Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
16 in 1690; rising to 45 in 17101
|8 Mar. 1690||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.||11|
|Capt. Edward Hales||5|
|30 Oct. 1695||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.|
|JACOB DES BOUVERIE|
|21 July 1698||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.|
|JACOB DES BOUVERIE|
|4 Jan. 1701||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.|
|24 Nov. 1701||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.|
|17 July 1702||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.|
|12 May 1705||SIR PHILIP BOTELER, Bt.|
|4 May 1708||HON. JOHN FANE|
|Sir Philip Boteler, Bt.|
|7 Jan. 1710||HON. JOHN FANE re-elected after appointment to office|
|9 Oct. 1710||RICHARD BOYLE, Visct. Shannon [I]||20|
|HON. JOHN FANE||19|
|BOTELER and BERNERS vice Shannon and Fane, on petition, 27 Jan. 1711|
|25 July 1712||RICHARD BOYLE, Visct. Shannon vice Berners, deceased|
|25 Aug. 1713||JACOB DES BOUVERIE||36|
Hythe’s decline paralleled that of many of the other Cinque Ports; by the 16th century its harbour had disappeared and consequently so had its national political and economic importance. Between 1690 and 1715 the town’s electorate remained very small. Corporation records show that undisputed elections attracted few voters, but the numbers grew over time, reaching a peak in 1710. Between them, the candidates owned most of the land surrounding Hythe, and local rivalries gave added impetus to their political differences. Although there was a strong Whig influence in the town, as represented by such men as Julius† and Henry Deedes and William Brockman, the borough was generally represented by members of the Boteler family. In the 1690s the head of the family, Sir Philip Boteler, 3rd Bt., appeared inclined towards the Whigs but gradually became a Tory. His brother, John, appears to have been a Tory from the outset, and although his brother-in-law Jacob des Bouverie’s politics are less clear, he too supported the Tories in later years. From at least 1708 they were persistently challenged by Whig candidates who had, however, only partial success and by the end of Anne’s reign, the borough was still under the Botelers’ control.3
Hythe, along with the other Cinque Ports, was the subject of Hon. John Beaumont’s* attempted interference in the 1690 elections. This was resisted by the Ports and led to the 1690 Freedom of Elections Act, which negated the disputed right of the lord warden of the Cinque Ports to nominate one Member for each Port. In 1690 Hythe was contested by five candidates and Boteler and Brockman were elected. The latter was given the opportunity to stand when Julius Deedes, despite Beaumont’s encouragement, decided not to seek re-election and transferred his interest to Brockman. Muns may have been a relative of Thomas Mun†, a defeated candidate at Hastings, but his politics, and those of the other candidates, are unknown. In 1695, the 18 voters rejected Brockman in favour of Boteler and Bouverie. It was also agreed at the Common Assembly for this election that no one had the right to vote for himself. Political differences remained below the surface for the next five elections, which were apparently uncontested. In January 1701 Bouverie was replaced by John Boteler. In 1702 the deputy warden (to Prince George) of the Cinque Ports, the Earl of Winchilsea, wrote to the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) of the Tories’ successes, ‘most of the other Ports seem inclined to mend their hand . . . At Hythe we rest satisfied in the two old ones.’ In 1705 Thomas, 6th Earl of Westmorland, replaced Winchilsea as deputy warden and held the post until the death of Prince George in 1708. Westmorland followed his family’s Whig tradition and was determined to use his influence for the benefit of that party. He wrote in his memoirs in reference to the 1705 election, ‘I went through all the Cinque Ports . . . with such success that the Members were most all changed to the principles I was of.’ Westmorland’s opinion of his own influence was certainly exaggerated and Robert Harley’s* prediction that there would be no contest at Hythe was fulfilled. However, there was a noticeable swing to Whig candidates in the Cinque Ports in 1708. Twenty-four voters turned out at Hythe, where Westmorland’s brother, Hon. John Fane, ousted Sir Philip Boteler, but the other Whig, Brockman, failed to displace John Boteler. Sir Philip petitioned, objecting that, although he had gained more votes than Fane, the mayor, Henry Deedes, had returned the latter. Boteler presented his petition again on 17 Nov. 1709, but he withdrew it on 21 Dec. preparatory to the forthcoming by-election caused by Fane’s appointment to office. However, Fane was re-elected, apparently unopposed.4
In October 1710 the number of voters increased to 45. Fane’s partner was Viscount Shannon, then deputy warden of the Cinque Ports, and together they defeated the two Tory candidates, John Boteler and William Berners. The corporation then sent a Whig address to the Queen which praised the ‘steady pursuit of Revolution principles’. The Whigs’ triumph was short-lived as the defeated Tories petitioned the House, complaining that the mayor had refused to poll some qualified voters while disregarding others, and that corrupt practices had enabled the return of Boyle and Fane. Having considered the question of whether the right of election was in the mayor, jurats, common councillors and freemen or only those of them who lived in the port and paid scot and lot, the Commons resolved in favour of the former. Evidence of bribery was given by the witnesses for the petitioners, who alleged that the mayor had gone from house to house soliciting votes for the sitting Members and had treated the whole corporation at a cost of £40. On the other side it was claimed, among other things, that one voter had been offered an interest-free loan and another one or two of the best bullocks in Romney Marsh if they would vote for Boteler. Despite such evidence, the committee recommended that Fane and Boyle’s election be upheld but the House rejected this and seated Boteler and Berners. In October 1711, Boteler complained that the mayor had refused to make Berners a freeman and that in August (in what was evidently a move to strengthen the Whig interest in the town) he and the lord warden, the Earl of Dorset, had used their influence to have several honorary freemen created, including Dorset and Dr Deedes, the latter evidently a relative of the mayor. The town’s 1575 charter had abolished the traditional methods of gaining the freedom of the town and restricted admission to the sons of freemen and those who married the daughters of freemen, or to those admitted by gift. The latter category had obvious political implications. Lists of the freemen admitted would appear to support, at least for this period, Boteler’s assertion that ‘these were the first honorary freemen ([who were] not representatives) ever made in that port’. Berners’ death in June 1712 enabled Boyle to be returned at a by-election.5
In August 1712, Hythe ignored Brockman’s draft of an address to the Queen protesting at the recent peace agreement and sent a congratulatory one instead. John Boteler alone presented this address on behalf of Hythe; Boyle’s absence may indicate sympathy with Whig condemnation of the peace. In June 1713 Hythe congratulated Anne on the successful conclusion of the peace, being ‘sensible of the great difficulties and obstructions that have here been stirred up at home and abroad by ungrateful and disaffected persons’. At the election that year the number of voters dropped slightly to 39, and only one Whig, Brockman, stood against the Tory candidates, who were both returned. A letter by the Earl of Dorset, possibly referring to this election, again raised the question of the franchise; the votes of non-resident freemen, although necessary to win the election, were apparently still open to dispute and Dorset expressed some doubts about using them. The Botelers’ influence was finally vanquished in the next reign and the borough eventually gained for the Whigs.6
Author: Sonya Wynne
- 1. G. Wilks. Barons of the Cinque Ports, 60–61, 89.
- 2. English Post, 25–27 Aug. 1713.
- 3. K. M. E. Murray, Constitutional Hist. of the Cinque Ports, 210.
- 4. Wilks, 89–90; Add. 29588, ff. 93–94; 34223, f. 15; 42586, ff. 78–82, 87; 42707, ff. 12–13v; 70018, ff. 94–95, 104; 70166, Harley’s notes, 14 Feb. 1704–5.
- 5. Wilks, 60–61, 92; Oldmixon, Hist. Addresses, ii. 207; HMC Portland, x. 70; Hythe Town Council, Hythe corporation mss Hy/RF2, freemen’s adm. 1705–36.
- 6. Add. 42593, ff. 120–1; London Gazette, 19–23 Aug. 1712; 13–16 June 1713; Wilks, 94; Newman thesis, 301.