Oastler (Richard) dans Cycnos


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Cycnos | Volume 28 n° Spécial

Le protectionnisme ou la mort ! Le radicalisme tory et le refus du libre-échange, 1830-1855.

Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century the Tories tried to intellectually counter the growth of free trade opinion in Britain. This article is an examination of the historical, economic, moral and religious arguments deployed for almost a quarter of a century by the Tory Radicals Richard Oastler, William Atkinson and Samuel Kydd – who were always excluded from publication in the main Conservative journals – to expose the free trade philosophy and to immunize aristocrats and workers against the seductive deceptiveness of the Manchester School. The Tory Radical discourse was almost invariable from beginning to end, becoming however more strident after the repeal of the Corn Laws and the Navigation Laws. It always portrayed free trade not as the source of the wealth of nations but as the root cause of their impoverishment, draining national capital away, generating low wages and unemployment at home through cheap foreign competition, turning England’s green and pleasant land into an industrial slum. They counter-attacked by building up over the years a system of national political economy proffering economic and social protection to all home producers, masters and men, in industry as well as agriculture. This meant a return to the “paternal and protective” state of the Tudors and the end of laissez-faire. In addition, from the late 1840s (and particularly in The Home from 1851) this national economy clearly assumed the distinguishing characteristics of a Christian social economy. The Tory Radicals morally vindicated their system by making constant references to the Bible which taught mutual dependence, cooperation, brotherhood, and condemned covetousness, self-seeking and competition. But by then the advent of “the big loaf” had much weakened the Tory Radical hold on the working classes and after 1852 what leverage they still had petered out in step with the vanishing of the protectionist cause.

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