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 and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 500


15 Apr. 1754Anthony Langley Swymmer 
 Hans Stanley 
6 Dec. 1757Stanley re-elected after appointment to office 
29 Mar. 1760Henry Dawkins vice Swymmer, deceased 
27 Mar. 1761Hans Stanley 
 Henry Dawkins 
15 Jan. 1765Stanley re-elected after appointment to office 
15 Dec. 1766Stanley re-elected after appointment to office 
16 Mar. 1768Hans Stanley 
 Henry Temple, Visct. Palmerston 
21 May 1770Stanley re-elected after appointment to office 
7 Oct. 1774Hans Stanley356
 John Fleming 303
 Lord Charles Montagu88
6 Nov. 1776Stanley re-elected after appointment to office 
29 Jan. 1780John Fuller vice Stanley, deceased 
12 Sept. 1780John Fuller264
 Hans Sloane249
 John Fleming237
3 Apr. 1784John Fleming 
 James Amyatt 

Main Article

Although Southampton apparently never went to the poll during the first 20 years of this period, it was an open borough. In a list drawn up for Newcastle about the end of March 1754, it was marked as ‘contested’, with Abel Walter, a local man, as third candidate.1 He had announced his candidature in a letter in the London Evening Post, 2-5 Feb. 1754, but seems to have withdrawn before the election. The possibility of an opposition was again mentioned before Stanley’s re-election in 1757, and the Walter interest is discussed in a letter from Stanley’s agent Matthew Woodford.2 In May 1762 Stanley declined a seat at the Treasury Board, saying that a by-election would be attended with some hazard.

In 1767 Lord Palmerston, a close friend and neighbour of Stanley, started cultivating an interest at Southampton. On 19 Sept. 1767 he wrote to his fiancée about ‘a wild Mr. Maguire’ who intends ‘coming down here soon again and bringing such loads of rupees with him as shall buy the town’; but Palmerston was satisfied that Maguire could do him no detriment:3

The number of persons at Southampton who are not to be bought with money is very great, and whenever they unite, which happily they do in the present case, the lower sort, though they may make a noise for a time, neither can, nor dare resist them, and even of these, three in four are under absolute promise and there are not many that would break a direct engagement.

When in May 1770 Stanley had to seek re-election, he ‘had little trouble at Southampton’ wrote Thomas Whately to George Grenville, 22 May, ‘and none on the day of election. If Mr. Browne, an inhabitant of the place had stood, it is thought the contest would have been warm, but the person who came down, accompanied with Parson Horne, made no figure.’4

In August 1774 Palmerston, although assured by Stanley that he would have ‘a quiet and easy election’, decided not to stand again at Southampton. Stanley wrote to him on 6 Aug.:5

As you desire to convey my thoughts to Lord North, I will beg of you to say, that I do not at present see any other expedient to prevent infinite confusion at Southampton, than communicating your intention to Mr. Fleming, of whose political conduct I have good hopes, but do not pretend to answer for him; if he declines standing, I shall retrench myself upon my own ground, and cannot engage for the support of any second person.

And in a postscript on the following day he begged Palmerston to send him by express two letters: one to the corporation; and the other to Fleming, disclaiming any intention of interfering with the choice of his successor, but giving him, from personal regard, the first notice of his retiring.

My reason for wishing you to write to Mr. Fleming is that his offer may not appear my entire suggestion, which would have the air of my pretending to recommend two Members and occasion a good deal of jealousy.

Thus Stanley, while unable to answer for Fleming, was willing to join with him—which lends colour to the account of that election given by the English Chronicle in 1781: ‘At the general election of 1774, Mr. Fleming, a neighbouring gentleman, of considerable fortune and independent principles, raised so formidable an opposition in the town, as bid fair either to overturn the interest of Mr. Stanley, or to subject him to the most extravagant expense.’ Consequently ‘a coalition of interests’ was formed. This had the approval of Government: when Lord Charles Montagu was about to offer his candidature ‘upon the recommendation of the Duke of Cumberland’, Lord North wrote to Lord Dartmouth, 2 Oct. 1774, asking him to try to dissuade Lord Charles from standing against two ‘friends of Government’.6 But Montagu replied that he had so far pledged himself to the freemen of Southampton as to make it impossible for him to retire. Montagu petitioned against Fleming’s return on the ground of his being high sheriff, but this was rejected as Southampton was ‘a county of itself’, and not under the sheriff of Hampshire.

According to the account in the English Chronicle, on the death of Stanley in January 1780, ‘Mr. Fleming considering the nomination of the candidate to be in Mr. Sloane, Mr. Stanley’s political heir, never interfered in the matter, but left Mr. Sloane to introduce his brother-in-law Mr. Fuller, whose name was not so much as known to the inhabitants.’

By the time Robinson was drawing up his electoral survey in July 1780, Fleming was classed as an opponent, and Robinson was obviously hoping for a local opposition to him. He wrote: ‘A contest is talked of here against Mr. Fleming. Mr. Fuller is thought safe. Mr. Woodford has talked of offering himself, and also Sir Andrew Hamond, who is thought to stand most favourably.’ According to the English Chronicle, Sloane started by canvassing for ‘Mr. Fuller and friend’, and then ‘suddenly offered himself a candidate ... and after a sharp contest of a few days, conducted with mutual zeal on both sides, succeeded against Mr. Fleming’ by a very narrow margin. In the city archives of Southampton there is ‘An account of the expenses on the canvass and at the election’ of Fuller and Sloane, which under the heading ‘To cash paid voters who chose money’ books only £26 10s.

Toward the end of December 1783 Robinson’s estimate of the two sitting Members seems to have been undetermined, but finally the Government came out against both. The Morning Post of 29 Mar. 1784 reported five candidates at Southampton: Fleming, Amyatt, and Woodford, supporters of Pitt; and Penruddocke Wyndham and Henry Dawkins, supporters of the Fox-North party. Fleming and Amyatt were returned without a poll.

Of the eight Members who represented Southampton 1754-90 every one was a Hampshire squire, and none a naval officer—Southampton never ranked as an Admiralty borough, although Government influence in it was of a certain importance. There was in the borough an independent local element, but although local men, in 1754 Walter and in 1780 Woodford, are mentioned as possible candidates, no genuine burgess represented the borough during this period. Four of the eight Members belonged to a cousinhood, West Indian or with West Indian connexions: A. L. Swymmer, Hans Stanley, Hans Sloane, and John Fuller; and Henry Dawkins was a West Indian of the Dawkins-Pennant-Morant group. At the end of the period (1784) a nabob, James Amyatt, obtained a seat.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Add. 32995, ff. 138-41.
  • 2. Add. 32873, ff. 496-7.
  • 3. Connell, Portrait of a Whig Peer, 83, 92.
  • 4. Grenville mss (JM).
  • 5. Connell, 114-15.
  • 6. HMC Dartmouth, i. 364.