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Robert Banks Jenkinson Earl of Liverpool

Tory | 1812 - 1827

Earl of Liverpool

Born

7 June 1770, London

Died

4 December 1828, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey

Dates in office

8 June 1812 - 9 April 1827

Political party

Tory

Major acts

Importation Act 1815 - prohibiting the import of foreign wheat until the domestic price reached a minimum accepted level.


“(I consider) the right of election as a public trust, granted not for the benefit of the individual, but for the public good.”


The Earl of Liverpool, Robert Banks Jenkinson, became known for repressive measures introduced to restore order, but he also steered the country through the period of radicalism and unrest which followed the Napoleonic Wars.

Having served earlier in his career as leader of the House of Lords, Foreign Secretary and War Secretary, Liverpool was asked to form a government after the assassination of Spencer Perceval in 1812.

Few expected Liverpool to survive in office very long, as at first his government seemed very insecure.

But the opposition provided by the Whig party was weak and disunited, and Liverpool was able to draw on the talents of individuals such as Sidmouth, The Duke of Wellington, Castlereagh and Canning.

The ending of the Napoleonic Wars with France in 1815, aided by Wellington’s victories in the field, further boosted support for Liverpool.

But after the war, unrest broke out at home, partly caused by an economic recession that started in 1817. Unemployment, a bad harvest and high prices produced riots and protests.

Actions such as the repeal of income tax and the creation of the Corn Laws tended to make the situation worse. Lord Liverpool’s government reacted by suspending habeas corpus for two years.

Things became even worse in summer 1819, when large gatherings in favour of parliamentary reform culminated in a massive public meeting in Manchester on 16 August. Soldiers attacked the crowds, killing eleven and wounding many more.

The shocking event became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Liverpool’s subsequent ‘Six Acts’ curtailed the right to hold radical meetings.

The crackdown on liberty prompted an attempt by radicals in 1820 to murder Liverpool and his Cabinet and start a radical revolution.

But the Cato Street Conspiracy, as it became known, proved unsuccessful, and the conspirators were hung or transported.

During the 1820s Liverpool’s policy became increasingly liberal, and a period of economic prosperity began.

Liverpool also returned Britain to the Gold Standard in 1819. The anti-trade union laws were repealed, and many trading restrictions were removed.

A stroke forced Liverpool to resign and he died the following year.