Liberalism

Liberalism The process of industrialization in England and on the Continent created an enlargement of the middle classes, e.g. the merchants, bankers, etc. Therefore, it became increasingly difficult for the conservative landowning aristocrats and monarchs to retain their power over society. The term liberalism was first used in England in around 1819. Liberal ideas of freedom of trade, freedom of speech etc. were largely shaped by the French Revolution, as were most other political doctrines.

Both the advancement of the political doctrine of liberalism and the political ideas themselves were different in every country of Europe. The liberals of Britain and France were the most influential, therefore, I shall focus this essay predominantly on their influence, until the year 1832, on their respective countries in order to answer the question to what extent their influence was different. In the first chapter, I will deal with the political and economical ideologies ‘all’ liberals have in common. The next chapter will elaborate to what extent those liberalist ideas influenced society in France, until 1830. In the third, I will discuss the influence of liberalism in Britain up to the year 1832.

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Classical Liberalism: The ideologies of liberalism varied extensively in Europe from country to country, but there were also many similarities in their views of society. Liberals viewed men to be desirous for increasingly more property and respect of others, because liberals believed that the only way to get ahead in life was to gain property and respect, for the more property the better position in society. Liberals recognized that there was a need for some minimum form of government, otherwise there would be the inconvenience of every man having to be his own judge and policeman, but it would not need to be a very strong government. Government was only to restrain occasional transgressors; it was to protect the propertied against the non-propertied. Since the people also needed to be protected from an arbitrary or absolutist government, the government should be under the ultimate control of the propertied. Therefore, there should remain the power to remove or alter the legislative power, when it acts contrary to the trust that was placed in it. In other words, liberals believed in the ability of self-government and self-control, because they considered man to be rational in that man was capable of making independent decisions about his life.

However, they did acknowledge the need for a weak government. This government was to be a constitutional monarchy, in which freedom of the press, freedom of speech, free rights of assembly, religion, and freedom to dispose over private property would be preserved in the best possible way. They were convinced that the legislative and the executive branch of government should be separate and that their actions should be mutually restrictive (based on the idea of checks and balances by John Locke). As stated previously, they were also convinced of the idea that only male property owners should be allowed to vote, because they had a stake in society. How much property was needed to be eligible to vote was a hot topic of debate amongst liberals all over Europe.

Liberals were not democrats in that they supported the idea of universal male suffrage, for they feared the excesses of mob rule. However, they did believe that every adult male should have the opportunity to accumulate property to become eligible to vote and that all men were equal before the law. A liberal slogan was that careers should be open to the talents. None of the liberals in Europe was in favor of the unification of laborers into labor unions for it would be an artificial interference with the natural laws – supply and demand, diminishing returns – of the market. Moreover, liberals advocated an economy of laissez faire, i.e.

free trade; to be achieved by getting rid of or at least lowering the tariffs. They were of the opinion that free trade would be beneficial to all the countries involved, for with free trade, it would be easier to exchange goods. Consequently, each country would produce what it was most suited for, thereby increasing the country’s standard of living and general wealth. The doctrine of liberalism was generally supported by men of business, bankers, merchants, the new capitalists (the cotton lords), who owed their position to their own hard work and intelligence; they were self-made men, who would do anything to increase their property within the means proved by the law, but not beyond. Some progressive landowners that wanted to improve their property joined these mostly ‘new’ classes in their support of liberalism. Contrary to what one might think, most liberals were, to a certain extent, concerned with the situation of the workers. They created several possibilities for the workers to obtain their own property: savings banks, mutual benefit societies, and institutions of technical and vocational education (Sperber; p66). There was one field, however, in which the liberals did favor strong governmental activity: the field of public education.

They believed that well organized effective public education would create a strong society of male property owners who had a voice in public affairs. The influence of liberalism in France: In France, problems arose when Charles X became king in 1824. The reforms that were instituted after the constitution of 1814 were reversed. The Catholic clergy started to reclaim their rights to the control of public education. Sacrilegious behavior became increasingly more prohibited by law; e.g. sacrilege in church buildings became punishable by death.

A strong opposition began to rise against these extreme actions by the reactionary government. In March 1830, the Chamber of Deputies – led by Lafitte and Casimir-Prier – passed a vote of no confidence in the government. The king retorted by proclaiming that new elections were to be held after he had dissolved the Chamber. According to the result of the new elections, previous actions made by the king were to be rejected. On his own authority king Charles, infuriated by this outcome, now issued four decrees, on July 26 1830.

The first ordinance contained the order to dissolve the newly elected Chamber immediately, before its first meeting. The second proclaimed the insti …