Double Member County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 2,500


1 May 1754Sir John Molesworth 
 James Buller 
8 Apr. 1761Sir John St. Aubyn 
 James Buller 
15 May 1765John Molesworth vice Buller, deceased 
29 Mar. 1768Sir John St. Aubyn 
 Sir John Molesworth 
16 Dec. 1772Humphrey Mackworth Praed vice St. Aubyn, deceased 
 William Lemon 
25 Oct 1774Sir William Lemon1099
 Sir John Molesworth1050
 John Buller jun.960
 Humphrey Mackworth Praed890
15 Nov. 1775Edward Eliot vice Molesworth, deceased 
13 Sept. 1780Sir William Lemon 
 Edward Eliot 
25 Feb. 1784Sir William Molesworth vice Eliot, called to the Upper House 
21 Apr. 1784Sir William Molesworth 
 Sir William Lemon 

Main Article

The last election before 1772 to go to the poll was in 1710. Both Sir Robert Walpole and Henry Pelham discouraged giving any opposition to the Tory country gentlemen in the choice of knights of the shire for fear of their retaliating in the boroughs; and the representation of the county remained uncontested in the inter-married Tory families of Carew, Molesworth, St. Aubyn and Buller. An attempt to break through their quasi-monopoly was made in 1753 when Admiral Edward Boscawen promoted a third Tory candidate, Robert Hoblyn, who, however, was soon withdrawn.1 Much more serious, and disturbing both to the Government and the Cornish borough owning families, including the Boscawens themselves, was the Admiral’s own candidature declared at the county meeting at Bodmin on 5 Oct. 1760. One of the arguments used was that ‘the only honour the county can confer’ should not be confined to a few families, but that there should be ‘rotation’ and that ‘gentlemen should give way to one another, where there are equal pretensions’.2 Of the two sitting Members Sir John Molesworth withdrew, unwilling to face a contest, and James Buller apparently took the initiative to join interests with Admiral Boscawen: this displeased a good many Tory country gentlemen who considered that the opinion of the county should first have been taken; and a second county meeting was called for 3 Nov. at which Sir John St. Aubyn was put up in place of Molesworth. The Admiral’s death on 10 Jan. 1761 obviated a contest.

A broadsheet published at the general election of 17743 alleged that on the vacancy at the end of 1772 Sir John Molesworth, while ‘he declared himself perfectly neutral’, had in fact ‘with difficulty and entreaty prevailed with Praed to stand’, and supported him from the moment he was named at the county meeting. (In January 1771 Praed became associated with Lemon in the Miners’ Bank at Truro, but soon left it, and in June 1771 joined Molesworth in starting the Cornish Bank, also at Truro—which presumably had some significance in the relations between the three men.) Lemon was defeated; but was again nominated at the county meeting, 27 Sept. 1774, held to select candidates for the general election, when 231 declared for Molesworth and Lemon, and only 163 for Molesworth and Praed. Although all three candidates had declared ‘that they would be decided by the sense of the meeting’, when Praed found himself in a minority, according to the broadsheet, he and Molesworth ‘began quibbling about the weight of property, and rejecting the inferior freeholders out of the list’: whereupon John Buller jun., a brother-in-law of Lemon, was declared joint candidate with him. The issues were personal and not political: Molesworth mostly voted with the Opposition; Praed, although he had voted against the Government on the Middlesex resolution, 26 Apr. 1773, and on Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774, was normally a Government supporter; Lemon henceforth steadily voted against the Government; and Buller, who in the past had usually voted with the Opposition, henceforth adhered to the Government. The result of the poll confirmed the verdict of the preliminary meeting, Molesworth and Lemon being elected.

All the elections for the county between 1774 and 1790 were uncontested, without even any serious preliminary opposition canvass.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. See BOSCAWEN, Hon. Edward.
  • 2. John Harris of Haine to Jas. Buller, 14 Oct. 1760, Buller mss.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, Truro.