The government which Sir Robert Peel formed in the autumn of 1841 took office supported by a party which represented, above all, English agriculture and the Church of England. It is true that Conservative candidates in two-member boroughs with an electorate greater than 1,000 polled a larger share of the vote in 1841 than they had in previous elections; but in the large industrial towns and cities the Conservatives won no more seats than they had in 1835 or 1837. In Scotland and Ireland they were in a minority. By far the most telling statistic of the 1841 returns was that in the English and Welsh counties the Conservatives had an advantage of 137 seats to 22 over the opposition: the heart of Conservative support, the core of its majority (which was somewhere between 76 and 90) lay in the Anglican, protectionist shires.1 The election results continued a trend which had begun inside the House of Commons itself. In the nine years of Whig government after 1832 defectors from the pro-government benches had swelled the Conservative ranks, and of the 58 ‘reformers’ who crossed the floor of the House of Commons to join the opposition, 54 represented English constituencies.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Peel and the New Conservatism
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number