Matthew Arnold British Liberalism and Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

While the contemporary society might regard an issue such as one's marriage with the sister of his deceased wife as being absurd, this problem dominated affairs in Great Britain for most of the Victorian era. "The "Deceased Wife's Sister" controversy was about the potential for triangular desire: two women as potential rivals for one man and one man desiring two women -- who, moreover, are sisters" (Chambers). Religion was particularly important in this situation, as concerns regarding rivalry between sisters go back to biblical times. The authorities saw this problem as one that would negatively affect the cleanliness of the English family and the individuals who were involved in the controversy claimed that the government should be able to impose moral laws upon British citizens.

The relationship between biological sisters was apparently one of the strongest connections from the Victorian era, thus meaning that a disruption would severely affect individuals and British society as a whole. It was customary for sisters to live in the same household during the nineteenth century because there were numerous unmarried women in Britain and because families needed assistance in caring for the house and in assisting children as they grew. The relationship between a man and his sister-in-law gradually came to be associated with incest and raised people's alertness regarding the question of morality in Great Britain.

The family was considered to be the most important thing in the British society and it was thus particularly wrong for someone to attack it through promoting marriages between men and the sisters of their deceased wives. Victorian people considered that passion should not be considered more important than family and that it was thus immoral for the government to accept such relationships. They thus concluded that regulations were needed in order to prevent people from committing terrible sins that could destroy the welfare of their community.

In spite of the fact that it provided people with several liberties that they did not have before, Victorian liberalism was still authoritarian and discriminated underprivileged groups. Women, for example, were denied the right to vote because they were considered inferior and incapable of handling such a complex task. Similarly, lower class individuals were unable to contribute to governing the country because of their status. All things considered, the masses were generally optimistic about the effects that liberalism would have on their society. People believed that freedom would lead to a better society and to individuals who focused on respecting moral principles.

According to Gladstone, low taxes and economic freedom provided the community with "money to fructify in the pockets of people." The British society of the second half of the nineteenth century was still far from being a democracy but it was successful because it managed to distance itself greatly from unfair societies in Eastern Europe. Despite this, many liberals proposed daring bills related to women enfranchisement, an educational system freed from the Church's authority, and a country providing all people with equal rights regardless of their background. Some liberals considered that it was essential for Great Britain to copy the American model of democracy in order for its people to undergo an emancipation process. The majority of people in the country felt that the Liberal system provided them with the best conditions that they ever experienced.

The Liberal party is largely considered to have ascended as a result of people's determination to oppose the Conservatives (who were led by Benjamin Disraeli at the time). People focused on power depending mainly on intellect and on people's conditions depending on their strength of will. Capable individuals got the opportunity to join aristocrats in being privileged. The party started to be appreciated by a growing number of individuals who hoped that their demands would be respected as a result of the party's influence. People who were generally against an authoritarian government united in supporting Gladstone and his party hoping that they would draw benefits from the enterprise.

Works cited:

Arnold, Matthew, "Culture and anarchy," Cambridge University Press, 1960.

Chambers, Diane M. "Triangular Desire and the Sororal Bond: The "Deceased Wife's Sister Bill.," Mosaic (Winnipeg) 29.1 (1996)

Kelly, Richard N. And Cantrell John, "Modern British statesmen, 1867-1945," Manchester University Press…

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