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 burgage holders paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

111 in 1699


24 Feb. 1690Charles Cheyne, Visct. Newhaven [S]  
 John Speccot  
16 Dec. 1690John Morice  vice Visct. Newhaven, chose to sit for Harwich  
 Narcissus Luttrell  
14 Nov. 1695John Morice  
 Charles Cheyne, Visct. Newhaven [S]  
4 Aug. 1698Hon. John Granville  
 John Morice  
27 Jan. 1699Francis Stratford vice Morice, chose to sit for Saltash3924
 John Prideaux72541
15 Jan. 1701Francis Stratford  
 John Prideaux  
 John Morice  
 Hon. John Granville  
3 Dec. 1701William Pole  
 John Spark  
27 July 1702Sir Nicholas Morice, Bt.  
 John Spark  
22 May 1705Sir Nicholas Morice, Bt.  
 John Spark  
21 Jan. 1707Sir John Pole,  Bt. vice Spark, deceased  
17 May 1708Sir Nicholas Morice,  Bt.  
 Sir William Pole, Bt.  
21 Oct. 1710Sir Nicholas Morice, Bt.  
 George Courtenay  
27 Dec. 1711Courtenay re-elected after appointment to office  
7 Sept. 1713Sir Nicholas Morice, Bt.  
 Humphry Morice  

Main Article

Newport was in effect a suburb of Launceston, and suffered under a rudimentary form of manorial government. The lords of the manor were the Morices of Werrington, at whose court leet were chosen the two vianders, who acted as returning officers. For most of William iii’s reign the lord of the manor was Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt., a minor, and the patronage was exercised by his uncle and trustee Nicholas Morice†, a Whig, who continued to control the interest until his nephew’s coming of age. Other important figures included the Manatons, whose estate at Trecarrell lay only about four miles away, and who owned many burgages in the borough, and John Speccot, whose seat at Penheale was five miles from the borough.2

In 1690 Speccot was re-elected, although on this occasion he was not joined by a member of the Morice family, his partner from the Convention, Sir William Morice, 1st Bt.†, having died a few weeks before the poll. Instead, the second seat seems to have fallen under Speccot’s influence as Lord Cheyne, an outsider, was returned. Cheyne had recently married the widow of John Robartes, Earl of Radnor, and shortly afterwards, in April 1689, Speccot had married her daughter, Lady Essex Robartes. Cheyne restored the local church at his own expense, but then vacated the seat, choosing to sit for Harwich. This enabled John Morice, brother of Sir William, 1st Bt., and Nicholas, to be returned at the by-election, defeating Narcissus Luttrell*, who was standing on the Manaton interest. Luttrell’s petition, presented on 31 Dec., was withdrawn ‘by reason the prayer thereof was conceived to be irregular’. It was presented again and read on 1 Jan. 1691, setting forth

that the petitioner was duly elected by the majority of the electors of the borough of Newport in the county of Cornwall; and an indenture sealed by Mr Manaton [Ambrose], a Member of this House, and one of the vianders of the said borough, and the majority of the burgesses. But that, by an indenture under the seal of Mr Howell, the other viander, and some others, John Morice Esq. is returned, in prejudice of the petitioner.

The case was ordered to be heard at the bar, but was not heard before the end of this session. By the beginning of the next, the Morices had found Luttrell a seat elsewhere so he did not pursue his petition. In 1695, Lady Carew (widow of Sir John, 3rd Bt.*, and sister of the young Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt.) wrote that she would not recommend her uncle John Morice to Saltash as he had already approached Nicholas Morice (her uncle) with a request for his seat at Newport. Morice was duly returned unopposed with Cheyne.3

Morice was joined in 1698 by John Granville, son of the Earl of Bath, and an important leader of the Tories in the Commons. When Morice chose to sit for Saltash, Francis Stratford, a Hamburg merchant, an army contractor and an outsider, was brought in by Nicholas Morice, defeating John Prideaux, Lord Bath’s nephew and a local man, who had the support of Speccot, Henry Manaton*, and William Cary*. Prideaux petitioned on 16 Feb. 1699 on the grounds that

the petitioner had a majority of 34 voices, duly qualified; yet the vianders, who, with the freeholders and inhabitants, ought to have made the return, withdrew themselves from the said borough without declaring who was duly elected, though demanded thereto by the petitioner, and his electors, and, in another county, by themselves alone, signed a return from Mr Stratford.

After he had renewed his petition on 16 Nov. a report from the committee of elections was ordered for 14 Mar. 1700, although on that day a motion to hear the report was lost on a division. It was then ordered for the 19th, but no proceedings occurred on that day. Prideaux’s printed case, prepared after the committee’s deliberations and designed to influence the full House, detailed Nicholas Morice’s ‘arbitrary’ conduct as viander and his indemnifying his fellow viander, William Isbell, ‘a poor man’, with a bond of £1,000. Stratford, it seems, objected to all but nine of Prideaux’s votes as unqualified, but Prideaux felt that after due objections had been allowed he had a majority of 54 to 24. Prideaux’s response to accusations of bribery was to note that his treating of electors followed the practice laid down by John Speccot over the previous 14 years. After the failure of the House to consider the committee’s decision, Prideaux brought an action in the court of common pleas against the viander for making a false return:

this went to a trial in Cornwall, and there was a special verdict found; and the question was, whether this action would lie before the Commons had determined the right of election? And the whole court unanimously gave judgment, that the action could not be brought till the matter had been first brought before the House of Commons, and they had determined the right.4

At the election to the first Parliament of 1701 Stratford stood with John Morice and Prideaux joined Granville. Stratford and Prideaux were returned. Granville petitioned on 13 Feb. that

the vianders, being prevailed on by unjustifiable practices, went from the place of election, without declaring the majority; and refused a scrutiny; and have arbitrarily and falsely returned Francis Stratford Esq., having declared their resolutions so to do, before the election, if he had but ten votes.

The same day a petition was presented from the burgage holders, saying that Granville and Prideaux had been ‘duly chosen by a vast majority’ and that the return made by the vianders was ‘chiefly transacted’ by Nicholas Morice, who ‘as a continuance of his arbitrary proceedings, got, last Michaelmas, a mean tailor, that works for a groat a day, and his nephew’s servant, to be chosen vianders’. Another allegation against Morice was ‘that twice in seven years he got himself chosen a viander, though not a freeholder [burgage holder], which is contrary to the ancient custom of the said borough, to overcome the tenants, and return whom he pleases to Parliament’, and had got a servant chosen viander ‘while a school-boy’. Nothing was done by the House, and Granville and the inhabitants withdrew their respective petitions on 7 May. Whatever conflicts had been engendered in the borough by the previous two elections seem to have been ended in time for the uncontested return in December 1701 of William Pole, nephew of John and Nicholas Morice, and John Spark, cousin and heir to John Speccot.

The 1702 election marked the coming of age of Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt., a Tory, unlike his Morice uncles, and he was returned unopposed with Spark. The same partnership was unopposed in 1705. The death of Spark gave effective control of both seats to Morice. On the day of the by-election in January 1707 Morice wrote that Sir John Pole, 3rd Bt. (father of William Pole, and brother-in-law of John and Nicholas Morice), ‘will carry it without any competition’. In 1708 (Sir) William Pole (4th Bt.) replaced his father, who had died in March. Indeed, Morice’s only worry concerned a technical matter relating to the return. On 14 May he had written:

at Newport I do not see how they can proceed legally, to an election before the Parliament sits to do business and send a new writ for that place, for there should be two vianders which make but one officer. At the court leet kept at Michaelmas two vianders were chosen, but one of them, Mr Rowe of Endilion, was never admitted nor sworn, and at this time lies dangerously sick at Bath. . . . No new viander can be chosen till next Michaelmas, and to sit in the House of Commons without a return from the proper officer subjects a man to the penalty of a commitment to the Tower of London.

However, this did not hinder the election taking place on the 21st. When Pole stood for Devon in 1710, Sir Nicholas Morice had to refuse a seat to his Whig cousin, Humphry Morice, being ‘obliged for the quiet of that county to bring in George Courtenay at Newport, or else Sir William [Pole] had never been chosen’. In 1712 John Trevanion* summed up the political position in the borough: the representation, he wrote, was ‘entirely in Sir Nicholas Morice’. As late as 17 Aug. 1713 Morice had ‘not yet made a public declaration of his design’ to recommend Humphry Morice to the borough, but in the event both Morices were returned unopposed a few weeks later.5

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Both figures from Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF/4107(a), Case of John Prideaux [1701].
  • 2. Willis, Not. Parl. ii. 161–3.
  • 3. A. F. Robbins, Launceston, 235, 237; Cornw. RO, Carew Pole mss CC/FF/1, Lady Carew to J. Treise, 18 Oct. 1695.
  • 4. Case of John Prideaux; Howell, State Trials, xiv. 720–1.
  • 5. Bank of Eng. Morice mss, Nicholas to Humphry Morice, 21 Jan. 1706[–7], 14 May 1708, Sir Nicholas to same, 3 Oct. 1710, Richard Blighe to Humphry Morice, 17 Aug. 1713; Add. 70314–15, Trevanion’s list.