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Number of voters:
|11 Apr. 16601||THOMAS TYRRELL|
|22 Aug. 1660||WILLIAM TYRINGHAM vice Tyrrell, appointed to office|
|3 Apr. 1661||(SIR) WILLIAM BOWYER||1499|
|5 Feb. 1679||HON. THOMAS WHARTON|
|21 Aug. 1679||HON. THOMAS WHARTON|
|2 Feb. 1681||HON. THOMAS WHARTON|
|10 Apr. 1685||JOHN EGERTON, Visct. Brackley||2430|
|HON. THOMAS WHARTON||1804|
|10 Jan. 1689||HON. THOMAS WHARTON|
|(SIR) THOMAS LEE I|
The reputation of Buckinghamshire for political and religious radicalism applied more to the Chilterns than to the north of the county. Hence the rivalry between conservative Buckingham and radical Aylesbury as seat of the county court was of considerable political importance at elections. The only substantial aristocratic interests were held by the earls of Bridgwater, who acted as lords lieutenant for most of the period, and Lord Wharton, though this depended chiefly on the personality of his eldest son, who came of age only in 1669. William Bowyer, a neutral during the Civil War, and Thomas Tyrrell, recently appointed commissioner of the great seal by the Rump, were returned to the Convention. On Tyrrell’s elevation to the bench, he was succeeded by the Cavalier, William Tyringham. Both elections were apparently unopposed. In 1661 the sitting Members were challenged by Richard Hampden, son of the famous ‘patriot’, and Richard Winwood, a moderate Presbyterian. A gentry meeting at Buckingham failed to compose the issue; Sir Ralph Verney, who would have made an admirable compromise candidate, would not face the expense of a contest. The result was so close that Bulstrode Whitelocke†, for one, believed that the court candidates had been defeated. Hampden, however, was safe in his family borough, Winwood seems to have been unambitious, and there was no petition.4
Tyringham and Bowyer both ran into serious financial difficulties in the course of the Cavalier Parliament, and were compelled to dispose of their estates in whole or in part. Shaftesbury took a hand in the delicate negotiations for the selection of country candidates at the first election of 1679. Richard Hampden and Lord Wharton had each hastened to offer their interest to the lord lieutenant’s son, Lord Brackley, a moderate. But he declined to stand, declaring his support for Thomas Wharton and Verney. The latter again refused, as did two other candidates whom Bridgwater ‘had inclinations to’, William Cheyne and Sir Anthony Chester. The position was complicated by internal discord in the Hampden family. The father, mindful of his rebuff in 1661, was content to remain a borough Member, his son John was more ambitious. Lord Wharton was so concerned at the situation that on 31 Jan. he advised his son to
consider well with Sir Thomas Lee [Thomas Lee I] whether it be fit for you to stand, except you can engage some other fit person with you. ... If I have timely notice I think I can engage Mr Winwood.
He went on to suggest that a bribe of 20 guineas to the under-sheriff might ensure that the poll was held at Aylesbury, near the Hampden and Wharton estates. Hampden then nominated his son as knight of the shire, and stood himself for re-election at Wendover. Lord Wharton canvassed vigorously, and obtained an undertaking from the Duke of Buckingham to be present at Aylesbury on election day. The country candidates were duly returned without a contest, but at considerable expense. A local observer wrote:
By what I can gather from all people the election of our knights will stand them at least in £1,600 or £1,700. ... At the Red Lion in Aylesbury they have an account of 860 dinners besides suppers and drink. In another small inn they reckoned 800 bottles of sack spent, and the whole number of men entertained they estimate to be 15,000.5
Wharton and Hampden repeated their success in August. According to an opposition pamphlet, they were returned ‘without the least opposition’, but this was true only in the sense that there was no poll. In fact, they were almost caught off balance by the sheriff, who overruled his subordinate and transferred the election, with only one day’s notice, to Buckingham. Since many freeholders had already assembled at Aylesbury, it seemed that the supporters of the country party would be marooned there, whilst a snap election at Buckingham would carry the day for Chester and Verney, though the latter was to be nominated without his consent. But the exclusionists were not so easily beaten. Wagons were provided for those without horses, and headed by the Duke of Buckingham they set out from Aylesbury at 2 a.m., crossed the county en masse, and refreshed themselves at Winslow, so as not to incur any expense at Buckingham. The duke, it was said, bore a grudge against the borough for rejecting his nominees in favour of the court candidates, Sir Richard Temple and Lord Latimer (Edward Osborne). They made an early start from Winslow to anticipate any further trickery by the sheriff, and, joined by some 2,000 more freeholders, they entered Buckingham, shouting ‘A Wharton and a Hampden!’. The court supporters were unable to challenge a poll, and to the cries of ‘No Timber Temple! No traitor’s son! No pensioner!’ Wharton and Hampden were proclaimed elected. There was some disorder while the indentures were being prepared, provoked, it was said, by a parson who had shouted for the opposition, and the sheriff was knocked off his horse with such violence that he almost broke his neck. The younger Hampden was abroad in 1681 and accordingly exchanged constituencies with his father, who was returned for the county with Wharton, probably unopposed.6
Wharton’s decision to stand again on his own in 1685, without Richard Hampden, who could not oppose the Court without endangering his son’s life, required courage, particularly as the King entrusted the management of the election to the personal oversight of Judge Jeffreys, who had recently bought an estate in the county. The court candidates were Lord Brackley and an obscure gentleman, Thomas Hackett of North Crawley. Brackley showed little more enthusiasm than in 1679, writing: ‘I am forced to be a Parliament man for the county of Buckingham much against my will, but with my father’s command’. Nevertheless, he was to prove a popular candidate, winning the support of the Whigs and most of the moderate Tories. Sunderland was kept busy writing letters to men of influence in the county, both Tories and Whigs. Such unusual pressure from the Court was always liable to be counter-productive, and even Tories like James Herbert were known to resent it. Danby, his father-in-law, wrote: ‘I do not know what answer he will give about keeping his tenants at home from the poll, but I am confident it will be against his will if any vote for Mr Wharton. ... I hope my Lord Chief Justice knows me too well to believe I shall promote any Whig’s interest.’ Among the gentry, Wharton could command the open support only of Lee and Verney, and perhaps the secret support of Richard Hampden. Nevertheless, Jeffreys, seeing the strength of the opposition at Aylesbury, transferred the election at short notice to Newport Pagnell, over 15 miles away ‘in the heart of Mr Hackett’s friends’, but highly inconvenient both for the Bridgwater tenants and for Wharton. With all the inns and other places of entertainment engaged for the court party, Wharton’s voters had to camp out in the open; but at the election they polled in such numbers that it soon became clear, not only that Hackett’s cause was lost, but also that Wharton could nominate the other Member at his pleasure. He asked the Whig electors to give their second vote to Brackley, who headed the poll at the end of the day, with many hundreds still to vote. The election is said to have cost Wharton £3,000, the bill for one day’s entertainment at Aylesbury alone being £1,500. Hackett was told that ‘in your very neighbourhood, Olney, almost all that voted against you had not near a 40s. freehold’, and decided to petition against Wharton. It was proposed to hear the petition at the bar, but even the most loyal House of the period would not accept the motion, which was rejected by 268 votes to 55. The case was referred instead to the committee of elections, but no report was made. Wharton’s resounding triumph was a tribute to his own influence, to Jeffreys’s unpopularity, and to the extreme unwisdom of the court management.7
In 1688 James II’s electoral agents reported that Buckinghamshire proposed to elect Wharton and Lee. Sir Roger Hill was also named, but ‘their sentiments we do not fully understand’. Wharton’s success was assured at the Revolution when he and Lee were returned unanimously.8
Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Merc. Pol. 5 Apr. 1660.
- 2. Whitelocke Mems. iv. 406 (wrongly dated 1660).
- 3. Verney Mems. ii. 390.
- 4. BL, M636/17, Denton to Stafford, 14 Feb. 1661; Verney to Stafford, 4 Mar.; G. Abernathy, ‘Borough of Buckingham, 1660-98’ (unpublished article), 6; Whitelocke, iv. 406.
- 5. Bodl. Carte 79, ff. 168-9, 171, 175-6, 179, 185; Jones, First Whigs, 45-46; BL, M636/32, Sir Ralph to Edmund Verney, 29 Jan., Edmund to John Verney, 20 Feb. 1679.
- 6. Letter from a Freeholder in Bucks. (1679); Jones, 99-100.
- 7. PRO 30/53/8, f. 9; HMC Finch, ii. 189; HMC Buccleuch, i. 341; HMC 14th Rep.IX, 446; CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 122-3; Browning, Danby, i. 368; Verney Mems. ii. 389-90; R. Steele, Wharton Mems. 29-30; Bucks. Recs. xix. 467; CJ, ix. 467.
- 8. Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 239; BL, M636/43, Coleman to Verney, 3 Jan. 1689.