Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768dbb666b-prhj4 Total loading time: 0.388 Render date: 2023-02-02T22:35:09.768Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

3 - Parliament, the state, and ‘Old Corruption’: conceptualizing reform, c. 1790–1832

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2009

Philip Harling
Affiliation:
Professor of History, University of Kentucky
Arthur Burns
Affiliation:
King's College London
Joanna Innes
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Get access

Summary

During and after the Napoleonic Wars, popular radicals such as William Cobbett routinely drew attention to what they called ‘Old Corruption’, or simply ‘Corruption’, or ‘the System’, or ‘the Thing’. They used such words interchangeably to describe a parasitic political system that took an unprecedented amount of tax money out of the pockets of Britons and transferred it to those of a narrow band of well-connected insiders through a wide variety of nefarious means. The latter included the grant of sinecures, reversions, church patronage, lucrative government contracts, an indirect-tax regime that obliged the common people to pay a disproportionate share of the state's fiscal burden, and a series of commercial and financial policies that served the interests of large landowners and City financiers at the expense of the unenfranchised.

This critique of systematic rapacity obviously owed much to the traditional ‘country’ suspicion of placemen, stockjobbers, and the like, and just as much to Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, which devoted so much attention to the maldistributive effects of a ‘government of loaves and fishes’ that thrived on chronic warfare. But the critique of ‘Old Corruption’ in the early nineteenth century was in many respects a critique of something quite new, for it was chiefly propelled by the enormous scale of the British war effort against revolutionary and Napoleonic France.

Type
Chapter
Information
Rethinking the Age of Reform
Britain 1780–1850
, pp. 98 - 113
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
4
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×