having a strong party in the country'.26 Keble's sermon was seen as a rallying cry by others, notably John Henry Newman, and has traditionally been seen as marking the beginning of the Oxford Movement, which in the ensuing years did much both to revive and to divide the Church of England. Keble himself was already contemplating disestablishment as likely to be necessary to preserve the spiritual integrity of the church, and for Newman and others alarm at state interference was eventually to contribute to their conversion to Roman Catholicism. For more conservative churchmen, however, such radical options were unthinkable, and their energies rather were directed towards defending the continuing establishment of the Church of England. They were encouraged by events in 1834, when the government was first weakened by the resignations of four ministers, who would not countenance continued discussion of appropriating the Irish church surplus, and was then, in November, dismissed by King William IV, who saw himself as committed to the defence of the Protestant church. During late 1834 and 1835 there was a strong campaign of agitation in Britain in defence of the Church of Ireland, presenting it as an essential bulwark against the perceived corrupt religion and subversive politics of Roman Catholicism. Under these circumstances the evangelical Ulster Presbyterian leader Henry Cooke also gave notable support to the established church.27
After the king's dismissal of the Whigs, Wellington and Sir Robert Peel formed a minority Conservative government, and made significant gains in a general election in early 1835. Although their administration was nevertheless short-lived, and fell in April 1835, it had a substantial impact in steering the stream of church reform into a substantially more moderate course. In particular Peel set up a Royal Commission to reform the Church of England, with five bishops among its membership of twelve, thus giving the church the opportunity to reform itself, and escape the more radical treatment already given to its Irish counterpart.28 The Ecclesiastical Commission, as it came to be known, was to be responsible for a sequence of recommendations implemented by the subsequent Whig government, which reorganised dioceses, redistributed resources from cathedrals to parishes, and controlled the abuses of pluralism and non-residence. It strengthened the church in the industrialising regions by creating new dioceses of Ripon (for western Yorkshire) and Manchester (for Lancashire), although the latter was not implemented until
26 J. Keble, National apostasy considered (Oxford, 1833), p. iii.
27 Wolffe, The Protestant crusade, pp. 77-91; Holmes, Henry Cooke, pp. 115-20.
28 Best, Temporal pillars, pp. 296-300.
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