CLIO mr brice - page 48

On April 18th 1881, Benjamin Disraeli, former Prime
Minister and founder of One Nation Conservatism,
died at the age of 76. It took three hours for the
news to reach his great rival William Gladstone, who
immediately offered a state funeral, as a reaction to a
country in mourning, despite having “no real sense of
grief ” himself. It is difficult to think of these formidable
individuals in isolation as their bitter rivalry dominated
their political careers.
Although eventually both
Gladstone and Disraeli held the
highest office as Prime Minister,
their early lives were very different.
Gladstone was from a wealthy,
Anglican background and was
educated at Eton College and
Oxford University. He made a name
for himself when expressing strong
Tory views, opposing the abolition
of slavery and the introduction
of factory legislation. These views
would rapidly change as Gladstone
formally entered the world of
politics. By 1832, Gladstone was an
MP for Newark - the beginning of
a defining yet turbulent career. In
contrast, Benjamin Disraeli, known
for his distinct and flamboyant
style, was born into a Jewish family - something which
tainted him in a discriminatory society. Disraeli was
educated in respectable institutions, although not as
prestigious as Gladstone’s, and dabbled in a few careers
before he entered politics. He was elected as an MP
for Maidstone in 1837 as a representative for the Tory
party. This leaves us with an important question. How
did these equally ambitious men, working for the same
party, and moving in the same circles, come vehemently
to hate each other?
In December 1837, Disraeli made his maiden
speech on the subject of Irish elections, but, after being
shouted down by other MPs, receiving abuse and racist
remarks, he stopped and ended his speech by saying:
““I sit down now but the time will come when you will
hear me again”. This persistence and determination is
something which led to Disraeli writing to the Prime
Minister, Sir Robert Peel, and
requesting a higher position
in 1841. Disraeli was rejected,
signalling a stagnant time in his
career, unlike Gladstone who was
exceptionally close to Peel and by
1843, had made his way up the
party, becoming the Minister for
the Board of Trade.
Over the years Gladstone’s views
evolved as he began to develop
a more Liberal outlook. This
can be seen by his laissez-faire
philosophy and attitudes towards
the economy. It is this issue
(revealed by Peel’s proposition
to repeal the Corn Laws),
which would tear apart the
Conservative party and expose
the real difference between
Gladstone’s and Disraeli’s political attitudes. When the
issue of repealing the Corn Laws arose in Westminster
in 1846, Disraeli who believed in the protection of
corn, verbally annihilated Peel for his suggestion to
repeal such laws. The seething attack unleashed by
Disraeli on Peel was highlighted for its personal nature,
leaving Peel in a vulnerable position which eventually
ensured his resignation.
Political Conflict- The Great Victorian Rivalry:
Gladstone
VS
Disraeli
Disraeli
48
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