The Age of George III

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'Liberal Toryism'

The phrase 'Liberal Toryism' has been used by historians such as W.R. Brock and Barry Gordon to describe Liverpool's administration between 1822 and 1827. As stated by Norman Gash in Herbert van Thal's The Prime Ministers, 'the traditional interpretation of Liverpool's administration divided it into two contrasting phases: 'reactionary Toryism' dominated by Castlereagh, Sidmouth, Eldon and Vansittart; and 'liberal Toryism' dominated by Canning, Peel, Huskisson and Robinson'. The death of Castlereagh in August 1822 and the promotion of Canning to Foreign Secretary has been seen as marking the reconstruction of the administration and the dawn of 'liberal Toryism'.

Palmerston was - until about 1830 - a Tory. He entered Liverpool's ministry as Secretary at War but thought that the ministry was able to survive only with the support of the Whigs, as he noted in a letter to William Temple (one of his relatives) on 17 July 1826:

The Government are as strong as any government can wish to be, as far as regards those who sit facing them; but in truth the real opposition of the present day sit behind the Treasury Bench; and it is by the stupid old Tory party, who bawl out the memory and praises of Pitt while they are opposing all the measures and principles which he held most important; it is by these that the progress of the Government in every improvement which they are attempting is thwarted and impeded. On the Catholic question; on the principles of commerce; on the corn laws; on the settlement of the currency; on the laws regulating the trade in money; on colonial slavery; on the game laws, which are intimately connected with the moral habits of the people: on all these questions, and everything like them, the Government find support from the Whigs and resistance from their self-denominated friends. (H.L. Bulwer Bentley, Life of Palmerston, vol. 1, 1870, pp.171-172)

Later the same year, Mrs. Arbuthnot, a High Tory and the wife of a friend of the Duke of Wellington, wrote in her Diary that

The Government, as it is now constituted, has, I think, totally lost (and I own I think justly) the confidence of the country. The liberal party, with Mr. Canning at their head, court the Opposition and try to shape their measures with a view of catching their votes; in order to do this, they discuss measures in the Cabinet as little as they possibly can, not to be thwarted by their illiberal colleagues, and all this naturally incenses the Tory Party to the greatest possible degree. (Francis Bamford and the Duke of Wellington [eds.], Mrs. Arbuthnot's Diary, vol. 2. Macmillan, 1950 pp.59-60)

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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