MODERN LIBERALISM

THE last Liberal Prime Minister of Victoria's reign was "the fascinating failure," Lord Rosebery ( 1894-95). His brief, unhappy Premiership seemed to mark the exhaustion of Victorian Liberalism. The Party dwindled into opposition and disunity. During the Boer War it was torn by quarrels between its Imperialists and its anti-Imperialists. The Party Leader, Campbell-Bannerman, elated one section of his followers and outraged the other by his Gladstonian denunciation of "methods of barbarism" in the conduct of the war--the concentration camps, the farm burnings. Meanwhile, it seemed to some acute observers that the reaction from Conservative imperialism must inevitably be a militant Socialism. Towards the end of the century, the "Condition of the People" question began to take a foremost place again in men's minds. The idealism of youth was attracted by the poetic Socialism of Ruskin and William Morris. The intelligentsia became fascinated by the social engineering schemes of the Webbs and the Fabians. The Trade Unions awakened to a consciousness of their immense latent political power. The election of Keir Hardie in 1892 as the first Socialist M.P. was a portent, a fiery portent. Change was in the air. How hard-worked was the word New in those days! There was the New Woman, drawn by the comic artists as a strident figure in bloomers, on a bicycle. There was the New Journalism which captured the generation that had been taught to read by the Forster Act. There was the New Drama of Ibsen and Shaw, and there was the Music of the Future of Richard Wagner. There was the New Age of Transport-- there were the first high-pooped motor-cars --and, before long, there would be the aeroplane. The lively, original mind of the young H. G. Wells was uniting the most astonishing scientific prophecies with visions of a New Utopia, radiant, hygienic, unparliamentary, which would succeed the hopeless squalor of a competitive and acquisitive society. Wells with his fresh passion, and Shaw with his wit, might between them have seemed sufficient to disrupt a greedy and ugly capitalist order.

LORD ROSEBERY AS FOREIGN SECRETARY Drawing by F. C. Gould, 1893

-31-

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The Liberal Party
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • List of Illustrations 5
  • Introduction 7
  • The Beginnings 11
  • The Golden Age 24
  • Modern Liberalism 31
  • The Party and the Present 42
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