Walpole and the Whig Supremacy

By H. T. Dickinson | Go to book overview

4. Walpole Consolidates his Power

A proper understanding of Walpole's role after the bursting of the South Sea Bubble is vital if we are to explain why he was able to push himself to the head of the ministry so soon after returning to office in a relatively junior capacity. The traditional view, modelled on the account given in William Coxe's massive biography of Walpole that was published in 1798, was that Walpole had always opposed the South Sea Company's scheme to take over the National Debt, had forecast financial ruin when the proposal was accepted by the Government, and had been brought to the head of affairs by the widespread recognition that only he could save the country from disaster. C. B. Realey and, to a greater extent, J. H. Plumb have proved conclusively that Walpole did not foresee the spectacular crash of the speculative boom inspired by the South Sea Company and only narrowly escaped losing a fortune in the general financial collapse when the bubble burst. While this argument has been accepted, it does appear that Walpole's success in restoring the country's finances after the crash has not been given its due recognition. It needed the financial skill of Walpole and not merely the healing hand of time to restore confidence in the nation's financial system. Walpole exploited this opportunity and displayed his remarkable abilities, while some of the leading ministers in the Government were ruined. He gained favour at Court and pushed his way back to the head of the Treasury. Though he was unpopular in Parliament for some time, he was in a position to strengthen his hold on power.

The National Debt had been created in the early 1690s. The Whigs had largely created and thereafter fully supported

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Walpole and the Whig Supremacy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Introduction to the Series 5
  • Contents 7
  • Plates 8
  • Preface 9
  • I - Walpole and the Whigs 11
  • 2 - A Whig Apprenticeship (1701-14) 20
  • 3 - The Hanoverian Succession 40
  • 4 - Walpole Consolidates His Power 56
  • 5 - Political Management 66
  • 6 - Financial and Commercial Policies 93
  • 7 - Foreign Policy 113
  • 8 - Walpole and His Critics 140
  • 9 - Walpole in Power (1721-42) 160
  • 10 - The Last Years (1742-5) 188
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 197
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