Double Member Borough

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

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 2,000


30 Apr. 1754John Hardman1236
 Thomas Salusbury746
 Edward Lloyd552
19 Dec. 1755Ellis Cunliffe vice Hardman, deceased 
19 Mar. 1756Charles Pole vice Salusbury, deceased 
13 Apr. 1761Sir Ellis Cunliffe1163
 Sir William Meredith1138
 Charles Pole1041
26 Dec. 1765Meredith re-elected after appointment to office 
4 Dec. 1767Richard Pennant vice Cunliffe, deceased 
21 Mar. 1768Sir William Meredith 
 Richard Pennant 
19 Mar. 1774Meredith re-elected after appointment to office 
10 Oct. 1774Sir William Meredith 
 Richard Pennant 
16 Sept. 1780Bamber Gascoyne jun.608
 Henry Rawlinson572
 Richard Pennant462
4 May 1784Bamber Gascoyne jun.959
 Richard Pennant, Baron Penrhyn869
 Banastre Tarleton856
 Sir William Meredith131

Main Article

The politics of Liverpool turned on the conflict between the Anglican-dominated corporation and an independent party supported by the Dissenters; and the names Whig and Tory were used to distinguish the two sides. But political divisions at Liverpool did not necessarily correspond with those at Westminster. The Government had some influence through the customs appointments and the merchants need for Government favours, but there was in no sense a Government interest.

In 1754 Hardman seems to have stood on the independent interest, Salusbury and Lloyd on that of the corporation. About the 1761 election Ellis Cunliffe, a Liverpool merchant who had been returned on Hardman’s death in 1756, wrote to Newcastle on 6 Apr.:1

About four months ago my townsmen declared me unanimously a proper candidate to represent them in Parliament. At the instance of some of the principal merchants I afterwards joined Mr. Pole. On this Mr. Charles Townshend threatened an opposition but soon declined offering himself. Sir William Meredith since took advantage of the ferment raised by this disappointment and offered himself. By bringing down the London votes and other extraordinary expenses, but more by the present situation of the lower tradesmen (the great demand for journeymen rendering them independent of their employers) Sir William to our surprise had obtained a majority of Mr. Pole ... I have however the satisfaction to have spared no cost or pains to preserve the Whig interest, and am persuaded should our adversary prove victorious, he will be discouraged from all future attempts to subvert it.

According to Meredith, writing to Edmund Burke 28 Oct. 1767,

No man ever stood better with his constituents than Sir Ellis Cunliffe did at Liverpool when I first went there. He sunk himself daily and gradually by supporting his colleague ... Pole, himself an honest, unexceptionable man, but the temper of the people was to choose a Member independent of the corporation, and by resisting that temper Sir Ellis Cunliffe’s influence was lost entirely.

Meredith, an assiduous electioneer, set about strengthening his interest with the help of Government patronage. He had to face opposition from Bamber Gascoyne, who had through his wife the estate of Childwall, near Liverpool. Meredith wrote to Charles Jenkinson on 12 Oct. 1763:

I hear that Gascoyne is making interest at Liverpool, where he is sure to [be] joined by a great part of the corporation. ... But without a mayor the rest of the corporation are insignificant, and a Mr. Campbell, a friend of ours, is in nomination, and I do not find they will oppose him: if they do we shall struggle for it. ... But if we do not get a mayor now, Gascoyne or the Devil may come in for me.

And on 25 Oct.:2

Everything turned out at Liverpool beyond my hopes. My friend was elected mayor, and the division among the gentlemen who opposed me so much greater than I expected, especially in the corporation, that no acts of power can be effected now, and the interest of my friends has now some reality and foundation, and I hope all divisions will cease.

In 1765 Meredith took office with the Rockinghams and had to stand for re-election. The corporation applied to Lord Strange for a candidate to oppose him, and on Strange’s failure to provide one, to Gascoyne; who, after consulting Sandwich and Grenville, recommended Topham Beauclerk, the friend of Dr. Johnson.3 But Beauclerk, apparently daunted by the expense, withdrew, and the corporation could find no one to replace him.

In June 1767 Meredith succeeded in getting Richard Pennant adopted by his friends to stand with him on a joint interest at the coming general election. Pennant’s father was a Liverpool merchant, and he himself through his mother owned large plantations in Jamaica. Meredith, confident of success, told Portland, 6 July 1767,4 that his object was,

that my original friends should nominate both Members, and I wanted to engage them before any union could be proposed betwixt Sir Ellis Cunliffe and me, which must have happened had I waited till the end of the session; for he then intended coming down, and a great body of men who first opposed me and are now reconciled would have proposed a union in such terms that I could not have declined it.

Cunliffe died in October 1767, and Pennant was returned without a poll. Meredith wrote to Burke, 28 Oct.: ‘Tarleton gave up his opposition on Thursday last. I was there a week, and am certain that 400 votes out of 2,500 would not have been got against Pennant.’

In 1774 Meredith and Pennant were returned unopposed, but by 1780 Gascoyne and the corporation had won control; Meredith retired from the contest, and Pennant declined on the fifth day of the poll. In 1784 Pennant (now Lord Penrhyn) won back his seat, and the corporation retained the other.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 32921, f. 346.
  • 2. Add. 38201, ff. 186-7, 205.
  • 3. Sandwich to Grenville, 14 Aug. 1765, Strange to Grenville, 23 Aug. 1765, Grenville (JM) mss.
  • 4. Portland mss.