British general election, 1722

Great Britain general election, 1722
Kingdom of Great Britain
19 March to 9 May

All 558 seats of the House of Commons
280 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Robert Walpole Sir William Wyndham
Party Whig Tory
Leader's seat King's Lynn Somerset
Seats won 389 169
Seat change Increase 48 Decrease 48
Popular vote - -
Percentage - -

Prime Minister of Great Britain before election

Robert Walpole

Prime Minister of Great Britain

Robert Walpole

The British general election of 1722 elected members to serve in the House of Commons of the 6th Parliament of Great Britain. This was the fifth such election since the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Thanks to the Septennial Act of 1715, which swept away the maximum three-year life of a parliament created by the Meeting of Parliament Act 1694, it followed some seven years after the previous election, that of 1715.

The election was fiercely fought, with contests taking place in more than half of the constituencies, which was unusual for the time. Despite the level of public involvement, however, with the Whigs having consolidated their control over virtually every branch of government, Walpole's party commanded almost a monopoly of electoral patronage, and was therefore able to increase its majority in Parliament even as its popular support fell.

In the midst of the election, word came from France of a Jacobite plot aimed at an imminent coup d'état. Led by Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, Lord North and Grey, and other Tory opponents of Walpole, this was later known as the "Atterbury Plot".

Previously election results had broadly reflected the opinion of at least the minority of adult males who had the vote, although the system had always been subject to the influence of corruption and patronage. However, now that one-party government had been established, those influences could be used systematically to ensure the governing party's victory. This election set the pattern for much of the rest of the eighteenth century; as partisan feeling began to decline during the years of the Whig oligarchy, the rigging of elections became ever easier, so that British governments could almost always guarantee victory.

Summary of the Constituencies

See British general election, 1796 for details. The constituencies used were the same throughout the existence of the Parliament of Great Britain.

Dates of Election

The general election was held between 19 March 1722 and 9 May 1722. At this period elections did not take place at the same time in every constituency. The returning officer in each county or parliamentary borough fixed the precise date (see hustings for details of the conduct of the elections).

See also


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