Challenging the Constitution in Church and State
Britain in 1815 was shell-shocked. Drained materially and emotionally by more than two decades of war, she faced the future with glazed eyes. The country gentlemen who had paid most of the bills demanded an immediate abolition of the income tax and a high, fixed protective tariff on grain, Vansittart’s irresponsible Corn Law of 1815. Readjustment to a peacetime footing, a difficult process at best, was made worse by governmental incompetence and fear. The British championed responsibility in Europe and practiced irresponsibility at home. Yet the unimaginative Conservatives who dominated Parliament contributed unwittingly to the process of constitutional change. Their cumulative incapacity raised substantial questions about their capacity to govern, and their demands for economy in government—met by trimming administrative fat—reduced their capacity to rule. Ministries, lacking patronage, were thrown increasingly into the hands of organized public and enfranchised electoral opinion. Initially that posed no threat, since the government and the public agreed that the first task was to preserve property and public order.
KeywordsForeign Policy French Revolution Constitutional Change Public Mind Black Book
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