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The protestant constitutionalists and ultra-toryism in Britain, 1792-1846, with special reference to Lord Eldon and the fourth duke of Newcastle

Karginoff, Simon (1994) The protestant constitutionalists and ultra-toryism in Britain, 1792-1846, with special reference to Lord Eldon and the fourth duke of Newcastle. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

The thesis seeks to combine an historiographical reappraisal of the Protestant Constitutionalists and an account of their political thought and actions with a reassessment of Ultra-Toryism within British politics during the period c1792-1846. Throughout the text the Protestant Constitutionalists will usually be referred to as Ultra-Tories or Ultras. At first glance the period which the thesis attempts to cover appears inordinately long - over fifty years. This was deliberate and decided upon to demonstrate the ideological consistency inherent in orthodox Toryism. Central to Tory philosophy was the defence of the Revolution Settlement, or Protestant Constitution.

Section one gives the general background to Ultra-Toryism. The historiography is examined and the voluminous "bad press" which began with the Whig historians is exposed. The basic philosophy of early nineteenth-century Ultras is outlined and a survey of those who made up the Ultra ranks is included. The section's most important feature lies in highlighting the foundation of Ultra ideology in the late seventeenth century. The general background includes an examination of the Tory triumph over the republicanism of the French Revolution. Ultras employed the tradition of natural law writers in the 1790s, which, combined with the defection of Burke and Pitt to the Tory and High Church party, defeated all attempts to alter the Constitution.

The second section finds Eldon the focus of attention. He has been largely ignored by historians. Eldon was the doyen of the Ultra-Tories for whom the Constitution was sacred. He held the office of Lord Chancellor and was present in cabinet for twenty-five years. In an age when "political 11 correctness" is seen as a virtue perhaps his absence from modern scholarship is not so remarkable. The section traces the battle, over which Eldon presided from the House of Lords, to offset concessions to non Anglicans.

Section three finds Newcastle centre stage, hatching plots and devising schemes in what would always prove to be vain attempts to form an exclusively 'Protestant' administration. Newcastle too has been neglected by historians. Hitherto he has been remembered for his claim to be able "to do as he liked with his own". Although the thesis does not purport to be a political biography of either Eldon or Newcastle, they are nonetheless, central players. The period 1819-1829 found many Ultras engaged in constant politicking outside parliament. However, they were always incapable of ditching their more Liberal Tory leaders. The personal correspondence and diaries of several prominent Ultras have been researched in order to piece together the overtly clandestine nature of their activities. This has been a largely neglected episode in Tory party history and has been explored in some detail. Although the Ultras were primarily only shadow-boxing, their failure to form an exclusively 'Protestant' government is not sufficient reason to ignore this aspect of their story. Section four finds Cumberland superseding Newcastle as the prime mover in machinations to topple Wellington's government.

Section five reverts to specifically Westminster politics and examines Ultra efforts to block parliamentary reform. Again Eldon was at the centre of the constitutional argument to offset any alteration to the franchise. Ultra-Tory failure to defeat the Reform Bill did not herald the demise of Ultra-Toryism. The section continues with Ultra opposition to municipal and church reforms proposed by successive Whig ministries throughout the 1830s. Although Ultra strength in the Commons was diminished by the Reform elections of 1831-32, the Ultra peers were in anything but a state of submission. Led variously by Eldon, Cumberland, Lyndhurst and Roden, the Ultra peers consistently acted in an independent manner, often insisting on the introduction of wrecking amendments or on outright opposition to all constitutional change. By 1837 Eldon was in poor health and unable to attend debates in the Lords. He died in January 1838. Newcastle remained unbowed and together with many other friends of the Constitution regularly defied the orders of Peel and Wellington.

The independence and strength of the Ultra-Tory lords reflected the deepseated resentment of many Tories at the steady abrogation of traditional Tory principles since the 1820s. By the early 1840s the antipathy of the Tory lords for the direction in which Peel was leading the party was matched by an increasing hostility on the part of Tory M.P.s. Implicit in this last section of the thesis is the suggestion that Peel was no longer representative of traditional Tory values - if indeed he ever had been. Ultra-Toryism, by contrast, being rooted in orthodox Tory precepts reemerged as mainstream Toryism by the close of Peel's second ministry. During the period 1841-1846 Peel had only been able to enact legislation, aberrant to true Toryism and ' against the wishes of an ever increasing number of Tories, with the support of the Whig opposition (much as the Whigs had relied on Peel's goodwill in the 1830s). By 1842-46 the Toryism of Lord Eldon and the duke of Newcastle was again in the ascendant. Protestantism had reemerged as the cornerstone of Tory ideology. So much was this so that it is not practical to talk of "Ultra-Toryism" but the triumph of Toryism. The concluding chapter draws attention to the consistency of Ultra, or true Tory ideology - essentially the defence of the Anglican Church - as central to what Toryism stood for in the period CJ792-1846.

It is significant that orthodox Toryism was re-established after Eldon's death. Although no-one embodied true Tory principles more than the constitutionally correct Lord Chancellor, Toryism was never dependent upon the authority of one man, whether he be Eldon or even Pitt. Peel never learnt this. He attempted to set his personal stamp on the party. As Robert Stewart has observed: "To look at the Conservative Party through Peel's eyes is distorting; Peel was always more interested in what he thought the party ought to be about than what it was".1 By contrast this student submits that certainly one can do no worse than to look through the eyes of Eldon to see what Toryism was really about in the early nineteenth century. And what of Newcastle? The thesis concludes with Newcastle - possibly for the first time - triumphant. Although his polemics against the Maynooth Grant had unsuccessfully arrested its progress, he lived to witness Peel's 'expulsion' from the party. He had viciously berated Peel in two addresses which were as much an explicit attack on Peel and all his policies as a defence of Protestantism. Newcastle achieved his life's work, for he had helped in finally stemming the torrent of liberalism which had infected the Tory party for more than a quarter of a century.

Past research into early nineteenth-century Toryism, or indeed into the Ultra-Tories has made only brief reference to Eldon. Newcastle has warranted even less attention. As Eldon was looked on with reverence by Tories as the guardian of the Constitution, any study of Ultra-Toryism should rely on his private and political papers. Newcastle too is worthy of at least some consideration. As a possible prime minister in the 1820s and as a Tory magnate of substantial influence within the party, committed to the defence of the Constitution, his role too must be examined.
The major primary source material utilized in the research for the thesis were the Eldon MSS. The Newcastle MSS also proved essential to an understanding of the Ultra-Tory psyche. In the introduction an explanation is given as to why the thesis has been researched and written, together with mention of both unpublished and published work in this field. Several MSS collections have been extensively used in conjunction with a voluminous selection of secondary source material all of which are detailed in the bibliography.

Whilst the thesis has the inevitable shortcomings which are incumbent in the efforts of an apprentice historian, the work seeks to provide further insight into an aspect of Toryism hitherto largely ignored. It is hoped, therefore, that the thesis will make a distinctive contribution to the subject and will do so with a degree of originality.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor: Durey, Michael
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/40786
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