Tutor profile: William W.
What value did Thomas Aquinas attribute to the political community?
The political community is held by Aquinas to be an absolute moral good, whereby the existence of the political community is demanded by man’s very natural political and social inclinations installed within him by God. The political communities’ specific value is derived from the fashion in which it fundamentally contributes towards the moral perfection of human beings, a process that is aimed at the twofold “temporal” (felicity) and “eternal” (beatitude) happiness of man. It fulfils part of man’s telos through serving the function of enabling man to attain the life of virtue, the achievement of human potentiality. The political community allows humans to engage in the process of practical reasoning in which they are able to grapple with the basic precepts of the natural law through the formulation of human law designed to supplement and direct citizens towards good virtuous decision making in public life. In this sense the political community not only possesses its value from meeting a basic human end (to live in a society) but it also occupies a critical pedagogical function. Through employing both positive and negative laws it shapes and directs men towards forming virtuous habits that allow them to live the good life according to the natural law. To some extent this value the Aquinas ascribes to the political community is purely secular in nature, or at least (due to the natural universality of the interaural law being “written on men’s hearts’ Romans 2:15) accessible or knowable to non-Christian rulers. But the value of the political community is limited by exactly its natural universality, in the sense that the state is through its basic social construction is unable to administer the means by which humanity finds its true final end, that of beatitude. This, Aquinas attributes to the church, as the state cannot provide salvation based on natural precepts alone that are bereft of the divine law- that of revealed theology through scriptures under the direction of the pontiff. Aquinas argues that the ultimate final end is not earthly virtue or living well (although this is not something to be discounted or devalued by any means); rather that final end is the vision of or total unity with God in heaven, and to attain the ultimate end the priesthood has been instituted which is distinct from the government of kings. To kings belongs the duty to order the good life in a way that is congruous with the achievement of eternal felicity, in this sense Aquinas does not break with patristic teachings given by Augustine in his De Civitae Dei, II.22 in which he argues that ‘true justice does not exist except in that commonwealth whose founder and ruler is Christ’ Overall therefore the political community derives its intimate value from the way in which it serves to fulfil the telos of temporal social existence, the ability to live virtuously in a society and therefore one might summarise Thomist political thought as stating that Politics is a benign and positive interaction and civic happiness a worthwhile, but the buck stops there so to speak. The state is necessarily limited through its social foundations and is unable to administer the revealed aspects of god’s grace and therefore is not the sole feature of living in a community, where there is a distinct role played by the established church. Before going any further, it is necessary to sketch out how Aquinas understood the primacy of reason in political life, and by extension with much wider understanding or the place of human reason in Christian political thought up until the point at which Aquinas writes. The predominant Platonist and Augustinian conventions in the 13th century saw reason as uniquely flawed due to the consequences of the fall. The will, united in the age of innocence was divided and thus man’s rational faculties were corrupted by concupiscence and the lust for earthly passions. This attitude translated into political theory through an understanding of politics as a squalid and dirty affair, which at best was taken to be a necessary evil. Augustine interpreted political arrangements as inseparable to and are emblematic of the sinful condition of man. Government would not be necessarily had the fall not occurred and the will divided which compels us to act in greed and a desire to dominate one another. Augustine may be put simply as saying that political life based on rational politics is corrupted by man's hereditary inclination to evil, and the state is a coercive institution designed to maintain a minimum of order in a sinful world. The ruler, even if he was a Christian, could only strive to moderate the human drive for power and impose a minimal coercive justice on the earthly city that would make it possible for the members of the heavenly city to reach their eternal reward. By contrast Aquinas’ political theory operates on a basic idea that reason and revelation are not contradictory; that "grace does not contradict nature, but perfects it," Aquinas combined tradition, Scripture, contemporary practice, and Aristotelian philosophical methods to produce a lasting and influential Thomistic synthesis in politics and legal theory which was based on man’s rational desire to ‘know things’. Reason and rational activity are what defines the human condition and therefore rationality lies at the heart of Aquinas’ political theory. The recovery of Aristotle in the western Latin speaking world rolled out a new conceptual political framework that enabled Aquinas to attach new value to the concept of the political community. Aquinas’s concept of the state, like Aristotle’s, was organic: it is comprised of a unity of order for the common good. The Thomist notion of the common good combines a this-worldly Aristotelian approach with a Christian transcendental one – this is what makes his work so fascinating, especially in its contemporary political/theological context. Aquinas picks up Aristotle’s quintessential remarks that man is a ‘political animal’ in his major political work, The Governance of Rulers (De regimine principum, 1265-67). Aquinas goes on to broadens the translation of zoon politikon to argue that ‘man is by nature a political and social animal’ who uses his reason and faculty of speech to cooperate in building political communities that respond to the needs of the group and of the individuals who compose it. Aquinas refers to the Aristotelian premise that human beings are the only animals possessing the ability to exercise speech. Not to be confused with voice (vox), speech (loquutio) involves the communication of thoughts and concepts between persons. By the means of speech humans are separated from animals through their ability to collectively deliberate on core civic matters regarding "what is useful and what is harmful," as well as "the just and the unjust." (discussed in the Commentary on the Politics). Whereas other animals exhibit a certain social tendency (as bees instinctively work to preserve their hive), only humans are social in the sense that they cooperate through speech to pursue a common understanding of justice, virtue, and the good. Since speech is the outward expression of his inner rationality, man is political by nature for the same reason he is naturally rational. In using the formulation ‘social and political animals’ instead of simply ‘political animals' as Aristotle usually does, Aquinas, while not distorting Aristotle's meaning, shifts the emphasis from a natural need to participate in government to a natural need to live together in communities. This means that the common good can be the criterion for good government without the subsequent necessity of direct participation. Meaning that Aquinas is better able to structure his political synthesis of Aristotle within a pre-existing framework of medieval monarchy. Aquinas based his assumption that ‘man is a social and political animal’ on the understanding that political society (civitas) emerges from the needs and aspirations of human nature itself. The political community is something that man naturally gravitates towards because it is emblematic of the social setting in which man truly finds his highest natural fulfilment. In addition to yielding greater protection and economic benefits, it also enhances the moral and intellectual lives of human beings. By identifying with a political community, human beings begin to see the world in broader terms than the mere satisfaction of their bodily desires and physical needs. Whereas the residents of the village better serve their individual interests, the goal of the political community becomes the good of the whole, or the common good, which Aquinas claims (following Aristotle) is ‘better and more divine than the good of the individual.’ Political community properly understood, it is not an invention of human ingenuity nor an artificial construction designed to make up for human nature's shortcomings. It is, rather, a prompting of nature itself that sets humans apart from all other natural creatures. Political society is not simply given by nature. It is rather something to which human beings naturally aspire and which is necessary for the full perfection of their existence, thus the political community is seen as valuable in the sense that it allows humanity to fulfil its natural inclination or telos to live in a society. The political community is also valuable in a secondary sense that flows from the political communities natural origins, particularly in the way that the state or political community serves to develop virtuous conduct among its citizenry. The political community is valuable in the sense that it provides system of behavioural guidelines, i.e. positive and negative laws, that help human beings to develop the virtues that the twofold happiness requires, through the continual exercise of practical reasoning in legislating for human laws that are in accordance with the natural law. Aquinas’ topology of law creates 4 tiers of law: eternal, natural law, human law and divine law. Most important for the political community is the natural and human law. For the lex naturalis is that law that governs human conduct, as Aquinas states that 'in human affairs a thing is said to be just by virtue of its being right according to the rule of reason. The first rule of reason is the law of nature’. Natural law is the reflection of the eternal law mediated through the faculty of human reason and thereby constitutes the "rule and measure" of human behaviour. The natural law provides the only possible basis for morality and politics. Simply stated, the natural law guides human beings through their fundamental inclinations toward the natural perfection that God, the author of the natural law, intends for them. For Aquinas therefore, the correct direction of political life was articulated in an interlocking structure of law linked by and worked out by rational thought. The political community is a fundamental bridge between the natural law and rationality through its part is devising the human law. According to Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, natural law requires political ‘determination’. In this task human law plays a key role, uniting to form a common way of life that helps define the moral standards of those who participate in the political community. Hence, well-framed human laws, both written and customary, ‘add many things to good morals, to those that belong to the law of nature’. Human law is necessary because the fall has effaced the true whole picture of natural law from our rational faculties. The law of nature is clear but we cannot make out its smaller finer details to provide a standard of immediate moral conduct. The difference between our general awareness of the natural law and our need for detailed rules of behaviour creates a gap which is filled in by human law and by extension the political community or state. Human law in order to be considered as legitimate law is defined by its close attention to practical reasoning from the natural law. If we are by required by human law to conform outwardly to standards of virtuous conduct by the state this can form genuinely virtuous habits within us. Human law in this way (and the state) can be a force for moral education. Human law, and the political community plays a pedagogical role as Aquinas states in Summa Theologicae ‘there is present in mankind a kind of natural aptitude for virtues … but some kind of discipline is necessary if that virtue is to reach perfection in a man…hence it was necessary for the sake of peace and virtue, for as the Philosopher says in Politics “just as man is the best of animals when perfected in virtue so he is the worst when separated from law and justice”’. The law in the political community therefore exists with a twofold purpose, the first being the negative case. Negative law is necessary to restrain and reform the ‘bad man’ to open up for him the possibility of cultivating virtues and to diminish his corrupting influence on others. The second is Aquinas’s positive reply: that well-framed law assists the basically good person in acquiring or developing further the social virtues they possess. That being said the political community is limited in its value in a very specific sense, by returning to Aquinas’ claim that the political community is natural. In one sense, the affirmation of Aristotle's political thought constitutes a high appraisal of the political as it is only by living in political society that man is found to be capable of achieving his full natural potential. Thus, understood politics is no mere instrumental good, but is part of the very fabric of the human person, and thus the individual's participation in political society is a great intrinsic good for the individual as well as for society. On the other hand, the characterization of politics as natural also means for Aquinas that it falls short of man's ultimate supernatural end. For this reason, Aquinas clearly posits that although politics is natural to man and constitutes an important aspect of the natural law, ‘man is not ordained to the body politic according to all that he is and has’. By this Aquinas means that beyond the fulfilment of the natural law, the active participation in political society, and even the exercise of the moral virtues, human beings find their complete perfection and happiness only in beatitude—the supernatural end to which they are called. Of course, beatitude is only fully realised through unity with God in heaven, but even in his terrestrial existence man is called upon to exercise a supernatural perfection made possible through his active cooperation with God's grace. Precisely because it is a natural institution, political society is not equipped to guide human beings toward the attainment of this higher supernatural vocation. In this respect it must yield to the Church, which (unlike political society) is divinely established and primarily concerned with the distribution of divine grace and the salvation of souls. Therefore, the political community is not afforded total autonomy, and the dominion of Kings must always submit to the ministry of Christs kingdom found in the office of ‘the high priest the successor of St Peter, the Vicar of Christ the Roman Pontiff to whom all the kings of the Christian people should be subject just as to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. For those who cares for antecedent ends, should be subject to him who cares for the ultimate end, and be directed by his command’. Aquinas attributes essential value of the role of the political community through the fashion in which it conforms to and represents the basic social conditions of human nature predicated on man’s rational faculty. The political community no only satisfies man’s telos but allows him to develop the virtues so that he may better approximate God on earth. But the doctrine of beatitude and the natural condition of the political community penetrates all aspects of life and ultimately subordinates every activity meaning that the political community is not the sole institution that must exist. The state cannot administer grace or salvation and ultimately this is where the political communities value ceases to be so important Bibliography Thomas Aquinas, Political Writings, trans. R. W. Dyson (Cambridge, 2002) D.E. Luscombe, ‘Natural morality and natural law’, in CHLMP, ch. 37 D.E. Luscombe, ‘The state of nature and the origin of the state’, in CHLMP ch. 40 Dunbabin, ‘The reception and interpretation of Aristotle’s Politics’, in The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (1982), ch. 38 J.M. Blythe, ‘Introduction’ to Ptolemy of Lucca, On the Government of Rulers, With Portions Attributed to Thomas Aquinas, trans. Blythe (1997) J.P. Canning, A History of Medieval Political Thought 300-1450 (1996), M. Keys, Aquinas, Aristotle and the promise of the common good (Cambridge 2008) P.E. Sigmund, ‘Law and Politics’ in The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas (1993) Parel, ‘Aquinas’ theory of property’, in A. Parel and T. Flanagan, eds., Theories of Property (1979)
Subject: US History
To what extent did the New Deal mark a new era?
The ‘New Deal’ is rightly considered a critical flashpoint and touchstone in American political history, but its status as the waypoint ushering in a new era in not just American government but also American society and culture is deeply contested. Badger rightly points pout that it is particularly easy to be sucked into a cycle of politically partisan lamentation and celebration of Roosevelt’s political character that distinguishes a great portion of New Deal historiography. It has been far easier to reduce historical analysis of the new deal’s achievements to partisan statements than it has been to really explain the relationship between New Deal reform and the longer-term changes in American society that the new deal wrought. The new deal did mark a new era in American society and politics but the scope of change wasn’t universal. The new deal did prove to be the ‘defining moment’ in the development of American political economy – particularly in how the new deal shaped the purpose and role of national government in its federal context, where federalism adopted a ‘coordained’ approach that granted central government a more visible role in local government practice. The new deal was the ‘defining moment’ in changing the relationship between citizens and government where the provision of security became the core pillar of governments philosophical purpose. But the new deal was not revolutionary, and was never intended to be so one must be careful not to fall into the trap of what Garton Ash has labelled ‘retrospective determinism’. Where one attributes outcomes with little scrutiny into intentions and emphasises the need to avoid assuming that the course taken by events was the most obvious or that which would lead to the best possible outcome. Much of its economic legislation over time evolved into a sprawling system of social security and did inaugurate a new era in stylistic governing, but for its time it was tempered by a desire for stability and by other exogenous factors imposed upon the Roosevelt presidency. Critically one area in which the new deal did not mark the ‘defining moment’ or inaugurate a new era was in American race relations. The new deal was built on a broad-based liberal Democrat coalition relied on the support of key southern democratic congressmen whose commitment to both democracy and the new deal was refracted by Southern racial dimensions. The new deal in this sense actually regressed in civil rights progression through entrenching and implicitly sanctioning southern segregated society. Thus, the achievements of the new deal and its era defining status must be read selectively. One common conception of the new deal was that it radically shaped the relationship between federal, state and local government and thus marked a new era in intergovernmental relations associated with an emerging asymmetry of power as national federal schemes took over from local government provision. Bolstering this argument is well-known statistical trend that the growth of government as a share of GNP accelerated in the 193Os, in 1902 public spending accounted for only 8 percent of GNP; rising to 20.36 percent in 1940 and rising to 38.22 percent in 1946. In this trend, not only did the relative size of government expand, but the relationship between the federal, state and local governments was also irrevocably altered in the mid-1930s. A striking change occurred around 1935 when the federal government, as a fraction of all government expenditures, grew largely at the expense of the localities. In 1902 the federal share in public expenditure was 34 percent; local government accounted for 58 percent, by 1940 this had fallen to 37%. While the size and scope of government undoubtedly changed as the new deal emerged the American experience was deeply conditioned by its political attachment to federalism. While national government did occupy a new dominant role at the expense of state and local government this new-found agency was expressed through intergovernmental cooperation and resulted in what Wallis and Oates label as the transition from tracked to coordinated federalism. The federal fiscal model championed by the new deal of intergovernmental grants ended the relative fiscal autonomy of states and encouraged greater intergovernmental interplay. This might well be considered a new era or interpretation of federalism. It is correct that a great deal of new deal initiatives were administered and run nationally, social security being the most prominent national initiative, but often the interaction between federal, state and local governments in the context of a new deal agency such as FERA or the WPA was more complex and characteristic of the new idea of coordinated federalism. Federal fiscal policy prioritised huge increases in relief grant expenditure which was then filtered through federal agencies into the states, providing large budgetary connections with federal government which had the subsequent effect of making government feel more visible at a grassroots level. A key example of this in practice was the WPA – a national programme that was administered co-operatively with the states, the two mechanisms through which this cooperation was insured was project sponsorship and recipient selection. WPA projects were initiated by a sponsoring government at any level, these were then forwarded to the state WPA office for approval. But final authorisation and dispensation of federal funds lay with Washington. Between July 1935 and August 1937, 96 percent of all WPA projects approved by federal officials were sponsored by local or state government Project sponsorship and recipient selection demonstrate the extent to which intergovernmental cooperation pervaded the nominally ‘national’ administration of the WPA. Fiscal centralisation. And administrative decentralisation allowed new deal agencies to operate effectively by drawing on local administrative resources, through operating at a local level federal government strengthened all levels of government while centralising fiscal mechanisms. The effect this had was to bring federal government into contact with citizens at a local level. This is not to say that state governments became tools of federal government State and local governments had their say in what projects the WPA would undertake, and by the end of the decade, the WPA could not build projects without state and local sponsorship and a 25 percent contribution. Rather the cooperative framework changed how federalism was understood to operate and gave a new, critically publicly visible, role for central government. Statistically then the new deal did change the quantitive relationship between central government, and more local forms of government. But if the new deal was to really inaugurate a new era this change would move beyond bureaucratic figures of federal officials and fiscal policy and programmes to change the raison d’être of government. This is where the long-term changes of the new deal were most substantive, as the second phase of the New Deal introduced more radical forms of state support that went beyond the employment of large numbers of people in public works to establish a system of national social security and to regulate the domestic economy. These new social security programmes redefined the purpose of government vis a vis protection of the citizen in a domestic setting. Historically American welfare provision had been slow to follow the rest of the world in adopting a form of social security system. In 1935 no more than 27 of 48 states had introduced old age pensions and only one (Wisconsin) had an unemployment insurance scheme. As the New Deal historian William Leuchtenburg has pointed out; ‘when economic disaster struck no major nation in the world was so ill prepared as the United States’, for its national state lacked ‘both instruments of control and a tradition of state responsibility’. The new deal radically changed that; within eight days of rolling out the program in 1935, over one million workers had been issued Social Security numbers. Four months later, almost 26 million had enrolled despite most projected pay-outs, although those pay-outs were below what is labelled by the OECD as the poverty level. New deal legislation also attempted to restore confidence in business after the great crash in 1929. The new deals domestic economic interventions did not, contrary to its political mythology, initiate grand redistributions of wealth or change the basic tenant of private ownership, or break up large monopolies. Schlesinger conceded in a 1948 essay that the new deal made ‘no fundamental changes or attempted to grapple with the problem of the economics of concentration’ but that was not the point because the ‘new deal took a broken and despairing land and gave it a new confidence in itself’. The New Deal’s legislative directives towards business was designed to create stability and regularity within the existing system of capitalist free markets, but with a critical caveat, that it be done through federal government programmes. FDR’s approach to regulation of banking best demonstrates a federal approach based on provision of security. While leaving the local pluralised banking system in place two key measures were introduced. The first was the Glass-Steagall Banking Act of 1933. This separated commercial from investment banks thus securing depositors' savings against the risks of being used for highly speculative purposes. The same Act created a new entity, the Federal Bank Deposit Insurance Corporation (FBDIC, later simply FDIC). Guaranteeing individual bank deposits up to five thousand dollars (later raised) and funded by minimal subscriptions from Federal Reserve member institutions, the FDIC forever liberated banks and depositors from the fearful psychology of bank "runs," or panics. The second measure was to create new regulatory commissions where rules of competition and commercial disputes could be agreed upon the National Labour Relations Board provided a compelling example of that technique, in large infrastructural industries like transportation, communications, and energy, as well as in the wholesale distribution and retail marketing sectors, the New Deal sought stability by directly curtailing price and cost competition, often by limiting new entrants. The Civil Aeronautics Board, created in 1938, performed those functions for the infant airline industry; the Interstate Commerce Commission for the older railroad industry, and, after the passage of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, for truckers as well. Kennedy argues that the New Deal's premier objective, at least until 1938, and in Roosevelt's mind probably for a long time thereafter, was not economic recovery but structural reform which would provide stability and thereafter economic recovery. Domestic economic reforms that gave government a new role in the economy did not impose an elaborate oppressive regulatory apparatus. It did not create a new economic epoch but actually sought to stabilise the old free market capitalism, albeit in a slightly more regulated form. Social security provision and intervention in the domestic economy by government broadly cemented a very tangible link between government, citizen and employers as the apparent failure of capital conditioned the wider public to accept and embrace government expansion. The welfare question was inverted, no longer did people ask, should government intervene? Rather politics was focused around questioning why should it not? One might argue that the new deal in this sense was bolstered by the effects of the great depression. That in part it preyed in calamity and mass unemployment to focus public opinion towards accepting an expanded state. That the ideological bias against government was shattered by disaster. This is in part why the new era that the new deal ushered in was so fragile according to Cowie. Cowie posits that the more appropriate task for the historian in analysing the effects and legacy of the new deal would be to recast the New Deal and post-war era as ‘the long exception’ to the nation's political traditions. The Great depression which ushered in the ideological acceptance of government was framed against a backdrop of failing private industry that had resulted in unemployment reaching seven million in October 1931 and reached its peak of between twelve to fifteen million – a total that made up nearly a quarter of the working population in July 1932. Ultimately this trend was not timeless, GNP recovered to its pre-1929 levels by 1939. By focusing in on social security and the conditions that allowed it to come into being one can show that the era that the new deal ushered in was a fragile juggernaut based on highly contingent economic circumstances and memory of the pre-depression economic mindset itself. The institutional power that the new deal possessed should not be mistaken for ideological permeance, it did reshape the relationship between government and citizen but its political scaffolding contained a set of internal fractures (highly contingent historical circumstances) that, when stressed, broke apart barely two generations later. Bibliography Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (2013) David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (1999) Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth Century America (2005) Alan Brinkley, The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War (1995) Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle, eds., The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980 (1989), Intro and chapters 1-4 ‘The Long Exception: Rethinking the Place of the New Deal in American History’ - Jefferson Cowie M. Jones ‘The limits of liberty; American history 1607-1980’
Subject: European History
Did the 1832 Reform Act weaken or strengthen the party system?
1832 marked a turning point in the development of political parties in the United Kingdom. The act prompted the creation of local party associations which generated a grassroots level of political identification that would ultimately be tapped into by political parties as the 19th century progressed and the electorate expanded beyond the propertied classes and into the working classes. The 1832 Great Reform Act’s (GRA) effects upon the strength of party feeling in the country can be divided into its effects at a grassroots level and those effects felt within the House of Commons and by MPs. There is an interesting debate to be had over whether party loyalties at a grassroots level actually possessed more political authority over policy ‘than either the sovereign or the House of Commons’ as Peel suggested. Out of a question about party one might therefore reasonably call into question the extent to which MPs role as representatives of extra-parliamentary political opinion changed after reform. Peel is often attributed as the founding father of centralised party by a certain historical tradition. This approach is built off of the observable influence and stature that Peel possessed in the newly founded registration networks at a grassroots level and national political clubs. However, it is misleading because it assumes that Peel himself believed in the idea of party to begin with. A naïve assumption that once bypassed helps to explain why party failed to properly develop in the commons. Party may well be summarised as an ‘imagined community’ a phenomenon in which local party activists were attached to a political community that simply wasn’t recognised as legitimate by figures of political authority. In this sense party was strengthened at a grassroots level but remained as it did before 1832 in the Commons, nebulous and disconnected and only roused to unity to form what one can really call a parliamentary political party on individual political dilemmas. The expansion of the franchise from the GRA required a reforming of the voter registration process which had the unintended effect of polarising voters. Previous to the GRA the right to vote was demonstrated by the elector in question at the poll itself, a relatively efficient solution when the electorate numbered only 240,000. However, with the expansion of the elctorate to 370,000 people in England alone and attempts to standardise the franchise it became clear that the old system of registration would dramatically increase delays at the poll. Thus, the act set out provisions to try and streamline this system by moving the registration process to before the poll. The new registration process introduced new ‘revising barrister’s courts’ any elector could ‘object’ to another’s right to vote and the defendant would have to be prepared to ‘defend’ their entitlement against a possible disqualification with only three days’ notice being given. Clause 27 of the Reform Act stated that the vote was entitled to the occupation of ‘any house, warehouse, counting-house, shop, or other building’ being held ‘either separately, or jointly with any land’. The effects of this imprecise terminology became immediately apparent at the first registration. In Staffordshire, for example, it was reported that ‘there have been some hundreds of hours of public time consumed in debating the meaning of the word ‘shop’, a word which has no construction standing upon statute or other legal authority’. The ambiguity of a new uniform franchise made it easy to object and disqualify voters on the basis of vague partisan objections and therefore partisanship grew from the registration process itself, by heightening the importance of party attachments at a local level. Party registration organisations were the means by which one could fight off, and navigate the complex legal situations created made by attempts to challenge ones right to vote and thus aligning yourself with a local party network was critical. This had the effect of lessening the space for the 'independent' voter in the political process. Neutral or what Salmon describes as 'floating voters' often found themselves objected to by both political parties as they couldn’t be relied upon to vote for their preferred candidate and were and effectively 'squeezed', with the ultimate goal that the voter would be forced to declare a party in the run up to an annual registration revision. One can look at Canterbury’s municipal elections (which after the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 used the same system of registration so it may therefore be used to draw comparison with general elections) to demonstrate the sustained effects of party pressure on the electorate. In Canterbury 400 voters out of a possible 487 (82 per cent) chose to reproduce their previous parliamentary partisan allegiance. Over half (53 per cent) of the total turn-out of 749 voters at Canterbury’s first municipal election were ‘persistent’ political partisans, who consistently polled at a local level precisely as they had done nationally. 156 voters out of a possible 220 (71 per cent) chose to repeat their partisan ‘plump’ for the single tory parliamentary candidate by voting for tory councillors. Liberal levels of partisanship were even more apparent. No fewer than 244 voters out of a possible 267 (91 per cent) repeated their partisan choice of two Liberal M.P.s by voting for Liberal councillors as well. Partisan voting habits this pronounced demonstrated at Canterbury was due to the fact that parliamentary lists were revised yearly (Parliamentary lists were revised by the barristers at any time between 15 September and 25 October of every year) and therefore political confrontation between parties was a perpetual cycle. Politics and party-political rifts at Westminster were quite literally forced upon electors year upon year rather than every 7 years at the polling station. The Times noted in 1839 that a general registration resembles a general election in most years. A bustling and frantic yearly system of registrations effects were heightened by the adversarial court room atmosphere introduced by the system of objections, which affected voters in a very personal way. At any revision they might be forced to defend their vote (which represented their respectable status) against a petty partisan objection. For example, at the ninth Bolton municipal revision Liberal agents tried to disfranchise the burgesses of Little Bolton’ for non-payment of a defunct borough rate, having previously ‘made out a list of Liberals who were to be called upon to pay the rate, and thus pocket the franchise’. The Conservatives’ response was to file nearly two thousand objections against ‘both friends and radicals, in order to consume the time allowed by law to revise the lists, and so fall back upon the last year’s roll’. This whole system of partisan objection was a considerable inconvenience and financial expense to voters which ultimately served to make party connections and loyalties entrenched as one perception of the other side soured. This all seems to suggest that the system of registration was inherently party political, but O’Gorman offers an interesting dissenting opinion. In ‘Voters Patrons and Parties’ he argues that there was little that was newly political about the registration process, and that the new system was ‘little more than a streamlined way of locating new voters’. Statistically the process of registration was a much more streamlined way of locating new voters as while the size of the potential electorate had increased at most by 45% in 1832 the numbers actually voting increased by around 500% and Derek Beales calculates that while 2.49% of men actually voted in 1830 a much larger percentage did in 1832 (11.03% ) and in 1835 (7.7%). However, this perspective neglects the much larger social-political role the registration organisations had in engaging with the electorate, which Conservative groups did exceptionally well through events such as Conservative dinners. The registration networks created party ties that expanded further than just the simple act of registration. George Kitson-Clark puts it eloquently, arguing that the whole country suddenly "resounded with the noise of Conservative Association dinners, with the clink of glasses, and the clatter of knives and forks, the hubbub of dinner-table conversation now and again to be hushed for praise for the peerage ". The press reported that some 115 of these dinners took place between January 1835 and February 1841. Registration and party associations played a much larger role than just as O’Gorman puts it clinically ‘registering voters, canvassing support, distributing money and running the campaign’. With party associations having a a secondary social capacity which only served to intensify and strengthen party feelings at a grassroots level by drawing out feelings of social inclusion within a political community. New party associations are often depicted as being centrally directed and endorsed by national political clubs, such as the Carton club and the Reform club. This would suggest that party as a political entity was a national phenomenon which was aspect of party that had not existed before the GRA. Bonham, who Gash attributes as ‘the permanent and indispensable (and critically centrally based) official round whom the organization was built’, and ‘the cardinal figure in the extra-parliamentary management of the party’ persuaded Peel in May 1834 that a ‘very small committee’ consisting of no ‘more than 7’ should be permanently formed at the Carlton to ‘obtain information and prepare’ for elections. This standing committee Gash argued, constituted the centralised instrument by which the Conservative party oversaw and monitored the registration process for political gain. Gash argues that as a result of the depth of central integration into local party networks by the Autumn of 1840 Bonham was able to give a comprehensive and definite answer to a request from Peel for a forecast of the result of a Whig dissolution. To which Peel thanked him as ‘no party out of office has ever possessed such sources of intelligence and such means for active war’. Both the intelligence and means were derived from this central oversight of local institutions. Furthermore, central integration and oversight was amplified by local Conservative associations adoption of a national Peelite political consciousness which lent itself to centralised control. Conservative associations had the natural tendency to transcend their highly localised origins by attaching themselves to national political leaders naturally leaning towards the centre by default. Probably the most overt form of this attachment was Conservative associations adoption of Robert Peel’s Tamworth Manifesto, which was often enshrined in the associations’ constitutions. The Blackheath Association, directly acknowledged Peel, suggesting that ‘it is our firm conviction, to use the emphatic words of Sir Robert Peel, that it is possible to combine with the maintenance of ancient institutions and respect for established rights, the redress of real grievances, the correction of acknowledged abuses, the pure administration of public patron age, and a wise economy in the control of public expenditure’. The Gravesend Association announced in its constitution that the "spirit of the reform act" (words directly lifted from the Tamworth Manifesto) would be honoured by those who enlisted under the Conservative banner. This alignment of associations to Peelite politics meant that they were a more cohesive force which could be managed and organised by Bonham and the Carlton club in a much more conclusive fashion and electoral planning more efficient under one united ideological banner However, central organisation of these associations has been greatly exaggerated. Local associations lacked direct and constant central oversight and the Conservative associations in particular received little direct endorsement and oversight from national political leaders. The Conservative initiatives ion the registration courts owed in reality little to any direct involvement by senior party leaders. Peel’s frequently cited exclamation which was seized upon by the Tory press to ‘register, register, register!’ was not an emulation of Daniel O’Connell’s ‘agitate, agitate, agitate!’ slogan. In the main body of the 1837 speech from which it was taken, Peel had in fact derided the whole process of registration as ‘disagreeable’, ‘inconvenient’ and above all ‘revolting’ and although he led a party whose electoral recovery was largely based upon the work of local constituency organisations, he played no part in their development and took remarkably little interest in their activities. The lack of central endorsement reflects how the narrative of a top down party-political process has been slightly exaggerated. Political authority in the period recognised the role that party had to play, and its increasing significance but was unwilling to lend it central authority. Party in the Commons after the GRA is best understood as a loose connection of political figures each with their own factions in that bore some ideological connections but were separated by very deep contradictory divisions which prevented organised parties from forming. The opposition and government were dominated by certain political factions which often had remarkably strong leadership which through individual’s strength of political will alone perhaps mistakenly creates the illusion of the emergence of ‘political parties’. If one looks at parliamentary division lists for the Whigs in this period there is if anything a slight decline in unified party discipline. In 1832 for example 23% of Whig MPs always voted with government, a further 54% voted against their government in 10% divisions and finally 23% voted against their government in more than 10% of divisions. Looking at the session of 1835 only 9% voted 100% of the time in accordance with the government, one can see a notable increase to 72% of Whig MPs voting against their government in 10% divisions, and a further 19% in more than 10% of divisions. The rise in partisan voting records at constituency level did not reflect in their representatives voting in a more partisan fashion in the Commons. The statistics don’t fluctuate enough to demonstrate a total implosion of party loyalties nor do they rapidly swing in the direction of unfettered support for government. This was most likely because those actors in parliament themselves didn’t consider their political positions fixed to one individual monolithic political outlook. This is why neat categorisation of MPs into party groupings is a difficult task and nailing party as a wider entity down even harder. Hilton points out that there was a critical collision between three political issues within produced a plurality of factions within parliament. The reform question, the social policy spectrum and the civic rights of dissenters formed the crux of this division. One can look at Peel as an example of this plurality of individual thought. Politically Peel was a centrist who believed that the best way to preserve the old system was to reform its abuses but he was at the far end if the social policy spectrum and arguably dogmatic in his pursuit of self-help and individualism. One ends up with a divided party where economic liberals tend to be socially and religiously illiberal and economic interventionists tended to be religiously liberal. Thus, in 1839 the Annual register was able to observe that of the 319 opposition seats, only 80 were listed as Conservative; of the remainder, 139 were listed as Tory and 100 as ultra Tory. This demonstrates that certain issues cut across any neat two-party distinction and the parallels and factions which formed as a result of these divisions within parliament made the formation of coherent political parties committed to one coherent ideological outlook a difficult task to complete. In light of these arguments at a simplistic level party appears to have been buttressed and strengthened at a local level through the process of registration that forced voters to identify with a party year on year, but appears to fall short of properly forming in the Commons itself. Registration brought the mechanics and divisions of party politics into the social and political life of an elector which helped to entrench and strengthen party loyalties. A national political consciousness attempted to bolster the feeling of a national party. But a vision of a national party created by particular local party activists was ultimately at its core incompatible with the realities of a chamber that was ideologically diverse, and which was at odds with the political will of Westminster’s leaders who often viewed national party as something to be sneered at. Arguments for centralised party organisation are debatable as they eschew the practice of British electoral politics in the post-reform era that was largely localised and autonomous. Due to this attachment to national political figures in government or opposition beneath the surface party attachments relied excessively upon individuals to sustain itself, thus when Peel’s government collapsed in 1846 party dissipated with it. Which would suggest that any strengthening of party after the GRA’s passage was unsustainable and built on poor foundations. Bibliography J. Parry, The rise and fall of liberal government in Victorian Britain (1993), R. Brent ‘New whigs in old bottles’, Parl Hist (1992) I. Newbould, ‘Peel and the Conservative party 1832-41’, EHR (1983) M. Cragoe ‘The Great Reform Act and the modernization of British politics: the impact of Conservative associations, 1835–1841’ JBS (2008) P. Salmon ‘Local politics and partisanship: the electoral impact of municipal reform, 1835’, Parl Hist (2000) Miles Taylor, ‘Empire and parliamentary reform: the 1832 Reform Act revisited’, in Arthur Burns and Joanna Innes, Rethinking the Age of Reform (2003) Boyd Hilton ‘A Mad Bad and Dangerous People’ Salmon, P. (2012). Electoral Reform at Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P. Salmon ‘Political modernization 1832-41’, Parliaments, Estates, Representation N. Gash ‘Politics in the age of Peel’ F. O’Gorman ‘Voters Patrons and Parties’
needs and William will reply soon.