Reform and Social Stress
Many Britons came to recognize that they were not the beneficiaries of constitutional reform. Some had known it all the time—the radical artisans of London, the stockingers of Nottingham, the handloom weavers of the West Riding; they had fought for one generation and were prepared to fight for another.1 Others came to understand what had and had not happened only with the passing of time. The nineteenth century was a religious age. A man’s faith often swayed his politics, and the repercussions amending the constitution in both church and state were many and various. Dissenters found that repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts merely began a long battle, never completely won, for equality in the state. Their campaign had undeserved casualties like public education, for dissenters with a taste for social martyrdom resisted any state-supported school system that would mean some degree of Anglican control. Meanwhile arid conflicts between Tractarians and their foes deflected considerable Church of England energy and social purpose. Evangelical enthusiasm, while morally repressive and often repugnant, had stimulated campaigns for social welfare—for chimney sweeps, factory children, the insane, slaves, aborigines in imperial domains.
KeywordsSocial Stress Conservative Party Universal Suffrage Mother Country Free Government
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