Gladstone's First Ministry

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The Forster Education Act

  • Reform of the mishmash of voluntary schools was overdue
  • Had been run mainly by the Church groups on an inadequate government grant since 1830s
  • Not enough schools for the growing population and the explanding towns
  • Extension of Franchise in 1867 = government's interest to educate to electorate
  • A national system would be efficient and contirbute to the development of meritocracy
  • Bring economic advantage in the longer term
  • Would create workers with technical and vocational skills 
  • Assist Britain in international competitiveness 
  • Main provisions:
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      • Country was divided into school districts
      • Board schools, providing elementary education for pupils aged 5-12, were to be built were provision was inadequate and maintained out of the local rates
      • School boards were to be set up, elected by ratepayers in each district, to run the new schools. They had autonomy over attendance and fees, but had to pay fees for poor children
      • Attendance to religious lessons were voluntary 
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The Forster Education Act

Problems:

  • Over the place of religion in education and existence of the denominational schools
  • National Education League called for the exclusion of churches in the running of schools
  • No religious teaching in board schools demanded
  • The Anglican National Education Union retaliated with demands for the continuation of religious education
  • The Cowper-Temple amendment excluded denominational religious teaching in the new board schools and the final act was a compromise 
  • Nonconformists continued to see it as a threat to religious equality 
  • Bitter disputes over the election to school boards and Nonconformist support was withdrawn from any Liberal by-election candidate who failed to pledge to amend the Education Act
  • Resulting Liberal by-election losses helped to destroy the Liberal government 
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The Forster Education Act

Positives:

  • Indicated a move away from laissez-faire in government social legislation
  • Acknowledged the role of the State in educating its children 
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Administrative Reforms

  • Civil Service and Army Reform created ill feeling towards the government from traditional Whigs
  • Entry to both was based on family connections and wealth, not on the ability to perform
  • Reform of the Civil Service:
    • Principle of entry by competitive examination was established
    • Brought in candidates with intellect and ability
    • Improved professionalism and efficiency at minimal cost to the government
    • Allowed bright young men from ordinary backgrounds the chance at a steady career
    • Won the approval of many middle-class Liberals 
  • Reforms of the Army 
    • Existing system = entry based on privilege 
    • The disasters of the Crimean War had underlined the need to improve the competency and professionalism
    • Cardwell established political control of the army
  • The Army Enlistment Act 1870 
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      • Changed the 12 year service to six years active, 6 years reserve 
      • Peace time flogging was abolished 
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Administrative Reforms

  • A new breech loading Enfield Martini-Hentry rifle was introduced
  • Replaced the muzzle-loading Enfield Rifle for the infantry 
  • Britain was divided into military districts, usually counties, and the regiments took the name of the county such as the Northumblerland Fusiliers 
  • Changers were in the interests of creating a modern force 
  • Raised morale among the ranks too 
  • Beneficial to army discipline 
  • Increase efficiency = The War Office divided into three main departments
  • Abolition of the system of purchase of commissions presented a different challenge 
  • By abolition = attacking the right by birth and wealth to privilege 
  • Furious opposition from the House of Lords and Queen Victoria
  • Overcome when Cardwell threatened to abolish existig commissions without compensation
  • Act ending the purchase of commissions was passed in 1871
  • Selection and promotion of officers was to be based on merit
  • Judicature Act of 1873
  • Aimed to simplify the British legal system by uniting the existing seven major courts into the Spreme Court of Judicature 
  • Tied up the organisation and roles of the courts and simplified the cumbersome and lengthy appeals
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Labour Laws

The Trade Union Act of 1871

  • Established the legal right of the unions to hold property and funds 
  • Protected by law 
  • Also had the right to strike

The Criminal Law Amendment Act 

  • Passed immediately after
  • Made any form of picketing illegal
  • Any action unions took to achieve their objectives was now illegal 
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Labour Laws

Problems:

  • Gladstone's most serious misjudgement as it cost him working-class support 
  • Skilled artisans who had helped to ensure their success in 1868 were left bitterly disappointed with lack of any real support for trade union reform 
  • Frustration and anger 
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Licensing Laws

Licensing Act (1872)

  • Gave magistrates the power to issue licenses to publicans 
  • Fixed opening and closing hours 
  • Prohibit the adulteration of beer 

Problems:

  • Satisfied neither side who took part in the debate that followed
  • The United Kingdom Alliance did not think it went far enough
  • Beerage felt that it had attacked their industry
  • Alienated the brwers and distillers who in future voted Conservative 
  • Gave generously to Conservative party funds
  • Public houses became centres of Conservative propaganda 
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Legislation Affecting Women

  • Number of measure that involved the beginning of women's rights 
  • John Stuart Mill had introduced an amendment to the Reform Bill to allow women a parliamentary vote 
  • Defeated 
  • 73 MPs voted in favour of it 
  • 1869 = Gladstone gave women ratepayers the vote in local elections
  • The Married Women's Property Act
  • Gave married women legal status
  • Woman could keep £200 of her own earning 
  • Education Act was changed to allow girls to attend school 
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