Essex

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of Qualified Electors:

unknown

Number of voters:

3,464 in 1693; 5,848 in 1710

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
11 Mar. 1690Henry Mildmay1978  
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.1956  
 Sir Anthony Abdy, Bt.1833  
 Sir Eliab Harvey18271  
10 Jan. 1693John Lamotte Honywood vice Mildmay, deceased1806  
 Sir Eliab Harvey16582  
23 Feb. 1694Sir Charles Barrington, Bt., vice Honywood, deceased2327 229732301
 Benjamin Mildmay1749417235 
12 Nov. 1695Sir Charles Barrington, Bt.20372032 
 Sir Francis Masham, 18251777 
 Francis Mildmay1716617047 
29 July 1698Sir Charles Barrington, 18171809 
 Edward Bullock10841084 
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.14651466 
 Benjamin Mildmay1321813229 
14 Jan. 1701Sir Charles Barrington, Bt.1729  
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.1677  
 Edward Bullock1441  
2 Dec. 1701Sir Charles Barrington, Bt.19571988 
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.19491980 
 Edward Bullock18761903 
28 July 1702Sir Charles Barrington Bt.24692462 
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.23722374 
 Sir John Marshall22582248 
 Edward Bullock2121212010 
15 May 1705Henry Howard, Lord Walden28052805 
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.29002900 
 Sir Charles Barrington, Bt.24452445 
 Sir Richard Child, Bt.233511235312 
21 Jan. 1707Thomas Middleton vice Walden, called to the Upper House   
11 May 1708Sir Francis Masham, Bt.   
 Thomas Middleton   
24 Oct. 1710Sir Richard Child, Bt.3268  
 Thomas Middleton2678  
 Sir Francis Masham, Bt.264713  
25 Aug. 1713Sir Charles Barrington, Bt.   
 Sir Richard Child, Bt.   

Main Article

The two contested by-elections and eight contested general elections during the period indicate the strong divisions that existed in Essex, which reached their height in the elections of 1695 and 1705. Differences of opinion were apparent even between the different branches of families, such as the Mildmays, with the Whig Henry Mildmay and the Tory Carew Hervey Mildmay representing different ends of the political and religious spectrum. It was not just the rage of party that maintained an atmosphere of almost continuous electioneering. Essex’s proximity to London ensured a flow of voters into, and news out of, the county, and the size of the electorate expanded by 160 per cent between 1679 and 1710. The shire’s importance as a grain and cloth producing area made the county’s population vulnerable to economic fluctuations, yet stocked the area with many wealthy, influential gentry families. Despite, or perhaps because of, their number, there was no one dominant aristocratic or gentry interest, while there was, to some extent, a struggle between the gentry and nobility for power to nominate MPs. Two peers in particular acted as mainstays of the Whig interest: Charles Mildmay, 19th Lord Fitzwalter, whose seat was Moulsham Hall, and Charles Montagu, 4th Earl of Manchester, who had been one of the first to espouse the cause of William of Orange at his landing, and who owned Leighs Priory near Braintree. Their influence was nevertheless challenged by a number of the Tory gentry, a group that included Sir Edward Turnor*, who owned the manor at Great Hallingbury and from whose correspondence much of the detail of the elections can be gleaned. These gentry nominated one or more candidates, who were then backed by Bishop Compton of London, until his death in 1713. There was thus a strong religious element in the conflict, and much electoral bitterness derived from the clash between the Church interest, which Compton naturally promoted, and the Dissenters, who were numbered at about 1,600 in 1715, the second largest block in the country. Between the ranks of noble and Dissenting support on the one hand, and Church and gentry on the other, local office-holders could often play a vital role in tipping the balance of power, and the lord lieutenancy was the most important of these posts. The Earl of Oxford exercised its power throughout William iii’s reign in favour of the Whigs, although before the Revolution he had been of a very moderate nature. On his death in 1703 the Tory Lord Guilford (Hon. Heneage Finch I*)was appointed, but there was no election before his replacement in 1705 by Earl Rivers (Richard Savage*), who turned out over half of the deputy lieutenants employed under Guilford, until his own conversion to the Tories in 1710 spelt disaster for the Whigs. Although the county was thus used to purges, with no fewer than seven significant alterations in the commission of the peace between 1690 and 1710, the appointment of Viscount Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*) as lord lieutenant in 1712 made way for further radical changes in favour of the Tories. But it was not just the lieutenancy, with its control of the bench and militia, that could be used to sway elections. The role of the sheriff was also often instrumental in determining the return, and in Essex the office’s importance had been puffed up to such an extent that in 1704 an agreement had to be drawn up in an attempt to reduce the post’s expenses.14

The election in March 1690 illustrates a number of these characteristics. It was rightly called a ‘trial of skill’ between Colonel Henry Mildmay and Sir Francis Masham, 3rd Bt., supported by the Dissenters, on the one hand, and Sir Eliab Harvey* and Sir Anthony Abdy, 2nd Bt., supported by the Church interest, on the other. Mildmay, a champion of Nonconformity, had represented the county before the Revolution, and in the Convention, and Masham had an estate at High Laver where he adopted a tolerant attitude to Dissent. Their opponents, however, were more rigid Churchmen. One propagandist reported that although the voters ‘had no quarrel against Sir Eliab’, who owned an estate at Chigwell and had sat for the county in 1679, ‘they knew he was now set up to thrust out the colonel’, and that Abdy, of Felix Hall near Coggeshall and the nephew of Sir John Bramston† of Skreens, had been so zealous against Nonconformists that he ‘had gone in person to disperse them, and pricked them with the point of his sword to drive them out’ of their meetings. Bishop Compton, who had sent a circular letter endorsing Harvey and Abdy, ‘appeared in the field . . . with his ecclesiastical retinue’, a showing that might have been even larger had not preparation for a fast day reportedly hindered some clergy from attending. The prominent role assumed by the clerics was sharply criticized by one pamphleteer who thought that the freeholders had more than once ‘been hectored or wheedled by the Church party’ under Charles ii and James ii, and could not ‘so soon forget the fines, imprisonments, and dancings of attendance from sessions to sessions, merely for voting for such Parliament men as they could trust’. Each side had also enlisted noble aid: Fitzwalter, Oxford and Manchester assisted Mildmay and Masham, while the 6th Earl of Dorset (Charles Sackville†), who owned Copped Hall near Epping, the 2nd Lord Maynard, whose seat was at Little Easton, ‘and all the rest of the nobility and gentry’, including John Wroth†, who had sat for the county in the Convention, appeared for Harvey and Abdy. Secretary of State Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), who had inserted Abdy into the commission of the peace the month before the contest, had also intended to be present at the poll on behalf of the Churchmen, but ‘by the arrival of some foreign letters was prevented’. According to one report 13 poll books were filled and although the votes of 150 Quakers were apparently rejected, ‘the colonel carried it against the ecclesiastical opposition’. Mildmay and Masham were carried that evening to the lodgings of the three peers who had supported them, and ostentatiously accompanied Fitzwalter to church, both to underline their Protestantism and, one suspects, to embarrass their opponents. Harvey and Abdy petitioned on 24 Mar. 1690 against the return, claiming that they had a majority of legal voters, that the poll had been closed early to prevent them gathering more, and that ‘many indirect practices’ had been used by the sheriff’s clerks in taking the names of the voters; but the Commons failed to investigate their complaints, even though evidence was prepared to show that some of Masham and Mildmay’s supporters had insufficient freehold to qualify them to vote.15

It had been suggested in one of the election tracts that the Churchmen had attracted the votes of ‘all the friends of the abdicated king’, and in September 1690 a number of justices were presented for refusal to take the oaths to King William. The driving force behind this action in Essex was the sheriff for that year, John Lamotte Honywood, who contested the by-election in January 1693. This had been caused by the death of Mildmay, Honywood’s partner at earlier elections in 1679, 1681 and 1689. Once again religious issues were prominent. Sir John Marshall, a prominent local Tory squire with lands in Finchingfield parish, observed that ‘Mildmay’s ghost’ still influenced the Dissenters in favour of Honywood, and the latter was accused of attracting the support of Quakers, although Marshall also believed that at least ‘one Noncon[formist] with . . . most of his flock’ would vote for Honywood’s opponent Sir Eliab Harvey, who was supported by Bishop Compton. Although Honywood was returned, there were again accusations of undue influence from the sheriff. Harvey petitioned on 17 Jan. 1693 on the grounds that there were ‘some hundreds of other freeholders that would have voted for him, had not the sheriff closed the poll sooner than he ought to have done’, and that the poll booth ‘was so filled up with Mr Honywood’s men that those that would have voted for Sir Eliab Harvey could not get in, and particularly that Sir Edward Turnor was forced to climb over the booths to get in’. Turnor had apparently demanded a copy of the poll in which ‘there was found a great many that had polled for Sir Eliab Harvey set down to Mr Honywood’, and evidence was also admitted that the under-sheriff had threatened voters with the lord lieutenant’s displeasure if they voted for Harvey. Although the committee of elections reported on 14 Feb. against him, Honywood’s supporters in the Commons were able to overturn the resolution to ensure his continued sitting.16

Another contested by-election in 1694, occasioned by Honywood’s suicide, saw the emergence of Sir Charles Barrington, 5th Bt., into the political arena to uphold the Church interest after Harvey had at last found a seat at Maldon. Although he had been educated at Felsted by a teacher who ‘scarce bred any man that was loyal to his prince’, Barrington proved the exception and his views, coupled with his wealth and estate, earned him strong support in the county. Barrington was backed by the bishop of London, but at first there were rumours about a competitor for the Church interest. John Yardley, a doctor from Bishop Stortford who acted as a self-appointed election agent, reported that another candidate, Francis Mildmay, of Graces near Chelmsford, attracted support around Brentwood and Romford, ‘but else no where’ so that Mildmay’s standing would only throw away ‘so many honest votes to no purpose’. Perhaps appreciating the narrow basis of his support, Mildmay appears to have withdrawn from the contest. But if two rival ‘honest’ candidates caused temporary concern in one camp, the opposition had far more serious problems about agreeing who should contest the seat. Edward Bullock, the son-in-law of the wealthy and influential Sir Josiah Child, 1st Bt.*, who owned a large estate at Wanstead, at first intended to stand, but although a number of the gentry supported him some of the Whigs were reported as being ‘not satisfied’ with him. Since one of them was said to be ‘Lord Fitzw[alter]’, who had ‘no kindness at all for Mr Bullock on account of an old story about a visit to the sister-in-law’, Bullock seems to have withdrawn his candidacy at an early stage. Marshall had believed that if Bullock could ‘be persuaded to desist and not espouse the fanatic interest, I am sure we can have no equal competitor’, and so it proved. A replacement for Bullock appeared in the form of a Mr Hutchinson, probably the Richard Hutchinson who had recently failed to secure election at Maldon. Hutchinson was a Dissenter and was supported ‘with all his power’ by Child, who boasted that he and Bullock could ‘carry the election for whom they please’, but their protégé was forced to give way to Benjamin Mildmay, the younger brother of Fitzwalter, though not before the Earl of Oxford had declared his support for Hutchinson. The result of this confusion was to split the Dissenting interest, and it was predicted that many would stay at home ‘and will give no vote’. Worse still, Child’s ‘indifference’ to Mildmay meant that Barrington’s supporters even worked with Sir Josiah’s agents. With his challengers in disarray, Barrington’s own agents made thorough preparations for the election day, which they understandably wanted to see as soon as possible ‘for fear another competitor should answer’, and around whom opposition might consolidate. A list of 49 gentlemen, including William Fytche*, and Lord Walden (Henry Howard*) of Audley End, was drawn up ‘to be writ to for their assistance at the election’, and a club of Barrington’s supporters met ‘in consult’ about it, deciding that Sir Charles ought to be at Chelmsford the night before polling took place ‘to encourage his party at their first appearance’. Efforts were also made to activate freeholders living in London into attendance, and a week before the election Yardley was able to report that ‘all things go very prosperously for us: we increase on all sides both in the vigour and number of our party. But we are much afraid of the poll booths and 12 clerks appointed by the sheriffs and Sir Charles allowed none’. Despite the fears of ‘a tricking poll’, the official return was in Barrington’s favour, although Masham was nevertheless accused of having given the clerks two guineas each. Marshall thought that the victorious candidate would ‘be at the charge of printing the poll which . . . will be very advantageous to us for another election, which for ever after this we shall not need to doubt but carry, if we will but use the same pains and industry as we did in this’, and a True and Exact Catalogue of Barrington’s supporters was indeed published, together with a list of Mildmay’s. Analysis of these records reveals that Barrington’s voters included Sir Samuel Grimston, 3rd Bt.*, Sir Thomas Davall I*, and Charles Alston, the archdeacon of Essex, and that Mildmay was backed by Sir Isaac Rebow*, Samuel Reynolds*, Sir Thomas Barnardiston, 2nd Bt.*, the earls of Manchester and Essex, Fitzwalter and a number of London Dissenting radicals. Marshall had predicted that ‘the appearance from one side of the county . . . will be greater than ever it was since the Revolution’, a reference perhaps to the north-east of the county, which the poll books show as an area strongly in favour of Barrington, even at Stansted Mountfitchet, the domain of the Whig Middletons. The printing of the poll, and the use which the parties evidently hoped to make of it, may well have prompted the inclusion of a clause in the 1696 Act for further regulating elections which obliged returning officers to take a copy of the poll and to produce it on request.17

The same degree of commitment and organization apparent in 1694 on the part of Barrington’s supporters was not, however, repeated at the general election the following year: ‘the gentry only write to their tenants and suppose them so honest as to manage the concern with zeal and faithfulness, but they act quite contrary for several who gave their own votes allow their dependents to vote on the other side’, Turnor was told in October 1695. This lethargy and double-dealing may partly be explained by the fact that Francis Mildmay, who had evidently been so annoyed at his treatment by the Church party the previous year, joined with Masham and, backed by Manchester and Fitzwalter, opposed Barrington, who stood alone because Bullock refused to offer himself as a candidate. Some of the gentry resolved ‘to carry single votes for Barrington only, in hopes of throwing Masham out’, a policy of plumping implicitly endorsed by the bishop of London, who nevertheless recommended, ‘if it should do Sir Charles no harm’, that second votes should be given to Mildmay, who thereby occupied an ambiguous position between the two candidates. Attempts to influence the campaign also came from pamphleteers, and a number of men were arrested for having dispersed libels which reflected on the elections, though since these were written in Latin the extent of their impact may be questionable. Once more the size of the Dissenting vote, and the role of the sheriff, were seen as crucial to the result of the poll, as Sir John Bramston’s first-hand account reveals:

the sheriff would have polled without oath, intending by that slight (under pretence of dispatch) to get in the Quakers, who were come in great numbers, being invited thereunto by Sir Francis Masham. And great and long debates we had, and could not stir the sheriffs, the Lords also urging for it, as did also Mr Charles Montagu*, who came with my Lord of Manchester, and stickled for the Quakers, though he be no freeholder in the county. The sheriffs were resolved to poll them; we protested against them.

After the election Turnor drew up an affidavit in which he swore that when the sheriff proceeded to call over the Quakers, to examine them about their freeholds, one of them confessed that ‘he was not qualified to give a vote’. However, since there were only 61 Quakers who wished to poll, and Barrington had a majority of over 200, the dispute was more about principle and precedent than about the outcome of the count. However, Mildmay’s second failure to secure a seat made him a target for Turnor, who unsuccessfully tried to detach him from Masham by encouraging him to petition against his electoral colleague.18

Although ‘great feasting’ took place in January 1698 in preparation for the coming election, the contest in July was much more straightforward and aroused far less passion than earlier campaigns. Bullock, who had ‘gained a good interest in his neighbourhood’, overcame his hesitancy about standing with Barrington, and was supported by the gentry in order to ‘overbalance the interest of Sir Francis Masham’ and Benjamin Mildmay. This plan ‘took effect’ when reinforced by Bishop Compton’s endorsement of the gentry’s choice.19

Masham’s defeat encouraged Dacres Barrett, a Whig who owned the manor of Belhus in south-west Essex, to consider standing at the next election, but when his friend James Sloane* sent him advance notice in December 1700 of the impending dissolution he was also advised to apply all his ‘strength and diligence towards the election for . . . a few days’ neglect may lose what is not to be regained in such cases, therefore either give it quite over or go about it immediately with all your might’. The warning evidently deterred Barrett, for there is no other evidence that he offered himself as a candidate. His decision may also have been influenced by the fact that the identity of the competitors was vague because Bullock vacillated between the two camps. Early in December it was reported that Bullock had left his former partner to join with Masham, ‘so that he does unite with the Dissenting party’; but he was also regarded as one of the gentry’s candidates to stand with Barrington. On 21 Dec., three days after Parliament’s dissolution, John Morley, a freeholder with a small personal interest at Halstead, informed Turnor that Bullock had the support of the gentlemen and freeholders of the county, ‘so that if he will please to accept it, I verily believe it will be the general opinion of all meeting, and the sure way to prevent divisions and trouble’. A circular letter had indeed been issued on 18 Dec., declaring that it was ‘high time a general meeting should be appointed to agree upon the two Members to serve in Parliament . . . that further disputes may be avoided to save both trouble and charge’. The meeting, which took place on 27 Dec. at the Cock in Chelmsford, decided on the previous partnership of Barrington and Bullock, and Bishop Compton wrote to inform the clergy that ‘they cannot do better than to use their interest for them’. The confusion caused by Bullock’s position gave rise to speculation that one of Maynard’s brothers, possibly William or Henry, might join with Barrington instead of Bullock, but the challenge did not materialize. On top of the uncertainty about his allegiances, Bullock’s support for the Old East India Company, at a time when the rivalry between the companies was said to be the ‘greatest distinction in and about London’, made him particularly vulnerable. The result was that by the new year Barrington was ‘said on all hands to be sure of one place, and Sir Francis Masham to have much the better of Mr Bullock for the other’, partly because Masham had the support of the Dissenters, who were so zealous for him ‘that ’tis thought they will generally give single votes’. Barrington and Masham were duly returned at the poll on 14 Jan.20

In October 1701 the county’s grand jury drew up ‘a very loyal address’, promising support against France and the Pretender, but if the aim of its promoters had been to shake Barrington’s hold on his seat at the election later that year it failed to do so. Barrington did, however, find it necessary to have notices inserted in the Post Boy and Post Man to counter reports that he ‘had declined standing’, and to declare that he joined once more with Bullock. The bishop of London again backed the pair, sententiously declaring that ‘the peace, honour and safety of this Church and nation depend in a great measure upon the good success of this next election’, but, perhaps because of renewed rumours that Bullock had joined with Masham, the result was a repeat of the previous poll, even though Marshall had undertaken to persuade men of ‘perverse and ill principles to stay at home’. Although Barrington and Masham were again returned, the election had seen the former’s victory over his rival cut from 52 in January to just eight votes in December. The two elections in the same year had also evidently taken a heavy toll on the ground used for polling, since Thomas Whitfield petitioned at the quarter sessions that although he had been willing to offer his property, ‘his gates, stiles, pales, rails and hedges were broken, pulled up, trodden down and carried away by the multitude of people who came there’.21

The accession of Anne did not alter the balance of power in the county, although it did prompt a loyal address, presented by Barrington, from the county’s justices whom Sir Charles may have pledged himself to have purged. The change of monarch may also have encouraged the parliamentary ambitions of the Tory Marshall, who decided to join with Barrington at the general election of 1702, after Bullock had at last decided to throw in his lot with the Whigs and stand with Masham. The old Members were, however, again returned, with Barrington enjoying a more comfortable lead than last time, but Turnor, whom Marshall later described as his ‘alter ego’, thought it advisable ‘to petition the House upon the account of an undue election – there being a gentleman that had made 50 freeholders for Sir Francis Masham on purpose to vote for him and then to cancel the writings’. If there was a possibility that the election could be voided, Sir John replied, he would pursue it, ‘but otherwise I have no design to make any movement herein, for . . . I would not have it said that Marshall’s petition was rejected as frivolous and vexatious’, and consequently no further action was taken. Marshall may well have considered offering himself at the next election since he wrote in November 1703 to Turnor and Compton about creating an interest, though it would appear that he let this matter drop as well. He did, however, have a copy of the 1702 poll ‘methodized by the under-sheriff in order to be printed’, and the True and Exact List of voters sheds further light on the election. The unity of the clergy behind Barrington and Marshall was remarkable. One hundred and eighty-seven clerics voted, only 14 of whom supported Masham and Bullock, who nevertheless had the backing of three ‘preachers’ and at least one Quaker. The gentry, too, were mainly behind the Church candidates: 166 were listed as having voted for them, compared with only 55 for Masham and Bullock, with a further 16 splitting their votes between Barrington and Masham. Such ‘cross-voting’ was nevertheless extremely rare, with the vast majority voting along party lines. Finally, the poll shows that Fitzwalter voted at the election, in direct contravention of a recent order by the Commons against peers doing so. Indeed, it had been due to the activities of Fitzwalter and Manchester that the House had come to such a decision. The two peers are listed, together with the Earl of Essex, as having voted in 1694, but it was their participation at Maldon in 1698 that provoked particular criticism. The validity of Manchester’s vote was questioned, and on 14 Dec. 1699 the House decided that no peer had any right to vote in an election, a resolution that on 13 Feb. 1701 became part of the standing orders of the committee of privileges. Fitzwalter simply disregarded this, though his breach of the ruling does not appear to have been raised in the House.22

Lord Guilford’s tenure of the office of lord lieutenant between 1703 and 1705 ensured that the Tories retained a high profile. In October 1704 an address from the grand jury, presented by Barrington, praised the Tory Admiral Sir George Rooke’s* part in the war effort, and referred to Anne’s favour to the established religion. But this propaganda masks a deepening party dispute in the county. Although the Queen’s first Parliament was not dissolved until April 1705, preparations for a new contest had begun a year earlier when Manchester and Fitzwalter, together with the rest of the county’s Whigs, met at the quarter sessions. Since Fitzwalter thought that the presence of Sir Thomas Webster, 1st Bt.*, who in 1700 had bought the estate of Copped Hall for over £20,000 from the Earl of Dorset, might ‘prevent us further trouble till the election’ it is possible that the purpose of the meeting was to decide on his joining with Masham if Bullock, after three successive defeats at the polls, withdrew his candidacy. Bullock did in fact lower his sights from a county seat to one at Colchester, but it was Lord Walden, not Webster, who was to partner Masham in 1705. This alliance was ratified at a meeting held in late 1704 at Manchester’s manor of Leighs Priory, and represented a political coup for the Whigs because Walden had hitherto favoured Barrington and brought over with him William Peck, the sheriff for 1705, ‘and several gentlemen on that side’, as well as the energies of Dr Dent, one of his election agents. News of the agreement was spread in December 1704, presumably to ensure the displacement of Barrington, who had supported the Tack, and this forced Bishop Compton in February 1705 to try to counter the impact of the announcement with a declaration of support for Barrington and Sir Richard Child, 3rd Bt., of Wanstead, Sir Josiah’s son, whom he found were ‘the persons set up by the gentlemen of the county’. In response, Lords Fitzwalter, Manchester, Grey, Walden and Rivers called another meeting in March 1705 ‘in order to consult matters about our election’. This gathering included two new noble Whig patrons. The first was Lord Grey of Warke (Ralph Grey*), who owned a manor at Epping and was described by Burnet as ‘a zealous supporter of the liberties of the people’; the second, and more important, was Earl Rivers, who owned estates in Tendring Hundred, and who replaced Guilford as lord lieutenant in April. His support was to be crucial in achieving a Whig victory. Presumably as a result of his influence, 14 new justices were added to the bench at the Lent assizes, among them Manchester, Fitzwalter, Webster and Benjamin Mildmay; and a systematic purge of deputy lieutenants removed 16 Tories, including Barrington, William Fytche, Turnor and Marshall, replacing them with a new set of 49 who were overwhelmingly of Whig sympathies, including Sir Isaac Rebow, MP for Colchester. Rivers also used his power to dismiss Barrington from the office of vice-admiral of the county only ten days before the poll, and to have himself appointed.23

By the time of the election in May the lines were thus already sharply drawn, and local offices and opinion highly politicized. Passions ran high. On 2 Mar. 1705 one Edward Theobolds had been found guilty by the Commons of scandalous reflections on Barrington, ‘and on misrepresenting his voting and acting’ there to the freeholders, but even this action does not seem to have stopped such comments completely for in July another Whig was brought before the quarter sessions accused of having spoken more words against Sir Charles immediately prior to the election. The press, too, played its part in whipping up public interest: the Post Man printed a notice about the date of the poll, on 15 May, giving the names of the two pairs of candidates. As befitted the elaborate preparations, the election itself was highly charged, and the activity of Dissenters was again controversial. Despite, or because of, a plan by the clergy to appear in a body for Barrington and Child, the latter were defeated ‘by a great deal of foul play from the fanatic party’. The newswriter agreed that the Quakers had ‘in general throughout the kingdom in this election voted against the Church’, although he pointed out that the Church party’s candidates in Essex ‘polled more freeholders than in former elections’, losing ‘by a great majority’ only because, as had been alleged during the previous election, ‘the Whigs had found a way of granting quit rents of 40s. per annum, resignable upon the tender of six-pence’. Certainly the number of voters increased significantly at this election, and their number so devastated the polling ground ‘almost to the utter ruin’ that the candidates were ordered to recompense the owner; but the addition of so many new voters may also be explained by the passion the contest had aroused, and by the attitude of the sheriff. According to a detailed list of complaints about his conduct, for which he had his windows broken by a mob, the sheriff ‘refused to let the four candidates appoint three of each side to be clerks to take the poll, insisting that it was his part to nominate and confirm’. Instead he produced a list of 18 nominees from which Barrington and Child could choose 12, even though ‘the whole 18 were Dissenters from the Church of England, and most of them had been employed in the time of Whiggish sheriffs and been detected of very false dealing’. Walden and Masham refused a proposal ‘that each candidate might name three, which could be no wrong to any’, and the sheriff stood by his nominees, thereby attracting the criticism that ‘he was a party man, for he then could have that list from no body but Sir Francis Masham to whom they had been very serviceable in former elections’. In the face of such intransigence the Church candidates did the best they could by objecting to six of the 18 potential clerks.24

The fact that there was no petition against the return of Walden and Masham when there seemed to be such ample evidence on which to ground it indicates how crushing their victory had been in terms of morale as well as numbers. The dominance of the two Whigs over the county, achieved by the help of Rivers, was symbolized early in July 1706 when the three presented an address about the success of the war. So unassailable had the party become that although it was reported that Barrington had stood as a candidate in the by-election in January 1707, occasioned by Walden’s promotion to the peerage, no contest at the polls was recorded. Thomas Middleton, the son-in-law of the Whig Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt.*, was returned, and even the Tory 3rd Lord Maynard (Banastre†) had given his interest to the newcomer, unexpected support ‘which his lordship has promised to continue’. Unable to rally itself to fight such overwhelming odds, the Church party seems to have failed to offer any opposition at the 1708 election. Even in 1710, when elsewhere they found renewed vigour and success, the Tories in Essex fought at only half strength. Barrington appears to have refused to stand, despite rumours that he had joined with a Mr Harvey, probably the Tory William Harvey† of Chigwell who was to sit for the county in 1715. In Sir Richard Child, however, the Church party found a skilful campaigner. After the Sacheverell trial the high sheriff had summoned a grand jury of ‘great men’ in order to send up what Turnor described as a ‘whipping address’, and at the same time they had resolved on Child as the candidate to whom single votes should be given, a tactic supported by Bishop Compton, who also tried to ‘stir up’ the clergy on Child’s behalf. Child then set about trying to split the Whig vote, a task made easier by two developments. The first was the marriage of Masham’s Tory son Samuel* to Abigail Hill. Child sent a circular letter requesting that voters should plump for him, but, where this was impossible, that second votes should go to Masham. This was so successful in creating doubts about Masham’s position that a statement had to be inserted into the newspapers declaring that Masham and Middleton stood together ‘at the desire of great numbers of gentlemen and freeholders’. The notice in the Post Man even informed their London supporters where to meet to ride to the poll together. Child’s circular letter had, however, exploited a second and more important shift in the local political situation by claiming that Lord Lieutenant Rivers had ‘promised his interest’ to the Church candidate. Since the newspapers did not deny this abandonment of the Whigs, its truth seems almost certain. In the light of Robert Harley’s* attempt to overthrow the Godolphin ministry, Rivers had turned coat, although the Earl’s absence from the country as envoy to Hanover removed his direct influence at this time. Child’s tactics proved brilliantly successful at the poll. He ‘carried it by a plurality of 590 voices’ from Masham, who trailed only 31 votes behind Middleton. Analysis of the printed poll shows how Masham’s position had been compromised: 2,961 voters plumped for Child, and, although 2,439 backed the Masham–Middleton combination, only 18 plumped for Masham compared with 123 for Middleton. The newswriter Dyer reported the outcome as a victory for the clergy, noting that ‘the bells rang for joy throughout the county and men and women and children cried God bless the Queen and preserve the Church’. The poll book shows that a high degree of organization had indeed again been achieved. Of the 143 clergymen who voted, 125 plumped for Child, while only 11 voted for the Whig pair, and although the Church party had regained only one of the seats, it had succeeded in removing Masham, one of the main champions of the county’s Dissenters.25

The combination of resurgent Toryism and leaderless Whigs characterized the remainder of Anne’s reign. The new political stance adopted by Rivers made way for the appointment of 17 new deputy lieutenants, mostly Tories such as Barrington, Turnor, Marshall, John Comyns* and Fytche, to move towards balancing the parties in local offices, and the illness of the lord lieutenant in 1712 allowed Viscount Bolingbroke to advance the Tory interest further. It was he who, in July 1712, introduced an address from the county, presented by a group of Tories together with Masham, which thanked the Queen for the peace, and after his appointment to the lord lieutenancy on the death of Rivers, Bolingbroke lost little time in using his powers to promote Tories into the important local posts. On 14 Nov. Turnor was asked for a list of deputy lieutenants that Bolingbroke could ‘lay before her Majesty for her approbation’, and for information about ‘what other employments are in his gift’, a task that Turnor must have completed rapidly, if not always accurately, for in the following month he was informed that Nicholas Corsellis, a Tory elected as Member for Colchester in 1714, was so incensed by his omission that he threatened not to appear again at Chelmsford. On 20 Dec. 1712 Barrington was restored to the vice-admiralty of the county, and a week earlier the strongly Tory Carew Hervey Mildmay* had been nominated as sheriff. In May 1713 Mildmay and Child presented another address, again introduced by Bolingbroke, which asserted that whoever insinuated that the succession was in danger was an enemy to the kingdom. Bolingbroke’s attention to propaganda was also probably responsible for a notice in the Post Boy in March 1713 to the effect that although there had been

several reports as if Sir Charles Barrington and Sir Richard Child did not stand for the knights of the shire for the county of Essex, this is to inform all gentlemen and freeholders of the said county that they do join together, and desire their votes, whenever a new Parliament shall be called.

Such a notice was evidence of the careful preparations undertaken to ensure success at the polls. Even before Parliament was officially dissolved Barrington and Child issued a circular letter announcing that the grand jury ‘and others the gentlemen and the clergy’ had requested them to stand. The Whigs could not match this degree of organization and enthusiasm, and although it had been reported in 1713 that Middleton would join with Robert Honywood†, the cousin and heir of John Lamotte Honywood, the pair did not have the confidence to contest the election. Barrington still seems to have treated the electors, though possibly to celebrate rather than to ensure victory, and the Post Boy was able to declare that the Churchmen had been chosen ‘without any opposition, which shows the duty to the Queen and the firmness of the Church, of the gentlemen, clergy and freeholders of that loyal county’, concluding with the hope that ‘this will be a pattern to all succeeding elections’. To try to guarantee this the lord lieutenant purged the commission of the peace in March 1714, inserting 23 Tories, including three sitting Members, and in September Barrington and Child again distributed a circular letter requesting votes at the next election; but Bolingbroke’s dominance of Essex politics was shortlived, and with the Hanoverian succession, and Barrington’s death shortly after, Essex returned to a balance of Whig and Tory representation in Parliament after 1715.26

Author: M.J.K

Notes

  • 1. The Tryal of Skill (1690).
  • 2. Essex RO, Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/3, ‘the casting up of the poll bk.’, 1694.
  • 3. Essex Review, ii. 224.
  • 4. Colchester Pub. Lib. A True and Exact Catalogue (1694).
  • 5. Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/2/3.
  • 6. Essex Review, ii. 224.
  • 7. Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/4, notes on election results.
  • 8. A True and Exact Catalogue
  • 9. Polls between 1698 and 1702 are taken from Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/9, 'copies of the five several polls', 1698-1705.
  • 10. Guildhall Lib. A True and Exact List of the Names (1702).
  • 11. Post Man, 15–17 May 1705.
  • 12. Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/8, ‘elections for many years’; D/DKw/02/9.
  • 13. Essex RO, An Exact List of Names of Gent. and Other Freeholders (1711).
  • 14. G. Holmes, Pol. Relig. and Soc. 16; EHR, lvi. 87; Bramston Autobiog. (Cam. Soc. xxxii), 306, 325; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 82; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 116, 125, 143, 161, 166, 175, 198, 206, 224, 229, 239, 254; Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/05, ‘The subscribers’ names and the articles’ [1704].
  • 15. The Tryal of Skill (1690); A Circular Letter (1690); Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, f. 123; Jnl. Brit. Studies, xi. 83–84; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 14, f. 269; Portledge Pprs. 67; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 447; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, Cary Gardiner to Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, 12 Mar. 16[90]; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1445, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 11 Mar. 16[90]; Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/2, ‘names of the Harwich men’ [1690].
  • 16. The Tryal of Skill (1690); Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, f. 206; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/552, Marshall to Turnor, 29 Dec. 1692; Luttrell Diary, 422.
  • 17. Bramston Autobiog. 124, 378; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 5, f. 195; Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1135–9, 559–61, Yardley to Turnor, 22, 25 Jan., 9, 12, 15 Feb. 1693[–4], Marshall to same, 15, 21, 28 Feb. 1693[–4]; Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/5, ‘the names of the gent.’, 1694; A True and Exact Catalogue (1694).
  • 18. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/833, 836, Joseph Manyon to Turnor, 14 Oct. 1695, Turnor to [?], 30 Nov. 1695; Add. 17677 PP, f. 417; CSP Dom. 1695, p. 350; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 5, f. 197; Bramston Autobiog. 391–2; Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKw/02/4, 6 (affidavit, 1695), 9.
  • 19. Locke Corresp. ed. de Beer, vi. 301; Bramston Autobiog. 406; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 5, f. 209.
  • 20. Essex RO, Barrett mss D/DL/C48, Sloane to Barrett, 7 Dec. 1700, C. Clarke to same, 5 Dec. 1700; Shillinglee mss Ac.454/842, 841, Morley to Turnor, 21 Dec. 1700, circular letter, 18 Dec. 1700; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 5, f. 215; Bodl