What do you think about the British parliament and politics (particularly Whigs and Tories) in the eighteenth century? What is the most important information about them?

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Generally, these two competing parties represented different factions in British society. Overall, the Whigs favored a stronger Parliament to which the monarchy mostly took a back seat. As such, they promoted liberal ideas central to the notion of constitutional monarchies. The power base of the Whig party came from long-established aristocratic families. They were vehemently against the notion of Catholic monarchs and wanted to reform the relationship between the church and state. They also found support among the nonconformist protestants, such as the Calvinists and Puritans. However, they still supported the supremacy of the Anglican Church. All in all, their philosophy was rather liberal for the time. Their economic policy was mostly protectionist, and they felt that the government should play a role in keeping foreign, particularly French, goods out of British markets.

The Tories, by contrast, supported free-trade. They strove to build stronger economic partnerships with other European powers, including France. In the eighteenth century, the Tories were mostly supported by the gentry, farmers, and working classes. Throughout most of the eighteenth century, the Tories held considerably less power than the Whigs, although they always had a strong contingent in the House of Commons. Unlike the Whigs, the Tories were more supportive of the power of monarchs and held fewer anti-Catholic sentiments.

This rivalry between the Whigs and Tories characterized much of eighteenth-century British politics. It is important to remember that they were not political parties the way we think of them today. There was no formal party power structure or much coordination among members. Rather, there were those who identified more closely with the sentiments of one side or the other. This was especially the case with the Whigs who could more accurately be called a coalition of aristocratic groups than a single unified party.

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