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

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 2,060 in 1710


17 Feb. 1690Hon. Francis Robartes 
 Hugh Boscawen I 
18 Nov. 1695Hugh Boscawen I 
 John Speccot 
16 Aug. 1698Hugh Boscawen I 
 John Speccot 
22 Jan. 1701Hugh Boscawen I 
 John Speccot 
25 June 1701Richard Edgcumbe vice Boscawen, deceased 
10 Dec. 1701Hon. John Granville 
 James Buller 
5 Aug. 1702Hon. John Granville 
 James Buller 
8 Dec. 1703Sir Richard Vyvyan, Bt. vice Granville, called to the  Upper House 
23 May 1705Hugh Boscawen II1405
 Sir Richard Vyvyan, Bt.858
 James Buller8061
19 May 1708James Buller 
 Hugh Boscawen II 
1 Nov. 1710George Granville1328
 John Trevanion1297
 Hugh Boscawen II813
 Richard Edgcumbe6822
20 Feb. 1712Sir Richard Vyvyan, Bt. vice Granville, called to the Upper House 
16 Sept. 1713Sir William Carew, Bt. 
 John Trevanion 

Main Article

Following the return to the Convention of two veteran Whigs, Hugh Boscawen I and Sir John Carew, 3rd Bt., the Tory interest reasserted itself in 1690. Carew retreated to Saltash, while the new bishop of Exeter, a Cornish landowner in his own right, Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 3rd Bt., attempted to raise an opposition to Boscawen. His circular letter to his clergy urged support for Hon. Francis Robartes and John Speccot based on their parliamentary record as

persons of sound and firm principles to the Church and state, men who through the whole session stood firm to the interest of both . . . men who in debating the form of the coronation-oath were for the religion which is already established not that which shall be, and lately assisted in throwing out of the Act settling corporations, the incapacitating clauses, by which not only multitudes of good men who proposed by their surrenders of their charters nothing but advantage to their towns and service to the King and Country, would have been thrown out of the corporations, but most of the well affected gentlemen would have been incapable of appearing for members of Parliament; so that in a small time not only the corporations but the House too must have been filled chiefly with Dissenters, a thing which would soon have fatal consequences.

Robartes, the most Tory member of his family, was the uncle of the 2nd Earl of Radnor (Charles Bodvile Robartes†) and had represented the county previously. Speccot, on the other hand, was Radnor’s brother-in-law and could not mount an effective challenge to Boscawen. Speccot came in for Newport, leaving Robartes and Boscawen to be returned unopposed, presumably with the blessing of the Earl of Bath, the lord lieutenant and warden of the stannaries, who had been able to provide for his son, Hon. John Granville, elsewhere.3

The ageing Earl of Bath may not have intended to play a very active role in Cornish politics, and from 1691 to 1693 he shared the lieutenancy with his eldest son, Lord Lansdown (Charles Granville†). Furthermore, despite his leading role in the Revolution, Bath was a target for Jacobite agents keen to foster disaffection to the regime, and hoping that the gentry would rise up and lead the tin miners in armed revolt. Relations between the Granvilles and the Court became even more fraught when Lansdown fell out with the King over his claim for expenses as an envoy to Spain, and Bath again became sole lieutenant.4

At the 1695 general election, Bath was reputed not to be concerned in the Cornish boroughs, and his indifference may have carried over into the county. A correspondent informed Robert Harley* on 22 Oct. that Speccot had been set up to turn Boscawen out, but that it was likely to result in defeat for Robartes. Certainly, a contest was anticipated by Lady Mary Carew (Sir John’s widow) who urged her steward to support Boscawen. However, by 5 Nov. she could report that Boscawen and Speccot were unopposed and a newspaper report following the election confirmed this. Robartes found a seat at Tregony.5

In April 1696 Bath was deprived of the lieutenancy for his failure to sign the voluntary Association. He was replaced by Radnor, but this had little discernible impact on the shire election in 1698 when Boscawen and Speccot were again returned unopposed, the only notable mishap being the inadvertent despatch of the writs to Dorset. Before the election to the first 1701 Parliament, Charles Trelawny* wrote to Sidney Godolphin*, proposing that if Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) would ‘but let his son [Hon. Francis*] appear for the county, I will wager my head he shall be chosen by the unanimous consent of the gentlemen, a few canting rogues excepted’, but nothing came of this suggestion, and the two previous Members were returned without a contest. Boscawen’s death precipitated a by-election in June 1701 which saw Richard Edgcumbe, a Whig, returned unopposed.6

In November 1701 Radnor succeeded the deceased Tory Earl of Bath as lord warden of the Stannaries, and set out at once for Cornwall ‘to support his Majesty’s interest’ there. He had no great effect on the county election. Two Tories were elected. One was Hon. John Granville, who, following the death of Bath and Lansdown in quick succession, had become the senior member of the family, as the earldom of Bath was now held by a minor. Granville’s partner was James Buller, a young Tory from a well-established family. The county election merely confirmed an overwhelming Tory victory at the polls throughout the Cornish constituencies, 37 or 38 out of the 44 MPs being accounted ‘honest’. In consequence a set of Tory instructions accompanied the knights of the shire on their journey to Westminster. These included three Tory demands: an inquiry to discover who had advised the dissolution of the previous Parliament; a fresh trial of the impeached Whig lords; and parliamentary scrutiny of accounts to uncover fraud and corruption. These instructions contrasted markedly with those delivered to Whiggish MPs elsewhere in England, and indeed were answered by The Cornish Hog, which one Tory commentator hoped would galvanize the Commons to ‘call some of these saucy scribblers to account and also think fit to regulate the press’. Nevertheless, in January 1702 the county Members presented an address, reputedly signed by 40,000 Cornish tinners, in support of the war against France. According to one newsletter on 5 Jan. about 40 Cornish Members went to Kensington to present the address, thereby allowing the Whigs in the Commons to carry by narrow majorities two divisions on procedural matters relating to the Maidstone and Norwich election petitions.7

After the accession of Queen Anne, there seems to have been a struggle for the lieutenancy of Cornwall, with Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) bemoaning the possibility that Granville would not succeed Radnor as lord lieutenant of Cornwall and lord warden of the Stannaries. Weymouth wrote to Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) in June 1702: ‘Cornwall did ill in choosing so good Members last time and must now be made sensible of it . . . it will be difficult enough to make good elections without such discouragements.’ However, Granville was duly appointed and wrote to Nottingham on 6 Aug. to report his own unanimous return together with Buller: ‘I can assure your Grace farther that Cornwall never sent up an honester set of gentlemen than now, for out of the four and forty there are but two exceptionable persons, and one of them under great promises of amendment.’ Granville was raised to the peerage in March 1703 and proceeded to strengthen the Tory interest in Cornwall by holding a convocation of tinners at Truro in September 1703 presided over by himself and James Buller as speaker, which agreed to a contract whereby the Queen would buy all the tin produced at a fixed price above the market price ‘in recognition of the services of the duchy of Cornwall, and especially for their loyalty in that horrid rebellion against her royal grandfather, King Charles i of ever blessed memory’. The by-election to replace Granville was held in December 1703 and resulted in the return of another Tory, Sir Richard Vyvyan, 3rd Bt.8

Lord Granville’s intransigence over the Tack saw him replaced as lord lieutenant in April 1705 by Lord Treasurer Godolphin. Indeed, as early as February a note in Robert Harley’s* papers suggests that ministerial attempts to prevent the return of Tackers at the 1705 election would be Godolphin’s responsibility in Cornwall. Godolphin’s son, Hon. Francis, became lord warden of the Stannaries. When Granville complained to Marlborough (John Churchill†) about his loss of office, the duke blamed Francis Godolphin, who had been ‘desirous to have it done all this winter’. Lord Godolphin was assisted in 1705 by Bishop Trelawny, who was zealous for Hugh Boscawen II and was blamed in part for the ‘great many alterations . . . in favour of the party that opposed the occasional bill for Low Church’. Vyvyan was handicapped by a broken leg, and by the preference of such as Bishop Trelawny for Buller as the second Member. Indeed, William Wake thought that a better understanding between Buller and Boscawen would have seen Vyvyan defeated, but in the event Boscawen polled 600 single votes and Vyvyan finished a mere 52 ahead of Buller. The furore over the Tack seems to have spilled over into the elections for Convocation with the bishop’s candidates facing opposition because of his stance.9

Under Godolphin, Cornwall’s party animosities were soothed as much as possible, with no partisan regulation of the commission of the peace, and a standard congratulatory address from the county being presented by the lord treasurer following Marlborough’s success at Ramillies. Boscawen was given a life patent as warden of the Stannaries in 1708 in order to strengthen his interest, allowing John Pennick to dismiss rumours that John Trevanion would stand and surmising that ‘nobody will dispute Mr Buller. As for Mr Boscawen there is not the least doubt of.’ If help was needed Bishop Trelawny (now translated to Winchester) was reported in May to be travelling to Cornwall ‘to use his interest that as good men may be chosen in this election as were in the former’. Thus, Buller and Boscawen were returned unopposed.10

On 8 Feb. 1710 the Commons discussed a motion to allow Buller leave to attend the convocation of tinners scheduled to meet on the 20th, which prompted a motion for an address that the Queen direct that the convocation not sit during the parliamentary session. Although lost on the previous question, the convocation delayed its meeting until 20 Apr. Meanwhile, at Launceston assizes on 29 Mar. a markedly pro-Church address was sent up to London, where Buller presented it on 9 Apr. He was introduced into the royal presence not by Godolphin, but by the young 3rd Earl of Bath (1692–1711), who was being courted by both parties in the hope of acquiring his political interest when he came of age. The address was seen as supportive of Dr Sacheverell and not printed in the London Gazette and it was subsequently disparaged by Oldmixon as being from only a few persons. In June, in order to conciliate the county, the tin contract was renewed by the crown at a favourable price, even though tin was difficult to sell in wartime. By late August Bishop Trelawny was reported to be ready to start his journey into Cornwall, where he was expected to support Whig candidates, but the end of the month saw Godolphin dismissed as lord lieutenant (one of only two lieutenancies to change hands before the general election). He was replaced by the Earl of Rochester (Laurence Hyde†) for the duration of Bath’s minority. This change in local power redounded to the advantage of George Granville, an old associate of Harley and now the senior Granville politician. On 9 Sept. it was reported by William Stratford that

a gentleman of good interest in Cornwall . . . says they are so well disposed there, that he believes Boscawen might be thrown out, if any one would oppose him. They expect Mr [George] Granville, with new commissions for the county, and are impatient of his coming, they want somebody to head them there.

At this point the other sitting member, James Buller, died, prompting Hon. James Brydges* to remark that the Tories had lost a key figure, ‘the advantage of which Mr Boscawen will not fail to render very considerable to himself’. A search began for a successor to Buller. Unwillingness among Tories at this date to challenge Boscawen was confirmed by the denial of Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt., on 3 Oct. that he intended to stand for the county. As secretary at war Granville was confined to London in the run-up to the election, so on 29 Sept. he penned a letter to the gentlemen of Cornwall who were to meet at Liskeard on 4 Oct. in order to adopt two candidates. In essence it represented a Tory manifesto for the election hoping

that I may be accepted or rejected according as my principles are approved, which are:
To support monarchy and the Church for which so many of our ancestors have sacrificed their lives and fortunes together to establish the Protestant succession beyond any possibility of dispute.
To restore the credit of the nation, which her Majesty has so happily retrieved by the late exercise of her royal authority.
To carry on the war against France with such vigour and such intentions as may produce a safe, honourable and speedy peace.
And lastly to serve the county in particular, in every respect that can any way regard to its advantage, with the utmost power and interest that I can any way collect.
I desire to be tried in these principles, I having nothing to value myself upon but having my veins so full of Cornish blood as to have the honour of being related perhaps to every one of the gentlemen to whom you may have an opportunity at this time to communicate my sentiments.

Along with his letter Granville included one from the Lord Rochester. However, an attempt to have this read gave the Whigs an opportunity to secede from the meeting, as John Manley* reported to Harley from Liskeard on 5 Oct.:

the meeting of our gentlemen yesterday was the greatest ever known on such an occasion. Mr Boscawen and Mr Edgcumbe do join, and having made a very rude opposition against reading a letter my lord president [Rochester] did the country [i.e. county] the honour to write to them, the letter was read and very much applauded, and the gentlemen very much resenting the wrong behaviour of Boscawen and Edgcumbe did agree to set up Mr Granville and Trevanion in opposition to them.

Following the adoption of Granville and Trevanion a circular letter was issued recommending them to the freeholders, signed by 27 gentlemen, and including an explanation of Rochester’s missive, which merely tendered his service to the county without naming any candidates. All was not plain sailing, however. John Buller I (who had succeeded his nephew James) had promised his backing for Edgcumbe before the Liskeard meeting, and having failed to persuade Vyvyan to stand, stuck to his resolve. Boscawen and Edgcumbe denounced the paper adopting the Tory candidates, claiming that although nearly 70 gentlemen were present at the Liskeard meeting only 27 had signed. By 16 Oct. Granville was in Cornwall ‘securing his election’, which he did in style, the Tory pairing being elected in triumph to the cry of:

          Trevanion and Granville as sound as a bell,
          For the Queen, the Church and Sacheverell!

The election was notable for Boscawen’s defeat, ‘in that county where he thought he had a birthright to it’. Whig slurs, that Granville had no estate and Trevanion was ‘a professed Roman Catholic’, seem to have had no political impact, although they did result in legal action. In August 1711 Trevanion won a verdict at Launceston assizes against a servant of Boscawen for speaking scandalous words, although he magnanimously accepted only costs and a public apology. Tory propaganda attributing to Boscawen support for Sacheverell’s impeachment was more successful, however, because people felt he would have supported it had he been in attendance on the House, rather than in Cornwall.11

Significantly, the address from Cornwall in November 1710 felt the need to state the county’s satisfaction with Rochester during the Earl of Bath’s minority. Rochester died on 2 May 1711, followed two weeks later by Bath. While pressing his own claims to a peerage as Bath’s political heir, Granville attempted to ensure that Lords Radnor and Carteret were not named as Rochester’s replacement. As he wrote to Harley on 19 May, ‘nothing can be more prejudicial to you than the appointment of Lord Radnor’. In the end Granville’s favoured nominee, the new Earl of Rochester (Henry Hyde*), succeeded his father. In the meantime Granville was attempting to use government patronage to purge the duchy of Whigs. However, Boscawen’s life patent as warden of the Stannaries and Harley’s moderation made this difficult. When Granville himself was raised to the peerage as Lord Lansdown on 1 Jan. 1712, it was reported that if Vyvyan ‘will serve there is no manner of doubt of his succeeding’. He was chosen without a contest.12

Far from weakening the Whig interest in Cornwall, the death of Lord Godolphin in September 1712 reportedly caused the Whigs to double their efforts. However, despite considerable conflict in some Cornish boroughs and much grumbling from Lansdown over the failure of Harley (now Lord Oxford) to offer a lead or respond to requests for patronage, the shire seats seemed secure for the Tories. In April 1713 Trevanion and his prospective partner, Sir William Carew, 5th Bt., ‘offered their service as knights of the shire . . . to those gentlemen that were in town, and likewise did the same by letter to the sheriff to be communicated to them at the sessions’. With Bishop Trelawny seeking an accommodation with Oxford, and Boscawen struggling to prevent a Whig rout in the boroughs, Trevanion and Carew were returned unopposed. As was variously reported, the Tories triumphed by a margin of 10 to 1 in the Cornish seats. The Hanoverian succession completely changed this picture of Tory dominance. In November 1714 Radnor was installed as lord lieutenant and Bishop Trelawny swung behind the new ministry. As a result, in the 1715 election the Whigs reversed their defeat of 1713, returning 33 Members to 11 Tories. In the county, however, Trevanion and Carew were returned unopposed after issuing a circular letter from the gentry and clergy assembled at the October sessions.13

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Daily Courant, 31 Mar. 1705.
  • 2. Cornw. RO, CO/CC/17, 1710 pollbk.
  • 3. ‘Collectanea Trelawniana’, 268 (Speck trans.).
  • 4. Hopkins thesis, 280–1; [R. Kingston], True Hist. of Several Designs . . . Against his Majesty . . . 85.
  • 5. Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; Cornw. RO, Carew Pole mss CC/FF/1, Lady Mary Carew to John Triese, 18 Oct., 5 Nov. 1695; Post Boy, 23–26 Nov. 1695.
  • 6. H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 179; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn coll. Biscoe-Maunsell newsletter 6 Aug. 1698; W. P. Courtney, Parl. Rep. Cornw. 401.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 453; Post Boy, 22–25 Nov. 1701; Warws. RO, Mordaunt mss CR 1368 III 66, Thomas Morice to Sir John Mordaunt, 5th Bt.*, 2 Dec. 1701; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 121; Add. 70075, newsletters 20, 25 Dec. 1701; London Gazette, 5–8 Jan. 1702; Strathmore mss at Glamis Castle, newsletters 6, 8 Jan. 1701–2.
  • 8. Add. 28588, ff. 47, 113–14; 28891, f. 51; Boyer, Anne Annals, ii. 158–60;
  • 9. Post Man, 3–5 Apr. 1705; Add. 70334–8, list of constituencies 7 Feb. 1704–5; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 100–1; Boyer, iv. 19; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 423; Strathmore mss, newsletter 19, 26 May 1705; Bodl. Ballard 21, f. 222; Bodl. Rawl. D.863, f. 89; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss. 17, ff. 91, 97, 102.
  • 10. L.K.J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 177; London Gazette, 8–12 Aug. 1706; Add. 28051, f. 236; Strathmore mss, newsletter 15 May 1708.
  • 11. Post Boy, 8–11 Apr. 1710, 9–11 Aug. 1711; Anne Annals ix. 160, 237; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1454; Add. 17677 DDD, ff. 469, 517, 590; 70204, Alexander Pendarves* to Harley, 20 Aug. 1710, ‘at the meeting of the gentlemen at Liskeard’; 70421, newsletter 2 Sept., 7 Nov. 1710; 70099, copy of gents. resolution at Liskeard; 70288, William Roches to Granville, 14 Nov. 1710; Oldmixon, Hist. Addresses (1711), 30; HMC Portland, iv. 584, 607; vii. 13, 17; Glassey, 192; Huntington Lib. Q. iii. 240; Morice mss at Bank of Eng. Sir Nicholas to Humphrey Morice*, 3 Oct. 1710; W. A. Speck and G. Holmes, Divided Soc. 127; Cornw. RO, Buller mss BO/23/63/3, Boscawen and Edgecumbe to James Buller, 10 Oct. 1710, Buller to Edgecumbe, 23 Oct. 1710, Edgecumbe to Buller, 24 Oct. 1710; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(4), p. 185; Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 252; BL, Evelyn mss, Samuel Thomson to John Evelyn II*, 5 Jan. 1710–11.
  • 12. London Gazette, 25–27 Nov. 1710; HMC Portland, iv. 693; v. 97; Univ. Coll. Swansea, Mackworth mss, William Shiers to Sir Humphrey Mackworth*, 26 Jan. 1711; Buller mss BO/23/63, Daniel Hawies [sic] jnr. to [–], 11 Jan. 1711[–12].
  • 13. HMC Portland, v. 233, 279, 312, 315, 322, 330–1; Post Boy, 17–19 Sept. 1713; Ballard 18, ff. 71–72; NLW, Brogyntyn mss, Sir William Pendarves* to Mrs. Boscawen, 1 Feb. 1715 (Holmes trans.); Speck, Tory and Whig, 29.