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How Significant An Event Was the Repeal Of The Corn Laws In The History Of The Conservative Party Between 1827-1874?

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Introduction

How Significant An Event Was the Repeal Of The Corn Laws In The History Of The Conservative Party Between 1827-1874? The Conservative Party recovered well from its heavy defeat by the Whigs after passing of the 1832 Reform Bill. Under Peel, the Tories/Conservatives had re-assumed office in 1841 with a strong efficient ministry. The recovery involved a change in direction. Conservatives had accepted parliamentary reform and for the moment the Whig intended no more. The issues that seemed to separate the parties were that the Conservatives were the stronger defenders of the landed interest in general and the Corn Laws and protectionist principles in particular and the Conservatives were also keen not to undermine the position and privileges of the Church of England in any way. Peel proceeded to take two decisions, which seemed to undermine these basic principles. Both issues had an Irish link. Peel believed that he had acted in the national interest on both these issues but his actions were very damaging for the conservative as a party. By increasing the Maynooth Grant in 1845 Peel offended many Conservatives who objected on principle to a measure, which to their eyes undermined the Established Church. Roman Catholicism was not generally looked upon sympathetically by the majority of the landed interest. No matter that the grant was merely being increased and used for educational purposes, the objection was still strong. ...read more.

Middle

Although landowners did not financial ruin immediately after the repeal of the Corn Law in 1846, this event marked a turning point in the decline of landowner power in Britain. In 1846 the Conservative Party split over the repeal of the Corn Laws. Industrial middle-class wing became known as Peelites, and subsequently joined the Liberal Party in 1859. There are a number of reasons why the Conservatives were able to secure a majority of 76 seats in the 1841 election. It amounted to a combination of Peel's reorganisation of the party and the weakness of his Whig opponents. Peel was elected on a pledge to retain the Corn Laws, despite his own serious misgivings on the issue. Historians such as Eric Evans and Ian Newbould have questioned the view that Peel was solely responsible for the revival in his party's fortunes. They argue that election victory reveals that Peel was elected on traditional Tory rather than 'Conservative' values, and the party mad little headway in the areas, especially in the North, which were supposed to provide the basis for Conservative support. Social reform, the reorganisation of the nation's finances and an attempt to soothe the tensions in Ireland all played a crucial role in the development of his policy. Yet it was the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 that finally led to the collapse of the party and a period of political exile that would last for over 20 years. ...read more.

Conclusion

It also played an important, but not to be exaggerated, part in the Conservative Party out of a majority situation until 1874. Once the Second Reform Bill was through in August 1867, Parliament went into recess and did not reconvene until early 1868. Derby resigned through ill health in February 1868 and Benjamin Disraeli replaced him as Prime Minister. As he put it, he had reached the 'top of the greasy pole' at last. The impact of the repeal of the Corn Laws on agriculture was not much. The concern about the damaging impact that it might have had may well have acted to make many farmers look at their methods and management for improvement to compensate for possible damage. There was a gradual decline in the power of the landed interests, but it was very small in this period. The Protectionists' case vanished easily, and Disraeli was aware that his backbenchers had not been reduced to poverty when the Conservatives abandoned Protection in 1852. The anticipated destruction of British farming simply did not happen, the propaganda of those against repeal of the Corn Laws was proved to be inaccurate. Disraeli rose to political prominence during the Corn Law debates of 1845-46 as a major defender of agricultural protection. However, following the defeat of his 1852 budget Disraeli, like the rest of the Conservative Party, abandoned protection and adopted free trade. Yet, during the agricultural depression in 1877, Disraeli did toy with the idea of reimposing import taxes on grain. 28/04/07 1 Pinar Araci ...read more.

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