Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

42 in 1727


27 Jan. 1715JOHN WEST 
13 Mar. 1721RICHARD WEST vice Cooke, deceased 
14 Apr. 1722WILLIAM CAVENDISH, Mq. of Hartington 
1 June 1726HARTINGTON re-elected after appointment to office 
31 Jan. 1732ISAAC LEHEUP vice Morice, deceased 
9 Feb. 1739THOMAS TREFUSIS vice Hawkins,deceased 
11 May 1741DANIEL BOONE27
 Thomas Hales23
 Thomas Trefusis23
22 July 1742BOONE re-elected after appointment to office 

Main Article

At Grampound the mayor was chosen by the freemen from two candidates presented to them by the outgoing mayor and magistrates from among themselves. New freemen, whose only qualification was the payment of scot and lot, could be created by a jury consisting of the mayor, two aldermanic colleagues of his own choice (termed ‘eligers’ or ‘elizors’), and 11 freemen nominated by these three. Since the mayor was also the returning officer, he was an important figure both in the determination of the parliamentary voters and in the actual election of Members. Provided those holding the chief interests in the borough could reach agreement, every attempt was made to restrict the number of freemen (including magistrates) to about 40 or 50; but when contests arose each side, if it succeeded in capturing the mayoralty, hastened to create sufficient freemen to give it the advantage.

At the general elections of 1715 and 1722 Lord Falmouth, the Government’s electoral manager in Cornwall, and his agents Henry and Nicholas Vincent secured the return of government supporters. The most persistent of the various electoral interests was that of the Hawkins family, who by 1727 commanded sufficient influence at Grampound to secure the return of Philip Hawkins. The total cost of returning him and Humphry Morice, the administration candidate, was £1,292 8s. 6d., including £160 to the mayor, £40 each to the magistrates, and £20 each to the freemen.1

For the next decade cordial relations were maintained between Hawkins and Richard Edgcumbe, who succeeded Falmouth as government manager for the Cornish boroughs. In 1732, on Morice’s death, Isaac Leheup, brother-in-law of old Horace Walpole, was returned, and in 1734 Thomas Hales, a minor placeman, shared the representation with Philip Hawkins. But on the demise of Hawkins in 1738 Edgcumbe took advantage of the minority of Thomas Hawkins, the heir to the Hawkins estates, to secure the return of a second administration Member, Thomas Trefusis.

There followed ten years of strife between Thomas’s father, Christopher Hawkins, who took charge of the family interest, and Edgcumbe for the control of Grampound, a struggle that was given wider political significance by becoming merged in the contest waged throughout Cornwall between the Administration and the Prince of Wales. At the outset, the mayor and two magistrates supported Edgcumbe, the remaining three magistrates favoured Hawkins, and there were two vacancies on the bench. Determined to gain control by having these vacancies filled by his adherents, Edgcumbe first attempted to win over one or more of Hawkins’s friends. His subsequent actions are described by Hawkins in a letter to Richard Eliot on 1 Sept. 1739:

But now finding that all fair words and promises to induce them to return to their opposition to the name of Hawkins can prevail nothing, he at last determined to do it without ‘em, and by a most extraordinary stretch of a usurped power of his own, as recorder, and by virtue of one of King James II charters, took upon himself to vote in the election of capital burgesses, though at the same time to acknowledge that the charter was lost and not to be found on the rolls or any records above, and also admitted that none of his predecessors as recorders had ever voted in such or any case before.... And by this extraordinary power he elected and swore two magistrates. This as you may suppose has enraged not only the three magistrates my friends, but also the majority of the freemen; and is such an incident as gives me a good handle to call on my people either to propose a new colleague to me, or to give me leave to recommend one to them.2

At this time, as Hawkins records in the same letter, Thomas Pitt, the Prince’s election manager for Cornwall, conveniently appeared on the scene.

For about a month past Mr. Goss, a freeman of Grampound, has been talking to the freemen there and frequently treating them on the behalf of a gentleman whose name he has not as yet discovered to them, though I find he is strongly guessed at. Yesterday he took an opportunity and whispered to me that the gentleman whom he meant and acted for was Mr. Pitt, assuring me at the same time that he had it in command from Mr. Pitt to tell me that his intentions were to oppose Mr. Edgcumbe but was willing to act in concert with me.

Through Eliot, Hawkins intimated that he would be happy to act with Pitt, provided he formally approached the magistrates and freemen of Grampound, and was accepted by them. Presumably this was done, for a united campaign against Edgcumbe was forthwith begun. Legal action, financed by Pitt and Hawkins, was taken against the two magistrates elected under the charter, and at the assizes in 1740 their election was declared invalid. But Edgcumbe refused to admit defeat, counter attacking on the occasion of the ensuing mayoral election. The scene was described by Thomas Pitt:

On the 28th of September Mr. Pitt, Lord Falmouth, Mr. Hawkins, Mr. Gregor etc. attended at the choice of a mayor. On the other side were present Mr. Edgcumbe, Capt. [Thomas] Trefusis etc. Mr. Pitt’s party protested against the proceeding of Mr. Moor, the then pretended mayor, as unduly elected, and acting still under the charter of King James II, but Mr. Moor continued in the chair, and Mr. Edgcumbe’s party proceeded to elect one White, who was accordingly sworn into the office of mayor. The next day, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Hawkins etc., appeared in the town, and their friends in the corporation, viz. 2 magistrates and about 15 freemen assembled, according to the Statute 11th George II, to elect a new mayor. They were refused admittance into the town hall but met in the chapel near it. Mr. Pearce, senior magistrate presided, as the statute requires, the Act of Parliament was read, and Mr. Nance was chosen mayor. The new mayor, and all who were in opposition to Mr. Edgcumbe, dined with Mr. Pitt and Mr. Hawkins, and declared heartily for the country [i.e. opposition] interest.

Hawkins had no doubt that Edgcumbe’s mayor would have the same fate as his magistrates, but admitted to Sir John Molesworth that he could not be ousted till after the general election, adding:

This Mr. Edgcumbe well knew, whereby he thinks his mayor will have a pretence to the writ, and also to preside at the election; as he will then be sure of a return, his job is served, and his only purpose answered.

To nullify Edgcumbe’s action, and to ensure that their mayor would officiate at the coming election, Pitt and Hawkins, on 2 May 1741, guaranteed to indemnify the sheriff against all actions that might arise out of his delivering the precept for the election to Mr. Nance. They thus succeeded in gaining the return of their two candidates, Daniel Boone and William Banks, by 27 votes to 23. Edgcumbe’s mayor submitted a second return in which, through the rejection of the freemen sworn by Nance, the administration candidates, Thomas Hales and Thomas Trefusis, gained 35 votes to their opponents’ 17. But although they petitioned against Boone and Banks, they later declined to press their case in a House of Commons manifestly hostile to Walpole’s Administration, and Edgcumbe had to accept defeat.

In all, the Prince of Wales, who had financed the election, was called upon to pay £2,000, of which more than a quarter had gone in legal expenses. In sending £20 for each of the old freemen, and £15 for each of those newly sworn, Pitt and Hawkins instructed their agent Warwick Oben (6 June 1741):

You can best inform our friends how very heavy and expensive the law charges have already been, and must farther be in defending their liberties and privileges, and demolishing that cursed charter and its consequences. Therefore if things are not done in that handsome and generous manner we could wish, we hope they will be so good as to excuse us, and lay it to the account of those who occasioned it.3

In 1747, Pelham’s decision to hold the election a year early placed Pitt and Hawkins at an initial disadvantage. Pitt being ill at the time, and not expecting an election, had allowed the mayoralty to pass to Edgcumbe’s candidate in the previous October. But, on the Prince’s instructions, he prepared to regain lost ground and, on 12 June, reported to the Rev. Dr. Ayscough, his brother-in-law and the Prince’s clerk of the closet:

On Wednesday we went round the town and found the people, as one must expect in such a venal place, some open in promising us, and others hanging off to see what they can make of it; but none said they had promised against us, not even those who we know are determined against us, but said it was time enough to promise. ... As you tell me I am not to give up on any appearance of difficulties, I have issued forth the insidious argument plentifully; and if my colleague furnishes his equal part, it may do the business. I have likewise bid high for the mayor.

And on the following day:

As for Grampound I think we can carry it, but it must cost damnably dear. The villains have got ahead to that degree, and rise in their demands so extravagantly, that I have been very near damning them, and kicking them to the devil at once. The dirty rascals despise 20 guineas as much as a king’s sergeant does a half guinea fee. If it had not been for the order by your letter, I would not have gone on at such a rate.... If I have not a large supply speedily, all that is done will be lost.

But within a week, although he ‘supplied [his] engineers well with ammunition’ and kept up ‘an incessant fire night and day’, he had conceded one of the seats to Edgcumbe, hoping that Hawkins, who ‘sweated at the expense’, would surrender the other to him. On 29 June an agreement was drawn up whereby Edgcumbe on the one hand, and Pitt and Hawkins on the other, were to share equally the patronage and election expenses of the borough. Next day a further agreement between Pitt and Hawkins determined that they should nominate alternately to their common seat, each paying the expenses when he had the nomination. Hawkins chose to nominate his son Thomas, to which Pitt reluctantly agreed, explaining to Ayscough, 2 Aug.:

I should not have given him the option of being elected upon paying the whole expense ... but that he declared that he wanted only one turn, and that, for the future, his interest would be at my disposal; and I wanted to get rid of him in the direction of the interest, being sensible what a weight his covetous temper was upon me. He has it upon a very dear footing ... and then the money will come like drops of blood from him.4

On 3 July, Thomas Hawkins and Lord George Bentinck were returned.

From then on, relations between Pitt and Christopher Hawkins became increasingly strained. A dispute over the settlement of the 1741 and 1747 election expenses brought Pitt to the point of threatening Hawkins with the loss of his office of vice-warden of the stannaries. But the Prince was unwilling to alienate Hawkins, who had developed in conjunction with Edgcumbe a scheme for disqualifying 40 or 50 freemen, thereby reducing the cost of elections at Grampound, but wanted to know ‘on what footing I am to be for the future, as well as for time past’ before he put the plan into execution. The Prince therefore ordered a reduction in the sum Pitt had demanded from Hawkins, and as a further palliative, annexed a salary to his post as vice-warden. In return Hawkins promised to return the Prince’s candidate at the next election, confidently prophesying that the cost would not exceed £700 or £800, less than half that of his son’s election.

The disqualification of the freemen was proceeded with, and at a meeting at Mount Edgcumbe on 21 Aug. the magistrates agreed to all the details for settling the borough on a peaceful basis, including the rigging of the next mayoral election.5 But Pitt, regarding this as an attempt to undermine his interest at Grampound, espoused the cause of the dispossessed freemen. At the election of the mayor on 25 Sept., there was an open breach between him and Hawkins. To Ayscough he denounced Hawkins’s ‘treacherous and base’ behaviour, while Hawkins in turn complained of Pitt’s ‘passion and resentment’.6 It seemed for a time as if the quarrel, encouraging the desire of the freemen to increase their bargaining power, would reduce the borough to chaos; but Pitt’s impending financial ruin soon compelled him to withdraw.

The Prince then nominated Robert Andrews, his auditor-general for Cornwall, to take over the management of his interest in Grampound, and an agreement was concluded between Andrews and Hawkins. But when, on Frederick’s death in 1751, the Princess dowager declined to meddle with elections, Hawkins and Andrews took their joint interest to Henry Pelham.7

Author: J. B. Owen


  • 1. Hawkins mss, ‘Grampound election 1727, account of charges’.
  • 2. Hawkins mss.
  • 3. Ibid.; Chatham mss.
  • 4. HMC Fortescue, i. 110, 111, 114, 119, 121, 127.
  • 5. Ibid. 127-9; Hawkins to Oben, 25 Sept. 1747, and Thos. Jones to Hawkins, 2 July 1748, ‘Minutes of resolution relating to Grampound affairs’, Hawkins mss.
  • 6. HMC Fortescue, i. 130-1.
  • 7. Add. 32862, ff. 343-4, 345, 351-2.