1708 British general election

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Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg
  1702 (Scotland only)
1705 (England only)
30 April – 7 July 1708 (1708-04-30 1708-07-07) 1710  

All 558 seats in the House of Commons
280 seats needed for a majority
 First partySecond party
  John Somers, Baron Somers by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt lowres color.jpg Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt (2).jpg
Leader Lord Somers Earl of Godolphin
Party Whig Tory
Leader sincec.1695c.1707
Seats won291222
Seat changeIncrease2.svg45Decrease2.svg45

The 1708 British general election was the first general election to be held after the Acts of Union had united the Parliaments of England and Scotland.

Acts of Union 1707 Acts of Parliament creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain

The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".

Parliament of England historic legislature of the Kingdom of England

The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England, existing from the early 13th century until 1707, when it united with the Parliament of Scotland to become the Parliament of Great Britain after the political union of England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Parliament of Scotland legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland

The Parliament of Scotland was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The parliament, like other such institutions, evolved during the Middle Ages from the king's council of bishops and earls. It is first identifiable as a parliament in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II, when it was described as a "colloquium" and already possessed a political and judicial role. By the early fourteenth century, the attendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and from 1326 commissioners from the burghs attended. Consisting of the "three estates" of clergy, nobility and the burghs sitting in a single chamber, the parliament gave consent for the raising of taxation and played an important role in the administration of justice, foreign policy, war, and all manner of other legislation. Parliamentary business was also carried out by "sister" institutions, such as General Councils or Convention of Estates. These could carry out much business also dealt with by parliament – taxation, legislation and policy-making – but lacked the ultimate authority of a full parliament.

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The election saw the Whigs finally gain a majority in the House of Commons, and by November the Whig-dominated parliament had succeeded in pressuring the Queen into accepting the Junto into the government for the first time since the late 1690s. The Whigs were unable to take full control of the government, however, owing to the continued presence of the moderate Godolphin in the cabinet and the opposition of the Queen. Contests were held in 95 of the 269 English and Welsh constituencies and 28 of the 45 Scottish constituencies.

The Whigs were a political faction and then a political party in the parliaments of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Between the 1680s and 1850s, they contested power with their rivals, the Tories. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute monarchy. The Whigs played a central role in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and were the standing enemies of the Stuart kings and pretenders, who were Roman Catholic. The Whigs took full control of the government in 1715 and remained totally dominant until King George III, coming to the throne in 1760, allowed Tories back in. The Whig Supremacy (1715–1760) was enabled by the Hanoverian succession of George I in 1714 and the failed Jacobite rising of 1715 by Tory rebels. The Whigs thoroughly purged the Tories from all major positions in government, the army, the Church of England, the legal profession and local offices. The Party's hold on power was so strong and durable, historians call the period from roughly 1714 to 1783 the age of the Whig Oligarchy. The first great leader of the Whigs was Robert Walpole, who maintained control of the government through the period 1721–1742 and whose protégé Henry Pelham led from 1743 to 1754.

Anne, Queen of Great Britain Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland

Anne was the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland between 8 March 1702 and 1 May 1707. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, the kingdoms of England and Scotland united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. She continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1714.

The Whig Junto is the name given to a group of leading Whigs who were seen to direct the management of the Whig Party and often the government, during the reigns of William III and Anne. It was the inspiration for Benjamin Franklin's Junto in 1727 Philadelphia upon his return from London. The Whig Junto proper consisted of John Somers, later Baron Somers; Charles Montagu, later Earl of Halifax; Thomas Wharton, later Marquess of Wharton, and Edward Russell, later Earl of Orford. They came to prominence due to the favour of Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland and during the reign of Queen Anne, Sunderland's son, the 3rd Earl succeeded his father. Opponents gave them the nickname "the five tyrannising lords". Other figures prominent around the edges of the Junto include Sir John Trenchard and Thomas Tollemache.

Summary of the constituencies

See 1796 British general election for details. The constituencies used were the same throughout the existence of the Parliament of Great Britain.

1796 British general election

The 1796 British general election returned members to serve in the 18th and last House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain. They were summoned before the Union of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801. The members in office in Great Britain at the end of 1800 continued to serve in the first Parliament of the United Kingdom (1801–02).

Dates of election

The first general election held since the Union took place between 30 April 1708 and 7 July 1708. At this period elections did not take place at the same time in every constituency. The returning officer in each county or borough fixed the precise date (see hustings for details of the conduct of the elections).

See also

2nd Parliament of Great Britain

The 2nd Parliament of Great Britain was the first British Parliament to actually be elected, as the 1st Parliament of Great Britain had been drawn from the former Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland.

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Dysart Burghs was a district of burghs constituency of the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. It elected one Member of Parliament (MP).

Tain Burghs, was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832, sometimes known as Northern Burghs. It was represented by one Member of Parliament (MP).

Kincardineshire was a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1918. It was represented by one Member of Parliament (MP).

Kirkcudbright Stewartry, later known as Kirkcudbright or Kirkcudbrightshire, was a Scottish constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1918. It was represented by one Member of Parliament (MP).

Wigtownshire, was a Scottish constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1918. It was represented by one Member of Parliament.

Perth Burghs (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1801-1832

Perth Burghs was a district of burghs constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain from 1708 to 1801 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 until 1832, representing a seat for one Member of Parliament (MP)

1774 British general election

The 1774 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 14th Parliament of Great Britain to be held, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Lord North's government was returned with a large majority. The opposition consisted of factions supporting the Marquess of Rockingham and the Earl of Chatham, both of whom referred to themselves as Whigs. North's opponents referred to his supporters as Tories, but no Tory party existed at the time and his supporters rejected the label.

1734 British general election

The 1734 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 8th Parliament of Great Britain to be summoned, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Robert Walpole's increasingly unpopular Whig government lost ground to the Tories and the opposition Whigs, but still had a secure majority in the House of Commons. The Patriot Whigs were joined in opposition by a group of Whig members led by Lord Cobham known as the Cobhamites, or 'Cobham's Cubs'

1727 British general election

The 1727 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 7th Parliament of Great Britain to be summoned, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. The election was triggered by the death of King George I; at the time, it was the convention to hold new elections following the succession of a new monarch. The Tories, led in the House of Commons by William Wyndham, and under the direction of Bolingbroke, who had returned to the country in 1723 after being pardoned for his role in the Jacobite rising of 1715, lost further ground to the Whigs, rendering them ineffectual and largely irrelevant to practical politics. A group known as the Patriot Whigs, led by William Pulteney, who were disenchanted with Walpole's government and believed he was betraying Whig principles, had been formed prior to the election. Bolingbroke and Pulteney had not expected the next election to occur until 1729, and were consequently caught unprepared and failed to make any gains against the government party.

1722 British general election

The 1722 British general election elected members to serve in the House of Commons of the 6th Parliament of Great Britain. This was the fifth such election since the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Thanks to the Septennial Act of 1715, which swept away the maximum three-year life of a parliament created by the Meeting of Parliament Act 1694, it followed some seven years after the previous election, that of 1715.

1715 British general election

The 1715 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 5th Parliament of Great Britain to be held, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. In October 1714, soon after George I had arrived in London after ascending to the throne, he dismissed the Tory cabinet and replaced it with one almost entirely composed of Whigs, as they were responsible for securing his succession. The election of 1715 saw the Whigs win an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons, and afterwards virtually all Tories in central or local government were purged, leading to a period of Whig ascendancy lasting almost fifty years during which Tories were almost entirely excluded from office.

1713 British general election

The 1713 British general election produced further gains for the governing Tory party. Since 1710 Robert Harley had led a government appointed after the downfall of the Whig Junto, attempting to pursue a moderate and non-controversial policy, but had increasingly struggled to deal with the extreme Tory backbenchers who were frustrated by the lack of support for anti-dissenter legislation. The government remained popular with the electorate, however, having helped to end the War of the Spanish Succession and agreeing on the Treaty of Utrecht. The Tories consequently made further gains against the Whigs, making Harley's job even more difficult. Contests were held in 94 constituencies in England and Wales, some 35 per cent of the total, reflecting a decline in partisan tension and the Whigs' belief that they were unlikely to win anyway.

1710 British general election

The 1710 British general election produced a landslide victory for the Tories in the wake of the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell and the collapse of the previous Whig government led by Godolphin and the Whig Junto. In November 1709 the clergyman Henry Sacheverell had delivered a sermon fiercely criticising the government's policy of toleration for Protestant dissenters and attacking the personal conduct of the ministers. The government had Sacherevell impeached, and he was narrowly found guilty but received only a light sentence, making the government appear weak and vindictive; the trial enraged a large section of the population, and riots in London led to attacks on dissenting places of worship and cries of "Church in Danger".

Elections in Great Britain

Elections in the Kingdom of Great Britain were principally general elections and by-elections to the House of Commons of Great Britain. General elections did not have fixed dates, as parliament was summoned and dissolved within the royal prerogative, although on the advice of the ministers of the Crown. The first such general election was that of 1708, and the last that of 1796.

1705 English general election

The 1705 English general election saw contests in 110 constituencies in England and Wales, roughly 41% of the total. The election was fiercely fought, with mob violence and cries of "Church in Danger" occurring in several boroughs. During the previous session of Parliament the Tories had become increasingly unpopular, and their position was therefore somewhat weakened by the election, particularly by the Tackers controversy. Due to the uncertain loyalty of a group of 'moderate' Tories led by Robert Harley, the parties were roughly balanced in the House of Commons following the election, encouraging the Whigs to demand a greater share in the government led by Marlborough

The 1702 English general election was the first to be held during the reign of Queen Anne, and was necessitated by the demise of William III. The new government dominated by the Tories gained ground in the election, with the Tory party winning a substantial majority over the Whigs, owing to the popularity of the new monarch and a burst of patriotism following the coronation. Despite this, the government found the new Parliament difficult to manage, as its leading figures Godolphin and Marlborough were not sympathetic to the more extreme Tories. Contests occurred in 89 constituencies in England and Wales.

After the downfall of the Whig Junto during the previous Parliament, King William III had appointed a largely Tory government, which was able to gain ground at the election, exploiting the decline in Whig popularity follow the end of hostilities with France. During the election, the rival East India Companies attempted to secure the election of MPs sympathetic with their interests by interfering in the electoral process to some extent in at least 86 constituencies. Contests were held in 92 of the constituencies, just over a third of the total. The new Parliament lasted less than a year, and its proceedings were dominated by the attempt to confer the succession of the Crown on the House of Hanover.

After the conclusion of the 1698 English general election the government led by the Whig Junto believed it had held its ground against the opposition. Over the previous few years, divisions had emerged within the Whig party between the 'court' supporters of the junto and the 'country' faction, who disliked the royal prerogative, were concerned about governmental corruption, and opposed a standing army. Some contests were therefore between candidates representing 'court' and 'country', rather than Whig and Tory. The Whigs made gains in the counties and in small boroughs, but not in the larger urban constituencies.

The 1695 English general election was the first to be held under the terms of the Triennial Act of 1694, which required parliament to be dissolved and fresh elections called at least every three years. This measure helped to fuel partisan rivalry over the coming decades, with the electorate in a constant state of excitement and the Whigs and Tories continually trying to gain the upper hand. Despite the potential for manipulation of the electorate, as was seen under Robert Walpole and his successors, with general elections held an average of every other year, and local and central government positions frequently changing hands between parties, it was impossible for any party or government to be certain of electoral success in the period after 1694, and election results were consequently genuinely representative of the views of at least the section of the population able to vote.

The 1690 English general election occurred after the dissolution of the Convention Parliament summoned in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution, and saw the partisan feuds in that parliament continue in the constituencies. The Tories made significant gains against their opponents, particularly in the contested counties and boroughs, as the electorate saw the Whigs increasingly as a source of instability and a threat to the Church of England.

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