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Whigs

Whigs. The Whigs were one of the two main political parties in Britain between the later 17th and mid-19th cents. The term, which derived from ‘whiggamore’, the name by which the Scots covenanters had been derogatorily known, was first used by the Tories during the Exclusion crisis to brand the opponents of James, duke of York. Whiggery thus began as an oppositional and populist ideology, which saw political authority stemming from the people, a ‘contract’ existing between them and their king, whom they might resist if he overrode their interests. The Whigs naturally placed emphasis on parliamentary, as opposed to monarchical, authority, while their libertarian creed made them espouse toleration for protestant dissenters. Early Whig principles played a key part in shaping the 1689 revolution settlement, though the Whigs themselves soon became divided over their attitudes to power-holding. Court Whigs ignored the party's populist attitudes and recognized the monarch's position in a ‘mixed’ or ‘balanced’ constitution. Their experience in office 1694–8 gave them a pragmatic view of government; they supported the wars against Louis XIV, sought partnership with London's extensive business interests, and made beneficial use of patronage. Under their aristocratic Junto leaders they acquired remarkable cohesion as a parliamentary party and achieved effective electoral organization. The smaller group of country Whigs remained critical of government, and under Harley in the later 1690s were absorbed into the ‘new Tory Party’. As firm supporters of the Hanoverian succession the Whigs presided over George I's accession in 1714 and afterwards engineered the long-term proscription of their Tory rivals. The resulting ‘Whig oligarchy’ achieved a hitherto unseen stability in political life over the next few decades, with power concentrated in the hands of the great Whig families. Even so, Whig discontent with Walpole's administration grew appreciably in the 1730s and helped to topple him in 1742.

By the mid-1750s the ruling ‘old corps’ Whigs under Pelhamite direction were losing their party motivation under the vicissitudes of factionalism, and George III's antipathy to party resulted in many being removed from office. By the 1760s all politicians regarded themselves loosely as Whigs, but the term was consciously appropriated by the remnants of the old corps who had regrouped as an aristocratic country party led by Rockingham. Their consciousness as a ‘party’ was promoted by Burke in the 1770s and 1780s, with economical reform and the reduction of the power of the crown essential to their evolving ideology. The political crisis at the end of the American war brought them briefly to office until Rockingham's sudden death in July 1782. In 1783 they were the driving force behind the Fox–North coalition, but the king's long-standing hatred of Fox hastened their dismissal, enabling him to appoint the younger Pitt to head a government of essentially non-party Whigs. The Rockingham Whigs, now led by the duke of Portland and Charles James Fox, split in 1794 over their reaction to the French Revolution, with ‘conservative’ Whigs under Portland joining Pitt's administration, and the Foxites remaining in opposition. The latter kept alive the name of Whig, associating it with political, religious, and social reform, thereby contributing to the ideological context of the Reform Act of 1832. The mid-19th cent. saw Whiggery largely subsumed into liberalism, though some, like Devonshire, alienated by Gladstone's concession of Irish Home Rule in 1886, finished up in the Conservative Party.

Andrew Hanham

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"Whigs." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Whigs." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/whigs

"Whigs." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/whigs

Whigs

Whigs Semi-formal parliamentary grouping in the UK from the late-17th to the mid-19th centuries. The word Whig was used by the Tory supporters of James II for politicians who wished to exclude the Duke of York from the throne. The Whig Party thus became those people who promoted the Glorious Revolution (1688) and who applauded the Hanoverian succession of 1714. Between 1714 and the accession of George III in 1760, the Tories were so discredited by association with the Jacobites that most politicians became Hanoverian Whigs, even in opposition to a Whig ministry. In the reign of George III, Toryism gradually reasserted itself. Whiggism became the party of religious toleration, parliamentary reform, and opposition to slavery. From the appointment of William Pitt (the Younger) as prime minister in 1783 until 1830, the Whigs remained in opposition (with one brief exception). They returned to office under Lord Grey, who passed the Great Reform Act of 1832. By the mid-19th century, they had come to be replaced by, or known as, the Liberal Party.

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"Whigs." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Whigs." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/whigs