United Kingdom general election, 1801


United Kingdom general election, 1801

[
James Gillray caricatured the resignation of Pitt's Ministry in 1801.]

The United Kingdom general election, 1801 was not an election as such, but the co-option of members to serve in the first Parliament to be held after the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 1 January 1801. The First Parliament of the United Kingdom was composed of members of the former Parliaments of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland.

The Parliament of Great Britain held its last general election in 1796. It last met on 5 November 1800. The final election for the Parliament of Ireland took place in 1797.

By a proclamation dated 5 November 1800 the members of the new united Parliament were summoned to first meet on 22 January 1801.

Political Situation

Great Britain had been at war with France since 1792. The Prime Minister since 1783, William Pitt the Younger, led a broad wartime coalition of Whig and Tory politicians.

The principal opposition to Pitt was a relatively weak faction of Whigs, led by Charles James Fox. For four years after 1797 opposition attendance at Westminster had been sporadic as Fox pursued a strategy of secession from Parliament. Only a small group, led by George Tierney, had attended frequently to oppose the ministers. As Foord observes "only once did the minority reach seventy-five, and it was often less than ten".

The Act of Union 1800 created the United Kingdom, by merging the previous Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The first Parliament of the United Kingdom was composed of all the members of the last Parliament of Great Britain and some of the members of the final Parliament of Ireland.

Pitt wished to grant Catholic emancipation (the right for Roman Catholics to sit in Parliament), to help reconcile the Irish Catholic majority with the Union. King George III was opposed to that policy, so Pitt was compelled to resign in March 1801.

The new Tory Prime Minister was Henry Addington. He led another war time administration of pro-government Whigs and Tories. This was however weaker than Pitt's Ministry as Pitt and his faction did not join the new government.

The younger opposition Whigs also became more involved in Parliamentary opposition. Charles Grey, on 25 March 1801 tried to persuade the House of Commons to set up a Committee on the State of the Nation. His motion was lost, but it attracted 105 supporters. The Foxite leaders gradually ended their secession from Parliament.

Pitt was generally supportive of the Addington Ministry, but was semi-detached from it. As the well known couplet tellingly observed "Pitt is to Addington, as London is to Paddington", which indicates the contemporary view of the relative abilities of the two Prime Ministers.

Dates of Co-option

All British MPs and those Irish members representing constituencies which retained two members after the Union (the thirty-two Irish counties and the cities of Dublin and Cork) automatically retained their seats when the Union took effect on 1 January 1801.

Those members of the Irish House of Commons to sit at Westminster, who represented constituencies still enfranchised after the Union but reduced from two members to one (the remaining thirty one most considerable Irish boroughs and Dublin University), were selected by drawing lots. If one of the seats in the Irish Parliament was vacant, then the remaining member for the constituency was automatically chosen for the Westminster Parliament. If both seats were vacant a by-election was held.

ummary of the Constituencies

"Key to categories in the following tables: BC - Borough/Burgh constituencies, CC - County constituencies, UC - University constituencies, Total C - Total constituencies, BMP - Borough/Burgh Members of Parliament, CMP - County Members of Parliament, UMP - University Members of Parliament."

Monmouthshire (1 County constituency with 2 MPs and one single member Borough constituency) is included in Wales in these tables. Sources for this period may include the county in England.

Table 1: Constituencies and MPs, by type and country

Table 2: Number of seats per constituency, by type and country

ee also

*United Kingdom general elections
*MPs elected in the United Kingdom general election, 1801
*Members of the 1st UK Parliament from Ireland

References

* "British Electoral Facts 1832-1999", compiled and edited by Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher (Ashgate Publishing Ltd 2000). "Source: Dates of Elections - Footnote to Table 5.02"
* "British Historical Facts 1760-1830", by Chris Cook and John Stevenson (The Macmillan Press 1980). "Source: Types of constituencies - Great Britain"
* "His Majesty's Opposition 1714-1830", by Archibald S. Foord (Oxford University Press 1964)
* "Parliamentary Election Results in Ireland 1801-1922", edited by B.M. Walker (Royal Irish Academy 1978). "Source: Types of constituencies - Ireland)"


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