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II. The Elections To The Convention Parliament Of 1689

  • J. H. Plumb (a1)
Extract

The election to the Convention Parliament of 1689 was one of the most important ever held, but singularly little attention has been paid to it. A detailed examination has revealed a number of factors which cast fresh light on the state of the country during the Interregnum and on the composition of the Convention Parliament. In this article I intend to restrict my attention to three aspects of the election: firstly, the effect of James II's preparations upon the composition of the House of Commons; secondly, the effect of the preparations of William III and his supporters; thirdly, the manner in which this election was fought in the various constituencies.

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1 The majority of historians, writing of this period, have based their opinion of the election on the uncritical eulogy of Edmund Bohun, in his History of the Desertion(ed. 1689), p. 122, and the main evidence quoted in its support is the order of 5 January 1689, by which all troops were to withdraw from towns where elections were to take place. This order was to safeguard William's own interest as much as to secure the freedom of elections; for the soldiers, deserted by James, were not enamoured either of William or his supporters. Cf. Bodleian, Rawl[inson] MSS. D. 1079, fo. 91; [Hon. Anchitell] Grey, Debates [of the House of Commons front the year 1667to the year 1694], ix, 112, 169. There has never been any detailed examination of the question.

2 See below, where this is amply illustrated by a description of the dual corporations of William's reign, also by the riots at Nottingham, cf. [Sir George] Duckett [bt., Penal Laws and Test Act in 1687–8], 11, 116.

3 The opposition of Winchester is glowingly described by Macaulay, Hist[ory of England from the Accession of James 77], [ed. 1856], 11, 336.

4 Macaulay, Hist. 11, 334–7.

5 Duckett, 11, 236, 228, 221–53.

6 Duckett, 11, 221–55.

7 It is a difficult number to compute as the franchise at this time was often altered in particular boroughs by the decision of the House of Commons. The usual number given is 38, making 76 seats; see [L. B.] Namier, Structure of Politics [at the Accession of George III], vol. I, and A. E. Porritt, Unreformed House of Commons.

8 Quoted in Duckett, 1, 288.

9 For example Gatton, which was owned by Sir John Thompson and Thomas Turgis; neither favoured James.

10 Duckett, 1, 196. S[tate] P[apers] Dom[estic], J[ames] II, Bundle 7, No. 405.

11 Duckett, 1, 196.

12 Duckett, I, 196; 11, 219. The agents report that, “We also find that Mounsr. Fagel's letter and other pamphlets are industriously spread through all parts.” They say that they have not sufficient books and pamphlets to meet this.

13 Duckett, 1, 198.

14 Duckett, 1, 198.

15 Duckett, 11, 220.

16 All but those for Hertfordshire and Warwickshire are extant; they are to be found in Rawl. MSS. A. 139B.

17 Duckett, 1, 97n., 103. Darcy was son of Conyers, Lord Darcy, and heir to the Earl of Holderness.

18 B[ritish] M[useum] Add[itional] MSS., 34, 516, ff. 50–4.

19 This is obvious from the histories of various boroughs, especially Nottingham, and from the debates on the Corporation Bill later in the year. Cf. Grey, Debates, ix, 510–20.

20 One strange result of this return of charters was the existence for years in many places of dual corporations, transacting corporation business and returning different members to Parliament. This division, or multiplication, of corporations was strongest in Suffolk, where at Dunwich the anomaly was not removed until 1698. There are cases in other counties, but all of them occur in small boroughs where this duality hampered patronage and caused a number of contested elections. For Dunwich see H[istorical] M[anuscripts] C[ommission], Var[ious] Coll[ections], vil, 104–6. Dunwich had a contested election 1688–9, 1689–90, 1691 (by-election), 1695, 1698; but as soon as the charter differences were settled, there are no contested elections, e.g. 1699–1700 (bye), 1700–1, 1702. Other dual corporations were: Orford (H.M.C. Var. Coll. 11, 270–2); Aldeburgh (H.M.C. Var. Coll. IV, 279 et seq.); Thetford (H.M.C. Var. Coll. v11, 147–9); Plympton (J. Brooking Rowe, History of Plympton Erie, pp. 82–5), and possibly Tewkesbury (H.M.C. Downshire MSS. 11, 550).

21 Duckett, 1, 198.

22 In a negative manner, i.e. no one was proposed to oppose them and they were able to consolidate their interest.

23 Most of Dr Charlett's letters are in the Ballard MSS. For Harrington, cf. D[ictionary of] N[ational] B[iography] and Add. MSS. 36,707. For Sarre cf. Ballard MSS. 45, fo. 23.

24 B.M. Add. MSS. 36,707, fo. 62. A.M. to James Harrington. A.M. is well informed on Parliamentary affairs.

25 These were Sir John Brownlow, bt., Thomas Masters, Francis Morley, and Thomas Babington.

26 K. Feiling, [History of the] Tory Party, App. II, pp. 496–8, and Rawl. MSS. D. 1079, fo. 22.

27 Macaulay, Hist, III, 523.

28 An exact number cannot be given because in one or two cases no Christian name is mentioned by Sunderland, and at the time there were two or three holders of the same surname.

29 Duckett, 1, 103.

30 Duckett, I, 103.

31 William Stockdale and William Palmes were the only Yorkshire members to vote for the Sacheverell Clause.

32 B.M. Add. MSS. 24,475, fo. 133.

33 B.M. Add. MSS. 24,475, fo. 133.

34 Thirteen minus the two dissenters and then adding Lord Fairfax. Dissenters or friends of dissenters are fairly easy to trace as the King's agents usually state the fact or if they voted for the Sacheverell clause and had in September 1688 received the support of James II, there is then little doubt that they belonged to this group.

35 Duckett, II, 228.

36 M Sir Robert Davers, who voted against the vacancy. Feiling, Tory Party, App. II, P. 497.

37 There is no direct evidence that he recommended anyone to Andover or Portsmouth. In January 1688–9, Francis Gwyn was writing to Lord Dartmouth about Portsmouth (H.M.C. Dartmouth MSS. p. 142), and Dartmouth might then be looked upon as the agent of the government and the two candidates who were suggested were returned: both of these men, Henry Slingsby and Richard Norton, had been favourable to James’ three questions (Colonel Richard Norton not entirely so), and I think they may be counted as men whom James would have supported. Cf. also Duckett, 1, 424–5.

38 Duckett, 1, 430.

39 Charles, Earl of Wiltshire, son of the Marquis of Winchester, afterwards Duke of Bolton; Henry Wallop, M.P. for Whitchurch.

40 Thomas Bilson, M.P. for Petersfield.

41 Sir Benjamin Newland, M.P. for Southampton, a London merchant.

42 John Pollen, who voted against the vacancy.

43 A number are to be found in Danby's lists printed by de Beer, E. S. in the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 19331934, XI, 125. The number is calculated partly from this source and partly from the list of members opposing the first Exclusion Bill, printed as App. I, Feiling, Tory Party, pp. 494–5.

44 B.M. Add. MSS. 36,707, fo. 62, quoted supra, p. 240.

45 This is substantiated by a letter of William written to Danby immediately after James’ flight. Cf. J. H. Plumb and Alan Simpson, “Letter to the Earl of Danby from William, Prince of Orange “,Cam[bridge] Hist[orical] Jo[urnal], v, 107–8; also B.M. Add. MSS. 28,053, fo. 375.

46 Mr F. F. Smith in his Parliamentary History of Rochester, p. 123, says that William recommended Sir Joseph Banks and Sir Roger Twisden, but I have not been able to substantiate this.

47 The Declaration is printed in Corbett,Parl[iamentary] Hist[ory], v, 4–13.

48 The Lord Warden's right to nominate one member was abolished by Act of Parliament, 1690, 2 Gul. et Mar. c. 7.

49 After James II's detention at Faversham, he named the Earl of Winchelsea Lord Warden, but the gentlemen of Kent asked Winchelsea to refrain from using the title until he received a patent for the office. He agreed to do this but, owing to the rapid development of events, he never received a patent. B.M. Add. MSS. 33,923, fo. 433 (Sir Edward Knatchbull's Diary).

50 Thomas Papillon, London merchant, was of Huguenot descent and one of the leaders of the revolt against the Old East India Company. M.P. for Dover 1673–80, 1689–90; London 1695–8. Cf. Memoirs of Thomas Papillon, ed. by A. F. W. Papillon.

51 Although the lack of government interference in the Cinque Ports is not typical of preceding elections, it was of those that were to follow.

52 Cf. Lord Cutt's memorandum, printed in H.M.C. Mrs Frankland-Russell-Astley, p. 77.

53 Sir Robert Holmes, kt., M.P. for Winchester, 1669; Newport (Isle of Wight) 1678–9, 1685, 1690; Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) 1688–9. He had consented to the three questions concerning the Penal Laws, proposed by James II: Duckett, I, 474. For his life, cf. D.N.B.

54 B.M. Add. MSS. 34,516, fo. 564. The Earl of Sunderland recommended: Yarmouth: William Hewer and Edward Roberts; Newport: Sir Robert Holmes, kt., and Mr — Netterville; Newton: William Blathwayt and Thomas Done. Hewer, Holmes, Blathwayt and Done were all in government employment. Of Edward Roberts and Mr — Netterville, I have no information. Thomas Done and Sir Robert Holmes secured seats in the Convention, the former for Newton, the latter for Newport.

55 Newport: “’Tis the only corporation of the three that has (in effect) a free election.” Lord Cutt's memorandum: H.M.C. Mrs Frankland-Russell-Astley, p. 77. Dillington was “of Knighton, Isle of Wight”. Opposition to the proposed government candidates had begun in September. Sir Robert Holmes to Samuel Pepys, Rawl. MSS. A. 179, fo. 44.

56 Richard Jones, Earl of Ranelagh of the Irish peerage, M.P. for Plymouth, 1685–6; Newton (Isle of Wight) 1688/9–95; Chichester 1695–8; Marlborough 1698–1701; West Looe 1701–5. He declined Castle Rising in 1701. The variety and type of his constituencies show clearly that he had no established interest and that he was a government candidate. See a letter of his to Lord Cutts, H.M.C. Mrs Frankland-Russell-Astley, p. 93.

57 Fitton Gerard, M.P. for Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) 1688/9–90; Clitheroe 1693/4–5 (by-election); Lancaster 1696/7–8 (by-election); Lancashire 1698–1700/1. He usually had difficulty in procuring a seat in Parliament. For his methods, see C[ommon's] J[ournal], XI, 77–8.

58 Viscount Weymouth to Robert Harley, 7 October 1701. H.M.C., R[eport] 15, p[ar]t iv, p. 26: “Chatham has a great stroke in that election [i.e. Rochester] which the admiralty may direct.”

59 Cf. ante, pp. 245–46, for the suggestion that William recommended them. The Minute Book of Rochester Corporation only states that they were unanimously elected.

60 H.M.C, R. II, pt. iv, p. 237; H.M.C, R. 15, pt. I, p. 142. Gwyn was secretary to the assembly of peers which directed affairs during the interregnum. He was elected for the Earl of Clarendon's pocket borough of Christchurch. For details of his career, cf. D.N.B.

61 Pepys had written to Sir Robert Holmes in September asking him to secure a seat for him in the Isle of Wight. Holmes gave a half-hearted promise but said that he had a great number of King's servants to provide for. Rawl. MSS. A. 179, fo. 44. Holmes and Pepys had never been on friendly terms since their quarrel Over Cooper, Pepys’ old mathematical master who became the inefficient master of Holmes’ ship on Pepys’ recommendation. Bryant, [Life, of Samuel Pepys], I, 193–4.

62 Rawl. MSS. A. 174, ff. 210, 212 et seq.

63 Pepys, it is true, was a friend of James, but so were many other officials and civil servants of whom William made use. Also all of Pepys’ offices were confirmed by the Prince. (Rawl. MSS. A. 174, fo. 165) and it was not until several months after the settlement that Pepys fell into disgrace.

64 H.M.C., R. 11, app., pt. XII, pp. 31–7. The Leeds MSS. are now deposited at the British Museum but are not available to readers; the calendar indicates a number of letters that would throw a great deal of light on Yorkshire and Lincolnshire elections.

65 “I rode with many others to York where next morning my Lord Fairfax and Sir John Kay were unanimously elected Members of the Convention”, Diary of Ralph Thoresby, p. 191.

66 Sir John Lowther was the 1st Viscount Lonsdale; cf. D.N.B.

67 Sir Christopher Musgrave, a well-known Parliamentary figure; cf. D.N.B.

68 Henry Wharton was brother to Thomas Wharton, afterwards first Marquis of Wharton.

69 Cf. H.M.C., R. 12, pt. VII, p. 236.

70 H.M.C., R. 13, pt. VII (Lonsdale MSS.), p. 98.

71 H.M.C., R. 13, pt. VII, p. 99.

72 H.M.C., R. 12, pt. VII (Le Fleming MSS.), p. 232.

73 Letters and Diary of Henry, 2nd Earl of Clarendon, ed. S. W. Singer, 11, 219, 221–2. William Harbord was elected for Launceston, Thetford and Scarborough; he elected to serve for the first.

74 At Wootton Bassett, which was under the influence of the Earl of Rochester. At this election Henry St John the father of Viscount Bolingbroke, and John Wildman, the son of Major Wildman, the well-known republican, were returned. It is impossible to conceive of Wildman being a nominee either of Rochester or the St John family and he must have been elected in opposition to the wishes of the patron. In other boroughs where high Tories had patronage, no Whig crept in, e.g. Christchurch, under the patronage of the Earl of Clarendon (later a non-juror), returned two well-known Tories, Francis Gwyn and William Ettrick.

75 These are to be found in the State Tracts, published in 1706, and in Somers Tracts and the Harleian Miscellany.

76 Diary of the Time of Charles II, ed. R. W. Blencowe, 11, 288–91. The original paper is to be found in B.M. Add. MSS. 32,681, where there is also another memorandum of Burnet, written a short time afterwards, in which he sets down the people whom he expected to fill the administration. This has not been published.

77 B.M. Add. MSS. 29,594, fo. 139.

78 Ballard MSS. 45, fo. 22.

79 H.M.C., R. 12, pt. VII, pp. 233–4; B.M. Add. MSS. 33,923, fo. 429 et seq.; The Diary of Sir John Knatchbull, bt., M.P. for the county of Kent 1685–7; 1689–95. Extracts, concerning the flight of James II, were published by P. Vellacott, Camb. Hist. Jo., 11, 49 et seq., but there is a great deal of value concerning elections in Kent and dealings between Knatchbull and Nottingham which ought to be published.

80 Rawl. MSS. A. 174, fo. 140.

81 Carte MSS. 130, fo. 239.

82 Duckett contains the answers to the three questions concerning the Penal Laws and Test Act made by practically every country gentleman of importance.

83 B.M. Add. MSS. 33,923, fo. 45 (b).

84 Sir John Stonhouse, 3rd baronet of Radley, was 2nd son of Sir George Stonhouse, who had disinherited his eldest son and who had represented Abingdon from 1661 to 1675, when he was succeeded by his son who represented it from 1675 to 1688. In 1679, Stonhouse was reported to be supported by the “Catholic interest”. Vi[ctoria] C[ounty] H[istory], Berks[hire], 11, 164; but he was one of the four justices in 1688 who were reported as being dangerous to James’ cause. Duckett, app. p. 237. Stonhouse died in 1700. His son obtained a seat for Berkshire 1701 and 1702.

85 Thomas Medlicot, son of a London dyer, was appointed recorder in 1675 but dismissed by James II in 1686; and later in that year defended the baptist congregation at Abingdon. He was reinstated December 1687, but was removed by the Corporation in October 1689. Cf. J. and J. A. Venn, Al[umni] Cant[abrigiensis]; Bromley Challenor, Selections from the Records of the Borough of Abingdon, pp. 179–211, and A. E. Preston, St Nicholas of Abingdon and Other Papers, pp. 138–9. For his speech, see Grey, Debates, vol. ix. For his descendants, cf. Namier, Structure of Politics, II, 494.

86 For Southby, cf. Duckett, app. p. 237. For elections, C.J. x, 123–4, 326.

87 Elections for Weobley, Reading, Colchester, Harwich, Norwich, etc.

88 Sir Pury Cust was the son of Sir Richard Cust, 2nd bt., High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, 1695, and a Commissioner for collecting the arrears of taxes in 1698. For his relationship with Sir John Brownlowe (M.P. Grantham) and William Brownlowe (M.P. Peterborough), see Records of the Cust Family, 3 vols., ed. Lady Elizabeth Cust.

89 Bertie was the 5th son of Montagu, Earl of Lindsey, brother of the Earl of Lindsey of this date. He voted against the vacancy of the crown: Feiling, Tory Party, app. II.

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