Lord Palmerston

An analysis of Lord Palmerston’s career and overview of the mid-nineteenth century Liberal party.

This paper examines how from a relatively inauspicious beginning, Lord Palmerston rose to become one of the most dominant figures of nineteenth century Europe. It looks at how in his role as foreign secretary, for fifteen years intermittently before 1851 and as Prime Minister for nearly a decade after 1855, Palmerston was a central figure, not only in British domestic policy but the very balance of power in Europe, both when at peace and at war. In particular, it discusses the contribution made by Palmerston to the formation of popular liberalism and whether he could be considered less genuine a Liberal than Gladstone or Russell.
Furthermore, Palmerston’s more considered approach to social legislation was continued in his attitude to religious liberty, an issue central to the liberal cause since 1688. Despite his perceived hostility to Catholicism, Palmerston’s Canningite credentials were demonstrated by his consistent support for Catholic emancipation in the 1820’s, and despite his Anglicanism voted for the abolition of Church rates bill. Russell saw himself as continuing the Whig tradition of the defense of freedom of worship, and Gladstone described himself as inexplicably opposed to all forms of attack upon religious liberty#. However, Russell led parliaments anti-papal stand of 1851 with particularly hostile hyperbole, and Gladstone resigned from Peel’s cabinet over the Maynooth grant in 1844.