Great Britain


George III
  • determined to strengthen monarchical authority and wield the power of patronage personally
  • clamor for reform of both patronage and the electoral system began to increase as a growing number of newspapers spread Enlightenment ideas to an expanding reading public

John Wilkes

  • middle-class member of the House of Commons
  • outspoken journalist
  • publically criticized the king's ministers
  • expelled from his seat in Parliament
  • denied the right to take his place in Parliament when he won other seats
  • became identified with liberty
  • "Wilkes and Liberty"

William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806)

  • son of William Pitt the Elder
  • appointed prime minister in 1783 by King George III by using patronage to gain support in the House of Commons
  • supported by the merchants, industrial classes, and king
  • stayed in power through the French Revolution and Napoleonic eras
  • serious reform of the corrupt parliamentary system was avoided for another generation

Power Structure

Power was shared between the King and Parliament. (Accomplishment) However, Parliament gradually gained the upper hand. (Failure)


  • chose ministers responsible to himself and guided Parliament (Accomplishment)
  • could take advantage of the divisions between the aristocracy based on family rivalries to win aristocratic supporters through patronage, awarding them titles, government posts, and positions in the church and household staff. (Failure)


  • had the power to make laws, levy taxes, pass the budget, and indirectly influence the king's ministers (Accomplishment)
  • dominated by a landed aristocracy (Failure)

Parliamentary Elections (Failure)

  • Past history rather than population determined the number of delegates from each borough
  • Wealthy landed aristocrats could gain support through patronage and bribery, resulting in a number of "pocket boroughs" controlled by a single person ("in his pocket"), because who could vote varied widely.
  • Members of the leading landed gentry were elected over and over.