Concise Notes – Gladstone’s Second Administration 1880-1885 Election of 1880



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Concise Notes – Gladstone’s Second Administration 1880-1885
Election of 1880


  • Disraeli, misled by good by-election results, dissolved Parliament

  • National Liberal Federation and Midlothian Campaign put Liberals into a majority government:

    • 350 Liberals

    • 238 Tories

    • 64 Irish Nationalists

  • Queen tried to appoint Hartington, he refused and recommended Gladstone

  • Looked as if Liberals would dominate post-1867 like Whigs had post-1832


The Administration & Problems


  • Gladstone conducted Midlothian Campaign effective and Liberals won majority of 137

    • Criticism of foreign and imperial policies of Disraeli

    • Problem – Liberals not a party of foreign policy but had to address it

    • Intention was to reverse the errors of ‘Beaconsfieldism’ then retire

  • Continuing agricultural depression affected Ireland badly so that actually became the major focus of the administration

    • Gladstone convinced that solving Irish Question was God’s mission – “I do believe that the Almighty has employed me for His purposes in a manner larger or more special than before”

  • Liberals did not have a definite programme or policy

    • Radicals increasingly clashed with Whigs

    • Gladstone placated Whigs by giving only two radicals Cabinet seats

    • Radicals not really happy with the slow pace the Cabinet now set

    • Most problems of the administration originally to do with foreign policy, hence a new challenge – problems not only from Commons, but from outside

  • Parnell and Randolph Churchill led Commons groups that put pressure on the government (“Fourth Party”)

  • Reversal of Disraeli’s foreign policy was difficult

  • Little sense of coherence in Liberal party

    • More Radicals than Whigs but fewer Radical Cabinet posts

    • Radicals tried to influence Liberals to effect social reform

    • First administration had been institutional and constitutional reform, not economic or social

    • Gladstone not happy with interfering in these areas (laissez-faire) but some radicals felt reform was necessary


Domestic Policy


  • Chamberlain emerged as Radical leader. Disliked Whigs more than Tories, as Tories were expected to oppose; Whigs were not

  • Sir Charles Dilke also a prominent radical, but Chamberlain and Dilke regularly defeated in Cabinet votes

  • Some Radical-influenced Acts:

    • Corrupt Practices Act, 1883

      • Bribery ended at elections

      • Amount able to be spent campaigning limited

    • Third Reform Act, 1884

      • Extended vote largely to the agricultural labourer

    • Tried to get National Liberal Federation to become organising body for Liberal party, formulating policy outside of Cabinet. Gladstone rejected this

  • Chamberlain resigned in 1885 and pushed his Radical ‘unauthorised programme’ of ‘three acres and a cow’, and extension of state education

    • Did not seriously bother Gladstone until Ireland became important

  • Other legislation passed, but not very exciting:

    • Employers’ Liability Act, 1880

      • Modest compensation for workers if injured due to employer negligence

    • Ground Game Act (‘Hare and Rabbit Act’), 1880

      • Tenants able to hunt hares and rabbits

    • Married Women’s Property Act, 1882

    • Agricultural Holdings Act, 1883

      • Compensation allowed to be claimed from landlords if improvements made to estate by tenants

  • Representation of the People Act (Third Reform Act), 1884

    • Voting reform was a surprise area of reform

      • Gladstone felt it might provide direction to the party

    • County male householders given the vote on the same terms that borough voters had

    • Tried to give county voters the same representation as borough voters

    • Blocked in Lords

    • Salisbury and Gladstone negotiated and were able to reach a deal in the form of Reform, Redistribution and Registation

  • Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885

      • Boroughs with under 50,000 voters reduced to 1 MP

      • Two-member constituencies now numbered only 24

    • Registration Act, 1885

      • Voters had to be in same place for 1 year before to vote


Ireland


  • Due to Secret Ballot, Irish composition changes hugely in 1874:

    • Liberals fall from 57 to 12

    • Home Rulers rise from 5 to 59

    • Tories fall from 41 to 32

  • Forster made Irish Secretary. Cowper made Irish Viceroy

  • Faced two problems:

  • Political pressure

    • Isaac Butt had died and Parnell now led the Home Rulers

    • Parnell: “Ireland is not a geographical fragment, she is a nation”

  • Rural unrest organised by Irish Land League (set up in 1879) led by Michael Davitt

    • Land League strategy was to encourage people to not occupy land that tenants had been evicted from – starting with Captain Boycott

  • First response is Coercion Act, 1881

    • Habeas Corpus suspended and preventative arrests allowed

    • Opposition from Bright, Chamberlain and Gladstone

  • Second response was land reform

    • Second Irish Land Act, 1881

    • Grants “Three F’s”

      • Fixity of tenure

      • Fair rents (set by market prices)

      • Free sale

  • 1881: Parnell imprisoned for claiming, “Irishmen have established their right to govern themselves by laws made by them on Irish soil”

  • Kilmainham Treaty

    • Gladstone and Parnell struck a deal

      • Parnell would use influence to stop the Land League violence

      • Gladstone would free Parnell

      • Liberals would allow public money to pay off tenant rent debts

    • Forster and Cowper resigned in protest

    • Cavendish and Burke, their successors, gunned down in Phoenix Park, July 1882, leading to new repression

  • Coercion Act, 1882

    • Magistrates could examine witnesses before charging anyone – allowed killers to be brought to justice


Foreign and Imperial Affairs


  • Traditional approach of Gladstone and his Foreign Secretary (Granville) was conciliation and negotiation

  • Had to change this due to problems Disraeli had left them

  • Yet Gladstone had attacked ‘Beaconsfieldism’ in the Midlothian campaign and implied he would alter foreign policy to make it less Palmerstonian

  • Gladstone believed in internationalism through free trade (though not as much as Cobden, who had wanted independence for the colonies) but had to adapt to the circumstances

  • Afghanistan

    • British troops defeated at Mainwind and besieged at Kandahar so Gladstone had to send General Roberts to put down rebellion

    • 1885: Russia seized Penjdeh

    • Gladstone requested £11,000,000 for war preparations, and Russia backed down

    • Gladstone won back some prestige lost in Sudan

    • British troops withdrawn from 1885 as long as Afghan foreign policy was dictated by Britain in return for a subsidy

    • British backing prevented Russo-Afghan war in 1885

    • In keeping with Gladstone’s foreign policy aims

  • South Africa

    • Boers wanted independence and removal of Sir Bartle Frere, governor of the Cape

    • Gladstone did not intervene or withdraw Frere (thought too knowledgeable)

    • Instead pushed for federation between British, Boers and blacks

    • Defeat at Majuba Hill by Boers in 1881 led to the Convention of Pretoria – Transvaal given independence except in foreign affairs, again dictated by Britain

    • Sensible option but perceived as a defeat

  • Egypt

    • Egypt vital for trade due to Suez Canal

    • Disraeli had kept out of Egypt after acquiring Cyprus as an eastern Mediterranean base

    • After anti-foreign riots in Egypt, sent troops and navy to bombard Alexandria under Sir Garnett Wolseley

    • Egyptians defeated in Battle of Tel-el-Kebir and Cairo occupied

    • Bright resigned due to this aggressive foreign policy

    • Gladstone had now acquired more land than Disraeli

  • Sudan

    • Gladstone not interested in Sudan (nothing to do with British interests) so ordered withdrawal of troops stationed there under General Gordon

    • Gordon had marched to Khartoum to show British authority, contrary to orders

    • Gordon ignored orders to retreat, was besieged, and killed

    • Relief expedition arrived two days too late

    • Gladstone no longer ‘GOM’ but ‘MOG’ – Murderer of Gordon

  • Turkey

    • Gladstone wanted to hand Cyprus to Greece but Granville persuaded him otherwise

    • Could not follow through his ‘bag and baggage’ removal of Turks, as promised in The Bulgarian Horrors

      • Support for Greeks, Bulgars and Serbs would mean collapse of Turkey and probable expansion of Russia (as Disraeli had seen)

      • Therefore no help forthcoming for Christian minorities, despite Gladstone’s personal views

  • Overall, “the gulf between Gladstonian principles and the realities of a world dominated by colonial rivalries became too great…Gladstone as leader of the government could not always ignore the necessity to put British interests before private conscience” (Historian)


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