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The Political Arts of Lord Liverpool

Abstract

After her third consecutive election victory in 1987, Margaret Thatcher chose as her holiday reading Norman Gash's biography of Lord Liverpool. It was a fitting tribute from one remarkably durable prime minister to another. No one now thinks of Liverpool as a mediocrity, let alone an arch one, and the fact that many of his colleagues were more flamboyant than he was merely adds to his stature. His achievements as a statesman are emphasised by Gash, who depicts him as ‘one of the great through unacknowledged architects of the liberal, free trade Victorian state’, the first exponent of a public doctrine which, in both its economic and its moral components, would be taken up triumphantly by his successors—Peel, Gladstone, and (it might be argued) Thatcher. His achievements as a politician, meanwhile, can be measured by the fact that he sustained a fifteen year premiership, broken only by his stroke in February 1827, during a period of extreme social and economic difficulty. This seems all the more remarkable in view of the fact that the eighteenth century had seemed to demonstrate that in order to run a stable administration, a first lord of the treasury needed to be in the House of Commons.

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1 Gash N., Lord Liverpool. The Life and Political Career of Robert Banks Jenkinson 2nd Earl of Liverpool 1770–1828 (1984), 251–4.

2 Brock W. R., Lord Liverpool and Liberal Toryism 1820 to 1827 (1941: 2nd 1967 edition), 33, 75–6. 170.

3 Webster C. K., The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh 1812–1815. Britain and the Reconstruction of Europe (1931), 35.

4 The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot 1820–1832, ed. Bamford F. and the duke of Wellington (2 vols., 1950), i. 121.

5 Charles Arbuthnot to Huskisson, Jan. 1823, Huskisson Papers, British Library, Additional MS 38744, fo. 57, quoted in Brock, 171.

6 Sydney Smith to Bishop Blomfield, 5 Sept. 1840, The Letters of Sydney Smith, ed. Smith N. C. (2 vols, Oxford, 1953), ii. 709.

7 For recent expositions on these lines see Gash N., Aristocracy and People. Britain 1815–1865 (1979), 112, 116—17; Evans E.J., The Forging of the Modern State. Early Industrial Britain 1783–1870 (1983), 190–1, 198.

8 Hilton B., Corn, Cash, Commerce. The Economic Policies of the Tory Governments 1815–1830 (Oxford, 1977), 40–8.

9 Though a case might be made for Sir Charles Wood, chancellor of the exchequer 1846–52. On the chancellorship see Matthew H. C. G., Gladstone, 1809–1874 (Oxford, 1986), 110.

10 Wynn to Buckingham , 20 01 1823, Memoirs of the Court of George IV, 1820–1830, ed. Grenville R., duke of Buckingham and Chandos (2 vols., 1859), i. 411.

11 Wynn to Buckingham , ?Nov.–Dec. 1822, Court of George IV, i. 398.

12 Hilton , Corn, 71–5.

13 Liverpool to Huskisson, 11 April 1824, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38745, fo. 234.

14 Memorandum of 18 Feb. 1823, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38761, fos. 95–100.

15 Grenville to Huskisson, 27 Apr. 1825, Huskisson Papers, BL Add. MS 38746, fos. 186–7.

16 Gash N., ‘After Waterloo: British society and the legacy of the Napoleonic wars’, T. R. H. S., 5th series, xxviii (1978), 145–57.

17 Hilton , Corn, 173–5, 190–5.

18 Canning to Huskisson, 8 March 1821, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38742, fos. 187–97.

19 Hilton , Corn, 96–7; Hilton B., The Age of Atonement. The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1795–1865 (Oxford, 1988), 126–7.

20 Hilton B., ‘Peel: a reappraisal’, Historical Journal, xxii (1979), 610.

21 Webster C. K., The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh 1815–1822. Britain and the European Alliance (1925), 14.

22 Liverpool in House of Lords, 24 07 1812, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, xxiii, 1249.

23 Cookson J. E., Lord Liverpool's Administration. The Crucial Years 1815–1822 (Edinburgh and London, 1975), 278.

24 Grenville to Sir John Newport, 17 October 1814, Bodleian Library, Eng. MS Letters, d. 80, fos. 103–6.

25 Huskisson to Canning, 20 April 1816, Canning Papers, Leeds Public Library MSS., 67/83.

26 George IV's memorandum, 08 1827, The Letters of King George IV 1821–30, ed. Aspinall A. (3 vols., Cambridge, 1938), iii. 291–2.

27 Aspinall A., ‘The Cabinet Council, 1783–1835’, Proceedings of the British Academy, xxxviii (1952), 187–8.

28 On this ‘inner’ cabinet see Webster , Castlereagh 1815–1822, 15.

29 Webster , Castlereagh 1812–1815, 374.

30 Liverpool Papers. BL, Add. MS 38291, fo. 336, quoted in The Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot, ed. Aspinall A. (1941), 19n.

31 Huskisson to his wife, 3 Feb. 1819, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 39949, fos. 58–61.

32 Canning's diary, 2 and 3 April, 10 May, 1819, Canning Papers, 29 D.i.

33 Liverpool to Eldon , 10 05 1819, The Public and Private Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon with Selections from his Correspondence, ed. Twiss H. (3 vols., 1844), ii. 329; Canning's diary, loc. cit..

34 Hilton , Corn, 102–9, 149–56 269–78.

35 IV George to Liverpool , 6 11 1823, The Letters of King George IV 1812–1830 (3 vols., Cambridge, 1938), iii. 39.

36 Wellington to Fremantle , 3 12 1821, Memoirs of the Court of George IV, i. 237.

37 Redesdale to Colchester , 4 01 1820, The Diary and Correspondence of Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester, ed. Charles , Colchester Lord (3 vols., 1861), iii. 107–8; Fremantle to Buckingham , 9 02 1819, Memoirs of the Court of England during the Regency, 1811–1820 ed. Grenville R., Buckingham duke of and Chandos (2 vols., 1856), ii. 301.

38 Gash , Liverpool, 171.

39 Liverpool to Charles Bathurst, 29 December 1820, Liverpool Papers, BL, Add. MS 38288, fos. 386–8.

40 Fremantle's W. H. report of a conversation with Lord Liverpool, 11 1821, Court of George IV, i. 232.

41 Liverpool to ?, 21 Nov. 1822, Liverpool Papers, BL, Add. MS 38291, fos. 174–8.

42 Huskisson to Liverpool, 12 May 1822, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fos. 148—51, quoted in The Huskisson Papers, ed. Melville L. (1931), 137–9.

43 E. J. Littleton's diary, 20 Nov. 1821, Hatherton Papers, Staffordshire Record Office, D260/M/F/5/26/5/148–50.

44 Huskisson to Liverpool, 12 May 1822, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fos. 148–51; Huskisson Papers, 137–9. It is clear from such comments that Gash is mistaken in describing Huskisson as ‘curiously oblivious of his own unpopularity’. Gash , Liverpool, 242.

45 Littleton's diary, 20 11 1821, loc. cit..

46 Huskisson to Liverpool, 14 November 1821, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fos. 13–14.

47 Huskisson to Liverpool, 11 Jan. 1822, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fos. 117–20; Huskisson Papers, 135.

48 Huskisson to Canning, November 1822, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS38743, fo221; Huskisson to Arbuthnot, 26 December 1822, ibid., fos. 285–6.

49 Canning to Huskisson, 3 October 1822, Huskisson papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fos. 217–20; Brock , Liverpool and Liberal Toryism, pp. 163–4.

50 George IV to Liverpool, 2 Jan. 1823, Huskisson Papers, Add. MS. 38575, fos. 82–3. In November 1823 the king again made it clear that he had sanctioned Huskisson's admission to the cabinetas early as Canning's appointment to the foreign department. George IV to Liverpool, 6 11 1823, loc. cit.It was therefore remarkably disingenuous of Liverpool to complain that Huskisson was trying to push his way intothe cabinet ‘against the wishes of the King and his own friends’. Liverpool to Arbuthnot , 27 12 1822, Correspondence of Charles Arbuthnot, 37.

51 Canning to Liverpool , 18 01 1823, Canning Papers, 70.

52 Wallace to Herries , 8 08 1821, Herries Papers, British Library, Vol. xxxvi, fos. 105–7).

53 Huskisson to Ellis, 29 Dec. 1822, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fos. 294–8.

54 Huskisson to Liverpool, 19 June 1823, Huskisson Papers, Add MS38744 ff. 229–31.

55 Huskisson to Canning, 25 Oct. 1822 and 25 July 1823, Canning Papers, 67/131, 68/20.

56 Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, ii. 20.

57 Bathurst to Harrowby, 5 January 1823, Sandon Hall, Harrowby MS 1st series XIV, fo. 123.

58 Huskisson to Canning, 25 Oct 1822, Huskisson Papers, BL, Add. MS 38743, fo. 259; Cookson , Liverpool's Administration, 386–7. In fact, Canning's reference to Huskisson's perverseness was in respect of a different matter. Canning to Liverpool, 28 December 1822, Canning Papers.

59 Canning to Huskisson, 3 Oct. 1822, loc. cit.

60 Liverpool to Earl Talbot, 27 May 1818, Liverpool Papers, BL, Add. MS 38272, fos. 34–7.

61 Parris H., Constitutional Bureaucracy. The Development of British Public Administration since the Eighteenth Century (1969); Aylmer G. E., ‘From office-holding to civil service: the genesis of modern bureaucracy’, T.R.H.S., 5th series, xxx (1980), 91108; Chester N., The English Administrative System 1780–1870 (Oxford, 1981).

62 Goldman L., ‘The Social Science Association, 1857–1886: a context for midVictorian liberalism’, English Historical Review, ci (1986), 95134.

63 Morgan T. D. L., ‘All for a wise despotism? Robert Lowe and the politics of meritocracy 1852–1873’, unpublished Cambridge University Ph.D. (1982), 242–70.

64 Hilton , ‘Peel’, loc. cit., 606–8.

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Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
  • ISSN: 0080-4401
  • EISSN: 1474-0648
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