Bill of Rights to the American War of Independence - 1685 to 1780

With the death of Charles II religion once again dominated the political agenda.
  Anti Catholic riots were regular occurrences and when James II, a Catholic took the throne the antagonisms between the religions increased.   James II attempted to impose personal rule and his own Catholic faith.   He dismissed Parliament and tried to get his own way through the judiciary.   A Roman Catholic army officer was brought to trial under the Test Acts:
The Lord Chief Justice read the verdict on behalf of his almost unanimous colleagues.   It could hardly have been clearer.   Or more subversive:
We think we may very well declare the opinion of the court to be that the King may dispense in this case… upon these grounds:
         1.             That the Kings of England are sovereign princes.
         2.             That the laws of England are the King’s laws.
         3.            That therefore ‘tis an inseparable prerogative of the Kings of England to dispense                 with penal laws in particular cases, and upon necessary reasons.
         4.             That of those reasons and those necessities the King himself is sole judge.
         5.             That this is not a trust invested in… the King by the people, but the ancient remains of            the sovereign power and prerogative of the Kings of England.
The ruling transformed Parliament into a mere sleeping partner in the constitution: it might pass what laws it liked; whether and on whom they could be enforced was purely up to the king. Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity by David Starkey
This was dynamite and plunged the country straight back to the times of Charles I and the “divine right of kings”.   The English Protestants were fuming.   Once again they could see Roman Catholicism in the ascendancy.   James tried to ameliorate the position by promising religious tolerance but matters came to a head with the birth of a son.   Questions were raised about the legitimacy of the boy but the writing was on the wall.   Tories and Whigs for once were united and decided that for English Protestantism to survive, Mary, the daughter of James II should be sent for to re-establish the Protestant religion.   Four Whig Peers and Three Tories invited William III of Orange (husband of Mary) to invade Britain and take the Crown.   William agreed.   The political classes were quite willing to remove their Leader.   They invited William but used the invitation to set their terms.
William III of Orange was the son of Charles II’s elder sister Mary.   As such he was the grandson of Charles I.   He married Mary, the eldest daughter of James II.   His strength was that both he and Mary were strong Protestants.
Fortunately for England William was used to negotiation.   He did not subscribe to the “divine right of kings”.   At his home in the Netherlands the House of Orange was not a sovereign house, but the head of it was “first among equals”.   We were about to see the creation of the modern Monarchy.   The ramifications for the Monarchy and the people were huge.   Parliament was now supreme.
William’s first and foremost duty was to the Dutch States.   He had to obtain their approval to claim the English throne on his wife’s behalf.   He got it.
In an invasion as significant as that of 1066 William and his forces landed at Torbay in Devon on 5th November 1688, and then marched to Exeter.   William had 500 ships, 20,000 soldiers and a further 20,000 marines.   A huge invasion, but nobody in England seemed to mind.   At first James decided to resist, but as his Generals deserted him for William all the stuffing was knocked out of him.   William sent a strong detachment of troops to London and arrested James.   He was taken to Rochester and on 23rd December, allowed to escape to France and exile.   Without a shot being fired William was in control of England.
This is almost unprecedented.   In order to stop Catholicism people sought out a new King, but they also said “only come on our terms” and those terms were a manifestation of ideas which had emerged over two centuries.   We have an invasion, we have a new King, and yet he is invited in on terms, which he accepts.   The fundamental institutions of the United Kingdom are maintained and there is continuity.   Only the Monarch can recall Parliament so William used the precedent of Charles II in calling for a Convention.   This formal assembly of Parliament was an exciting and extraordinary situation which was unrolling.    What would be the outcome?   It was not all plain sailing:
After the final departure of James II (Christmas 1688), the Prince of Orange issued letters summoning a Convention, which met on 22 January 1689.   The first business of this Convention was to settle the question who should be King of England.   It was resolved that James II, “having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom by breaking the original contract between king and people, and by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons having violated the fundamental laws and withdrawn himself out of the kingdom, hath abdicated the government and the throne is thereby become vacant”.   Many of the Tories still clung to the theory that James was divinely appointed, and therefore must be king as long as he was alive; they wished for a Regency ruling in his name.   Lord Nottingham proposed that the Crown should go to Mary, James’s elder daughter, with her husband, William of Orange, acting as Regent.   But here William intervened; he flatly refused to rule in his wife’s name.   He would have the Crown or nothing – otherwise he would return to Holland.   It was then decided to offer the Crown to William and Mary as joint sovereigns, and this offer was accepted (February 1689). A History of Britain Section 5 1688-Present Day by E Carter & R Mears

This was an unprecedented situation for an extraordinary time.   England had never before had joint sovereigns, and it has never happened since.   The offer was not made with unanimous agreement.   Of course it can be argued that the Tories had simply backed the wrong man, which seems more plausible than that they still believed in the “divine right of kings”.   We had now reached a point in time when it tended to be only Kings themselves who thought they had divine right.   In the end it was Parliament, which decided to offer the Crown to William and Mary, effectively ending the principle of inheritance, which over the centuries Kings had tried to enshrine.   All future Monarchs would take their place as a result of a decision of Parliament.
The Convention consisted of both Houses of Parliament.   Mary had refused to be sole ruler.   In the end, Parliament agreed to a face-saving compromise.   The exercise of sovereignty would be vested solely in William, although Mary would administer effectively during his long absences on military campaigns.   Having given William the crown, Parliament now restricted the powers that he, or any future monarch, could exercise.   William and Mary did not take the throne totally unopposed.   On the day of their coronation, news arrived that James had landed in Ireland with a force of French mercenaries.   The Irish troops that he then gathered around him were unseasoned and his own incompetence and indolence made matters worse.   The result was James's final shattering defeat at the Battle of the Boyne on 12th July 1690 – an event still commemorated in Northern Ireland.
The Convention had not been at all smooth water.   There was much debate, but the incontrovertible fact was that the country found itself with:
James, still very much alive, if not in full possession of his mental faculties, or indeed present in the country itself.   Faced with these facts, the Commons made up of James’s Whig enemies and under the chairmanship of Richard Hampden, son of Charles I’s implacable enemy, made a bold resolution.   It was also a daring constitutional innovation.   James II, they declared, had broken the “original contract” between king and subjects.   He had also violated the “fundamental laws” of the realm.   And most importantly, by removing himself from the country, he had abdicated the throne.   The country had not been conquered by William; James had not been deposed.   The king had deserted his people, not the other way round.   It was a piece of fiction, but it was a very convenient one."Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity" by David Starkey.
Parliament had the confidence to draw up the Declaration of Rights, but it was still undemocratic.   The balance of power had changed and Parliament was determined to enshrine it in Statute.   The Bill of Rights is one of the most important constitutional events in our history.
All                                    All was now ready for the formal offer of the crown to William and Mary in the Banqueting House at Whitehall.   Mary, who had arrived in England only the day previously and, it was widely felt, had stepped into Mary of Modena’s apartments; her possessions and her very habits with indecent glee joined her husband under the Cloth of Estate.   The Lords on the right, and the Commons on the left, led by their Speakers, approached the steps of the throne; the clerk read out the Bill of Rights and a nobleman offered William and Mary the crown in the name of the Convention as the “representative of the nation”. Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity by David Starkey.
   The “Declaration of Rights” was read out at their coronation.   William would ask for, not demand funds from parliament to fight his wars.   The Bill of Rights put into statute many of the limitations on the royal prerogative, which had been determined over the past hundred years.   William and Mary, in accepting the throne, had to consent to govern “according to the Statutes in Parliament agreed on”.   Under the Bill of Rights “No monarch may be a Roman Catholic or married to a Roman Catholic”.   The implications for freedom, justice democracy and liberty, which were at the heart of the Bill of Rights, had huge significance.  
    In our definition of democracy there should be no religious discrimination.  The monarch should be monarch of the whole nation regardless of religion.   In other words they should be “Defender of faiths” rather than “Defender of the faith”.  By specifying that the monarch may not be a Roman Catholic they were demonstrating religious discrimination.
   Parliamentary privilege is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.   It states “…the freedome of speech and debates or proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in a court or a place out of Parlyament.”

  The Bill of Rights, 1689, removed once and for all the King’s claim to certain important prerogatives.   The King’s power to suspend or dispense with laws, to levy money by pretence of the prerogative and without grant of Parliament, and to raise or keep an army in times of peace was henceforth abolished.   Freedom of speech and of proceedings in Parliament and the rights of subjects to petition the King were all re-asserted.   From 1689 till the present day, Parliament has sat every year because it declined to grant William (or his successors) either money or a standing Army for more than one year at a time.
The Declaration of Rights was made on 13 February 1689.   It is so critical for the Constitution of the United Kingdom that we set it out in full as recorded in the Journals of the House of Commons.  It is interesting in that it also gives the reasons why the Declaration of Rights was felt necessary.
Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges, and ministers, employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of this kingdom.
By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws, and the execution of laws, without consent of parliament;
By committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates, for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed power;
By issuing and causing to be executed a commission, under the great seal, for erecting a court, called, the court of commissioners for ecclesiastical causes;
By levying money for and to the use of the crown, by pretence of prerogative, for other time, and in other manner, than the same was granted by parliament;
By raising and keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, without consent of parliament; and quartering soldiers contrary to law;
By causing several good subjects, being protestants, to be disarmed, at the same time, when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law;
By violating the freedom on election of members to serve in parliament;
By prosecutions in the court of king’s bench, for matters and causes cognizable only in parliament:
And by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses:
 And whereas, of late years, partial, corrupt, and unqualified, persons have been returned, and served on juries in trials, and, particularly, divers jurors in trials for high treason, which were not freeholders;
And excessive bail hath been required of persons committed in criminal cases, to elude the benefit of the laws made for the liberty of the subjects;
And excessive fines have been imposed;
And illegal and cruel punishments inflicted;
And several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures, before any
conviction or judgement against the persons upon whom the same were to be levied;
All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws, and statutes, and freedom of this realm:
And whereas the said King James the Second having abdicated the government; and the throne being thereby vacant;
His Highness the Prince of Orange whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power, did, by the advice of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and divers principal persons of the Commons, cause letters to be written to the Lords spiritual and temporal, being Protestants; and other letters, to the several counties, cities, universities, boroughs, and Cinque Ports, for the chusing of such persons to represent them as were of right to be sent to parliament, to meet and sit at Westminster upon the 12th day of January, in this year 1688, in order to such an establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties, might not again be in danger of being subverted:
Upon which letters, elections having been accordingly made;
And thereupon, the said Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, pursuant to their respective letters, and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, (as their ancestors, in like case, have usually done) for the vindication and asserting their ancient rights and liberties, declare;
That the pretended power of suspending of laws by regal authority, without
  consent of parliament is illegal;
That the pretended power of dispensing with laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal;
That the commission for erecting the late court of commissioners for
ecclesiastical causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious; i.e., 1689.
That levying of money for or to the use of the crown, by the pretence of
prerogative, without grant of parliament, for longer time, or in other manner, than the
same is or shall be granted, is illegal;
That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king; and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;
That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of parliament, is against law;
That the subjects, which are protestants, may have arms for their defence, suitable to their conditions, as allowed by law;
That election of members of parliament ought to be free;
That the freedom and debates or proceedings in parliament ought not to be
impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament;
That excessive bail ought not to be required; nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;
That jurors ought to be impanelled and returned; and jurors, which pass upon men in trials for high treason, ought to be freeholders;
That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons, before conviction, are illegal and void;
And that, for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the laws, parliaments ought to be held frequently.
And they do claim, demand, and insist upon, all and singular the premises, as their undoubted rights and liberties; and that no declarations, judgements, doings, or proceedings, to the prejudice of the people, in any of the said premises, ought, in any way, to be drawn hereafter with consequence, or example.
To which demand of their rights they are particularly encouraged by the
Declaration of his Highness the Prince of Orange; as being the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein.
Having therefore an entire confidence, that his said Highness the Prince of Orange will perfect a deliverance so far advanced by him; and will still preserve them from the violation of their rights, which they have here asserted; and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights and liberties;
The said Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, assembled at Westminster, do resolve,
That William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, be, and be declared, King and Queen of England, France, and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging; to hold the crown and royal dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to them the said Prince and princess, during their lives, and the life of the survivor of them:
 And that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in, and executed by, the said Prince of Orange, in the names of the said prince and princess, during their joint lives; and, after their deceases, the said crown and royal dignity of the said kingdom and dominions to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess:
 And, for default of such issue, to the Princess Ann of Denmark, and the heirs of her body: and, for default of such issue, to the heirs of the body of the said Prince of Orange.
And the said Lords spiritual, and temporal, and Commons, do pray the said Prince and Princess of Orange to accept the same accordingly.
And that the oaths, hereafter mentioned, be taken by all persons of whom the oaths of allegiance and supremacy might be required by law, instead of them; and the said oaths of allegiance and supremacy be abrogated.
I, A.B. do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be faithful, and bear true
allegiance, to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. So help me God.

I, A.B. do swear, that I do from my heart abhor, detest, and abjure, as impious and heretical, this damnable doctrine and position, That princes excommunicated or deprived by the pope, or any authority of the see of Rome, may be deposed or murdered by their subjects, or any one whatsoever. And I do declare, that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preheminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.
England finally rid itself of papal interference in the Bill of Rights, although Puritanism was a political force.   Parliament was supreme.   The monarch had to act with the consent of Parliament.   The army was now under Parliamentary control.   Freedom of speech in Parliament was guaranteed.   The law had to be administered in a fair and just way.   All this was part of the Bill of rights.
This “Glorious Revolution” (1688-9), which determined the future political history of England, was accompanied by a step forward on the path of religious toleration.   William of Orange was a Calvinist, and he refused to permit the continued persecution of Dissenters.   By the Toleration Act (1689), Nonconformist congregations were allowed to worship in their own way, without interference from the law.   They were not, however, admitted to a share in local or national government, from which their religion still debarred them; the Corporation Act and the Test Act remained unrepealed until the nineteenth century.   Roman Catholics were not included in the Toleration Act; though in practise they were allowed to hold their own services in peace. E. Carter & R. Mears - "A History of Britain Section 5 1688 to present day"
The Test and Corporation Acts were aimed at the Presbyterians and Catholics preventing them from holding public office, so the Toleration Act was a minor step forward in reducing religious discrimination. 
On the accession of William III the number of peers had increased to about 150.   Royal patronage was on the increase.   The House of Lords being unelected and unaccountable was part of the legislature and in spite of several reforms, has remained so, even today.
Ever since 1689 Parliament has sat every year because it refused to grant William or his successor’s money or a standing army for more than one year at a time.
During the course of William’s reign England went through some fairly dramatic times and until William’s death in France in 1701 there was still the threat from James II.   Nevertheless the times were generally happy.   The institutions re-established themselves and grew in strength.   William was determined to resolve the issue of religion in Scotland. He allowed the Scots to organise their own religion without interference from England; the Presbyterian Kirk was therefore set up as the National Church of Scotland.
Scotland now had a national, democratically controlled church.   Every member had the right to take part in the election of the minister and in the management of the affairs of the congregation.    It is an interesting phenomena that in both England and Scotland democracy plays a part in the running and control of the Churches, even though essentially they are based on faith.   The churches themselves were amongst the first of our democratic institutions and yet were very slow to support democracy for the people.
In Ireland a very different picture emerged.   The Protestant Dissenters were not allowed the religious tolerance given to England and Scotland.   This was not due to William, who having defeated James’s army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 went on to sign a Treaty with Patrick Sarsfeld in Limerick in the autumn of 1691 whereby the Catholics would have as much freedom and liberty as they had held under Charles II.   Sarsfield left Ireland under the amnesty and joined the Irish Brigade of the French army. 
Limerick was the last town to hold out against William:

But the Treaty of Limerick was shamefully broken.   King William himself was anxious to carry out its terms and to treat the Catholics fairly.   But the English parliament was highly intolerant, and in 1691 passed a law that only Protestants could sit in the Irish Parliament.   This sealed the fate of the Catholics, whose existence was made miserable by a harsh Penal Code, begun under William and Mary, and continued under Queen Anne.   By this Code Catholics were forbidden to sit not only in Parliament but on juries; they could not serve in the army, or on town councils, or enter the teaching profession.   They could not buy land, and when one of the existing Catholic landowners died, his property did not descend to his heir, but had to be split up among all his childrenE. Carter & R. Mears - "A History of Britain Section 5 1688 to present day"
The Whigs, who had effected the Revolution, which placed William III on the throne, now enjoyed power, to the mortification of the discomfited Tories.   The land owning Whig oligarchy, which had put William on the throne, ran the country in its own interests.   England prospered and favourable trade arrangements led in 1690 to the Treaty of Union between England and Scotland.
In 1694, Sir John Trevor was found guilty of a “high crime and misdemeanour” in having, as Speaker of the House, accepted a gratuity of a thousand guineas (an enormous sum by contemporary standards) from the City of London after passing the Orphans Bill.   He was duly expelled, as was a Mr. Hungerford for receiving a more modest sum of twenty guineas for his part as chairman of the committee for the bill.   This scandal led to the passing of a resolution in 1695 against outright corruption by acceptance of bribes: “That the offer of money, or other advantage, to a Member of Parliament for the promoting of any matter whatsoever, depending or to be transacted in Parliament is a high crime and misdemeanour”. "Parliament under Blair" by Peter Riddell
This principle is relevant today.   In recent years there have been several cases where MPs have been accused of accepting money for promoting issues in Parliament.   In 1997 the MP for Beaconsfield resigned as a Parliamentary Candidate in that year’s General Election for just such a reason.
Also in 1694 the Triennial Act was passed which was designed to ensure regular meetings of Parliament, at least once every three years, and to limit the life span of Parliament to 3 years by a compulsory General Election.   A Place Bill to exclude from the Commons all office holders and recipients of money from the Crown, was narrowly defeated.   Many MPs were office holders receiving money from the Crown.   Had these Bills been passed there would have been a major shake up of the House of Commons.   Later legislation was to be passed excluding office holders from the Commons.   This is why when an MP wishes to resign he accepts the office of “Crown Steward and Bailiff of the “Chiltern Hundreds”, which being an office of the crown effectively excludes himself from the Commons.
In 1695 an Act was passed against bribery and treating (giving gifts to the voters to encourage them to vote in a particular way) in elections, the first of a series of measures which have been found requisite from time to time.   The records of the immense sums spent in corrupting the suffrage prove that this Act was needed.   Thomas, Marquis of Wharton, is calculated to have spent eighty thousand pounds of his own fortune in electioneering.   This spirited nobleman, who was one of the most energetic Whigs, and largely instrumental in bringing over the Prince of Orange, has been regarded as the greatest adept at electioneering which England ever saw.   He managed to return between twenty to thirty members.   The Act for Preventing Charge and Expense in Elections of Members to serve in Parliament stated that candidates who gave or promised any present or reward to any person having a vote, for the purpose of influencing their vote, shall be declared not elected.

A Commons resolution was passed in 1699, which was subsequently amended much later after Irish independence, which declared: “No peer of the realm except a peer of Ireland hath any right to give his vote in the election of any Member to serve in Parliament.”   Perhaps surprisingly the ban does not apply to Lords Bishops.   As was recently explained by the Bishop of Chester, “We are here only in a spiritual capacity.   That is why we retire.”
Mary died in 1694 and by 1701, King William was gravely ill, having been thrown from his horse when it tripped over a molehill.   He would be succeeded by his half sister Anne, but if she had no surviving children (as was the case) the Act of Settlement of 1701 ensured that the throne would pass to “the most excellent princess Sophia, electress and grand duchess dowager of Hanover”, grand-daughter of James I, or to the heirs of her body being Protestants”.   Parliament passed over 50 legitimate Catholic claimants to the throne, including James II before arriving at Sophia.   Unfortunately for Sophia, she died before inheriting the crown and it was left to her son George Ludwig to take over from Anne.
In other words, the Act excluded the exiled James and his descendants and ensured those Protestant princes, the Hanoverian Georges and their descendants would inherit the throne.   An oath of abjuration was introduced requiring members to renounce the claim of the Stuarts to the throne.   The title and succession to the throne is set out in the Act of Settlement.   Also the Act made judges irremovable except by an Address by both Houses of Parliament.   This latter point is very important.   Clearly Parliament had not forgotten how James II had interfered with the judiciary in order to get a favourable decision on the prosecution of the Catholic army officer.   It did not want a repeat of this by another Monarch.
Our constitution evolved so as to embed the power of the executive within the power of the legislature, and to balance what results with the independent power of the judiciary.   If the judiciary acts to restrain the power of the executive in some way, it is always open to Parliament, in which the political party of the executive will normally have a majority, to overturn the relevant law.   Theoretically, it is open to Parliament to repeal all or part of the Act of Settlement on which the independence of the judiciary formally rests.   The balance of power had three parts, dependent on each other, yet separate.  
The Act restricted the sovereign from leaving England without parliamentary permission.   Once again we see the memory of Parliament being exercised.   This time they remembered James II escaping to France and going outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.   They wanted Kings to be held to account.
  Old and Young pretenders subsequently tried to undo their defeat by rebellion but failed.   The Two Pretenders were James Edward Stuart, known as the Old Pretender, and his son Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender. Both were Catholics and were determined to take their place - in their opinion, their rightful place - as King of England
Both Pretenders, in their own way, were something of a disaster. Both relied on their undoubted popularity with the Scots, but were sadly lacking when it came to organisation or common sense! The Old Pretender James Edward, was the son of James II of England and his second wife Mary of Modena.
 Because the first Hanoverian kings spoke little English, parliament began to be a more powerful force in government, but for the people:
 The eighteenth century was not a period of gradual progress towards democracy in Britain, as Whig historians have tried to suggest, but of a determined retreat from it.   The poor, or “the mob or mere dregs of the people” as Henry Fox, father of Charles James, once called them, were seen not only as wholly unfit to rule, being ignorant and lacking the independence which property supposedly conferred, but even as a threat to the freedom for which England was internationally renowned. "Democracy" by A. Arblaster
  The arrogance of the middle classes can be summed up in the words of John Wesley:
  “The greater share the people have in government the less liberty, civil or religious, does a nation enjoy”.

  John Wesley was an evangelist and founder of Methodism.
Corruption in Parliament was rife at this time and a case came before Parliament in 1703 that highlights prevalent electoral practices.   It seems to have been the tactics of those persons whose party held a majority in the House, to decide all disputed elections so as to strengthen their own side.   “The majority”, meaning the government, legislated thus partially, conveniently ignoring the energetic protests against such flagrant injustice.   They condoned direct bribery and downright perjury, according to the allegations of the minority; who it is said, when the turn of the wheel came which raised them to power, invariably endorsed the policy of their predecessors by repeating the same evil practices.   The investigation brought to light the illegitimate nature of election returns, proving that it had long been the habit of constables and similar officials to secure for such candidates as would pay them sufficiently, their return to parliament by obtaining a majority of votes for the person who purchased their connivance.   Thus, after the seat was, in advance, put up to the highest bidder, pains were taken to ascertain in whose favour each vote was likely to be given; those burgesses who were not to be cajoled or bribed into voting for the candidate adopted by the constables were prevented from voting otherwise, under various pretexts by which they were disabled or disenfranchised.   The oppression reduced representative government to a mere pretence.   Furious arguments took place between the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the judges in the case.   Eventually a copy of the case was sent to all the Sheriffs of England serving as a caution for the future.
Power corrupts, so corruption is endemic in any political system.   The key in a mature democracy is to keep it under control.   In young democracies or in countries moving towards democracy there is always a tendency towards corruption.   More recently, look at what has happened in Iraq.   The fewer number of electors the greater the temptation to attempt corruption.   In 1703 many seats in Parliament had fewer than four hundred electors.   The temptation to corrupt was overwhelming.
The representation of the people in Parliament had long become an illusion.   The knights of the shires were the nominees of nobles and great wealthy landowners; the Crown returned the borough members, by noble patrons or close corporations; even the representation of cities, with greater pretensions to independence, was controlled by bribery.   The Crown’s bribes were often given out of Treasury money.   Even the King was not averse to using bribery to get his own way. Nor were rulers content with their control of the representation, but, after the Restoration, the infamous system of bribing the members themselves became a recognised instrument of administration.   The country gentlemen were not less attached to the principles of rational liberty than their fathers, and would have resisted further encroachments of prerogatives; but they were satisfied with the Revolution settlement and the remedial laws of William III, and no new issue had yet arisen to awaken opposition. Accordingly, they ranged themselves with one or other of the political parties into which parliament was now beginning to be divided, and bore their part in the more measured strifes of the 18th century.   From the Revolution, till the reign of George III. the effective power of the state was wielded by the Crown and the territorial aristocracy; but the influence of public opinion since the stirring events of the 17th century had greatly increased.   Both parties were constrained to defer to it; and, notwithstanding the flagrant defects in the representation, parliament generally kept itself in accord with the general sentiments of the country.
The political Parties were generally loose arrangements.   They had not yet acquired the discipline or organisation of the modern Party.

The Church did not wield power as such, but religion was highly influential.   Parliament was painfully aware of the likely results if it was not synchronised with the rest of the country.   Public opinion no longer consisted of those at court and those with the power to muster troops, but with the wider public. 
The main item on the agenda during Queen Anne’s reign was Union with Scotland.   Union could only happen if a treaty could be agreed by both the English and Scottish governments. Each government sent commissioners who worked in separate groups, communicating by writing only.
Right up to the event it was by no means certain that negotiations for Union would be successful.   Conscious of developing authority, the Scottish Parliament had passed a number of measures designed to assert its independence.   In particular an Act of Security, to which Royal assent was reluctantly given in 1704, had provided that on the death of Queen Anne the Scottish succession would be different from the Hanoverian succession already determined in England and Wales by the Act of Settlement of 1701.    The danger of the Act of Security was that there was nothing to stop the Old Pretender, James VII of Scotland from converting to Protestantism, claiming the throne and then when he had it converting back to Catholicism.   We would then be faced with the old problem.   Not surprisingly English retaliation was quick in forthcoming.   It took the form of the Alien Act of 1705, directed against the status of Scots in England and trade between the two countries; its provisions were to come into force unless Scotland accepted the Hanoverian succession before the end of the year.
As was intended, this measure put pressure on the Scottish Parliament either to stand by a different succession, which would mean reversion to complete separation, or to move towards Union.   In the event new Commissioners were appointed and speedily agreed on the terms of the Union, which at English insistence was to be complete.   Notwithstanding considerable opposition in Scotland, the Scottish Parliament concluded that Union was the most sensible solution to the relationship between the two kingdoms. It passed the Act of Union by 110 votes to 69.   The terms were then approved without amendment by the Westminster Parliament.
When the Treaty was drawn up, it began its progress first through the Scottish Parliament, beginning October 1706, ratified January 1707 and then through the English Parliament (ratified March 1707).
The Treaty of Union declares that England and Scotland shall become one kingdom, with the same monarchy and succession, and equal trade and economic rights. Some clauses permit the continuation of Scottish institutions (such as the burgh and legal systems). Other institutions, such as the Great Seal (used to signify state approval) were remade in a new ‘British’ version. However, most clauses stated that Union was to be obtained by Scotland adopting the existing English form: customs and excise duties, weights and measures and coinage. The English representation in the House of Commons and the House of Lords remained unchanged; Scotland was permitted to send sixteen peers to the Lords and forty-five MPs (burgh and shire commissioners) to the Commons.

The Scottish Parliament was abolished.   The 1707 Union gave Scotland only 45 seats in the new 558-seat British Parliament.   This was less than a strict allocation based on population. The amount of representation for Scotland had proved a difficult problem to solve.   Based on population Scotland would have had eighty-five MPs.   Based on wealth it would have had thirteen.   Eventually a compromise was reached at forty-five.   This was a undemocratic outcome for it meant that a vote in Scotland had less value than a vote in England, but wealth was still a factor in English democracy.
 For the rest of the eighteenth century Scottish Parliamentary representation was controlled by Scotland’s major landholding magnates and bore little relevance to Scottish society, rather like the rest of the kingdom.
Of the 45 seats the 33 Scottish counties elected 30, while 15 were elected from the Scottish burghs.   As in Wales, burghs were banded together to return one member collectively, save in Edinburgh which in recognition of its position as capital was granted a member all to itself.   The 15 Scottish burghs consisted of the city of Edinburgh, where the 33 members of the city corporation elected a member, and 14 groups of four or five smaller burghs, each group electing one member between them.   The corporations of each of the burghs making up the group held the franchise in the groups of burghs.   Each burgh corporation would chose a delegate and the delegates would then meet to elect the member. The representation tended to rotate among the burghs in each group.   Since most of the burghs were little more than villages, the leading county families could usually bribe the corporation members to get their nominees elected.
Twenty-seven counties elected one member each (this included Orkney and Shetland, which were strictly speaking not counties but fiefs of the Crown, but were treated as if they were a county).   The six smallest counties were grouped together into three groups of two, with one of each pair electing a member at alternate elections.
The Scottish county franchise was even more restrictive than for the English counties.   A voter either had to own land worth the equivalent of two pounds sterling "of old extent"- meaning that the land had to have had that value since the creation of the Scottish Parliament in the 14th century - or to hold as a Crown tenant land to the value of 35 pounds sterling.   This restricted the franchise to a handful of wealthy landowners, and in most counties there were fewer than 100 voters.   In some it was far fewer: in Sutherlandshire the Duke of Sutherland owned almost the entire county, and all the voters were his tenants, while in Orkney and Shetland there were seven voters in 1759.   The total Scottish county electorate was fewer than 3,000 in 1800.
This under–representation gradually reduced in the 18th century and was further diminished after the Union with Ireland in 1801.   By creating a Parliament for Great Britain it determined the territorial boundaries within which the constitution operates.   The first Parliament of Great Britain met on 23 October 1707.   England, Scotland and Wales now had one parliament.
The Union with Scotland, which came into effect on 1st May 1707, added sixteen representative Scottish peers to the House of Lords.   This was not enough to give a seat to all the Scottish peers so the Scottish peers at each General Election elected sixteen representative peers from their number.   The votes for each peer could be obtained for as little as £50 each. They were added to the 187 English peers in the House of Lords.   In 2007 a similar situation arose regarding the hereditary peers that were left in the House of Lords.   When one died the Party to which he belonged conducted an election of those hereditary peers not in the House of Lords to choose his successor. 
The electoral system, which had operated in the Scottish Parliament since its creation, was preserved for the election of Scotland's representatives at Westminster.

The issue of a separate Scottish Parliament has never been completely put to bed.   Today the Scottish National Party wants independence for Scotland and there is some support for the United Kingdom to have a federal structure.   The implications for representative democracy are huge.   The argument is not yet over.
Also 1707 was the last time a royal veto was put on a bill passed by both Houses of Parliament.   The bill was the Scottish Militia Bill and the sovereign was Queen Anne.
Queen Anne withheld the Royal Assent from the Scottish Militia Bill when it became apparent that James – the Old Pretender - was planning with Louis XIV of France to invade Scotland from Calais in an attempt to establish a Jacobite sovereign.   Were such an invasion to be successful, the Queen feared a Scottish militia might be turned against the monarchy.   Thus, parliament’s will was denied in the interests of the sovereignty of the nation and the security of the realm.
This is an important moment in history.   It was the last time the Monarch overturned the will of Parliament.   From hereon they bowed to parliamentary sovereignty.   In similar circumstances could the veto be used again?   Not without causing a constitutional crisis.   Occasionally there have been calls for it to be used, most recently over the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, but without success.
The Sovereign can create peers on the advice of the Prime Minister for various reasons, one of which is to resolve a deadlock between the Upper and Lower chambers.   The use of the prerogative for this purpose was of primary constitutional importance.   Although it was only actually employed in this way in 1711, when Queen Anne created 12 Tory peers to pass the Treaty of Utrecht, the threat of its use in 1832 and 1911 was sufficient to cause the Lords to give way.
The Property Qualifications Act, 1711 restricted membership of the House of Commons to those possessing land worth £600 per annum for county seats and £300 for borough seats.   Wealth determined who could vote as well as who could be voted into the House of Commons.   Democracy was not well served.
In 1715 James, the Old Pretender again attempted to supplant King George I on the throne with the aid of the French.   This Jacobite Rebellion failed miserably which perhaps is not surprising, as the Old Pretender didn't arrive in England until it was all over!   He retired once more to France where he died in 1766.
In the period 1691 to 1715 the total electorate was about 340,000.   This gives a total of 1 in 4 adult males.   Those voting in this period were between 200,000 and 250,000.   In each typical two-member constituency each voter had two votes.   Although there were geographical anomalies the population was more fairly represented than later in the century.   Seats were hotly contested.   In spite of the Triennial Act of 1694 which ensured there were contests on average every two years only 30 seats had no contests between 1691 and 1715.   There was clearly vigorous competition for seats in Parliament – a healthy sign.   The total population at this time was about six million.   Unfortunately prior to 1832 the size of the electorate, numbers voting and size of population are all guesswork, for there is little detailed work on which to base the figures.

The Septennial Act was passed in 1716.   By extending the length of Parliaments from 3 to 7 years, this Act gave stability to the 18th Century political system, but tended to increase electoral corruption.   The Act remained in force till 1911.   The Whigs were only just prevented by divisions within their own ranks, from passing a Peerage Bill which would have limited the size of the peerage and dispossessed the Crown of the power to increase it and so manipulate the House of Lords.   The Whigs were still smarting from the action of Queen Anne to pass the Treaty of Utrecht.   It is a pity they did not succeed.   Today, treaties are signed by the Prime Minister using the Royal prerogative without the consent of Parliament – a clear abuse of democracy.
Gradually beginning to re-emerge at this time was the concept of political leafleting.   It is only worthwhile if it influences a lot of the public, which then can change the behaviour of their leaders.  As the leaders became more responsive to public opinion, the power of leafleting increased.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Kings and government thought that those who dissented in religion were disloyal to the Throne.   So Dissenters were punished and made to suffer for their religion.  In 1718 and 1719, Parliament, although dominated entirely by Anglicans, passed Acts to allow Dissenters to stand for election to town Councils and to send their children to dissenting schools.   Finally in 1728 Walpole persuaded Parliament to pass the first Annual Indemnity Act which cancelled the political restrictions on Dissenters, they could now sit in Parliament.   This was an important step on the road to democracy, but Catholics still had to wait for another century before discrimination against them diminished.
In March 1721, when the last of the succession of triennial parliaments dissolved, the country was already in a state of fermentation at the prospect of the coming general election contest.   Violence was now utilised in new methods, such as beating off voters of opposition candidates; while hostile electors were surrounded by mobs hired for the purpose, and cut off from the polling booths; and in some cases voters were carried off forcibly; and locked up until the election was over.
Early in the eighteenth century the career of Sir Robert Walpole began to develop. Angered by his political attacks, the Tories sought to ruin and discredit him along with the Duke of Marlborough.   In 1712 they alleged that he had been guilty of corruption as Secretary at War.   These charges, however, stemmed from political hatred rather than fact. Walpole was impeached by the House of Commons and found guilty by the overwhelmingly Tory House of Lords; he was then imprisoned in the Tower of London for six months and expelled from Parliament.   The move, however, backfired against the Tories, as Walpole was perceived by the public as the victim of an unjust trial.   His own constituency even re-elected him in 1713, despite his earlier expulsion from the House of Commons.   Marlborough went abroad but with the accession of George I in 1714 he was restored to his honours.
In 1721 Walpole effectively became the first Prime Minister – a term Walpole denied - although still called The First Lord of the Treasury.   The term – Prime Minister - did not come into use until nearly two hundred years later in 1905 when it was officially recognised.
The German speaking George I (reigned 1714 to 1727) ceased to attend Cabinet meetings and one of the members had to preside.   George’s ignorance of the English language and customs became the cornerstone of his style of rule: leave England to its own devices.   Walpole took advantage of George’s absence and imposed collective responsibility on the Cabinet.   Publicly all Ministers had to agree with the Prime Minister on major points of policy.   He would have no Ministers who would not work, not merely with him but under him.   He was now, for all intents and purposes the “first among equals.”

What is happening to the Constitution is key to the development of democracy.   Within a period of thirty years new kings have been effectively appointed by Parliament.   The nation has taken all this in its stride.   A foreign monarch – George hardly speaks English and not the brightest by all accounts, can either leave Parliament to get on with government or go into battle with it, but decides to leave Parliament to its own devices and as a result the position of Prime Minister is created.   Fortune favours Parliament and out of this a strong robust political culture emerges where laws are made by Parliament and monarchs are no longer vehicles for constitutional destruction.   This was not inevitable for as we have seen democracy ebbs and flows but gradually we are moving forward and the political culture is becoming entrenched.
Walpole changed the system of government by using patronage. He extended the power of the Cabinet, and made the Commons the centre of parliamentary power.   He set up a ruthless party political machine.   He excluded peers who voted against the government and exerted strict control over his administration.   Walpole became so dominant that in 1741 the peers framed a protest against the development of his office. Even so, he did not perform the functions or enjoy the position of a modern Prime Minister.   Only in being First Lord of the Treasury and in living in 10 Downing Street did he resemble a modern Premier.   When he fell from office in 1742, his colleagues did not resign with him.   The name Prime Minister was not recognised for a long time and Walpole himself repudiated the title; yet he was as much a Prime Minister as any man who ruled after him.
Walpole manipulated huge sums thinly disguised as “Secret Service Money”. But he was never wealthy enough to purchase all. His successors, who finally drove him from office, bought elections on a more extended scale.   This was public money and today would be the cause for great scandal, but as has been pointed out, this was before bribery and corruption were endemic in fledgling democracies.   Peers received pensions from the Crown so they could be kept in check if they wished for honours for their dependants.   It was a big incentive not to vote against the Court.   Similarly Bishops depended on the Court for the most lucrative positions and for their advancement, as did most of the clergy.   The position has not changed today.   Bishops and Archbishops are still appointed by the Prime Minister on the grounds that the Church of England is the Established Church.   In a democracy there should be no religious interference or influence either way.
At this time the King had the right to appoint and dismiss Ministers, although he had to make sure that those he appointed had the support of the House of Commons.   He also had the right to lay down government policy, but he had to get Parliament to agree with his policies.   On his elevation to Earl of Orford, Walpole was presented with 10 Downing Street, which became the home of all future Prime Ministers.
The House of Commons consisted of 558 MPs.   About 100 were sons or relations of members of the House of Lords and would vote as their lordly relatives told them to.   About 60 were in the Army or Navy, using their vote in the Commons to persuade a Minister to give them promotion.   Walpole had said “Every man has his price” and the King’s Ministers were usually able to pay that price.
The membership of the House of Commons, especially that part representing the boroughs, could also be influenced.   Individual Members often aspired to honourable or lucrative employment under the Crown; they might receive pensions for themselves or their dependants; or they might owe their seats to the influence, direct or indirect, of the Court.   The narrow franchise of many of the Parliamentary boroughs and the fossilization of Parliamentary representation after the Revolution made it possible for money and influence virtually to determine many of the elections.   As early as 1688, five peers between them controlled forty-four seats in the House of Commons absolutely, and the cultivation of borough influence was an object which members of the peerage pursued intensively in the decades that followed.   In many cases the local seat was simply filled by the heir or a relative of the local grandee.   Apart from this indirect influence through the peerage, the patronage and employment at the disposal of the Crown could often influence decisive numbers of voters directly.   There were constituencies in which government employees (as revenue, customs, and excise men) were actually in the majority. J.E. Powell & A. Maude - "Biography of a Nation".

 We also saw at this time an increase in the number of newspapers in circulation and the beginning of parliamentary reporting.   The connection between debates in Parliament, opinion forming and the people was growing.
With the accession of George II (reigned 1727 to 1760) to the throne corruption continued.   Rotten boroughs were still highly prevalent, Old Sarum and Dunwich being the worst. In a by-election in 1728 the most famous rotten borough of all – Old Sarum, near Salisbury, the winning candidate Colonel Harrison defeated Henry Fox by four votes to one.   Old Sarum returned two members of parliament, so effectively five people chose two Members of Parliament.   The effect of centuries of demographic change without adjustment to the Parliamentary seats was now having a major impact in terms of representation.
"elections in the eighteenth century were not contested by organised political parties with a programme or manifesto.   Although in the mid-eighteenth century many politicians could still be roughly categorised as Whig or Tory, even this distinction was breaking down.   The opposition to the long-running Whig administrations would generally include dissident Whigs as well as a rump of Tories.   In any case, most Members of Parliament had no wish to pursue a political career as such and were not elected to pursue any particular policy, many seeing their duty as one of supporting the King’s chosen Ministers unless they did something manifestly outrageous.   As a result, politicians did not generally win power by campaigning at a general election and winning a majority for a specific programme, and nor did voters necessarily have the composition of the government foremost in their minds – no general election in the entire eighteenth century led directly to a change of government. William Pitt the Younger by William Hague.
When “boroughmongering” was a profession – a very highly paid one – and boroughs were farmed for sale it might be expected that the buying and selling of “seats” in parliament was like any item of commerce.   Lord Chesterfield, looking around for some venal borough to bring in a young hopeful, thinking it a finishing part of a gentleman’s training to be in the House proposed to pay “twenty four hundred pounds for a seat” presumably the price in Chesterfields younger days; but he found seats had risen to inordinate rates of up to five thousand pounds, chiefly due to rich factors returned home with fortunes from the East and West Indies.   Chesterfield had been ousted from office for voting against an excise Bill and became one of Sir Robert Walpole’s bitterest opponents.
 In 1745 there was a last attempt by a Catholic to seize the throne.   Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, conferred with his supporters at Westbrook Place in Godalming, Surrey. He landed on the West Coast of Scotland in July 1745, accompanied by nine men and a few weapons! This uprising suffered from three great problems: bad timing, bad organisation and false hope.   Bonnie Prince Charlie had a few successes but did not do enough preparation.   Nevertheless, he continued to march south.   In September he was in Manchester and in an effort to get English recruits to his cause, a drummer boy and a whore were sent to drum-up recruits but they failed!   Only 200 men joined his forces.   Charles had to retreat back to Scotland and was finally routed at the battle of Culloden by the Duke of Cumberland third son of George II and known as “the butcher”, in 1746.
 Charles escaped from the battlefield and lurked for six months in the Western Isles under the care of loyal followers like Flora MacDonald and the Kennedy brothers.   Flora escorted the Prince, disguised as her maid “Betty Burke”, to safety where they sheltered, and then went ' over the sea to Skye'.   In 1746 Prince Charlie left for France in a French frigate and ended his life, a querulous drunk, in Rome, in 1788.   Thus ended the Stuart dream of a Catholic sitting once more, upon the English throne.   The death of Cardinal York in 1807 was the last gasp of Stuart unrest.

There was an attempt made in 1753 to allow Jews to become naturalised as British citizens.   This became known as “The Jew Bill”.   It was passed by the House of Lords, but fell in the Commons where the Tories made a great outcry against this “abandonment of Christianity”.   Religious discrimination was alive and well.
Between the years 1603 to 1760 from the reign of James I to that of George II, 18 life peerages were created for women but the women, were not allowed to sit in the House of Lords.   This was an interesting phenomena, resurrecting the old idea of the peerage, which was as life peers rather than hereditary, but as the women were not allowed to sit in the House of Lords it failed to set any precedent for the men.  
On the accession of George III, (reigned 1760 to 1820) the king consented to make such a disposition of his interest in the hereditary revenues of the crown in England, as Parliament might think fit.   Hitherto the crown had enjoyed certain revenues which were calculated by Parliament to produce a sufficient income; but now the king agreed to accept a fixed amount as his civil list, 'for the support of his household, and the honour and dignity of the crown.'   This was the first time that the direct control of Parliament over the personal expenditure of the king had been acknowledged; and it is not a little curious that so important a change in the relations of the sovereign to Parliament, should have been introduced at the very period when he was seeking to extend his prerogatives, and render himself independent of other influences in the state.   It soon appeared, however, from the debts incurred, that His Majesty was not inclined to permit this concession to diminish the influence of the crown.
The money arising out of the hereditary revenues, secured by various acts of Parliament to the king's predecessors, was now carried to the 'aggregate fund,' out of which the annual sum of £723,000 was granted to His Majesty
In 1763 John Wilkes, known for his outrageous behaviour and now a Member of Parliament was arrested on a general warrant (that is, one not specifically describing the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized) because he had attacked a speech of the King calling him a liar.   His award of £1,000 damages against the Home Secretary for wrongful arrest demonstrated that Government officials were not shielded from the ordinary law of the land.   The Lord Chief Justice Pratt discharged Wilkes arguing that as an MP he should be free to criticise the government.   This was a major step in the battle for the liberty of the people.
The King and his First Minister persuaded MPs that “The North Briton”, which Wilkes had written in was a piece of seditious libel.   Wilkes fled to Paris.   In his absence Parliament voted to expel him from membership of the House of Commons.
In 1767-68 nominations for the Honiton, Melbourne Port and Reading constituencies were advertised for sale in newspapers.   However the arrangement did not always work smoothly.   One MP who bought his constituency, Antony Henly was furious when constituents tried to get him to represent them in Parliament, “Gentlemen, yours I received and am very much surprised at your insolence in troubling me about the Excise.   You know what I know very well; that I bought you.   I know what perhaps you think I don’t know, that you are about selling yourselves to somebody else; and I know what you perhaps don’t know, that I am buying another borough.   And now may the curse of God light upon you all; and may your Houses be as common to Excise-men, as your wives and daughters were to me, when I stood for the Corporation.”

By 1769 and the reign of George III there was a great debate about the power of parliament.   Lord Bacon said “there is nothing that a parliament cannot do” and he had reason.   A parliament can revive or abrogate old laws, and make new ones; settle the succession to the crown; impose taxes; establish forms of religion; naturalise foreigners; dissolve marriages; legitimate bastards; attaint a man of treason, etc.   Lord Bolingbroke was of a different opinion, and affirmed that there is something that a parliament cannot do: it cannot annul the constitution; and that if it should attempt to annul the constitution, the whole body of the people would have a right to resist it.
Also in 1769 there occurred an election for the seat of Middlesex. John Wilkes had returned to England in 1768 and stood as Radical candidate for Middlesex. After being elected Wilkes was arrested and taken to King’s Bench Prison.   For the next fortnight a large crowd assembled at St. George's Field, a large open space by the prison.   On 10th May 1768 a crowd of around 15,000 arrived outside the prison.   The crowd chanted 'Wilkes and Liberty', 'No Liberty, No King', and 'Damn the King! Damn the Government! Damn the Justices!’   Fearing that the crowd would attempt to rescue Wilkes, the troops opened fire killing seven people.   Anger at the massacre of St George’s Fields led to disturbances all over London.
          On 8th June Wilkes was found guilty of libel and sentenced to 22 months imprisonment and fined £1,000.   Wilkes was also expelled from the House of Commons.   But in February, March and April 1769 Wilkes was three times re-elected for the seat of Middlesex.    The result was that Wilkes was returned as the head of the poll whilst his opponent, a member of the Tory party (with a quarter of his votes) was declared duly elected.   Wilkes was repeatedly expelled by a privilege-conscious Commons, remaining excluded until 1774.
 Wilkes understood that “if incapacity can be declared on an ad hoc basis by the House of Commons alone… it is possible for the House to choose itself.”   This raises an interesting point.   Should the House of Commons be able to exclude a Member when the people have elected that Member?   If the people elect someone then it is only the people that should have the ability to dismiss them.   The correct procedure in a democracy would be for there to be a by-election called so that the member would have to justify their position.   If the electorate voted the member back, then that would be the end of the dispute.
 The Middlesex election set off a series of petitions and remonstrance’s.   On July 5th 1769 the Livery of London presented a petition to the king.   It stated:
“Your Ministers, from corrupt principles and in violation of every duty, have, insulted and defeated the law on different occasions, and by different contrivances, both at home and abroad, they have at length completed their design, by violently wrestling from the people the last sacred right we had left, the right of election, by the unprecedented seating of a candidate notoriously set up and chosen only by themselves.   They have thereby taken from your subjects all hopes of parliamentary redress, and have left us no resource, under God, but in your Majesty.
All this they have been able to effect by corruption; by a scandalous misapplication and embezzlement of the public treasure; and a shameful prostitution of public honours and employment; procuring deficiencies of the civil lists to be made good without examinations; and instead of punishing, conferring honours on a paymaster, the public defaulter of unaccounted millions.
From an unfeigned sense of duty we owe to your Majesty, and to our country, we have ventured thus humbly to lay before the throne these great and important truths, which it has been the business of your Ministers to conceal.   We most earnestly beseech your Majesty to grant us redress.   It is for the purpose of redress alone, and for such occasions as the present, that those great and extensive powers are entrusted to the Crown by the wisdom of that Constitution which your Majesty’s illustrious family was chosen to defend, and which we trust in God it will for ever continue to support.”
However meritorious the cause, it was an offence to a king whose mind, never remarkable for lucidity and which deteriorated as he got older, was then under “the influence of the worst of counsellors”, as stated in the first prayer of the petition.   The document, after much delay was at last presented to the king; but the king made no reply, but, handing the petition to the lord-in-waiting, turned his back on the presenters, who represented the integrity and commercial greatness of the City of London and were its elected guardians, and addressed Baron Dieden, the Danish ambassador, who was standing in his vicinity, on an indifferent topic.
In March of the year following, after awaiting a response for nearly twelve months the City resolved to draw up a further and more stringent remonstrance.   In this remonstrance the wrongs of the people were eloquently urged:   “Representatives of the people are essential to the making of laws, and there is a time when it is morally demonstrable that men cease to be representatives.   That time is now arrived.   The present House of Commons do not represent the people.   The forms of the Constitution, like those of Religion were not established for form’s sake, but for the substance.”
The Corporation of the City, in sixty carriages, proceeded to the palace of St. James’s, and was received by the King on his throne.   The King, with a great power of dissimulation, said “I have always been careful, as well to execute faithfully the trust reposed in me, as to avoid even the appearance of invading any of those powers which the constitution has placed in other hands”.   After reading his equivocative answer His Majesty instantly turned round to his courtiers, and burst out laughing.

Petitions and remonstrances went back and forth to the king with no side giving way.   However the blow struck at a corrupt administration by the remonstrance’s seems to have dampened the ardour of ministers; in any case, no Court candidate was put forward for Westminster in 1770, and consequently the election of a liberal candidate was unopposed.   On the 19th May the King prorogued parliament
The corruption of the electorate was commonplace at this time and came to a head in the “Spendthrift Election” in 1768 when three Earls fought the election in favour of their respective nominees.   The opponents were the Earls of Halifax, Northampton and Spencer.   The candidates were of small account in the conflict; their patrons bore the brunt of the battle.   The canvassing commenced long before the polling; this was extended over fourteen days – a phenomenal circumstance in the days when elections were often settled and returns made before ten o’clock on the morning of polling day.   According to the poll book, the legitimate number of electors, some 930, was exceeded by 288, but confusion of persons was accounted for by the promiscuous hospitalities of three noble mansions being at the mercies of the crowd for weeks: at the famous historical seats of Horton, Castle Ashby, and Althorp.   The “controverted” election came before the House of Commons.   The results were no less eccentric: the number of votes being finally found equal, the election was referred to chance, and decided by a toss, which Lord Spencer won, and nominated a man out of India.   The cost of this escapade then had to be counted.   It is said Lord Spencer expended one hundred thousand pounds; the equivalent of five million pounds today, and his antagonists are credited with having wasted one hundred and fifty thousand pounds each – incredible sums.   Earl Spencer came off lightest; Lord Halifax was ruined; Lord Northampton cut down his trees, sold his furniture and went abroad for the rest of his days, and died in Switzerland.
Largely through the efforts of John Wilkes, the Commons permitted from 1771 the reporting of parliamentary debates a step vital to democratic government.
The House of Commons jealously maintained secret discussion of parliamentary affairs for many centuries of its history.   The record of things done was available in the printed Votes and Proceedings of the House and in the Journal, but the publication of things said was punishable as a breach of the privileges of the House.
            The first breaches in the tradition of secrecy were made in the 17th century, when propaganda for the parliamentary cause in the civil war led the House to ignore occasional unofficial printing of speeches in Parliament.   By the middle of the 18th century there was increasing demand for reports of parliamentary debates and thinly disguised accounts of what Sir R-b-t W-lp-l (Sir Robert Walpole) said were being printed in the new monthly magazines.

Editors and printers were summoned and fined, but the reports continued as debates of fictitious political clubs, such as the Proceedings of the Lower Room of the Robin Hood Society.   One of the most famous was the Report of the Senate of Lilliputia, which appeared in The Gentleman’s Magazine, edited for some years by writer, critic, lexicographer and conversationalist, Samuel Johnson.   Direct suppression ceased after 1771, following the legal battle in which John Wilkes played a part, campaigning for freedom of speech.
On release from prison in April 1770, still banned from the House of Commons, Wilkes joined the campaign for the freedom of the press.   In February 1771, the House of Commons attempted to prevent several London newspapers from publishing reports of its debates.   Wilkes decided to challenge this decision and the government reacted by ordering the arrest of two of his printers.   A large crowd soon surrounded the House of Commons and afraid of what would happen, the government ordered the release of the two men and abandoned attempts to prevent the publication of reports of its debates.    This was a great breakthrough for democracy.   Information is power.
In 1774 John Wilkes was elected Lord Mayor of London.   He was also elected to represent Middlesex in the House of Commons.   Wilkes campaigned for religious toleration and on 21st March 1776 he introduced a motion for parliamentary reform.   He called for the redistribution of seats from the small corrupt boroughs to the fast growing industrial areas such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield.   Although not a supporter of universal suffrage, Wilkes argued that working men should have a share in the power to make laws.   This was a discussion, which took sixty years before starting to be solved.   Wilkes moved in Parliament for a “just and equal representation of the people in Parliament” and demands were made to limit bribery and corrupt practices at elections.
In this famous speech Wilkes set out to show how the House of Commons was the representation of the many by the few.   He stated that 1741 was the time when the highest number of MPs took part in a division.   The vote went 253 to 242.   Taking 254 as the highest possible number of MPs to form a majority he showed that this number of MPs were actually elected by no fewer than 5,723 persons.   He went on:
When we consider, sir, that the most important powers of this House, the levying of taxes on, and enacting laws for five million of persons, is thus usurped and unconstitutionally exercised by the small number I have mentioned, it becomes our duty to the people to restore to them their clear rights, their original share in the legislature.   The ancient representation of this kingdom, we find was founded by our ancestors in justice, wisdom and equality.   The present state of it would be continued by us in folly, obstinacy, and injustice.
One of the great parliamentarians in 1774 raised an issue, which is still debated today.   In a “Speech to the electors of Bristol” Edmund Burke MP said “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement, and he betrays it instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.   You choose a member indeed, but when you choose him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a Member of Parliament.”   Is this really representative democracy or does it give a Member of Parliament carte blanche to do whatever he wishes regardless of the views of his electorate?   Burke was opposed to natural rights but he did believe in a social contract elevating it to a divine sanction.
It was at this time that Prime Minister North brought in an important change to our constitutional arrangements, which has lasted through the centuries.   The doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility was established.   It arose from a case in 1778-9 when the Commons tried first of all to censure the Secretary of State and then the first Lord of the Admiralty for their actions regarding the setbacks in America.   North accepted responsibility himself and included the whole Cabinet.
“He himself was equally criminal…So was every other efficient member of the cabinet…It was a crime in common, or no crime.”  Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England to 1803.

The doctrine soon took effect.   It was now no longer possible for Parliament to censure an individual minister because it disliked his policies.   This was an important step towards Cabinet Government.  
 Under his Premiership North failed to prevent the independence of the North American colonies.   Pitt was an opponent of North.   Wellington’s reluctance to oppose the Test and Corporation Acts cost him the allegiance of William Huskisson and the Liberals, while his support of Catholic emancipation led to a bloodless duel with the Earl of Winchelsea.   Huskisson met his death when he was run over by a train.
  The Commons began to exercise more authority in controlling the Government.   Thus in 1780 we have Dunning’s motion, “that the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”    The motion was passed by 233 votes to 215, a significant act of defiance and a marker against King George and his exercise of patronage.
  A survey in 1780 revealed that the electorate in England and Wales consisted of just 214,000 people – less than 3% of the total population of about 7 million.
   Before 1832 there were no comprehensive lists of voters; the electorate was small in most boroughs, while in the counties most voters could prove their qualification by producing receipts for payment of land tax (pursuant to an Act of 1780, the payment of land tax was confirmed as a voting qualification, and duplicate assessments were deposited with the Clerk of the Peace for the purpose of electoral registration).   The increased franchise made a list necessary, and the duty of compilation was given to the overseers of the poor.   Annual lists of eligible voters were to be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace, who produced printed registers from them.   It was the introduction of the Land Tax which first enables us to start compiling details of the size of the electorate and thus monitor the progress towards democracy, a consequence which was probably not foreseen at the time.
     At this time the Irish Parliament based in Dublin had little power because of Poynings Law of 1494-5, which said “no decision by the Irish Parliament could become law until approved by the Westminster Parliament and every Act passed by Westminster applied to Ireland.”   Catholics could not vote nor stand as candidates even for the town council.
     In 1782, just before he died in office, the Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham:
repealed Poyning’s Act, which had for three long centuries bound the Irish Parliament to the dictates of the English Privy Council.   The Dublin parliament was made free of the control of Westminster, and started on its brief career (1782-1800) as an independent body. A History of Britain Section 5 1688-Present day by E. Carter & R.A. Mears.
     Henry Gratton led the campaign for an independent Irish Parliament.   His father disinherited him because of his fervent support for Irish independence.   Later he was a strong supporter of Catholic emancipation.   However, through the corrupt electoral system, the British controlled nearly two thirds of the seats in the Irish Parliament, while through the system of patronage, the Crown could “buy” the votes of many Irish MPs.
  As the population of the cities expanded the discrepancy in the number of electors in city seats was much greater than in agricultural seats.   London had 10 MPs whereas agricultural Cornwall had 44 MPs.   The small middle class electorate that had the vote was naturally enthusiastic for parliamentary reform to redistribute the seats to put right this discrepancy.   In other words they wanted a bigger share of the cake.   With the growing demands the politicians had to respond with proposals for reform.   Unlike today there was no Boundaries Commission which was in permanent session so any action taken could only be on an ad hoc basis prompted by Parliament.
  The politicians of the time who put forward these reforms did not envisage that they were embarking on a long-term programme of political change.   Their intention was to restore balance to what they regarded as a near perfect constitutional settlement, arrived at in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when William III and Mary replaced the fleeing James I.   That settlement involved the ultimate supremacy of Parliament, a guaranteed Protestant succession to the Crown, and religious tolerance for all Protestants, even though Dissenters were still barred from political office. "William Pitt The Younger" by William Hague.
    Looking back to the 18th century from the present day the process of elections then looks totally chaotic.   The number of Members of Parliament remained stable over an extensive period of time.   Nearly all constituencies were dual member seats.   Today we have an Electoral Commission (formerly the Boundaries Commission) permanently employed revising constituency boundaries in an attempt to ensure a broad equality in the number of voters in a constituency.   Nevertheless the political view at the time was that Parliament should represent all interests of those with property.   It was not the view that Parliament should be representative of the people.   In addition if there was competition among the aristocracy and the gentry for power and the spoils of office then that was healthy for the country.   Democracy as we have defined it had still a long way to go.
    In 1780 the House of Commons had 558 members, of which 489 were from England, 45 from Scotland and 24 from Wales.   Ireland had no seats as the Irish had a separate Parliament in Dublin.
    Only the English constituencies were of interest to Pitt as he sought his first election to Parliament.   Of these  the generally most prestigious constituencies were the forty counties, each of which elected two Members.   For two reasons, however, these were of little appeal to a politician who aspired to high office.   First they had a relatively wide franchise, embracing all males who owned the freehold of land with a rental value of more than forty shillings a year, and could have electorates running into many thousands.   A contested election in Yorkshire, for instance, could easily produce 20,000 voters at the poll.   As a result they were extremely expensive to contest (William Wilberforce’s two opponents in Yorkshire in 1807 reportedly spent over £100,000 each – the equivalent of more than £5 million today), and the funds had to be found by the candidate, or a rich patron, or his supporters.   Often huge sums were spent on a “canvass” of county seats to see whether it was worth putting a particular candidate forward before embarking on the immense expense and trouble of actually contesting the election. "William Pitt The Younger" by William Hague.

        In the 1780 General Election, only two counties had contested elections. 
The costs of bribery and corruption probable peaked at about this time.   An anomaly arose out of the expense of fighting county seats.   In 1707 the MPs agreed that if one of them took an office of profit under the Crown then he would resign his seat and fight a by-election.   Because of the prohibitive expense of fighting county seats many MPs for county seats were put off taking an office of profit under the Crown.   In today’s world, where Ministers do not stay in the job for very long, it is perhaps a pity that this practice has been abandoned.   Certainly it gave more stability to government.
Very few of the reformers favoured universal manhood suffrage, as when Alderman William Beckford addressed the Corporation of London in 1761: “Gentlemen, our constitution is deficient in only one point, and that is that pitiful little boroughs send members to Parliament equal to great cities; and it is contrary to the maxim that power should follow property.” "Democracy" by B. Crick
About half the city and borough seats could be purchased.   The going rate for a seat was £3,000-4,000.   Political families purchased seats, wealthy ex-patriates returning from India purchased seats, even the King would on occasion purchase a seat.   Perhaps though, the most bizarre buyer was the Treasury itself, which would purchase a seat with taxpayer’s money in order that a person favoured by the government, would be elected.   Corruption was rife.   An individual would sometimes “own” as many as ten seats.   The political landscape was slowly changing.   By the end of the eighteenth century wealth was slipping away from the aristocracy to the landowners and manufacturers.   The 203 cities and boroughs elected 405 members of Parliament.
These were heavily weighted to the south west of the country and to seaports, and were still based on the wealth and prominence of towns in mediaeval times.   The entitlement to vote in these constituencies varied hugely sometimes being relatively wide as in the counties (the City of Westminster itself being an example), sometimes limited to the owners of certain properties or “burgages”.   It was thus variously possible to control a borough by instructing the voters, by bribing the corporation, or simply by owning sufficient burgages.   Landowners would commonly instruct their tenants how to vote, and since the voting itself was openly recorded this rarely left the voters with much of a choice.   In other circumstances voters could sell themselves to the highest bidder. "William Pitt the Younger" by William Hague
Thomas Pitt wrote in 1740: “There are few {Cornish} boroughs where the `common sort of people do not think they have as much right to sell themselves and their votes, as they have to sell their corn and their cattle".  
Free meals and alcohol were the standard fare in election campaigns.   George Selwyn, MP for Gloucester complained in 1761.   “Two of my voters were murdered yesterday by an experiment which we call shopping, that is, locking them up and keeping them dead drunk to the day of the election.   Mr. Snell’s agents forced two single Selwyns into a post chaise, where being suffocated with the brandy that was given them and a very fat man that had custody of them, they were taken out stone dead”
At the time when Parliament was discussing the repeal of the “Stamp Act” Hansard reported an unnamed MP as saying :
 “There can be no doubt that the inhabitants of the colonies are as much represented in parliament as the greatest part of the people in England are, among nine millions of whom there are eight who have no voice in electing members of parliament: every objection therefore to the dependency of the colonies upon parliament, which arises on the ground of representation, goes to the whole present condition of Great Britain”.  
 It was the “Stamp Act” which had triggered off the moves towards the American War of Independence The act required all legal documents, permits, commercial contracts, newspapers, wills, pamphlets, and playing cards in the American colonies to carry a tax stamp:
Thus it was that, on 30 May 1765, with Lees in the lead, the Virginian Assembly passed the first resolution against the Stamp Act.   This solemnly declared that “the taxation of the people by themselves, or by persons chosen to represent them… is the distinguishing characteristic of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist”. "Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity" by David Starkey
  The American War of Independence was essentially about representative democracy.   The slogan “No taxation without representation” was widely used:
 for the British Parliament, which represented only the British people to presume to legislate for the people of America, who already had their own representatives in their own assemblies, was a gross usurpation.   Instead, only George himself, as king and ultimate sovereign of America, had a right to intervene. "Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity" by David Starkey
 The outcome of the War was the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson and adopted on 4th July 1776.   It was revolutionary for the time.   The document was a damning indictment of the British government and monarch.   Both were accused of breaches of many issues included in the Bill of Rights.

 Subsequent generations have focused on the grand principles of the preamble, with its ringing assertion (written by a slave-owner, of course) that all men, being born free and equal, have the right to determine how and by whom they are governed. "Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity" by David Starkey

 Such being the state of the representation in the United Kingdom, an actual majority of the members of the House of Commons were returned by an inconsiderable number of persons.   According to a statement made by the Duke of Richmond in 1780, not more than six thousand men returned a clear majority of the House of Commons.   It was alleged in the petition of the Society of the Friends of the People, presented by Mr. Grey in 1793, that eighty-four individuals absolutely returned one hundred and fifty-seven members to Parliament; that seventy influential men secured the return of one hundred and fifty members; and that, in this manner, three hundred and seven members, - being the majority of the House, before the union with Ireland, - were returned to Parliament by one hundred and fifty-four patrons; of whom forty were peers.

                In 1779:

The franchise in the universities was based on membership of the University Senate, and was thus possessed only by academics.   These constituencies were also unusual in having a secret ballot.   The electorate of Cambridge University was a little over seven hundred strong in the early 1780s. Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity by David Starkey

The universities are a fascinating study of the anomalies of the British electoral system.   Taking as an example the two main ones of Oxford and Cambridge, they elected each two members to the House of Commons, from 1603 when they were created by Royal Charter, to 1950 when they were abolished.

The constituencies were not physical areas.   Their electorate consisted of the graduates of the Universities.   They returned two Members of Parliament by using what is known as the bloc vote.   This system was used until 1918.   From then until their abolition in 1950 the MPs were elected by the Single Transferable Vote method of Proportional Representation.

The polls for university constituencies were open for five days

 In bloc voting, all candidates ran against each other for the two positions. Each voter selected up to two candidates on the ballot, and the two candidates with the most votes won the positions.   Voters were unable to vote for the same candidate more than once.

 Single transferable vote (STV) is a preferential voting system designed to minimise wasted votes and provide proportional representation while ensuring that votes are explicitly for candidates rather than party lists.   It achieves this by using multi-seat constituencies and by transferring votes that would otherwise be wasted. STV initially allocates an individual's vote to their most preferred candidate, and then subsequently transfers unneeded or unused votes after candidates are either elected or eliminated, according to the voter's stated preferences.   So for a period of British history constituencies in the United Kingdom used what is probably the fairest voting system there is.   No vote is wasted under this system.   Every vote has a value.  

At every attempt to get Parliament to reform itself, Edmund Burke expressed his adamant, even hysterical opposition.   Popular election is a mighty evil” he declared in a debate in 1780 on the need for more frequent Parliaments.

 As we approach the end of the eighteenth century where do we stand regarding democracy?   The rule of law is firmly established, as is Parliament.   The power of the monarch has been diminished, with several royal prerogatives now exercised by Parliament.   Cabinet government is established.

The electorate is small, corruption is rife, religious discrimination has been reduced but Catholics are still heavily discriminated against.   The value of votes varies widely, in spite of a permanent Boundaries commission sitting we do not have equal sized constituencies even today.   There is no secret ballot.   Nevertheless, the Bill of Rights was a fundamental necessity for freedom, liberty and justice.   We have moved forward, but there is still a long way to go.

One of the tragedies for historians was the loss of so much information about Parliament, which occurred when the Houses of Parliament were burnt down in 1834 leaving only Westminster Hall standing.   Pre 1832 most studies of Parliament get their information from local sources.

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