Palmerston and Liberalism, 1859–65
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In 1859 Palmerston faced a formidable parliamentary challenge. He had to hold together a progressive alliance made up of Peelites, Whigs, Liberals, and radicals, constituting the newly-minted Liberal party — what Clarendon described as ‘a great bundle of sticks’.1 Parties are held together as much by shared attitudes to opponents as by common principles. Dislike and aversion cement allegiances as firmly as ideals, with shared hatreds often the basis of political friendships. Prior to 1859, Whigs and Liberals had shared an easy contempt for Conservatives and a hostile disparagement of radicalism. Radicals, meanwhile, had found common purpose in decrying the oligarchic assumptions of Whiggism. Peelites had assumed a self-adulatory sense of superiority, enshrined in the pious cult of a dead leader. After 1859 none of these attitudes survived as a ready means of defining a common Liberal purpose.
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