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- Opposed Peel in 1846, then reformed to bring Protectionism back in 1852 (gives us a sign of his pragmatism)

- Disraeli believed in strict financial management, which undermines his claim of being a 'Tory Democrat'

- Disraeli saw income tax as a permanent tax.

- Disraeli's 1852 budget proposed lowering the tax on malt and tea (which was indirect tax) and altering the income tax issues (direct tax)

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- Gladstone's economic policy is central to understanding his liberal beliefs.

- He was originally a Protectionist, but converted to free trade ('laissez faire') in 1846.

- Said to be one of the most skilled Chancellors we have ever had.

- Wanted income tax to be abolished (one major difference between him and Disraeli)

- There was a political element to his economic policy in the 1860s - appeal to the upper working-classes

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1867 Reform Act

- Disenfranchisement clauses - 53 seats were made available for redistribution

- Redistribution - Due to the 53 seats now available nine new boroughs were created, several seats were sent to Scottish counties and boroughs, Wales also gained a seat

- Voting qualifications - Extended borough franchise to all male householders who paid rates directly and also lodgers who paid £10. The new electorate now contained a majority of working class voters.

- Minority clause - This enabled minority interests to be represented in Parliament

In 1866, the Liberals had attempted to pass a Bill, which was judged 'too radical' and was promptly defeated. The funny thing about the 1867 Reform act was that it was the work of a Conservative government, yet historians agree that it is far more radical than the act proposed by the Liberals.This Conservative Bill was passed through government and undertook several transformations but essentially was still very radical. (Evans, 1996, believed that 'radical amendment after radical amendment was accepted')The Bill was finally passed and this was the result of a series of complex manoeuvres in Parliament.

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Was Disraeli a Tory Democrat?

Yes he might have been...

  • He had articulated his vision in his novel 'Sybil'
  • His ideas were radical, he just lacked the opportunities to carry them out (Vincent,1966)
  • He was educating his party (Monypenny and Buckle,1910)
  • He attempted to 'elevate the condition of the people' through his reforms - an electoral pledge made in 1872
  • He laid the foundation for the electoral 'hegemony' of the late 19th Century ('hegemony' - period of predominance)
  • His 1867 Reform Act was more radical than Gladstone's and gave the vote to 1.1 million working-class men
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Was Disraeli a Tory Democrat?

No, he wasn't...

  • Blake (1966) describes Disraeli as an opportunist.
  • Walton claims Disraeli's 'Tory Democracy' was retrospective.
  • Adelman (1993) describes 'Tory Democracy' as 'windy rhetoric'.
  • His reforms were piece-meal and permissive, e.g. Artisan's Dwellings, Merchant Shipping etc. This shows no fundamental belief in Tory Democracy.

·         He left the detail of his reforms to others - a sure sign he had no commitment to them, e.g. Richard Cross drafted most of the domestic legislation.

·         Re-organisation of the Party and the work of the National Union were down the Gorst.

  • His social policies lost focus after he moved to the House of Lords.
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1874 Election

'We have been borne down in a torrent of gin and beer'

William E. Gladstone's words after the results of the 1874 election came out. (TIP: if a question on the 1874 election comes up, that quote would be great to start the essay off)

There is much debate over whether it was a Conservative victory, or a Liberal failure, or was it both?

Overall, I believe that the 1874 result was due to Gladstone's unsuccessful reforms and the way that they upset so many different sections of society. Although I do believe that the apparent strength of Disraeli's Conservative party had a part to play.

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1874 Election-Liberal Failure

Gladstone introduced two main reforms: - The Irish Church Act, 1869 - The First Irish Land Act, 1870

Both of these reforms were highly controversial at the time, although not successful in their aims. The Church Act was slightly more successful than the Land Act, although both did not live up to what Gladstone wanted. The Land Act has become known as a 'well-intentioned failure' similar to the Irish University Bill that Gladstone attempted to pass in 1873.

In a positive light, Gladstone did solve the problem of land in Ireland, and the Church Act did partially answer the narrow question with which it dealt. However, Gladstone left the landlords in control of fixed rents and rights of evictions; therefore he never truly solved the grievances faced by Irish peasantry. The University Bill of 1873 never became law and almost brought his government crashing down. In a quick summary, Gladstone failed (miserably) in his 'mission' as it was not one single problem that could be fixed with a number of reforms.

These are just a few things that you could put in an answer for this question. To argue the other side now (that it was a Conservative victory) we have to look at Disraeli's party and what they were doing that could allow them to win the election.

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1874 Election -Conservative Victory

The most important thing to remember when analysing the possibility of a Conservative victory is the organisation of both parties. With Gladstone's reforms alienating religious and social groups, Disraeli's organised party looked very much assembled and well-organised.

While Gladstone's reforms were suffering, Disraeli made several important speeches in Manchester and Crystal Palace which dealt harsh blows to Gladstone's ministry. Disraeli spoke about the preservation of the Empire, the maintenance of the monarchy and also social reform (perhaps to take emphasis off parliamentary reform). It could be argued that Disraeli modelled himself on Palmerston by 1874, as he was focusing on Britain's interests abroad and domestic tranquillity.

Disraeli's policy of repose gave the working and middle classes a confidence boost as they would not be affected by further reform; this is a crucial argument.

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Gladstone and Foreign/Imperial Policy

- Gladstone believed in the 'Concert of Europe'. This was the idea that all of the European Great Powers should work together to preserve peace.

- He also believed war to be expensive and damaging to trade. (Political views tying into economical - this is important!)

- Gladstone also argued that British rule over the Empire was a duty and responsibility. Gladstone believed that when self-government was given to colonies then they should not rely on British military assistance for security.

During Gladstone's first ministry, himself and his Foreign Secretary (Lord Granville) were heavily criticised by political opponents for following foreign and imperial policy that was against Britain's interests.

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The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71

Gladstone did not intervene directly in this war - this caused problems for his government. He was criticised for not doing anything to prevent France declaring war. Once the war had begun, the only thing Gladstone could do was to get both countries to sign an agreement not to enter Belgium. Once the war ended, Lord Granville intervened to get France to pay the reparations.

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The Black Sea clauses and the Treaty of Paris

During the Franco-Prussian War, Russia took the opportunity to abdicate a section of the Treaty of Paris which prevented Russia from having a fleet in the Black Sea. This was the most important section of the Treaty to Britain and was one of the main reasons it fought in the Crimean War. Lord Granville organised an international conference in London (in March 1871). Stephen Lee believes that this was an 'unsuccessful attempt to get Russia to withdraw its repudiation of the Black Sea Clauses'.

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The 'Alabama' Award, 1872

This included the United States demanding £9 million in compensation for the damage inflicted on the Union merchant fleet (during the American Civil War) by several Confederate raiders (-the most notable being the 'Alabama'). Britain was accused of breaching its neutrality as the Confederate raiders had been built in Cheshire. In May 1871, the Treaty of Washington promised international arbitration between USA and Britain. Despite the fact that this Treaty ended a long-term dispute between the USA and Britain, it was unpopular among the British people. Many thought that Britain had remained neutral and had not breached anything; therefore it was seen as a 'diplomatic defeat for Britain'

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Gladstone and Imperial Issues

Disraeli severely criticised Gladstone's imperial policy, arguing that Gladstone wanted to dismantle the British Empire. The support for this argument is very well supported:

-Decision to withdraw British troops from Canada and New Zealand (when both countries faced internal revolts)

- The decision to offer a knighthood to the Canadian Prime Minister (Alexander Galt) even though Galt was in favour of Canadian independence

- The announcement (in June, 1871) that Britain would abandon Gambia to France.

However, Gladstone himself believed that colonies like Canada and New Zealand (which had received self-government) should be responsible for their own internal security. And another argument would be that Gladstone's party were willing to defend the Empire when problems arose (for example, in 1873 King Coffee Calcalli of the Ashanti threatened the British West African colony of Gold Coast. Gladstone sent a military expedition which defeated King Coffee in the Ashanti War and extended British colonial control to include the Ashanti nation.

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Disraeli and Foreign/Imperial policy

Disraeli has been seen as the great defender of the British Empire and British interests in general abroad. J. L. Morison stated that Disraeli had no real understanding of the Empire whereas Koebner and Schmidt in their study claim that Disraeli's interest in the Empire was merely self-advertisement.

Stembridge (1965) argued that Disraeli had a long-standing interest in the Empire all throughout his career. However there is some element of self-advertisement in Disraeli's foreign and imperial policy. Like Palmerston, Disraeli was able to use these policies to boost his popularity in Britain. Good examples of this include:

- Disraeli sent 12,000 troops to free some British hostages in Abyssinia in 1867-68.

- Also, the handling of the 'Near Eastern Crisis' of 1875-78.

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Disraeli's foreign and imperial policies

'Reckless adventurism'

  • This is what Gladstone labelled Disraeli's policies abroad in his tract 'The Bulgarian Horrors', which was published in 1876. In this pamphlet, he denounced Disraeli's handling of Turkey as 'immoral'; it was also a widespread attack on 'Beaconsfieldism' as a whole.

It could be argued that this was an accurate accusation due to the fact that:

- Disraeli purchased Suez Canal shares

- The reckless mobilisation of troops in Abyssinia in 1868.

- The 'forward' policy in Afghanistan and South Africa led to the loss of many troops

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Disraeli's foreign and imperial policies

'Prancing proconsuls'

- Blake (1966) believes that Disraeli was detached from Imperial affairs as he left the dealings with Carnavon at the Colonial office and deferring it to 'men at the scene' such as Lord Lytton in India, and Sir Bartle Frere in Cape Colony. When things went wrong, these men would be denounced as 'prancing proconsuls'. The whole argument about Disraeli's detachment from Imperial affairs is supported by the fact that his policies in power were a volte-face from his earlier stance as a 'Little Englander', when he saw the colonies as 'millstones' around the English neck.

(One thing to remember when you're arguing about Disraeli's attachment to foreign affairs would be that communications were very weak around this time and it would have been extremely hard for Disraeli to get in contact with his foreign ministers - bear that in mind when you are counter-arguing)

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Disraeli's foreign and imperial policies


Bismark greatly admired Disraeli's approach to foreign affairs and regarded the British acquisition of Cyprus through diplomacy as 'progress'. (Taylor, 1968)

It could be argued that Disraeli was attempting to maintain the 'balance of power' in Europe through his opposition to Russia and support for the Turks. As this puts Disraeli straight into a Palmerstonian camp (that British interests should be upheld over anything else) the Congress of Berlin, 1878 should be seen as a great success. Disraeli's purchase of the Suez Canal Shares made sure that Britain's trading position with India was strong and also prevented the French from securing too strong an influence in Egypt.

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Electoral significance

There is a distinct possibility that Disraeli saw foreign and imperial policy as a means of gaining electoral popularity with the newly enfranchised working class. Again, this makes him similar to Palmerston, who in the 1850s and 1860s saw his 'gun-boat' style diplomacy as a way of courting the middle-class popularity.

There is an element of electoral success in:

- Disraeli's mobilisation of the Egyptian army which threatened Abyssinia.

- The (purely commercial) Royal Titles Act, 1876 (where Queen Victoria was made Empress of India)

- 'Forward' policy mentioned in his two speeches in 1872.

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A new conservatism

It is doubtful whether Disraeli had any clear plan for foreign and imperial policy when considering all of the above. However, the fact that his rhetoric of 'forward' policy allowed future Conservatives (such as Salisbury, Randolph Churchill and Chamberlain) to exploit these ideas for their own imperialist ends. This gives us evidence that Disraeli was pragmatic in terms of foreign and imperial policy.

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The Zulu War, 1878

Sir Bartle Frere was in charge of the troops in Africa, and he decided to confront the Zulu kingdom. This led to a humiliating defeat. Disraeli was apparently extremely angry when war broke out, but was too late to prevent it.

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