Saturday, 12 May 2012

Gladstone and Disraeli - Approach to Foreign Policy Part 1



On one level they did appear to be driven by differing ideologies: Gladstone was very concerned to ensure that there was a moral element to British Foreign Policy. The British should be concerned with spreading civilisation and Christian values. There was a contradiction at the heart of Gladstone’s belief in upholding the empire which promoted self-determination for some peoples but not for others. Gladstone’s Foreign Policy was liberal in that it focused on ‘progress’: education was essential in that it would enable people to realise their potential.


Disraeli’s philosophy was militaristic and he appeared to glory in Britain’s imperial possessions. Certainly, in his ministry there was some very significant foreign policy campaigns. Whereas Gladstone emphasised the Concert of Europe, which meant emphasising diplomacy and discussion, as seen in his approach to the Franco-Prussian War, Disraeli involved the British government in active campaigns.

The Alabama Arbitration showed Gladstone to be afraid of conflict. When the Americans demanded compensation for the sinking of one of their ships he saw it as morally right that Britain should pay up: the British public were unhappy not because of the compensation itself, but because Gladstone appeared to quick to reach a solution. Disraeli was equally critical of Gladstone for not standing up for British prestige. Disraeli believed that Britain should be perceived as a powerful country, but that Gladstone was undermining Britain’s standing in the world.

The same could be said of Gladstone’s approach to the Franco-Prussian War. Gladstone was concerned not to involve Britain in this European war, but was criticised by Disraeli for allowing the future of Europe to be shaped by France and Germany; by opting out, Britain had ensured peace, but this meant her influence would be limited. No doubt, Gladstone saw this war as having nothing to do with Britain, and no doubt he was worried about the financial costs of engagement. Gladstone’s Foreign Policy was a juxtaposition of high morality and a commitment to financial regulation and retrenchment.
Continue to Part 2