Walpole and the Whig Supremacy

By H. T. Dickinson | Go to book overview

8 Walpole and his Critics

For more than twenty years Robert Walpole dominated a successful administration, which commanded the support of the King and the confidence of Parliament. During these years he achieved all his major political aims. He restored financial stability after the ravages of war and the disaster of the South Sea Bubble; he avoided war abroad until 1739 and promoted domestic harmony; and he reconciled a majority of the nation to the Hanoverian dynasty, the Revolution Settlement, the Whig supremacy, and to his own powerful position. Many of his contemporaries and nearly all historians have recognized that his objectives were clear and rational, his policies were pragmatic and expedient, and his methods were usually effective. In view of his considerable political success, therefore, it can come as something of a surprise to learn how unpopular he was and how much abuse was heaped upon him. These criticisms have sometimes been ignored and rarely taken seriously because they were made by such ambitious and frustrated politicians and writers as Pulteney, Bolingbroke, Swift, and Pope. The opposition to Walpole was often factious and hypocritical, and it was usually ineffective, but it deserves serious attention. The opposition was not just a small, political and literary circle based in London. Walpole was very unpopular with large sections of the community that were not powerfully represented in Parliament: the lesser gentry and lower clergy of the rural areas and the smaller merchants and craftsmen of the urban centres. These were the men who read the great Opposition journals such as The Craftsman, the London journal, and the London Evening Post, and the increasing number of provincial newspapers which

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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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