Liberal Party

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Liberal party,

former British political party, the dominant political party in Great Britain for much of the period from the mid-1800s to World War I.


The Liberal party was an outgrowth of the WhigWhig,
English political party. The name, originally a term of abuse first used for Scottish Presbyterians in the 17th cent., seems to have been a shortened form of whiggamor [cattle driver]. It was applied (c.
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 party that, after the Reform Bill of 1832 (see Reform ActsReform Acts
or Reform Bills,
in British history, name given to three major measures that liberalized representation in Parliament in the 19th cent. Representation of the counties and boroughs in the House of Commons had not, except for the effects of parliamentary
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), joined with the bulk of enfranchised industrialists and business classes to form a political alliance that, over the next few decades, came to be called the Liberal party. Much of the Liberal program was formulated by an important manufacturing middle-class element of the party known as the Radicals, who were strongly influenced by Jeremy BenthamBentham, Jeremy,
1748–1832, English philosopher, jurist, political theorist, and founder of utilitarianism. Educated at Oxford, he was trained as a lawyer and was admitted to the bar, but he never practiced; he devoted himself to the scientific analysis of morals and
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. The Liberals distinguishing policies included free trade, low budgets, and religious liberty. Their anti-imperialism reflected confidence in Britain's economic supremacy. Most Liberals believed in the economic doctrines of laissez-fairelaissez-faire
[Fr.,=leave alone], in economics and politics, doctrine that an economic system functions best when there is no interference by government. It is based on the belief that the natural economic order tends, when undisturbed by artificial stimulus or regulation, to
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 and thought labor unions, factory acts, and substantial poor relief a threat to rapid industrialization.

Achievements in Power

Lord John RussellRussell, John Russell, 1st Earl,
1792–1878, British statesman; younger son of the 6th duke of Bedford, known most of his life as Lord John Russell.
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 is credited with originating the party's name, and his government of 1846 is sometimes described as the first Liberal ministry. Whig peers like Lord MelbourneMelbourne, William Lamb, 2d Viscount
, 1779–1848, British statesman. He entered Parliament as a Whig in 1805, was (1827–28) chief secretary for Ireland, and entered (1828) the House of Lords on the death of
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 and Lord PalmerstonPalmerston, Henry John Temple, 3d Viscount,
1784–1865, British statesman. His viscountcy, to which he succeeded in 1802, was in the Irish peerage and therefore did not prevent him from entering the House of
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, upholding the principle of aristocratic government, prevented further franchise reforms for over 30 years after the 1832 act. But Lord John Russell, William GladstoneGladstone, William Ewart,
1809–98, British statesman, the dominant personality of the Liberal party from 1868 until 1894. A great orator and a master of finance, he was deeply religious and brought a highly moralistic tone to politics.
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, and John BrightBright, John,
1811–89, British statesman and orator. He was the son of a Quaker cotton manufacturer in Lancashire. A founder (1839) of the Anti-Corn Law League, he rose to prominence on the strength of his formidable oratory against the corn laws.
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 (one of the Radicals) fought stubbornly for electoral reforms, even though the newly enfranchised masses might then insist on labor legislation opposed by the party. These leaders provided the impetus for the Reform Bill that their Conservative opponents passed in 1867.

The laissez-faire outlook and hegemony of the Liberal party were challenged in the last quarter of the 19th cent. When the party's program of electoral reform reached completion in 1884, Gladstone took up Irish Home RuleHome Rule,
in Irish and English history, political slogan adopted by Irish nationalists in the 19th cent. to describe their objective of self-government for Ireland. Origins of the Home Rule Movement
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 as a new cause. However, during the long period of depression from 1873 to 1893, many businessmen began to demand closer imperial ties. Because of the Home Rule issue, a large segment of businessmen, led by Joseph ChamberlainChamberlain, Joseph,
1836–1914, British statesman. After a successful business career, he entered local politics and won distinction as a reforming mayor of Birmingham (1873–76).
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, along with English owners of Irish land, left the Liberal party in 1886 to form the Liberal-Unionists, who allied themselves with the Conservative party.

In losing office, the divided Liberals became stronger advocates of labor legislation. They came to depend more heavily upon the support of special groups like the Irish, labor, and nonconformists. The party was once more victorious in 1892 and again, under Sir Henry Campbell-BannermanCampbell-Bannerman, Sir Henry,
1836–1908, British statesman. Entering Parliament (1868) as a Liberal, he served as secretary to the admiralty (1882–84), secretary of state for Ireland (1884), and secretary of state for war (1886, 1892–95).
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, in 1906. Herbert Asquith (see Oxford and Asquith, Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st earl ofOxford and Asquith, Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st earl of,
1852–1928, British statesman. Of a middle-class family, he attended Oxford, became a barrister in London in 1876, and was elected to Parliament as a Liberal
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), a Liberal imperialist, became prime minister in 1908, to be followed by the flamboyant David Lloyd GeorgeLloyd George, David, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor
, 1863–1945, British statesman, of Welsh extraction.
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 during World War I.


By 1914 the Liberal government had passed substantial welfare legislation but, unwilling to adopt a full socialist program, the Liberals began to lose support to the new Labour partyLabour party,
British political party, one of the two dominant parties in Great Britain since World War I. Origins

The Labour party was founded in 1900 after several generations of preparatory trade union politics made possible by the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884,
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. The party's stubborn adherence to the doctrine of free trade, arguments between the Lloyd George and Asquith factions of the party, long years of depression, the Irish problem, growing labor radicalism, and the rise of a working-class party all account for the rapid postwar decline of the Liberals.

During the 1920s they were still a strong element in Parliament, and several, notably Sir John Simon, were members of the National government of the 1930s. During the 30s, however, their parliamentary representation fell rapidly, and in no election between the end of World War II and the 1980s did they return more than a handful of candidates. In 1981 the Liberal party entered into an alliance with the newly formed Social Democratic party; together they won 22 seats in the House of Commons in 1987. In 1988 the parties merged to become the Social and Liberal Democratic party (now the Liberal DemocratsLiberal Democrats,
British political party created in 1988 by the merger of the Liberal party with the Social Democratic party; the party was initially called the Social and Liberal Democratic party.
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See R. B. McCallum, The Liberal Party from Earl Grey to Asquith (1963); T. Wilson, The Downfall of the Liberal Party, 1914–1935 (1966); R. I. Douglas, The History of the Liberal Party, 1895–1970 (1971); R. Eccleshall, British Liberation (1986).

Liberal party,

Canadian political party. Prior to confederation in 1867, reform parties advocating greater local participation in provincial governments, free trade, and increased separation of church and state existed in Canada West, Canada East, and the Maritime Provinces. After 1867 although the provincial reform parties dominated local politics in several provinces, they had problems establishing a viable national party. The only Liberal prime minister in the first three decades after Confederation was Alexander MackenzieMackenzie, Alexander,
1822–92, Canadian political leader, b. Scotland. Emigrating (1842) to Canada, he worked first as a stonemason in Kingston, Ont., and then as a builder and contractor in Sarnia. In Lambton he became editor (1852) of a Liberal newspaper.
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The lack of a strong base in Quebec hampered national Liberal party efforts. However, opposition in Quebec to the execution of French-Canadian rebel Louis RielRiel, Louis
, 1844–85, Canadian insurgent, leader of two rebellions, b. Manitoba, of French and Métis parentage. In 1869–70 he led the rebels of the Red River settlements, mainly Métis (people of mixed European–indigenous descent) and indigenous
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, and the success of Wilfrid LaurierLaurier, Sir Wilfrid
, 1841–1919, Canadian prime minister. He studied law at McGill Univ. His premiership of Canada (1896–1911), the first to be held by a French Canadian, was the longest continuous term in the history of the dominion.
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 in moderating the traditional anticlericalism of the Quebec Liberal party, paved the way to national success. As prime minister at the turn of the century, Laurier provided the model for future Liberal party successes by forging a broad coalition based on an English-French alliance that appealed to middle-class interests.

For most of the 20th cent., the Liberal party dominated Canadian politics. William Lyon Mackenzie KingKing, William Lyon Mackenzie,
1874–1950, Canadian political leader, b. Kitchener, Ont.; grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie. An expert on labor questions, he served in Wilfrid Laurier's Liberal administration as deputy minister of labor (1900–1908) and minister of
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's long tenure as Liberal prime minister during most of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s successfully encompassed the diverse and sometimes contradictory interests of a wide English and French constituency. Under King's Liberal successor, Louis St. LaurentSt. Laurent, Louis Stephen
, 1882–1973, Canadian political leader. A well-known lawyer, he entered (1941) political life as minister of justice and attorney general in the Mackenzie King government; he was later minister of external affairs (1946–48).
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, the party lost most of its base in the western provinces. Under Lester PearsonPearson, Lester Bowles,
1897–1972, Canadian diplomat and political leader, b. Ontario prov. He served in the Canadian army in World War I. Pearson taught history at the Univ. of Toronto from 1924 to 1928 and then joined the Canadian diplomatic service.
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, the party slowly rebuilt its electoral base, although for much of his tenure as prime minister in the 1960s he headed a minority government.

Bilingualism, constitutional questions, and the status of Quebec dominated the tenure of Liberal Prime Minister Pierre TrudeauTrudeau, Pierre Elliott
(Joseph Philippe Pierre Ives Elliott Trudeau) , 1919–2000, prime minister of Canada (1968–79, 1980–84), b. Montreal. He attended the Univ.
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, who was succeeded briefly as prime minister by John TurnerTurner, John Napier,
1929–, Canadian prime minister (1984). Born in England, he emigrated to Ontario with his Canadian-born mother in 1932. Trained as a lawyer, he entered the House of Commons as a Liberal in 1962.
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 in 1984. Turner remained leader of the Liberal party until 1990, when he was briefly replaced by Herb Grey; later that year Jean ChrétienChrétien, Jean
(Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien) , 1934–, Canadian politician and prime minister (1993–2003), b. Quebec. He received his legal education at Quebec's Laval Univ. and was a practicing lawyer until his 1963 election to parliament.
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 became Liberal party leader. In 1993 dissatisfaction with the economy returned the Liberals to power; they remained in power against a divided opposition after the 1997 and 2000 elections. Paul MartinMartin, Paul Edgar Philippe, Jr.,
1938–, Canadian politician, prime minister (2003–6) of Canada, b. Windsor, Ont. The scion of a politically active family (his father served in parliament and ran unsuccessfully for Liberal party leader three times), Martin became a
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 became party leader and prime minister in 2003 and, despite being hurt by scandals, the Liberals remained in office as a minority government after the 2004 elections.

In the 2006 elections the Liberals were again hurt by scandal. The Conservatives won a plurality of the seats, and Martin resigned as Liberal leader; Stéphane DionDion, Stéphane
, 1955–, Canadian politician, b. Quebec, grad. Laval Univ., Quebec (B.A. 1977, M.A. 1979), Institut d'études politiques, Paris. A political science professor at the Univ. of Moncton, N.B. (1984), and the Univ.
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 succeeded him in the post. The Liberals suffered further losses in the 2008 elections, and Michael IgnatieffIgnatieff, Michael Grant
, 1947–, Canadian politician, writer, and academic, b. Toronto, B.A. Univ. of Toronto (1969), Ph.D. Harvard (1976), M.A. Cambridge (1978). He was an assistant professor at the Univ.
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 became party leader when Dion resigned later in 2008. The party suffered its worst defeat in 2011, placing third behind the Conservative and New Democratic parties, and Ignatieff stepped down. Bob Rae, the former premier of Ontario (as a New Democrat), was interim party leader until Justin TrudeauTrudeau, Justin Pierre James
, 1971–, Canadian politician, b. Ottawa; grad. McGill Univ. (B.A., 1994), Univ. of British Columbia (B.Ed., 1998), son of Pierre Trudeau.
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, son of Pierre Trudeau, was elected in 2013. In the 2015 elections the party won a parliamentary majority in one of the biggest turnarounds in Canadian history; they remained the largest party after the 2019 vote but lost their majority.

Liberal party,

in U.S. history, political party formed in 1944 in New York City by a group of anti-Communist trade unionists and liberals who withdrew from the American Labor partyAmerican Labor party,
organized in New York by labor leaders and liberals in 1936, primarily to support Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal and the men favoring it in national and local elections.
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 when that party became pro-Communist. Among those responsible for its creation was Reinhold NiebuhrNiebuhr, Reinhold
, 1892–1971, American religious and social thinker, b. Wright City, Mo. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, he served (1915–28) as pastor of Bethel Evangelical Church in Detroit, where he became deeply interested in social problems.
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. The original party platform called for a strong United Nations, extended civil rights, and support of the American trade-union movement. Rather than attempting to elect its own candidates, the Liberal party generally seeks to influence the candidate choice of the major parties by promises of support or nonsupport. Although the party operates almost entirely in New York state, its endorsement of presidential candidates is sometimes significant. In its first year of existence it was responsible for Franklin Delano Roosevelt's carrying New York state and in the 1960 presidential election it provided New York's margin of victory for John F. Kennedy. In state and local elections the party sometimes nominates its own candidates. In 1969, John Lindsay, having lost the Republican nomination, won reelection as mayor of New York City on the Liberal ticket; the Liberal party has also elected its own U.S. congressman, a president of the New York City Council, and numerous other local officials. Although the Liberal party has generally supported Democratic candidates, it claims to stand for broader social and economic reforms than the Democratic party. Criticized for having too close ties with the Democratic party, its support of John Lindsay, the Republican mayoral candidate in 1965, and of Republican Senator Jacob Javits, tended to quell such criticism. In 1980 it split the progressive vote when Alfonse D'Amato won the Republican endorsement and Javits ran as a Liberal. Since the 1980 election the party has largely declined in political importance in New York State.

Liberal Party


(Liberalna Partiia), a party in Bulgaria founded in 1879 during discussions of a draft constitution for the Bulgarian principality at the Turnovo Constituent Assembly.

The leaders of the Liberal Party were P. Karavelov, P. Slaveikov, D. Tsankov, V. Radoslavov, and S. Stambolov. It joined together representatives of the peasantry, petite and middle bourgeoisie, and intelligentsia. In contradistinction to the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party sought the adoption of a democratic constitution. The ruling party from March 1880 to April 1881, it passed a number of important laws (including laws on administrative, judicial, and financial questions and on the organization of a system of education). After the coup d’etat of Apr. 27, 1881, carried out by Alexander of Battenberg, and the abolition of the Turnovo Constitution of 1879, the Liberal Party led the fight for the restoration of the constitution. During the 1880’s it split into a number of factions, which formed independent parties in the late 1880’s and 1890’s: the Democratic Party (Karavelists), the Popular Liberal Party (Stambolovists), the Progressive Liberal Party (Tsankovists), and the Liberal Party of Radoslavov (Radoslavists). From 1899 to 1901 and 1913 to 1918 the Liberal Party of Radoslavov (in coalition with the Popular Liberal and Young Liberal parties) was in power. The chauvinistic, pro-German policies of the Radoslavists helped to draw Bulgaria into the Second Balkan War (June-August 1913) and then, on the side of Germany, into World War I. In 1920 the Liberal Party of Radoslavov joined the National Liberal Party, which was founded in 1920 and collapsed in the early 1930’s.

Liberal Party


(To Komma Ton Philelentheron), a party in Greece founded in 1910 by E. Venizelos.

The Liberal Party represented the interests of the big commercial-industrial bourgeoisie and powerful landowners. The party was in power in the years 1910–15 (with interruptions), 1916–20, 1924–25 (with interruptions), 1926–28 (in a coalition with the Progressive Party), 1928–32, 1933, 1944, 1945–46, 1947–49, and 1950–51. Between 1910 and 1915, Prime Minister Venizelos (leader of the Liberal Party from 1910 to 1935) carried out moderate tax, land, and administrative reforms. He participated in the creation of the Balkan Alliance of 1912. During World War I the Liberal Party was on the side of the Entente. Party leaders drew Greece into the anti-Soviet intervention (January-April 1919) and an annexationist war against Turkey (1919–22). They facilitated the restoration of the monarchy (October 1935) and the establishment of a fascist dictatorship (Aug. 4, 1936). During the occupation of Greece by fascist German forces (1941–44) the leaders of the Liberal Party adopted a wait-and-see attitude. Liberals constituted the core of the Center Union (founded in 1961), which was in power from 1963 to 1965.

Liberal Party


(Szabadelvü Párt; also known as the 1867 Party), a party in Hungary founded on Mar. 1, 1875, through the unification of Deák’s Party and the Left Center Party (founded in 1867), headed by K. Tisza, who became the leaders of the Liberal Party.

The Liberal Party represented the interests of the middle-level and large landowners and the big bourgeoisie of Hungary. Party policy was directed toward the continuation of the Austro-Hungarian Agreement of 1867 (the source of the name “1867 Party”); this agreement transformed the Hapsburg empire into a dual monarchy, opened the way to Magyarization of the national minorities, and was the basis for imperialist expansion in the Balkans. The party supported the alliance of the Hapsburg monarchy with Germany. The Liberal Party was in power from 1875 to 1905. Defeated in the parliamentary elections of January 1905, the party dissolved itself (Apr. 11, 1906). The National Labor Party, which was founded in 1910 (and existed until October 1918 under the leadership of I. Tisza), was the de facto successor of the Liberal Party. It was in power from 1910 to 1918.


Islamov, T. M. Politicheskaia bor’ba v Vengrii v nachale XX v. Moscow, 1958.
Kondor, Viktoria M. Az 1875—öpártfúzió. Budapest, 1959.

Liberal Party

1. one of the former major political parties in Britain; in 1988 merged with the Social Democratic Party to form the Social and Liberal Democrats; renamed the Liberal Democrats in 1989
2. one of the major political parties in Australia, a conservative party, generally opposed to the Labor Party
3. one of the major political parties in Canada, generally representing viewpoints between those of the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party
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