1715

Alternative title

The 5th Parliament of Great Britain

Summoned

17 Jan. 1715

Assembled

17 Mar. 1715

Dissolved

10 Mar. 1722

Session

Dates

1
17 Mar. 1715-26 June 1716
2
20 Feb. 1717-15 July 1717
3
21 Nov. 1717-21 Mar. 1718
4
11 Nov. 1718-18 Apr. 1719
5
23 Nov. 1719-11 June 1720
6
8 Dec. 1720-29 July 1721
7
31 July 1721-10 Aug. 1721
8
19 Oct. 1721-7 Mar. 1722

Long description

The highly eventful Parliament of 1715 was dominated by the political struggles occasioned by the transition to the new royal dynasty, the House of Hanover, following the death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714. The new parliament should have run a three-year course to 1718, but the passage of the Septennial Act in 1716 extended its life, and that of each succeeding parliament, from three years to seven. The law was not to be changed again until the Parliament Act of 1911 which shortened the period between general elections from seven to five years.

In the months before the elections took place in January 1715, George I, on the advice of his Whig ministers, initiated a near-complete purge of Tories from every level of office-holding. Everywhere, Tories were regarded as potential supporters of the exiled Stuart dynasty, and their places were filled by Whigs whose loyalty to the protestant succession was beyond question.

The Tories attempted to raise their old electoral war cry of ‘the Church in danger’ but found themselves soundly and humiliatingly defeated. The election did much to give the sanction of legitimacy to the new dynasty. As far as can be ascertained, 341 Whigs and 217 Tories were returned, almost an exact reversal of the result achieved in 1713. Across the 314 English, Welsh and Scottish constituencies, there were around 120 contests, though the voting figures are known for much fewer. Although the Tories lost 19 of their county seats, they maintained their strength in the English and Welsh counties, whereas the Whigs gained considerably in the borough constituencies.

Viscount Townshend, one of the two secretaries of state and chief ministerial spokesman in the Lords, had emerged as the king’s chief minister. Leading the Whig ministry in the Commons was