How liberal were the Tories, 1821-27?

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Government Changes 1821-23

Between 1821 and 1823, Lord Liverpool's government made the following changes:

  • George Canning replaced Viscount Castlereagh as foreign secretary.
  • Sir Robert Peel replaced Lord Sidmouth as home secretary.
  • Frederick Robinson replaced Nicholas Vansittart as chancellor of the exchequer.
  • William Huskisson became president of the Board of Trade.

However, these changes had little to do with any major shifs in government policy. Canning followed many of Castlereagh's ideas on foreign policy. Sidmouth resigned over the Queen Caroline Affair. Robinson had worked with Vansittart at the Treasury. If there was change in government policy, it was due mainly to a return to peacetime conditions following a long period of warfare and the adjustment to peace on the period 1815-20.

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Government Reforms 1821-27.

Lord Liverpool ignored the two most important political issues of parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation because he knew these would split the Tory Party. However, the period saw may significant legislative changes.

  • Social reform: At the Home Office, Sir Robert Peel made major changes to the criminal (penal) law, The number of offences carrying the death penalty was reduced. He also improved conditions in prisons
  • Financial and trade reform: Robinson ans Huskisson promoted the move towards free trade. Import taxes were reduced. Reciprocy Acts were made with important trading partners such as the USA. Indirect taxes were reduced in the budgets between 1821 and 1827.
  • Foreign policy: Canning was seen as less friendly towards Europe's conservative Great Powers than Castlereagh.
  • Trade Unions: Trade unions were legalised with the repeal of the Combinations Act 1824. However, the right to strike was still restricted through the Amending Act of 1825.
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The effects of Tory changes.

Social Reform: Peels reforms at  the Home Office merely brought British criminal law up to date. Offences which carried the death pentalty, such as stealing a loaf of bread orr damaging Westminster bridge, meant that juries were unwilling to convict because of the harshness of the penalty. Reforms of the prisons were made after the pressure from reformers such as William Howard and Samual Romily. 

Financial and trade reform: The trade and finance reform was a continuation of reforms introduced by William Pitt the Younger in the period 1784-90 and discontinued because of the war with France.

Trade Unions: the legalisation of trade unions was mainly the responsibility of the House of Commons. It followed the reccomendations of a House of Commons Select Committee investigation into trade unions. 

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