Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in persons paying church and poor rates, resident or non-resident
Number of voters:
|18 June 1790||FRANCIS FANE||162|
|HON. GEORGE DAMER||103|
|Hon. Cropley Ashley||78|
|ASHLEY vice Damer, on petition, 14 Apr. 1791|
|25 May 1796||HON. CROPLEY ASHLEY|
|5 July 1802||HON. CROPLEY ASHLEY|
|30 Dec. 1803||ASHLEY re-elected after appointment to office|
|1 Nov. 1806||HON. CROPLEY ASHLEY||198|
|Robert Williams II||87|
|14 Apr. 1807||ASHLEY re-elected after appointment to office|
|5 May 1807||HON. CROPLEY ASHLEY (COOPER)|
|ROBERT WILLIAMS II|
|20 July 1807||ASHLEY (COOPER) re-elected after appointment to office|
|29 May 1811||CHARLES HENRY BOUVERIE vice Ashley (Cooper), called to the Upper House|
|7 Oct. 1812||CHARLES HENRY BOUVERIE|
|ROBERT WILLIAMS III|
|28 Dec. 1812||WILLIAM A 'COURT vice Bouverie, chose to sit for Downton|
|11 Apr. 1814||SAMUEL SHEPHERD vice A ’Court, vacated his seat|
|14 May 1817||(SIR) SAMUEL SHEPHERD re-elected after appointment to office|
|17 June 1818||ROBERT WILLIAMS III|
|(SIR) SAMUEL SHEPHERD|
|18 June 1819||CHARLES WARREN vice Shepherd, appointed to office|
Of the electoral situation in the borough, John Crane, a local physician friendly to Pitt’s administration wrote to Lord Grenville (25 Feb. 1790):1
Dorchester is in the hands of Lords Shaftesbury and Milton: G. Damer, son of the latter, and the new chosen Member Mr C. Ashley brother of the former cannot both succeed at the general election, it being the determination of the residing electors to rescind the outvotes in future on which reform Mr Francis Fane will most assuredly displace one of the sitting Members; for my own part every exertion of mine, and my gratuitous attendance on sick voters in low circumstances will influence several, I shall promote Mr Fane’s interests on the ground of his political principles, as I know he will zealously stand by the present administration, whereas the present sitting Members are highly inimical to it.
Crane went on to explain that the votes of nonresident rate payers were to be
totally set aside, and the consenting to this, is the sine qua non of every candidate who comes here—occupier-votes alone are in future admissible. Mr Francis Fane’s election is sure, but which of the two sitting Members will be ousted is to be seen hereafter—Thus administration will have one friend where it had two enemies.
Francis Fane had been recommended to Pitt by his kinsman Lord Westmorland in February 1790 as ‘a most decided and zealous friend’. Assisted largely by the influence of Robert Strickland, Lord Milton’s agent, who had as much property as his employer, he headed the poll. George Damer, who was ‘in a different interest from his father’2 and ‘refused to employ the influence arising from his father’s property’, soliciting only personal votes, got ‘two thirds’ of the resident vote, but the defeated candidate Ashley petitioned against his return. After his cousin Lord Malmesbury had secured the services of Sir Gilbert Elliot, he succeeded in getting the committee of the House to confirm the right of election, so as to include outvoters (14 Apr. 1791) which, by adding 38 rejected votes to his poll (eight were also struck off Damer’s), ensured him the seat. His brother was in the habit of conveying freehold leases to his friends and dependants to create voters in his favour.3
Oldfield, in 1792 when Lord Milton was created Earl of Dorchester, supposed that the latter would make up his difference with his son, come to an agreement with the Earl of Shaftesbury and take advantage of the non-resident vote to oust Fane and the independent resident interest, so much weakened by the decision of 1791. Fane was certainly dissatisfied with Pitt’s lack of attention to his applications for patronage, 1791-2; he had been obliged to ‘stop the mouths of his friends in another way’ and involved himself ‘in very considerable expense’; his kinsman Westmorland warned Pitt that he might resign his seat, possibly by an arrangement with Lord Dorchester.4 But Dorchester’s interest lapsed when George Damer found a seat elsewhere and Ashley went over to administration, so that he and Fane shared the representation unopposed until 1806, when they easily defeated another local gentleman, Robert Williams of Bridehead. In 1807, on Fane’s retirement,5 Williams came forward again. There was talk of Henry Redhead Yorke standing, the reformed radical formerly imprisoned in Dorchester gaol, so that his interest there, to quote the current quip, was ‘a very confined one’, or even of Cobbett’s doing so,6 but there was no further contest in this period. Ashley, who became Earl of Shaftesbury in 1811, nominated relatives and friends of administration to one seat, and the Williamses, father and son, held the other. When Shaftesbury returned the solicitor-general by arrangement with government in 1814, he wrote to Lord Liverpool: ‘I am sure you will be glad to hear that my interest there has not suffered by my having complied with your request ... I have every reason to believe he has even improved it.’7
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Fortescue mss; PRO 30/8/127, f. 19; 331, ff. 7, 9.
- 2. Oldfield, Boroughs, i. 175-8; PRO 30/8/188, ff. 292-6.
- 3. NLS mss 11108, f. 77; CJ, xlvi. 27, 410; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 360; Mayo and Gould, Mun. Recs. of Dorchester, 442; J. Savage, Dorchester, 138.
- 4. PRO 30/8/331, ff. 45, 82.
- 5. Salisbury Jnl. 4 May 1807; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 187.
- 6. Glocester Jnl. 4 May; Derby Mercury, 7 May 1807.
- 7. Add. 38458, f. 185.