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Examine the significance of William Pitt, the younger's Government in reforming the British Parliamentary system.

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Examine the significance of William Pitt, the younger's Government in reforming the British Parliamentary system. Successive Kings of England, George I (1714-1727) and George II (1727-60), both proved highly disinterested in the political aspects of their country. As a result of this disinterest, each in turn had to leave national ruling to the Government. Subsequently, in 1716 the Septennial Act was passed, which extended the life of parliament from 3 to 7 years. This provided for an unprecedented period of parliament stability, and ultimately limited the powers of the king.' (Barnett, 2002 p654). Political power had now shifted from the king to his chosen first minister. Parliament at this time could not be described as democratic. A small, cohesive group of elites, known as the Whigs ran it. They instigated a period of political stability. A recognisable feature of the Government developed during the reign of King George II. This was the cabinet. This meant... "Ministers would meet in cabinet, without the King" (Barnett, 2002 p565). King George III would from then on only liaise with the advisors of his council. All acts of parliament continued to have to meet with royal approval. 1760 - George III came to the throne, he was proud of his country and indeed "regarded himself as an Englishman" (Barnett, 2002 p566). ...read more.


William Pitt was the youngest ever Prime Minister at the age of twenty-four, however the King did not have much faith in him retaining his post for very long, or of Pitt having any major influences, this was not to be the case. Prime Minister Pitt took his role in the House of Commons. This was completely unheard of at that time, as the role of the Prime Minister was to control the Commons to benefit the Lords and Monarchy. This move had shifted power from the Lords, William Pitt's father was furious at his son's decision. This would bring about the start of a two-way system in Parliament, the Tory's and Whigs. The reason behind this dramatic change was Pitt's ever-increasing interest in the way that Britain elects its MPs, and he strongly disagreed with the systems of bribery. "He was especially critical of the way in which the Monarchy used the system to influence those in Parliament" (Spartacus, 2005 p1). Pitt believed reform was necessary for the sake of liberty. He introduced a new law that stated members of Parliament must declare their income and pay tax on their earnings. This in effect would do away with the corrupt sinecures and tax reforms. The King was no longer a financial benefit to Ministers of Government, and so financial gain had to come from elsewhere. ...read more.


It was titled the Bill of rights. This would define the respected roles of the Monarchy and Parliament. Some roles of the Crown remain today, such as the right of the King to appoint Prime Ministers of his own choosing, and to dissolve the position at his own discretion. The introduction of two main Parliamentary Political Parties was formed, which in turn brought about the vote. Not only rich landowners received the right to vote, but also the middle classes. "From 1831 to 1833 the overall size of the electorate increased by 78%" (Barnett, 2002 p574). Catholic Emancipation would be another outcome of Pitt's reform according to Barnett, this did not come into rule until 1828, when the Duke of Wellington was appointed Prime Minister. As a result of Pitt's introduction to Catholic Emancipation, '...Wellington and Peel had the Test and Corporation Acts repealed, thus ending centuries of religious discrimination' (Barnett, 2002 p574). However, discrimination at a somewhat lower level continued to exist, the Act of Settlement (1701) upheld the law that only Protestants could be heir to the throne. "...no Roman Catholic could inherit the Crown, nor could any King or Queen or heir to the throne marry a Catholic" (Barnett, 2002 p560). Although it is evident that Pitt brought about major revolution, it must be acknowledged politics are never static, and Government is constantly evolving. However, the impact of Pitt's reforms had long and far reaching consequences. ...read more.

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