British Liberal Political Tradition. The most important contribution to the growth of the liberal political tradition in the west has come from England’s people. The English political system is a product of slow and gradual evolution. Unlike France, Russia, and China, no successful violent revolution ever interrupted the steady development of Britain’s unique political system.
Though we should not minimize the significance of the Republican revolution of 1649 under Cromwell’s leadership, yet the constitutional development of England is more intimately connected with the events of 1638. After this, the British political tradition’s growth was interrupted neither by any internal catastrophic armed uprising nor by a successful external invasion.
The Industrial Revolution and colonial exploitation by building a worldwide empire enabled her to become the world’s richest country during the nineteenth century. As a result, the economic contradictions of British society never exploded into revolutionary political conflicts.
By exploiting the wealth of the colonies, Britain’s capitalist ruling class was able to transfer a share of this wealth to the people as well. Therefore, the British people did not attempt to change the political structure of their country through a violent struggle directed against their ruling class.
Some writers on the British constitution have attributed the British constitutional experiment’s success to some special traits of the British national character.
However, Laski presents a dissenting note: It is tempting to attribute it, as eulogists are wont to do, to some special British genius for the difficult art of self-government. That explanation, however, is an unsatisfactory one, since obviously, it is e deduction from history rather than a principle informing it; a passion for simplicity usually works havoc with political philosophers; and is rare indeed for a phenomenon, so complex as the success of the British government to be capable of explanation in terms of a single principle.
Explanations that base themselves upon some supposed virtue in a national character rarely deceive any people responsible for their making. Anyone who compares the impression produced by Englishmen upon Frenchmen in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries respectively will recognize at Once that judgments of national behavior are always a dangerous enterprise. There is a presumption in them both of unity and objectivity, which rarely coincide with the facts themselves.
Socio-Economic Conditions and Political Change:-
The social structure and economic system of a country largely determine its form of government and political institutions. The British political system and its parliamentary government are no exceptions to these general rules. They were the products of the middle-class social revolution in Europe, which destroyed the feudal class’s power. A new social class, the urban bourgeoisie, emerged on the historical stage to claim a share in political power.
In medieval Europe, including Britain, political power was widely dispersed among the feudal barons; in a technical sense, the feudal chiefs were regarded as the king’s vassals, but actually, the monarch’s position was no better than that of any of his most powerful barons. The king asked for military assistance from his vassals at the time of foreign invasion or internal revolt.
Thus, the very survival of a king depended on the support of his feudal chiefs. The peasants, who tilled their land, were their serfs, and the other people who lived on their territory were their subjects; the traders, the craftsmen, and the peasants were, in different ways, the victims of feudal exploitation. However, leadership in the anti-feudal revolts came from the rising commercial and industrial classes in the cities.
Some far-sighted monarchs recognized the emerging trends of political change and laid the foundations of a new absolute monarchy by destroying the power of the feudal lords with the cooperation of the rising bourgeois class; in England, the Tudor dynasty represented an absolute monarchy of the new type where the King, though autocratic, sought the cooperation of Parliament in governing the country.
To some extent, the emerging social strata of the bourgeois found representation in Parliament; when the Stuart monarchs challenged these class interests, the social classes adversely affected by this challenge put an end to their rule and instituted a Republic under Cromwell’s leadership, with a written constitution to incorporate the new changes.
The Republican political system did not prove stable in England. After a short interval, its Stuart dynasty was restored to power. This Stuart monarchs made another attempt to regain their autocratic powers. But the Bloodless Revolution of 1688 abolished the system of absolute monarchy in Britain forever.
Tie Parliamentary leaders established a limited monarchy and put Mary and William jointly on the English throne. In place of Jamies II, who was ousted from power. Thus the first middle-class political revolution has accomplished the history of the world. The revolution abolished the state power of British aristocracy along with the system based on monarchical absolutism.
However, this revolution did not undermine the economic and administrative privileges of the landowning aristocracy. Unlike the French Revolution, their estates were not confiscated and distributed among the peasants. The members of aristocracy participated in large numbers both of parliament end the government. But the British society and economy were increasingly dominated by England’s rising commercial and industrial classes during the eighteenth century.
After the accomplishment of the Industrial Revolution, the industrial magnates and the big financiers of the City emerged as the new rulers of England; Parliament, and the cabinet, though mainly aristocratic in composition, took orders from them. The aristocratic class had no independent role to play now; after mechanizing their farms and diversion of a part of their surplus capital to industry, the British aristocracy was assimilated into the capitalist class.
According to Laski, this class still exercises & preponderant Power in the working of the British political system precisely because it still owns the main instrument of production like land and capital.