To what extent was the second Reform Act passed to "extinguish Gladstone and co"?

Authors Avatar by cdkickflipper17 (student)

To what extent  was the second reform act passed to “extinguish Gladstone and co”

The motivation behind the passing of the 1867 reform act by the Conservative party is often an area of historical debate.  Throughout the period from 1865-67, Disraeli’s nature of opportunism and aims of humiliating Gladstone whilst benefiting the Conservative party never really altered, if anything these aims grew easier to achieve with the failure of the 1866 Liberal bill and the death of Palmerston in 1865. The issue of extinguishing “Gladstone and co” would very much involve the collapse of the liberal party or at worst for the Conservatives, the humiliation of Gladstone. Most certainly the passing of the 1867 reform bill humiliated the liberals incredibly, but was the reform bill passed to achieve this? Historians such as Alderman argue that “Disraeli’s attitude during the reform crisis was purely opportunistic in order to greatly benefit the Conservative party “and of course Disraeli himself. To truly measure whether Disraeli wanted to “extinguish Gladstone and co”, we must look at the details of the reform bill itself, but most importantly consider the other factors that may have played a significant role in the passing of the reform bill.

Disraeli’s opportunistic nature was prominent in benefiting the Conservative party. The Conservatives whom had been out of power for 20 years were drastically in need of power and therefore Disraeli acted on this drastically. By 1866, after the Liberal bill had been defeated by 314 votes to 300, the damage had already been done. More importantly Disraeli moved towards household suffrage not through principle or through careful calculation about the party’s future, but rather because of the pressure of events, and these explicit events may have caused Disraeli to act drastically to regain parliamentary power. Historians such as M. Cowling agree that “Disraeli’s was a policy of consistent opportunism”, from this Cowling is right. Disraeli never really had any motivation or any outright plan to reform parliament, instead as Feuchtwanger summaries, “In the session of 1867 Disraeli practised the tactics he had used so often since he became leader of his party, the attempt to link up with any available group to secure a majority.  The linkup between the Conservatives and the radical liberals who opposed the liberal 1866 bill led by Robert Lowe called the Adullamites was a smart move by Disraeli for several reasons. Disraeli knew that in order for his bill to be passed he would have to make his bill substantially different, going either above or below the Liberal baseline but Disraeli would also need some support from the Liberals. Initiating support with the Adullamites not only divided the Liberals even further but it made Disraeli one step closer to achieving political power whilst at worst humiliating Gladstone at the same time. This could be accomplished by a mild measure, pitched somewhere above Russell’s. But when Disraeli tried this in order to appease Cranborne, he quickly realised that there would be no chance of liberal support. Such backing could only come from the radicals, and therefore Disraeli opted for a bold stroke to take the old enemy completely by surprise. This was, above all, a tactical coup.

Join now!

We must further look at the issue of extinguishing “Gladstone and co”. This arguably was Disraeli’s only sought aim throughout the entire parliamentary crisis between 1866-67. The rivalry in this period between the two political juggernauts was at its “highest and most intense point” during this period. As the Conservatives had been out of power for 20 years, he was extremely desperate to regain power and the removal of Gladstone and destruction of the liberal party would do just that. Further mention is of Gladstone and Russell only passing and failing their bill in 1866, with this failure Disraeli knew ...

This is a preview of the whole essay