Elections in Great Britain

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Elections in Great Britain
1707–1801
Kingdom of Great Britain.png
Territory of the Kingdom of Great Britain
CapitalLondon
Common languagesEnglish (de facto official), Cornish, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Norn, Welsh
Government Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Monarch  
 1707–14
Anne
 1714–27
George I
 1727–60
George II
 1760–1801
George III
Prime Minister  
 1721–1742
Robert Walpole
 1742–1743
Earl of Wilmington
 1757–1762
Duke of Newcastle
 1766–1768
William Pitt the Elder
 1770–1782
Lord North
 1783–1801
William Pitt the Younger
Legislature Parliament
House of Lords
House of Commons of Great Britain
History 
  1707 Union
1 May 1707
  1801 Union
1 January 1801
CurrencyPound sterling
ISO 3166 code GB
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of England.svg Kingdom of England
Flag of Scotland.svg Kingdom of Scotland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Today part ofUnited Kingdom
Cornish: Rywvaneth Breten Veur
Scots: Kinrick o Great Breetain
Scottish Gaelic: Rìoghachd na Breatainne Mòire
Welsh: Teyrnas Prydain Fawr

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.

Contents

In 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland replaced the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. For the period after 1801, see Elections in the United Kingdom.

Elections

For details of the national elections of Great Britain, see:

Political factions

Politics in Great Britain was dominated by the Whigs and the Tories, although neither were political parties in the modern sense but loose alliances of interests and individuals. The Whigs included many of the leading aristocratic dynasties who were most committed to the Protestant settlement of the throne, with later support from the emerging industrial interests and rich city merchants, while the Tories were associated with the landed gentry, the Church of England and the Church of Scotland. [1]

Members of Parliament needed to appeal to a much smaller electorate than is the case today, especially in the boroughs. In the case of the rotten and pocket boroughs, a majority of the votes was usually controlled by one person, or by a small group. This gave less power to organized political parties and more to influential individuals, some of whom had themselves elected in the constituencies they controlled. Such seats were also sold for hard cash. Thus, many members were fundamentally Independents, even if they attached themselves to one party or another during their parliamentary careers. [1]

Members of Parliament and Parliamentary constituencies

The constituencies which elected members in England and Wales remained unchanged throughout the existence of the Parliament of Great Britain. [2]

Table of parliamentary constituencies and seats in the House of Commons
CountryBCCCUCTotal CBMCMUMTotal Members
England [3] 203402245405804489
Wales [3] 12120241212024
Scotland 15300451530045
Total2308223144321224558

Local elections

There were few local elections in the Kingdom of Great Britain as the concept is now understood. Local government existed only in rudimentary forms, and much of the civil administration of the counties was carried out by the unelected Quarter Sessions and by magistrates. In the City of London, annual elections were held to the Corporation of London, but on a limited suffrage, and some improvement commissioners were elected by ratepayers, if not co-opted, while the borough and city corporations elsewhere were generally not directly elected.

For further information on local corporations during this period, see the reforming Municipal Corporations Act 1835.

See also

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1780 British general election

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1774 British general election British Parliamentary election

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1761 British general election

The 1761 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 12th Parliament of Great Britain to be summoned, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. This was the first Parliament chosen after the accession to the throne of King George III. It was also the first election after George III had lifted the conventional proscription on the employment of Tories in government. The King prevented the Prime Minister, the Duke of Newcastle, from using public money to fund the election of Whig candidates, but Newcastle instead simply used his private fortune to ensure that his ministry gained a comfortable majority.

1754 British general election

The 1754 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 11th Parliament of Great Britain to be summoned, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Owing to the extensive corruption and the Duke of Newcastle's personal influence in the pocket boroughs, the government was returned to office with a working majority.

1747 British general election 1747 general election in Great Britain

The 1747 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 10th Parliament of Great Britain to be summoned, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. The election saw Henry Pelham's Whig government increase its majority and the Tories continue their decline. By 1747, thirty years of Whig oligarchy and systematic corruption had weakened party ties substantially; despite the fact that Walpole, the main reason for the split that led to the creation of the Patriot Whig faction, had resigned, there were still almost as many Whigs in opposition to the ministry as there were Tories, and the real struggle for power was between various feuding factions of Whig aristocrats rather than between the old parties. The Tories had effectively become an irrelevant group of country gentlemen who had resigned themselves to permanent opposition.

1741 British general election

The 1741 British general election returned members to serve in the House of Commons of the 9th Parliament of Great Britain to be summoned, after the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. The election saw support for the government party increase in the quasi-democratic constituencies which were decided by popular vote, but the Whigs lost control of a number of rotten and pocket boroughs, partly as a result of the influence of the Prince of Wales, and were consequently re-elected with the barest of majorities in the Commons, Walpole's supporters only narrowly outnumbering his opponents.

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.

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 1707 merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. 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. The Whigs then moved to impeach Robert Harley, the former Tory first minister. After he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years, the case ultimately ended with his acquittal in 1717.

1708 British general election

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.

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

References

  1. 1 2 Keith Feiling; A History of the Tory Party, 1640–1714 (1924), online edition; The Second Tory Party, 1714–1832 (1938), online edition
  2. Chris Cook & John Stevenson, British Historical Facts 1760–1830 (The Macmillan Press, 1980)
  3. 1 2 Monmouthshire, with one county constituency represented by two members and one single-member borough constituency, is included in England. In later centuries it was included in Wales.

Coordinates: 51°30′N0°07′W / 51.500°N 0.117°W / 51.500; -0.117