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A Body of Opinion: Gladstonian Liberalism

A Body of Opinion: Gladstonian Liberalism

(p.291) Chapter Six A Body of Opinion: Gladstonian Liberalism
Living Liberalism
Elaine Hadley
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses mid-Victorian liberalism and the Midlothian Campaign of William Ewart Gladstone. It argues that the Midlothian Campaign is by no means the diminishment of liberal principles in the polis but, rather, the improvisatory performance of them. In this performance, indeed, nothing is certain, much is in peril, performance itself often seems ethically suspect if pragmatically necessary. In this perilous liberal practice, disinterest, opinion, individuality, and reform remain paramount values, even as the political terrain seems increasingly populist, populous, and impolitic. The chapter discusses the endeavors of Gladstone during the Midlothian Campaign and seeks to describe a form of liberal intentionality—the “embodiment of a cause”—understood not only as an expression of charismatic personality, as Max Weber interpreted Gladstone's appeal, nor as an expression of the person in any conventional way, but as another instance of the abstract embodiment of a mid-century liberal reformism.

Keywords:   mid-Victorian liberalism, William Ewart Gladstone, Midlothian Campaign, liberal intentionality, individuality, populist, liberal reformism

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