Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Why did Corn Law repeal lead to the end of Peel’s government?

Relations between Peel and his backbenchers were strained from the early days of his ministry. Peel was insensitive to their interests of many Conservative MPs and made little attempt to court backbench opinion. He took the loyalty of Conservatives in Parliament for granted and was irritated when this was withheld. Peel managed his government but he made little effort to manage his party. Conservative whips warned Peel of the unpopularity of his 1842 Budget among Protectionists and 85 Conservatives failed to support him. Poor Law and factory reform also led to backbench discontent. These rebellions did not threaten Peel’s position in 1842 and 1843 but divisions between Peel’s government and his Protectionist MPs widened further.

In March 1844, 95 Tories voted for Ashley’s amendment to the Factory Bill and in June 61 Tories supported an amendment to the government proposal to reduce the duty on foreign sugar by almost half. Both amendments were carried and though Peel had little difficulty in reversing them his approach caused considerable annoyance. He threatened to resign if they refused to support him. Reluctantly they fell into line. Party morale was low in early 1845 and party unity was showing signs of terminal strain. On the Corn Laws, Peel pushed his party too far.

Corn Law 1

Arguments for repeal

By 1845, it was increasingly recognised that repeal was in the national interest. The Corn Laws were designed to protect farmers against the corn surpluses, and hence cheap imports, of European producers. By the mid-1840s, there was a widespread shortage of corn in Europe and Peel reasoned that British farmers had nothing to fear from repeal because there were no surpluses to flood the British market. The nation would benefit, the widespread criticism of the aristocracy would be removed and the land-owning classes were unlikely to suffer.

By 1841, Peel had, in fact, recognised that the Corn Laws would eventually have to be repealed. The moves to free trade in the 1842 and 1845 Budgets were part of this process. Since corn was one of the most highly valued import Peel needed to include it. He argued that tariff reform did not mean abandoning protection for farming, but he called for fair, rather than excessive protection. In 1842, Peel reduced the levels of duty paid under the existing sliding scale on foreign wheat from 28s 8d to 13s per quarter when the domestic price of what was between 59s and 60s. The Whigs favoured a fixed duty on corn but were defeated and the expected protectionist Tory rebellion did not occur. The following year, the Canadian Corn Act admitted Canadian imports at a nominal duty of 1s a quarter. Peel argued that this was a question of giving the colonies preferential treatment rather than freer trade. Protectionist backbenchers were not convinced and though their amendments were easily defeated, they demonstrated a growing concern about the direction of Peel’s tariff policies.

Corn Law 2

Yet, Peel did not announce his conversion to repealing the Corn Laws until late in 1845. Why? There are different possible explanations for his decision. Peel had accepted the intellectual arguments for free trade in the 1820s supporting the commercial policies put forward by Huskisson. His later thinking was influenced by Huskisson’s view that British farmers would eventually be unable to supply the needs of Britain’s growing population and that imports of foreign grain would be essential. In which case, the repeal of the Corn Laws would then be inevitable. Peel may have accepted this but he was the leader of a Protectionist party. According to this view, Peel intended to abandon its commitment of agricultural protection before the General Election due in 1847 or 1848 with repeal following during the next Parliament, probably in the early 1850s. This might have given Peel the time to convince his own MPs.

Time ran out when famine broke out in Ireland. By October 1845, at least half of the Irish potato crop had been ruined by blight and this led to a major subsistence crisis since large numbers of people depended entirely on the potato for food. If the government was to act quickly to reduce the worst effects of famine, every barrier to the efficient transport of food needed to be removed. The most obvious barrier was the Corn Laws and this meant either their suspension or abolition to open Irish ports to unrestricted grain imports. Suspending the Acts was not a viable option as Peel maintained it would be impossible to reconcile public opinion to their re-imposition later. However, there is a problem with this view. The failure of the potato crop meant that those Irish did not have any way of earning the money to pay for imported corn, even if it was sold more cheaply. The £750,000 spent by Peel’s government on public work projects, cheap maize from the United States and other relief measures were of far more practical value to Ireland than the repeal of the Corn Laws. Peel used the opportunity provided by the Famine to introduce a policy on which he had already made up his mind and the crisis merely accelerated this process.

Peel disapproved of extra-parliamentary pressure and viewed the lobbying of the Anti-Corn Law League with considerable suspicion. The success of the League, especially between 1841 and 1844, may have persuaded Peel not to move quickly to repeal. He saw it as his duty to act in the national interest and did not want to be accused of acting under pressure. The activities of the League threatened to divide propertied interests and Peel saw that social stability was essential for economic growth. Giving in to the League was an unacceptable political option. Peel was also critical of the League’s propaganda especially its language of class warfare. The strident, anti-aristocratic attacks by the League and the creation of a Protectionist Anti-League raised the spectre of commercial and industrial property pitted against agricultural property. This, Peel believed, would significantly weaken the forces of property against those agitating for democratic rights. However, Peel recognised that the Anti-Corn Law League might exploit the crisis in Ireland. Repeal was therefore a pre-emptive strike designed to take the initiative away from middle-class radicals and as a result help to maintain the landed interest’s control of the political system.

Corn Law 3

The politics of repeal

Peel told his cabinet in late 1845 that he proposed repealing the Corn Laws outlining that it was in the national interest to do so. This was too sophisticated for the Protectionists. For small landowners and tenant farmers, the most vocal supporters of protection, repeal meant ruin. Peel’s argument that free trade would offer new opportunities for efficient farmers made little impact. Although only Viscount Stanley and the Duke of Buccleuch resigned on the issue, Peel nonetheless felt that this was sufficient for him to resign.

He hoped that Lord John Russell and the Whigs would form a government, pass repeal through Parliament and perhaps allow him to keep the Conservative Party together. Lord John Russell had recently announced his conversion to repeal in his ‘Edinburgh Letter’ in December 1845 but was unwilling to form a minority administration. This meant that Peel had to return to office. Predictably, repeal passed its Third Reading in the Commons in May 1846. The Whigs voted solidly for the bill but only 106 Tories voted in favour of repeal compared to 222 against. The great landowners voted solidly for repeal as they recognised that it did not threaten their economic position. The bulk of the opposition came from MPs representing the small landowners. Retribution was swift. In June 1846, sufficient Protectionists voted with the Whigs on an Irish Coercion Bill to engineer Peel’s resignation. He did not hold office again dying in 1850 after a horse riding accident.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Peel’s ministry 1841-45

Peel is credited with the Conservative victory in 1841: without his leadership, many contemporaries believed that the Tories could have been assigned to permanent opposition. Peel’s parliamentary performance during the 1830s was an important element in this revival. His grasp of economics let him capitalise on the growing economic problems the Whigs faced after 1838. Nevertheless, there were other pressures at work over which Peel had little or no control. After the 1832 election, the Whigs rapidly found their dominant position eroded. Forty MPs who has supported the Reform Act moved to the Conservative benches between 1832 and 1837. Four Whig cabinet ministers resigned over Irish appropriation in June 1834, two of whom became Conservative supporters by the late 1830s and ministers in the 1840s. In addition, the Whigs were seen as unable to control the radicals that Tory propaganda played on.

Peel 2

The unexpected frequency of General Elections after 1832 also aided the Conservative cause. Peel used William IV’s invitation to form a government in late 1834 to call an election in 1835. A further election was held on William’s death in 1837. These gave those voters, concerned that the Whigs wished to push reform further and threaten their position as property-owners, the opportunity of voting Tory. The Conservatives increased their MPs by about 100 in the 1835 election and added 40 more in the election two years later. By-election successes between 1837 and 1841 further improved their position. Between 1837 and 1841, they were only 30 votes short of the Whigs and their normal voting allies. The electoral tide was running in their favour.

The emergence of an organisational structure also played an important part in reviving Tory fortunes. Peel played little part in organisational change in the 1830s and the initiative came from individuals like Francis Bonham. The Reform Act required voters to register and this provided opportunities for local supporters to organise and consolidate their party’s voting strength. Peel recognised the need for party organisation but was, at least initially, ambivalent in his attitude. He was suspicious of extra-parliamentary pressure and this meant that his relations with many local Tory organisations were not particularly close but by 1837, Peel was urging his supporters to register. The fact that Conservatives were a much better organised party in 1841 was an important factor in their victory. During the 1830s, Peel turned the Conservatives into a viable party of government and established a sense of direction and leadership. However, there were important divisions of principle between Peel and the right of the Conservative party that were to re-emerge, with disastrous consequences, after 1841.

Why is Peel’s ministry of 1841-1846 considered so successful?

When Peel took office in 1841, he recognised that the major problem facing Britain was economic, and his priority was to make the country debt-free and affluent. He set about establishing a government based on administrative effectiveness. The focus of his administration before the Corn Law crisis was on fiscal and economic reform. A prosperous country, he believed, was one where social distress and disorder would be reduced.

Although Peel had attempted to broaden the base of the Conservative Party in the 1830s, this was not evident in the election results: the election was a triumph for Protectionist Toryism.[1] The party did best in the English and Welsh counties and in those boroughs, little changed by the 1832 Reform Act. The MPs elected were largely from the ‘Tory’ wing of the party who had no interest in change and little sympathy for reform. Above all many were ardent Protectionists. Tory votes had been cast in favour of a party that was most likely to protect landowners and defend the Established Church. Theirs was a far narrower perspective than Peel’s. Nevertheless, Peel appointed those in the party who supported his policies and beliefs to important positions. His only concession to party feeling was the appointment of a leading Protectionist, the Duke of Buckingham, to the post of Lord Privy Seal.

Peel increasingly adopted policies out of sympathy with the majority of his MPs. Public duty on behalf of the monarch and in the interests of the nation was his first priority; party came a poor second. This proved a problem particularly as the election had been fought largely on the question of Protection. The route from the electoral triumph of 1841 to the political disaster of 1846 was, in retrospect, predictable.

Economic and financial reform

The economy had slumped in the late 1830s and Peel inherited a budget deficit in 1841. Peel recognised that the only way he could remedy this was to introduce tariff reform, building on the work of Huskisson in the 1820s and to reintroduce income tax to generate the income needed to make tariff reductions possible. Parallel to his budgetary programme, Peel reformed the business practices of banks and companies. The 1842 Budget sought to restore prosperity to the manufacturing sector and so promote social stability.

Income tax[2] was reintroduced at 7d (3 per cent) in the pound on annual incomes of over £150 excluding most of the working-classes and would raise £3.7 million. Peel assured MPs that it would not be made permanent and would only be retained for three years. This significantly reduced opposition from the Whigs and from within the Conservative ranks. Customs duties were reduced on about 750 items and maximum duties on imported raw materials, partially manufactured goods and manufactured items were set at 5 per cent, 12 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Duties on imported timber and all export duties on manufactured goods were abolished. Peel argued that reduced import duties would both encourage trade and provide cheaper goods for British consumers stimulating demand. Changes were made to the scale of duties on corn reducing the level of tax paid and as a result, Buckingham resigned from the Cabinet. These proposals were controversial especially to Protectionists who saw the proposals as an abandonment of protection for farming and to Free Traders who did not think Peel had gone far enough. They were, however, popular and certainly politically astute.

The 1842 Budget did not produce immediate improvements in trade or employment. The economy remained sluggish throughout 1842 and trade did not revive until late 1843. By 1844, however, there was clear evidence that the economy was recovering helped by good harvests in 1843 and 1844 and by a boom in railway investment. Government finance moved into profit and 1844 and further changes took place in the 1845 Budget. The estimated budget surplus of around £3.4 million for 1845-1846 was sufficient for Peel to dispense with income tax but he argued that it should be renewed for a further three years to allow further reductions in tariffs. This, Peel argued would result in greater economic prosperity. There were further reductions in tariffs. All surviving import and export duties on raw materials, like cotton and coal, were abolished. Duties on colonial sugar from the West Indies and foreign sugar were both reduced. Further reductions followed and when Peel fell in 1846, Britain was almost a free-trading country.

Peel’s economic liberalism had its origins in the 1820s. At its heart were the notions of ‘sound money’ through low levels of taxation and freeing of trade to produce a balanced budget. Without monetary control and stability there would be inflation and this, Peel maintained, would limit economy growth. He thought it was necessary to restrict the Bank of England’s power to issue money ‘to inspire just confidence in the medium of exchange’. The Gold Standard linked sound money to cheap government and low rates of direct and indirect taxation. If businessmen and industrialists were given freedom to exploit the market, Peel suggested this would increase profitability, improve employment and lead to economic growth for everyone’s benefit.

Peel considered the Bank Charter Act 1844 as one of his most important achievements. Its aim was to establish a more stable banking system by preventing the excessive issuing of paper money that had led to some crises in the past. Between 1826 and 1844, over-issue by provincial banks had caused the failure of a quarter of all banks entitled to issue their own notes. The 1844 Act defined the position of the Bank of England in the British economy very carefully. The Bank could issue notes to the value of its gold reserves to a limit of £14. No new English provincial bank was allowed to issue its own notes. The Act recognised 279 banks with note-issuing powers and Peel aimed to reduce their rights of issue and concentrate them within the Bank of England. The effect of the 1844 Act could have limited the scope of banks to finance economic growth but the new gold discoveries (in California and Australia) from the late 1840s increased the Bank of England’s reserves enabling an increase in the issue of notes. Without this, the economic expansion of the 1850s and 1860s that Peel is often credited with would not have occurred.

The repeal of the Bubble Act in 1825 freed joint-stock companies from the regulations that had prohibited their growth for over a century.[3] The result was increased often speculative investment in projects of every sort: docks, gas and water companies and especially after 1830, railways. Many of these companies collapsed because they were poorly organised or fraudulent and many people lost their savings. William Gladstone,[4] President of the Board of Trade introduced the Joint Stock Companies Act in 1844. The Act established the Registrar of Companies and all companies with more than twenty-five members and freely transferable shares were required to register. Company directors had to submit fully audited accounts to the Registrar. This Act helped protect the public from unscrupulous companies and created a more responsible climate for company development.

Poor Law and factory reform, 1842 and 1844

Peel believed that social reform was linked to successful economic conditions. These would enable economic growth, create new jobs and so stimulate consumption. Government support for social reform was lukewarm and Peel was sceptical of the value of direct government intervention in solving social problems. Free market answers were more effective. He recognised that government could not abdicate all responsibility in the ‘social question’ but, like many contemporaries, believed that its role should be severely limited and definitely cost-effective. Peel supported the Whig government when the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed in 1834. In 1842, the operation of Poor Law was tightened to reduce excessive costs while Peel argued, without reducing the generosity and fairness of the system of relief, compared to other countries.

Although Peel’s government was not known for its support for social reform, publication of reports from committees originally set up by the Whigs in the late 1830s and extra-parliamentary pressure from radicals as well as Tory politicians, led to two important acts being passed. The Mines Act 1842, which banned women and children from working below ground, was not a piece of government legislation. Factory reforms introduced by the government caused much controversy. In 1843, Sir James Graham, the Home Secretary--who had defected from the Whigs in 1834--sought to reduce the hours worked by women and children. This was linked to proposals for compulsory schooling provided largely by the Church of England. Nonconformists did not intend to allow the Church of England to take control of all factory schools and organised widespread opposition and the Bill was withdrawn. The following year it was reintroduced without its education clauses. The legislation was in effect the first health and safety act in Britain. All dangerous machinery was to be securely fenced off and no child or young person was to clean mill machinery while it was in motion and failure to do so was a criminal offence

There was a well-organised campaign inside and outside Parliament to restrict the maximum working day for all to ten hours and include this in the Factory Act. Peel disagreed: he was prepared to pass laws preventing exploitation of children and women but he argued adult males were free agents and the law should not interfere with market forces. The Commons did not agree with Peel’s position and Ashley’s Ten Hours’ amendment was carried with the support of the Whigs and Protectionist Tories. It was only Peel’s threat of resignation that persuaded Tories to overturn the amendment. The passage of the Factory Act established a maximum working day of twelve hours.

[1] Protectionist Tories argued for retaining the Corn Laws to protect British farming

[2] Income tax had previously been introduced by William Pitt during the French wars as a wartime tax. In 1816, against the wishes of the Tory government of Lord Liverpool, Parliament had voted against its continuance.

[3] Joint-stock companies raised capital by issuing shares. Investors purchased these shares and received a dividend from the profits made by the company based on the number of shares they owned. It was the failure of the South Sea Company in the early 1720s that led to the Bubble Act.

[4] William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) was in office every decade from the 1830s to the 1890s and was Liberal Prime Minister on four occasions (1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886 and 1892-1894). He was Vice-President and then President of the Board of Trade between 1841 and 1845 and supported Peel over the repeal of the Corn Law.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Peel in the 1830s

Peel is generally recognised as the founder of modern Conservatism. He saw the need for the Tory party to adapt itself after its disastrous showing in the 1832 General Election when 175 Tory MPs were elected out of the 658 MPs in the House of Commons. In successive elections in the 1830s, the Conservatives increased their support in the House of Commons eventually defeating Melbourne’s Whig government in 1841.
Peel was prepared to put the interests of the nation above those of the Tory party and on two occasions introduced policies that went against the basic tenets of Toryism. In 1829, he pushed through Catholic Emancipation against the wishes of the Protestant Tory majority and 17 years later, he ignored its belief in protection for agriculture by repealing the Corn Laws exposing divisions within the developing Conservative party.
1832Electoral disaster for the Tories in the December General Election (175 Tory, 483 Whig).
1833Peel stated that he would support the Whig government when it acted in defence of law, order and property.
1834William IV dismissed Melbourne’s government [November] and Peel became Prime Minister of a minority Tory government; the Tamworth Manifesto.
1835Ecclesiastical Commission set up. The Tories gained seats in the General Election (273 Tory, 385 Whig) but Peel is defeated by an alliance of Whigs and Radicals; return to opposition.
1836Peel, with the support of Wellington in the Lords worked for greater co-operation between Tories in the two Houses of Parliament to coordinate their attack on the Whigs.
1837Further gains in the General Election (313 Tory, 345 Whig).
1839Bedchamber Crisis.
1840Disagreements between Peel and Wellington over various issues; Wellington persuade to compromise to maintain Conservative unity.
1841Whigs defeated on vote of no confidence in June leading to a General Election in July. Conservatives win (367 Conservative, 291 Whig) and Peel became Prime Minister of a majority government.
1842Reintroduction of income tax, reduction of duties on wheat and a general reduction in tariffs in Peel’s first budget. Mines Act banned women and children from working underground
1843Graham’s Factory Bill provoked widespread opposition from Nonconformists over its educational clauses.
1844Factory Act reduced working hours in textile mills. Significant Tory support for the ten-hour working day. Government defeat reversed when Peel threatens to resign. Backbench revolt on sugar duties. Bank Charter Act and Joint Stock Companies Act
1845Budget renewed income tax and further reduced tariffs including abolishing many import duties. Gladstone resigned on proposal to increase grant to Roman Catholic seminary at Maynooth; 149 Tories voted against the grant. Irish Famine began and Peel committed Cabinet to repeal Corn Laws in December.
1846Widespread opposition among Tories, to repeal of the Corn Laws [January-February]. Only 112 Tories supported Peel on Corn Law vote and repeal was only carried by Whig votes. Peel resigned after defeat on Irish Coercion Bill in June.

How effective was Peel as a party leader in the 1830s?

In the 1830s, Peel was not a ‘leader of the opposition’ in its modern sense. He was not the official leader of the Tories until the end of 1834. Wellington led the Tories in the House of Lords and, as a previous Prime Minister was regarded by some as the Tory leader. Peel led the Tories in the Commons and was prepared to support government legislation when it was aimed at maintaining law and order. Considerable distrust existed between Peel and the ultra-Tories. They feared that Peel would betray the party, as they believed he had in 1829 over Catholic Emancipation. Peel, on the other hand, did not believe that the Ultras would act as part of a responsible opposition in Parliament and rejected their view that politics should be determined largely by the interests of English landowners.

When George IV dismissed Melbourne’s government in November 1834, he first turned to Wellington to form a new government. Wellington refused because he believed that Prime Ministers must carry authority in the House of Commons. The King then appointed Peel. Peel did not become Prime Minister because he was leader of a party in the Commons; instead, his authority as leader of the Tories was the result of his appointment as Prime Minister by the king. This reinforced his view of the executive nature of government. Strong government, he thought, not only achieved more but also was preferred by the governed. This meant efficient administration to maintain public order in the interests of the country. His financial and commercial reforms in the 1840s were designed to promote public order as much as relieve the economic complaints of manufacturers and consumers. This same concern can also be seen in his Irish policies. His first loyalty was to the king, rather than to the Tory party. This was an important distinction and proved central to his decisions during the ‘Bedchamber crisis’[1] in 1839 and the crisis over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1845-1846. Peel’s minority administration lasted just a hundred days ending in April 1835 after which the Conservatives returned to opposition.

Peel’s attitude to parliamentary reform

In late 1832, the Tory party was in a demoralised state. Although the party had opposed parliamentary reform, there were nevertheless those who did not condemn the principle of reform entirely but believed the Whigs had gone too far. Unquestionably, there were die-hard opponents of reform among the Tories: the ultras-Tories in Lords and Commons, opposed parliamentary reform, municipal reform, church reform, factory reform and Poor Law reform. The clearest statement we have of Peel’s attitude to reform came in his response to the King’s speech at the opening of Parliament in early 1833: ‘He [Peel] was for reforming every institution that really required reform; but he was for doing it gradually, dispassionately and deliberately, in order that reform might be lasting’. Change, if necessary, must reinforce not undermine the Constitution and Britain’s governing elite. This was not designed to pacify the Ultras within the party

Peel was dedicated to good government by men of integrity. He believed that power should be held by an elite with the education and expertise necessary to act in the national interest. Public opinion had its place but Peel sought to find the proper balance between executive government and public opinion that he believed had been altered by the crisis over reform. Like most of his contemporaries, Peel was not a democrat. The ‘people’, he believed, did not have the necessary education or judgement to make central decisions and if Parliament surrendered to outside pressure, the quality of its judgements would be weakened and the interests of the nation jeopardised.

Reconstructing the Tory party

Peel’s achievement in the 1830s was to make the Tory party more relevant to a changing society. He recognised that staying in opposition would not restore the fortunes of the Tories and that it was necessary to alter the widely-held view that the Tory party was reactionary and supported by only a small part of the population. To do this, Peel needed to broaden support for the party amongst the newly enfranchised urban middle-classes and rekindled support among the landed interest who had voted Whig in the 1832 General Election. He did this by linking the interests of all property owners--whether landed, industrial or commercial--firmly to the necessity of public order through the maintenance of the existing Constitution.

His appointment as Prime Minister in 1834-1835 gave him the opportunity of making his position clear to the new electorate in the Tamworth Manifesto of December 1834.[2] Peel used the manifesto to make his position on three issues clear to the nation. He maintained that it was essential to broaden the appeal of the Tory party and the manifesto contained a direct bid for uncommitted middle-class voters.

I gladly avail myself also of this, a legitimate opportunity, of making a more public appeal -- of addressing, through you [his own electorate in Tamworth], to that great and intelligent class of society of which you are a portion, and a fair and unexceptionable representative -- to that class which is much less interested in the contentions of party, than in the maintenance of order and the cause of good government’.

Peel was also anxious to emphasise that he accepted the Reform Act and that there would be no attempt to reverse the changes already made by the Whigs. He committed himself and his party to moderate reform where there was a strong case for it. This was designed to gain the support of the middle-classes who wanted further reforms.

I consider the Reform Bill a final and irrevocable settlement of a great Constitutional question -- a settlement which no friend of the peace and welfare of this country would attempt to disturb, either by direct or insidious means..... But if the spirit of the Reform Bill implies merely a careful review of institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, undertaken in a friendly temper, combining, with the firm maintenance of established rights, the correction of proved abuses and the redress of real grievances -- in that case, I can for myself and colleagues undertake to act in such a spirit and with such intentions...’

Finally, he made his support for the Church of England clear, essential if he wanted the cooperation of the Ultras but was prepared to support reform of its abuses.

‘Then, as to the great question of Church reform…I cannot give my consent to the alienating of Church property, in any part of the United Kingdom, from strictly Ecclesiastical purposes [he opposed lay appropriation] …With regard to alterations in the law which govern our Ecclesiastical Establishment.... It is a subject which must undergo the fullest deliberation and into that deliberation the Government will enter, and with the sincerest desire to remove every abuse that can impair the efficiency of the Establishment, to extend the sphere of its usefulness and to strengthen and confirm its just claims upon the respect and affections of the people.’

The Manifesto was too liberal by some but the majority of the Ultras went along with Peel.

Throughout the 1830s, Peel sought to broaden Tory support in the country and convince dissidents within the party that he had taken account of both their interests. This was accompanied by the gradual introduction of the term ‘Conservative’ in place of ‘Tory’. Tories believed in the uncompromising defence of the privileges enjoyed by institutions connected to the Anglican landed interest while Conservatives accepted the need for gradual and cautious change designed to reconcile those institutions with the needs of the modern world. The strategy of reforming to conserve, Peel believed, was an effective way of preventing radical reformers who threatened to erode or even destroy the traditional ruling institutions of the country. Conservatism may be seen as an extension of the ‘liberal’ Tory administrative reforming impulse of the 1820s.

[1] A close relationship grew up between the young Victoria and Lord Melbourne after she became Queen in 1837. This was exploited in the ‘Bedchamber crisis’ of 1839. In May 1839, the Whig majority was reduced to five and Melbourne decided to resign. The Queen, however, refused to accept Conservative ladies in waiting rather than her existing Whig ladies. Peel regarded this as a matter of principle and refused to form a government under such circumstances. Melbourne returned to office for a further two years.[2] The Tamworth Manifesto was an address by Peel to his constituents at Tamworth. On taking office, he was legally required to seek re-election but it had been approved in advance by the cabinet and sent to leading London newspapers for publication on 18 December 1834.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Paradise and taxation

When Sir Vince Cable, having criticised the government for not clamping down on offshore tax havens trading under the British flag, added ‘The Paradise Papers suggest that a small number of wealthy individuals have been able, entirely legally, to put their money beyond the reach of the Exchequer’, he was making what is the single most important thing about this situation.  UK’s tax law allows the use of offshore tax havens.  It may be galling for the rest of us who, as John  Macdonald said this morning, go to work and pay our taxes and who cannot afford to pay for the skills of tax lawyers and accountants to massage our tax returns.  You have to ask yourself the question…if I was rich enough would I invest in legitimate overseas funds to avoid paying tax?  You might like to take the moral high-ground and but the answer is that you probably would.

The HMRC has a commendable record of getting people and companies to pay their taxes and has collected £160bn by tackling tax avoidance, evasion and non-compliance since 2010. Jeremy Corbyn has suggested the Queen, among others, should apologise for using overseas tax havens if they were used to avoid taxation in the UK.  The Duchy of Lancaster that manages royal finances has already said that it was audited and legitimate. He also said anyone putting money into tax havens for the purposes of avoidance should ‘not just apologise for it, but recognise the damage it does to our society’.  The difficulty is that if it is lawful for individuals to avoid paying taxes by using tax havens, why should you apologise for it.  You may well be a grasping, mean-spirited, amoral individual but if you can live with that and the ‘damage’ you rain down on society, then you are acting perfectly legally…your moral compass may be off by a mile but you’re acting within the law…so that’s alright then!!!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Treating the disabled

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the policy of segregating severely disabled people into institutions slowly increased and was subsequently extended to other disadvantaged groups.[1] The term ‘institution’ can refer to a variety of social organisations but refers here to ‘any long term provision of a highly organized kind on a residential basis with the expressed aims of ‘care’, ‘treatment’ or ‘custody’.[2] They included hospitals, asylums, workhouses and prisons. One explanation for this important break with the past links it to the breakdown of early forms of state welfare in the face of large-scale industrialisation and the inevitable spread of poverty that followed.[3] But the impetus to build institutions came before the growth of cities and was more pronounced in rural communities.[4] The widespread incarceration of disabled people is directly attributable to the transition from agriculture and cottage-based industries to the large-scale factory type system: The speed of factory work, the enforced discipline and time-keeping were a highly unfavourable change from the slower, more self-determined and flexible methods of work into which many handicapped people had been integrated.[5] Such arguments tend to play down the general antipathy that surrounded disability before the Industrial Revolution but it is clear that the economic and social conditions created by the new system compounded the difficulties faced by disabled people.[6]

The system of Poor Law relief that had survived since Elizabethan times was directly at odds with the ascending free market economy.[7] Waged labour made the distinction between able-bodied and non-able-bodied poor important since parochial relief to the able-bodied poor interfered with labour mobility. Segregating the poor into institutions had several advantages over domestic relief; it was efficient, acted as deterrent to the able-bodied malingerer and could instill good work habits into the inmates. These conclusions are reflected in the Report of the Poor Law Commission and the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. The Poor Law Commission ruled that the workhouses should separate the inmates into four different groupings--able-bodied males, able-bodied females, children, and the ‘aged and infirm’. It was intended that the latter, or those perceived as the ‘deserving poor’, were to be housed in different buildings and accorded different treatment. These categories were later refined.

Poor Law Officials developed four specific categories for dealing with the non-able bodied poor. They were the ‘sick’, the ‘insane’, ‘defectives’, and the ‘aged and infirm’.[8] The term ‘sick’ described people with acute, temporary or infectious diseases who automatically qualified for outdoor relief if it was available. But where incarceration was deemed necessary, separate accommodation was usually provided, although the conditions in these facilities were rarely better than those in the workhouse. The ‘insane’ were singled out for special treatment from the outset. Despite the difficulties of definition and diagnosis, there was already a universal recognition of the ‘problem’ posed by people with mental illness. There were two main strategies for dealing with it. People termed. ‘idiots’,[9] ‘lunatics’, ‘mad’, ‘mentally infirm’, or ‘suffering from diseases of the brain’[10] were either admitted to an asylum or boarded out on contract to families willing to be held responsible for them.

Several private asylums had been established in the seventeenth century. But the public outcry over the atrocious conditions in many of these establishments, brought to light by Evangelical reformers, forced the Government into setting up a state-run system in 1845 under the Lunacy Commission.[11] The cruelty accorded to people perceived as mentally ill inside institutions was often no worse than that which they encountered in the community at large. Until 1871 Poor Law officials had no right to detain citizens in an institution against their will, but this did not apply to people termed insane. Prior to the Lunacy Legislation of 1845, the certification of insanity was the responsibility of local lay officials but confirmation of mental illness was now valid only if a doctor was involved. This change has been attributed to doctors’ assertions that mental illness had physiological causes and was responsive to medical treatment, and their successful struggle for control within private and public institutions.[12] Once defined as mentally ill, individuals could be detained on a doctor’s recommendation and moved from one institution to another against their will.[13]  The term ‘defectives’ was used to describe people with sensory impairments such as blindness, deafness and the lack of speech. After 1903, people with epilepsy and children termed ‘mentally sub-normal’ were also included in this category. Individuals in this group were still liable to be institutionalised and their treatment was no different from that of other inmates but they were frequently singled out for special attention by Victorian philanthropists and charities. Many of the charities that exist today were founded during this period. For instance, the British and Foreign Association for Promoting the Education of the Blind, now known as the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), was formed in 1863 and the National Institute for the Deaf in 1924.[14] ‘Aged and infirm’, the oldest of the four categories, referred to people with chronic illness and/or permanent impairments. While there was little official controversy over their eligibility for outdoor relief, more often than not they too were directed into an institutional setting.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, pressures to detain people classified as belonging to one of these categories increased dramatically. First, the transition from relatively light industries such as textiles to the much heavier capital goods industries like iron, steel and the railways, in what has been called the ‘second phase of industrialization’, further emphasised the importance of physical fitness as a condition for finding work among working people. Welfare policies, particularly with regard to outdoor relief, were also severely tightened during the 1870s and 1880s due to escalating costs because of rising unemployment. after a decade of economic depression that began with the severe winter of 1860-1861. This put more pressure on local authorities to apply the ‘workhouse test’ to anyone seeking aid. Thirdly, there was a further expansion of segregated institutions for the non-able-bodied poor following another set of public scandals and government enquiries exposing the appalling conditions in workhouses.

The number of disabled people consigned to these establishments rose and did not fall until the 1950s.[15] Ideological legitimacy for the intensified oppression of disabled people during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can be found in contemporary philosophies that stressed the rights and privileges of the individual over those of the group or state in relation to property rights, politics and culture. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published in 1859  provided ‘scientific’ authenticity placing emphasis on the process of natural selection, the survival of the fittest, the notion that evolution is progress and that progress is inherently beneficial. It was adapted from the biological domain to apply to human societies into what later became known as ‘Social Darwinism’. [16] The Eugenics movement emerged from the general tendency to apply Darwin’s theories to human affairs. Concerned mainly with what they saw as racial degeneration through the birth of disabled children, the Eugenicists reiterated ancient fears that disabled people were a serious threat to British and European society.

The Eugenics Society was founded in 1907 arguing that women were the guardians of the future of the British ‘race’ and that they should be both chaste and fruitful. Although the focus was on the working-classes, there were public denunciations by Rudyard Kipling and others of the debilitating ‘sloth and pleasure-seeking’ of the upper classes. Eugenics, the science of race improvement through human selective breeding saw women largely as mothers rather than as citizens.[17] At its height in the early-twentieth century, the eugenics movement swept up individuals of all political persuasions including H. G. Wells, Harold Laski, John Maynard Keynes, Arthur Balfour, Conservative Prime Minister and the young Neville Chamberlain who looked to this branch of biology to achieve that qualitative improvement in human beings necessary for the advancement of national efficiency.[18] Preventive societies utilised the rhetoric of eugenics and medicine to persuade governments to enact legislation on sexual matters when they were not always willing to legislate on such issues. This was evident in the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 that gave local authorities powers over pregnant women who were homeless, destitute or immoral and many were admitted to hospitals for the mentally ill, where some became long-term residents.  Most of the policies were dealt pragmatically with particular issues rather than as part of a national strategy. 

The work of Galton,[19] Dugdale[20] and Goddard[21] reinforced traditional myths that there were genetic links between physical and mental impairments, crime, unemployment and other social evils. The stated aim of the Eugenicists was to improve the British race by preventing the reproduction of ‘defectives’ by means of sterilization and segregation. In 1896, the National Association for the Care and Control of the Feeble Minded was set up as a pressure group for the life time segregation of disabled people. During the 1910 General Election it campaigned vigorously on these issues. In the following two decades eugenic fears were further endorsed by the invention and widespread use of Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests in British schools. Their inventors, the French psychologists Binet and Simon and principal advocates, notably the psychologist Cyril Burt, asserted confidently that intelligence is innate and that the majority of defectives were uneducable.[22] Eugenic fears were prevalent throughout the 1920s and 1930s. For instance, in 1934, the Report of the Departmental Committee on Sterilization chaired by Lord Brock recommended legislation to ensure the ‘voluntary’ sterilisation of ‘mentally defective women’.[23] Although such legislation was never passed in Britain--unlike America, where sterilisation was legalised in 32 states[24]--this did not prevent many such operations being carried out under various degrres of coercion.

The evolution of the welfare state during the 1940s led to official policy to disabled people move in favour of a more overtly paternalistic approach. This can be explained by reference to the humanitarian influence of the Victorian philanthropists, the general concern felt toward disabled ex-servicemen during and after the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 wars, the changing political climate and the prospect of a buoyant economy.[25] World War One exposed the public to disability on a massive scale and this led to a change in attitude to disability.  The state, wishing to save money, did not take a uniform approach to the disabled and disability. For instance, disabled industrial workers were not considered for pensions, benefits, or rehabilitation in the same way that the war disabled were. Yet, the main funding for many disabled ex-servicemen was left largely to charitable and voluntary agencies, a pattern continued after World War One. An aspect of war disability is mentally disabled ex-servicemen especially those suffering from shell shock.[26] The seeds of cooperation between doctors, charities and government was established during and after the First World War but it was not until World War Two that a modern, organised system of rehabilitation was implemented. An expansion of these and similar facilities was recommended by the Tomlinson Report.[27]

The economic and social upheavals brought about by the depression in the 1930s, in conjunction with the need for national unity during and immediately after the war stimulated a concern for welfare programmes that had previously been absent. This resulted in a flurry of legislation which was to have a significant impact on the lives of disabled people. The first legislation to treat disabled people as a single group was the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 that attemptied to ensure that employers employed disabled people and made provision for a variety of rehabilitation services and vocational training courses. The 1944 Education Act stated that children should receive education suitable for their age, ability and aptitude and obliged local education authorities to provide special educational treatment for those thought to need it. The National Health Service Act 1946 provided for the acute medical needs of disabled people and made it possible for local authority health departments to provide any medical aids necessary to enable disabled people to live in their own homes. Finally, the National Assistance Act of 1948 made some provision for meeting the financial needs of disabled people, and mandated local authorities to provide residential facilities and services for people who are substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity.

[1] Eghigian, Greg, (ed.), The Routledge History of Madness and Mental Health, (Routledge), 2017, pp. 1-16, 101-134, Pietikainen, Petteri, Madness: A History, (Routledge), 2015, provide useful overviews.
[2] Jones, K., and Fowles, A. J., Ideas on Institutions: Analysing the Literature on Long-term Care and Custody, (Routledge), 1984,  p. 207.
[3] Mechanic, David, ‘The Influence of Mothers on Their Children's Health Attitudes and Behavior’, Pediatrics, Vol. 33, (1964), pp. 444-453.
[4] Ingelby, David, ‘Ideology and the human sciences: Some comments on the role of reification in psychology and psychiatry’, Human Context, Vol. 2, (2), (1970), pp. 159-187, reprinted in Pateman, Trevor, (ed.), Counter Course: a handbook for course criticism, (Penguin), 1972, pp. 51-81.
[5] Ryan J., and Thomas F., The Politics of Mental Handicap, (Free Association), 1987, p. 101.
[6] Stone, J., Precedent and Law: Dynamics of common law growth (Butterworths), 1985, Borsay, Anne, Disability and Social Policy in Britain since 1750: A History of Exclusion, (Palgrave), 2004.
[7] Mounsey, Chris, (ed.), The Idea of Disability in the Eighteenth Century, (Bucknell University Press), 2014.
[8] For classification see, Martin Duncan, P., and Millard, A Manual for the Classification, Training and Education of the Feeble-Minded, Imbecile and Idiotic, (), 1866.  Bartlett, Peter, The Poor Law of Lunacy, (Leicester University Press), 1999, pp. 151-196.
[9] McDonagh, Patrick, Idiocy: A Cultural History, (Liverpool University Press), 2008, pp. 1-23, 192-230.
[10] Scull, Andrew, Museums of Madness: The Social Organization of Insanity in Nineteenth-century England, (Allen Lane), 1978, and ‘Museums of Madness Revisited’, Social History of Medicine, Vol. 6, (1993), pp. 3-23.  Porter, Roy, Mind Forg’d Manacles: A History of Mandness in England from the Restoration to the Regency, (Harvard University Press), 1987, Scull, Andrew T., MacKenzie, Charlotte, and Hervey, Nicholas, Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-doctoring Trade, (Princeton University Press), 1996, Scull, Andrew, The Lost Solitary of Afflictions: Madness and Society in Britain, 1700-1900, (Yale University Press), 1993.
[11] Smith, Leonard D., ‘Cure, Comfort and Safe Custody’.  Public Lunatic Asylums in Early Nineteenth-Century England, (Leicester University Press), 1999, excellent local studies of asylum management.  See also his Lunatic Hospitals in Georgian England 1750-1830, (Routledge), 2007, pp. 21-48, 137-164.
[12] Scull, Andrew, Decarceration: Community Treatment and the Deviant—A Radical View, (Polity Press), 1984.
[13] Appignanesi, Lisa, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present, (Virago), 2008, Wright, David, Mental Disability in Victorian England, (Oxford University Press), 2001.
[14] Phillips, G. A., The Blind in British Society: Charity, State and Community c.1780-1930, (Ashgate), 2004, Reiss, Matthias, Blind Workers against Charity: The National League of the Blind of Great Britain and Ireland, 1893-1970, (Springer), 2015, Gooday, Graeme, and Sayer, Karen, Managing the Experience of Hearing Loss in Britain 1830-1930, (Palgrave Pivot), 2007.
[15] Ibid, Scull, Andrew, Decarceration.
[16] Hawkins, Mike, Social Darwinism in European and American Thought 1860-1945, (Cambridge University Press), 1997, pp. 3-60, and Paul, Diane B., ‘Darwin, social Darwinism and eugenics’, in Hodge, Jonathan, and Radick, Gregory, (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Darwin, (Cambridge University Press), 2003, pp. 214-239.
[17] Richardson, Angélique, Love and Eugenics in the late Nineteenth Century: Rational reproduction and the New Woman, (Oxford University Press), 2003.
[18] Pearson, Karl, Darwinism, medical progress and eugenics: the Cavendish lecture 1912.
[19] Galton, Francis, Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into its Laws and Consequences, (D. Appleton), 1870, Bulmer, Michael, Francis Galton: Pioneer of Heredity and Biometry, (JHU Press), 2004.
[20] Dugdale, R. L., The Jukes: A study in crime, pauperism, disease, and heredity, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), 1910.
[21] Goddard, H. H., Juvenile Delinquency, (Dodd, Mead), 1921.
[22] Hearnshaw, L. S., Cyril Burt: Psychologist, (Hodder and Stoughton), 1979, Fletcher, Ronald, Science, Ideology and the Media: The Cyril Burt Scandal, (Routledge), 2017..
[23] L. G. Brock, chairman, ‘Memorandum regarding foreign laws on the subject of sterilisation’, p. 109-130, ‘Memorandum regarding foreign invesigations into mental deficiency’, p. 131-134, Command paper: Cmd. 4485; Whitney, Leon F., The Case for Sterilisation, (Bodley Press), 1935.
[24] Ladd-Taylor, Molly, Fixing the Poor: Eugenic Sterilization and Child Welfare in the Twentieth Century, (John Hopkins University Press), 2017.
[25] Anderson, Judie, War, Disability and Rehabitation in Britain: Soul of the Nation, (Manchester University Press), 2011.
[26] Leese, P., Shell Shock, Traumatic Neurosis and the British Soldiers of the First World War, (Palgrave Macmillan), 2002; Reid, F., Broken Men: Shell Shock, Treatment and Recovery in Britain 1914-1930, (Continuum), 2010; and Holden, W., Shell Shock, (Channel 4 Books), 2001.
[27] Tomlinson Committee on Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Disabled Persons, 1941-1944.