John Wilson Croker: Irish Ideas and the Invention of Modern Conservatism 1800-1835

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9780716530718: John Wilson Croker: Irish Ideas and the Invention of Modern Conservatism 1800-1835
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John Wilson Croker, a forgotten man of 19th-century politics and letters, is given new life in this book. Drawing on previously unpublished Croker archives held in US universities, the contemporary press, and other sources, author Robert Portsmouth provides a substantial re-interpretation of the life and times of Croker. As a parliamentarian, early 'spin-doctor,' and close advisor to Sir Robert Peel, George Canning, and the Duke of Wellington, Croker probably had greater influence on ministerial policy and popular opinion than all but a handful of his contemporaries. He was a friend of famous literary figures like Walter Scott, but his work as a popular critic won him the enduring enmity of Shelley, Lady Morgan, T.B. Macaulay, and others, whose vilification of him as a 'slashing' reviewer and bigoted Tory opponent of all reform has concealed his much more significant political work and ideas. In fact, Croker was a keen advocate of moderate parliamentary, social, and economic reforms. He had been, since he was a Dublin student campaigning for 'conciliatory Catholic Emancipation,' in opposition to both 'ultra-Protestants' as well as sectarian 'ultra-Catholics', and viewed his political philosophy for a unitary via media of opposition to extremes as something of a tradition of enlightened Irish thought stretching from Swift to Burke. While his ambition to improve the state of his homeland and unite its people would end in failure, John Wilson Croker and his predominantly Irish press circle saw essentially the same philosophy succeed in Britain after 1830 when they laid the foundations for modern parliamentary Conservatism by 'inventing' the new Conservative party as a moderate reforming and conciliatory alternative to both 'ultra Tories' and 'ultra-Whigs.'

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