How and with what success has liberalism sought to emancipate individuals?

Topics: Liberalism, 20th century, Liberal Party Pages: 5 (1656 words) Published: February 24, 2014

Liberalism has always fought for the rights of the individual as it was one of the founding principles of the liberal ideology according to John Locke in the 17th century. As well as the rights of the individual, John Locke also saw freedom and toleration as two other key components of liberalism. This question demands, however, an examination of the success of liberal policies towards the emancipation of the individual. During the course of this essay one will examine how liberalism has freed the individual during the 19th Century under Gladstone and during the liberal reforms of 1906-1912. Finally one will conclude that in concordance with R. Rurup that, "Liberalism is regarded as the truest protagonist of emancipation." Reforms enacted by liberal governments, often did provide huge improvements in both living standards and education however, they did not always fully emancipate the individual.[1: R. Rurup, Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, (1975) 20 (1): p. 59]

First and foremost, one must look at the great liberal reforms of the 19th Century, enacted during both the first and second ministry of William Gladstone. Vincent, claims that, such reforms that, "Maximised individuality," were, "genuinely liberal." The first reform that most clearly emancipates the individual during Gladstone's premiership was the Elementary Education Act of 1870. This as Heywood argues was seen as a way out in the 19th Century form the, "Spread of slums, poverty, ignorance and disease." The act established the English elementary schooling system, as children up to the age of 12 were made to attend primary school. It created a codified curriculum with six 'standards' or ages 5-12. Strict punishments were laid upon parents who refused to send their children to school. Whilst, this bill created the provision of elementary education in the United Kingdom, it also led to many problems as the new compulsory schools were not free. A means tested scheme applied to the poorest who could not afford to send their children to school, but for many it put them in a very difficult financial position. Vincent, therefore, criticises the Elementary Education Act by deeming it, "Gladstone's empirical socialism." The act, however, was a success as by 1880 4000 school were taken over by school boards and nearly 2.3 million children were enrolled in compulsory education up to the age of 12. One can say therefore, despite the criticisms by Vincent, that the Elementary Education Act did successfully emancipate the individual as it lead to higher overall wages as workers were more skilled, for example they could read and take measurements, and it successfully started the primary schooling system in the United Kingdom. [2: Vincent A, A Modern Political Ideologies, (Blackwell) 1992 pg. 34][3: Vincent A, Political Ideologies, 1992 pg. 34][4: Heywood A, Political Ideologies an Introduction, (Palgrave Macmillan) 2007 pg. 56 ][5: Vincent A, Political Ideologies, 1992 pg. 35]

Secondly, Gladstone's ministry continued to emancipate the individual by expanding the franchise in the United Kingdom. This bill was the third reform act in the 19th Century and continued to increase the franchise by allowing anyone who had to pay rent of 10 pounds and above to vote as well as anyone who owned land with the value of 10 pounds and above. This is equivalent to £7,300 in 2013 using the retail pricing index. This was a huge leap forward as Goodwin describes the bill as, "Progress to a better society," The bill nearly doubled the franchise in England from 2,300,000 in 1880 voters to 4,100,000 voters in 1885 and did double the franchise in the whole country from 3,000,000 voters in 1880 to 6,160,000 voters in 1892. Male suffrage varied throughout the kingdom, however, in England and Wales, 2 in 3 adult males had the vote; in Scotland, 3 in 5 did; and in Ireland, the figure was only 1 in 2. Whilst the bill was a...

Bibliography: R. Rurup, _Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook_, (1975) 20 (1)
Vincent A, A _Modern Political Ideologies,_ (Blackwell) 1992
Heywood A, _Political Ideologies an Introduction,_ (Palgrave Macmillan) 2007
Goodwin B, _Using Political Ideas,_ (John Wiley & Sons) 2007
Craig F.W.S, _British Electoral Facts 1832-1987_, (Politico 's Publishing) 1989
Vincent-Emy, H _Liberals, radicals, and social politics, 1892-1914_ (Cambridge University Press) 2008
Watts, D _Whigs, Radicals, and Liberals, 1815-1914_ (Hodder Education) 2002
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