Corn Laws, Religious Toleration and Electoral Reform

One thing to remember about Conservatism is that the Tory Party was its first incarnation. But the Tories are not the same as today’s Conservative Party. William Pitt, Prime Minister from 1783-1801 was called a ‘New Tory’ but identified as an ‘Independent Whig.’ Nonetheless his supporters would mostly come under the banner of the Conservative Party once it formed in 1834 under PM Robert Peel. After the United Kingdom won the exhausting Napoleonic wars 3 issues loomed in the public’s mind.

1. Political reform: ‘rotten boroughs’, which in one case had only one elector, where wealthy patrons effectively picked the MP for a constituency.

2. Catholic Emancipation: especially in Ireland, unequal rights galled those not belonging to the Anglican Church.

3. The Corn laws which put heavy tariffs on foreign cereal crops like wheat, oats and barley and so made life more expensive for labourers in industrial towns like Accrington.

This is all explained in this enticing video on my Youtube channel!

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