United Kingdom general election, 1806

United Kingdom general election, 1806
United Kingdom
29 October17 December 1806

All 658 seats to the House of Commons
330 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party
Leader Lord Grenville Duke of Portland
Party Whig Tory
Leader since 11 February 1806
Leader's seat Lord Grenville Duke of Portland
Seats won 431 228
Seat change Increase 172 Decrease 159 (including united Tory factions)
Popular vote - -
Percentage - -

PM before election

Lord Grenville

Subsequent PM

Lord Grenville

The United Kingdom general election, 1806 was the election of members to the 3rd Parliament of the United Kingdom. This was the second general election to be held after the Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

The general election took place in a situation of considerable uncertainty about the future of British politics, following the death of William Pitt the younger and the formation of the Ministry of all the Talents.

The second United Kingdom Parliament was dissolved on 24 October 1806. The new Parliament was summoned to meet on 13 December 1806, for a maximum seven-year term from that date. The maximum term could be and normally was curtailed, by the monarch dissolving the Parliament, before its term expired.

Political situation

Since the previous general election fighting in the Napoleonic Wars with France had resumed in 1803. Tory Prime Minister Henry Addington had resigned in 1804. William Pitt the Younger formed a new coalition of pro-government Whig and Tory politicians to prosecute the war.

The opposition Whigs, led by Charles James Fox, continued to oppose the government. They were strengthened by a group of Pitt's former supporters (such as his cousin William Wyndham Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville) who had aligned themselves with Fox in opposition to Addington after 1802 and who did not accompany Pitt and his other friends back to office in 1804.

When Pitt died on 23 January 1806 a new Ministry was formed by Grenville. It included Fox and Addington (now ennobled as the 1st Viscount Sidmouth) as well as other leading political figures of the day. However it did not include George Canning, who had inherited the leadership of Pitt's faction in the House of Commons or the Duke of Portland who led it in the House of Lords. This government was known as the Ministry of all the Talents.

An attempt was made to end the Napoleonic Wars by negotiation. As this hope failed the war continued. Grenville also tried to strengthen the government, but was unable to persuade the Pittites to join him either as a body or by detaching some leading figures. The Prime Minister was not prepared to exclude Fox and his friends as the Pittites wanted.

Lord Grenville then decided to hold a general election to strengthen his government. The King granted a dissolution.

The Talents were in office at the time of this election and continued after it, but the Ministry was weakened by the death of Fox on 13 September 1806. The election itself was a disappointment. In the eighteenth century a government with the King's backing could expect to make substantial gains at an election. However Pitt's economical reforms had weakened the ability of the Treasury to manipulate election results. Foord estimated that the Ministry only gained about thirty seats by the 1806 appeal to the country.

Dates of election

At this period there was not one election day. After receiving a writ (a royal command) for the election to be held, the local returning officer fixed the election timetable for the particular constituency or constituencies he was concerned with. Polling in seats with contested elections could continue for many days.

The time between the first and last contested elections was 29 October to 17 December 1806.

Summary of the constituencies

Key to categories in the following tables: BC - Borough/Burgh constituencies, CC - County constituencies, UC - University constituencies, Total C - Total constituencies, BMP - Borough/Burgh Members of Parliament, CMP - County Members of Parliament, UMP - University Members of Parliament.

Monmouthshire (1 County constituency with 2 MPs and one single member Borough constituency) is included in Wales in these tables. Sources for this period may include the county in England.

Table 1: Constituencies and MPs, by type and country

Country BC CC UC Total C BMP CMP UMP Total MPs
England 202 39 2 243 404 78 4 486
Wales 13 13 0 26 13 14 0 27
Scotland 15 30 0 45 15 30 0 45
Ireland 33 32 1 66 35 64 1 100
Total 263 114 3 380 467 176 5 658

Table 2: Number of seats per constituency, by type and country

Country BCx1 BCx2 BCx4 CCx1 CCx2 UCx1 UCx2 Total C
England 4 196 2 0 39 0 2 243
Wales 13 0 0 12 1 0 0 26
Scotland 15 0 0 30 0 0 0 45
Ireland 31 2 0 0 32 1 0 66
Total 63 198 2 42 72 1 2 380

See also


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