Lord Liverpool and the Old Regime Foundations of the Second Tory Party

Thursday, January 5, 2012: 3:00 PM
Kansas City Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
William Anthony Hay, Mississippi State University
Robert Banks Jenkinson, Second Earl of Liverpool, led Britain through a period of upheaval as prime minister from 1812 to 1827, and his era marked the emergence of a revived Tory party from among the political heirs of William Pitt the Younger.  Liverpool’s tenure as prime minister amounted to an ambitious exercise in political management aimed at accommodating revolutionary change by non-revolutionary means.  Britain’s avoidance of revolutionary upheaval indicates Liverpool’s success despite the fact that he became a largely overlooked figure.  What experiences and connections shaped Liverpool’s outlook as prime minister?  How did his perspective differ from that of leading colleagues such as Lord Castlereagh and George Canning, both from Whig backgrounds, along with Pitt, who always considered himself an independent Whig? 

My paper will explore Liverpool’s family background and connections to locate him within the network of the late ancien regime.  The Jenkinson family had deep roots within a Tory political and cultural tradition marginalized until the 1770s.  Charles Jenkinson, Liverpool’s father, entered politics in the 1760s and became prominent among officials who bolstered their position through ties with George III, but Jenkinson remained at the center of a patronage network that included Tory writers and churchmen.  Those ties influenced the education he provided his  son Robert.  As an undergraduate at Oxford, the future prime minister made extended visits to the continent that exposed him to the French ancien regime and its ethos.  Liverpool’s first visit in 1789 coincided with the early stages of the French Revolution, and he later lived amongst French émigrés in Italy during a prolonged grand tour to complete his education.These connections and experiences had a major influence on Liverpool that set him apart from many of his colleagues, thought not from a wider community of loyalist sentiment that shaped public discourse from the French Revolution. 

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