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Was the death of Lord Liverpool the most important reason for the collapse of the Tory ministries, 1828-30?

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Introduction

Was the death of Lord Liverpool the most important reason for the collapse of the Tory ministries, 1828-30? The strength of Lord Liverpool, cruelly described by Benjamin Disraeli as the "arch mediocrity," was brought to attention after his death in 1828. It was clear that his moderate stance towards controversial issues had helped to unite a much-divided party. In unifying the "High" and "Low" Tories, the "Catholics" and the "Protestants," Liverpool had succeeded where his successors would fail. However, the post-Liverpool Tories were also weakened by the issue of Catholic Emancipation, whose profile was raised through the infamous County Clare elections. One must further question how Liverpool's survival might have helped the Tories to overcome this ever-present obstacle. The man considered by Gash as "the most underrated Prime Minister in history" would surely have helped. The criticisms of Lord Liverpool's tenure stem largely from the distinct lack of progress within Britain during his reign. With governments in Europe moving towards less conservative and more democratic systems, Britain appeared static. ...read more.

Middle

However, Lord Liverpool's stroke occurred after his resignation as Prime Minister. Despite being a much-respected figure, his influence might still have been too weak to salvage the Tory ministries. Certainly, the circumstances inherited by his successors would demand much of any politician. However, Liverpool had won three elections and securely governed the country for eleven years. It was under him that the Napoleonic War was won, instilling in him a legendary status. Romantics had complained about his moderate stance; the poet Shelley said he was a character that "neither sees, nor feels, nor knows." He was also heavily criticised in the popular press for "fail[ing] to contemplate for one moment" the key issues of Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform. However, events after his death would explain Liverpool's reluctance to become involved with these contentious issues. Firstly, George Canning's leadership was heavily disrupted by his pro-Emancipation stance; many "Protestants" refused to serve under him and defected, before his untimely death in 1827. Canning's stance had longer repercussions, however; he inspired the younger Tories to form a 'Canningite' faction, which pressed for reform. ...read more.

Conclusion

Furthermore, the Tory ministries themselves were never truly stable. Canning and Goderich may have had parliamentary majorities, but they were always very much contested in the two Houses. One can see that the new generation of Tory ministries was borne into greater difficulties than Liverpool alone could have handled; he would have been thrown into the issues of Catholic Emancipation and parliamentary reform against his will. Thus, his death seems a less important factor. However, I feel the Prime Ministers' failings were of the same level as the circumstances of the time, as the two factors are so heavily linked. On the other hand, more astute politicians may have handled the circumstances better. The failings of Liverpool's successors weakened the Tories position and devalued their ideologies. Furthermore, his survival past 1827 could not have helped alleviate the ministers' circumstances; by that point, he had left his post anyway. Thus, one can see weak politicians placed in extraordinarily pressured conditions could not have sustained the Tory ministries, with or without Liverpool's survival. It was not his "mediocrity" that weakened the Tories, but the fatal timing of his departure. 20/1/2005 Luke Bullen 1 20/1/2005 Luke Bullen ...read more.

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