1784 General Election

Topics: Charles James Fox, William Pitt the Younger, Frederick North, Lord North Pages: 3 (836 words) Published: September 19, 2014
In December 1783, George III engineered the dismissal of the Fox-North Coalition, which he hated, and appointed William Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister. Pitt had very little personal support in the House of Commons and the supporters of Charles James Fox and Lord North felt that the constitution of the country had been violated. The doctrine that the government must always have a majority in the House of Commons was not yet established and Fox knew he had to be careful.

On 2 February 1784 Fox carried a motion of no confidence which declared "That it is the Opinion of this House, That the Continuance of the present Ministers in their Offices is an Obstacle to the Formation of such an Administration as may enjoy the Confidence of this House, and tend to put an End to the unfortunate Divisions and Distractions of the Country" by 223 to 204. Pitt remained in office, and government supporters ensured petitions and resolutions of borough corporations were presented to Parliament to encourage members to back Pitt, and slowly Members changed sides.

By 1 March, Fox's motion which concluded by "beseech[ing] His Majesty, that He would be graciously pleased to lay the Foundation of a strong and stable Government, by the previous Removal of His present Ministers" was carried but only by 201 to 189. A week later, a more strongly worded motion threatening the withholding of supply was also passed – but only by 191 to 190. Fox thereafter declined to push motions, as his base continued to crumble. Pitt meanwhile decided to go to the country and on 24 March, Parliament was prorogued and on the following day the Parliament first elected in 1780 was dissolved.

The election was fought very much as a national campaign around the questions of the fall of the Fox-North government and whether or not Pitt should continue in office, rather than a series of local campaigns, which was more common for 18th century British elections.

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