Hastings

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the resident freemen paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

67 in 1689

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
c. Apr. 1660DENNY ASHBURNHAM 
 NICHOLAS DELVES 
6 May 1661EDMUND WALLER I 
 DENNY ASHBURNHAM 
11 Feb. 1679SIR ROBERT PARKER, Bt. 
 JOHN ASHBURNHAM II 
8 Oct. 1679JOHN ASHBURNHAM II 
 SIR ROBERT PARKER, Bt. 
10 Mar. 1681SIR ROBERT PARKER, Bt. 
 THOMAS MUN 
26 Mar. 1685(SIR) DENNY ASHBURNHAM 
 JOHN ASHBURNHAM II 
14 Jan. 1689JOHN ASHBURNHAM II 
 THOMAS MUN 
9 Aug. 1689JOHN BEAUMONT vice Ashburnham, called to the Upper House35
 Peter Gott32

Main Article

Hastings returned an Ashburnham at every general election in the period except 1681. In 1660 the corporation politely rejected the Admiralty candidate, the Hon. Edward Montagu, in favour of Denny Ashburnham, head of a cadet branch of the family, and Nicholas Delves, a London merchant of local origin who was the mayor’s brother. In 1661 Ashburnham was re-elected with Edmund Waller, the lord warden’s nominee. Neither stood for the Exclusion Parliaments. In both elections of 1679 the port returned two local gentlemen, probably of opposite political views. John Ashburnham, the head of the family, had certainly inherited a tradition of loyalty, while Sir Robert Parker was probably a cautious exclusionist. In 1681 Ashburnham lost his seat to Thomas Mun, of the country party, who had formerly owned property in the neighbourhood. All three elections were said to be ‘with the unanimous assent and consent’ of the corporation and commonalty. But the former, at least, soon repented their rashness. In October 1683 they assured John Strode II, the governor of Dover Castle, that they ‘all, nem. con., readily and gladly allowed of the authority of the lord warden’ to nominate one of their Members, adding that ‘there is not one dissenter in this whole body, and scarce any, or few, within all our jurisdiction’. A loyal address followed congratulating James II on his accession, and in the general election of 1685 Sir Denny Ashburnham, who had become an excise commissioner, was duly elected as government nominee, while his cousin John sat on the family interest. Nevertheless Hastings lost its charter. Under the replacement, which was issued in October, Sir Denny Ashburnham was nominated mayor and Strode recorder. The franchise was limited to ‘the mayor, jurats, common council, and freemen, they being freeholders’.1

On 15 Sept. 1688, Sunderland wrote to Sir Denny Ashburnham to stand as court candidate; but it was his cousin John who was returned with Mun at the general election ‘according to the ancient usage’. John Ashburnham was raised to the peerage on 28 May 1689, and a new writ was ordered within a week. But the election was not held until 9 Aug. There was a contest between John Beaumont, the Tory governor of Dover, and Peter Gott, a local Whig ironfounder. According to Beaumont, he went to Hastings only ‘to find a fit man to stand for that place.... They did me the honour to choose me, though I had the opposition of the sheriff and the country gentry.’ On 4 Nov. Gott petitioned, claiming that he had been

chosen by several electors, and would have been by more if due notice had been given and fair usage had; and the petitioner ought to have been returned. But that Colonel Beaumont being governor, or lieutenant governor of Dover Castle, to whom the writ was directed, hath returned himself, though not regularly chosen, nor was he capable of being chosen, being the officer who had the execution of the writ.

Other ‘irregular proceedings’ were alleged, including threats and bribery. Evidence was given that Gott’s supporters were threatened by ‘the rabble’ with death, or (more plausibly) damage to their fishing nets, and that efforts were made to exclude them from the church where the election was held. The mayor, however, said that ‘no freemen were kept out, that he knows of’. While the case was before the elections committee, Beaumont complained to the House that letters from his constituents were being opened in the post. This was a damaging charge, since the Post Office, under the extreme Whig John Wildman I, was highly vulnerable. On 17 Jan. 1690 John Grey reported against Gott’s petition, and the House agreed by a narrow majority. The Whigs counter-attacked with a bill to declare the rights of election in the Cinque Ports, which was committed on 24 Jan., but the session ended three days later.2

Author: Basil Duke Henning

Notes

  • 1. Pepys Diary, 3 Apr. 1660; W. G. Moss, Hastings, 134; CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 42; 1685, pp. 347-8; 1687-9, p. 276; PC2/72/733.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1689-90, p. 219; CJ, x. 304, 334-5.

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