Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

FOURTH CHAPTER
DEFINITIVE TRIUMPH OF THE NEW ORDER OF THINGS

I

NEVERTHELESS the times were undoubtedly critical for the new conception of social order of which we have traced the origin and development; for the sentimental reaction provoked by the excesses of industrialism had left deep down in the heart one of those uneasy states of feeling which, however vague, daily and hourly preys upon the mind, and prepares the way for new and it may be still undefined convictions by undermining the old ones. Yet man is only too pleased to be reassured on the subject of his opinions, and a single word uttered with authority is often sufficient to dispel his doubts. The England of the years 1848-1860 received more than this; it obtained, or thought that it obtained, convincing proof that it was on the right path. The abolition of the duties on corn in 1846, and the other great free trade measure, the repeal of the Navigation Laws, passed in 1849, were followed by an unprecedented rise of commerce and industry.1 The enthusiasm produced by this upward movement of the economic forces of England infected even for

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1
The exports doubled in five years; their total rose from 50 to 100 millions sterling a year. Profits increased with still more surprising rapidity. "In the ten years from 1842 to 1852 the taxable income of the country increased by 6 per cent, but in the eight years from 1853 to 1861 the income of the country increased by 20 per cent. That is a fact so singular and striking as to seem almost incredible.... Besides the development of mechanical power and of locomotion, there is another cause which has been actively at work during the lifetime of our generation, and which especially belongs to the history of the last twenty years. I mean the wise legislation of Parliament which has sought for every opportunity of abolishing restrictions upon the application of capital and the exercise of industry and skill, and has made it a capital object of its policy to give full and free scope to the energies of the British nation. To this special cause appears especially to belong most of what is peculiar in the experiences of the period I have named so far as regards the increase of the national wealth" ( Speech of Mr. Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the Budget of 1863, Hansard, CLXX, p. 244).

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