Talk:Whigs (British political party)

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Untitled thread 2003[edit]

Nearly every link to "Whig" goes to the British whig party (and there are a lot of them) shouldent this be turned back into a page about the British Whigs, with a link to the other ones. either that or someone should fix all the links (which would probably take all day) G-Man 21:45, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

It never was a page about the British one; it was a page with all of them on, rather messily I thought. If the current arrangement is unsatisfactory, perhaps Whig (UK) needs moving here and a disambig block stuck at the top - there do seem to be only the USA and Liberian ones. Morwen 21:48, Dec 16, 2003 (OTC)

OK I'll do that then G-Man 21:49, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Please sort out the links before turning this into a British page. US President Jackson is one of the pages directed here! Rmhermen 21:51, Dec 16, 2003 (UTC)

I'm in the process of sorting out the links G-Man 22:05, 16 Dec 2003 (FTC)

I think I've sent all the American links to the right place but someone might like to double check to see if I've missed any G-Man 22:24, 16 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Untitled thread 2004[edit]

The Whig party is well documented on Wikipedia. The Radical party receive no such documentation. I do not have any information on their history or ideology, but I would like to know about them. Does anyone have any information on them?

There was no such thing as the Radical Party, as I said in the [[Radical Party (UK)] talk page. There were a group of MPs in the early-mid 19th century who called themselves Radicals, who were generally allied to the Whigs, but to their left. john 18:49, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Its all been moved to Radicals (UK). The Radicals were a group of extremely interesting politicians, especially for their time. It is vital that we know what their ideology was.
I hold in front of me a copy of "The Radical Party: its principles, objects & leaders", written by three members of the party. It DID exist as a political party. Denying its existence is like denying the existence of the Green Party. Especially as the Radical Party had MPs ;-)


Removed the following line from the description of the Whig Party:

(now the Liberal Democrats)

Liberal Democrats have nothing to do with the Whig Party.

I think the term "whig" actually originates in the English Civil War period of the 1640s-50s, when it was used to refer to a radical faction of the Scottish Covenanters who called themselves the "Kirk party". Jdorney

Usually it's said to arise as a general political term during the exclusion crisis, but I don't really know. Do you have a source? john k 15:59, 3 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, the source in "The Civil Wars" edited by Jane Ohlmeyer and John Kenyon (Oxford 1998). On page 64, in the chapter on the Scottish civil wars by Edward Furgol, it says, "Back in Scotland, the covenanters had fragmented into two groups: the Engagers, who continued to support the King... and the Whiggamores (or "Whigs"), supporters of the Kirk party." Then as later, it was a term of abuse, I think, associating the Kirk party with cattle thieves rom the border region. Jdorney

Well, in that case, add it in in the intro bit. It should still be made clear that as a general term, it came into prominence with the exclusion crisis. john k 05:57, 4 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, that sounds about right. Of course, you could argue that the Glorious Revolution was a sort of re-run of the civil wars as well, couldnt you? But thats another days work! Jdorney

There's no mention of taxation anywhere. Cromwell represented landowners during the Civil War, who had historically been the most heavily taxed by the monarchy. City-based commerce was lightly taxed, or not at all, despite becoming the dominant portion of economy during the start of the Industrial Revolution. The Whigs were born from the political ideals of Cromwellites, that is landowners who wanted to curb excessive ancient rural taxation and the monarchy. They were principally Protestants. The Tories, either Anglicans or Catholics, represented the new city based industrialists and the new "wide strip" industrial-style farmers. Taxation methods had failed to keep pace with change, and the Cromwellites/Whigs were born from that inequity. (talk) 01:53, 9 September 2013 (UTC)

Election box metadata[edit]

This article contains some sub-pages that hold metadata about this subject. This metadata is used by the Election box templates to display the color of the party and its name in Election candidate and results tables.

These links provide easy access to this meta data:


I don't quite get the bit which refers to the "over-mighty whigs". Does this mean that they thought they were better than the royalty, or were too powerful for comfort? Maybe this needs to be reworded to be a bit more precise. --Slashme 08:50, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

In general the article is very confused. "The Whigs" really refers to a set of closely inter-related aristocratic families who gained an unusual amount of power after 1688 and continued with exceptions (1783-1830) to exercise that power until the 1880s. G.W.E. Russell explained "the essence of Whiggery was relationship...The Whig, like the poet was born not made." When people talk about the "over-mighty whigs" they are usually referring to the Bedfords, Devonshires, Sutherlands, Granvilles, Westminsters, Norfolks, Carlisles, Spencers and Egertons. They considered themselves an exclusive group within even the aristocracy and people almost always had to be born into the group. The Whigs were a rich and exclusive set, but they considered themselves as representing or guiding popular movements for reform.
Even as late as 1880, the representatives of the various Whig families formed the largest single group in Gladstone's cabinet. They disappeared gradually from the liberal party because their numbers were eroded over time by the various reform acts. And because they eventually split with the liberal party over Irish issues.
The problem with the article is that it wants to make the simple-minded point of saying that the Conservative and Liberal parties are equal to the tories and Whigs. The actual situation has never been that simple. A short (four-page) description of the Whigs and their decline can be found in David Cannadine's "Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy". 03:22, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
I've removed the simple minded statement that, 'Eventually the Whigs would evolve into the Liberal Party (while the Tories became the Conservative Party)'. (talk) 13:53, 24 August 2009 (UTC)


For the sake of clarity, I moved this to British Whig Party, but that may not be the preferred name under WP naming conventions. It was the piped name the disambiguation page used when linking to Whig prior to my pointing that at the disambiguation page, so feel free to move this elsewhere if there's a better name. --Vedek Dukat Talk 05:45, 4 April 2006 (UTC)

Scottish Whigs[edit]

I have never come across any reference in 'Scottish venacular' to whig meaning 'assassin' or 'thief'. The sentence has thus been edited out, but if you cite any source for the statement I would be happy to see it reinstated.

As a term 'whig' entered into popular use in Scotland in 1648, when a group of extreme Covenanters siezed power in what was to be known as the Whiggamore Raid. Many of these men came from the south-west of the country, where the expression 'whiggam' was used by country people to urge on their horses.

Rcpaterson 02:29, 21 May 2006 (UTC)

Country Whigs[edit]

MP constituency lists provide for the MP's party to be specified. Paul Foley (ironmaster) (Speaker) and Robert Harley later Earl of Oxford were leaders of a party that split away from the court or junto whigs, and allied themsleves with the Tories during Queen Anne's reign. Some are described as Tories in the lists. I have seen a reference (though I am not sure where) to one of the Foleys remaining a Tory after George I's accession. Most were of Presbyterian sympathy (though conforming to the Church of England), which tends to go with being Whigs. I think we need a debate on how to deal with the transition from being the Country Whigs to their joining the Tories. Peterkingiron (talk) 11:19, 17 March 2008 (UTC)

Naming problems[edit]

British Whig is improper, because there were Irish whigs who were not part of "Britain" and also sought independence from England. I believe the nomenclature is also non-historic, as the term "Whig" was used without any title before it throughout the 18th century. Ottava Rima (talk) 22:48, 13 April 2008 (UTC)


This passage

both might be termed conservative by modern parameters

suffers from various ills. The pretentious abuse of “parameter” assaults the sensibilities of the literate reader, and the willful pigeon-holing of those who are not socialist nor social democrats as “conservative” is grossly biased. In addition, there is the simple confusion of use with mention. —SlamDiego←T 20:43, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

I have changed the phrase, slightly. However, I do not agree with your comment. The present text on William Pitt the younger seems to be written form the standpoint of the the modern Liberal Party, looking to the Whigs as their predecessors. However, William Pitt probably regarded himself as Whig (see recent biography by William Hague), not a Tory, though his party ultimately became the modern conservative party. One could say that this was the second occasion on which a whig faction allied with the tories went into government; the first was led by Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford, whose background was certainly whig, but was supported by the tories when he became Lord Treasurer. I have not altered the text concerning Pitt, but think it is not wholly NPOV. Peterkingiron (talk) 13:34, 26 January 2009 (UTC)


How are they a faction? I thought (and the article states) that they were one of the two major parties in the 18th and 19th centuries in the UK and not a faction of some larger group? Either the Title of the article needs to be explained (in the article) or needs to be changed - eg Whig (British political grouping) as used by the article Tory (British political grouping). Jubilee♫clipman 03:02, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Or why not Whig (British political party)? Jubilee♫clipman 03:11, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

I was bold and moved the page to "party". I chose "Party" because the article uses that word and I cannot see any real conflict with other modern uses of the word. Jubilee♫clipman 03:28, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Naming of articles[edit]

BTW, for the sake of consistency a change to the name of this article should be mirrored in a change to the name of the article Tory (British political grouping). What is wrong with "party"? (erased because I already said that) Jubilee♫clipman 03:11, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Moved again[edit]

Explanation: I moved Whig back to "party" and previously moved Tory to the same for the following reasons:
1. The word "grouping" is rarely used in either of the actual articles to describe either the Tories or the Whigs, and even then only as part of the formation history.
2. The word "party", on the other hand, is used consistently throughout both articles to describe both groups of politicians. eg A few decades later, a new Tory party would rise..., The first Tory party could trace its principles and politics..., The Whigs are often described as one of the two original political parties (the other being the Tories), etc etc.
3. The actual distinction between the modern word "Party" and older uses is not addressed in either article.
4. Most modern readers will not understand the meaning of the word "grouping" and will misunderstand "faction".
5. Modern readers will understand "Party" in the wide context of "a group of politicians sharing common policies and working together in opposition to other such groups".
6. The word "Party" was used by both groups to label themselves long before subscriptions came into force.

Therefore, I have moved Whig back to "party". The Tory article is also under "party".

Note: Perhaps further changes should be proposed via Wikipedia:Requested moves? This will avoid edit warring!

Jubilee♫clipman 14:48, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Whig peers?[edit]

The paragraph about the end of the Whigs and their ideology is a bit vague, and unsourced. The Whigs survived as a faction in the Liberal party into the early 20th century. One assumes that some peers, at least, thought of themselves as Whigs even after the party changed to Liberal. Peers last a long time; the longest serving one as I write was appointed during world war 2. So, what happened to these old Whigs? Did they, as the article implies, join up with the Liberal Unionists? Did they jump straight to the Conservatives? Did they remain with the Liberal party? Or did they abandon the whip and remain as independents?

If any kind historian knows the answer, I would be very glad to see it :). BillMasen (talk) 09:17, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

I am a historian, but not in this field. 19th century political parties were much looser groupings than the political parties of today. What the end of the article describes is a trend, perhaps not a formal merger. My guess is that the "old whigs" tended to join the Liberal Unionists (themselves a dissention from the liberals) and that they followed this into the Conservative party, just as the National Labour and National Liberals of the 1930s Conservative-led National Government merged into the Conservative Party in 1945. Peterkingiron (talk) 16:46, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
That's also what I suspected. It would be good to have some confirmation from somewhere, although it's an obscure point. BillMasen (talk) 09:18, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

What a shame this article isn't being written by anyone who knows what they are talking about. If you don't understand the politics, don't write the article -- Liberal Democrats -- heaven preserve us. Sgmtp (talk) 21:50, 11 April 2011 (UTC)

Rye House Plot[edit]

Under 'History', the paragraph on the Rye House Plot contains "both being implicated escaped to" which seems to need tidying up.AndrewAfresh (talk) 00:37, 1 May 2011 (UTC)

Change of ideology in the infobox[edit]

The Whigs are not, in my opinion, best described as classical liberals. They were, at the end of the day, a conservative party which believed in slow, moderate and careful change as and when such a change became an issue. Prominent Whigs have included Burke (the 'father of conservatism'), the second Marquess of Rockingham (a fairly conservative figure) and Pitt the Elder (another conservative fellow and the father of the Tory Pitt the Younger - who described himself as an 'Independent Whig'). Whilst using terms to brand all the Whigs or Tories is not particularly accurate during these times (after all, these aren't really parties but loose coalitions of people), nonetheless, the Whigs aren't all, or even in a majority, what could be properly described as classically liberal. It is true that they were more liberal than the Tories but this is just relative. The Whigs, even when initiating reform, did so mostly for conservative reasons - Earl Grey, when pushing through parliamentary reform, didn't really believe that people had a right to vote but that reform was necessary to conserve the constitution - even if, in the long run, its balance might be altered. It must also be remembered that, whilst labelled 'Tories', the modern Conservative Party owes its origins and stance just as much (if not more) to the Whigs than their historical namesake. Indeed, it might well be argued that the Tories were reactionaries (although this isn't quite a fair representation of the views of the Tories) and the Whigs were conservative. Therefore, I propose that the ideology is changed to: liberal conservatism and constitutional monarchism with internal factions of classical liberalism and radicalism. Even then, this does not perfectly describe the ideas of the individuals and groups that made up the Whigs, but is, at least, a more accurate summary of their general stance. Gonefishing (talk) 11:00, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

I think what say may have some weight, but I think to satisfy the criteria of verifibility there would need to be a source accompanying this statement/change. I realise that there are no sources backing up the current ideology labels in this article, but it is congruent with the classical liberalism article, where it states that liberalism was born from Wiggery and is backed up by sources. So I'd say if you find a source then you can put in liberal conservatism (or conservative liberalism :p ), but I would also keep classical liberalism and radicalism as main ideologies as well, just because as you say, it's too hard to put a label on Whigs and these two thoughts may not be seen as sub-set factions of liberal conservatism but existing along side it within the party. Zangar (talk) 16:27, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
historians argue that the 18th century Whig party was liberal for its day. For example: "Adam Smith's theory melded nicely with the liberal political stance of the Whig Party and its middle-class constituents." (Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment by Wilson, and Reill - 2004 p 298); "The Whig party supported the supremacy of Parliament and toleration for Protestant dissenters and was adamantly opposed to a Catholic on the throne" [The encyclopedia of libertarianism ed by Hamowy - 2008 p 542] Rjensen (talk) 21:00, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

The terms "liberal" and "conservative" have no place in discussing eighteenth century politics: those terms only came to be mainstream political labels in British politics in the 1820s. Whilst the Whigs did support policies that would later come to be termed "liberal" (civil liberties for Dissenters, rule of law/constitutional monarchy) they also held illiberal views on Catholic emancipation, were for mercantilist protectionism (it was the Tory Bolingbroke who favoured free trade with France and even as late as 1786 it was the Foxites who opposed freer trade with France on the traditional Whig grounds that the absolute monarchy of France was Britain's natural enemy), supported the various wars on the Continent and supported the Established Church of England. Applying liberal or conservative is anachronistic and is only going to lead to misunderstanding. Classical liberalism was a much later political philosophy and it is interesting to note that the British classical liberals—Cobden, Bright and the rest of the Manchester school—eschewed the label Whig. The political philosophy of the Whig party was Whiggism and although aspects of Whiggism came to be incorporated into liberalism and conservatism it does not mean the Whig party was a liberal or a conservative party.--Britannicus (talk) 21:46, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

Britannicus has lots of personal opinion with no RS. Try this: "Adam Smith's theory melded nicely with the liberal political stance of the Whig Party and its middle-class constituents." (Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment by Wilson, and Reill - 2004 p 298); Adam Smith certainly defines classical liberalism for the late 18th century and his ideas did not come out of thin air--they came out of and were taught in the Whig milieu says Mitchell The Whig World, 1760-1837 (2006) p 100] Similarly "The Tories favored the King and the old regime; the Whigs worked to increase freedom in society. Adam Smith was a Whig" says Andres Marroquin, Invisible Hand: The Wealth of Adam Smith (2002) p 118. The Whigs were anti-Catholic in part because they saw Catholicism as reactionary and anti-liberal. [Pitt elder said, "The errors of Rome are rank idolatry, a subversion of all civil as well as religious liberty, and the utter disgrace of reason and of human nature."] And yes historians do use liberalism for this era. ["Edinburgh was indeed fast becoming one of the most enlightened cities in the kingdom. Clubs ... became a focus of light and liberalism with members such as Colin MacLaurin, Robertson, Hume, Cullen, Adam Smith" Williams, The Whig Supremacy, 1714-1760 p 286] "During this time Locke was strongly influenced by Ashley's liberal point of views and his leading position in the Whig Party" [Bode, Political Philosophy of John Locke (2008) p 3 ] On Locke, Jennings emphasizes that "whiggism had produced its philosopher, John Locke"--another exemplar of liberalism. [Ivor Jennings, Party Politics. Volume: 2 1960. p 27] Note that Locke accompanied Shaftesbury to many important strategy meetings of Whig leaders. Rjensen (talk) 00:08, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
Some sources: "To attempt to write the history of liberalism before the 1820s is thus, in point of method, akin to attempting to write the history of the eighteenth-century motor car. There were, of course, forms of transport which performed many of the functions which the motor car later performed, the sedan chair among them. Yet to explain the sedan chair as if it were an early version of the motor car, and by implication to condemn it for failing so lamentably to evolve into the motor car, is to turn a modern error of scholarly method into a failure of men in a past society. To stretch explanatory categories so far that they lose their specific reference and become mere holdalls for our ahistorical assumptions about the eternal nature of human motivation is to condemn us merely to explore the inner landscape of the assumptions and to deny us any perception of a need to locate those assumptions in time."—J. C. D. Clark, Revolution and Rebellion (Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 102-103.
"The political vocabulary of democratic society, especially the terms 'liberalism', 'radicalism' and 'conservatism', still lay in the future: to write of eighteenth-century liberalism is as much of a solecism as to depict an eighteenth-century socialism or fascism, and for the same reasons. The early nineteenth century was indeed a period of remarkable conceptual innovation in which many new terms were coined in attempts to reify and so to mobilise new ideas, terms like agrarianism, phalanstery, Luddism, chartism, pantisocracy, harmonism; many, perhaps most, of them enjoyed only short lives. Three, liberalism, radicalism and conservatism, enjoyed longer currency, mainly because they became 'portmanteau terms' as more and more meanings were inserted into them. 'Conservatism' was a concept coined in the 1830s to describe the secular and pragmatic doctrine of a party of order after the nexus of Church and State which Burke defended had been displaced from its hegemonic position. To depict Burke as the 'father of English conservatism' would betray a fundamental misconception...equally, 'class' still meant 'group', not 'social stratum', still less 'inherent identity'. Liberalism and radicalism were invented by appropriating existing words. 'Liberal' was already a familiar adjective, defined as 'I. Not mean; not low in birth; not low in mind...2. Becoming a gentleman...3. Munificent; generous; bountiful; not parcimonious'...'Liberal' had no specifically political connotation until it was borrowed from the name of the Spanish party, the Liberales, in the 1810s...Until then, a man could not be identified as 'a liberal', and only when the word became a noun was it reified...into 'liberalism'. That twentieth-century innovation, 'Lockeian liberalism', is a solecism."—J. C. D. Clark, English Society. 1660–1832 (Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 5-7.
I am broadly with Britannicus on this. In my view, when dealing with the Whigs and the Tories, the terms "liberal" and "conservative" tend to confuse us more than they help us. Moonraker (talk) 01:39, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
If I may make a suggestion, we need an article on Whiggism – at the moment that is just a redirect to Whig. Moonraker (talk) 01:47, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
The argument that "The terms "liberal" and "conservative" have no place in discussing eighteenth century politics" is not acceptable to scholars. Historians typically use modern terminology and concepts to analyze past events, rather than confine themselves to concepts available in 1700 or 300CE or 500 BCE or whenever. That is indeed what scholarship is all about, and theWikipedia mandate is to reflect modern scholarship. Rjensen (talk) 17:52, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
You haven't actually engaged with the points Clark raised, though. To claim that the Whigs were a liberal or a conservative party is astoundingly unhistorical because the issues and structure of eighteenth century politics was very different from the time when liberalism and conservatism came into being. Scholarship is not about imposing modern-day labels onto the past, certainly for historians they study history for the sake of history, not to manipulate the past to make it more like the present than it really was.--Britannicus (talk) 18:16, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
the key thinkers associated with the Whigs--especially John Locke and Adam Smith--are the founders of modern liberalism and linked the party to it. Of course scholarship uses modern terminology--it would be impossible to write a book about the year 1688 using only the terminology and concepts in use that year. It's a matter of relying upon reliable sources and using the best available volcabulary to explain concepts. Historians do that. For example, "Thus did Charles Fox proclaim and champion the pure doctrine of liberalism long before there was a Liberal party, even indeed before the word 'liberal' had entered the vocabulary of politics." [Pitt Versus Fox: Father & Son, 1735-1806 by Eyck (1950) p. 320] And yes, the major scholars of liberalism pay special attention to Locke and Smith. And they use the word "liberalism" contrary to Clark's complaints. Proof see: "Locke, Liberalism and the Natural Law of Money" by Joyce Appleby Past & Present 1976; Western liberalism: a history in documents from Locke to Croce ed Bramsted 1978; Locke, liberalism and empire by Ivison, 2004; Nature and politics: Liberalism in the philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau by Rapaczynski - 1987; Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy by Zuckert - 2002; Traditions of Liberalism: Essays on John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill by Haakonssen - 1988; The Unvarnished Doctrine: Locke, Liberalism, and the American Revolution by Dworetz, 1990.... etc etc. Rjensen (talk) 19:25, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
Locke and Smith are definitely not the key thinkers of the Whigs. J. P. Kenyon in his book on ideology in British political philosophy from 1689 to 1720 (Revolution Principles) demonstrates that Locke was not a key figure in this period. Much more influential were the Whig pamphleteers such as Lord Somers, Algernon Sidney and Bishop Burnet. Smith was not a politician and his influence amongst them was patchy, with a few individuals across the political spectrum advocating his ideas. Certainly the Whigs in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were not the free traders that the liberals would be in the nineteenth. Free trade was originally a Tory idea (as demonstrated by the economic historian William Ashley, 'The Tory Origin of Free Trade Policy') opposed by the Whigs, who upheld protectionism. Fox himself said he did not agree with Smith and it was the Whigs who opposed Pitt the Younger's commercial treaty with France. Fox cannot of championed the "pure doctrine of liberalism" if he opposed one of its chief characteristics and in British politics its one, big idea: free trade.
"Fox very quickly became the subject of hagiography. From the Foxite cults of the early nineteenth century to the biographies written by twentieth-century Liberals in search of ancestors, the line of argument was clear. Fox was to be hailed as a keen reformer in religious and political life, and his arguments on these issues contributed mightily to the formation of the liberal creed of subsequent centuries. In fact, although there are strong liberal themes in much of what Fox said and wrote, he was never the reformer that later generations would have wished him to be...He would probably have been flattered, but almost certainly he would have been more amused, to discover that he had been credited with forming the ideas that guided the sober men in frock-coats who led Victorian Liberalism...Unlike nineteenth-century Liberals, Fox was always very circumspect about attacking long-standing constitutional arrangements...If Fox is to be hailed as a liberal, there were areas where this liberalism was barely visible...If liberalism meant securing those institutions through which liberties were believed to be traditionally guaranteed, Fox might be allowed the title. If liberalism, however, is taken to include a wish to remodel those institutions according to the requirements of some new, theoretical plan, then Fox would himself politely have refused the title."—L. G. Mitchell, Charles James Fox (Penguin, 1997), pp. 240-241, p. 250, p. 261.
Thus is it is clear that the term "liberalism" as applied to the Whig party is misleading and will lead to confusion. It needs to be hedged with so many qualifications and exceptions that it is almost useless to apply it here. It is best to call the ideology of the Whig party "Whiggism", as Whig principles are called.--Britannicus (talk) 20:08, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
[outdent] Britannicus's quote [" In fact, although there are strong liberal themes in much of what Fox said and wrote"] shows that Whiggery encompassed liberalism. It's not an issue of how much a reform Fox accomplished (he did not accomplish much of anything and was mostly out of power). Britannicus says that you can't be a liberal unless you endorse free trade--but that came only after Wealth of Nations and indeed became possible only after the American & Napoleonic wars were over, at which point the Whigs adopted it. Rjensen (talk) 20:38, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
You don't seem to understand that Mitchell is arguing that applying the label "liberal" to Fox is problematic: it is much more accurate to label him a Whig. Can you tell me at what point the Whigs adopted free trade? The Whigs when they returned to power in 1830-1834 and 1835-1841 did not advocate free trade, it was the Conservative Sir Robert Peel who repealed the Corn Laws. The Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne was a staunch protectionist.--Britannicus (talk) 20:57, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
Mitchell says that Fox spoke out for liberalism but accomplished little in terms of legislation. The point is that the Whigs spoke out for liberalism. When does free trade become an essential ingredient for liberalism? Not in the 18th century which we are discussing. ["Was free trade in corn really a part of this ideology? If we take Adam Smith's position on matters of economic policy as the measuring rod of classical liberalism, the answer clearly is 'no'." says Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, The Rise of Free Trade 1997 p 62] Parliament's declaration in 1820 in favor of free trade was supported both by the Tory govt and the Whig opposition so it was not a party issue yet. Rjensen (talk) 21:13, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
No, Mitchell is not arguing that. You are cherry picking one sentence to suit your views. He is arguing that despite later attempts by liberals to portray him as a staunch liberal, Fox's own stance on many so-called 'liberal' issues was ambiguous at best. Fox even confessed that parliamentary reform was something to be debated in the Commons, not something to be put into practice! (Mitchell, p. 253) He was a not liberal as the liberals of the nineteenth century were. It is an inappropriate label: 'Whig' is much more accurate. You claim that free trade was not an essential part of liberalism in the eighteenth century. There is no such thing as eighteenth century liberalism: it is a nineteenth century invention.--Britannicus (talk) 17:08, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • In any event, I have started an article on Whiggism and linked it in the infobox for this page. This is a poor article so far, but help with it from all here is cordially invited. Moonraker (talk) 00:07, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

I have to say that I rather agree with Britannicus. I had originally started this with the idea of giving a greater balance to the ideology in the infobox but, as I pointed out several times myself, this was in itself not very accurate and full of exceptions. Now that an article has been started for Whiggism, it might be appropriate to just have that as the Whigs' ideology. As for Smith being a Whig, that is quite questionable. Whilst Smith and Burke rather agreed on economics, there is no suggestion in Nicholas Phillipson's Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life that Smith was either a supporter of the Whigs or Tories. However, if he was anything like David Hume, a fellow Scottish Enlightenment philosopher and a man with whom he very much liked and agreed with his most of his ideas, he would have been, at the very least, anti-Whig and probably a Tory. That, too, is speculative, but I'd argue less so than the idea that Smith was a Whig. Gonefishing (talk) moved in Whig ci10:56, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Phillipson says repeatedly that Smith moved in Whig circles (p 24, 43, 56) and is explicitly called a Whig (p 72, 268) as is the Wealth of Nations (p 216) Rjensen (talk) 16:11, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree with Gonefishing that it is best to put Whiggism as the ideology of the Whig party, not classical liberalism. You cannot call The Wealth of Nations a book supporting Whig views because even after its publication the Whigs opposed Pitt's scheme for freer trade with France and throughout the party's history they had not shown themselves as free traders but rather as protectionists. Smith's ideas were adopted piecemeal by a few individuals across the political spectrum (Lord North, Pitt, Burke) rather than becoming a sort of economic manifesto for one party.--Britannicus (talk) 17:08, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
My apologies - I've been rather caught out there. I did not recall having read anywhere that he was a Whig, nor could I find the word's mention in the index when I checked to, apparently, be on the safe side. Nonetheless, p. 268 states that for a while he was a Tory under Pitt's leadership (who was a self-described "Independent Whig") and this just shows the differences between the two parties were not that large. If the Whigs are liberal, the Tories aren't that far from it either. Gonefishing (talk) 21:30, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

It seems like a bit of a fool's errand to try to come up with one word which is descriptive of the ideologies of such a loosely defined "party" as the Whigs. In the late seventeenth century, Whigs were the advocates of limited monarchy in the face of Stuart absolutism. In the mid eighteenth century, they were the complacent advocates of a prosperous and conservative status quo. In the early nineteenth century, they were cautious advocates of gradual reform. In the late nineteenth century, they were a conservative, aristocratic faction of a political party that had increasingly little room for or interest in them. What continuities there were were much more personal or familial than ideological. The First Duke of Devonshire was one of the men who invited William III to invade England in 1689; his descendant and heir, the Eighth Duke, broke with Gladstone over Irish Home Rule and led the Whigs over to the Tories. They were both Whigs in much the same way that they were both Dukes of Devonshire - whiggery was an inherited aristocratic characteristic. To be a Whig was to be a member of Brooks's and a scion of some family that played some role in the Glorious Revolution. That was what was central to being a Whig, not any ideology. john k (talk) 02:12, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

When was liberalism invented?[edit]

The term was invented in the 19th century and the concepts involved were invented earlier, as many scholars have said--just look at some titles about Locke: Locke, Liberalism and the Natural Law of Money" by Joyce Appleby Past & Present 1976; Western liberalism: a history in documents from Locke to Croce ed Bramsted 1978; Locke, liberalism and empire by Ivison, 2004; Nature and politics: Liberalism in the philosophies of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau by Rapaczynski - 1987; Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy by Zuckert - 2002; Traditions of Liberalism: Essays on John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill by Haakonssen - 1988; The Unvarnished Doctrine: Locke, Liberalism, and the American Revolution by Dworetz, 1990... It helps to read a bit more widely -- try books like An intellectual history of liberalism (2006) by French historian Pierre Manent. Rjensen (talk) 17:29, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't see how this is particularly helpful, given that we are talking about political history, not intellectual history. Why are we discussing Locke, Smith, and Mill as the leading Whigs? Wouldn't Walpole, or Fox, or even Hartington, be more important figures in understanding what Whiggery was as a political movement? What do the intellectual ideas of Smith and Mill, in particular, have to do with the contemporary Whig party of their time? I would suggest that Mill, in particular, shouldn't be described as a Whig at all: he was a Radical, or certainly more in line with the radical wing of the Liberal Party than with the Whiggish one. john k (talk) 02:24, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

This article needs serious work[edit]

I am no expert on 18th-century British politics, but the "Further Reading" exhibits huge gaps that are reflected in the text. Essential authorities on 18th and early 19th-century politics are missing (Lewis Namier, J. H. Plumb, Archibald Foord), let alone more modern scholars such as J. C. D. Clark, while marginal antiques like Keith Feiling and Britannica 1911 rule the roost. I have deleted a sentence identifying the Whigs as the Court and the Tories as the Country Party (perhaps on the authority of Britannica 1911?), because precisely the reverse was true during the 18th-century heyday of this terminology. The whole article needs a thorough going-over. pmr (talk) 19:48, 5 February 2012 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: No move. No evidence or consensus that this is the primary topic of the term. Cúchullain t/c 15:30, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

Whig (British political party)Whig – move the dab page to Whig (disambiguation) and this page to Whig place a {{other uses}} at the top of this page. The dab "(British political party)" is not needed as the other disambiguations are redirects to other articles, implying that Whig is a secondary meaning for those articles. "Whig" as a "British political party" is the primary meaning of this word. -- --Relisted Tyrol5 [Talk] 02:20, 18 January 2013 (UTC) PBS (talk) 14:11, 10 January 2013 (UTC)


Indeed. See Talk:Green Party for a recently closed RM that discussed disambiguation of political parties. Now if someone wants to research and write an article about the worldwide Whig parties and see if there was any commonality between the British and American Whig parties, feel free. I have no idea if there was any connection. – Wbm1058 (talk) 18:14, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose why is Britain getting primacy over the US? -- (talk) 23:44, 10 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There is no evidence provided that when people searching for "Whig", they are much more likely looking for information on the British political party than the American political party. And as Wbm1058 has stated, various American editors are wikilinking "Whig", intending to link to the article on the American party. There is reason why redirects and alternative names may also be a considered when determining a primary topic. Also, the placing of a word or phrase in parentheses in the title of an article is primarily used as a method of disambiguation, not to denote or imply that a topic "is a secondary meaning" to a specific term. Zzyzx11 (talk) 04:29, 11 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The previous commenters have laid out the argument nicely. Andrew327 06:01, 11 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. The British faction is "the Whigs", the American party is the "Whig Party." This distinction is not peculiar to Wikipedia, but also made by Britannica (here and here), Columbia (here and here), as well as Encarta. The Dictionary of American History gives "Whig Party," while the The Oxford Companion to British History gives "Whigs." The standard history of the American party is Holt's The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party (1999). Kauffner (talk) 04:52, 12 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment – Admire someone who takes a contrary position in a building snowstorm which prompts me to take another look.
  • In 1678, the Tories and Whigs first form as political parties in England, later becoming the modern Conservative Party and Liberal Party
  • With both 'Whig' and 'Tory', the suffix -ism was quickly added to make Whiggism and Toryism, meaning the principles and methods of each faction.
  • Wikipedia articles are inconsistently named Whiggism and Tory (not Toryism)
  • Political parties practicing these isms are Tory (British political party) and Whig (British political party)
  • Does it make sense to have separate "ism" and political party articles? Or are separate articles content forks?
  • Whigs rather than Whig?
  • Isn't a Whig simply a member of a Whig party?
  • should Whig Party be a dab rather than a redirect to Whig?
Wbm1058 (talk) 05:28, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
I think you are misunderstanding what party meant in the 17th and early 18th century, a better modern usage would be faction. As in the eurosceptics within the Conservative party. Party in the 16th and 17th century was not stable as it is today a party could coalesces around an idea or person and disappear after a short time, as it was often to do with short term interests. We talk of Cavaliers but not often of a Cavalier Party, or Roundheads, but not often of a Roundhead Party, yet they were the direct forerunners of the Tories and the Whigs (see for example Green Ribbon Club the Exclusion Crises). The argument put here by some that " Whig (British political party) is primary in the UK, but Whig Party (United States)" well maybe (although I would have thought that as history was shared until the end of the War of Independence the usage before that date was the same and the article called "Whig Party (United States) was for an entity that lasted but a fraction of the time of the Whigs and as such is a relatively minor usage. Besides we are talking about article titles called "Whig" and "Whig Party" and those two articles do not need dab extensions to differentiate them. -- PBS (talk) 12:25, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Support a move to "Whigs" I started the page Whiggism, wanting to deal with the political philosophy underlying what it was to be a Whig. The article now called Tory is the counterpoint to that and is plainly about Toryism (which for now redirects to "Tory"), and I would support a move of "Tory" to "Toryism". As has been said, the Whigs dealt with in this page weren't a party in the modern sense, but they weren't "British", either. Scottish and English Whigs had much in common, and they were combined in the government of Great Britain for large slices of the 18th century, but there was never a "British political party" called the "Whig Party". I am not sure that a page called "Whig" should be dedicated to the English and Scottish Whigs, but perhaps they are the primary meaning of "Whigs". I suggest moving the present "Whig (British political party)" page to "Whigs", which is the collective term, rather than "Whig", which is about an individual. For now Whigs is a redirect to Whig, so the "Whigs" name has the advantage of being available. Moonraker (talk) 13:58, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
  • That is highly biased. I see no reason for this British Imperialism for "Tories" being the British party. It should be a disambiguation page. -- (talk) 14:07, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
As it happens, the Tories were also not really "British", and certainly not in their origins. It is not biassed to follow the standard Wikipedia practice of identifying the primary meaning of a term and using it as an article name in that sense, with a hatnote linking to a dab page. We use Eton College for the original school, Eton College (Vancouver) for the Canadian one. By the same token, "Blue Tory" and "Red Tory" do not need "Canada" to be added to them. Moonraker (talk) 15:23, 15 January 2013 (UTC)
That is the height of bias. Some smaller college in Vancouver, as compared to the ruling Tories of Canada used as the basis to compare to the British versions? As there are no Red Tories or Blue Tories elsewhere (atleast as stated in our articles), those don't come in to this conversation. Britain is no longer the center of the English speaking world, and Wikipedia shouldn't pretend that it is. -- (talk) 01:13, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Support This seems to be the primary topic. The U.S. use of the word is derived from the British. Patriots during the revolutionary war called themselves "Whigs" because they believed the Whigs were sympathetic to them. The Whig Party chose the name as a direct reference to the revolutinary patriots. TFD (talk) 18:50, 17 January 2013 (UTC)
    The question of primacy is completely separate from that of derivation. Primacy is determined by what our readers are most likely looking for under that name, which, as I'm sure you know, is not always the original use of that name. Powers T 19:38, 18 January 2013 (UTC)
  • Support British party is (1) primary (2) longer endurance - 1670s to mid 19th century. It will be sufficient to deal with others by measn of a capnote. Peterkingiron (talk) 16:12, 19 January 2013 (UTC)


The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Left right politics[edit]

When Adam delved and Eve span / who was then the gentleman? (John Ball(1381))

@Redverton this edit (21:29, 22 September 2014) you stated in the edit history "Notions of left/right politics didn't exist before the French Revolution, and even afterwards the Whigs couldn't be considered 'left-wing'." The labels of Left and Right politics date from the French revolution, but those the division in politics existed long before then. Otherwise how do you describe the Levellers and their stance in the Putney Debates? "For really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he..." (Thomas Rainsborough).[1]. -- PBS (talk) 13:06, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

@PBS It was just an edit summary, so I could hardly give a full explanation. Of course the situation was more complex than as I described. Nevertheless, my basic point stands; the IP user (was it you?) described the Whigs as left-wing, which is objectively not true. The tenants of the left, even at the time left/right notions of politics was conceived, were clearly not those shared by the Whigs. Of course they were more to the 'left' than the Tories, but certainly describing them in the infobox as left-wing just doesn't hold. Redverton (talk) 13:31, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
Not my IP address. It depends on what one means by left and right, but in a British context the Whigs are generally seen to be to the left of the Tories (as the political and religious descendants of the Roundheads and the Cavaliers). -- PBS (talk) 14:05, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
@PBS Indeed, as I agreed, they were undoubtedly more to the 'left', but that's a world apart from just simply labelling them as 'left-wing'. Unless you want to make the argument that I shouldn't have removed that from the infobox? Redverton (talk) 14:08, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
Projecting the definition of "left wing" onto the Whigs is profoundly unhistorical and should not be included within the infobox (or anywhere else).--Britannicus (talk) 18:03, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
Why is it unhistorical? -- PBS (talk) 09:35, 24 September 2014 (UTC)
Because it implies that politics has always been divided between left and right rather than understanding what the seventeenth and eighteenth century Whigs believed in. It's anachronistic to try and portray them as left-wing.--Britannicus (talk) 10:12, 24 September 2014 (UTC)
"Because it implies that politics has always been divided ..." no it does not because the time frame and the geographic location of this article does not cover all of history and everywhere. While one may not agree with the analysis of Marxist historians such as Hill and Alymar, there is no denying that English history since 1640s has, since the 1930s, been subject to left right analysis by an influential academic school of thought (for a summary see The Debate on the English Revolution edited by R. C. Richardson (1st edition 1977). -- PBS (talk) 14:27, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Describing the Whigs as "left-wing" is a barrier to understanding because the reader will assume all sorts of political positions to incorrectly impute the Whigs with. For example during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Whigs were vehemently anti-Catholic and protectionist. Anti-Catholicism and protectionism during the nineteenth century were positions associated with the so-called "Ultra-Tories". How does the left/right dichotomy help the reader understand this? It doesn't.--Britannicus (talk) 14:59, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Now you are making a different point, I assume that you now accept that the historiography of the period also includes analysis of society by a school of historians who look at the period within a left right paradigm. The Tories were anti-Catholic and protectionist during the 17th century as well (see Navigation Acts -- most "right thinking people" were in favour of mercantilism as it was the dominant macro economic philosophy of the time--Adam Smith did not write his seminal works until the second half of the 18th century). The difference between Tories an and Whigs was fundamentally a continuation of the old Cavalier Roundhead struggle, over whether sovereignty lay with the King or Parliament and the King. The only reason the Tories supported the Glorious Revolution was their dislike of Catholicism was stronger than their loyalty to the monarchy. How does the left/right dichotomy help a reader understand why at the moment we have a Punch and Judy show over the way to implement more Scottish devolution. It doesn't, because to understand it one has to understand the politics in a different way, but that does not mean that Labour is not to the left of the Conservatives. I have no intention of perusing this further, because I think the point is made (that left right are not inappropriate labels for the period as they have been used by some historians for many years). I just wanted to raise it so that the comment in the edit history was not assumed to be factually correct, but I think that if we continue the conversation we are likely to stray into a forum type discussion. -- PBS (talk) 18:36, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
No, I don't accept the historians of this period generally use the left/right dichotomy. For example the two volumes of the New Oxford History of England that cover the period 1689 to 1783, the terms left-wing/right-wing are not used at all. The Tory leader Lord Bolingbroke favoured free trade with France (see the economic historian William Ashley's article 'The Tory Origin of Free Trade Policy' for the Tories' support for free trade versus Whig protectionism). Also, the Whigs were not Roundheads. They believed in a hereditary monarchy qualified by Protestantism. The ministerial Whigs during the reigns of the Hanoverians claimed that the House of Hanover had divine sanction as the legitimate royal line. This is very far from the Roundhead argument for a republic (the republican Whigs were a fringe sect of Whiggism). Left/right labels for the 17th/18th centuries are meaningless catch all terms designed to reflect the anachronistic belief that history can be divided up into progressives versus reactionaries.--Britannicus (talk) 18:59, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

New Whig Party[edit]

Should information on this party be included in this page? It seems it might be better served as a new page, if the new party meets notability guidelines that is. The info box includes the new party's logo, leaders name, website etc. and the second sentence of the lede was a reference to this party until I edited and moved it. Perhaps that gives it undue weight? Boreas74 Speak Softly 13:10, 2 November 2014 (UTC)

It's a one-man publicity stunt. Rjensen (talk) 16:39, 2 November 2014 (UTC)
It is now a 4-candidate political effort. Any change to the policy now? Masked Turk (talk) 17:27, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
No credibility in reliable secondary sources. It's web site says: "Our History: The Whig Party is Britain’s oldest progressive party, and was originally founded in 1678." That's serious falsification to which Wikipedia cannot lend its credibility. Rjensen (talk) 20:27, 15 April 2015 (UTC)
They already have their own article at The Whig Party (British political party). Joseph2302 (talk) 12:34, 23 April 2015 (UTC)

Whigs protectionist?[edit]

Were whigs really protectionist? They opposed the protectionism of the corn laws. LeapUK (talk) 20:45, 28 January 2016 (UTC)

yes--this article ends about 1800. they changed & the Whigs opposed corn laws in 1840s & their successors (Liberals) were free trade. Rjensen (talk) 20:48, 28 January 2016 (UTC)