One of his first policies was the Administrative Reform. Initially the only possible way to enlist the civil service was based on social background; this resulted in many talented individuals being excluded from the system. Gladstone decided to change this and promoted the idea to campaign for talented middle classes to enter the service. As a result an examination was introduced to select civil servants. This made it possible for people from other backgrounds to gain a position in the service. This fitted in with Gladstone’s Liberalism as not only it gave people more freedom and equality but also started to create a more efficient government. However this new law had also its own limitations, which were not as liberal. The examinations were based on classical education, which immediately gave upper classes an advantage, therefore making it less equal for others to enter. In addition Foreign Office was excluded from the reform and remained available only for the upper classes. This demonstrates that this policy was only partially based on Liberalism, as it enabled more people to enter the service, but at the same time imposed more limitations.
Another of Gladstone’s policies involved Army reform. To begin with, the recruits for the army were selected based the same way as those for the civil service. Positions of officers were usually bought rather than earned which resulted in corruption and often and incompetence of the government. In 1871 Army regulations bill was introduced resulting in people starting to be appointed on merit, the minimum period of service was reduced and the army received better equipment. This resulted in increasing the efficiency of the army and her reputation which helped to strengthen foreign negotiations. In addition it encouraged more people to enter the army, as the service was not only longer but now it was possible to enlist without having an aristocratic background. This law supported Gladstonian Liberalism, as it provided a more efficient and cheap government and offered more freedom to the public. Although it was unpopular with the aristocracy, this law was more liberal than administrative reform. This is because reorganisation of the army helped to improved the military strength of Britain and gave more independence to the public, whereas the administrative reform achieved that only partially.
Another policy which proved to be effective was the Law Reform. In 1873 Gladstone passed the Judicature Act which combined the two law systems, small courts were united into one bigger one and became basis for laws today. This enabled the system to become fairer towards the public, and was therefore disapproved of by the aristocracy who felt their privileges were being taken away. The law also helped to the government to become more effective, therefore corresponding with Gladstonian Liberalism. Law and Army reform appeared to be those policies which fitted in with Gladstone’s ideals, as they both fulfilled his promises.
Gladstone introduced further laws which helped the new government to become more Liberal. In 1872 he introduced the Ballot Act, which enabled individuals to vote in secret. This resulted in there being less political pressure on individuals, who could now vote for the party they truly supported. Although Gladstone didn’t support the act himself it was popular among the Radicals and fitted in with his liberal ideals, as it gave people more freedom and improved the efficiency of the government, and there was less bribery and corruption. The Ballot Act supported Gladstonian Liberalism more than the administrative reform, because it gave people more free will and there were no hidden limitations, unlike the administrative reform.
Another law which helped to improve the country’s efficiency and supported idea of Liberalism was the educational reform. According to Gladstonian Liberalism the government should only intervene in lives of individuals when other institutions and voluntary organisations have failed. This was the case with education, before the act majority of children left school early as most families were unable to afford the fees. In 1869 education pressure groups were established which fought for universally free and compulsory educational system which was to be agnostic. In 1870 Foster’s elementary educational act was brought in which set up school boards to be responsible for building new schools. This resulted in 1600 new schools being built in first six years. The new law made education more accessible for wider section of the population, as government paid for some of the schooling, and made Church of England less influential, which supported Liberal beliefs. However, in some cases, the new system started to prove ineffective. The government funds were not sufficient to subsidise all schools and numerous parents were still unable to afford the school fees. Therefore this act was quite similar to administrative reform, as in one sense it made the system more available to working classes, but at the same time created more limitations that didn’t exist before. Hence, the educational system was only partially liberal.
This was similar with the trade union legislation on 1875. Before the act existence of the trade unions was illegal. Gladstone changed the situation and officially permitted their existence. This seemed like a Liberal act as it enabled people to gain more freedom. However it was followed by a separate policy which outlawed peaceful striking and ruled out unions’ power to maintain a strike. Thefore the trade union legislation can be considered as a liberal action, it was the following laws which went against Gladstone’s promises of creating a liberal country, taking people’s freedom to strike.
The reform which did not support Liberalism at all was the Licensing act of 1872. Through this act, Gladstone reduced the consumption of alcohol. The new policy required sellers of alcohol to have a licence, closed some pubs and prevented sellers more modifying the drinks. The policies were enforced by the police and resulted in people having less freedom and going against Liberalism. Although the act was supported by liberals themselves it was very unpopular with the public. This act was the unliberal out of all the reforms Gladstone carried out. Other reforms were either fully aimed to fulfil Gladstonian ideas, or achieved that partially. Licensing act, however from the beginning intended to restrict the freedom of individuals, and therefore not supporting the idea of liberty.
In conclusion majority of Gladstone’s reforms were liberal. The law and administrative reform changed the system in order to enable working class individuals to enlist the system. In addition educational reform improved lives of many people and gave them a better start for the future. Gladstone achieved some of his ideals through army reform, by making the government more efficient and cheaper. However some of his polices created limitations within themselves, like trade union legislation, and restricted personal freedom. Besides those, there was also the Licensing act which was a total contradiction to Gladstonian Liberalism, introducing constrains on personal lives. Therefore it is evident that most of his laws were aimed to be Liberal, but in reality only a few fully upheld liberal values.
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This is an impressive response in which the author demonstrates a great deal of knowledge and organises ideas in a logical fashion. Gladstone's key reforms are evaluated carefully and a conclusion is reached that refers well to the evidence. 5 out of 5 stars.