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William Gladstone vs. Benjamin Disrael

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William Gladstone vs. Benjamin Disrael
Great Britain: Toward Democracy
• The period between 1850 and 1865 saw a
realignment of political parties in Britain.
• The Tory Party was transformed into the
Conservative Party under Benjamin Disraeli.
• The Whig Party was transformed in to the
Liberal Party under William Gladstone
Disraeli (Before Prime Minister)
Supported aggressive expansion of
British Empire
Expressed sympathy for the
working class in an 1845 novel,
Was influenced by John Stuart
Mill’s On Liberty, which advocated
for increased democracy
Introduced the Reform Bill of 1867
which built on the Reform Bill of
– It nearly doubled the number of men
who could vote by lowering
monetary requirements
– Wanted to attract workers to the
conservative party.
Gladstone (Before Prime
• Opposed imperialism
• Supported free trade and
repeal of Corn Laws (a
chartist demand)
• Lowered taxes and gov’t
spending as finance
• Supported Italian
Gladstone (PM – 1868 – 1874) –
the liberal
Disraeli (PM – 1874 – 1880) – the
• 1875 – Public Health Act –
improved sanitation
• 1875 – Artisan Dwelling Act
– gov’t became involved in
providing housing for
working class.
• Reduced gov’t regulation of
trade unions
• *Very paternalistic reforms
1870 – introduced civil service exams
for gov’t positions
Secret ballot (1872) – a chartist demand
Ended compulsory church taxes to
support Church of England.
Dropped religious requirements for
degrees at Oxford and Cambridge
1870 Education Act – state is
responsible for elementary schools
*reforms were focused on creating a
meritocracy and eliminating traditional
sources of discontent. Some historians
refer to Gladstone’s rule as the apex of
“classical British liberalism” because
they strengthened the nation through
enabling talent to compete fairly.
The Irish Question and Gladstone
• Gladstone (liberal) becomes P.M. a 2nd time in 1880 and a 3rd time
in 1892.
• 3rd Reform Act – 1884 – Gives most male farmers the franchise
• However, the dominant domestic issue was the Irish question. Irish
self-consciousness increased during the 19th century.
• The Irish resented British landlords and their required rents.
• Gladstone supported home rule for the Irish, but the issue was
defeated in Parliament in 1886 and 1892
• The Irish question split the Liberal Party which endangered social
and political reform. The Irish question divided those who agreed
on other reforms
• A new Labour Party would arise in the absence of leadership on
social reforms (social class issues, etc).
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