End of Crown Government

Queen Mary died in 1694 and King William III, who reigned until 1702, had external commitments. Queen Anne, sister of Queen Mary and daughter of King James II who succeeds him was in poor health, dying without an heir in1714.

Ultimately George I, II, III and IV of the House of Hanover who succeeded her under the Act of Settlement 1701 (which excluded Catholic heirs) played little direct role in government.  The King chose Ministers in Parliament and the policies as agreed by them was submitted to the House of Parliament for approval.

From the mid to the late 17th century following the Civil War and  later the so-called glorious Revolution of 1688, the personal rule of the monarch declined and gave way to parliamentary government.

The British Constitution evolved in the 18th century. Modern politics had not emerged, and party politics were unheard of.  Elections did not make any significant difference to the position.   In effect, government began to  take shape  under a Prime Minister specifically or implicitly acknowledged.

An alternative view, which was eventually eclipsed was that the government was by departments separately with separate responsibility to the monarch.  This latter alternative carried greater weight in the House of Lords and many ministers were members, seeing themselves as the King’s Councillors.  The King chose the Lord Lieutenant from this group as his personal representative in Ireland.

Constitutional Relationship with Britain

In the late 17th and  early 18th century there was conflict in  constitutional issues between the British and Irish Parliaments.  It was unclear to what extent the British Parliament could initiate money bills for Ireland.  There was also conflict in relation to whether matter of to the final appeal in judicial matters, was to judicial division of the Irish or English and later British House of Lords.

From the beginning of the 17th century, with the personal unity of the Crowns of England and Scotland, there were two co-equal Crowns and one dependent Crown, namely Ireland.  The status of Ireland was confirmed as such in 1692.Ireland’s claim as to be a separate possession of the Crown became less significant in practice.  In effect the dominant faction in the English Parliament directed the monarch in exercising his prerogative powers.

The Bill of Right 1688 did not apply to Ireland, other than the parts relating to the title and succession to the Crown.  The elements of the Constitutional Revolution effected between 1689 and 1714 passed by the English Parliament did not apply to Ireland. lied to the succession of the throne.  In Ireland, judges did not have security of tenure.  Parliament was still in the theory subject to the Crown’s pleasure.

In Ireland, the King’s authority was exercised through the Lord Lieutenant/Lord Deputy.  After 1692, the Lord Lieutenant was appointed with the consent of King and the cabinet .From time to time, the same Lord Lieutenant was a member of the Cabinet.  The executive power of the King passed was exercised with the British Parliament in the King’s name.

Poyning’s Law

Ponying’s law had been passed in the aftermath of alleged complicity of the Irish nobility into rebellions against Henry VII.  The claims were disputed, and Henry VII arranged for his Lord Deputy Sir Edward Ponyings to pass the famous Poynings law at a Parliament in Drogheda in December 1494.

Poynings law  provided that no Irish Parliament could be held without the King’s consent, certified by the King’s Lieutenant and Council.  They were to certify all acts that might pass in the Parliament.  The King in Council (the English Privy Council) had to approve the agenda under the Great Seal.

During the 17th century, a practice emerged of submitting heads of bills.  This was facilitated by an Act in the 1550s permitting Acts to be transferred by a similar process after Parliament had met.   Other than under this procedure, legislation passed both  houses and if the monarch consensus, it became an Act.  The legislation was accordingly a request for enactment.

The heads were sent to the Irish Privy Council and then submitted to the Privy Council in London.  It was then returned with the Great Seal of England (later Great Britain)  if approved.  If approved, it went to the House of origin and then the other House in Ireland.  Once approved by the King, and Privy Council the Irish Parliament could only accept or reject the Act in whole.

The Irish Parliament

The Irish Parliament modelled itself on the British Parliament.  Parliament sat at College Green.  Parliament House was opened in the 1730s.  The Commons Chamber and the House of Lords sat within the new chamber.  The English Triennial Act (1694), did not apply to Ireland.  However, in practice it did apply in effect during the reign of William III and Anne, with  parliaments at least every three years. After George I ascended to the throne, Parliament was given a seven-year duration.  Once again, the legislation did not apply to Ireland.

The reigns of George I and George II saw parliaments for the life of each.  Only two general elections took place in the period, 1715 to 1760, with Parliament being dissolved on the  death of the Monarch.  This contrasted with the seven-year term  provisions in Great Britain. 514 public and private bills became law between 1715 and 1760 from the 929 bills and heads of bills coming from the Irish Parliament.

Ireland’s status as a kingdom was the basis on which the claims of Westminster Parliament to authority was resisted. However, although Ireland was a separate kingdom, it was effectively subordinate to Great Britain. This was particularly reflected in Poynings law.

Irish Parliamentary Reform

Parliament worked through a number of Committees.  There were four Grand Committees.  The principal Committees were Privileges and Elections, Supply, and Ways and Means.  They will simply became Committees of the whole House. In theory, the Committee members were experts in particular areas.  Other interested parties could attend and could vote.  Most Select Committees were relatively small.

The passage of bills through the Irish parliament was extremely torturous. Bills might originate  from a petition from outside or by a motion by an MP.  If a petition was approved, it was assigned a sponsor who introduced it as his motion and bring it to a reading.  It might  go to a select committee for  a report. The House could accept, reject or amend the report once submitted.  If it was amended, the Committee might look at the matter further and accept the amendments or report further.

The second reading was chaired by the Member of Parliament who introduced the report.  The third reading was usually formal.  After the Houses approved it, it was requested that the matter be taken to Lord Lieutenant for transmission to the English Privy Council.

The Privy Council itself had a committee  appointed for each session of the Irish Parliament.  The committee varied in size.  The decision was conveyed to the Lord Lieutenant who might be present. A report might be made by the British Attorney General and Solicitor General.

By the middle of the 18th century, Britain had developed into being a leading Imperial power in Europe.  It was about to become the leading industrial power in the world by the late 1770s.

Relationship with British Government

After 1689, the Head of the Irish Executive was Lord Lieutenant which was chosen by the English Ministry and exercised Ministry’s policies.  Many other significant civil, ecclesiastical and military positions were held by Englishmen.  The approval of the English Privy Council effectively came to mean approval by the English Ministry rather than the monarch personally.

In effect, the English Westminster Parliament acted as judge in its own case in disputes on the constitutional relationships of the Parliaments in the early 18th century. In 1720 the Declaratory Act confirmed a series of legal precedents and asserted the rights of the English Parliament as final court of appeal in Irish cases and claimed the power to make legislation binding on Ireland.I

In the latter half of the 17th century, there had been several instances where the interest of Ireland were subordinated to those of England.  This was  particularly manifest in relation to trade, such as with  the Cattle Acts 1663 and 1667 and legislation on colonial trade.

A number of restrictions on economic affairs dated back to the 1660 restoration. The Cattle Act 1663 and 1667 excluded livestock from England and Scotland in order to protect English farmers.  The Navigations Act 1663 and 1671 excluded Irish ships from  direct trade with the colonies.  The Wool Act, 1699 prohibited export of wool or woollen cloth from Ireland other than directly to England. Later English statutes encroached further on economic affairs.

In 1722 to 1725 opposition to a patent granted to an English ironmaster to mint copper coin was upheld politically and forced the government into retreat.  This marked a significant turning point and a new system of government was introduced through undertakers.  Undertakers were local politicians who in return for a patronage and input into policy undertook to manage the House of Commons on the half of the government.

Particularly after the 1720s, the degree of Irish home government became more significant.  Although the nominal head of government was the Lord Lieutenant representing the cabinet, the day to day management of government lay with local politicians. After the above affair, there were no further cases of provocative attempts to use power on the part of the English government. Proposals for legislation were treated with more respect and the power of veto was used less often.

The governmental need for financing increased the practical power of the Irish Parliament over affairs.  In theory, the Declaratory Act allowed the English Parliament to pass whatever legislation it wished including money bills in Westminster.  In practice, it required the cooperation of the governing middle and upper classes in Ireland so that an Irish Act was in effect necessary.


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