On the 17th, the Corn Laws were finally abolished amid much jubilation among the working classes. The gradual shift from protectionism to complete free trade was almost complete for Britain as it also encouraged other nations to follow its example. Lord Melbourne was supremely confident that the election in June would secure the Liberal Government another term. To that end, Melbourne began to prepare further legislation on the slight extension of the franchise after the election was finished. He was counting his chickens before they hatched however…
With the first term of Harrison as President nearly coming to an end, many began to point out that he hadn’t actually made great changes in policy, merely making business as usual. With the National Party gaining support in the Western States and many people were growing tired of Democratic-Republican rule which had just been one of many ups and downs. Harrison decided that a new focus was needed on bringing the country together in support of the Democratic-Republican Party.
On the 30th March, in a speech to Congress, Harrison revealed his ‘Coast to Coast’ plan of a United States the stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Harrison distinctly outlined the process of opening up Native Land by any means necessary in order to bring the North American Continent under the sway of the nation. To this extent, Harrison also made a special distinction for the Oregon Territory, making it explicit that the US would consider the land belonging to it once enough settlers had reached it.
Upon hearing this, the British Government in Canada decided to take a firm line. It had compromised upon the border issue; it would not compromise on this. The Oregon Territory already had interests within British businesses and several outposts had already been built by enterprisers. The clash between Britain and the US regarding the Oregon Territory had taken on a new and dangerous route.
As Lord Melbourne called for the General Election, he was very confident; believing the various reforms and measures the Liberal Government had brought in would have been enough to secure victory, Melbourne had already started to consider what new measures to bring in. These ideas were premature as when the results did come in, they showed the Conservatives had managed to win by a slim majority and Robert Peel was now the new Prime Minister of Britain.
The reforms of the electoral system, which Melbourne believed was the Liberal’s greatest strength, had turned out instead to be their greatest weakness. Although the reforms had been popular amongst the Middle and Lower classes, the richer elements of society, those who still held the majority of the vote, had been appalled by them. Those elements had drummed up support for the Conservatives amongst those who rented property from them and the more Nationalist elements, pointing out apparent Liberal weakness on key foreign issues. This had been enough to sway the tight vote over to the Conservatives, much to the dismay of the Liberal Party and their supporters.
To avoid widespread protests against the Conservatives, Peel made it known among the populace that the Conservatives were willing to listen to people regarding voting reform. He never stated whether he’d actually do anything upon hearing what people had to say but the promise was enough to sway public opinion away from open defiance of the Government. Peel therefore concentrated on other issues, the two major ones being reforming the Bow Street Runners into an organisation specifically to tackle every sort of crime and the rising tensions between the US and the Spanish Federacion.
The election in America once again saw a Democratic-Republican Party victory as Harrison continued on as President. The election gained notice however as the National Party finally gained enough votes to make a splash in the Eastern States. The National Party, with its ideals of a fair deal for the common man, a more conciliatory approach to foreign affairs and emphasis on modernisation had attracted many noticeable people to its banner, including the prominent Kentuckian Lawyer, Abraham Lincoln.
The Oregon issue also affected the election as many saw the Democratic-Republican Party as being too belligerent on the issue while others saw it as a necessary stance to preserve American prestige in the face of British aggression. The Oregon issue would grow to plague relations between Britain and the US and would only add to the pressures building up on the American Continent.