Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Estimated number qualified to vote:
about 300, rising to about 430
Number of voters:
279 in 1830
2,200 (1821); 2,437 (1831)
|8 Mar. 1820||SAMUEL JONES LOYD|
|9 June 1826||STEWART MARJORIBANKS|
|SIR ROBERT TOWNSEND TOWNSEND FARQUHAR, bt.|
|26 Mar. 1830||JOHN LOCH vice Townsend Farquhar, deceased|
|3 Aug. 1830||STEWART MARJORIBANKS||270|
|29 Apr. 1831||STEWART MARJORIBANKS|
Hythe, a decayed port, was ‘pleasantly situated’ on the Kent coast. It did ‘considerable business’ in corn and hops.1 After the turbulence of seven contested elections in 17 years the borough enjoyed a tranquil interlude until 1830. Once the preserve of local country gentlemen, it had fallen prey by 1812 to wealthy strangers from the London commercial world. Their success owed much to the most striking feature of the borough’s electoral composition: no more than a tenth of the freemen, who qualified by birth, marriage or, occasionally, gift of the self-electing corporation (a mayor, 12 jurats and 24 commoners), were resident within the town. At least a quarter, probably more, lived in London and its environs. Most of the rest were scattered in east Kent, some in very close proximity to Hythe, but others in significant pockets in Canterbury and Deal.2 Oldfield’s description of Hythe as a treasury borough has little validity for this period. Party political activity was virtually non-existent, and electoral independence was the principal issue on which conflict turned.3
In 1820, when there was a rare contested election for the office of mayor (William Tritton beat Thomas Castle by 23-18), both the sitting Members offered again: Sir John Perring, a London banker, first returned for Hythe in 1810; and Samuel Jones Loyd, the son of another London banker, who had come in the previous May on a platform of ‘freedom of election’. They were challenged by a former Member, Matthew White† of Crouch End, Middlesex, who had been turned out in 1818 and whose London stockbroking business was in difficulties. A fourth candidate appeared in the person of Stewart Marjoribanks, a London wine merchant and East India agent, whose brother was a director of the East India Company.4 On the eve of his departure to Kent, in response to an invitation from ‘a large and respectable body of the freemen’, Marjoribanks asked his third cousin James Loch* to ‘guard against even a chance’ of Loch’s cousin William George Adam being retained as counsel against him in the unlikely event of a controverted election. He went on:
Is there any harm in meeting one’s friends at an inn and taking a glass of grog with them, they neither paying or engaging to do so in any way? If this can be effected it might save me a great deal of trouble in the extended districts and I believe they expect it. I have been led to believe there is nothing illegal before the writ is issued. I should like this answered by this night’s post ... I should not like to visit Sir M. Lopes* [in prison for electoral malpractice].5
On his arrival in Hythe he was fêted by ‘a majority of the resident freemen’, made ‘a liberal distribution of ale to the populace’ and conducted an encouraging canvass. Despite an illness which had prevented him from canvassing, Perring initially professed to be confident of success, but two days before the election, having reconnoitred at Deal, he withdrew, threatening to stand again at the first opportunity. The same day White, who had come to Hythe, also retired, leaving the way clear for Loyd and Marjoribanks, whose candidature White endorsed.6 Twenty-three members of the corporation and 48 freemen attended their election. A year later both received, by a vote of 12-2, the freedom of Hythe, which the corporation had denied to Loyd early in 1820.7
The mayor, jurats and inhabitants of Hythe petitioned the Commons for repeal of the coal duties, 23 Feb. 1824, 25 Feb. 1825, and the inhabitants of Cheriton and Hythe did likewise, 22 Feb. 1825.8 Owners and occupiers of land in the Hythe area petitioned both Houses against interference with the corn laws in 1826.9 Loyd retired from Parliament at the dissolution that year, and in his place appeared Sir Robert Townsend Farquhar, ministerialist Member for Newton since 1825 and a former governor of Mauritius, who had recently become a director of the East India Company. Marjoribanks, by now a stalwart member of the Whig opposition and a parliamentary reformer, stood again. Six days before the election their committees met and resolved not to put the distant out-voters to the trouble of attending, as their success was certain. Four days later Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges of Lee Priory, near Canterbury, Member for Maidstone in the 1812 Parliament, whose younger brother had been defeated at Hythe in 1810, returned from the continental exile to which his financial embarrassments had driven him. An advocate of agricultural protection and parliamentary and currency reform, he distributed beer and threatened to contest the borough but, having only one day to canvass the out-voters, he abandoned the hopeless attempt. Before the return of Marjoribanks and Townsend Farquhar, at which 20 corporators and 72 freemen were present, 28 new freemen were admitted.10 Owners and occupiers petitioned Parliament against relaxation of the corn laws in 1827, and the Commons against the revised duties, 28 Apr. 1828.11 Protestant Dissenters of Hythe petitioned the Commons, 30 May 1827, and both Houses, 25 Feb. 1828, for repeal of the Test Acts.12 On Townsend Farquhar’s death in March 1830 Brydges’s son Anthony Rokeby Brydges and Sir Brook William Bridges† of Goodnestone, near Sandwich, were mentioned as potential candidates, and the Wellington ministry’s election managers ‘talked of perhaps putting up’ the premier’s second son Lord Charles Wellesley†.13 In the event the way was left clear for Marjoribanks’s cousin John Loch (James’s brother), currently chairman of the East India Company. There were some indications of unease at the extent to which the Company’s influence had penetrated the borough’s electoral politics and there was talk of some of the freemen putting up Richard Halford of Paddock House, near Canterbury. Nothing came of this and, after the admission of 14 new freemen (which raised the electorate to about 400) Loch’s election was endorsed by 18 corporators and 97 freemen.14
Two months later a group of prominent Hythe ratepayers, none of them freemen, tried to emulate the recent success of their Rye counterparts in establishing their right to the freedom and the franchise. The corporation ignored their first bid to claim admission, 22 May 1830. At a well-attended meeting three days later they resolved, after some dispute, to combine and adopt ‘regular steps’ to establish their legal right to the vote as freemen under the charters of the Cinque Ports. The leading figures in this movement, which was part of a general campaign, inspired by the example of Rye, to liberate the other ‘oppressed’ Cinque Ports of Hastings, Hythe, New Romney and Winchelsea, were Captain Richard Hart of the navy, Andrew Mackechnie, General Kenneth Mackenzie, a veteran of the French wars who had retired to Hythe, and Alexander Swann. Their coadjutors on the committee which was appointed included William Marsh, a chemist, and William Terry, a yeoman.15 At the general election of 1830 Loch and Marjoribanks, who were endorsed by meetings of freemen at Hythe and Canterbury as champions of their threatened privileges, offered again, in coalition. Among those touted as candidates prepared to uphold the ratepayers’ cause were Mackenzie, Sir Archibald Campbell, hero of the Burmese war of 1824-6, Colonel Edward Cheney, a Waterloo veteran, and Sir Richard Paul Joddrell of Bayfield, Norfolk. In the event the ratepayers adopted William Fraser of Cleveland Court, Westminster, an associate of George De Lacy Evans*, the liberator of Rye, and Fitzroy Kelly†, a rising barrister of reactionary political views. They agreed to stand with the aim of bringing the inhabitant ratepayers’ claims before the Commons.16 On the opening day, 2 Aug. 1830, when it was reported that ‘a very large and noisy mob, almost wholly in favour of Mr. Fraser, had possession of the town’, 32 new freemen were admitted by the regular methods. Six other men, led by Hart, claimed the freedom as inhabitant ratepayers and 40s. freeholders, but the corporation, with the exception of one abstainer, voted to deny it to them.17 Two-hundred-and-seventy-nine freemen voted in the ensuing poll, which was carried over to the next day. Two hundred and sixty-nine of these cast split votes for the sitting Members. Marjoribanks himself plumped for Loch, and in return received a single vote from one Henry Back of Dover. Eight freemen, all residents of Hythe, voted for Fraser and Kelly. Headed by John Cock, a glazier and member of the corporation, they consisted also of a wine merchant, a carpenter, a currier, a cordwainer, a painter and two labourers. Only eight other Hythe residents, including three gentlemen and the town serjeant, were to be found among the freemen who polled. This put the resident vote at only six per cent of the total. Twenty-nine non-resident gentlemen voted for Loch and Marjoribanks. Seventy of the electors were from London, the rest mostly from east Kent. On behalf of Fraser and Kelly, formal objections, on the grounds of non-residence or non-payment of scot and lot, were lodged to all but six of the votes cast for the sitting Members. Two-hundred-and-seven claimants to the freedom, all inhabitant ratepayers of Hythe, tendered votes for Fraser and Kelly, but were refused acceptance by the returning officer. They included 15 gentlemen and two schoolmasters.18 Kelly announced that the return of Loch and Marjoribanks would be challenged in the Commons, and a petition was duly presented on 15 Nov. 1830.19
In September 1830 the disgruntled ratepayers of Hythe signed the Cinque Ports memorial of grievances sent to the duke of Wellington, as lord warden, and the address submitted to the king.20 Fraser was prominent in the continuing campaign to liberate the Ports, and at a Rye dinner, 19 Oct. 1830, he spoke of the ‘political and ... moral degradation’ from which he and his supporters were trying to rescue Hythe. He alleged that only the mayor, two of the jurats and five of the common councilmen were resident in Hythe, where most of the respectable inhabitants were excluded from participation in municipal affairs. The borough, he argued, had become ‘a complete and miserable tool’ in the hands of Loch and Marjoribanks, whose control was secured by lavish expenditure and the application of East India Company patronage. He was reported as naming ‘Mr. Capper’, head doorkeeper at East India House, as the agent of this influence and ‘the Billy Holmes* of the town of Hythe’. (The holder of this position was in fact one Peter Cropper.) He, Fraser alleged, ‘keeps the roll of names of the out-resident freemen, pays them their £5 a man 14 days after the day of election [and] provides the sumptuary festivities during the election’.21 The abandonment, through lack of time and resources, of the petitions from Hastings and New Romney seeking to establish the validity of the ratepayers’ claims to the vote, and the Commons appeal committee’s reversal of the decision on the Rye franchise, 18 Dec. 1830, rendered the Hythe petition futile, for all Fraser’s confident bluster. It was formally considered, 3 Mar. 1831, and the sitting Members were confirmed in their seats the following day.22 Meanwhile the ‘scot and lot party’ at Hythe, like those in the other Cinque Ports, had begun to agitate for parliamentary reform. A meeting, chaired by Mackenzie and addressed by Hart and Marsh, resolved in mid-December 1830 to petition Parliament in support of it. At subsequent meetings that month, attended by Evans, Fraser and Kelly, and by deputations from New Romney and Rye, this petition was deemed unsatisfactory and a new one was set on foot. It was presented to the Commons by Hume, 16 Feb. 1831.23 Fraser, who joined in Evans’s call for the inhabitants of the Cinque Ports to combine with their counterparts in unrepresented industrial towns to agitate for a measure of reform, continued to cultivate Hythe and made himself available as a candidate for the next opening there. At a Cinque Ports reform dinner at Rye, 27 Jan. 1831, both he and Hart attacked the corruption and manipulation which had effectively reduced Hythe to a ‘rotten, depopulated, unrepresented borough’ with a ‘usurped corporation’. Fraser spoke in the same vein at Hastings four days later. Inhabitants of Hythe joined those of the other ‘oppressed’ Cinque Ports in petitioning the Commons for the ballot, 26 Feb.24 The mayor, jurats and inhabitants petitioned Parliament for repeal of the coastal coal duties in February, and Wesleyan Methodists petitioned the Commons, 25 Mar., and the Lords, 13 Apr., for the abolition of slavery.25 The Grey ministry’s reform bill received widespread support among the inhabitants of Hythe, who petitioned the Commons in its favour, 9 Mar., 18 Apr. 1831.26 Both Loch and Marjoribanks voted for the measure, by which Hythe lost one Member, and their support for it neutralized Frazer’s threat and secured them the backing of meetings of Hythe freemen resident in Deal and Dover, who engaged to return them as reformers in the event of a snap dissolution. When it occurred they were elected unopposed in the presence of seven corporators and 122 freemen.27
Fraser, who portrayed himself as ‘a constitutional reformer’ and had the backing of Hart, Mackechnie and a newly formed Reform Association, continued to advance his cause with the ratepayers and to denounce Marjoribanks as a time-serving monopolist.28 Inhabitant householders of Hythe petitioned the Lords in favour of the reform bill, 30 Sept. 1831, and the Commons to withhold supplies until reform was secured, 21 May 1832.29 The Boundary Act extended the old parliamentary borough eastwards along the coast to take in Sandgate and Folkestone. There was unavailing opposition to this annexation in both Folkestone and Hythe.30 At the general election of 1832, when Hythe had a registered electorate of 469, Marjoribanks beat Fraser by 31 votes in a poll of 415: he lost by 46-93 in Hythe, but had a majority of 75 in Folkestone and Sandgate.31 A Liberal represented the borough from 1832 to 1895.
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 397.
- 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 468-70; PP (1835), xxiv. 347.
- 3. Oldfield, Key (1820), pp. 247-8; F. O’Gorman, Voters, Patrons, and Parties, 192, 280, 343.
- 4. Kentish Chron. 4, 11, 18, 29 Feb. 1820.
- 5. UCL, Loch mss Add. 131, Marjoribanks to Loch, 23 Feb. .
- 6. Kentish Chron. 3, 7 Mar. 1820.
- 7. G.Wilks, Barons of Cinque Ports, 119; Kentish Chron. 10, 14 Mar. 1820.
- 8. CJ, lxxix. 81; lxxx. 111, 127.
- 9. Ibid. lxxxi. 254; LJ, lviii. 61, 338.
- 10. Kentish Chron. 2, 6, 9, 13, 20 June 1826; Wilks, 120.
- 11. CJ, lxxxii. 229; lxxxiii. 277; LJ, lix. 97, 232.
- 12. CJ, lxxxii. 504; lxxxiii. 101; LJ, lx. 75.
- 13. Kentish Chron, 12 Mar. 1830; Wellington mss WP2/215/31.
- 14. Kentish Chron. 26, 30 Mar. 1830; Wilks, 120.
- 15. Kentish Gazette, 25 May, 1 June 1830.
- 16. Ibid. 29 June, 2, 8, 13, 20, 30 July; The Times, 19, 31 July 1830.
- 17. Wilks, 121; Kentish Gazette, 3, 6, 10 Aug.; TheTimes, 5 Aug. 1830.
- 18. GL, Hythe ms pollbook (1830).
- 19. Kentish Gazette, 10 Aug. 1830; CJ, lxxxvi. 75-76.
- 20. W. Holloway, Hist. Rye, 261-2.
- 21. Hastings Iris, 23 Oct. 1830.
- 22. Holloway, 263; Kentish Gazette, 13 Dec. 1830, 7 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 75, 196, 255, 336, 338.
- 23. Hastings Iris, 18 Dec. 1830, 1, 8, 29 Jan., 5 Feb. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 255.
- 24. Hastings Iris, 22, 29 Jan., 5 Feb. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 310.
- 25. LJ, lxiii. 249, 412; CJ, lxxxvi. 222, 254, 435.
- 26. Kentish Gazette, 8, 17 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 355, 500.
- 27. Kentish Gazette, 8 Apr., 6 May; Kentish Chron. 12 Apr.; The Times, 3 May 1831; Wilks, 122.
- 28. Hastings Iris, 21 May 1831.
- 29. LJ, lxiii. 1024; CJ, lxxxvii. 326.
- 30. PP (1831-2), xxxix. 11-13; CJ, lxxxvii. 134, 140, 389.
- 31. Kent Herald, 13 Dec. 1832; Wilks, 122.