6. “Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas: Champion of Late-Victorian Individualism”


Abstract: By the 1880s it had become clear that the intellectual tide in Britain was turning against the idea of a minimal state. Under the influence of the New Idealists, the Liberal Party, once the champion of individual liberty, had changed into an organ for interventionist legislation. Challenging this movement was an assortment of anti-collectivists including Old Liberals, Tories, and radical individualists. Spearheading the defence of individualism was the 10th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Wemyss-Charteris-Douglas. Most famous for his role in the formation of the Liberty and Property Defence League, Wemyss worked tirelessly in parliament to obstruct legislation deemed inimical to liberty, as well as to organise a mass educational effort to instruct the public about the errors of collectivist philosophy and policy. This paper examines the role Wemyss played within late Victorian individualism and considers how the melding of traditionalism and individualism provided an intellectual home for libertarianism on the Right.