chapter  7
33 Pages

The aristocratic elite and the political process - the Liverpool Administration 1812-27

Benjamin Disraeli called Liverpool 'an arch mediocrity' and, until recently, this view of him has been largely accepted by historians.3 Was he a politician of limited ability who only retained power because more capable colleagues were more prepared to serve under him than under each other? Or was he a skilful politician combining reactionary and forward-looking policies using the collective talents of his ministers? When he became Prime Minister in 1812 Liverpool already had considerable experience in both the Commons and the Lords. Born in 1770, Robert Banks Jenkinson sat as MP for Appelby from 1790 to 1796 and for Rye from 1796 to 1803 when he became Baron Hawkesbury. He became second Earl of Liverpool in 1808. He was Master of the Mint from 1799 to 1801, Addington's Foreign Secretary between 1801 and 1804, Home Secretary 1804-6 and 1807-9 and, under Spencer Perceval, Secretary for War and the Colonies. One thing, however, is certain: Liverpool's ministry is most easily remembered for its longevity. Unlike most ministries it was not one of growing strength and gradual decline. It was at its weakest between 1815 and 1822 when its popularity in the country was at a low ebb. In contrast between 1822 and 1827 it had a strength which was impaired only by conflicts within the cabinet. Its end came suddenly with Liverpool's physical collapse in February 1827. This chapter will examine the ways in which the Tory and Whig parties developed between 1812 and

1827, focusing on the three different phases of Liverpool's rule and the inability of the Whigs to mount a consistently successful opposition. It will consider the major problems which government faced at home and the ministry's responses to these challenges. Foreign policy will be examined in Chapter 17. Finally it will consider developments in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.4