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TO WHAT EXTENT WAS BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY A SUCCESS IN THE YEARS 1865 TO 1872?

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Introduction

TO WHAT EXTENT WAS BRITISH FOREIGN POLICY A SUCCESS IN THE YEARS 1865 TO 1872? While Gladstone was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Palmerston, he was greatly opposed to Palmerston's aggressive foreign policy, including the use of 'gunboat diplomacy' to protect British interests and vaunt British naval superiority. As such, Gladstone pursued a policy of peace and understanding in foreign affairs. One interpretation of this approach to foreign affairs is that avoid conflict was beneficial in a variety ways; another interpretation is that this passiveness was more destructive than constructive. The former interpretation (that Gladstone's foreign policy was successful) is supported firstly by the fact that Britain was not involved in any conflicts during his first ministry. Not only did this ensure that resources were not wasted on needless wars, but it also ensured the maintenance of domestic order as it enabled reductions in income tax in 1874, reductions in government spending. Thus it can be seen that Gladstone's policy of 'peace' supported his aims at 'retrenchment' and 'reform' and so, in terms of Gladstone's own aims, his policy of peace and understanding was successful. ...read more.

Middle

This shows that Gladstone intervened when necessary, protecting British interests with dignity and minimal expense. That said, it is still clear that Gladstone was allowing Britain's grip on colonies such as Canada and New Zealand loosen, something which caused no small amount of consternation amongst the public. However, by withdrawing British troops from both of these colonies (and considering the removal of troops from unprofitable colonies such as The Gambia), Gladstone was again working at 'retrenchment' while acting diplomatically by ending the revolts. It can be said that Gladstone successfully observed a balance between economic prudence through emollient diplomacy and decisive, necessary action, fulfilling all of his primary aims through foreign policy. His minimal involvement in foreign affairs allowed him to excel domestically. As he said in 1879 in a speech in West Calder, Scotland: "Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good government at home." However, another interpretation of Gladstone's foreign policy is that it made Britain appear weak, conceding far too much to foreign rivals. The first factor supporting this is the fact that many of his decisions were met with great public disapproval, with 'The Times' labelling his foreign policy as "demoralising". ...read more.

Conclusion

A final way in which Gladstone's foreign policy was unsuccessful was that, although Gladstone argued that maintaining peace kept government expenditure and taxation down, situations such as the Alabama Award where Britain acted diplomatically and peacefully meant that the government lost a considerable amount of money anyway, and could have lost a lot more. This undermines one of Gladstone's central aims of 'retrenchment'. It can be said, then, that Gladstone's foreign policy alienated the public and, along with the unpopularity of his reforms, led to defeat in the 1874 elections, whilst contradicting some of his personal aims. Perhaps it would be most prudent to argue that, although Gladstone's measures were the cause of considerable unrest and often came at some form of cost, they were for the most part consistent with his aims and resulted in economic and social stability. He saw no need for great intervention and involvement, and when he did, he did so with efficiency and poise. He risked great unpopularity for what he felt was the national good, and although his party paid the cost in the 1874 elections, he was widely successful in what he set out to achieve. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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