Thoughts on the Aristocracy of England: An Examination of 18th Century England
Henry Hooper's essay, Thoughts on the Aristocracy of England, heavily borrows from its title for its primary subject. As a result, the article's subject is: An examination of the English nobility that is both critical and informative.
Aristocratic Ideologies and Policies in 18th-Century England
The author provides a thorough study and description of the aristocratic ideologies and policies that prevailed in 18th-century England. He accomplishes this by flowing the concepts in the document logically. He makes a restricted and oblique attempt, though, to compare the aristocracies of England and France. He goes on to show why the aristocratic positions in England were highly revered and how everyone was willing to break his bone to ascend to these aristocratic positions. Also, the article shows the relationship that existed between the press and the noble people. He concludes by highlighting the merits and demerits associated with an aristocratic society.
An Interesting Approach by Henry Hooper
Henry Hooper’s approach to the topic is an interesting one. His stand on the position of aristocracy cannot be easily understood unless a critical analysis of the work is made. However, one thing stands out from the work; the reforms done by the Tories will go a long way in developing aristocratic institutions in church and state. The article begins by explaining the form of aristocracy that existed in England institutions, particularly the state and church. According to the article, despite the fact that The Nobility of England forms the significant part of the aristocratic body, their immediate connections are also a part of the aristocratic body. According to the England constitution, the eldest son is the natural heir to his father.
Power and Privilege of the Eldest Son
Interestingly, the eldest son is given too much power to an extent even if he might not be the best physically or having the best education compared to his younger brothers. It is still him who inherits his father’s position. By being the eldest son, and as stipulated in the constitution, the eldest son becomes the natural heir to his father's position. In this regard, the eldest son is legally biased to the successorship over his father. However, there exists no form of social or political bias. This legal bias towards the eldest son is seen as grievous and undeserving. For instance, even if the eldest son was to commit crimes of felony or perjury, he would still be allowed to vote and judge. Hooper amplifies this by noting that, despite the shortcomings of the eldest son that may exist; he is still entitled to sit next to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor. He notes that with this privilege to vote, he can go on and vote against the laws that he had initially broken. He gives the example of the Local court's bill that was voted against by one of the peers. According to the peer, the bill interfered with his interests. However, he gives hope by stating that an act of parliament can be affected to revoke these hereditary functions. Although the act of parliament does not rescind the ability of the peer to cast his vote.
Privileges of the Noble Families
Despite these undue legal advantages placed over the eldest son of the peers, the younger noble families also form part of the aristocracy. They experience privileges that the commoners do not. They have access to the goods, which majorly are not available to the commoners. According to Henry Hooper, this was a grave mistake that ever was committed. However, the good thing is that nothing bars one from rising to these aristocratic positions even if they were not born to noble families. Through the accumulation of wealth, fortune and education, one can ascend to the ranks. Hooper refers to it as the most significant advantage of the English people constitution. However, it is highlighted that the commoners are disadvantaged with regards to climbing to aristocratic positions compared to those who were born in noble families. Commoners have to work to attain such positions unlike members of noble families. Thus, the ascendency of commoners to hereditary positions is a result of their hard work and efforts.
Differences in Society Created by the Aristocracy
The next thing addressed is the differences in the society, which exist due to creations of the "artificial positions" of the aristocracy. The example of the child coming from a commoner and the child coming from a noble family exemplifies the differences that exist between the two classes. By assuming that the children from both families have the same mental and physical abilities; the article employs rhetoric questions to assert the fact that it will require the child of the farmer or shopkeeper extra-terrestrial abilities to gain societal acceptance and rise to high office positions. Unlike the son of the squire or nobleman whom respect is bestowed on, the son of the peasant has to work for it.
The Strive of the Middle Class and the Acrimonious Relationship with the Press
Immediately after, the issue of the majority of the middle class always striving to get into aristocratic positions is highlighted. It is noted that it is hard gaining admission into the ranks because the aristocrats hate reforms. Immediately after, Hooper brings to light the fact that the middle class is the one that ought to be respected and honored. According to him, they are the drivers of the society and do not depend on anyone to shape up their opinions. Thus, they should be indeed the ones allowed to hold those exclusive and exquisite positions in the society. In addition, the acrimonious relationship that exists between the press and aristocrats is highlighted. The association is portrayed as one bitter relationship where both parties hold grudge and revenge against each other. The media is quick to document the affairs of the aristocrats, and the aristocrats are quick to crush the press even in situations where the press is advocating for the rights of the aristocracy. Consequently, the two are continually dodging each other.
A Critical Analysis of the Aristocracy and Appreciation of its Merits and Demerits
Finally, Hooper concludes by providing a critical analysis of the issue of the aristocracy. He tries to unmask if undue advantages and privileges placed due to the position are fair and identifies the aristocrats as the main enemy of the society. The reason is the aristocrats are unwilling to push further reforms since reforms threaten their position in the society.
Acknowledging the Contributions and Criticisms of the Aristocracy
The document is significant since the aristocracy held a compelling position in England during the 18th century. The Aristocrats contributed to the growth of England through mechanization and building. They lived in large "stately" houses, which exist to date. The article, in particular, recognizes the efforts and positions of some of the early aristocrats. For instance, Viscount Townsend was the one who experimented with scientific farming. Duke of Bridgewater contributed to the growth of Manchester through his construction of a tunnel that transported coal from his mines in Worsley to the port of Manchester. Through this, one can equally appreciate and criticize the aristocracy.
Hard Work and Talent as Pathways to Aristocratic Positions in England
Again, unlike in France where the noble positions were hereditary and reserved for the few, in England, one could attain the positions through his hard work and talent. This is significant because it shows that, despite the fact that the negative accusations that may be labeled against the aristocracy in the 18th century, the aristocratic society held hard work in high regards. Hard work never went unrewarded. John Churchill, the ancestor of Winston Churchill, despite coming from a poor background was eventually recognized as an aristocrat due to his sheer hard work. Consequently, he was given the name Duke of Marlborough. Besides the Earl of Oxford, Robert Walpole started out as an army colonel before becoming a prime minister in 1721. Also, one could also gain aristocratic positions by marrying the aristocrats. The Duchess of Portland became an aristocrat by marrying John Scott who amassed his 500,000-pound wealth by playing cards. Through this, we appreciate the fact that the aristocracy that existed in the 18th century since, unlike France where it was hereditary, in England one worked for it. It is little wonder the nobility of France falls in 1789 was due to the exclusivity nature of their position in society. Through these, we can only appreciate the aristocracy more as it was never threatened to the extents in which it was threatened in France.
The Document's Support for Understanding the 18th Century English Aristocracy
The document fully supported my understanding of the aristocracy in England in the 18th century. As was said earlier, the aristocracy took powerful positions in England in the 18th century. The fact that it is mentioned in the document that one would become a noble family if he or she amassed wealth goes on to solidify my understanding as to why John Churchill was renamed Duke of Marlborough. Besides the document mentions that unlike in France, there were no interactions between the aristocrats and the ordinary people, in England interactions existed between the aristocrats and commoners although limited. This is supported by the fact that the Duchess of Portland became a noble family member by marrying John Scott. The proud nature of aristocrats is referenced to as one of the reasons why the aristocracy faced challenges unlike in France where the commoners revolted against the aristocrats in 1789. In England, no revolt was made against the aristocrats. It also furthers my understanding of the differences that have existed between the noble family and ordinary citizens in England to date.
Henry Hooper's Response to Isaac Tomkins
Henry Hooper published the article as a response to Isaac Tomkins Thoughts on the aristocracy book. According to Isaac Tomkins, he had portrayed the aristocracy as an unerring and the best thing that ever happened in society. He never mentioned how the aristocrats were reluctant to the issue of reform. Hooper’s view criticizes the form of aristocracy that existed in England. As was said, he does this through a critical analysis of the aristocracy that existed in the 18th century. I am inclined to believe that Hooper held a middle-class position in the society. Through his critical and expository analysis of the aristocracy, he concludes by noting that the middle class is the one that ought to be respected and honored, as opinions do not shape their decisions. Isaac Tomkins, due to his praise of the aristocracy seems to send the message that he must have been close to the aristocracy and consequently belonged to that position in the society. Being a part of the community in some way, Hopper seems to be overly critical of the noble families.
Coexistence of the Aristocracy and the Commoners
In conclusion, we have seen how the aristocracy existed in England institutions in the 18th century. The paper can also assert that the aristocracy created artificial differences in the society due to the inequalities that existed between the nobles and commoners. As a result, the commoners always envied the nobles in the society. However, despite the differences the commoners and nobles were able to peacefully coexist.
Note: No sources were provided in the original text.
Dickinson, Harry Thomas. The Politics of the People in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Springer, 2016.
Trumbach, Randolph. The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations in Eighteenth-Century England. Elsevier, 2013.