First Parliament of Great Britain

Last updated
1st Parliament of Great Britain
2nd Anne 2nd
JohnSmithSpeaker.jpg
John Smith, Speaker
Overview
Term23 October 1707 (1707-10-23) – 14 April 1708 (1708-04-14)
Government
House of Commons
Members 558 MPs
Speaker of the House of Commons John Smith
House of Lords
Lord Keeper of the Great Seal William Cowper
Leader of the House of Lords
Sessions
1st23 October 1707 (1707-10-23) – 1 April 1708 (1708-04-01)

The first Parliament of the Kingdom of Great Britain was established in 1707 after the merger of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. It was in fact the 4th and last session of the 2nd Parliament of Queen Anne suitably renamed: no fresh elections were held in England, and the existing members of the House of Commons of England sat as members of the new House of Commons of Great Britain. In Scotland, prior to the union coming into effect, the Scottish Parliament appointed sixteen peers (see representative peers) and 45 Members of Parliaments to join their English counterparts at Westminster.

Contents

Under the Treaty of Union of the Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland it was provided:

III. THAT the United Kingdom of Great Britain be Represented by one and the same Parliament to be stiled the Parliament of Great Britain.

...

XXII. THAT ... A Writ do issue ... Directed to the Privy Council of Scotland, Commanding them to Cause ... forty five Members to be elected to sit in the House of Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain ... in such manner as by a subsequent Act of the present session of the Parliament of Scotland shall be settled ... And that if her Majesty, on or before the first day of May next, on which day the Union is to take place shall Declare ... That it is expedient that the ... Commons of the present Parliament of England, shall be members ... of the first Parliament of Great Britain, for and on the part of England ... and the members of the House of Commons of the said Parliament of England and the forty five Members for Scotland ... shall be ... the first Parliament of Great Britain ...

Queen Anne did declare it to be expedient that the existing House of Commons of England sit in the first Parliament of Great Britain.

The Parliament of Scotland duly passed an Act settling the manner of electing the sixteen peers and forty five commoners to represent Scotland in the Parliament of Great Britain. A special provision for the 1st Parliament of Great Britain was "that the Sixteen Peers and Forty five Commissioners for Shires and Burghs shall be chosen by the Peers, Barrons and Burghs respectively in this present session of Parliament and out of the members thereof in the same manner that Committees of Parliament are usually now chosen shall be the members of the respective Houses of the said first Parliament of Great Britain for and on the part of Scotland ..."

The Kingdom of Great Britain came into existence on 1 May 1707.

Continuity with English parliament

The composition of the final English House of Commons, as elected in 1705. Note that party loyalties are an approximation. House of Commons elected members, 1705.svg
The composition of the final English House of Commons, as elected in 1705. Note that party loyalties are an approximation.

The last English parliament (Queen Anne's second parliament) officially began on 14 June 1705 and sat for three sessions. The first session met from 25 October 1705 to 19 March 1706, the second from 3 December 1706 to 8 April 1707 and the third from 14 April 1707 to 24 April 1707.

According to a clause of the Act of Union, Anne had until 1 May 1707 to convert the current sitting members of the English parliament into the English members of a British parliament, otherwise she would have to call for fresh elections.

In her closing speech of 24 April 1707, Anne informed the English parliament of her intention to exercise the treaty clause before 1 May and have current members of the English parliament sit in the first British parliament. [1] After the speech, at Anne's command, parliament was prorogued until 30 April. On 29 April, as promised in her speech, Anne invoked the clause of the Act of Union reviving the parliament by proclamation. In another proclamation on 5 June, Anne listed the Scottish members (16 peers and 45 commissioners) by name and, without issuing new writs of summons, the Queen scheduled the first parliament of Great Britain to "meet and be holden" on 23 October 1707.

It was not immediately clear, for the purposes of the 1694 Triennial Act, whether the First Parliament of Great Britain would count as a "new" parliament or as a continuation of the current English parliament that had already sat for two years. Some (e.g. Harley) argued that it was a continuation, as it was not summoned by fresh writs, and thus expected its term would expire 14 June 1708, and it would have to be dissolved and new elections called before the deadline. But others (e.g. Marlborough) argued that because Anne's proclamation of 29 April did not renew the prorogation of the last English parliament (set to expire on 30 April), then the last English parliament was legally defunct and the First British Parliament was new, and the triennial clock was reset. Although it seems that Marlborough's opinion prevailed, [2] it was not tested as ultimately the First British Parliament would sit through only one session and be dissolved in April 1708, before the triennial deadline.

The matter of continuity remains ambiguous in the records. The authoritative 19th-century parliamentary historian William Cobbett considered the First British Parliament a new and distinct parliament, and separated it from the Anne's last English parliament. [3] Collections of statute records treat it inconsistently, e.g. the Statutes at Large collections of both Pickering and Ruffhead label the last English session as "5 Anne", and the first British session as "6 Anne" (albeit dating its beginning on 23 October, the date of meeting, and not 29 April, the date of Anne's proclamation). [4] By contrast, the Statutes of the Realm (an official collection) does not differentiate the statute labels, and lists both sessions on the same roll, merged into one act, with the last English statute labelled 6 Anne c.34 and the first British statute labeled 6 Anne c.35. [5]

The ambiguity of continuity mattered to the case of John Asgill, a member of parliament for Bramber, elected in 1705, who was arrested on 12 June 1707 and imprisoned at Fleet Prison for debt. Although this was in the interval between the closure of the English parliament and the opening of the British one, Asgill appealed to parliamentary immunity from arrest on the grounds that he was a member of a current parliament. Asgill's appeal was debated in the British House of Commons shortly after opening. Although the House ended up agreeing, on 16 December, that Asgill had retained immunity in that period ("ought to have the privilege"), they did not explain why, nor declare precisely of which parliament he was a member at the time of his arrest. [6] Nonetheless, two days after ordering his release, the House voted to expel Asgill on different grounds (authoring a blasphemous book). [7]

Dates of the Parliament

Election: On 29 April 1707, the Parliament of Great Britain was proclaimed. The members of the last English House of Commons had been elected between 7 May 1705 and 6 June 1705. The last general election in pre-Union Scotland was in the Autumn of 1702. The Parliament of Scotland met between 6 May 1703 and 25 March 1707.

First meeting and maximum legal term: Parliament first met on 23 October 1707. If continuity is accepted, then the parliament was due to expire, if not sooner dissolved, at the end of the term of three years from the first meeting of the last Parliament of England; which would have been on 14 June 1708.

Dissolution: The first and only session the First British Parliament was prorogued on 1 April 1708. During the recess, it was prorogued again on 13 April and, two days later, on 15 April, parliament was dissolved by proclamation and new writs issued for summons and elections to a new parliament. [8]

Party composition

The concept of party was much looser than it later became. Neither contemporaries or subsequent historians could be absolutely certain of who belonged in which category, however some estimates can be made.

Ambitious noble and gentry families formed themselves into connections of relatives and hangers on. Connections grouped themselves into factions, usually supporting a prominent public figure seeking royal favour and office for himself and his associates. Factions were usually of a Whig or Tory tendency.

Cross-cutting the Whig and Tory division was the Court and Country one. Court Party supporters were those who tended to support the Queen's ministers. Country Party men were inclined to oppose all Ministries.

The party divisions in Scotland were similar to those in England and Wales (although more inclined to Court and Whig than Country and Tory attitudes). Scottish politics also included the Squadrone Volante. This was a group, named after a type of cavalry formation, which had first opposed the Union but developed into moderate supporters of it.

An estimate of the composition of the Parliament of England, after the 1705 election, was Tory 267 and Whig 246.

Summary of the Members of Parliament

Key to categories in the following tables: Boro': Borough constituencies, Shire: County constituencies, Univ.: University constituencies, Co.: Co-opted constituency (elected by Parliament), No.: number of constituencies, MPs: number of Members of Parliament, Total consts: Total constituencies

Scotland is being counted here as a single constituency, as all 45 MPs were elected by the last Parliament of Scotland. Monmouthshire (with one borough and two county members) is included in Wales for the purposes of this article, although at this period it was often regarded as part of England.

Table 1: Constituencies and MPs, by type and country
CountryConstituenciesMembers
Boro'ShireUniv.Co.TotalBoro'ShireUniv.ScotsTotal
Flag of England.svg  England 202392243404784486
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 131326131427
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 114545
Total215522127041792445558
Table 2: Number of seats per constituency, by type and country
CountryBorough
constituencies
Shire and county
constituencies
University
const'ies
Co-opted
const'y
Total
consts
Total
MPs
1 MP2 MPs4 MPsNo.MPs1 MP2 MPsNo.MPs2 MPsMPs45 MPsMPs
Flag of England.svg  England 4196220240439397824243486
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 13131312113142627
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 145145
Total1719622154171240529224145270558

Speakers and Government

William Cowper (Lord Cowper), Lord Keeper of the Seal since October 1705, was elevated by Queen Anne on 4 May 1707 to Lord Chancellor and thus sat on the woolsack as the first Lord Speaker of the House of Lords of Great Britain. [9]

On 23 October 1707, John Smith (1655–1723), MP (Whig) for Andover since 1695, was elected the first Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain. Smith had been the Speaker of the House of Commons of England since 1705. [10]

When this Parliament took place no office of Prime Minister existed. Government in 1707 has been characterized as a "no party" coalition, a mixture of Tory and Whig ministers, led by a triumvirate consisting of Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin (the Lord High Treasurer and dominant minister at the time), Robert Harley (Secretary of State) and John Churchill (Duke of Marlborough) (Master-General of the Ordnance) (see Godolphin–Marlborough ministry for more information). There was a severe political crisis in February 1708, when Anne tried to get to get rid of Godolphin (although a Tory, Godolphin was increasingly reliant on the Junto Whigs in parliament, whom Anne could not brook). Anne tried to impose a new slate of ministers headed by Harley, but Godolphin and Marlborough joined forces to resist it, and it was Harley who got ejected instead. Godolphin remained in office in a reconstructed coalition ministry.

The War of the Spanish Succession, which had begun in earnest in 1702, was still on-going for the duration of this parliament, and much of the parliamentary debate during the session relates to the war. Parliament was still in session when James Francis Stuart ("Old Pretender"), with French support, attempted a failed Jacobite landing in Scotland in March 1708. Among the notable acts of the session was the passage of an act (6 Anne c.6) abolishing the Privy Council of Scotland, and thus establishing a single privy council for both England and Scotland. There were other acts to extend jurisdiction of English institutions (e.g. Courts of Exchequer) to Scotland and formalize the procedures for election of Scottish peers and MPs. It also approved the merger of the East India companies and reinstated a single monopoly (which had been broken in 1698) in return for a lump sum fee (6 Anne c.17). It also passed an act (6 Anne c.32) regulating the positions and elections for governor, directors, etc. of the Bank of England (est. 1694).

See also

Related Research Articles

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, the Whigs contested power with their rivals, the Tories. The Whigs merged into the new Liberal Party in the 1850s, though some Whig aristocrats left the Liberal Party in 1885 to form the Liberal Unionist Party, which merged into the Liberals' rival, the modern day Conservative Party, in 1912.

Anne, Queen of Great Britain Queen of Britain and Ireland (r.1702–14)

Anne was 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.

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough British soldier and statesman

General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of Nellenburg, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs. From a gentry family, he served first as a page at the court of the House of Stuart under James, Duke of York, through the 1670s and early 1680s, earning military and political advancement through his courage and diplomatic skill.

Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin British politician

Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin was a leading British politician of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He was a Privy Councillor and Secretary of State for the Northern Department before attaining real power as First Lord of the Treasury. He was instrumental in negotiating and passing the Acts of Union 1707 with Scotland, which created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer British politician (1661-1724)

Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, KG PC FRS was an English and later British statesman of the late Stuart and early Georgian periods. He began his career as a Whig, before defecting to a new Tory Ministry. He was raised to the peerage of Great Britain as an earl in 1711. Between 1711 and 1714 he served as Lord High Treasurer, effectively Queen Anne's chief minister. He has been called a Prime Minister, although it is generally accepted that the de facto first minister to be a prime minister was Robert Walpole in 1721.

Tories (British political party) Major political faction then party in the United Kingdom from 1678 to 1834

The Tories were a political faction in the parliaments of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Between the 1670s and 1830s, the Tories contested power with their rivals, the Whigs.

This is a list of the principal Ministers of the Crown of the Kingdom of England, and then of the Kingdom of Great Britain, from May 1702, at the beginning of the reign of Queen Anne. During this period, the leaders of the ministry were Lord Godolphin and the Duke of Marlborough.

Treaty of Union Agreement that led to the creation of the new state of Great Britain

The Treaty of Union is the name usually now given to the agreement which led to the creation of the new state of Great Britain, stating that England and Scotland were to be "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain". At the time it was more often referred to as the Articles of Union.

The Scottish representatives to the first Parliament of Great Britain, serving from 1 May 1707 to 26 May 1708, were not elected like their colleagues from England and Wales, but rather hand-picked.

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.

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. 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.

Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin

Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin,, styled Viscount Rialton from 1706 to 1712, was an English courtier and politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons between 1695 and 1712, when he succeeded to the peerage as Earl of Godolphin. Initially a Tory, he modified his views when his father headed the Administration in 1702 and was eventually a Whig. He was a philanthropist and one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital in 1739.

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.

Charles Churchill (British Army officer, born 1656)

General Charles Churchill was a British Army officer who served during the War of the Spanish Succession and an English politician who sat in the English and British House of Commons from 1701 to 1710. He was a younger brother of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and both his military and political careers were closely connected with his brother's. Along with Marlborough's Irish Chief of Staff William Cadogan, he was one of Churchill's closest advisors. He was a Tory, in contrast to his Whig brother who tolerated and possibly used Churchill's Tory connections.

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

1702 English general election

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.

General Daniel Harvey was a British soldier and politician who was Governor of Guernsey from 1714 to 1732.

1st Parliament of Queen Anne

The 1st Parliament of Queen Anne was summoned by Queen Anne of England on 2 July 1702 and assembled on 20 August 1702. Its composition was 298 Tories, 184 Whigs and 31 others, representing a large swing to the Tories since the previous election. Robert Harley, the member for Radnor, was re-elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

2nd Parliament of Queen Anne

The 2nd Parliament of Queen Anne was summoned by Queen Anne of England on 2 May 1705 and assembled on 14 July 1705. Its composition was 260 Tories, 233 Whigs and 20 others but in practice the House was evenly divided. 151 of the MPs had no previous parliamentary experience. John Smith, the member for Andover, was elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

Hugh Campbell, 3rd Earl of Loudoun KT PC was a Scottish landowner, peer, and statesman.

References

  1. "I think it expedient that the Lords of parliament of England, and Commons of the present parliament of England, should be the members of the respective houses of the first parliament of Great Britain, for and on the behalf of England; and therefore I intend within the time limited, to publish a proclamation for the purpose, pursuant to the powers given me by the acts of parliament of both kingdoms, ratifying the treaty of Union" (Anne's speech of 24 April 1707, as published in Cobbett (1810) Parliamentary History of Great Britain, vol. 6: pp. 580–81).
  2. Cobbett (1810: pp. 588–89)
  3. Cobbett (1810, vol. 6, p. 589).
  4. Pickering's Statutes at Large, vol. 11, p. 290
  5. See Chronological Table and Index of the Statutes, 1890: p. 76.
  6. J. Hatsell (1818) Precedents of Proceedings in the House of Commons, vol. 2, p. 41
  7. Cobbett (1810:p. 601)
  8. Cobbett (1810: p. 732)
  9. Cobbett, 1810: v. 6, p. 909
  10. Cobbett, 1810, v.6, p. 589

Sources

Preceded by
New Parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
17071708
Succeeded by