Method

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

These volumes of the History contain biographies of the 1,982 Members who sat in the House of Commons between the general election of February 1690 and the dissolution of Queen Anne’s last Parliament in January 1715, together with accounts of elections in all 317 constituencies (48 Scottish constituencies having been incorporated following the Act of Union in 1707), and an Introductory Survey largely (though not exclusively) based upon the information in the articles. Nine of the eleven Parliaments covered are referred to by the date of the relevant general election (thus the Parliament which met for the first time in February 1714 appears as ‘the Parliament of 1713’), with the exception of the last Parliament King William III, which began in December 1701 but is usually described as ‘the second Parliament of 1701’ or ‘the Parliament of 1701/2’ to distinguish it from its predecessor, elected in January 1701, and the first Parliament of Great Britain, which began not with a general election but with the Act of Union, and which is referred to as ‘the Parliament of 1707’. Full dates of the Parliaments are given in Appendix 1. As readers were informed in the prefatory discussion on ‘Method’ in the very first published volumes of the History, ‘the biographies and constituency histories, though distinct in themselves, are complementary’. Consultation should not, therefore, be restricted to a particular entry, but, in the case of a biography, should encompass the constituency or constituencies which the Member contested, and similarly, in the case of a constituency, the relevant biographical articles.

In quotations from contemporary sources (though not in the titles of books or pamphlets) spelling, capitalization and punctuation have been modernized. Dates may be understood to remain in Old Style unless otherwise stated, but with the year beginning on 1 January. A raised asterisk following a name denotes a Member of the House of Commons during this period (in cases in which this inference could not be made from the surrounding text); a raised dagger a Member sitting outside the period.

 

Survey

In broad terms, the Introductory Survey follows the pattern established by John Brooke, in The House of Commons 1754-1790, though with several additions: an extended discussion of sources; an examination of the topography and administrative organization of the House; and some analysis of Members’ parliamentary activity. Inevitably the account of topography and organization duplicates material which has already appeared in the early Hanoverian section of the History, covering 1715-1754, but, given that the period 1690-1715 saw a flowering of many of the institutional features of Parliament, no Introductory Survey would be satisfactory that did not explore the subject. The section dealing with the `business’ of the House represents a new departure for the History. The intention is not only to cater for the growing interest of historians in the legislative functions of Parliament, but also to reflect one of the most significant developments in parliamentary history in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the expanding province of statute.

Much of the material used in the Survey is drawn from the constituency articles and biographies. For this reason it has not been thought necessary to provide footnote references for statements or quotations which are already adequately referenced elsewhere in the volumes, nor to provide specific cross-references other than from one section of the Survey to another.

To facilitate the analysis of the information contained in the biographies, data relating to Members was entered into a computerized database, under the following headings: ‘personal dates’ (of birth, death, succession to property); ‘parliamentary dates’ (recording terms of parliamentary service per constituency); ‘connexions’ (familial and marital relationships between Members); ‘relation to constituency’ (whether by residence, place of business, or family background); ‘lands’ (recording the possession of landed property, usually from testamentary evidence); ‘wealth’ (references to size of personalty, again usually at death); ‘honours’ (acquisition or inheritance of peerage, baronetcy, knighthood, admission to heraldic order); ‘education’ (comprising school, university, and travel abroad); ‘religion’ (giving denominational affiliation, where known, and including references to participation in voluntary societies and to known writings on religious subjects, published and unpublished); ‘lawyers’ (those admitted to an inn of court or chancery, or the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh, or recorded as practising law in some capacity); ‘offices’ (all office-holding as noted in the biographical summaries); and ‘parliamentary lists’ (tabulating all information from the parliamentary lists of the period, which are described in Appendix 26).

The appendices to the Survey again for the most part follow precedents from earlier volumes of the History, in terms of the topics covered and reference-lists provided. As well as giving the dates of Parliaments, and the names of parliamentary officials, they include lists of the more important crown office-holders. There are also lists of the Members of each Parliament, a consolidated alphabetical listing of defeated candidates (as they appear in the election summaries in the constituency articles), and an index locating parliamentary boroughs by county (in England and Wales) or district (in Scotland). This section of the History is also the first to include a bibliography of the principal manuscript sources used.

 

Constituencies

With one significant exception, the constituency articles are arranged on the same lines as those in the sections of the History covering the periods 1660-1690 and 1715-1820, which have already been published. Some account of the basic principles of organization and presentation has been provided in previous volumes.1 The entries offer an analysis of the ‘structure’ of constituency politics and a narrative account of elections. Each article is preceded by a summary of the basic information relating to the constituency, in tabular form. As well as a record of each election, this may include an estimate of the number of voters and of the number entitled to vote, and a definition of the franchise.

In a departure from previous practice in the History, a distinction has been made between the number entitled to vote (the ‘electorate’) and the number actually voting (the ‘voterate’),2 except for Scottish burgh elections, which used a system of indirect election by delegates or commissioners appointed by the constituent burghs in each district. In only a small minority of constituencies is it possible to give even a rough estimate of the size of the ‘electorate’, a luxury confined to those English boroughs where the right of voting was held exclusively by members of the corporation, or was fixed by some other means, as in a few of the smaller burgage boroughs. The figures provided for numbers voting are most reliable when derived from contemporary pollbooks. In many other instances, however, they should be regarded as no more than rough estimates, constructed from the totals reported for each candidate in accounts of election results, in election petitions, correspondence, newspaper reports, and other contemporary sources. If the size of the voterate changed significantly during the period an indication is given of this general trend, without charting every detailed shift from election to election, which would clog the text unnecessarily.

The recording of each individual election begins with the date, which may well differ from that given in the official Return of Members of Parliament (1878).3 Dates of by-elections appear in italics. The names of all candidates are given, that is to say those who pursued their candidacy as far as a ‘cry’ or a poll, or who received votes even though they may not themselves have sought election (and who were the recipients of second votes ‘thrown away’, as an alternative to ‘plumping’ for a single candidate). Those who undertook a canvass but withdrew before the election are not listed. Peerage or baronetcy titles are included if in force at the time of the election, but ordinal numbers are omitted, as are roman numerals used as suffixes in the headings to biographies of Members, unless necessary to avoid confusion between namesakes in the same election summary. Capital letters are used to denote the successful candidates, as listed in the indenture or indentures accepted by the sheriff and the clerk of the crown in Chancery. These names are given in the order in which they appear in the indenture (as printed in the official Return), irrespective of any numbers of votes which might have been recorded, since precedence on the indenture depended on seniority (variously defined) rather than on the number of votes received, and was indeed sometimes disputed.4 Unsuccessful candidates are listed in the order of their position in the poll, if known; otherwise, in alphabetical order of surname. Where more than one return was accepted by the sheriff and the clerk of the crown (a ‘double return’), all names appearing on those indentures are capitalized, and the order of names preserved, with the indenture eventually accepted by the House given first, and the names of Members appearing on more than one indenture not repeated. Decisions taken subsequently by the House in the adjudication of double returns and petitions are noted if the result of an election was affected: again the names of successful candidates are given in capitals, together with the date on which the decision was taken. In by-elections the name of the Member replaced appears in lower case, together with a brief indication of the cause of the vacancy.

No set of polling figures may be deemed to have an ‘official’ status unless accepted by the House of Commons in the course of establishing the result of a disputed election. In the many contested elections for which no such figures survive, preference has been given to the evidence of pollbooks over other sources. The presentation of alternative sets of figures has been kept to a minimum. They appear only in cases where either the franchise itself or the qualification of individual voters was disputed, in which case the poll taken for the candidate or candidates who were ultimately unsuccessful (defeated, or unseated on petition) is given in italics; or in elections where the evidence is conflicting and no good grounds exist for preferring one source to another. They have not been added when what is considered for these purposes to be an inferior source (a newspaper or newsletter, for example) conflicts with a pollbook, or when it may be presumed that the figures concerned represent an interim stage in polling.

The articles themselves concentrate on parliamentary elections, and are not intended to be county or civic histories in miniature, although in boroughs in which the balance of forces in municipal government exercised a determining influence on the composition of the electorate - where the corporation itself constituted the electorate, or had the power to make new electors by admitting freemen at will - some attention is given to the changing configurations of civic politics. Constraints of time have also prevented the undertaking of any detailed, computer-aided analysis of runs of surviving pollbooks, in order to define such variables as consistency of voting among electors, and the extent of ‘turnout’; or, as some historians have done, to plot voting patterns in English counties against the geographical or tenurial distribution of freeholders. Where possible, however, pollbook evidence has been used, in less technologically sophisticated ways, in order to assist the explanation of individual election results, by calculating relative proportions of ‘straight’ and ‘split’ voting, and, among smaller voterates, significant general shifts from one election to the next.


 

Biographies

The formal arrangement of biographies in this section of the History generally follows the practice of published volumes. The details of presentation were set out by J.P. Ferris in the subsection headed ‘Method: Biographies’ in the Introductory Survey to The House of Commons 1660-1690, on which the following account is substantially based.5 It should be noted that the biographies published here are intended to supersede previous volumes of the History, and that where the information or interpretation presented in a biography differs from an article already published on the same Member the current version is to be preferred. Such corrections have usually been made silently.

Headings. Members are styled at the head of their biographies according to their status at the time of their first entry into Parliament in the period 1690-1715. Any subsequent acquisition of a knighthood, baronetcy or peerage will of course be reflected when the Member is mentioned elsewhere in the text, with the use of parentheses to indicate that, for example, ‘(Sir) Joseph Martin’ has been the subject of a biography in his original styling as ‘Joseph Martin’, or ‘the Earl of Halifax (Charles Montagu)’ as ‘Charles Montagu’. When two namesakes are styled in exactly the same way on their first entering the Commons in this period ambiguity has been avoided by the addition of a numerical designation (in roman numerals), according to the chronological order of their first entering Parliament: hence ‘Bernard Granville I’ and ‘Bernard Granville II’, or, more unusually, ‘Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I’ and ‘Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II’. The significance of such numerical designations is limited to this section of the History. They should not be taken to imply either family relationship or precedence by age. Eldest sons of peers are accorded their courtesy titles, while Irish and Scottish peerages are distinguished by the addition of the letters ‘[I]’ and ‘[S]’ respectively. All titles have been cross-referenced. The spelling of a Member’s surname is taken from standard family histories or genealogies, unless there is first-hand evidence that the Member himself adopted a different usage, in which case the Member’s own spelling has been preferred. However, where a Member can be seen to have spelt his own name in more than one way, or to have deliberately adopted an unusual spelling, as an archaism, snobbery or eccentricity, the ‘standard’ version has been given in parentheses, as in ‘Areskine (Erskine)’. A similar procedure has been adopted in cases of uncertainty, where no accepted version exists, and there is no record of Members’ own usage. The spelling of peerage titles has been standardized, however, according to the form adopted by the Complete Peerage: hence ‘Ormond’ rather than ‘Ormonde’; ‘Scarbrough’ rather than ‘Scarborough’. The address given is the subject’s principal residence during his membership of the Commons. Usually this is a country seat rather than a town house, though a substantial number of merchants and lawyers, and some courtiers and government officials, resided permanently in London. Major changes of residence are noted, and arranged in chronological order (though omitting dates). Scottish landowners with multiple estates are referred to by their principal place of designation. No addresses have been given for the eldest sons of peers.

Constituencies. All the constituencies for which a Member sat are listed, in chronological order. That the Member concerned was returned at a general election, or ceased to serve at a dissolution, is indicated by the use of a year-date only, except where the term of service was comprised within a single year, or where different Parliaments overlapped within the same year, as happened in 1661-81, and again in 1701-2.6 If a Member came in at a by-election, or on petition, or left the Commons early, whether by death, elevation to the peerage, disqualification, or expulsion, an exact initial or terminal date is employed. In the case of double returns, a Member returned on both indentures has been assumed to have taken his seat at once, whether or not formal confirmation was obtained from the House. A Member returned on a single return took his seat only when the House passed a resolution in his favour, whether on the merits of the return, or the merits of the election. Where a Member was returned for more than one constituency, reference is made only to the constituency for which he chose to serve, unless he failed to make a choice, when all (usually both) constituencies are named. Dates of service have been consolidated under each constituency (e.g. ‘Calne 1689-1695, 1698-1702’), except when another constituency interposes (e.g. ‘Calne 1689-1695, Devizes 1695-1698, Calne 1698-1702’).

Birth. Where the Member’s exact date of birth has not been found, an approximate date is given, signified variously as ‘aft.’, ‘bef.’, ‘by’, or ‘c.’, depending on how it has been inferred, unless evidence points to a date around the turn of a year, when the formula ‘1660/1’, for example, has been preferred to ‘c.1660’ or ‘c. 1661’. Uncertainty over the use of New Style or Old Style, in an original document or in a transcription, in the dating of a baptism (or subsequently a marriage), may also be indicated by the use of the formula ‘1660/1’ for the year concerned. A question mark before a date indicates that the evidence is precise but unreliable; a question mark before ‘aft.’ etc., that the evidence is imprecise and unreliable. An approximate date of birth may have been derived from age at entry to school, at admission to or matriculation at university, at marriage, death, or exceptionally, where no other evidence survives, from the date of parents’ marriage (for first-born children) or from the birth-dates of siblings.

Genealogy. The following information has been included, where available: name and address of father (unless a peer, or a Member in his own right in this period, when the address is omitted); mother’s Christian name, and full name and address of maternal grandfather; the names of any brothers or uncles (on either side) sitting in this period; and, if the Member’s father died vita parentis (v.p.), details concerning paternal grandfather.

Education. Included here is time spent in school (or being educated ‘privately’ or ‘at home’), university, inn(s) of court or chancery, and in foreign travel. The full duration of education is given in the case of schooling; with universities and inns only the date of entry is recorded, although reference is made to a Member having been called to the bar. The date given for university entry may be assumed to be the date of admission, unless otherwise stated. If used to calculate an approximate date of birth, an admission or matriculation date is set out in full, and the Member’s age noted (inclusion within quotation marks implies inconsistency with more reliable evidence); in all other cases only the year-date is provided. In this period it was becoming customary to apply a finishing coat to a gentleman’s education by means of a year or two spent touring the continent, though the settled form of the later eighteenth-century ‘Grand Tour’ had not yet arrived. In recording the details of foreign travel of this kind, the biographical summaries not only attempt to estimate the duration, but also to list the countries and states visited, in order of first visit. The term ‘Grand Tour’ has not been used in the summaries, although it may occasionally appear, where appropriate, in the text.

Marriage. The full date of any marriage is given, together with the Christian name of the Member’s wife, the name and address of her father (unless a peer, or a Member himself in this period), and the name and address of any previous husband(s). If the date of the marriage has not been found, recourse is had to the date of the marriage licence (proclamation in Scotland), or to the date of any marriage settlement (contract in Scotland). The Member’s age at marriage is given where it has been used to estimate a date of birth. The date of the wife’s death is included (a year-date only, unless the day and the month are of significance in the light of the inheritance of an estate or to assist in dating a subsequent marriage); as are details of any inheritance of property, before or after the marriage, and, where known, the size of the marriage portion (tocher in Scotland). Every effort has been made to establish an accurate figure for the number of children fathered by Members, inside and outside marriage, but insuperable difficulties attend this exercise, not only in securing comprehensive information relating to extra-marital liaisons, but also because contemporary records may well have omitted children who died at birth or in infancy. Illegitimate offspring are recorded separately, after the Member’s marital history.

Offices. The preliminary paragraphs attempt to list all offices held by a Member throughout his career. For reasons of space, and because of the time which it would have been taken to obtain comprehensive and reliable information, exceptions have been made of certain of the more routine appointments in local government, which any gentleman of substance in a county would have expected as of right, and which were thus part of the cursus honorum of any MP: principally in the militia, the commission of the peace, and the land tax commission. Where a Member was left out of one of these local commissions, usually for party-political reasons, the fact is noted and discussed in the text of the biography. Offices have been grouped under seven categories. (A) Central government offices, including army and navy ranks. (B) Local and municipal government. In the counties this includes service as lord lieutenant, custos rotulorum, clerk of the peace, sheriff, or receiver of taxes, and any local commission restricted to a specific area (usually a county), but not the commission of the peace, and other such commissions, which were merely the local manifestations of a national institution. If a Member was pricked as a sheriff but subsequently fined off, the fact is discussed in the text of the biography but is not mentioned in the preliminary summary. (C) Membership of the governing body of chartered or trading companies, and charitable trusts. (D) Offices in the government of the north American and West Indian plantations, and in India under the different East India Companies, and membership of colonial assemblies. (E) Parliamentary office, comprising the Speakership, chairmanship of the more important committees (privileges and elections, supply and ways and means), and appointment to parliamentary commissions and ‘secret committees’. (F) Membership of, and office in, the Scottish and Irish parliaments. (G) Membership of learned societies, and university posts other than college fellowships. The order of the paragraphs depends on the date of the first appointment in each group. Within each paragraph appointments are listed chronologically, except where excessive repetition would result, and are described as briefly as is consistent with clarity.

The biographies themselves concentrate on each Member’s parliamentary career: why he sought entry into Parliament and how he came to be elected; what he did in the House; what were his political principles, who were his friends, and to which, if either, of the two great political parties contemporary opinion assigned him; and finally, why he left the House. Appropriate attention is also paid to a Member’s family background, social status, and economic circumstances, and to other defining features, such as education, and the form and intensity of religious beliefs. Some limitation has to be placed, however, on the discussion of other, extra-parliamentary, aspects of a Member’s public career. It is certainly important for the reader to know, for example, that Sir Gilbert Heathcote* was a prominent London merchant and financier, and one of the moving spirits behind the establishment of the Bank of England; that William Cadogan* and John Richmond Webb* enjoyed long and distinguished careers in the army, or Sir George Rooke* and Sir Clowdesley Shovell* in the navy; that Peter King* came to sit on the woolsack as Lord Chancellor; or that Charles Davenant* and Arthur Maynwaring*, among many others, found fame of a different sort in the muddy byways of Grub Street. But at the same time it is not necessary to narrate in any detail extra-parliamentary achievements, even of those courtiers, placemen, lawyers and pamphleteers who lived their professional lives in the great world of politics, any more than it is necessary in a work of this kind to discourse upon the architecture of Sir Christopher Wren* or the scientific discoveries of (Sir) Isaac Newton*.

The second limitation imposed upon the biographies is chronological. A Member’s parliamentary career outside the period is sketched in comparatively lightly. Enough information is provided to enable the reader to understand the Member’s political outlook and connexions in 1690, or to grasp the salient points of his subsequent career, after 1714, or, in the case of Members raised to the peerage in this period, after translation to the House of Lords. Exceptions have been made in the case of those Members who, as peers, continued to exert influence over Commons’ affairs, like the 1st Earl of Wharton (Thomas*), the great electioneering magnate, or Robert Harley*, Earl of Oxford, Lord Treasurer and de facto ‘prime minister’ from 1710 to 1714.

The construction of a computerised database to index the Commons’ Journals, the prime source of evidence for the parliamentary activity of individual Members, has spared the biographies, and accompanying footnote references, much repetition of detail. A copy of the database is supplied with these volumes. It has been designed to provide a machine-readable index of ‘significant’ parliamentary activity, which will provide not only detailed supporting references (by date) to the commentary in the biographies, but also access to supplementary information. Thus the longer biographies can offer an analytical general account of the parliamentary activity of each Member, estimating levels of attendance and participation in business and indicating the direction of any legislative interests, without having to include long lists of committee-appointments, tellerships and so on.

Limitations of time have made it impossible to undertake a fully comprehensive index of the Journals, but care has been taken to select references for inclusion on a systematic basis. All activities carried out by individuals have been noted: motions made, bills drafted (when only one Member was entrusted with the duty), bills presented, reports from committees, chairmanships of committees of the whole House, and the taking of engrossed bills to the Upper House. Committee appointments, however, present peculiar difficulties.7 For one thing, the process by which committees were named in this period remains unclear: while nomination to a committee to prepare a bill or an address, to carry out an inquiry or to scrutinize a ballot, indicates a degree of involvement with the subject, nomination to a 2nd-reading committee on a bill (other than in first place, which was probably reserved for the Member who had moved the committal) may convey nothing more than that the Member concerned was present in the House when the list was drawn up. Thus only appointments to ‘select’ committees have been recorded in full, that is to say committees to prepare bills and addresses, manage conferences, undertake inquiries and scrutinize ballots.