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How is the life and policies of Lord Palmerston typical to Victorian Liberalism?

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How is the life and policies of Lord Palmerston typical to Victorian Liberalism? Palmerston was born Henry John Temple in 1784 and in 1802 inherited the title Viscount Palmerston. After an education at Harrow, Edinburgh and St. John's College, Cambridge he was elected as MP for Cambridge University (1811-31), Bletchingley, South Hampshire and represented Tiverton from 1835. He was therefore a member of the elite just as Victorian Liberalism was elitist. His first post in government was as a junior Lord of the Admiralty under Portland in 1807. In 1809 Spencer Perceval, the then Prime Minister, offered Palmerston the Exchequer, but he turned it down, preferring the office of Secretary of War, a position which he held until 1828. While Palmerston had initially entered Parliament as a Tory MP in 1829 he joined the Whigs along with Melbourne. Palmerston was not a typical Victorian. ...read more.


The year 1848 provides understanding both to Palmerston's foreign policy and the reputation he acquired for liberalism. At home he acted in a very illiberal manner. He got out his pistols and organised the defence of the Foreign Office, and he was very harsh towards convicted Chartists. There was some truth is this flattering image. Britain did have the most advanced economy and the strongest navy in the world. Also, she took for granted liberal freedoms - like freedom of speech and religious toleration - which were still being fought for on the continent. Yet Palmerston ignored illiberal aspects of British society and was unaware of the trend towards relative economic decline that was setting in. China objected to imports of opium from India, a country where Britain had banned the sale of the drug. ...read more.


America was one such power. Palmerston was much appreciated by the public. He was admired for his vitality and energy. He would sit for several hours at a time in Parliament with little or no refreshment and when he finished with Commons' business he would walk to his house in Piccadilly and spend half the night writing reports to Queen Victoria. He often stood at his desk in order to stop himself falling asleep. Palmerston has been described variously as a 'liberal' and as a 'nationalist'. But the labels would largely depend on the political situation with which he had to deal at a particular time. With regard to the slave trade, which he largely stamped out, he may appear as a liberal. He also believed in self-determination, examples being his assistance to the Belgians and his general sympathy with the Italian ambition for self-government without Austrian intrusion. However, when a crucial imperial issue was at stake Palmerston's opinion was bellicose and forthright. ...read more.

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