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ANCIENT CONSTITUTIONALISM, FUNDAMENTAL LAW AND EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY TORYISM IN THE SEPTENNIAL ACT (1716) DEBATES

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This article examines Tory principles in the eighteenth century by focusing on that party's arguments in the debates about the frequency of elections in 1716, when the duration of parliaments in Britain was extended from three to seven years. The Septennial Act (1716) was an epochal event and a crucial stage in the fortification of the Hanoverian regime and the supremacy of the Whigs in the eighteenth century. When protesting against this Act in the Lords and Commons, Tories resorted to arguments about the ancient constitution and fundamental law -- ideas which have more often been associated with Whiggism. In addition to its historical significance, the episode serves as a case study demonstrating the importance of studying the history of political thought together with political history.
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Keywords: Bolingbroke; Hanoverian Succession; Jacobitism; Tory; Whig; ancient constitutionalism; common law; elections; fundamental law; mixed constitution; party; sovereignty; the Convocation Controversy; the Septennial Act

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of History, University of St Andrews, St Katharine's Lodge, The Scores, St Andrews, KY16 9BA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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