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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

rising from at least 276 in 1690 to at least 420 in 1710


3 Mar. 1690Jeremiah Bubb248
 Christopher Musgrave154
 John Aglionby1501
23 May 1692William Lowther vice Bubb, deceased 
26 Nov. 1694James Lowther vice Lowther, deceased 
4 Nov. 1695Hon. William Howard 
 James Lowther 
 Christopher Musgrave 
6 Aug. 1698Hon. William Howard 
 James Lowther 
24 Jan. 1701Philip Howard266
 James Lowther165
 Thomas Stanwix122
10 Dec. 1701Philip Howard 
 James Lowther 
 Thomas Stanwix 
27 July 1702Christopher Musgrave205
 Thomas Stanwix249
 Philip Howard1602
18 May 1705Thomas Stanwix324
 Sir James Montagu284
 Christopher Musgrave1553
20 May 1708Sir James Montagu 
 Thomas Stanwix 
15 Dec. 1708Sir James Montagu re-elected after appointment to office 
16 Oct. 1710Thomas Stanwix397
 Sir James Montagu266
 Samuel Gledhill1764
1 Feb. 1711Thomas Stanwix re-elected  after appointment to office 
7 Sept. 1713Sir Christopher Musgrave, Bt. 
 Thomas Stanwix 

Main Article

The main electoral interests at Carlisle, a garrison town since the 11th century and incorporated in the 13th century, were the corporation and the governor of the castle, though the borough’s cathedral also conferred some influence upon the diocesan hierarchy, an interest utilized throughout the period by William Nicolson, first as archdeacon and later as bishop. Carlisle’s role as a political and administrative centre of the north-west had secured and perpetuated the interest of the governor into the 17th century, and the presence of the castle’s garrison also created some small interest for Ordnance officials able to gain access to departmental patronage for the borough’s inhabitants. The Musgraves of Edenhall, Lowthers of Lowther and Whitehaven and Howards of Naworth all possessed substantial Cumberland estates which gave them an interest at Carlisle, but the electoral influence of the three families also stemmed from periods as governors of the city. Both the Musgraves and the Howards had held the governorship during the Restoration period, and it was the supplanting of the Musgraves’ control of this position by the lengthy tenure as governor of the 3rd Earl of Carlisle (Charles Howard*, Viscount Morpeth) from 1692, that saw the Howard interest eclipse that of the Musgraves. This conflict undoubtedly had a partisan aspect, the High Toryism of Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, and his eldest son Christopher being in stark contrast to Howard’s Whiggery, and the influence of national politics upon the conduct of the borough’s patrons is confirmed when the alliance, between 1694 and 1702, of the Howards and the Lowthers is considered. Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*, had held the post of governor for a short period in 1689 and, though viewed by some contemporaries as a Tory, in the 1690s he was a consistent supporter of the Court policies vociferously opposed by Musgrave. The partisan nature of Carlisle elections was, however, circumscribed by the role of Carlisle’s corporation and local elite, so that the borough’s politics revolved around both Tory–Whig and town–patron polarities. A closed corporation consisting of 12 aldermen and 24 ‘chief citizens’, as laid down by the borough’s 1664 charter, this elite was unwilling to follow slavishly any of the borough’s would-be patrons. At differing times individual members of the corporate body demonstrated a willingness to defy such patrons, behaviour which can be attributed to varying combinations of a determination to prevent the borough’s parliamentary representation falling into the hands of a single patron, a desire to have patronal influence mediated through them, and the pursuit of personal ends such as the procurement of local office. The unwillingness to cede control of the borough’s parliamentary representation to a single patron was also evident among a large number of ordinary freemen at the turn of the century, men who were to form the foundation of the electoral interest of the Carlisle-born army officer Thomas Stanwix. Consequently, though the Howard interest aspired to control both seats it was only able to secure its influence through diligent electoral management. The parliamentary franchise lay in the town’s freemen but the size of the electorate is difficult to determine, as Browne Willis* noted that though there were 500 resident freemen, from a population of approximately 2,000, the creation of ‘honorary freedoms . . . much increased’ the notional electorate.5

The 1690 election clearly demonstrated the influence of the governor. Though Sir John Lowther II had replaced Sir Christopher Musgrave as governor in March 1689, by the end of the year Jeremiah Bubb, a Musgrave ally who had assisted him in securing Carlisle during the Revolution, had assumed the governorship. Bubb used this position to forward his own election in 1690, and was joined in the lists by Musgrave’s son Christopher, who the previous year had obtained a post in the Ordnance, and Carlisle’s recorder John Aglionby, whose aspirations to parliamentary service had been evident prior to the Revolution, his family having represented the borough in both the 14th and 16th centuries. Aglionby fell just four votes short of Musgrave and subsequently claimed that had the mayor re-opened the poll the next day he would have carried the second seat. The electoral influence of the governorship is clear from Bubb’s majority of nearly 100 over both the other candidates, and Aglionby did not carry out his threat to petition against Musgrave’s return. The death of Bubb in 1692 not only precipitated a by-election but also initiated a major shift of the political balance in Carlisle, in the course of which the Musgrave interest was seriously undermined, the Howard interest enjoyed a renaissance, and Sir John Lowther II first exercised his influence. Christopher Musgrave, deputy governor of the castle by the spring of 1692, was considered a possible candidate to replace Bubb, but Lord Morpeth (soon to become Lord Carlisle) was thought a more likely successor. Such an appointment threatened to undermine the Musgrave interest, and it may be that this process had already begun, as in May 1692 William Lowther I, half-brother of Sir John Lowther II, was returned unchallenged. Lowther’s involvement in Carlisle politics is most explicable in terms of the animosity between himself and Sir Christopher Musgrave, clearly demonstrated by their frequent clashes in the Commons during the early 1690s, and events later in 1692 indicate Lowther’s resolution to gain the favour of the corporation in order to further his attack upon the Musgrave interest. The summer of 1692 saw Musgrave disfranchised by Carlisle corporation for striking an alderman while the latter was serving under Musgrave at Carlisle Castle. The alleged breach of Musgrave’s parliamentary privilege was brought to the attention of the Commons the following autumn, at which time Lowther staunchly defended the aldermen who had acted against Musgrave and, though these aldermen were held in custody for a short time and Musgrave’s readmission to the freedom of Carlisle ordered by the House, Lowther’s advocacy of the aldermen’s case seems likely to have increased his standing with the corporation. The Musgraves’ decision to stand on their honour served more to undermine their interest than reassert their status. The appointment in March 1693 of the Earl of Carlisle as governor of the castle both demonstrated and accentuated this decline, and it seems that the Musgraves made no attempt to forward a candidate for the by-election occasioned by the death of Lowther in 1694. Aglionby’s initial inclination to contest the seat appears to have been countered by the intervention of Sir John Lowther II, Aglionby instead acting as an election agent for the Lowther interest, so that in the months following, the most pressing issue for Lowther was to decide which of two nephews to propose for the by-election. Lowther debated with his cousin Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, whether the latter’s elder or younger son, Christopher and James respectively, should stand. The dissolute lifestyle of Christopher Lowther caused his father to worry that the lengthy stays in London incumbent upon a Member would pose a threat to his son’s moral and physical well-being. Sir John Lowther II had, however, declared his support for Christopher before learning of his father’s concerns, and it took much to convince him that Christopher should stand aside for James. Though this question was not resolved until the end of September, treating of the freemen had already commenced and once James’s candidacy was decided upon both Sir John Lowthers took steps to secure the support of Lord Carlisle and of Sir George Fletcher, 2nd Bt.*, whose estates near Carlisle gave him a small interest in the borough. The only possible threat to the Lowther interest was perceived to be the possibility that the Musgraves would take advantage of a conflict between Whitehaven, the Cumberland port dominated by Sir John Lowther I, and Carlisle concerning the liability of Whitehaven traders to tolls levied by Carlisle. The fear that a Musgrave-sponsored candidate would stand on the platform of the defence of Carlisle’s interests against the Lowthers of Whitehaven was not realized, however, and the Lowthers’ main election agent confided to Sir John Lowther I his opinion that Sir Christopher Musgrave’s interest at Carlisle ‘is long since past the meridian and his prudence will never suffer him to engage where there is nothing to be expected by but to be baffled’. Though it is clear that Lord Carlisle’s support for Lowther was qualified by annoyance that the Lowthers had not afforded him the role in the by-election which he thought his position in the borough and as lord lieutenant of Cumberland demanded, Lowther was returned unopposed.6

In 1695 the partnership between Lord Carlisle and the Lowthers was tested by the determination of the Musgrave interest to retain the seat captured at the previous general election. By June Sir John Lowther I was taking steps to ensure an alliance between his cousin James and Hon. William Howard, brother of Lord Carlisle, and, having agreed to such a partnership, Carlisle rebuffed Christopher Musgrave’s request for electoral support. Musgrave declared that he would ‘stand upon his single interest’, even though by this time it was known that Fletcher intended to support Howard and Lowther, and the result was an expensive and occasionally riotous election. That Musgrave’s was not necessarily a lost cause is suggested by the opinion of Sir John Lowther I’s steward and main election agent William Gilpin that, though success was likely ‘if we take proper methods’, yet ‘we ought not to be secure considering the variable temper of many of the voters, and the indefatigable industry by which they will be managed on the other side’. Vital to the management of the electorate was the support of the corporation. The Lowthers had continued to pay careful attention to this interest group, and the removal in March 1695 of one of the Musgraves’ most vociferous supporters among the aldermen meant that only one alderman supported the Musgrave interest in 1695 while a number of others were active in support of Howard and Lowther. Treating was extensive, and Sir Christopher Musgrave recorded how when James Lowther visited Carlisle in August he ‘spent amongst the corporation 40 guineas and accompanied by the mayor [visited] the several guilds and used his rhetoric’ to court the freemen. Christopher Musgrave was taking similar measures. By the end of July he had ‘begun his solicitations with much vigour’, though Gilpin claimed that ‘Mr Musgrave’s great feast has not (that I can learn) done any wonderful matters’, and by September a hostile reporter wrote that Musgrave had secured the support of the bishop, majority of the borough’s clergy and ‘all the Jacobite interest’. Musgrave’s supporters attempted to capitalize upon this endorsement from the Anglican clergy through critical allusions to the alleged favour shown by Sir John Lowther I to Whitehaven Dissenters. The effect of such efforts is difficult to ascertain, but the Musgrave interest probably drew some encouragement from the wavering in the unity of the Howard and Lowther interests that became clear in September, when it was reported that Howard’s canvassers had been approaching prospective Musgrave voters and requesting them to reserve their second vote for Howard. The rumours that the ‘conjunction’ between the Howard and Lowther interests was ‘dissolved’ were, however, countered speedily by a meeting between Lord Carlisle and Sir John Lowther II. The final two months of the campaign saw the rival interests continue their increasingly bitter contest, it being reported on 27 Oct. that one Musgrave supporter had ‘got an eye struck out’, with both Sir Christopher Musgrave and Sir John Lowther II making personal visits to rally their supporters. Shortly before the poll Christopher Musgrave claimed that ‘if I meet with fair play I doubt not of success’, but this did not accord with the confident predictions of success made by both his opponents and he duly went down to defeat. Upon the initiative of Sir John Lowther II, the successful candidates were presented with an address pledging to support the vigorous prosecution of the war and the granting of supplies necessary to this end.7

The lengthy campaign had led Howard and Lowther to amass election expenses of over £1,000 and disagreements regarding the division of these bills continued for two years. Of more consequence to the political balance in Carlisle were the growing divisions in the ranks of the corporate elite. As early as 1696 the ‘procedure’ of John Aglionby was causing concern. Though this was attributed by the Lowthers’ agent William Gilpin to Aglionby’s ‘temper’ and an attempt by the recorder to demonstrate his interest at Carlisle and thereby ‘raise the price of his self-denial with my Lord L[onsdale]’, it was thought that friends and relations of Aglionby’s were urging him to take advantage of ‘the discontents of the people’ and establish an interest against the next election. By the time rumours of a dissolution reached Carlisle in the spring of 1697, however, Aglionby was said to have ‘grown again reserved’ on this subject and in May 1698 he wrote to Lord Carlisle of his intention not to stand at the imminent election. However, a more serious political disturbance resulted from the activities of alderman Joseph Read. Though Read had acted as a manager of the Howard–Lowther interest in 1695, his liberal disbursement of money was portrayed by Gilpin as designed to increase his own local standing, and by March 1697 Read was said to be claiming that it was ‘in his power to make whom he pleases’ Member, an assertion which brought upon him the opprobrium of ‘the substantial part of the town’. Though Gilpin was sure that Read exaggerated his own influence, the latter’s actions nevertheless complicated the task of electoral management. In what appears to have been an attempt to bolster his local reputation and counter the animosity of the bulk of the corporation, Read emphasized the strength of his links to both Sir John Lowther I and Lord Carlisle. Lowther moved quickly to rebut Read’s claims, writing to Carlisle denying Read’s assertions and opining that ‘’tis the corporation alone and not any particular person that my son depends on; to them he will apply and serve to the best of his power’. By 1697 rifts had, however, also developed between the corporation and Lord Carlisle. Read sought to exacerbate the disagreements between the governor and the corporation, probably in the hope that this would lead to Lord Carlisle accepting a closer association and thereby further enhance the alderman’s interest. The prospect that Lord Carlisle’s conflict with the corporation and Read’s manoeuvring would place the Lowther interest in the invidious position of deciding between an alliance with the corporation or the Howards was one that caused Gilpin a great deal of anxiety, and, despite concerns that disobliging Read could lead him to ally with the Musgraves, Gilpin made concerted efforts to effect a reconciliation between the corporation and Lord Carlisle and to maintain the alliance of the Howard and Lowther interests. The corporation’s order of March condemning those who had used the borough’s guilds and their meetings as a means ‘to make and foment factions’ was probably related to Read’s activities, and by May the disputes between Lord Carlisle and the corporation had been resolved and the Howard and Lowther interests stood united to face the forthcoming election. The threat to this alliance again came from the Musgraves, with Archdeacon Nicolson attempting as early as April to procure, through the agency of Sir Daniel Fleming†, Lord Lonsdale’s (as Sir John Lowther II had become) support for Christopher Musgrave in either Carlisle or Westmorland. The lack of encouragement from Lonsdale may have discouraged Musgrave from standing, as, though the Howard and Lowther interests were campaigning from May onwards, by early July Lonsdale was writing of the ‘declaration that Mr M[usgrave] . . . will make no opposition anywhere’. At this time, however, Archdeacon Nicolson claimed that he was in receipt of a letter from James Lowther’s university tutor recounting how Lowther ‘frequented conventicles and was a favourer of such’, and that when challenged on this question Lowther had responded ‘that it was that party that supported him in Car[lisle] and, therefore, he was obliged to support and favour them, and would do so’. Lonsdale dismissed the allegations as ‘incredible’ in the light of Carlisle’s insignificant Dissenting minority, and the Lowthers publicly rebutted the claims and obtained a letter from Lowther’s tutor denying he had ever written in such terms. Sir John Lowther I believed that Nicolson had publicized the claims ‘to serve some turn’, an assessment which may be borne out by the letter Musgrave sent to the corporation shortly after Nicolson’s allegations. Certainly, by the end of July one observer was writing of the ‘great striving at Carlisle election’. Musgrave’s intentions remained, however, something of a mystery: although it began to be put about the borough that he would stand, he made no declaration to this effect and did not visit Carlisle to press his claims. Musgrave’s dilatory behaviour led Sir John Lowther I to conjecture that he intended to follow ‘the common practice of many who despair of success at the day of election, but designed in order to question elections afterwards, in the case of treats, promises, or other entertainments contrary to the late Act’. The provisions of the 1696 Act outlawing treating after the teste of the writ led the Howard and Lowther interests to exercise a great deal of caution in their campaigning, it being described in one letter as ‘the dry election’, and their electoral managers were sure of their ability to defeat the Musgrave interest. As in 1695, a brief flutter of concern occurred shortly before the election when it became known that some of Lord Carlisle’s agents had solicited for single votes for Howard so that ‘several of his party are unsolicited for their second vote’, and Lord Carlisle wrote to Sir John Lowther after the election that such actions had been in accordance with his instructions to his agents ‘to secure my brother’s election, and afterwards serve Mr Lowther by the interest they could make for him’. The consequence was that as late as the end of July Sir John Lowther I was contemplating the possibility that his son would not capture the second seat. He was assured, however, that Musgrave’s campaign was ‘late’ and amounted to ‘no proper application’, and that Musgrave ‘trusts more to some slip of ours’, in respect of the Act concerning treating, rather ‘than to his own votes’. The mystery of Musgrave’s apparently lukewarm interest in his own campaign may indicate that his candidacy was as much the product of the tensions within the corporation as of his own desire to contest Carlisle. Pressure was put on Joseph Read by Lonsdale not to support Musgrave, and at one point it was reported that Read had refused to declare his preference concerning the election. At the end of July, however, Read was said to have joined Archdeacon Nicolson to press Musgrave’s election with ‘zeal’. Faced by the combined might of the Howard, Lowther and corporation interests, the amalgamation of the Musgrave interest and Read’s popular support was insufficient to defeat Howard and Lowther, the latter two being returned. It is unclear if Musgrave’s candidacy was taken to the poll.8

The complex manoeuvres prior to the 1698 election demonstrated the constraints upon the influence of the Howard and Lowther interests. The Lowthers and Lord Carlisle recognized the conditional nature of their electoral support, the former taking pains in 1699 to obtain a place in the county commission of the peace for a Carlisle alderman while the latter provided money to the borough’s guilds the same year for a treat. Though such attention to detail was vital to maintaining an electoral interest at Carlisle, in 1700 it became apparent that the Howard and Lowther interests remained vulnerable to the shifting political situation in the corporation. Once rumours of a possible dissolution had reached the borough in August 1700 it became apparent that Christopher Musgrave had made a concerted attempt to bolster his interest with the corporation and had succeeded in gaining the support of Aglionby. The two were said to have won over the incumbent mayor and succeeded in having their supporters elected to vacancies in the common council and bench of aldermen, and were thought likely to stand together at the next election. Musgrave’s ability to renew his family’s interest with sections of the corporate elite demonstrated the conditional nature of support from these individuals, Aglionby having supported the Howard–Lowther joint interest in both 1695 and 1698. Aglionby’s decision to break with the Howards appears to have been based upon the unwillingness of Lord Carlisle to satisfy his parliamentary ambitions, and the extent of the break can be seen in his canvassing for Richard Musgrave* during the Cumberland by-election campaign of late 1700. The coalition of Musgrave and Aglionby appears to have taken the Howards and Lowthers by surprise. Lord Carlisle’s initial response was to suggest to James Lowther that Aglionby be tempted from Musgrave’s interest by offering him the opportunity to stand jointly with Lowther, on the understanding that he would step down after one Parliament, with Carlisle’s brother standing on the Howard interest in Northumberland. The following two months saw considerable debate between the Lowthers and the Howards on how best to proceed, the Lowthers’ desire to confirm the partnership conflicting with Carlisle’s unwillingness to commit himself as to whether his brother or cousin, Philip Howard, should stand in the borough. Carlisle’s determination to preserve his interest in the borough was clear from his decision to stand at the forthcoming mayoral election, but his indecision as to his preferred candidate, encouraged by his belief that a dissolution was in fact unlikely, was causing Lowther and his father considerable concern that Aglionby and Musgrave were being allowed to steal a march. In November Carlisle finally announced his intention to support his brother as Lowther’s partner, and the Lowthers were able to begin campaigning in earnest. The path to the return of Howard and Lowther appeared clear by the middle of the following month when Aglionby declared he had decided not to stand, Musgrave informing friends that the borough recorder had ‘deceived him’, and even Lord Carlisle’s decision to replace his brother William with his cousin Philip as candidate appeared unlikely to cause the Howard– Lowther interest any great difficulty. By the end of December the uncontested return of Howard and Lowther was forecast, and by the middle of January Sir John Lowther I was so confident of an uncontested election he was concerning himself with the order in which Howard and Lowther should be named in the return. Consideration of such niceties was, however, disrupted ‘two days before the election’ by the candidacy of the army officer Thomas Stanwix. The nature of the challenge was described by the chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle

since the law against spending anything upon the account of elections, the inferior sort of freemen not having that sort of application made to them, which was usual, entered into a secret combination to oppose the mayor, aldermen and common councilmen, who they thought engrossed all the reputation of an election to themselves.

Assisted by John Aglionby’s younger brother Richard, Stanwix took the election to a poll, and though comfortably beaten by Lowther for the second seat quickly made known his intention of petitioning against Lowther’s return. Presented to the Commons on 14 Feb. by Sir Christopher Musgrave, Stanwix’s petition alleged corruption on the part of Lowther’s agents and the partiality of Carlisle’s lieutenant-governor and deputy-mayor in the conduct of the poll. The late delivery of the petition and the consequently poor chances of its being heard led Lowther to attribute Musgrave’s advocacy of Stanwix to a desire to cause him the inconvenience of having to prepare a defence to a case which was unlikely to be heard by the elections committee, Musgrave’s motivation being attributed by Sir John Lowther I to irritation at the failure of his son to carry the election. Despite his belief that the petition was unlikely to be heard, Lowther nevertheless made detailed preparations to counter Stanwix’s allegations. These preparations were at least in part motivated by the support Stanwix enjoyed from Sir Christopher Musgrave and Lowther’s observation in April that during the consideration of election petitions ‘no one cause has gone in favour of anybody that differs from Sir E[dward] S[eymour] [4th Bt.*] and Sir C[hristopher] M[usgrave]’. Not until the House ended consideration of election petitions on 8 May did Lowther feel able to relax, but even then he did not abandon the preparation of his defence, convinced that the petition would be renewed in the following session.9

Such preparations, which Stanwix and Lowther continued into the late summer, were overtaken by electoral preparations prompted by rumours of a dissolution. Lowther, at the same time as down-playing such suggestions, was writing to his father to suggest that Philip Howard transfer to Morpeth at the next election and that Lord Carlisle should acquiesce in Lowther being returned with John Aglionby to satisfy the desire evident at the previous election for the return of a local candidate. However, Stanwix had already begun canvassing support against the next election and following the dissolution in November neither Aglionby nor Christopher Musgrave gave notice of standing. Lord Carlisle promptly informed the corporation of his intention to support Howard and Lowther, and attempted to persuade Stanwix to stand aside upon the promise of his support at the subsequent election. Stanwix’s unwillingness to accept such deferred assistance led him to reject the offer, but Carlisle’s willingness to offer such a deal sowed seeds of suspicion in Lowther’s mind as to his intentions. Lowther wrote to his father that Carlisle’s support rested solely upon the assurance that his return gave Carlisle of ‘a good vote in the House . . . and that he [Carlisle] would be very indifferent in the matter if another stood against me that he could be sure would vote as I do’, and mentioned his concern that he stood ‘upon very slippery ground in the opinion of my Lord Carl[isle] and the gentlemen of the country’. When Archdeacon Nicolson further undermined his interest by renewing accusations of Lowther’s ‘Presbyterian’ sympathies, Lowther’s father even considered putting him up for the county. However, Lowther stood his ground at Carlisle and in alliance with Howard defeated Stanwix at a poll he characterized as dominated by ‘outrages and insolencies’. Less than a week after the poll Lowther was already preparing his defence against Stanwix’s anticipated petition. This was presented to the Commons on 3 Jan. 1702, Stanwix supplementing allegations of bribery on the part of Lowther’s agents with claims of the partiality of the returning officer, so that although he ‘had a great majority’ the mayor conspired with some aldermen and freemen ‘privately, in a tavern’ to return Lowther. When the elections committee sat five days later, Lowther, with the assistance of a number of leading Court Whigs, was able to postpone the hearing of the petition for two months and began to make detailed preparations to counter Stanwix’s accusations. The petition was never heard, but it is clear that in the course of preparing his defence Lowther’s confidence in the electoral support of Lord Carlisle was undermined. The governor’s unwillingness to obtain Stanwix’s withdrawal from Carlisle elections by furthering his military career particularly irritated Lowther, who frequently expressed the belief that Lord Carlisle’s reticence in this matter was due to plotting to establish control of both seats. This suspicion, combined with his own doubts as to the value of being in the Commons, caused him to decline standing at Carlisle at the 1702 election.10

Lowther’s wariness as to Lord Carlisle’s intentions was well founded. As early as the middle of February 1702 it was suggested that Stanwix and Lord Carlisle would join interests at the next election. However, the proposal that Sir Richard Sandford, 3rd Bt.*, stand with Stanwix on Lord Carlisle’s interest was abandoned and once the death of William iii gave some urgency to electoral preparations it became clear that Carlisle’s proposed alliance with Stanwix was motivated by the governor’s perception of the vulnerability of his own position in the borough and, perhaps, a desire to appropriate some of Stanwix’s popular support. Carlisle’s approach to Stanwix came to nothing, and with Stanwix and Christopher Musgrave already candidates for the borough Carlisle asked Lowther to join Philip Howard on a joint interest. This request was rebuffed, however, and Howard was forced to stand alone. Musgrave, assisted by his father, assiduously applied himself to canvassing the borough and gained the enthusiastic support of Nicolson, recently appointed bishop of Carlisle. The relationship between the interests of the three candidates is difficult to determine. Nine days before the election Sir Christopher Musgrave told Nicolson of his belief that his son should join with Howard as Stanwix’s interest was ‘not like to be a standing one’, but on 21 July a number of Stanwix’s leading supporters approached Nicolson to propose an alliance between Musgrave and Stanwix. The response to this suggestion is unknown. On the day of the election Nicolson noted that though leading members of the corporation voted for Howard and Musgrave ‘Mr Mayor and the aldermen did not use Mr Musgrave fairly; throwing all their interest on Mr Howard singly’, perhaps implying that they had broken an arrangement between Musgrave and Howard. Stanwix’s interest with the freemen, however, was sufficient for him to carry the election, with Musgrave taking the second seat. Suggestions that Lord Carlisle’s anger at the rejection of his cousin would lead to a petition came to nothing.11

Though they had secured one seat in 1702 the Musgraves were conscious of the need to bolster their interest in the borough, and in 1703 Sir Christopher Musgrave attempted, with only partial success, to have political opponents at Carlisle who held minor Ordnance posts at Carlisle Castle replaced by individuals more loyal to his family. The Musgrave interest appears to have benefited from the attention through 1703 and 1704 of Bishop Nicolson, at which time it appears that a joint interest of Musgrave and the current Cumberland Member Gilfrid Lawson was being proposed for the next election, and though Musgrave was criticized for failing to answer the letters of one leading freeman, he took care in September 1704, perhaps mindful of the detrimental effect to his interest of his father’s death earlier that year, to provide and attend a borough ‘entertainment’. In March 1705, however, James Lowther noted that Musgrave’s attempts to join his interest to that of Lord Carlisle had failed, the governor preferring to join with Stanwix, a decision explicable in terms of Carlisle’s Whiggery and Musgrave’s Toryism and perhaps indicating Carlisle’s unwillingness to oppose the popular support Stanwix enjoyed among the freemen. Carlisle initially proposed as his candidate the Whig soldier Emanuel Scrope Howe*, who had previously sat for Morpeth on Carlisle’s interest, but by April had transferred his support to the Whig lawyer (Sir) James Montagu I, brother of Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*). By this time Bishop Nicolson had begun to find difficulties in soliciting for Musgrave, no doubt worried by accusations from Joseph Read that Musgrave was ‘one for bringing in the [pretended] P[rince] of Wales’, but Musgrave nevertheless informed James Lowther of his belief that Stanwix was losing ground at Carlisle, an optimism Nicolson attributed to Musgrave’s receipt of misleading information from his canvassers. Despite the previous indications of a likely alliance between Montagu and Stanwix, all three candidates stood singly and in this trial of strength Musgrave proved to be the loser. Stanwix, who Nicolson claimed had publicized his recent appointment as deputy-governor of Carlisle as ‘purposely’ made by the Queen ‘to secure his being chosen again’, topped the poll with Montagu comfortably defeating Musgrave for the second seat. Nicolson commented that the election had been ‘full of treacherous villainy’ and James Lowther wrote of his belief that Musgrave could unseat Stanwix on the grounds of bribery, but he declined to petition.12

The 1708 election passed with far less disturbance. The sole impact upon borough politics of the bitter dispute between Nicolson and the dean of Carlisle, Francis Atterbury, was the decisive shift away from Cumberland Tories that it prompted in Nicolson. The main concern in the months before the election was the health of Stanwix, with reports reaching Carlisle of his serious illness while serving on the Iberian peninsula, which in turn prompted the interest of Captain Eliakim Studholm in standing for the borough. Though Stanwix recovered in early 1708, James Lowther reported that Studholm had been invited to stand by ‘some of the people of Carlisle . . . to make expenses’, and in April Musgrave wrote to Recorder Aglionby about the possibility of standing at Carlisle. Musgrave’s inquiry was passed on to Nicolson, who the previous November had noted his willingness to see Musgrave stand again at Carlisle, and who recommended that Lord Carlisle be approached as to the possibility of Musgrave joining Montagu. This came to nothing, however, Musgrave writing in the middle of May that Nicolson ‘pretends to set me up at Carlisle, which I take only to be a bamboozle’. It seems unlikely that either Musgrave or Studholm forced the election to a poll. The return of Stanwix and Montagu was followed in December by the untroubled re-election of Montagu after his appointment as attorney-general.13

That the 1710 election was unlikely to be as moderate an affair as that two years previously was evident as early as August, when Nicolson reported that four candidates were being talked of as possible opponents to Montagu and Stanwix. The most credible of these was Christopher Musgrave, who Joseph Read hoped would form a joint interest with Montagu, who continued to enjoy the support of Lord Carlisle. The other three possible candidates were the current mayor and receiver-general of taxes for Cumberland and Westmorland, Thomas Brougham; the London knight Sir Richard Guy; and Studholm. The candidacy of none of these individuals was pursued and, though Nicolson wrote dismissively of Stanwix’s interest with the ‘rabble’ at Carlisle, the bishop was instrumental in assisting Lord Carlisle in persuading the corporation to ‘unanimously’ support the return of Stanwix and Montagu, who had resigned the post of attorney-general in return for a pension of £1,000 p.a. Their return was challenged by Colonel Samuel Gledhill, whose candidacy, he himself later claimed, was motivated by the failure of Lord Carlisle to procure him military promotion. Gledhill received support from the cathedral clergy and a heated campaign ensued, with Nicolson taking a prominent role in opposing Gledhill. Montagu comfortably defeated Gledhill for the second seat, with Stanwix again heading the poll by a considerable margin, but it quickly became apparent that Gledhill intended to petition. Montagu was clearly aware of his intention when he wrote to Robert Harley* in November of the rumours that Gledhill’s candidacy and petition had been prompted by Harley and Henry St. John II*, rumours which Montagu reassured Harley he thought untrue and which he conjectured had been initiated by Gledhill himself. The petition was presented on 4 Dec., Gledhill alleging ‘bribery, and other undue practices’ on behalf of Montagu and partiality on the part of the mayor. Gledhill was, however, impatient to try the cause. On 23 Dec. he again petitioned the Commons asking that consideration of his case by the elections committee be brought forward and, this petition having been referred to the elections committee, on 7 Feb. 1712 Gledhill fruitlessly attempted to bring the hearing of his case by the elections committee brought forward by ten days. Twelve days later a new tactic was adopted with the Tory Member Charles Eversfield complaining on Gledhill’s behalf that the case ‘reflected on her Majesty’s honour’, a claim based upon Gledhill’s account of the Carlisle election. During the election Gledhill had claimed that Montagu’s removal from the place of attorney-general was indicative of the Queen’s unwillingness to see Montagu re-elected, a charge Montagu countered by informing Bishop Nicolson of the pension he had been granted by the Queen. Without Montagu’s knowledge or permission Nicolson had circulated a letter with this information. Nicolson’s action prompted Gledhill to object that the pension prevented Montagu’s re-election, an accusation which had forced Montagu to write to the borough pointing out that his pension did not amount to a place of profit. When the Commons considered Eversfield’s complaint on the 19th, Gledhill’s claim, that in this letter Montagu had written that he had been granted a pension by the Queen ‘to enable to carry his election’, was put to the House, but, as Montagu was absent, consideration of this allegation was postponed until the following day, and Eversfield again raised the case on the 20th. Gledhill was called before the Commons but, when questioned, was forced to admit that the claim that Montagu had written that his pension from the Queen was to ‘enable’ his election was missing from his notes of the letter. Following a lengthy debate upon a motion that Gledhill be taken into custody for prevarication, the petitioner was allowed, following a division of 154 to 151 in his favour, to produce witnesses who could support his claims. Mungo Graham* reported that ‘the Whigs left the debate to the Court’, and Kreienberg that Harley voted with the Whigs in this division. Montagu spent much of the following three weeks preparing his defence against Gledhill’s charges, and on 12 Mar. Nicolson reported that Montagu was ‘in good confidence of tomorrow’s success’. When the matter was heard on the 14th Montagu’s confidence proved to be well founded. Although Nicolson was voted to have infringed the liberties of the Commons and the October Club continued to support Gledhill, the House resolved without a division that Gledhill had not proved his charge against Montagu, though it was agreed that Gledhill had had sufficient grounds to bring his claim. Gledhill renewed his petition the following session on 10 Dec. 1711. Gledhill denied the legality of 155 of Montagu’s voters, 81 of whom he claimed were disqualified for receiving bribes, and alleged that members of the corporation and Bishop Nicolson had bribed, threatened and cajoled numerous freemen to support Montagu. Montagu’s response was to challenge both the detail of Gledhill’s claims and the reliability of his witnesses. Despite Sir Christopher Musgrave’s conviction in January 1712 that Montagu’s election would be declared void and his consequent move to begin canvassing support against a new election, on 1 Feb. Gledhill’s petition was defeated by 74 votes to 45 in the elections committee. When it came before the Commons on 23 Feb. 1712 this decision was confirmed by 148 votes to 133.14

Sir Christopher Musgrave’s hopes to come in for Carlisle at a by-election had been ended by the decision of February 1712, but he nevertheless continued in his attempts to establish an interest in the borough. The removal of Lord Carlisle as governor in 1712 led Musgrave to write to the Earl of Oxford (as Harley had become) to request the government of Carlisle Castle for himself, and though this mark of favour was denied his prospects of election were boosted in February 1713 when it became known that Montagu ‘thinks himself so ill used, [that] he resolves to have no more to do at Carl[isle]’. With Montagu’s withdrawal Musgrave’s election was further aided by the decision of Lord Carlisle, no longer governor but still influential with the corporate elite, to support Musgrave’s return, for one election only, on condition that Musgrave support the Whig candidates at Appleby. Musgrave accepted these terms, and, though as late as April it was uncertain if Lord Carlisle intended to support a second candidate other than Stanwix, in 1713 Musgrave was returned unopposed with Stanwix.15

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


Unless otherwise stated this article is based on Hopkinson thesis, 26–32, 40–41, 95–97, 135–52.

  • 1. Cumbria RO (Kendal), Le Fleming mss WD/Ry, Sir Christopher Musgrave to Sir Daniel Fleming, 6 Mar. [1690].
  • 2. Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, ii. 174–5.
  • 3. Flying Post, 22–24 May 1705.
  • 4. Daily Courant, 24 Oct. 1710.
  • 5. Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Carlisle bor. recs. Ca/1/20, charter, 9 Apr. 1664; Willis, Not. Parl. iii. 193–4.
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1185; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 47; 1693, p. 72; HMC Lonsdale, 99; Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 3754, Sir Christopher Musgrave to Fleming, 6 Mar. [1690]; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 76–77; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 374; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, lxxv. 173–87; Lowther Corresp. ed. Hainsworth, 132–3, 143, 148–50, 152–3, 155, 159, 161–3; Howard mss at Castle Howard, J8/1/664, Aglionby to Ld. Carlisle, 3 Nov. 1694; J8/37/8, Sir John Lowther I to same, 7 Nov. 1694.
  • 7. Howard mss, Sir John Lowther I to Ld. Carlisle, 24 June 1695; Lowther Corresp. 220–3, 226, 228, 232–8, 240–1, 243–6; Carlisle bor. recs. Ca/2/2, f. 26; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Sir Christopher Musgrave to James Grahme*, 5 Aug. [1695]; HMC Downshire, i. 578; Flying Post, 16–19 Nov. 1695 (Horwitz trans.).
  • 8. Lowther Corresp. 254, 268–9, 289, 292, 298, 302–5, 309, 322–3, 350, 355–6, 367, 425, 473–5, 482–3, 486–7, 582, 590, 626–31, 633–8, 642, 644–6, 649–53; Carlisle bor. recs. Ca/2/2, ff. 33–34; Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 5253, Nicolson to Fleming, 27 Apr. 1698; 5254, Fleming to Nicolson, 27 Apr. 1698; 5388, Henry to Sir Daniel Fleming, 25 July 1698; Cumbria RO (Carlisle) Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/3/6, Ld. Carlisle to Sir John Lowther I, 9 Aug. [1698].
  • 9. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/2, James to Sir John Lowther I, 18, 20 Dec. 1698, 7 Feb., 24 Mar. 1698[–9], 28 Mar., 8 Apr. 1699; D/Lons/L1/1/38/1, Sir John Lowther I to Ld. Lonsdale, 3 Apr. 1699; D/Lons/W2/2/3, James to Sir John Lowther I, 24, 31 Aug., 17, 19 Dec. 1699; D/Lons/L1/1/46, William Atkinson to same, 30 Sept. 1700; D/Lons/W1/20, Sir John Lowther I to Ld. Carlisle, Sept. 1700, same to James Lowther, [?] Sept., 26 Sept. 1700, same to William Gilpin, 16 Sept., 7 Oct. 1700; D/Lons/W2/3/7, Ld. Carlisle to Sir John Lowther I, 1, 19, 22 Oct., 9 Nov. 1700; D/Lons/W1/21, Sir John Lowther I to Ld. Carlisle, 24 Oct. 1700, same to Gilpin, 18 Nov., 26 Dec. 1700, same to Ld. Wharton (Hon. Thomas*), Mar. 1701; D/Lons/W2/3/57, Sir John Lowther I to Gilpin, 15 Jan. 1700[–1]; D/Lons/L1/45, Thomas Tullie to Ldy. Lonsdale, 25 Jan. 1700[–1]; D/Lons/W2/2/4, James to Sir John Lowther I, 11, 15 Feb., 20, 22 Mar. 1700[–1], 25 Mar., 8, 26 Apr., 1, 3, 8, 10, 17, 20 May 1701; Howard mss J8/1/683, Lancelot Simpson to Ld. Carlisle, 31 Aug. 1700; Bagot mss, Ld. Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) to Grahme, 31 Dec. 1700.
  • 10. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4, James to Sir John Lowther I, 26 Aug., 6, 23 Sept., 13, 15, 18, 27, 29 Nov., 16 Dec. 1701; 5, same to same, 8, 17, 20, 22, 27 Jan., 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 19, 21 Feb., 3, 12 Mar. 1701[–2], 26 Mar. 1702; D/Lons/W1/27, Sir John Lowther I to Carlisle corporation, 10 Apr. 1702; Hopkinson thesis, 216; CJ, xiii. 650.
  • 11. Bagot mss, Thomas Carleton to Grahme, 17 Feb. 1701–2 (Speck trans.); Howard mss, Ld. Carlisle to Nicholas Ridley, 25 [Feb. 1702]; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James to Sir John Lowther I, 26 Mar. 1702; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, lxvi. 301; ii. 165, 169, 172–5, 178; W.A. Speck, Birth of Britain, 47–48.
  • 12. Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 193–6, 198; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, ii. 202, 205; xlvi. 208, 214, 215; iii. 2, 3, 6–10, 11; HMC Portland, iv. 125; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/8, James to Sir John Lowther I, 1, 10, Mar. 1704[–5], 12, 28 Apr., 16 June 1705.
  • 13. Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/1/40, James Lowther to William Gilpin, 23 Dec. 1707; 41, same to same, 12 Feb. 1707[–8]; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, iv. 13–14, 30–31; Bagot mss, Musgrave to Grahme, 15 May 1708.
  • 14. HMC Portland, 565; Christ Church, Oxf., Wake mss 17, f. 265; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/C9/34, Gledhill to Ld. Somerset, 7 Sept. 1714; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, xxxv. 135–7; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/1/43, Lowther to Gilpin, 5 Oct. 1710; Boyer, Pol. State, i-ii. 247; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 1010; NLS, Advocates mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, ff. 138–9; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/22, 18a, Graham to Ld. Montrose, 12, 22 Feb. 1711; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 512–14, 551, 554, 557, 578, 580, 583, 590; Thoresby Diary ed. Hunter, ii. 76; L. Inn Lib. MP, 100/139, Carlisle Election. The Case from the Report; HMC Dartmouth, i. 309; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. ser. 2, lxxviii. 122–3 (letter misdated).
  • 15. HMC Portland, v. 209; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/1/46, Lowther to Gilpin, 3 Feb. 1712[–3], 2, 23, 25, Apr. 1714; Bagot mss, Carleton to T[homas] L[utwyche]*, 6 June 1713 (Speck trans.); Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Musgrave mss D/Mus/A/1/1, C[hristopher] M[usgrave] to John Nedalle, 14 Sept. 1713; Trans. Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. 123–5.