LIBERAL PARTY, in Great Britain the lineal successor of the historic Whig Party. (See WHIG AND TORY.) The change of name represented a widening of scope, due to the association with the aristocratic Whigs of new elements, forces and ideas which rose into prominence during the first three decades of the 19th century. The democratic movement stimulated by the French Revolution, the new political philosophy of the Benthamite school, the teachings of the economists who developed the ideas of Adam Smith, and the emergence of new social classes and new problems, all led to demands for a far-reaching reconstruction and gave birth to a radicalism that was widely different from, though not incompatible with, the Whigs' sedate loyalty to their traditional creed of "civil and religious liberty." Soon after Waterloo the word "Liberal" began to be used to express all this movement of change. At first it had a foreign tinge: it was used by hostile critics of the English movement to suggest its kinship with the revolutionary movements of France and Spain, as when Southey used the Spanish form, speaking scorn fully of "the British Liberates"; or as when Scott (1826) de scribed the Canningites as "a mitigated party of Liberaux." Dur ing the '20S the word passed into current use, but not yet as the official designation of a party. In 1822 Leigh Hunt called his ill-fated paper The Liberal; in 1825 Hazlitt described Byron as "a Liberal in politics"; in 1827 Macaulay wrote of "the Liberal parties on both sides of the House." When in 183o the Radicals joined with the Whigs in the agitation for the Reform bill, and, still more, when in 1832 a host of spokesmen of the new ideas found their way into the House of Commons and ranged them selves behind the Whig Ministry, it became necessary to find a common designation for Whigs and Radicals, each of whom hated the others' name. The need became more obvious when in 1834 the Whigs were weakened by the secession of Stanley, Gra ham and others, and had to cultivate their Radical allies. In that year Greville wrote of "Reformers and Liberals of all denomi nations" sinking their differences in a common hostility to the Tories. Lord John Russell, leader of the discordant party in the Commons, seems to have been responsible for the official adoption of the new name. In 1839 he repeatedly refers to "the Liberal Party" in his daily letters to Queen Victoria. From that date it may fairly be said that "the Liberal Party" was the official designation of one of the two great parties in the State— the only term that covered all the supporters of the Whig Gov ernments. But the real beginning of the party (as distinct from
its name) should be assigned to 1832, when the Whigs were rein forced by an army of industrialists, nonconformists (emancipated by the repeal of the Test Act in 1828), Benthamites and econo mists. The Whig aristocrats still manned the ministries but the driving force of the reform movement came from these new elements; they were further strengthened by the triumphs of the Anti-Corn Law League (1839-46) ; and another modifying ele ment was introduced with the gradual absorption of the Peelite intellectuals who for a time denominated themselves "Liberal Conservatives." With the death of Palmerston (1865) and the succession of Gladstone to leadership, the transformation from Whiggism to Liberalism was completed. Thereafter the word "Whig" was largely used as a term of reproach. In the 831 years between the formation of the Whig Government in 1830 and the outbreak of the World War (which opened a new epoch in British politics) Liberal Governments held office for 521 years, under nine prime ministers, among whom Melbourne and Russell each held office for 61 years, Palmerston for 91 years, Gladstone for 121 years and Asquith for 71 years.
There has never been an authoritative definition of the doctrine or aims of Liberalism. The party has always included various schools of thought, united only by a desire for progress in the direction of emancipation. For this reason it has, at all stages in its career, been far more subject to dissensions than the Conserva tive Party. The following definition or description, however, prob ably covers all the shades of Liberal opinion : Liberalism is a belief in the value of human personality, and a conviction that the source of all progress lies in the free exercise of individual energy; it produces an eagerness to emancipate all individuals or groups so that they may freely exercise their powers, so far as this can be done without injury to others; and it therefore involves a readiness to use the power of the State for the purposes of creat ing the conditions within which individual energy can thrive, of preventing all abuses of power, of affording to every citizen the means of acquiring mastery of his own capacities, and of es tablishing a real equality of opportunity for all. These aims are compatible with a very active policy of social reorganization, involving a great enlargement of the functions of the State. They are not compatible with Socialism, which, strictly interpreted, would banish free individual initiative and responsibility from the economic sphere.