Radicals (UK)

Last updated
Radicals
Historical leaders
Founded1750s (1750s)
Dissolved1859 (1859)
Preceded by Radical Whigs
Merged into Liberal Party
Newspaper
Grassroots wing Hampden Clubs
Ideology
Political position Left-wing [1] [2]
Colours  Red

The Radicals were a loose parliamentary political grouping in Great Britain and Ireland in the early to mid-19th century who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.

Contents

History

Early Radicals

The Radical movement arose in the late 18th century to support parliamentary reform, with additional aims including lower taxes and the abolition of sinecures. [3] John Wilkes's reformist efforts in the 1760s as editor of The North Briton and MP were seen as radical at the time, but support dropped away after the Massacre of St George's Fields in 1768. Working class and middle class "Popular Radicals" agitated to demand the right to vote and assert other rights including freedom of the press and relief from economic distress, while "Philosophic Radicals" strongly supported parliamentary reform, but were generally hostile to the arguments and tactics of the Popular Radicals. However, the term "Radical" itself, as opposed to "reformer" or "Radical Reformer", only emerged in 1819 during the upsurge of protest following the successful conclusion of the Napoleonic War. [4] Henry "Orator" Hunt was the main speaker at the Manchester meeting in 1819 that ended in the Peterloo Massacre; Hunt was elected MP for the Preston division in 1830–1832. The "root and branch" of the reforms which the adjective radical suggests, and at the time still strongly in concept denoted by reference to all its previous main uses, is the British constitution, which is not codified or restricted to particular customs, laws or documents.

Radicals and the Great Reform Act

Radicals inside and outside Parliament were divided over the merits of the Whig Reform Act 1832. Some continued to press for the ballot and universal suffrage, [5] but the majority (as mobilised in unions like the Birmingham Political Union) saw abolition of the rotten boroughs as a major step towards the destruction of what they called "Old Corruption" or "The Thing": "In consequence of the boroughs, all our institutions are partial, oppressive, and aristocratic. We have an aristocratic church, an aristocratic bar, an aristocratic game-code, aristocratic taxation....all is privilege". [6]

The 1832 parliament elected on the new franchise – which raised the percentage of the adult population eligible to vote from some 3% to 6% [7] – contained some fifty or sixty Radicals, a number shortly doubled in the 1835 election, leading many to envisage a House of Commons eventually divided between Radicals on the one side and Conservatives (Tories and Whigs) on the other. [8]

In fact, the Radicals failed either to take over an existing party, or to create a new, third force and there were three main reasons. The first was the continuing strength of Whig electoral power in the half-century following the 1832 Act. The latter had expressly been designed to preserve Whig landlord influence in the counties and the remaining small borough [9] – one reason a radical like Henry Hetherington condemned the bill as "an invitation to the shopocrats of the enfranchised towns to join the Whiggocrats of the country". [10] Whigs were also able to profit in two-member constituencies from electoral pacts made with a more reforming candidate. [11]

Secondly, there was the widening body of reforming opinion inside (and outside) Parliament concerned with other, unrelated causes, including international liberalism, anti-slavery, educational and pro-temperance reforms, admissibility of non-Anglicans ("nonconformists") to positions of power. [12] The latter expanded later to disestablishmentarianism which replaced the old local government units of the simple parish unit vestry by the mid-nineteenth century, devising instead civil (non-religious) parishes for almost all areas.

Thirdly, the Radicals were always more a body of opinion than a structured force. [13] They lacked any party organisation, formal leadership, or unified ideology. Instead, humanitarian Radicals opposed philosophic Radicals over the Factory Acts; political Radicals seeking a slimmed-down executive opposed Benthamite interventionists; universal suffrage men competed for time and resources with free traders – the Manchester men. [14]

By 1859, the Radicals had come together with the Whigs and the anti-protectionist Tory Peelites to form the Liberal Party, though with the New Radicalism of figures like Joseph Chamberlain they continued to have a distinctive political influence into the closing years of the nineteenth century. [15]

Continuing agitation and reform

Following the First Reform Act, popular demand for wider suffrage was taken up by the mainly working-class movement, Chartism. Meanwhile, Radical leaders like Richard Cobden and John Bright in the middle class Anti-Corn Law League emerged to oppose the existing duties on imported grain which helped farmers and landowners by raising the price of food, but which harmed consumers and manufacturers. After the success of the League on the one hand and the failure of Chartist mass demonstrations and petitions in 1848 to sway parliament on the other, demand for suffrage and parliamentary reform slowly re-emerged through the parliamentary radicals. [16]

By 1864, with agitation from John Bright and the Reform League, the Liberal Prime Minister Earl Russell introduced a modest bill which was defeated by both Tories and reform Liberals, forcing the government to resign. A Conservative minority government led by the Earl of Derby and Benjamin Disraeli took office and introduced the Reform Act 1867 – which almost doubled the electorate, giving many working men the vote – in a somewhat opportunistic party fashion. [17]

Further Radical pressure led to the secret ballot (1872) and the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act of 1883, followed by the Representation of the People Act 1884. [18] Progressive liberals like John Morley and Joseph Chamberlain continued to value radicalism as a unifying bridge between the classes, and a common goal. [19] However in 1886 Chamberlain helped form the breakaway Liberal Unionist Party that mostly supported Conservative governments. The long career of David Lloyd George saw him moving from radical views in the 1890s to becoming Prime Minister in coalition with the Conservatives in 1918. From 1900 and the rise of the Labour Party and the gradual achievement of the majority of the original Radical goals, Parliamentary Radicalism ceased to function as a political force in the early twentieth century. [20]

Disappear as a political party

Radicals have been absorbed by the Liberal Party since 1859, but have since shown their presence as a faction of the Liberal Party. [21]

Literary echoes

Prominent Radicals

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Liberal Party (UK)</span> Major political party in the United Kingdom from 1859 to 1988

The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties in the United Kingdom, along with the Conservative Party, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Beginning as an alliance of Whigs, free trade–supporting Peelites and reformist Radicals in the 1850s, by the end of the 19th century it had formed four governments under William Gladstone. Despite being divided over the issue of Irish Home Rule, the party returned to government in 1905 and won a landslide victory in the 1906 general election.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tory</span> Conservative political philosophy

A Tory is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved in the English culture throughout history. The Tory ethos has been summed up with the phrase "God, Queen, and Country". Tories are generally monarchists, were historically of a high church Anglican religious heritage, and opposed to the liberalism of the Whig faction. Typically, Tories defend the ideas of hierarchy, natural order, and aristocracy.

The Whigs were a political faction and then a political party in the Parliaments of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Between the 1680s and the 1850s, the Whigs contested power with their rivals, the Tories. The Whigs merged into the new Liberal Party in the 1850s, and other Whigs left the Liberal Party in 1886 to form the Liberal Unionist Party, which merged into the Liberals' rival, the modern day Conservative Party, in 1912.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Peel</span> British Conservative statesman

Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet, was a British Conservative statesman who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom simultaneously serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1834–1835) and twice as Home Secretary. He is regarded as the father of modern British policing, owing to his founding of the Metropolitan Police Service. Peel was one of the founders of the modern Conservative Party.

Reform Act 1832 UK law reforming the electoral system of England and Wales

The Representation of the People Act 1832 was an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that introduced major changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. It abolished tiny districts, gave representation to cities, gave the vote to small landowners, tenant farmers, shopkeepers, householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more, and some lodgers. Only qualifying men were able to vote; the Act introduced the first explicit statutory bar to women voting by defining a voter as a male person.

The Liberal Unionist Party was a British political party that was formed in 1886 by a faction that broke away from the Liberal Party. Led by Lord Hartington and Joseph Chamberlain, the party established a political alliance with the Conservative Party in opposition to Irish Home Rule. The two parties formed the ten-year-long coalition Unionist Government 1895–1905 but kept separate political funds and their own party organisations until a complete merger between the Liberal Unionist and the Conservative parties was agreed to in May 1912.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland</span> Historical sovereign state (1801–1922)

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the British state as it existed between 1801 and 1922, when it included all of Ireland. It was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into a unified state. The establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 led to the remainder later being renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1927.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Russell, 1st Earl Russell</span> Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1846 to 1852 and 1865 to 1866

John Russell, 1st Earl Russell,, known by his courtesy title Lord John Russell before 1861, was a British Whig and Liberal statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1846 to 1852 and again from 1865 to 1866.

Following the Peterloo Massacre on 16 August 1819, the government of the United Kingdom acted to prevent any future disturbances by the introduction of new legislation, the so-called Six Acts aimed at suppressing any meetings for the purpose of radical reform. Élie Halévy considered them a panic-stricken extension of "the counter-revolutionary terror ... under the direct patronage of Lord Sidmouth and his colleagues"; some later historians have treated them as relatively mild gestures towards law and order, only tentatively enforced.

Anti-Corn Law League Former political movement in Great Britain

The Anti-Corn Law League was a successful political movement in Great Britain aimed at the abolition of the unpopular Corn Laws, which protected landowners’ interests by levying taxes on imported wheat, thus raising the price of bread at a time when factory-owners were trying to cut wages. The League was a middle-class nationwide organisation that held many well-attended rallies on the premise that a crusade was needed to convince parliament to repeal the corn laws. Its long-term goals included the removal of feudal privileges, which it denounced as impeding progress, lowering economic well-being, and restricting freedom. The League played little role in the final act in 1846 when Sir Robert Peel led the successful battle for repeal. However, its experience provided a model that was widely adopted in Britain and other democratic nations to demonstrate the organisation of a political pressure group with the popular base.

Tories (British political party) Major political faction and then party in the United Kingdom from 1678 to 1834

The Tories were a loosely organised political faction and later a political party, in the Parliaments of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. They first emerged during the 1679 Exclusion Crisis, when they opposed Whig efforts to exclude James, Duke of York from the succession on the grounds of his Catholicism. Despite their fervent opposition to state-sponsored Catholicism, Tories opposed exclusion in the belief inheritance based on birth was the foundation of a stable society.

Disestablishmentarianism is a movement to end the Church of England's status as an official church of the United Kingdom.

Reform Act 1867 United Kingdom legislation

The Representation of the People Act 1867, 30 & 31 Vict. c. 102 was a piece of British legislation that enfranchised part of the urban male working class in England and Wales for the first time. It took effect in stages over the next two years, culminating in full commencement on 1 January 1869.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Classical radicalism</span> Historical political movement within liberalism

Radicalism or classical radicalism was a historical political movement representing the leftward flank of liberalism during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and a precursor to social liberalism, social democracy and modern progressivism. Its earliest beginnings were found in Great Britain with the Levellers during the English Civil War, and the later Radical Whigs.

Unreformed House of Commons British legislature

"Unreformed House of Commons" is a name given to the House of Commons of Great Britain and the House of Commons of the United Kingdom before it was reformed by the Reform Act 1832.

The Philosophical Radicals were a philosophically-minded group of English political radicals in the nineteenth century inspired by Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) and James Mill (1773–1836). Individuals within this group included Francis Place (1771–1854), George Grote (1794–1871), Joseph Parkes (1796–1865), John Arthur Roebuck (1802–1879), Charles Buller (1806–1848), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), Edward John Trelawny (1792–1881), and William Molesworth (1810–1855).

The 1768 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 13th Parliament of Great Britain to be held, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707.

Liskeard was a parliamentary borough in Cornwall, which elected two Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons from 1295 until 1832, and then one member from 1832 until 1885. The constituency was abolished by the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885.

The Nonconformist conscience was the moralistic influence of the Nonconformist churches in British politics in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The National Political Union was an organisation set up in October 1831, after the rejection of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords, to serve as a pressure group for parliamentary reform: “to support the King and his ministers against a small faction in accomplishing their great measure of Parliamentary Reform”.

References

  1. Alan Sykes, ed. (2014). The Rise and Fall of British Liberalism: 1776-1988. Routledge.
  2. James Frey, ed. (2020). The Indian Rebellion, 1857–1859: A Short History with Documents. Hackett Publishing. p. XXX. ISBN   9781624669057. British politics of the first half of the nineteenth century was an ideological spectrum, with the Tories, or Conservative Party, on the right, the Whigs as liberal-centrists, and the radicals on the left.
  3. Evans 2000, pp. 10, 98.
  4. Élie Halévy, The Liberal Awakening (London 1961) pp. 67–68.
  5. Élie Halévy, The Triumph of Reform (London 1961) pp. 25–27
  6. J. Wade, 1831, quoted in M. Dorothy George, Hogarth to Cruikshank (London 1967) p. 169.
  7. Élie Halévy, The Triumph of Reform (London 1961) pp. 27–29
  8. Élie Halévy, The Triumph of Reform (London 1961) pp. 65–66, 195.
  9. H. J. Hanham, The Reformed Electoral System in Great Britain (London 1968) pp. 12–15, 31.
  10. Quoted in Evans 2000, p. 101.
  11. Evans 2000, p. 71.
  12. Evans 2000, p. 45.
  13. M. L. Henry, "Radicals", in S. H. Steinberg ed., A New Dictionary of British History (London 1963) p. 300
  14. Élie Halévy, The Triumph of Reform (London 1961) pp. 195–96.
  15. G. M. Trevelyan, British History in the Nineteenth Century (London 1922) p. 383.
  16. Evans 2000, pp. 37, 46.
  17. H. J. Hanham, The Reformed Electoral System in Great Britain (London 1968) pp. 4, 11.
  18. Evans 2000, pp. 63, 67.
  19. Vincent, John (1969). "John Morley". History. 54: 316.
  20. M. L. Henry, "Radicals", in S. H. Steinberg ed., A New Dictionary of British History (London 1963) p. 300.
  21. Jonathan Sperber, ed. (2014). Europe 1850-1914: Progress, Participation and Apprehension. Routledge. p. 92. ISBN   9781317866602. Counter-balancing Palmerston's more moderate image was his chancellor of the exchequer, William Gladstone (1809–98), who enjoyed support on the left wing of the Liberal Party and among British radicals. This duo kept politics on course ...
  22. I. Ousby ed. The Cambridge Guide to literature in English (Cambridge 1995) p. 327.
  23. M. Sadleir, Anthony Trollope (London 1945) p. 422.
  24. "The Project Gutenberg eBook of the Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope". Gutenberg.

Bibliography