What Explains Gladstone's Development From Tory To Peelite To Liberal?

2429 words - 10 pages

Many have seen Gladstone's political career as one dominated by contradictions. Gladstone started out as a high Anglican Tory and a strong opponent of reform. During the Tory party split, Gladstone followed Peel to become a Peelite and gradually he became swayed to the liberal end of politics, ending his career as one of the most popular icons of Victorian Liberalism who's great reforming ministry of 1868-74 seemed to oppose everything he had initially stood for.Gladstone came from a wealthy, religiously strict family who had close links to the Liberal Tories Huskisson and Canning. Many historians see Gladstone's main influences in his early political decisions coming from the Church and ...view middle of the document...

Some argue that Gladstone's reasons for going into politics were that he felt that the Church was in danger of being disestablished if a reform act was to take place, so he joined the Tory party to defend the Church.His political decisions were also to some degree influenced by his time at Oxford University where he was attracted to the Oxford movement which wanted the revival of the church in England, and as part of the high class living which he experienced here, he formed the opinion that there was a class born to govern, this view stuck with Gladstone throughout his political career, ensuring that, as many historians have expressed, he was never a 'truly democratic politician'.In 1832, Gladstone entered into his career thanks to his father who, as a good friend of the Duke of Newcastle had suggested that his son would make a good MP and so Gladstone entered the House of Commons as Mp for Newark. In 1834, Sir Robert Peel came into power for a short time. Gladstone's father's friendship with Peel ensured that Gladstone was brought to the attention of Peel, so it was yet again the family influence that meant Gladstone became a noticed figure in politics. During this time, Gladstone became closer to Peel and he was appointed as junior lord of the Treasury, and was later promoted to under-secretary for War and the Colonies. Many historians, including Winstanley, Goodlad and Adelman, see Peel as another key influence in Gladstone's life. Peel's example was certainly a great influence on him. During Peel's second ministry of 1841-46, he became recognised for reinventing Toryism into Liberal Toryism. Gladstone became Vice-President of the Board of Trade; he began to revise the tariff system with the idea of relieving trade and industry. Biagini states that there was 'nothing new in this strategy: in a sense, it was the 'old Tory Liberal', although with hindsight, we can see that this was an important step towards liberalism although Gladstone still regarded himself as a 'free-trade Conservative'.In 1845, Gladstone resigned over the Maynooth Grant despite his obvious admiration of Peel, he still felt strongly towards the Established church. However he was persuaded back into Peel's administration after surprisingly deciding to vote for the grant. Winstanley explains this by Gladstone finding a way of altering his beliefs so that he could function more effectively in his political role, 'not for the last time, pragmatism triumphed over hopeless idealism'. Gladstone was given the role of Colonial Secretary, and it was in this post that Gladstone showed his first signs of going against his father's opinions when he spent a lot of time trying to abolish the Spanish and Brazilian slave trade.When the party split in 1846 over the Corn Laws, joined the Peelite side of the party. Historians differ over their views of why Gladstone decided to join the Peelite's, the most obvious were that he had a high regard for Peel, and that he had been converted to ...


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