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Gladstone and Liberalism, 1868–74

  • Angus Hawkins
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Abstract

The exuberant energy of the 1868–74 ministry marked the heady flush of Gladstonian Liberalism in power. The extensive legislative achievement of this government indicated the broad sweep of opinion and powerful reforming impetus embraced within the progressive movement of Liberal belief. The Church of Ireland was disestablished, an Irish Land Act passed, elementary education reformed, competitive examinations for entrance to most areas of the civil service introduced, the purchase of military commissions abolished, the judicial system overhauled, religious tests for Oxford and Cambridge Universities abolished, local government reformed, and the secret ballot introduced for parliamentary elections. Between 1869 and 1873 major areas of British society were overhauled. The ties between the state and the Established Church were loosened, the patronage system was reformed, and greater efficiency and professionalism were sought within the framework of economic government. By 1873 the Liberal party was tearing itself apart as Gladstone’s leadership faltered. But for the first three years of its existence Gladstone’s government proved itself, arguably, the greatest reforming ministry of the century.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    W.E. Gladstone, A Chapter of Autobiography (1868) p. 58.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Morley, Life of Gladstone, 3 vols (1906) ii, p. 252; Gladstone diary, 29 December 1868, Gladstone Diaries, vi, p. 654.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See H. C. G. Matthew, Gladstone, 1809–1874 (1986) pp. 142–8.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    See J. Parry, Democracy and Religion: Gladstone and the Liberal Party, 1867–1875 (1986) p. 272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 10.
    Trelawny diary, 16 February 1869, T. A. Jenkins (ed.), The Parliamentary Diaries of Sir John Trelawny, 1868–73, Royal Historical Society Camden Fifth Series, 3 (1994) p. 345.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    T. A. Jenkins, The Liberal Ascendancy, 1830–1886 (1994) pp. 126–7.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    See E. D. Steele, Irish Land and British Politics (1974).Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Derby Journal, 17 February 1870, The Diaries of the 15th Earl of Derby, 1869–1878 Camden Fifth series, vol. 4 (1994) p. 50.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    See J. Parry, The Rise and Fall of Liberal Government in Victorian Britain (1993) p. 269.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Derby Journal, 29 May 1870, Diaries of Derby p. 60.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    J. Winter, Robert Lowe (1976) p. 248.Google Scholar
  12. 45.
    Richard Shannon, The Age of Disraeli, 1868–1881: The Rise of Tory Democracy (1992) p. 153.Google Scholar
  13. 57.
    Maurice Cowling, 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and Revolution (1967) p. 101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 61.
    A. G. Gardiner, The Life of Sir William Harcourt 2 vols (1923) i, p. 270.Google Scholar
  15. 62.
    H. Reeve, ‘Plain Whig Principles’, Edinburgh Review ( January 1880) p. 279.Google Scholar

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© Angus Hawkins 1998

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  • Angus Hawkins

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