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POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS,
1815-1830

The year 1815 is a convenient historical demarcation, and the reason is obvious. Contemporaries had no doubt that the defeat of Napoleon and the subsequent peace settlement marked the end of an era. Britain emerged victorious from more than twenty years of almost continuous warfare, and the prestige of the Government was enhanced by this success. However, the aftermath of Waterloo did not provide British ministers with easy years in which to enjoy this triumph. The role of both government and Parliament was smaller than it was to become in later generations. Nevertheless, the ministry's reaction to the problems of the early years of peace exerted a significant influence on the development of British society. Ministers were aware that the population was rising and that increased numbers could only be supported by economic growth. That required internal peace and an adequate level of social cohesion. Although the functions and powers of government in the first years of peace were limited, misjudgements here could imperil both internal order and economic expansion.


The Liverpool Government

The Government which held office in 1815 had come into existence three years earlier, when Lord Liverpool found himself elevated unexpectedly to the premiership on the assassination of Spencer Perceval. There was little change then in the membership of the ministry. The Government continued to lie in the hands of the political heirs of the Younger Pitt, representing not only those who had supported his peacetime administration in the years after 1784, but also the important reinforcement of the Portland Whigs, who had abandoned opposition to rally to the patriotic wartime coalition. Almost all of the senior ministers were drawn from the aristocracy, though, unusually, a high proportion of them represented recent promotions to that category. Liverpool himself was a second-generation peer; his father had been born into a junior branch of an Oxfordshire gentry family, and had risen first as a Civil Servant and then as a prominent political figure. The Foreign Secretary, Lord

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