic circumstance that therefore determined the gradual introduction of free trade , 1822 can be seen not as a turning point in the way Liverpool approached his domestic policy but as an on going opportunity through out this period to introduce measures previously marred by social instability and a weak economy. Events such as the march of the Blanketeers or Spa Fields saw the question of Parliamentary Reform being raised on a number of occasions and demonstrated its widening support . With law and order as the main concern little time was spent discussing policies of Free Trade . Law and order was of the highest importance to the Liverpool administration of 1812 to 1827 , but as in the case of free trade the Tory party did not change its policy after 1822 .Historians such as W.R Brock or Woodward have argued that the period 1815 to 1822 was one of strong reaction and repression by the Liverpool government . This theory only seems to be perpetuated by the introduction of legislation such as the Six Acts in 1819 or the Suspension of Habeas Corpus in 1817, many saw these laws as a threat to their basic rights and freedoms and they stirred much working class resentment. The Peterloo massacre demonstrated the governments will to use violence .

However more recent Historians such as Plowright , Gash and Derry have convincingly argued otherwise. In 1817 for example the Poor Employment Act was introduced , this made available state loans amounting to 750 thousand pounds for encouraging fisheries and public works organised by local authorities .Even the Corn Laws of 1815 ( which can be seen as the cause of most public unrest during this period ) can be regarded as an attempt by Liverpool to smooth the transition from wartime to peacetime by protecting the countries main source of employment .Other events previously regarded as repressive measures are now also seen under a different light .The suspension of Habeas Corpus in 1817 for example only resulted in 44 arrests on the grounds of treason , of whom only 37 were detained . All where released by the time Habeas Corpus was reinstated in January 1818 .As Gash has stated It was hardly a reign of terror .The Seditious Meetings Act of 1817 was another short lived affair lasting only until early 1818 .The Six Acts of 1819 which followed the Peterloo Massacre also do not deserve their repressive label .Three of the Acts merely plugged loop holes in existing laws and a further two where only temporary and never renewed .As Derry clearly states What is surprising is not their savagery but their restraint . This is not to say however that all Liverpools actions throughout this period were passed without repression in mind .It had been ,and always would be the governments policy to oppose radical and revolutionary demands as any future nineteenth century administration would demonstrate This was the natural response of any aristocratic government. Opposition to Chartist violence for example during the 1840s illustrates both a social and political dislike of revolution by the middle class and the government.

The unwillingness to accept revolutionary pressure is demonstrated on a number of occasions during the pre 1822 period .The Peterloo Massacre of 1819 saw the brutal slaughter of 11 innocent people and over 400 hundred injured whilst peacefully listening to a radical protest. The actions of the magistrates responsible for carry out this tragedy were also supported by Liverpools government their prompt, decisive action and efficient measures for the preservation of public peace(Lord Sidmouth) .Other events such as the march of the Blanketeers in 1817 also saw an overreaction by the government when faced with a possible threat .Hand loom weavers from Lancashire and Yorkshire planned to march to London to present a petition to Prince Regent concerning unemployment , the high price of bread and parliamentary reform .However, local authorities were tipped of about the march and the leaders arrested . On the day of march the Blanketeers only reached Stockport before being disbanded by soldiers, many marchers were detained under Habeus Corpus and 13 put on trial. These actions could be seen as the political response of Toryism and one which would remain long after 1822 . Spies were also used by the Liverpool government to infiltrate radical groups and pass on information to the authorities.

The most notorious of these being Oliver the Spy, who was responsible for both the break up of the Blanketeers march and the infiltration of the Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820. However, although used to great affect by the administration cases brought to court on the evidence of spies rarely led to convictions as many werent trusted. At the trial of Thistlewood and Watson after the Spa Field Riots a High Tory, Wetherell defended the two men. you will hereafter consider whether Mr. Castle (spy) is not the man who has made these men his dupes, organised and framed the whole of the projects which he represents were moulded into a system of conspiracy, forming an ideal conspiracy for purposes of his own.

Although the use of spies was unsuccessful in some cases the very fact men were employed by the government to infiltrate radical groups demonstrates a true distrust of the people they governed and a true fear of revolution. This was clearly a violation of the publics personal security and is ano …


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