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court and country party

court and country party. Names employed for government and opposition in the late 17th and early 18th cents. The term ‘country party’ had obvious advantages. It was much broader than Tory or church party and avoided the divisive names of Whig and Tory at a time when many were combining to overthrow Walpole. It hinted at massive support in the nation at large: ‘court and country’, wrote one pamphleteer in 1742, ‘distinguish the friends and enemies of the people.’ It called to mind a golden past when squire and countryman had lived in harmony before the new moneyed interest bore everything down. ‘Court’, on the other hand, suggested a clique subservient to the monarch, wallowing in patronage and corruption. The basic country programme was a reduction in the number of placemen in Parliament and repeal of the Septennial Act to bring about more frequent elections and return power to the people. The court party retorted that the country party members were either secret Jacobites or self-seeking careerists, making trouble for their own ends. The court's counter-accusation was strengthened by the fact that so little was done when the opposition took over, particularly in 1742 on the fall of Walpole: the only Place Act was insignificant and the Septennial Act was not repealed. The attitudes and arguments, though not the names, repeated themselves in the 1770s when the Rockinghams were in protracted opposition to Lord North's administration, prescribed economical reform, and deplored the excessive influence of the crown.

J. A. Cannon

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