This book has examined how an elite, strong and self-confident until the 1860s, gradually declined thereafter. Different aspects of their influence disappeared at different rates: their ability to decide parliamentary elections, for example, disappeared earlier than their domination of local government. By 1885, landownership in all areas of Great Britain was beginning to lose the prestige it had enjoyed in 1832. The agricultural depression had undermined its economic attractions whilst the secret ballot had shorn the landowner of political influence. Both these factors represented crucial limitations on the ability of the paternalist aristocracy to perform that role of involved communal leadership which had been the credo of their class since the 1840s. The first county council elections in Wales were held in January 1889. Over the Principality as a whole, the results were an impressive triumph for the Liberal Party, which returned twice as many candidates as the combination of Conservatives, Liberal Unionists, and Independents. In Carmarthenshire, thirty-seven Liberals were joined on the new council by fourteen Conservatives.
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