Looking ahead, early in January 1833, to the opening session of the reformed parliament and the likely course of public affairs, Peel wrote to one of his closest colleagues that ‘I presume the chief object of that party which is called Conservative... will be to resist Radicalism, to prevent those further encroachments of democratic influence which will be attempted (probably successfully attempted) as the natural consequence of the triumph already achieved.’1 It is interesting to observe Peel making use of the new party nomenclature — ‘Conservative’ — which had only come into fashion since the collapse of the Tory regime in 1830. In a political world given its shape by the crisis over parliamentary reform, there was an evident desire, on the part of those hitherto content to be called Tories, to avoid a party label associated in the popular mind with a bigoted and selfish opposition to all proposals for improvement. The distinction between ‘Tory’ and ‘Conservative’ was essentially one of methodology rather than of ultimate purpose: whereas the former title conveyed the idea of an uncompromising defence of the privileges and monopolies enjoyed by institutions connected to the Anglican, landed élite, the latter allowed for the possibility of gradual, cautious change, designed to reconcile those institutions with the prevailing attitudes in the modern world.
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- The New Conservatism
T. A. Jenkins
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