Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

rising to 1,700


(1801): 10,498


19 June 1790GEORGE GIPPS I809
 Basil William Douglas, Lord Daer579
 Hon. Lewis Thomas Watson392
28 May 1796JOHN BAKER777
 Sir John Honywood, Bt.734
 George Gipps I716
  Election declared void, 2 Mar. 1797 
10 Mar. 1797JOHN BAKER485
 Sir John Honywood, Bt.195
 George Gipps I185
 HONYWOOD and GIPPS vice Baker and Sawbridge, on petition, 12 May 1797 
27 Feb. 1800 HON. GEORGE WATSON vice Gipps, deceased572
 Joseph Royle248
29 Oct. 1806JOHN BAKER 
2 Feb. 1807 SAMUEL ELIAS SAWBRIDGE vice Simmons, deceased 
12 May 1807JOHN BAKER901
 Stephen Rumbold Lushington673
 Robert Townsend Farquhar503
 Edward Taylor329
 EDWARD BLIGH, Lord Clifton861
 John Baker655
 Joseph Royle8
 Edward Taylor4

Main Article

Of nine Members elected for Canterbury in this period only one, Lushington, cut any kind of figure in the House, for all the fierce contests that they faced to get there. Only citizens or Kentish gentry won the seats, and as over two-fifths of the large and growing electorate were non-resident, candidates could expect much expense. This was exacerbated, as at Maidstone, by the party rivalry between Reds and Blues, the latter supporting the Whigs. In 1790 the ministerialist candidates supported by the corporation Reds were Gipps and Honywood, the latter replacing Charles Robinson, the recorder, who was retiring. They were opposed for the Blues by Lord Daer, who received financial assistance from the Whig funds. It would seem that a ‘Mr Beckford’ (?Richard Beckford*) had previously started as a Whig, but had withdrawn. Lord Sondes’s son was put up, without consent, as Daer’s second string. Daer did better than expected, but he and his absent colleague were defeated. By October 1791 Pitt was assured by Sir John Honywood that even if he vacated his seat to take disqualifying office, Daer’s prospects had diminished considerably.1 Daer died in 1794.

A fresh opposition to the sitting Members was started in October 1795 by John Baker, a citizen banker, and Samuel Egerton Brydges*. They were supposed to be subsidized by the nabob Paul Benfield*, but this proved ‘a Canterbury tale’ and Brydges withdrew. Baker persevered, and allied with Sawbridge, a country Whig, defeated the Members after ‘the greatest neglect and mismanagement’ on the Red side. The number of voters rose from 1,339 in 1790 to 1,505 in 1796, after four days’ poll instead of three. Only 14 voters plumped and only 116 gave cross-votes (i.e. contrary to party lines). Only among the Kent outvoters did the defeated candidates have the edge on Baker and Sawbridge. The votes of paupers, accepted until 1790, were objected to by counsel for Gipps and Honywood, but they did not affect the result and no scrutiny took place. Nevertheless, a petition against the return alleging bribery and corruption succeeded and the election was voided. A counter-petition on behalf of Baker and Sawbridge was found ‘frivolous and vexatious’. The same candidates stood again, and Baker and Sawbridge, who mustered the outvoters, were again returned, but their opponents, who like them had refused to open public houses or distribute cockades, petitioned that they were ineligible in view of the decision of the House. Public notice of this had been given to the electors. The petition was successful, and although a counter-petition was accepted by the House, against the contention that it was presented in collusion with Baker and Sawbridge, it was found ‘frivolous and vexatious’ by the committee. The resentful Blues petitioned again, but both petitions were discharged. Attempts had been made to interest a variety of potential candidates in taking up the Blue challenge, but George James, Samuel Ferrand Waddington, John Monckton Hale and ‘Mr Breton’ all declined; nor did the Whig managers take up a proposal to induce Sir William Manners* to sponsor Col. Twentyman.2

For the next decade the excitement of Canterbury elections subsided. On Gipps’s death in 1800, Lucius Concannon* and Samuel Farrand Waddington, who hoped to take advantage of the odium arising out of a case of forestalling in the hop trade recently exposed in court, were interested, but until the by-election came on the only candidate was Watson, brother of the absentee candidate of 1790. The mayor Royle, a distiller, was put up against him, but took no steps to challenge Watson, who mustered the London outvote. The ‘greatest caution’ was exercised—no colours appeared—and the poll was sluggish. Royle’s supporters did not pursue their petition against the return.3 A contest was avoided in 1802, when Honywood found a seat elsewhere and let in Baker; likewise in 1806, when Watson withdrew and let in Alderman Simmons, a respected local benefactor, on whose death soon afterwards Sawbridge came in unopposed. Thus in January 1807 the Blues had recaptured their vantage point of 1796, without a struggle; but at the general election in May they were challenged.

The threat came from the ‘nabob’ Gen. George Harris, a local resident, encouraged by Lord Wellesley, who looked to the Portland ministry for a peerage. He put up two other nabobs, his son-in-law Lushington and Robert Townsend Farquhar, a stranger who promised residence and support for the late James Simmons’s pet project of a canal to link Canterbury with the sea. The nabobs had Treasury approval, but had to deny that they had Treasury funds. The expense was about £4,000 to £5,000 for each candidate. They promised an all-out contest if necessary. Sawbridge thereupon declined a contest. Privately Lushington wished to accept a compromise proposal from Baker, but Farquhar would not withdraw any more than he would allow Lushington to withdraw for his benefit; if Lushington did so, he would make Samuel Egerton Brydges his running partner. Baker was embarrassed: the Blues resented his abstention on the issue that had brought down the Grenville ministry and accused him of trimming in order to make a bargain for his re-election with the new ministry. He appealed to Sawbridge’s friends to withhold their votes and produced a running partner, Taylor of Bifrons, a country gentleman whose politics were a matter of speculation. They defeated the nabobs in a poll of 1,465 votes.4

Lushington, provided with a compensatory seat, was prepared to nurse Canterbury until the next election and agreed to stand again, with a Treasury promise of a gratuitous seat to fall back on if defeated. In 1812 he was embarrassed by his family’s connexion with Lord Wellesley and by the fact that Baker and Taylor were no longer regarded as unacceptable Members by the ministry. He informed the Treasury that his father-in-law was prepared to support them in exchange for a peerage; otherwise, once he withdrew his pretensions at Canterbury, ‘the ground will be quite clear for Mr Sawbridge and Mr [Robert] Foote [of Charlton Place] and either or both of them aided by my friends would certainly turn out Baker after it is known that he has deserted the popular principles and persons by whom he has alone been returned on former occasions, and has devoted himself to Lord Sidmouth’. But it was Taylor (and Foote) who withdrew, believing a contest inevitable, so Lushington was returned with Baker. There was a poll, insisted on by Taylor’s disappointed supporters, but no contest. The London voters, headed by James Gaskin, had failed to induce Henry Brougham* to stand, as he feared the cost of ‘£3,000 or £4,000 at least’.5

Baker thus clung to his seat until 1818, when he did not cede it without a struggle to Lord Darnley’s heir. Clifton’s politics, as declared on the hustings, seemed little different from Baker’s, but once he took the lead over Baker, the latter claimed a junction with Lushington, and on the fourth day of the poll set up Taylor and Royle as shadow candidates to steal votes from Clifton. He failed, and the Blues revenged themselves by their support of Clifton, who received 658 plumpers in a poll of 1,695 votes and showed his political gratitude in the House. Lushington, who had wished to make way for his brother-in-law William George Harris, was advised by his father-in-law that as this was out of the question he might as well ‘get out without bringing him in’; he nevertheless resigned himself to ‘the inconveniences and constant state of expense Canterbury must cost’.6

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Public Advertiser, 26 June 1790, 22 Mar. 1791; Ginter, Whig Organization, 201, 221; Portland mss PwF6239, 6240; Prince of Wales Corresp. i. 443; PRO 30/8/145, f. 234.
  • 2. Oracle, 5, 10, 15 Oct. 1795, 29 May 1797; True Briton, 9 Feb.; E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 25 June 1796; Canterbury poll bks. 1790 and 1796; The Times, 6, 13 Mar.; Morning Chron. 16 Mar. 1797; Colchester, i. 100; CJ, lii. 20, 357, 426, 570, 609, 616, 644; Blair Adam mss, Shove to Adam, 30 May 1797.
  • 3. The Times, 10, 20, 27, 28 Feb., 4 Mar. 1800; CJ, lv. 303, 348.
  • 4. Kentish Chron. 1, 5, 8, 12, 15 May; Kent AO, Harris mss C67/37/1; C242, Harris to Lushington, 27 Apr. 1807.
  • 5. Harris mss C67/91; Add. 38249, ff. 207, 259; Morning Chron. 30 Sept., 8 Oct.; Brougham mss 16458; Brougham to Grey, Fri. [18 Sept. 1812].
  • 6. The Late Elections (1818), 58-60; Harris mss C234, Harris to Lushington, 8 Mar. 1818.