Democratic Economics or Gladstonian Finance?

  • John Maloney


Lowe’s attitude to democracy, like his attitude to everything else, was utilitarian, utility in its turn requiring that no class interest dominated the others. Who should get the vote, therefore, depended on the balance of social forces as well as the level of education. In Australia, this led him to a highly provisional endorsement of general male suffrage:

Popular election is a great evil and is only to be endured because it is designed to work out a greater good. If we find the good does not exceed the evil, let us discard the principle altogether.1


Political Economy Free Trade Indirect Taxis Direct Taxation Class Interest 
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  1. 1.
    Gillian Knight, Illiberal Liberal: Robert Lowe in New South Wales, 1842–50, Melbourne, 1966, p. 242.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    J. Bryce, Studies in Contemporary Biography, London, 1903, pp. 297–8.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    James Winter, Robert Lowe, Toronto, 1976, p. 202.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    R. Lowe, ‘Preface’, Speeches and Letters on Reform, London, 1867, p. 8.Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    A. Howe, Free Trade and Liberal England, Oxford, 1997, p. 152.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    E.F. Biagini, ‘Popular Liberals, Gladstonian Finance and the Debate on Taxation, 1860–74’ in Eugenio F. Biagini and Alastair J. Reid (eds), Currents of Radicalism: Popular Radicalism, Organized Labour and Party Politics in Britain, 1850–1914, Cambridge, 1991, p. 147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 18.
    R. Lowe, ‘Imperialism’, Fortnightly Review, 24, new series, 1 October 1878, p. 456.Google Scholar
  8. 19.
    Arthur Patchett Martin, Life and Letters of the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, Viscount Sherbrooke, London, 1893, vol. 2, p. 285.Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    R. Lowe, ‘Mr Gladstone on Manhood Suffrage’, Fortnightly Review, 22, new series, 1 December 1877, p. 740.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    The Times, 23 May 1860, p. 9. Gladstone had already stated his desire that income tax payers should approximately correspond to the electorate. See Gladstone to J.L. Tabberner, 25 November 1859, quoted in H.C.G. Matthew, ‘Disraeli, Gladstone and the Politics of mid-Victorian Budgets’, Historical Journal, 22, 1979, p. 629. Matthew claims, without providing evidence, that Gladstone wanted this in order to make income tax easier to abolish.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 26.
    Absurd or not, it united the Liverpool Financial Reform Association with most working-class radicals (see E.F. Biagini, Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860–1880, Cambridge, 1992, p. 110).Google Scholar

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© John Maloney 2005

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  • John Maloney

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