Gladstones First Ministry

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Domestic Policy Aims

  • Establish a Meritocracy - (Civil Service/ Army Reforms)
  • Reform for Democracy - (Secret Ballot)
  • Efficiency - increase freedom of oppurtunity (Trade Union Reforms)
  • Satisfy Pressure Groups
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Domestic Policy - Education

Education Act (1870) :

+ State set up school boards, education reform acknowledged the role of state in educating children
+ Education system more efficient, laid the foundations of education system.
+ Responded to demands for reform from industrualists who feared that GB was falling behind in trade and industry because of the lack of an effective education system. 

-Compramise policy. National Education League and Nonconformists unhappy as it confirmed the role of church schools , they wanted free, compulsary, non denominational education
-It wasnt free, although school boards could establish free schools in poor areas, voluntary or church schools - hence financial support for these schools
-National education league ran candidations again Liberals in 1874 election, liberals also lost nonconformist support

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Domestic Policy - Admin

Army Reform: (1870-1872)
+abolition of purchase of army commisions purchase no longer based on status and wealth - establishing a meritocracy
+organisation increased efficiency
-Liberals lost elite class liberal support


Civil Service Reform (1870)
+All public posts in civil service open to competition by introduction of public exam - increased meritocracy
+Won support of middle class liberals - ordinary man given a chance
-Diplomatic and Foreign Service exempt
-Liberals lost elite class liberal suppport


University Tests Act:
+Pleased nonconformists as it allowed non-Anglicans to take up teaching posts at universities (Oxford, Cambridge, Durham) 
+Removal of privelage, moves towards meritocracy
-Angered Anglicans

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Domestic Policy - Licensing and Electoral

Licensing- Ballot Act ( 1872) : 

+ gave magistrates more power 

 - a mild measure which satisfied neither side of the debate
- UK alliance didnt think it was radical enough. Disappointed liberal pressure groups who thought it was too leniant
- Beerage felt the restriction of opening hours was an attack on their industry. Allienated brewers and distillers who turned to support the conservatives. Public houses became centres of tory support

Electoral (1872) :

+ Introduction of a secret ballot signified a key step in achieving democracy in Britain and gaining voters freedom of choice at elections
Largely reduced intimidation at elections

- Did not end corruption and bribery. In 1883, Gladstone had to pass further corrupt and illegal practices act

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Domestic Policy - Trade Unions

Trade Unions Act 1871

+ New Model Unions given the legal protection they wanted

Criminal Law Amendment Act 1871

+Aimed to prevent violenice in striked by making intimidation illegal 

-Magistrates interpreted intimidation very widely. Caused great resentment amongst trade uinions who felt act was used to clamp down on their activities.

-Liberals conclided that a further reform of the law was needed. 

-Reform was a dissapointment for trade unionists, not extensive enough, it seemed the liberal government was taking back the legal protection they had given TU's earlier. Working class (artisan) support for liberals lost.

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Domestic Policy - Overall Conclusions

+ Improved efficiency - law, army, education, necessary if GB was to keep up with rapidly industrialising Prussia and US. Efficiency was Gladstones Aim 

+Attack on privelage and establishment of meritocracy - Civil Service, Army, University Tests. Meritocracy was Gladstones Aim

+Most reforms responded to the demands of pressure groups. 

-Alienanted many key groups in Liberal Party. E.g National Education League, New Model Unions, UK Alliance

-Reduced Liberal Support due to unsatisfied groups (Nonconformists - Education; Elite Classes - Army Reform, Trade Unionists and Artisans - Trade Union Acts) Some of these groups pushed towards conservatives.

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Aims in Ireland

Gladstone wanted to pacify Ireland:

  • End problems in land and religion - Gladstone detested violence
  • To maintain union - by removing extrememists 
  • Gladstone felt Ireland had genuine grievances that the British government should address.  
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Ireland - Religion

Irish Church Act (1869) :

+Ended status of Church of Ireland as established church. ecclesiastical courts abolished and church property confiscated. 
+Removed major and longstanding grievence of Ireland's primarly catholic population.
+Pleased and united Liberal supporters like Liberation Society. (First step to disestablishment of Anglican Church?)

-Strong opposition from Conservatives and Irish Anglicans - weakened protestant supremacy. 
-Oppostion in lords could bhave triggered a constitutional crisis if not for intervention from Queen
-There was continued unrest (although this could have been due to land problem not religion)

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Ireland - Land

Irish Land Act (1870):

+ Responded to tennants,ensured compensation for improvements made to land on giving up right to their property. Previously led to poor land yield as no improvements were made.
+Tennants could only be evicted for non- payment of rent
+Clever in using precedent of an Ulster Custom to aviod setting a wider precedent in the UK
+"John Bright" clauses further aided tennants as they could purchase land through governement frant at 2/3 price.

-Enraged landowners including Whigs in Liberal Party- seemed an attack on rights of property. This pushed Whigs further to Conservatives.
-Act fell short of "free sale; fair rent; fixity of tenure" demanded by Irish Tenant League. Fair rent and compensation decided by magistrates (themselves were landowners)
-Agricultural depression (1877) led to evictions for non-payment of rent becoming commonplace.
-Generally regardded as a failure and caused outbreaks of unrest in Ireland

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Ireland - Universities Bill

Irish Universities Bill (1873):

-Complete Failure

-Attempt to set up new university in Dublin where catholics and protestants could study side by side caused massive objections from extremists on both sides. 

-Non-Conformists objected to state endowment of a Catholic University

-Liberals disliked clauses banning certain controversial subjects such as religion, philosophy and theology.

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Ireland -Overall Conclusions

+Gladstone first politican to show interest/ understanding of problems in Ireland.

+Removed most obvious abuses of Irish privelage in Ireland, encouraged hope that Ireland could achieve independance, increase in support for home rule.

+Some policy was successful, Irish Church Act - NonConformists and Irish Catholic Population

-Policies fell short of Irish wishes. Still poor and oppressed many outbreaks of unrest due to unsuccessful policies - Land Act and Universities Bill

-Some Liberal Supporters alienated, which drove them to support Conservatives. (Land Act - Whigs)

-Signifcant political miscalculation - Irish Universities Bill - complete failure, satisfied no group and temporary removal of Gladstone from office. 

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Foreign Policy Aims

  • Maintain Peace and the Balance of Power - Concert of Europe
  • Avoid War - Moral and Finance (War damages trade)
  • Aviod "entaglements"(Alliances which may draw Britain into war)
  • Empire is a duty and responsibility - do not expand empire, move to self governement for white dominions
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Foreign Policy - Europe

Franco Prussian War (1871):

+Little involvement in FP war apart from agreement not to invade Belgium. Little contempary criticism 

Revocation of the Black Sea Clauses and the Treaty of Paris (1871)

+Acted according to "Concert of Europe" in calling Great powers Conference on Russian rencouncing Black Sea clauses. Statesmanlike and committed to peace

-When international conference accepted Russia's requests, the verdict was against British Interests. 

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Foreign Policy - Empire

Attitude to White Dominions 
+Believed white domininons should be responsible for their own internal security. Believed GB Empire should develop as a group of white self-governing colonies. Gladstones attitude was not one of defeat but stemmed from a different idea about the development of the Empire. 
-Severe criticsm from Disraeli who claimed Gladstone and the Liberals wanted to "Dismantle the Empire". E.g withdrawal of GB tropps from Canada and NZ when they faced internal revolts, decision in 1870 to abandon Gambia to France. 

Defence of Gold Coast 
+Liberals were prepared to defend Empire when problems arose. GB sent military force to Ghana when King Coffee of the Ashanti threatened British Rule.

Alabama Award (1872)
+Payment of £3.25 million to USA as compensation for damage to its merchant fleet during Civil War, this ended a longstanding grievance between USA and GB
-Award was hugely unpopular in GB. Many believed that GB had broken its neutrality in the Civil War and so had no need to pay. GB interests not defended. 
-GB had dropped its own claim for damages, yet given in to USA claims, looked like a defeat

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Foreign Policy - Overall Conclusions

+ Gladstones attitude to foreign policy was not a weakness or lack of commitment but a different idea of how the Empire should develop (White Dominions)

+Gladstone was driven by desire to do what was morally right. Maintain peace and avoid war. Felt morally bound to respect rights of other nations even if they conflicted with GB's interests (Treaty of Paris and Alabama Award) 

-General dissatisfaction with foreign and imperial policy. Actions made Britain appear weak and willing to back down.

-Disraeli gave severe criticism which had some impact on 1874 election. (Alabama Award and White Dominions Attitude)

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