The Liberal Response to Industrialization 1776-1861

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The Liberal Response to Industrialization 1776-1861

The first intellectuals to examine the effects of industrialization were products of the Enlightenment

  • All Enlightenment thinkers believed so strongly in science and progress, in the reliability of human reason, and the need for total freedom they could only see the good that the Industrial Revolution had wrought.
  • They argued that human reason, unchecked by government regulation, would eventually produce paradise on Earth
  • Ironically, these writers were first liberals.

What is liberalism?

  • believed that people are inherently good, rational, and reasonable.
  • Therefore, they don’t need absolute governments, state churches, censorship, and surveillance to tell them how to behave.
  • Rather, a free interchange of ideas, goods, and services would result in an enlightened utopia for all.
  • when modern conservatives call for a small government, deregulation of industry, free trade, and personal freedom of behavior and speech, they are being good Classical Liberals.
  • First true liberal, with his belief that human beings are born good nor bad, but become so as a result to their environment
  • People are naturally rational
  • they are ( or should be) free to contract with each other to form society, contract with a ruler to form government ,
  • right to dissolve that contract once the ruler breaks it ;
  • differing ideas about religion, and by implication of how we should all live, should be tolerated.
  • John Locke
  • Claimed that the economic world runs like the natural world
  • Gov. regulations and laws only retards economic progress
  • Economies are healthy when individuals pursue their own self-interest. When they did so, an “invisible hand’’- the market- would take care of all.
  • Pursuit of individual self-interest, multiplied across society, generated demand, production, distribution, and wealth, which trickles down to all.
  • Adam Smith: The first liberal to confront industrialization

Thomas Malthus

  • Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population of 1798 was almost as famous, but far more frightening.
  • Malthus’s reason and scientific inquires revealed something darker: a world doomed by simple math.
  • He noted that the world’s food supply increases geometrically: it doubles, and then it squares itself. The conclusion is obvious: sooner or later, with the inevitability of a scientific law that population is going to out-run the food supply.
  • David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation of 1817 made these depressing connections even clearer. This work formulated what has become known as the ‘’iron law of wages.’’
  • Those natural economic laws, of which Adam Smith was so fond, turn out to doom the working class to an eternal boom and bust cycle.
  • By fulfilling their own natural laws- the very human desire to reproduce- they doom themselves and subsequent generations to eternal poverty.

Rise of the Luddites: With no means of recourse, factory workers strike back! 1790s to the 1820s

  • General Ned Ludd led textile artisans and they began direct resistance
  • They sent anonymous threatening letters to factory owners in Nottingham..
  • They broke into factories at night and they wrecked industrial machinery.
  • They spread throughout the north of England, the heart of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Frame Breaking Act
  • February 1812, the British government passed the Frame Breaking Act, making machine breaking a capital offense.

Jeremy Bentham

  • He outlined his views in Principles of Morals and Legislation of 1789
  • In his view, institutions should be based on and measured against not what was natural, but what was practical, what was beneficial, and what was useful.
  • believed that the best society, the best government, and the best institutions were those who brought the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
  • he wants barriers and unfair privilege abolished.
  • He‘s not explicitly arguing for the creation of lots of new institutions, but for the reform of those that stand in people’s way. To that extent, he’s a Classical Liberal.
  • Utilitarians: A new kind of liberal
  • Founded by Jeremy Bentham
  • Utilitarian’s actually did secure parliamentary abolition of, slavery in the British Empire in 1833.
  • wanted to reform English Common Law, the schools, the Poor Law, and the prisons.
  • Demanded an end to press censorship and universal manhood suffrage
  • John Stuart Mill
  • A Utilitarian, he believed that humans should be as free as possible from constraint: Mill wanted to reduce the reach and power of government:
  • ’that government is best which governs least.’’
  • Mill began to confront the Industrial Revolution on a day-to-day basis and argue for a more interventionist policy.
  • Mill still wants universal suffrage, but he reasons it’s not enough to give the people a vote.

On Liberty was published, and Mill’s views were beginning to change

  • Towards the end of his life, John Stuart Mill began to urge workers to form trade unions and demand better wages and even profit sharing.
  • Mill concluded that only the government has the resources to protect workers, especially children, from raw workings of the market.
  • Only the government has the resources to improve and even provide housing and healthcare.
  • That connection is so important that government in his view has an obligation, ‘’To promote the virtue and intelligence of the people.’’
  • Effects of Liberalism
  • Britain to 1850
  • During the early years of the Industrial Revolution, Britain retained many elements of the ancien regime
  • It was still ruled by King George III, Parliament was elected only by the wealthiest landowners and townsmen
  • In the wake of the French Revolution in the 1790s, the press was heavily censored and the right of assembly severely curtailed.
  • 1815-1820
  • There was a period of economic depression,
  • Middle-and working-class agitation, and government repression.
  • They were still recovering. But the war had also left a massive government debt.
  • The end of the war led to overproduction.
  • British industrial manufactures expected a massive European demand, and they produced for it.
  • Europe was so devastated by war that it couldn’t afford British products
  • Then they put high tariffs on foreign grains- the Corn Laws.
  • Peterloo Massacre
  • In 1819, a rally of middle-class families and workers calling for reform, meeting in St. Peter’s Fields outside of Manchester, was run down by British Calvary this became the Peterloo Massacre
  • Six Acts
  • Six Acts which further restricted the right to assemble
  • Houses could be searched for seditious and blasphemous pamphlets
  • Authors could be imprisoned for such writing
  • High taxes were placed on cheap newspaper to keep them out of the hands of literate workers
  • George Canning and Sir Robert Peel
  • Around 1820, a new generation of British politicians like George Canning and Sir Robert Peel took power.
  • They came from middle class backgrounds.
  • They were raised on the Classical Liberals and Utilitarian’s
  • They launched a series of reforms, designed to wipe away old, irrational, and oppressive measures.
  • France
  • By the time of Napoleon’s fall, France was well on its own way to industrialization.
  • Moreover, the revolution had accelerated the development of an ambitious middle class while seeming defeat of the revolution in 1815 had also restored the monarchy and aristocracy to a qualified power in France.
  • In other words, you have a strong middle class, but remember that the Ancien Regime is to some extent restored. This was going to lead to a conflict.
  • Louis XVIII
  • Louis XVIII was restored Bourbon king who presided over France between 1814-1824.
  • He tried to unite the nation
  • His legislature was divided between conservative Royalists, or ‘’Ultras’’-they wanted to scrap the constitution and revive the glory days of Louis XIV
  • Charles X
  • In 1824, Louis XVIII died and was succeeded by his reactionary brother, Charles X.
  • Charles X mounted a massive coronation designed to send a signal about the sanctity of the French monarchy.
  • He compensated aristocrats whose land had been confiscated during the French Revolution. He restored control of education to the church in 1830, he issued the Five Ordinances, a French version of the Six Acts
  • He dissolved the legislature.
  • He imposed a strict censorship of the press.
  • In short, Charles X, having lived through the French Revolution, was determined to undo it.

Second French Revolution

  • 1830, Paris erupted into a second French Revolution.
  • Middle-class intellectuals wrote pamphlets denouncing the Five Ordinances.
  • Workers and students erected barricades in the narrow medieval streets of Paris, paralyzing the city and making it impossible to bring in troops.
  • Beginning on July 26, there were three days of street fighting.
  • Charles X, abdicated and fled to Britain.
  • The French legislature chose Louis Philippe, duke of Orleans, in his place hence, the term the ‘’July monarchy
  • Louis Philippe
  • Louis Philippe was an aristocrat with the soul of a factory owner.
  • He was sort of a ‘’citizen-king.’’ His virtues were thoroughly middle class.
  • He approved a liberal constitution that widened the franchise to include more of the middle class
  • He removed censorship of the press. As for workers, who you remember had mounted the barricades along with students and paid most of the price, they didn’t get much out of the July Revolution.
  • By the 1830s
        • Liberalism had given the middle classes in Britain and France what they wanted. It had given them the franchise and political power it implied
        • It had removed old irrational aristocratic privileges and censorship. It had given them complete economic freedom.
        • As for workers, the franchise and political power continued to be denied them.
        • It would not be until the second half of the 19th century that Mill’s later idea, and with them a greater sense of responsibility for workers, would begin to gain traction with the middle class and government.

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