The eighteenth century was long deemed ‘the classical age of the constitution’ in Britain, with cabinet government based on a two-party system of Whigs and Tories in Parliament, and a monarchy whose powers had been emasculated by the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689. This study furthers the work of Sir Lewis Namier, who, in 1929, argued that no such party system existed, George III was not a cypher, and that Parliament was an administration composed of factions and opposition. George III is a high-profile and well-known character in British history, whose policies have often been blamed for the loss of Britain's American colonies, around whom rages a perennial dispute over his aims: was he seeking to restore royal power or merely exercising his constitutional rights? This is a chronological survey of the first ten years of his reign through power politics and policy making.
This chapter describes the political system in Great Britain during the first decade of the regime of George III, discussing criticism that he was subverting to pre-Bill of Rights practice and investigating whether he was subverting the constitution, as portrayed by the traditional interpretation long held by Whig or liberal historians. It explains that, during the period from 1760 to 1770, the political system was not yet markedly susceptible to outside pressure, and that the key centres of power were the Crown, the cabinet and the House of Commons.
This chapter examines the political scenario in Great Britain in 1760. During this time, there was standing Whig opposition to Tory lineage in order to give more preference to the more respectable designation of the country interest. The main thrust of the political stance of the Whigs was to curb the power of the Crown. The chapter revaluates the political significance of George III's accession in 1760 in the light of the political perceptions of the 1750s. It also discusses George III's initiative to remove his grandfather's proscription from honours and offices of those deemed Tory.
This chapter focuses on the actions of George III in relation to the Seven Years' War. It discusses George III's suggestion that the Earl of Bute should take ministerial office, and William Pitt's objection to the appointment of Bute as Head of the Treasury and his threat to resign if there was any change in war policy. The chapter also considers the financial expenditure of the Seven Years' War.
This chapter focuses on the Earl of Bute's acceptance of George III's proposal to become prime minister. Though Bute was a good Parliamentary speaker and a conscientious administrator, he was hesitant to accept the position and made it clear to George III that he was doing so only on a temporary basis. The chapter discusses the initial problems in the formation of Bute's ministry and highlights his accomplishments.
This chapter focuses on the tenure of George Grenville as British prime minister under George III. It discusses speculations regarding the resignation of Grenville's predecessor and suggests that the behaviour of George III had made the early months of the Grenville ministry a political stalemate. It highlights Grenville's accomplishments which include the prosecution of John Wilkes for deriding George III's speech and the passage of the American Stamp Act 1765.
This chapter discusses the regime of Lord Rockingham as British prime minister under George III. Prime Minister Rockingham was devoid of administrative experience, and had seemingly been promoted above the level of his ability. However, his charm and integrity made him a good team leader, and he was to remain head of his party until his death in 1782. The chapter highlights the accomplishments of Rockingham, which include the repeal of the American Stamp Act and the passage of the Declaratory Act.
This chapter focuses on the regime of William Pitt as British prime minister, who was designated by George III as the First Earl of Chatham. Pitt was disposed to retain those office-holders who wished to stay because he lacked sufficient followers to form an administration. He made appointments without regard for connections but perceived merit. Some of Pitt's key appointments include Charles Townshend as Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Second Earl of Shelburne as Secretary of State for the Home Department.
This chapter examines the political realignments in Great Britain from 1767–1768. When Lord Chatham fell ill in 1767, the Duke of Grafton took over the government, but formally became prime minister only in 1768. George III then instructed Grafton to give the leadership of the Exchequer to Lord North. The chapter highlights the accomplishments of Grafton, who served as prime minister until January 1770.
The Middlesex Election and the Townshend Duties Crisis
Peter D.G. Thomas
This chapter focuses on the official appointment of the Duke of Grafton as British prime minister in October 1768. Grafton was given full power and responsibility, and he enjoyed the King's wholehearted support throughout his brief ministry. Though he had more ability and character than tradition has accorded him, he was distracted by his private life, women and horse racing. The chapter also discusses the problems of his administration concerning the fiasco over Corsica, confrontation with John Wilkes over the Middlesex election and the ongoing American crisis.