The emergence of Whigs and Tories


The importance of the parties

  • On becoming king, William immediately formed a Privy Council of his own choosing, although he was cautious and included a balance of Whigs and Tories. 
  • The parliament of 1690 consisted of 225 Whigs and 206 Tories.
  • When he left England to fight at the Battle of the Boyne, William showed his preference by leaving a number of loyal Court Tories in charge. 
  • Whig rebels attempted to push through a triennial bill in order to ensure regular Parliament. This was passed by both Houses and William was forced to use his royal veto.
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The Whig Junto

  • A group of Whig rebels known as the 'Whig Junto' became influential in 1692 and developed considerable influence in government between 1694 and 1699.
  • They favoured war with France in order to promote the Protestant cause in Europe. 
  • Their members included Edward Russell, John Somers, Thomas Wharton and Charles Montagu. 
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The Triennial Act, 1694

  • By 1694 the Whig Junto was beginning to dominate government, and its members were given high-profile roles. 
  • A second triennial bill was given the royal assent in January 1694 and this new Triennial Act stated that a Parliament could not last longer than three years. This meant that general elections would be held more frequently. 
  • The rivalry between Whigs and Tories was stronger than ever but the Act also gave the Commons new-found confidence.
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The years after the Triennial Act, 1694

  • In 1695, another election was held and the Whigs performed well, cementing their dominance over both Parliament and Privy Council. 
  • In 1696, a plot was discovered to assassinate William. The Whigs became more united than ever and William became more reliant on the Whig Junto in the Privy Council. Both Houses adopted a Whig proposal acknowledging William in a local 'Association', signed by most MPs. 
  • In 1697, the opposition to the now-dominant Whig Junto passed a vote limiting William's army to 10,000 men. 
  • In 1698, the Whig Junto began to collapse. Their opposition was able to secure a bill that reduced William's army further to 7,000 and members of the Junto were promoted or resigned.  
  • In 1699, a commission investigating confiscated lands in Ireland issued a report and found that William had made excessive grants to loyal courtiers. Parliament passed a bill of resumption, stating that any grants in Ireland given to members of the Privy Council were illegal.
  • In the election of 1701, the Tories made gains and began impeachment proceedings against leading Whig Junto members Somers, Montagu and Russell, although they were eventually acquitted by their fellow parliamentarians.
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