The success of the free trade lobby was twofold: in 1846 it persuaded Peel and a political majority that its case was unanswerable; ever since, it has persuaded most historians and commentators of the same thing; this had had two effects: in 1846 it broke the Conservative Party; and ever since it has ‘produced a widely-held view of the protectionists as mere révanchistes and political untouchables’.1 That both their contemporary opponents, and Peel, took such a view of them, and that one of their own leaders, Disraeli, was sometimes scarcely more flattering, and tried to drop their cause as soon as possible, has served to reinforce such a view of the Protectionists. That there is such an orthodoxy is evidence not of its truth, but of that ‘absence of historical sympathy’ which usually accompanies studies of the political right. The fact is that there was a very good case in favour of agricultural protection in the 1840s — and there continued to be one for a good deal of time after that. If these things are not appreciated it becomes difficult to understand why the party split in 1846, and why Protection continued to be a popular Conservative cause until the 1850s.
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:
- Stanley and the Protectionists
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number