United Kingdom general election, 1852
1841 election
United Kingdom general election, 1841
-Seats summary:-Whig MPs who lost their seats:*Viscount Morpeth - Chief Secretary for Ireland*Sir George Strickland, Bt*Sir Henry Barron, 1st Baronet-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987...

1847 election
United Kingdom general election, 1847
-Seats summary:-References:* F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

1852 election MPs
MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1852
This is a list of MPs elected to the House of Commons at the United Kingdom general election, 1852, arranged by constituency. New MPs elected since the general election and changes in party allegiance are noted at the bottom of the page.- 1852 :...

1857 election
United Kingdom general election, 1857
-Seats summary:-References:*F. W. S. Craig, British Electoral Facts: 1832-1987* British Electoral Facts 1832-1999, compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher *...

MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1857
This is a list of MPs elected to the House of Commons at the United Kingdom general election, 1857, arranged by constituency.-See also:*United Kingdom general election, 1857*List of Parliaments of the United Kingdom...

1859 election
United Kingdom general election, 1859
In the 1859 United Kingdom general election, the Whigs, led by Lord Palmerston, held their majority in the House of Commons over the Earl of Derby's Conservatives...


The July 1852 United Kingdom general election was a watershed election in the formation of the modern political parties of Britain. Following 1852, the Tory/Conservative party became, more completely, the party of the rural aristocracy, while the Whig/Liberal party became the party of the rising urban bourgeosie in Britain. The results of the election were extremely close in terms of both the popular vote and number of seats won by the main two parties. As in the previous election of 1847, Lord John Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG, GCMG, PC , known as Lord John Russell before 1861, was an English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century....

's Whigs won the popular vote, but the Conservative party won a very slight majority of the seats. However, a split between Protectionist Tories, led by the Earl of Derby
Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby
Edward George Geoffrey Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, KG, PC was an English statesman, three times Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and to date the longest serving leader of the Conservative Party. He was known before 1834 as Edward Stanley, and from 1834 to 1851 as Lord Stanley...

 and the Peelites made the formation of a majority government very difficult. Lord Derby's minority Protectionist government
Conservative Government 1852
After the fall of Lord John Russell's Whig government in early 1852, the Tory leader Lord Derby formed a government. The Conservatives had been weakened by the defection of the Peelites, and many of the new Cabinet ministers were men of little experience. The government became known as the Who?...

 ruled from February 23, 1852 until December 17, 1852. Derby appointed Benjamin Disraeli as Chancellor of the Exchequer in this minority government. However, in December 1852, Derby's minority government collapsed because of issues arising out of the budget introduced by Disraeli. A Peelite
The Peelites were a breakaway faction of the British Conservative Party, and existed from 1846 to 1859. They were called "Peelites" because they were initially led by Sir Robert Peel, who was the British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader in 1846....

-Whig coalition government
Coalition Government 1852-1855
After the collapse of Lord Derby's minority government, the Whigs and Peelites formed a coalition under the Peelite leader Lord Aberdeen. The government resigned in early 1855 after a large parliamentary majority voted for a select committee to enquire into the incompetent management of the Crimean...

 was then formed under Lord Aberdeen
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen
George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen KG, KT, FRS, PC , styled Lord Haddo from 1791 to 1801, was a Scottish politician, successively a Tory, Conservative and Peelite, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1852 until 1855.-Early life:Born in Edinburgh on 28 January 1784, he...

, one of the leading Peelites. Although, the precise issue involved in this vote of "no confidence" which caused the downfall of the Derby minority government was the budget, the real issue was repeal of the "Corn Laws
Corn Laws
The Corn Laws were trade barriers designed to protect cereal producers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland against competition from less expensive foreign imports between 1815 and 1846. The barriers were introduced by the Importation Act 1815 and repealed by the Importation Act 1846...

" which parliament passed in June 1846.

A group within the Tory/Conservative Party called the "Peelites" voted with the Whigs to accomplish the repeal of the Corn Laws. The Peelites were so named because they were Conservative/Tory followers of Robert Peel
Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet was a British Conservative statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846...

. In June 1846, Robert Peel was the Prime Minister of a Tory government, when he, the Prime Minister and leader of the Tory/Conservative Party, led a group of Tory/Conservatives to vote with the minority Whigs against a majority of his own party.

"Corn" was important to the cost of living of the average citizen in Britain during the early nineteenth century. The term "corn" did not refer to maise as it did in the United States. In Britain, at this time, "corn" referred to wheat, rye and/or other grains. Because wheat, or corn, was used in the baking of bread and was the "staff of life." Thus, the price of wheat had a very substantial influence on the cost of living. The corn laws enforced a very high "protective" tariff against the importation of wheat into England. Thus, the high tariffs on imported wheat imposed by the corn laws had the effect of raising the cost of living and increasing the suffering the poor people in England. Consequently, agitation for the repeal of the corn laws began in England as early as 1837 with bill for the repeal introduced in Parliament each year from 1837 through 1847 when the repeal was finally accomplished.

For some parliamentary leaders, like John Bright
John Bright
John Bright , Quaker, was a British Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with Richard Cobden in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League. He was one of the greatest orators of his generation, and a strong critic of British foreign policy...

, Richard Cobden
Richard Cobden
Richard Cobden was a British manufacturer and Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with John Bright in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League as well as with the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty...

 and Charles Pelham Villiers
Charles Pelham Villiers
Charles Pelham Villiers was a British lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1835 to 1898, making him the longest-serving Member of Parliament .-Background and education:...

, the repeal of tariffs on imported corn (wheat) was not enough. They wished to reduce the tariffs on all imported consumer products. These parliamentary leaders became known as "free traders." The repeal of the corn laws irrevocably split the Tory/Conservative party. The Peelites were not free traders, but both the Peelites and the free traders were originally Tories. Thus, both the free traders and the Peelites tended to side with the Whigs against the Tories on issues related international trade issues. This presented a real threat to any government the Tories attempted to form. The effect of this split was felt in the election of July–August 1847, when the Whig Party won a 53.8% majority of seats in the Parliament. The Whigs knew that they could count on the Peelite Conservatives when an international trade issue came before Parliament. In June 1852, the effects of the split in the Tory/Conservative party was having even more effect.

Additionally, there was the return of prosperity to the British economy in 1852. While the period of time from 1847 until 1848 was a period of economic stagnation in Britain, the period of time from 1849 through 1852 saw a return to prosperity. Indeed, 1852, proved to be "one of the most signal years of prosperity England ever enjoyed." The Whigs, Peelites felt that the repeal of the corn Laws had brought about the period of prosperity. They wanted to take credit for the period of prosperity. The Free Traders agreed and continued to press for the repeal of all tariffs on consumer goods as a means of extending the period of prosperity.

The split in the Tory/Conservative Party, was a significant cause of the reformation of the political parties in Britain in the February 1852 election. To understand this reformation it may be easier to consider the British political party formation in 1852 by using the labels "Ministerialists" (the protectionist Tory/Conservatives) and the Oppositionists (the Whigs, Free Traders and Peelites).

As noted above, in the election of 1852 the Ministerialists (Tory/Conservative) party became party of the rural landholders in the counties of Britain, while the Oppositionists (Whigs/Free Traders/Peelites) became the party of the towns, boroughs and growing urban industrial areas of Britain. In the 1852 election, the "boroughs" of England, itself, elected 104 Ministerialists to parliament while electing 215 Oppositionists. However, the counties of England elected 109 Ministerialists to parliament in the 1852 election while electing only 32 Oppositionists. Similar results were obtained in Wales and Scotland in the 1852 election as the boroughs of Wales sent 10 Oppositionsts and only 3 Ministerialists to parliament, while the counties of Wales sent 11 Ministerialists and 3 Oppositionists to parliament in 1852. The results in Scotland were even more clear, as the Scottish boroughs elected 25 Oppositionalists and not a single Ministerialist to parliament in 1852. Scottish counties, on the other hand, elected 14 Ministerialists and 13 Oppositionists. Only in Ireland did this political formation less obvious, as the boroughs in Ireland elected 14 Ministerialists and 25 Oppositionists. While the counties of Ireland elected 24 Ministerialsts and 35 Oppositionists. The Irish Oppositionists were known as the "Irish Brigade
Irish Brigade
Irish Brigade may refer to:* Irish Brigade , the Jacobite brigade in the French army, 1690–1792 * Irish Brigade , pro-Union Civil War brigade of Irish immigrants...

." Although the Ministerialists, elected in 1852, began by remaining loyal to the Tory/Conservatives, the Irish Brigade knew that they would be able to count on support from some of the Irish Ministerialists, if and when, a purely Irish issue arose in the Parliament. Currently the Irish were seeking tenant rights for Ireland. An opportunity for the Irish Oppositionists to pull some Irish Ministerialists over to the Opposition arose in December 1852 when Chancellor of Exchequer, Benjamin Disraeli, introduced the budget of the Debry minority government. This budget contained a number of tax increases on the profits of the rising bourgeoisie and a number of tax cuts for the rural landed aristocracy. This budget also extended the income tax to the Irish bourgeoisie, thus angering some of the Irish Ministerialists who had been supporting the minority government. Consequently, a number Irish Ministerialists voted against the minority government on the Disraeli budget on December 17. 1852. This vote of "no confidence" caused the government to fall.

Following the fall of the minority government, Lord Aberdeen was called on to form a government. Consequently, the Peelite/Whig government was formed by the Earl of Aberdeen on December 19, 1852. This Peelite/Whig government served until January 30, 1855, when it too collapsed due to issues surrounding the British involvement in the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...




Note that while the Conservatives
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 had, in theory, a slim majority over the Whigs, the party was divided between Protectionist and Peelite wings, of which the former numbered about 290 and the latter 35-40. The Whigs themselves represented a coalition of Whigs, Liberals
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

, Radicals
Radicals (UK)
The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the United Kingdom in the early to mid 19th century, who drew on earlier ideas of radicalism and helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party.-Background:...

, and Irish nationalists. The above numbers therefore do not represent the true balance of support in parliament.
Total votes cast: 743,904

Voting summary

Seats summary

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