Palmerston and Liberalism, 1859–65

  • Angus Hawkins


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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  1. 1.
    Lord E. Fitzmaurice The Life of the Second Earl Granville 2 vols (1905) i, p. 487.Google Scholar
  2. 15.
    Statistics drawn from T. A. Jenkins, The Liberal Ascendancy, 1830–1886 (1994) pp. 104–5.Google Scholar
  3. 16.
    See Eugenio Biagini, Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860–1880 (1992) passim.Google Scholar
  4. 23.
    See J. Morley, Life of Gladstone, 3 vols (1903) ii, pp. 42–53. Comments on ‘bourgeois triumphalism’ were made by the Saturday Review, 10 August 1861, pp. 131–2.Google Scholar
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    H. C. G. Matthew, Gladstone, 1809–1874 (1986) p. 139.Google Scholar
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    Jonathan Parry, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (1993) p. 194.Google Scholar
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    Derby to Disraeli, 24 July 1865, cit. R. Stewart, The Foundation of the Conservative Party, 1830–1867 (1978) p. 352.Google Scholar
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    Disraeli to Lonsdale, 20 October 1865, cit. W. F. Monypenny and G. E. Buckle, Life of Benjamin Disraeli 6 vols (1910–20) iv, p. 424.Google Scholar
  9. 45.
    A. P. Martin, Life and Letters of Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke, 2 vols (1893) ii, p. 243.Google Scholar

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© Angus Hawkins 1998

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  • Angus Hawkins

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