The Whigs 1830–41 Reformers or Reactionaries?
Party labels at any period in history are apt to be misleading. Even in modern times, when the political parties are more regimented than they once were, M.P.s from the same party may differ sharply from their colleagues on matters of detail, or emphasis, or even principle. If these differences exist today among members of the same party it is reasonable to expect party ties to have been much looser in the 1830s. Parliament was then dominated by men of independent mind and means, who had entered politics because it was the tradition of many of their class to do so. They did not fear responsibility though at times they were bored by it. Their attitude to the nation showed a marked resemblance to that of the squire to his village. They had a strong sense of duty, they were capable of benevolence, and even of sympathy to reform, so long as reform offered no challenge to their own supremacy in the structure of politics and society. Their lives were socially congenial, for their work at Westminster was performed in contact with their own kind. Among themselves they were tolerant of differences and eccentricities. They lacked the organisation to make party colleagues act as a disciplined political unit, nor did they greatly feel the need to do so, for they had little wish to impose party dogma by persuasion.
KeywordsChild Labour Social Reform Municipal Corporation Religious Liberty English History
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