Whig Junto


Whig Junto

The Whig Junto is the name given to a group of leading Whigs who were seen to direct the management of the Whig party and often the government, during the reigns of William III and Anne.

The Whig Junto proper consisted of John Somers, later Baron Somers; Charles Montagu, later Earl of Halifax; Thomas Wharton, later Marquess of Wharton; and Edward Russell, later Earl of Orford. They came to prominence due to the favour of the opportunistic "éminence grise", Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland, and during the reign of Queen Anne, Sunderland's son, the 3rd Earl, would join their ranks. Other figures prominent around the edges of the Junto include Sir John Trenchard and Thomas Tollemache.

Somers, Wharton, Russell and Montagu were elected to the House of Commons in 1689 and were granted minor office. Their effectiveness in the Commons brought them Sunderland's attention. The Junto began to dominate the ministry from the time of the resignation of the Tory Secretary of State Lord Nottingham in 1693, communicating to the King and Sunderland through the intermediary of the Whig Secretary of State, the Duke of Shrewsbury. However as the members of the Junto entered the Lords — Somers was made Lord Keeper in 1693 and was promoted to a barony four years later; Wharton succeeded his father as Lord Wharton in 1696 and Russell was created Earl of Orford in 1697 — their hold on the Commons weakened and by 1700 the Junto was largely out of power. In 1701, Somers, Orford and Halifax were impeached but survived the attack and late in the year seemed set to return to power in order to help the king rally support for the War of the Spanish Succession.

William's death in March of 1702 delayed their return as Queen Anne, who had high tory sympathies, detested them and refused to include them in the ministry, which was dominated by Tories. At this time, with the elder Sunderland dead, the Junto's connections to his son, who was the son-in-law of the Queen's favorite the Duke of Marlborough, proved useful, as did the Junto's support of the war, in contrast to Tory ambivalence. In 1705 Somers's protege Lord Cowper was made Lord Keeper and in 1706 Sunderland became a Secretary of State. After the resignation of Harley in 1708, Marlborough and his ally the Lord Treasurer Godolphin became more and more dependent on the Junto, who returned to office with Somers as Lord President, Wharton as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Orford as First Lord of the Admiralty.

The ministry's increasing dependence on the hated Junto Whigs caused the Queen's relationship with the Marlboroughs and Godolphin to sour. In 1710 Godolphin and the Junto Whigs were forced from power. The Junto led opposition to the new ministry's peace policy from the House of Lords, leading to the creation of new peers to prevent this opposition from voting down the peace treaty.

The Junto came back to power after the accession of George I in 1714 but most of the members died early in the new reign - Wharton and Halifax in 1715, Somers the next year, while Orford and Sunderland, the survivors, soon fell out with each other with Orford not holding office after 1717.

ee also

* First Whig Junto


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