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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 50


22 Apr. 1754Robert Clive30
 John Stephenson30
 Simon Luttrell25
 Richard Hussey25
 LUTTRELL and HUSSEY vice Clive and Stephenson, on petition, 24 Mar. 1755 
31 Mar. 1761John Stephenson 
 James Scawen 
21 Mar. 1768James Scawen 
 John Stephenson 
 Francis Vernon, Baron Orwell 
 David Wedderburn 
11 Oct. 1774James Scawen 
 John Stephenson 
29 Dec. 1774Thomas Howard vice Scawen, chose to sit for Surrey 
22 Sept. 1779Francis Hale vice Howard, called to the Upper House 
12 Sept. 1780William Hanger 
 Francis Hale 
6 Apr. 1784David Howell27
 Roger Wilbraham21
 Christopher Hawkins21
 William Boscawen15
 Double return for second seat. 
 HAWKINS declared elected, 21 June 1784 

Main Article

The lord of the manor of Mitchell in 1754 was Lord Arundell of Wardour, a Roman Catholic who took no active part in politics. The five deputy or ‘mene’ lords were Lord Falmouth, Lord Edgcumbe, Sir Richard Vivian, Thomas Scawen, and Charles Courtenay, one of whom had to be chosen portreeve and returning officer. Admiral Edward Boscawen put the number of voters at 42, assigning 17 to Vivian, nine to Edgcumbe, six to Falmouth, three to Arundell, and seven to the other two deputy lords. Scawen claimed that he and Lord Sandwich (acting for his nephew Courtenay, then a minor) had between them 24 sure votes, ‘all their own tenants at will’, and some influence ‘over several of the remaining twelve voters’. Their 24 may have included the 17 of Vivian—‘if I am rightly informed’, wrote Hardwicke to Newcastle, 11 Oct. 1753, ‘Mr. Scawen has a long lease of Sir Richard Vivian’s share’. In June 1760 Edgcumbe’s steward described the Mitchell voters as ‘in general low, indigent people’ who ‘will join such of the under lords from whom they have reason to expect most money and favours’.1

In 1747 the choice of Members was left by the other deputy lords to Scawen and Courtenay. Scawen accepted Hardwicke’s recommendation of Thomas Clarke, and the other candidate was picked by Sandwich, then a Government supporter. By 1753 Sandwich was in opposition, and Henry Pelham, not realizing the intricacies of the situation at Mitchell, agreed to Richard Hussey standing on the Boscawen interest, provided this did not hurt Clarke. But when at the end of August the Boscawens opened their campaign at Mitchell, they canvassed for two. Scawen, told that this was countenanced by the Treasury, appealed to Hardwicke who took up the matter with Pelham.2

I have seen Mr. Scawen this morning [wrote Pelham to Hardwicke, 12 Sept. 1753] and I hope satisfied him in what relates to myself, but he like many others takes for granted that one in my situation has nothing to do but to give the word and he shall be immediately obeyed. I do not find mankind so very docile. ... I shall write however to Admiral Boscawen ... and to Lord Edgcumbe.

Next Hardwicke turned to Edgcumbe: ‘I look upon this affair as concerning myself personally, and I request it as a favour that you put an end to this disagreeable contest.’ Edgcumbe replied that two deputy lords must not claim exclusive control of the borough and that Sandwich’s candidate was a Tory—the issue of ‘Toryism’ was dragged into an election which had nothing to do with old party divisions. Newcastle, prodded by Hardwicke, tried to make Pelham intervene, but to no effect. Things had gone too far for anyone to recede. Clarke withdrew, being unwilling to engage in a contest, and was replaced as the Scawen candidate by Robert Clive, newly returned from India (his cousin Sir Edward Clive had sat for Mitchell on Scawen’s interest from 1741 to 1745). Clive and Stephenson stood as joint candidates against Simon Luttrell and Richard Hussey on the combined Edgcumbe-Boscawen interest.3

The victory of Clive and Stephenson was followed by a petition from their opponents, over which a highly interesting struggle developed in the House. For once Newcastle and Hardwicke were in open disagreement, Newcastle supporting Edgcumbe and Boscawen. Fox, with one foot in the Government camp, acted as manager in the Commons for the sitting Members, i.e. for his friend Sandwich, still in opposition to the Government. With the court Members pretty evenly divided, the Tories, had they acted as a party, could have effectively manoeuvred, which William Beckford and John Philipps tried to make them do. But while some adhered to previous engagements, the majority voted ‘only upon the merits [of the case], which were very strong with the petitioners’, and carried the question for them.4

There is an abundance of material for the election of 1754, but the subsequent story of Mitchell is by no means clear. By 1780 one seat was in possession of the Scawen family and the other of Lord Falmouth. In 1781 James Scawen appears to have sold his property at Mitchell to Sir Francis Basset and a fresh struggle developed for control of the borough. At the general election of 1784 Howell and Wilbraham stood on Basset’s interest, Hawkins and Boscawen on Falmouth’s. Howell came head of the poll and a double return was made for the second seat, Wilbraham and Hawkins having obtained an equal number of votes. Each side accused the other of bribery and Hawkins was seated on petition. This was followed, according to Oldfield, by an agreement between Falmouth and Basset to share the borough.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32734, ff. 303-4; 35592, ff. 150-2; 32907, ff. 461-2.
  • 2. Add. 35592, ff. 143-5; 35423, f. 162.
  • 3. Add. 35592, ff. 158-9, 160-2, 186; 32732, f. 734; 32733, ff. 16-17, 50-51, 80-81.
  • 4. Namier, Personalities and Powers, 67-70.