The Whigs.

  • Why did the Whigs lose the General election of 1841?
  • Why did the Conservatives win the General election of 1841?
  • Why did the Whigs fall from power?

Why did the Conservatives win the general election

The Whigs were weak: They had no understanding of the causes of unemployment - Workers were driven to join Trade Unions, Swing Riots caused chaos in the South opposing redundancy, new machinery and wage reduction for factory and agricultural workers. 
They did nothing to reform - The poor working and living conditions continued.

The Conservatives had attractive policies: They were united under the strong leadership of Peel - They produced encouraging plans for trade and the industry.
The Tamworth Manifesto - A public letter to the electors of the Borough of Tamworth during the election campaign during the '100 days', which was intended as a public statement of position in order to win the election. It accepted the Reform Act of 1832 as the basis of political order, stood for a string government, conservation, a frame of constitution (Monarchy, Church etc), the maintenance of peace, the fulfilment of agreements and the enforcing of a stricter economy.

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How successful were the economic and social reform

Economic: Free trade - *Series of poor harvests left high bread prices, exports fell, importing raw materials became expensive, less foreign trade, the poor suffered.* The tax duties on over 600 items removed, 500 others reduced, export duties removed, no import duties on raw materials, small import reduction on corn. *The Anti-Corn Law league still unhappy, food cheaper, employment rose, trade increased, poor suffered less.

Financial deficit - A temporary measure for 3 years of income tax to bulk up annual revenue, but has never been removed due to massive success.

Bank Charter Act 1844 - *All banks regardless of size could issue limitless notes. The banks were issuing too many notes as investments for businessmen. Problems resulted in banks losing money, small banks collapsed.* No new banks could issue bank notes and existing banks were restricted. The bank of England could issue notes upto 14 million only and any more had to be covered by gold reserves. *Bank notes gradually phased out, British economy extremely stable.

Companies Act 1844 - No controls over the formation of companies, many went bankrupt, investors suffered.* All companies had to be registered with regular accounts. *Partially successful but it didn't apply to parliament approved companies.*

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Social: *Disgraceful conditions in factories, mines and industrial towns.* Peel waited until his policies got stronger before acting, so that all workers would be able to spend more and lose support of middle class businessmen by regulating working hours and conditions, unemployment reached its peak in 1942. *Peel defeated Shaftesbury proposal for 10 hour working days & both the Mines Act in 1842 and the Factory Act in 1844 had serious weaknesses.

Why did the Whigs fall from power in 1841?
A loss of reforming zeal after 1835: After Grey resigned, the zeal (enthusiasm) of the Whig party and the direction of reform changed and the programmes became more relaxed. The momentum of policies also declined causing many opportunities to be lost.
A public relations failure with the electorate: The Whigs had failed to convince the real effectiveness and meaning of their reform package. The agricultural depression which led to the Swing riots and the severe punishment of offenders lost them a lot of support.
The rise in the working-class unrest: During the 1830's, there was a strong revival of working-class radicalism, in particular the Chartist movement due to the failure of the 1832 Reform Act and the unfairness of the Poor law.

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  • Their reforms slowed down after 1836 when Melbourne replaced Grey and they did nothing to tackle mines or unhealthy towns of free trade.
  • The Poor law amendment act and the rejection of the first chartist petition made them unpopular. The discontent increased when there was economic hardship just before the election.
  • Thanks to the reform act of 1832, many middle class people now had the vote which meant that they could act on their concern about the Whigs.
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