The Second Tory Party, 1714-1832

By Keith Grahame Feiling | Go to book overview

XVI
BREAKING-POINT
( 1820-1826)

REVOLUTION was stirring again. The Allies had stamped down the earth heavily in 1815, but strange heaving came from the tomb. It was the day of Metternich and the Carlsbad decrees, of the young Mazzini and Liberalism in Spain. Those in England who had eyes to see recognized that the old way of governing must pass away. This 'heaving and struggling between conflicting principles', wrote Canning, must end one way or the other. 'There is a wonderful change', Lord Holland echoed 'in the feelings, opinions, condition, prosperity, and relative state of the classes in society'. Walter Scott worriedly complained that the new Whigs had 'the great and to me inexplicable heresy of looking upon the condition of the country as a proper subject for experimental amendment', and put it down to this wretched invention of steam.* To his friend Croker the wise youth Peel put many questions: 'Don't you think the public opinion among the lower classes has undergone a change within these few years as to the constitution of Parliament?' Was not 'the tone' of England 'more liberal than the policy of the Government', and public opinion growing too large for the accustomed channels? ( 1) What would such an age make of the Tories, of those whom Pitt had never looked upon as a party? Crown, aristocracy and people, Catholic and Protestant, corn and currency, the Europe of Napoleon or the Europe of Metternich, a centralized state or a paternal society, how would all these winds of doctrine, conflicts, and intangible economic fates leave them? What they made of them would settle not their own party prospects only, but the shape of the building within which English-speaking peoples must live for many years.

In parliamentary democracy, even more perhaps in parliamentary aristocracy, conflict and principle must find its expres-

____________________
*
Scott to Knighton, Sept. 1822, Windsor Mss.

-304-

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