Union Party (Rainier)
Alfred Henry Lawson|
A. A. Duncan
|Founded||12 March 1859|
|Dissolved||13 April 1934|
|Merged into||National Union Party|
|Political position||Centre-right to Centre|
The Union Party was formed in 1859 by the Premier of Oregon and second Prime Minister of Rainier Alfred Henry Lawson, who was sympathetic to Whiggism. The Union Party supported the independence of Rainier and were largely influenced by a mixture of liberal and radical ideas, supporting classical liberalism, laissez-faire and federalism. The Union Party was in opposition until 1871 when they held power for 11 years 1882 when they lost to the National Party under Fydd Rochester and spent a 18 years in opposition before returning to power under Samuel Battestone in 1900. They lost power in 1906 but returned to government in 1918 under Austin Alexander Duncan.
By the end of the 1910's the party had become more influenced by social liberalism - as a result the Duncan government implemented several important reforms, such as launching social welfare provision, undertaking electoral reform and implementing universal suffrage. The Duncan government however lost power in the 1926 election.
In 1930 Rhys Lawgoch led the Union Party to power during the Great Depression. The government undertook orthodox fiscal conservative measures which did nothing to stop the depression and saw very high unemployment, which triggered a general strike in 1932. Lawgoch's opposition to the strike and poor response to the depression led the government to face a massive defeat in the 1933 election coming fourth behind the National, Labour and Social Credit parties. A rump Union party subsequently merged with the National party to create an anti-socialist coalition, creating the National Union Party which has since been the main centre-right party.
Notions of classical republicanism and liberalism had been strong in northwest America since the beginning of colonisation in the late 1700's, as many settlers admired the American Revolution and the later French revolutions. Some had fled Britain following the start of Pitt's "reign of terror" which saw radical movements in Britain harshly suppressed with the suspension of habeas corpus, the passing of the Seditious Meetings and Combination Acts and the harsh punishment given to those agitating for radicalism and democracy.
Liberalism and republicanism played a key role in the Columbia River Rebellion, with many of the rebels being directly influenced by the American revolution. However, more conservative Whigs in the northwest colony were horrified at the rebellion and were still loyal to the British crown. The failure of the rebellion led to the decline of radicalism and republicanism in Rainier, but liberalism was still supported by Whigs and classical liberals who emphasised limited government and liberty.
The move towards federation split the liberal movement. The more conservative Whigs supported it, believing it to be a guarantee to liberty and to preserve the power of the landowning upper class. Liberals opposed it, seeing it as a ploy by the British-aligned Tories to assert their own power. In the three colonies of British Columbia, the Northwestern Territory and Oregon County liberals were organised into various political groups often dominated by Whigs.
The radicals, liberals and Whigs however became united under Alfred Henry Lawson in 1855 when he became Premier of the Oregon County that year. A Whig with strong liberal inclinations, Lawson was able to persuade many liberals to accept federation as the best opportunity of securing and advancing liberal causes. As such, many liberals supported federation in 1865. Federation necessitated the creation of a party to compete with the conservative British Imperial Party, leading to the creation of the Union Party under Rochester which was made up of Whigs, liberals, radicals and republicans. Lawson called the new party the "Union party", but it was popularly known as the Whigs. The early Union Party was very much "Whiggish" in its outlook, being made up of reform minded landowners (often mockingly referred to as an aristocracy) rather than the more radical classical liberals and radical democrats.
Early federation1865 House of Councillors election winning 30 seats to the British Imperial Party's 49. However the Union party did well in Oregon and Cascadia, as well as sweeping Idaho. The Union party also formed the provincial governments of Oregon, Cascadia, Idaho and the Northwestern Territories.
In 1871 election the Montana Affair led to the defeat of the British Imperial government. The Union party achieved a majority of seats with Lawson, widely recognised as the most prominent Union party leader becoming Prime Minister of Rainier.
Despite being seen as a traditional Whig, Lawson's government was markedly classically liberal in character. Lawson promoted individual responsibility, balanced budgets and laissez-faire, which led to the rapid development of a capitalist society in Rainier. Lawson was moralist in his character promoting temperance and personal liberty, which was heavily opposed by more conservative forces in Rainier.
Lawson's most pressing concern was to keep the Union party together, whose members spanned from conservative Whigs to radicals who called for universal suffrage and a republic. Lawson managed these divisions by both pursuing moderate reforms such as the legalisation of trade unions in 1874 and the banning of corrupt electoral practices in 1876 and several conservative measures such as opposing a tax on land. The Long Depression seriously damaged the Lawson government, leading him to expand the franchise in 1874 by allowing the upper working class the chance to vote, calculating such a measure would increase the Union party's base of support. Lawson's move was vindicated when in the 1877 election the Union Party won the most amount of seats despite losing the popular vote to a resurgent British Imperial party. However the Union Party were two seats short of a majority, and so ruled as a minority government.
The second term of the Union Party was increasingly marked by debate over the issue of free trade. Many conservative Whigs were opposed to continentalism which they saw as the precursor to annexation by the Kingdom of Sierra, whilst radicals support more free trade. Lawson attempted to reconcile the two factions but divisions became so great that the government effectively collapsed in 1882. Lawson thus called an early election which saw the Union Party soundly defeated by the British Imperial's.
In 1886 the party held its first convention when it drafted its first nationwide manifesto. However, the Whigs led by Hograth opposed the manifesto on the grounds of free trade and so left the party, with over half of the Union Party's MP's crossing the floor to join the British Imperial government. Mackenzie led the party into the 1888 election where the party was easily defeated by the National party.
The Union Party under Mackenzie however were able to retain a strong following in Cascadia and Oregon, and begun to adopt a formal structure over the country. The 1894 election which was held shortly after the Panic of 1893 saw the Union Party under Mackenzie reduce the National Party's majority to 1. However, Mackenzie retired from politics shortly afterwards and replaced with Samuel Battestone.
However, a series of National blunders and splits would greatly benefit the Union party. In 1897 the government passed the unpopular Schools Act which banned the creation of religious schools at a federal level, which was strongly opposed by Catholic farmers'. The Nationals also in 1899 rejected the Prime Minister Malcolm Russell's proposals for new tariffs. Russell reigned and dramatically split from the National Party forming the Conservative Party which supported greater protectionism. Battestone was thus able to lead the Union party to a large victory in the 1899 election as National party votes were split between the National and Protectionist parties. The Battestone government repealed the protectionist policies passed by the Russell government as well as attempting to crack down on corruption and political machines. However Battestone's anti-corruption policies led to a backlash from businessmen leading to Battestone to lose support in parliament.
In a bid to revive his government's popularity Battestone passed the Oriental Exclusion Act in 1904 which banned all immigration from China and Japan to appeal to nativist sentiments. However, the Battestone government was still overridden by internal divisions which resulted in the defeat of the Union government in 1904.
Social liberalismclassical liberalism. Many within the Union party believed that inequality between the rich and poor was becoming a serious issues, and that by guaranteeing good education, improving the workplace and making business more efficient social ills could be solved.
This variant of liberalism was known in Rainier as progressive liberalism, and was championed by Rainian theorists such as Reginald Forthwright, who claimed that freedom could only be achieved if the individual was given the opportunity to realise their potential. Progressive liberalism was similar to New Liberalism in the UK, Social Liberalism in Europe and the wider Progressive movement in North America.
In 1906, Samuel Battestone retired from politics and was replaced as leader by Austin Alexander Duncan, commonly known as A.A. Duncan. Duncan was a oil baron who had "fallen into politics" but quickly became a strong advocate for improving the lives of ordinary Rainian people, and eagerly took up the cause of free trade, universal suffrage and social reform.
The Union party however struggled during the First World War over the issue of conscription, which was opposed by some within the Union party. Party leader Duncan, a life long pacifist, opposed conscription leading to several members of the party to split from the Union party to join the National government to show their support for conscription. Nevertheless in the 1918 election the Union party was able to win a thin majority after the National government implemented rationing the previous year.
The Duncan government was progressive in nature overseeing moderate welfare reforms, reductions in tariffs and expansion in government spending in education and welfare provision. Most significantly however were the governments reforms to suffrage; in 1925 after sustained pressure from the feminist movement the Union Party government passed the Representation of Women Act that gave women who met the same property qualifications as men the right to vote. In 1920 the government passed the Representation of the People Act that abolished property qualifications for men and women voters, effectively allowing universal suffrage and in 1921 the government passed its most ambitious reform, the Voting Reform Act 1921 which changed the electoral system from first-past-the-post to an additional members system and shortened the parliamentary term from 6 to 4 years.
The Union Party tired after 8 years in government lost the 1926 election to the National Party under Joseph Lear. The new voting system was a disadvantage to the Union Party as it enabled the Labour party to gain seats the Union party would usually take. The Union party also became more divided between a more social liberal wing based in Cascadia and a more classical liberal wing in Idaho.Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression, which led to the ambitious reform agenda of Lawgoch to be shelved to focus on stemming the effects of the Depression.
Rainier was hit extremely hard by the depression (only Hudson and Germany fared worse) resulting in the Lawgoch government to pursue a policy of orthodox fiscal conservatism, cutting expenditure, raising tariffs, bringing back the gold standard and ordering business to lower wages. This resulted in very high unemployment and poverty, with the latter affecting employed workers'. The policies were extremely unpopular and the Labour party withdrew support for the government which survived with support from the Nationals.
In 1932 a dispute between shipyard workers' in Seattle and bosses over wages resulted in the government to take the side of the bosses. The ship builders union announced a strike, which soon became a general strike as the Amalgamated Confederation of Trade Unions (ACTU) supported the ship builders. Lawgoch took a hard line against the ACTU and attempted to pass legalisation to limit the power of the unions, which split the Union party. The government went to the polls in 1933 that saw a dramatic collapse in Union Party support. Whilst keeping control of Idaho, the Nationals came first in British Columbia and Montana, Labour in Cascadia and Saskatchewan and the newly formed Social Credit Party sweeping Alberta, with Oregon being divided between the four parties. The Union Party came third whilst the Nationals were first, but the Nationals did not have a majority of seats. Lawgoch was able to delay the opening of parliament negotiating with National leader Albert W. Moore on the possibility of the creation of an Anti-Socialist coalition of the National and Union parties. Moore agreed, with Lawgoch remaining Prime Minister in a National dominated government.
By the end of 1933, the Union party was a moribund body as provincial branches of the party split over the decision to go into government with their long time rival. Demoralised and on the verge of a split, in 1934 the Union party agreed to merge with the National Party to form one cohesive anti-socialist party on a national level, the National Union Party.
Provincial branches of the Union party still existed well into the 1970's. The last Union party provincial government formed in Rainier was the 1964-1971 government of W. Ross Thatcher in Saskatchewan - however since then almost all provincial Union parties have been dissolved, merged into other parties or faded into irrelevance.
The Union Party was often seen as a big tent which was united behind its support for limited government, federalism, free trade and continentalism. As such it was often considered to be a liberal party with Whig, radical and later social liberal influences.
|No.||Name||Portrait||Term in Office|
|1||Alfred Henry Lawson||12th March 1865||13th January 1883|
|2||Stuart Mackenzie||13th January 1883||17th April 1897|
|3||Samuel Battestone||17th April 1897||24th March 1906|
|4||A. A. Duncan||24th March 1906||5th September 1929|
|5||Rhys Lawgoch||5th September 1923||13th April 1934|