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Personal and legislative unions of the

constituent countries of the United Kingdom

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Sovereignty

The Acts of Union 1800 (sometimes called the Acts of Union 1801) (Irish: Acht an Aontais 1800) describe two complementary Acts[1], namely:

The Acts were passed on 2 July 1800 and 1 August 1800, respectively.

The twin Acts united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[2][3] The union came into effect on 1 January 1801.

Both Acts, though since amended, remain in force in the United Kingdom[4].

In the Republic of Ireland the Union with Ireland Act 1800 (that passed in Great Britain) was not finally repealed until the passing of the Republic of Ireland's Statute Law Revision Act 1983.[5] The Act of Union (Ireland) 1800 (that passed in Ireland) was repealed in 1962.[6]

Contents

Background

Before these Acts, Ireland had been in personal union with England since 1541, when the Irish Parliament had passed the Crown of Ireland Act 1542, proclaiming King Henry VIII of England to be King of Ireland. Both Ireland and England had been in personal union with Scotland since the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

In 1707, England and Scotland – hitherto a personal union – were united into a single kingdom; the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Kingdom of Ireland was left out. In July 1707, each House of the Parliament of Ireland passed a congratulatory address to Queen Anne, praying that "May God put it in your royal heart to add greater strength and lustre to your crown, by a still more comprehensive Union"[7]. The British government did not respond to this, and an equal union between Great Britain and Ireland was not considered until the 1790s. When the union was finally passed in 1800, the British drove the process right through the war of 1812.

Passing the Acts

Each Act had to be passed in the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of Ireland.

The Parliament of Ireland at the time had gained a large measure of independence by the Constitution of 1782, after centuries of being subordinated to the English, and later, British Parliaments. Thus, many members had guarded its autonomy jealously, including Henry Grattan, and had rejected a previous motion for Union in 1799. However, a concerted campaign by the British government overturned this reluctance.

Only Anglicans were permitted to become members of the Parliament of Ireland, though the great majority of the Irish population were Roman Catholic, with many Presbyterians in Ulster. From the 1790s though Roman Catholics gained the right to vote.

From the perspective of Great Britain, the union was required because of the uncertainty that followed the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the French Revolution of 1789, which inspired the rebels; if Ireland adopted Catholic Emancipation, willingly or not, a Roman Catholic parliament could break away from Britain and ally with the French, while the same measure within a united kingdom would exclude that possibility. Also the Irish and British parliaments, when creating a regency during King George III's "madness", gave the Prince Regent different powers. These considerations led Great Britain to decide to merge the two kingdoms and their parliaments.

The final passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved with substantial majorities, achieved in part according to contemporary documents through bribery, namely the awarding of peerages and honours to critics to get their votes.[8] Whereas the first attempt had been defeated in the Irish House of Commons by 109 votes against to 104 for, the second vote in 1800 produced a result of 158 to 115.[8]

The Acts ratified eight articles which had been previously agreed by the British and Irish Parliaments:

  • Articles I–IV dealt with the political aspects of the Union which included Ireland having over 100 MPs representing it in the united parliament, meeting in the Palace of Westminster. Ireland gained 100 seats in the House of Commons and 32 seats in the House of Lords: 28 representative peers elected for life, and four clergymen of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, chosen for each session.
  • Article V created a united Protestant church, the United Church of England and Ireland, but confirmed the independence of the Church of Scotland.
  • Article VI created a customs union, with the exception that customs duties on certain British and Irish goods passing between the two countries would remain for 10 years (a consequence of having trade depressed by the ongoing war with revolutionary France).
  • Article VII stated that Ireland would have to contribute two-seventeenths towards the expenditure of the United Kingdom. The figure was a ratio of Irish to British foreign trade.
  • Article VIII formalised the legal and judicial aspects of the Union.

Part of the attraction of the Union for many Irish Catholics was the promise of Catholic Emancipation, thereby allowing Roman Catholic MPs (which had not been allowed in the Irish Parliament). However this was blocked by King George III who argued that emancipating Roman Catholics would breach his Coronation Oath, and was not realised until 1829.

Union Flag

The second Union Flag.

The flag created as a consequence of the union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 still remains the flag of the United Kingdom. Called the Union Flag (or "Union Jack" when flown on a jackstaff), it combined the flags of England and Scotland with a "St Patrick's Cross" to represent Ireland. Wales is not included on the Union Flag, as when the original Union Flag was devised England and Wales were one country represented by the St George Cross.

References

  1. ^ Matching Legislation - Statute Law Database
  2. ^ Welcome parliament.uk, accessed 7 October 2008]
  3. ^ Act of Union 1707, Article 2.
  4. ^ Home - Statute Law Database
  5. ^ Republic of Ireland - Statute Law Revision Act 1983, "Repeals"
  6. ^ Republic of Ireland - Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act 1962
  7. ^ Journals of the Irish Commons, vol. iii. p. 421
  8. ^ a b Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition p.28.

Sources

  • Ward, Alan J. The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland 1782-1992. Irish Academic Press, 1994.
  • Lalor, Brian (ed). The Encyclopaedia of Ireland. Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, Ireland, 2003. ISBN 0-7171-3000-2, p7

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

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                                        The Fortieth Year of George III
                                                CHAP. XXXVIII
                         Assented to the First Day of August, One Thousand Eight Hundred
                                                 [1st August 1800]
                              An Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland

Whereas in pursuance of His Majesty's most gracious recommendation to the two houses of parliament in Great Britain and Ireland respectively, to consider of such measures as might best tend to strengthen and consolidate the connexion between the two kingdoms, the two houses of the parliament of Great Britain and the two houses of the parliament of Ireland have severally agreed and resolved, that, in order to promote and secure the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland, and to consolidate the strength, power, and resources of the British Empire, it will be advisable to concur in such measures as may best tend to unite the two kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland into one kingdom, in such manner, and on such terms and conditions, as may be established by the acts of the respective parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland:

And whereas, in furtherance of the said resolution, both houses of the said two parliaments respectively have likewise agreed upon certain articles for effectuating and establishing the said purposes, in the tenor following:

                                                ===ARTICLE FIRST===

That it be the first article of the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, that the said kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall, upon the first day of January which shall be in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and one, and for ever after, be united into one kingdom, by the name of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”; and that the royal stile and titles appertaining to the imperial crown of the said United Kingdom and its dependencies, and also the ensigns, armorial flags and banners thereof, shall be such as His Majesty, by his Royal Proclamation under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom, shall be pleased to appoint.


Simple English

With Act of Union 1800 (or sometimes Act of Union 1801) (Irish: Acht an Aontais 1800) is used to describe two Acts[1] are meant. Their official titles are the Union with Ireland Act 1800 (1800 c.67 39 and 40 Geo 3), an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, and the Act of Union (Ireland) 1800 (1800 c.38 40 Geo 3), an Act of the Parliament of Ireland.

These two Acts merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the unified Kingdom of Great Britain, (being itself a merger of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland under the Acts of Union 1707), to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Contents

The Union Flag


The flag created as a consequence of the merger combined the flags of England and Scotland with "St Patrick's Cross" to represent Ireland. However, Wales is not included on the Union Flag, as when the original Union Flag was devised Wales was considered a part of the Kingdom of England.

References

  1. Matching Legislation - Statute Law Database

Sources

  • Ward, Alan J. The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland 1782-1992. Irish Academic Press, 1994.
  • Lalor, Brian (ed). The Encyclopaedia of Ireland. Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, Ireland, 2003. ISBN 0-7171-3000-2, p7

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