Laissez-Faire as Dogma: The Liberty and Property Defence League, 1882–1914

  • N. Soldon


The years between 1867 and 1914 were years of great change in Britain. They witnessed the growth of the welfare state and a contest for power between the classes enfranchised by the 1867 and 1884 Reform Bills and the old oligarchy which had ruled since 1832. To meet this challenge some members of the old oligarchy founded on 5 July 1882 a pressure group, the Liberty and Property Defence League, dedicated to the defence of the principles of free contract, rugged individualism, and laissez-faire. Composed of landed aristocrats, ‘old liberal’-new model employers, whigs, and other vested interests, many of whom had practised private paternalism, the league was founded in reaction to the growth of ‘grandmotherly’ legislation, trade unionism, and ‘promising politicians’. An examination of its strategy and tactics reveals the difficulty of an ‘Establishment’ defending its position in a mass democracy with an ideology based on the doctrine of liberty and property.


Trade Union Conservative Party Trade Dispute Model Employer Friendly Society 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1974

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  • N. Soldon

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