Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of voters:
|c. Apr. 1660||SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.|
|1 Apr. 1661||SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.|
|10 Feb. 1679||EDWARD OSBORNE, Visct. Latimer||13|
|SIR PETER TYRRELL, Bt.||7|
|SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.||61|
|Double return of Tyrrell and Temple. TYRRELL declared elected, 21 Mar. 1679|
|7 Aug. 1679||SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.||7|
|EDWARD OSBORNE, Visct. Latimer||6|
|Sir Peter Tyrrell, Bt.||6|
|8 Feb. 1681||SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.||8||2383|
|SIR RALPH VERNEY, Bt.||8||181|
|Sir Peter Tyrrell, Bt.||5||239|
|15 May 1685||SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.||12|
|SIR RALPH VERNEY, Bt.||75|
|Edward Osborne, Visct. Latimer|
|9 Jan. 1689||SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, Bt.||12||109|
|SIR RALPH VERNEY, Bt.||12|
|Sir Peter Tyrrell, Bt.||1106|
Buckingham was a parish, town and borough, each with a different constitution, but the powers of each were inadequately defined, leading to uncertainty at elections. Under a charter granted by Mary Tudor, the 13 ‘burgesses’ yearly nominated two of their number for bailiff, and the inhabitants chose one of the nominees. Vacancies among the burgesses were filled by co-option. In 1679 the bailiff was a tanner, and the remainder of the corporation consisted of three maltsters, a farmer, an apothecary, a draper, a laceman, a baker, a barber, a ‘gentleman’ (probably an attorney), and one unspecified. Though the right of election was held by the corporation under the 1554 charter, the populace claimed a prescriptive right to vote, but it was not known for certain who exactly held the popular franchise. Every election but one went to a poll, and candidates had to be prepared to woo both the burgesses and the ‘populace’. By 1660 Buckingham’s trade was declining and it had lost to Aylesbury its former status of county town, with the honour of holding the elections, sessions and assizes there. Its town hall had been burned down, there was no money to rebuild, and the burgesses were prepared to barter their support at elections to candidates prepared to pay the costs of reconstruction. Nevertheless Sir Richard Temple wielded the Stowe interest to such effect that he was successful at six of the elections in this period, and was defeated at the seventh by a single vote and a dubious return.7
The candidates in 1660 were all to some extent compromised by their recent political record. The borough had been represented in 1659 by Temple, one of the Protector’s household officials, and by the elder brother of Richard Ingoldsby, one of the numerous kinsmen of the Cromwell family, and they both stood for re-election. The third candidate, John Dormer, an inactive Rumper, had been appointed to the board of Admiralty on the return of the secluded Members. Temple began his electoral campaign several weeks before the dissolution of the Long Parliament, and was soon assured of a majority both of the corporation and the Dormer, returned only by the corporation, had to resist Ingoldsby’s petition, but the House decided in favour of the narrow franchise. In 1661 Temple, a prisoner for debt, joined forces with the Duke of Buckingham who nominated his secretary, Martin Clifford, while Dormer stood very much as the junior partner of the Cavalier William Smith. The latter, confident of his own election, wrote to Sir Ralph Verney on 2 Jan.:
There is like to be a high contest between Sir Richard and Mr Dormer. Mr Dormer hath six entire to him and I think there are six more for Sir Richard and which way the thirteenth man will go is uncertain. The dispute is so high amongst them that it was moved that the difference might be reconciled in a third person.
Smith and Dormer were said to have offered £300 each towards the cost of the town hall. Temple’s agent, on his own authority, promptly bought up £40 worth of timber, and offered £300 in his employer’s name. While publicly repudiating these actions, and condemning the bidding for votes as open to charges of bribery, Temple nevertheless privately assured the burgesses of his willingness to pay a greater sum. Clifford probably withdrew at an early stage, and Dormer transferred his votes to the Cavalier, William Tyringham, who, however, preferred to stand again for the county. Smith failed to persuade Verney to oppose his kinsman, Temple, in what was bound to prove an expensive struggle; and Temple and Smith were returned in the only uncontested election of the period. Temple eventually gave the timber to the town, but the hall remained unbuilt, thereby earning him from his opponents accusations of bad faith and the nickname of ‘Timber Temple’.8
Smith abandoned his interest when he moved to Middlesex in 1673-4, and Temple’s control of the borough was challenged by a new country interest headed by Sir Peter Tyrrell. After many political tergiversations Temple became a placeman, and in 1679 allied himself with the lord treasurer’s son, Lord Latimer, who had married a local heiress, and had been granted 200 tons of timber from the royal forests for the town hall. The Duke of Buckingham, Temple’s former patron, intervened personally against the court candidates as high steward of the borough. Against Temple he set up an obscure country gentleman, Thomas Hackett of North Crawley, a strong churchman and loyalist, who had earned the gratitude of the corporation by procuring an augmentation for the vicar. Latimer was originally to be opposed by the radical conspirator John Wildman I. But finding Latimer invulnerable, the duke abandoned his candidates and transferred his interest to Tyrrell, who also enjoyed the support of the Hampdens, the Whartons and other leading country gentry. Temple spent much on the election, courting the ‘burgesses’ with delicacies and the populace with beer, ale and beef. Nevertheless, the duke was able to prevail upon a drunken bailiff to hold a snap election, in which Tyrrell was successful by the narrowest margin possible. Latimer, though himself returned unanimously, was described as ‘mightily dissatisfied with the 13 electors for not choosing his assured friend, Temple’; while another correspondent wrote that ‘if the election had been two days longer deferred, my Lord Latimer would have been put by too’. Buckingham’s deputy affixed the common seal of the borough to Tyrrell’s return, alleging the consent of the bailiff, who himself, with five other electors, signed and sealed a second indenture for Temple. Tyrrell was seated on the merits of the return, and Temple preferred to strengthen his position in the corporation rather than to engage in further parliamentary proceedings. Before the next election, the court interest had been improved by the transfer of the midsummer assizes and the county court to Buckingham. Temple defeated Hackett by two votes, but it is alleged that Latimer and Tyrrell originally tied with six votes each, until one of Tyrrell’s supporters was persuaded to change sides. Tyrrell petitioned when the second Exclusion Parliament met, but no report appears.9
Hackett did not stand in 1681, and Latimer soon withdrew, fearing that a poll of the populace would result in another disputed election. Tyrrell sought to capture the second seat for the exclusionists by putting up a younger brother of (Sir) Thomas Pope Blount, who had married his cousin. It is probable that Charles Blount’s reputation as deist and free-thinker persuaded Verney to emerge from political retirement and join his interest to Temple’s, though he refused to bear more than £25 of election costs estimated at over £500. For their part Tyrrell and Blount were said to have spent £400, a sum doubled by contributions from their well-wishers. Temple aimed at an undisputed majority on both franchises, but on the poll of the populace he finished 27 votes behind Tyrrell. However, as an opposition newspaper commented, he was sure of the votes of ‘his own creature, the bailiff, and seven burgesses who have so long been at his devotion’, and it is observable that two of the minority on the corporation refused to cast their second votes for the notorious Blount. The defeated candidates petitioned, but the Oxford Parliament was dissolved before the elections committee could report.10
Despite a loyal address after the Rye House Plot, Buckingham was threatened with quo warranto proceedings, and at Temple’s insistence surrendered its charter. Temple himself drafted the replacement, under which he was named high steward for life with power to create deputies. The aldermen (who replaced the burgesses) were also nominated for life, and were, with one exception, his nominees. The right to select the high steward and aldermen was reserved to the corporation, while the mayor (who replaced the bailiff) was to be chosen by the aldermen and the populace. As usual, the crown reserved the right to remove officials. Temple’s position under the charter was virtually unassailable, but Judge Jeffreys, who had acquired an estate in Buckinghamshire, made a determined effort to wrest control from him. Jeffreys wanted the high stewardship and used the 1685 election to further his ends. Despite age and infirmity, Verney decided to stand again with Temple in 1685 to resist this intrusion. Latimer stood again for the Tories, but Jeffreys had difficulty in finding a second candidate. His first choice, Sir John Busby of Addington, a lawyer, soon withdrew, and was replaced by George Grenville of Foscott, a kinsman of Verney. The contest extended over ten weeks and the town hall again featured prominently in the fierce campaign. Temple spent most, but Verney joined him in giving money to the poor. He also provided ‘reasonable’ entertainment for the mayor and aldermen, but absolutely refused to treat the populace at inns, declaring ‘I had rather sit still than gain a place in Parliament by so much debauchery’. Temple secured the precept, and held it for 17 days before delivering it to the mayor. In addition he had ‘several of the aldermen tied to him by judgments, not having taken the oaths within the time appointed by law’. Latimer, riddled with syphilis, never appeared personally, but his agents renewed the offer of timber, which had already been felled, together with £200, and it was said that if he would guarantee £300 he was sure of a seat. The corporation was evenly divided in its allegiance. Temple had a safe majority, but Latimer and Verney had six votes each for weeks, a deadlock broken only by the decision of Temple and Verney to match Latimer’s offer and undertake rebuilding. During the lengthy contest, Temple suffered from insomnia and Verney sought nightly consolation in ‘a noble fuddler of coffee’. Besides holding out the timber bait to the aldermen, Latimer’s agents considered polling the populace, while Jeffreys talked of remodelling the corporation to remove Temple’s aldermen and replacing Grenville by Hackett, who had been humiliatingly defeated in the county. The election itself proved something of an anticlimax. Verney reported the result:
Twelve electors signed the book for Sir Richard Temple and seven signed for me, after which the mayor sent for us up into the town hall [i.e. buildings used for that purpose], and declared the election and sealed the indenture or return with the town seal. And then all the 12 electors put their hands to it and delivered it to one to carry to the sheriff’s tomorrow morning. The populace went to the town hall and civilly demanded the poll for my Lord Latimer and my cousin Grenville of Foscott, but the mayor told them he could not grant it, so they went away and polled a little while and then separated without noise or tumult.
Latimer and Grenville presented a petition on 23 May, but took no steps to prosecute it. With Verney’s assistance, Temple fortified his interest by at last completing the town hall at a cost of £470 or more, and it was clear that his grip on the constituency could only be shaken by a remodelling of the corporation. But it was not until February 1688 that Temple was forced to hand over the high stewardship to the Roman Catholic Lord Castlemaine (Roger Palmer). Although Castlemaine was one of the King’s regulators, he was conspicuously unsuccessful in his own borough. Three mayors were removed in quick succession, and quo warranto proceedings were again instituted. After the borough had spent £100 in a vain defence of the 1684 charter, another was issued in August 1688, naming Jeffreys as high steward. But the new corporation was hardly more compliant than the old. The King was assured by his electoral agents that ‘the town will choose right men’, but they rejected as strangers two of Jeffreys’s legal satellites, James Mundey and the Irishman Charles Molloy. Instead they proposed Busby and Edward Pamplin, an Aylesbury solicitor, ‘who are very right in your Majesty’s interest’.11
Temple was undeterred, and began his campaign for the abortive election even before the restoration of the Marian charter. Although Verney had strengthened his interest by bearing most of the expense of the town hall, now at last completed, he did not decide to stand until the flight of the King. On 31 Dec. he wrote that any intention of holding an election on the wide franchise must be stopped. Tyrrell had apparently learned from experience, and now allied himself with a respectable Tory churchman, Richard Atkins†, who had distinguished himself in the Revolution. On 3 Jan. 1689 Temple wrote to Verney:
Since you refuse to be at any charge about it, ... and that it is impossible for us both to carry it, I resolve ... to join with one of them; or (if they refuse) to set up my cousin [Alexander] Denton†.
This decided Verney, and shortly after, he replied to Temple:
Because the bailiff and burgesses of Buckingham have been my friends, and that I believe they are so still, I will not forsake them if they see fit to choose me, and I hope you will be so just as to let them know it.
On 9 Jan. Temple and Verney were returned unanimously with one abstention on the corporation franchise ‘according to ancient right and usage’. A ‘popular’ election was also held, in which, it was said, Tyrrell finished one vote ahead of Temple, with Verney (whose expenses totalled £1 18s.6d.) and Atkins nowhere. Tyrrell and Atkins petitioned on the grounds that the under-bailiff had given notice of the election only by word of mouth. The sitting Members objected that the petitioners had been neither candidates nor electors on the corporation franchise. John Birch reported that ‘the committee came to no resolution on that particular point’; but Tyrrell in spite of ‘fuddling’ the populace, could only produce one witness, and his petition was rejected.12
The ample material available for the study of the electoral history of Buckingham in this period provides a remarkable testimony to Temple’s skill in the lower branches of politics. His success in his earlier years, when he was in straitened circumstances, is even more striking than his later triumphs over Tyrrell and Jeffreys, who played into his hands by a wildly unsuitable choice of candidates. The resistance of the corporation to strangers like Wildman, Blount and Molloy, and of the populace to the austerity of Verney, suggests that there were good grounds for preferring the narrow franchise in this type of constituency.
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. BL M636/32, Edmund to John Verney, 13 Feb. 1679.
- 2. Stowe, mss, 180, ff. 93-95.
- 3. All second vote counts refer to inhabitants.
- 4. G. Abernathy, 'Borough of Buckingham, 1660-97' (unpublished article), 17.
- 5. Verney Mems. ii. 397.
- 6. CJ, x. 89, BL, M636/43 Coleman to Verney, 13 Jan. 1689.
- 7. VCH Bucks. iii. 477; Bagworth Ballads ed. Ebsworth, 768.
- 8. Merc. Pub. 19 Apr. 1660; CJ, viii. 87; A True Account of ... the Election ... for Bucks. (1679); Stowe 758, f. 155; BL, M636/17, Smith to Verney, 2 Jan., 29 Mar. 1661, Verney to Stafford, 4 Mar. 1661.
- 9. HMC 13th Rep. VI, 13, 20; Bucks. Recs. xix. 467; PC2/71/268; BL, M636/32, Denton to Verney, 11 Feb. 1679, John to Sir Ralph Verney, 13 Feb. 1679, Edmund to John Verney, 13 Feb. 1679; CJ, ix. 572-3, 638.
- 10. True Prot. Merc. 23 Feb. 1681; CJ, ix. 706.
- 11. London Gazette, 23 Aug. 1683; CSP Dom. 1684, p. 52; 1687-9, p. 257; Verney Mems. ii. 368, 380, 381, 385, 386-7, 397; Trans. R. Hist. Soc. (ser. 4), xix. 191; Add. 28087, f. 20; Browning, Danby, i. 368; CJ, ix. 716, 760; Browne Willis, Not. Parl. 84; BL, M636/40, Verney to Temple, 20, 27 May, Temple to Verney, 23 May 1686; Bucks. RO, Buckingham corp. recs. 30/28; PC 2/72, ff. 608, 628, 652; VCH Bucks. iii. 476; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 239; Pub. Occurrences, 28 Feb. 1688; C7/572/65.
- 12. BL M636/43, Temple to Verney 29 Aug., Verney to Coleman, 31 Dec. 1688, Temple to Verney 3 Jan., Verney to Temple, 8 Jan., Coleman to Verney, 18 Jan. 1689; CJ, x. 12, 89-90; Bucks. RO, D/MH 40/45.