In a letter of 22 February 1824 to the Reverend John Tucker that he begins by explaining attitudes towards education, Thomas Arnold, who had held Tory political beliefs as a younger man, showed his increasingly liberal attitude when he approved of recent events in Parliament. "I am very much delighted with the aspect of the Session of Parliament," he tells his friend,

and see with hearty gratitude the real reforms and the purer spirit of government which this happy rest from war is every year I trust gradually encouraging. The West India question is thorny: but I suppose the Government may entrench upon individual property for a great national benefit, giving a fair compensation to the parties, just as is done in every Canal Bill. Nay, I cannot see why the rights of the planters are more sacred than tliosc of the old despotic kings and feudal aristocracies who were made to part with many good things which they had inherited from their ancestors because the original tenure was founded on wrong; and so is all slavery, all West Indian slavery at least, most certainly. [76]

Like the Evangelicals who led the anti-slavery movement, to whom he often objected on doctrinal grounds, Arnold understood slavery to be fundamentally wrong. His opposition to it derives from both his fundamental religious attitudes, which include the demand that believers must do moral and political good, and from his fundamental political ones, which take political economy as a religious and practical discipline.


Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn. The life and correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D.D., late head-master of Rugby school, and regius professor of modern history in the University of Oxford. 4th ed. 2 vols. London: B. Fellowes, 1845.

Last modified 20 July 2006