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Age of Oligarchy?

The Age of Oligarchy?



George I nominates only 4 Tories to new administration, all Hanoverian supporters; Louis XIV rejects claims of Pretender who issues manifesto reasserting his right to Crown and Roman Catholicism; Bolingbroke dismissed; spasmodic Jacobite opposition leads to 3 proclamations - suppressing riots, enforcing laws against Papists and forbidding clergy discussing political matters from their pulpits; general election, Tories lose 141 seats


Bolingbroke flees to France; Ormonde incites Jacobite riots and later joins Bolingbroke in France; both with Oxford and Strafford impeached; Acts of Attainder passed against them confiscating their estates; Jacobite rebellion, led by Earl of Mar in Scotland soon repressed leads to Tories banishment to wilderness; Tory JPs purged; cabinet becomes solely Whig


Septennial Act passed with immediate effect


Walpole and Townshend leave ministry, Sinking Fund established


Occasional Conformity and Schism Acts repealed


Peerage bill abandoned


South Sea Bubble


Stanhope-Sunderland ministry brought down replaced by Walpole - the Robinocracy begins


General Election, Whigs have majority of over 200; ‘Atterbury Plot’ made public; Irish opposition to ‘Wood’s half-pence’


Bill of Pains and Penalties passes Commons and Lords; Bolingbroke pardoned; Atterbury exiled; Workhouse Test Act passed; Cato’s letters against Anglican charity school movement


Macclesfield impeached for corruption; City of London election bill disenfranchises 3,000 freemen; Malt Tax riots in Scotland; government back down in Ireland; Pultney heads opposition


war with Spain


Land tax doubled, raid Sinking Fund to balance budget; Walpole escapes censure; death of George I; attempt to replace Walpole with Spencer Compton rebuffed; general election - Tories at lowest strength since 1679


Treaty of Seville signed with Spain


Salt bill passed, reimposing salt tax


Excise scheme to introduce tax on tobacco and wine fails; rebel peers dismissed from government


General election, government lose ground to Tories and opposition Whigs


Church issue revived, opposition Whigs propose to repeal Test Acts; Quaker Tithe bill supported by Walpole fails in Lords; Mortmain bill passes Commons; Porteous riots in Edinburgh; Gin Act passed


Prince of Wales expelled from St James’s Palace sets up opposition court at Leicester House


Convention of El Pardo signed with Spain, narrowly accepted by Commons leads to secession of opposition MPs led by Wyndham, Pultney and Sandys; war of ‘Jenkin’s ear’ declared against Spain; opposition secession abandoned


Place bill passes Commons, lost in Lords; Heavy Irish mortality due to famine; general election, ministry loses further support; government candidate loses chair of Committee of Elections; George II in Hanover witholds aid to Maria Theresa of Spain and commits himself to supporting a Franco-Bavarian candidate to succeed her without consulting Britain


Pultney calls for investigation into negotiations with foreign powers, rejected by only 3 votes; Walpole resigns; idea of ‘broad-bottomed’ ministry scuppered by Newcastle; new ministry headed by Wilmington (formerly Compton) and Carteret


Wilmington dies, replaced by Pelham as first lord of the Treasury


‘Broad-bottom’ administration constructed with Tories and former opposition Whigs after Carteret’s dismissal


Young Pretender lands at Erisky, Western Isles - Highlanders army reaches Derby but starts to retreat north; Cumberland recalled from Netherlands


Ministerial crisis, Newcastle, Pelham and others resign as George II tries to form new ministry round the figures of Granville and Bath, this collapses and they are returned to office with William Pitt; Jacobites routed at Culloden


Prince of Wales’ Carlton House Declaration; General election produces large Tory losses


Prince of Wales dies, his son, George, declared new Prince of Wales and his mother Regent in Regency bill; Parliamentary opposition is in disarray; Act abolishes ‘Julian’ style calendar


Jewish Naturalisation Act and Hardwicke’s Marriage Act passed


Death of Pelham, Newcastle becomes first lord of the Treasury; general election


Pitt dismissed from ministry


Newcastle and Fox resign; Devonshire and Pitt form coalition government


Newcastle retakes first lord of the Treasury


Death of George II

General Election Results, 1715-54 (Source: Holmes, Age of Oligarchy)


Whigs: 341


Tories: 217



Whigs: 389


Tories: 169



Court Whigs: 415

Opposition Whigs: 15

Tories: 128



Court Whigs: 330

Opposition Whigs: 83

Tories: 145



Court Whigs: 286

Opposition Whigs: 131

Tories: 136



Court Whigs: 338

Opposition Whigs: 97

Tories: 117



Court Whigs: 368

Opposition Whigs: 42

Tories: 106

Uncertain: 26

The Pattern of Politics under the Age of Oligarchy

The Monarchs: George I and II actively promoted the development of the Whig oligarchy, despite Linda Colley’s view that they were keen to incorporate Tories into the administration; loss of monarchical power over the period though is notable

Political parties: the fate of political parties is under intense and not yet resolved debate. Namierite view is that Whigs and Tories no longer existed as separate entities, stress a 3-fold division of politics - country, court and factions. Cruickshanks and Colley have argued for the continuation of the Tory party despite the orthodoxy that puts them in the political wilderness after the Atterbury plot. The former equates Jacobitism with Toryism, the latter talks of a continuation of leadership, ideology and organisation. Hill also argues for the survival of the two competing ideologies of Whig and Tory. Speck uses division lists to compare parties in the Age of Anne with parties in the reigns of the first two Georges and notes that there is a court-country rather than a Whig-Tory split after 1715. It is notable at the electoral level, however that Whig-Tory splits remained and that the voters viewed candidates as Whigs or Tories and voted accordingly.