Whig (British political faction)

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Liberal Party

The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule. Both parties began as loose groupings or tendencies, but became quite formal by 1784, with the ascension of Charles James Fox as the leader of a reconstituted "Whig" party ranged against the governing party of the new "Tories" under William Pitt the Younger. Both parties were founded on rich politicians, more than on popular votes; there were elections to the House of Commons, but a small number of men controlled most of the voters.

The Whig party slowly evolved during the 18th century. The Whig tendency supported the great aristocratic families, the Protestant Hanoverian succession and toleration for nonconformist Protestants (the "dissenters," such as Presbyterians), while some Tories supported the exiled Stuart royal family's claim to the throne (Jacobitism), and virtually all Tories supported the established Church of England and the gentry. Later on, the Whigs drew support from the emerging industrial interests and wealthy merchants, while the Tories drew support from the landed interests and the royal family. The Whigs were originally also known as the "Country Party" (as opposed to the Tories, the "Court Party"). By the first half of the 19th century, however, the Whig political programme came to encompass not only the supremacy of parliament over the monarch and support for free trade, but Catholic emancipation, the abolition of slavery and expansion of the franchise (suffrage).

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