Corn, Catholics and the Constitution: The Tory Crisis of 1827-30

Graham Goodlad considers the reasons for the disintegration of the early nineteenth-century Tory Party, which had dominated British politics for more than four decades.

The years 1827-30 were a time of unusual political instability, with four changes of Prime Minister in as many years. The Tory Party, which had governed almost without interruption since Pitt the Younger's appointment as Prime Minister in 1783, disintegrated and fell from power. This period seems a chaotic and negative interlude between the long administration of Lord Liverpool (1812-27) and the reforming Whig governments of 1830-41. Yet it is of critical importance in a number of respects. In 1828-29 historic legal restrictions on the participation of Protestant Nonconformists (groups such as Methodists, Baptists and Quakers) and Roman Catholics in public life were finally ended. The following year the fall of the Duke of Wellington's administration enabled the return to power, after years in the wilderness, of the Whig opposition. From this flowed the events which led to the passing of the Great Reform Act of 1832, with far-reaching consequences for the later growth of political democracy. The collapse of the Tory Party made possible, in the 1830s, the creation of its successor, the Conservative Party.

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