United Kingdom general election, 1852

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United Kingdom general election, 1852
United Kingdom
1847 ←
7–31 July 1852
Members elected
→ 1857
members

All 654 seats in the House of Commons
328 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  14th Earl of Derby.jpg Lord john russell.jpg
Leader The Earl of Derby Lord John Russell
Party Conservative Whig
Leader since July 1846 October 1842
Leader's seat Earl of Derby City of London
Last election 325 seats, 42.7% 292 seats, 53.8%
Seats won 330 324
Seat change Increase 5 Increase 32
Popular vote 311,481 430,882
Percentage 41.9% 57.9%
Swing Decrease 0.8% Increase 4.1%

PM before election

Lord Derby
Conservative

Subsequent PM

Lord Derby
Conservative

1841 election MPs
1847 election MPs
1852 election MPs
1857 election MPs
1859 election MPs

The July 1852 United Kingdom general election was a watershed election in the formation of the modern political parties of Britain. Following 1852, the Tory/Conservative party became, more completely, the party of the rural aristocracy, while the Whig/Liberal party became the party of the rising urban bourgeosie in Britain. The results of the election were extremely close in terms of both the popular vote and number of seats won by the main two parties. As in the previous election of 1847, Lord John Russell's Whigs won the popular vote, but the Conservative party won a very slight majority of the seats. However, a split between Protectionist Tories, led by the Earl of Derby and the Peelites made the formation of a majority government very difficult. Lord Derby's minority Protectionist government ruled from 23 February 1852 until 17 December 1852. Derby appointed Benjamin Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer in this minority government. However, in December 1852, Derby's minority government collapsed because of issues arising out of the budget introduced by Disraeli. A Peelite-Whig coalition government was then formed under Lord Aberdeen, one of the leading Peelites. Although, the precise issue involved in this vote of "no confidence" which caused the downfall of the Derby minority government was the budget, the real issue was repeal of the "Corn Laws" which parliament passed in June 1846.

A group within the Tory/Conservative Party called the "Peelites" voted with the Whigs to accomplish the repeal of the Corn Laws. The Peelites were so named because they were Conservative/Tory followers of Robert Peel. In June 1846, Robert Peel was the Prime Minister of a Tory government, when he, the Prime Minister and leader of the Tory/Conservative Party, led a group of Tory/Conservatives to vote with the minority Whigs against a majority of his own party.

"Corn" was important to the cost of living of the average citizen in Britain during the early nineteenth century. The term "corn" did not refer to maise as it did in the United States. In Britain, at this time, "corn" referred to wheat, rye and/or other grains. Because wheat, or corn, was used in the baking of bread and was the "staff of life." Thus, the price of wheat had a very substantial influence on the cost of living. The corn laws enforced a very high "protective" tariff against the importation of wheat into England. Thus, the high tariffs on imported wheat imposed by the corn laws had the effect of raising the cost of living and increasing the suffering the poor people in England. Consequently, agitation for the repeal of the corn laws began in England as early as 1837 with bill for the repeal introduced in Parliament each year from 1837 through 1847 when the repeal was finally accomplished.

For some parliamentary leaders, like John Bright, Richard Cobden and Charles Pelham Villiers, the repeal of tariffs on imported corn (wheat) was not enough. They wished to reduce the tariffs on all imported consumer products. These parliamentary leaders became known as "free traders." The repeal of the corn laws irrevocably split the Tory/Conservative party. The Peelites were not free traders, but both the Peelites and the free traders were originally Tories. Thus, both the free traders and the Peelites tended to side with the Whigs against the Tories on issues related international trade issues. This presented a real threat to any government the Tories attempted to form. The effect of this split was felt in the election of July–August 1847, when the Whig Party won a 53.8% majority of seats in the Parliament. The Whigs knew that they could count on the Peelite Conservatives when an international trade issue came before Parliament. In June 1852, the effects of the split in the Tory/Conservative party was having even more effect.

Additionally, there was the return of prosperity to the British economy in 1852. While the period of time from 1847 until 1848 was a period of economic stagnation in Britain, the period of time from 1849 through 1852 saw a return to prosperity.[1] Indeed, 1852, proved to be "one of the most signal years of prosperity England ever enjoyed."[2] The Whigs, Peelites felt that the repeal of the corn Laws had brought about the period of prosperity. They wanted to take credit for the period of prosperity. The Free Traders agreed and continued to press for the repeal of all tariffs on consumer goods as a means of extending the period of prosperity.

The split in the Tory/Conservative Party, was a significant cause of the reformation of the political parties in Britain in the February 1852 election. To understand this reformation it may be easier to consider the British political party formation in 1852 by using the labels "Ministerialists" (the protectionist Tory/Conservatives) and the Oppositionists (the Whigs, Free Traders and Peelites).[3]

As noted above, in the election of 1852 the Ministerialists (Tory/Conservative) party became party of the rural landholders in the counties of Britain, while the Oppositionists (Whigs/Free Traders/Peelites) became the party of the towns, boroughs and growing urban industrial areas of Britain. In the 1852 election, the "boroughs" of England, itself, elected 104 Ministerialists to parliament while electing 215 Oppositionists. However, the counties of England elected 109 Ministerialists to parliament in the 1852 election while electing only 32 Oppositionists.[4] Similar results were obtained in Wales and Scotland in the 1852 election as the boroughs of Wales sent 10 Oppositionsts and only 3 Ministerialists to parliament, while the counties of Wales sent 11 Ministerialists and 3 Oppositionists to parliament in 1852.[5] The results in Scotland were even more clear, as the Scottish boroughs elected 25 Oppositionalists and not a single Ministerialist to parliament in 1852. Scottish counties, on the other hand, elected 14 Ministerialists and 13 Oppositionists.[6] Only in Ireland did this political formation less obvious, as the boroughs in Ireland elected 14 Ministerialists and 25 Oppositionists.[7] While the counties of Ireland elected 24 Ministerialsts and 35 Oppositionists.[8] The Irish Oppositionists were known as the "Irish Brigade." Although the Ministerialists, elected in 1852, began by remaining loyal to the Tory/Conservatives, the Irish Brigade knew that they would be able to count on support from some of the Irish Ministerialists, if and when, a purely Irish issue arose in the Parliament. Currently the Irish were seeking tenant rights for Ireland.[9] An opportunity for the Irish Oppositionists to pull some Irish Ministerialists over to the Opposition arose in December 1852 when Chancellor of Exchequer, Benjamin Disraeli, introduced the budget of the Debry minority government. This budget contained a number of tax increases on the profits of the rising bourgeoisie and a number of tax cuts for the rural landed aristocracy.[10] This budget also extended the income tax to the Irish bourgeoisie, thus angering some of the Irish Ministerialists who had been supporting the minority government.[11] Consequently, a number Irish Ministerialists voted against the minority government on the Disraeli budget on 17 0December 1852. This vote of "no confidence" caused the government to fall.[12]

Following the fall of the minority government, Lord Aberdeen was called on to form a government. Consequently, the Peelite/Whig government was formed by the Earl of Aberdeen on 19 December 1852. This Peelite/Whig government served until 30 January 1855, when it too collapsed due to issues surrounding the British involvement in the Crimean War.

Results[edit]

Kingdom General Election 1852
Candidates Votes
Party Standing Elected Gained Unseated Net  % of total  % No. Net %
  Conservative 461 330 + 5 41.9 311,481 - 0.5
  Whig 488 324 + 32 57.9 430,882 + 4.1
  Chartist 4 0 0 1 - 1 0.2 1,541 + 0.1

Note that while the Conservatives had, in theory, a slim majority over the Whigs, the party was divided between Protectionist and Peelite wings, of which the former numbered about 290 and the latter 35-40. The Whigs themselves represented a coalition of Whigs, Liberals, Radicals, and Irish nationalists. The above numbers therefore do not represent the true balance of support in parliament. Total votes cast: 743,904

Voting summary[edit]

Popular vote
Whig and allies
  
57.92%
Conservative
  
41.87%
Chartist
  
0.21%

Seats summary[edit]

Parliamentary seats
Whig and allies
  
49.54%
Conservative
  
50.46%

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Karl Marx, "Pauperism and Free Trade--The Approaching Commercial Crisis" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11 (International Publishers: New York, 1979) p. 358.
  2. ^ Karl Marx, "Pauperism and Free Trade--The Approaching Commercial Crisis" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 359.
  3. ^ Karl Marx, "Result of the Elections" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: 11 (International Publishers: New York, 1979) p. 348.
  4. ^ Karl Marx, "Result of the Elections" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 348.
  5. ^ Karl Marx, "Result of the Elections" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 348.
  6. ^ Karl Marx, "Result of the Elections" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 348.
  7. ^ Karl Marx, "Result of the Elections" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 349.
  8. ^ Karl Marx, "Result of the Elections" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 349.
  9. ^ Note 236 contained in Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 668.
  10. ^ Karl Marx, "Parliament--Vote of November 26--Disraeli's Budget" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 462.
  11. ^ Karl Marx, "Parliament--Vote of November 26--Disraeli's Budget" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 462.
  12. ^ Karl Marx, "Superannuated Administration--Prospects of the Coalition Ministry" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 11, p. 474.