Liberalism against democracy : a study of the life, thought and work of Robert Lowe, to 1867
This thesis concerns the political thought of Robert Lowe. Lowe was Chancellor of the Exchequer (1868-1873) in Gladstone's first Government and always regarded himself as a diehard liberal. He also exerted considerable influence as a leader writer for the Times. It will be argued that Lowe's relative obscurity is unjustified and that he represents a strand of liberalism that is now almost totally forgotten. Chapter one deals with Lowe's education and upbringing. In particular how it was that although educated in a milieu where Toryism predominated, he came to identify himself so strongly with liberalism. Chapter two investigates Lowe's time in Australia during the 1840s. It is argued that Lowe pursued similar ends in Australian politics as he later did, on a larger scale, at Westminster. Subsequent chapters investigate Lowe's views on religion, political economy and democracy. On religion, Lowe was not a sceptic, he always maintained that he was a Christian. He was, however, critical of sectarian antagonisms within Christianity. He was mistrustful of religious enthusiasm and "sacerdotalism". As a student of political economy Lowe rigidly favoured freetrade and a laissez-faire approach by the state. Lowe's was best known for his opposition to the 1866 Reform Bill. His speeches against reform and the arguments which he deployed against democracy show that there can be a liberal case against democracy. The arguments for and against democracy were fully rehearsed almost for the last time in Britain during the 1860s. Lowe lost the battle but his case still retains a certain cogency. The final chapters deal with Lowe's effectiveness as a politician. It is argued that he is an important figure in establishing the system of company law which now prevails throughout the developed world. Without Lowe, the system of limited liability, as we now know it, would have been much longer in coming. Indeed, with anyone other than Lowe responsible events might have taken an entirely different turn. Finally, Lowe was at the centre of the battle for reform in the mid 1860s. There was a possibility of a political realignment involving anti-reform liberals and moderate tories and Lowe was a central figure in all the discussions and negotiations which attempted to bring the idea to fruition. It is argued that the failure to create such a coalition, which would have had to include Lowe, was because Lowe himself could never have worked with the tories. Contrary to some allegation, Lowe was a staunch liberal and only diverged from the majority in his party on this one major issue.