*Peel's manifesto to his constituents is often regarded as the foundation document of modern Conservatism. The Tory Party, badly beaten at the election of 1832, faced another general election and could hardly campaign on repealing the Great Reform Act, depriving Birmingham, Leeds, and Sheffield of their new representation, and restoring Gatton and Old Sarum. Peel, leading a minority government, explained that he now considered the Reform Act ‘a final and irrevocable settlement’ and that his general policy would be ‘the firm maintenance of established rights, the correction of proved abuses and the redress of real grievances’. This left open who was to decide what was proof, what the word ‘real’ signified, and what would happen if the reform of abuses threatened established rights. Peel conceded that his statement was ‘necessarily vague’. The manifesto has been seen as the foundation for a policy of prudent adjustment or as a recipe for continual surrender.
Subjects: British History.