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 paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 60


(1801): 525


21 June 1790THOMAS WALLACE  
28 May 1796BRYAN EDWARDS12 
 George Harry Grey, Lord Grey6 
 Jeremiah Crutchley6 
28 July 1800 SIR CHRISTOPHER HAWKINS, Bt. vice Edwards, deceased  
 Robert Williams III14 
 Henry Baring13 
  Election declared void, 7 Mar. 1808  
17 Mar. 1808ROBERT WILLIAMS II1414
 Hon. George Augustus Frederick Cochrane1327
 William Holmes1327
 COCHRANE and HOLMES vice Williams and Teed, on petition, 10 May 1808  
7 July 1812 HON. ANDREW JAMES COCHRANE JOHNSTONE vice Cochrane, vacated his seat  
9 Oct. 1812JOHN TEED55 
 Charles Trelawny Brereton28 
 William Holmes 0 
 William Congreve 0 
13 July 1814 EBENEZER JOHN COLLETT vice Cochrane Johnstone, expelled the House45 
 George Conway Montagu5 
23 June 1818JOHN INNES36 
 John Teed11 
 Ebenezer John Collett11 
 Benjamin Shaw11 
 William Allen1 

Main Article

Grampound had been quiescent since Edward Eliot*, created Baron Eliot, took over the patronage in 1758: he usually sold the seats to friends of government. It was, however, the most vulnerable of the Cornish boroughs he managed, being the one where he had the least natural interest; and although he was able to arrange the returns as usual in 1790, he lost control thereafter. No patron was safe at Grampound again. The electors terrorized all comers and Grampound was under sentence of death by 1820.

Lord Eliot was made aware of internal dissension in the borough in March 1788 when Charles Rashleigh of St. Austell, the electioneering attorney, warned him that William Symons, who had ‘the greatest command’ at Grampound, had fallen out with Eliot’s friend, Rev. George Moore, and was likely to stir up trouble. Eliot declined to ‘fish in troubled waters’, but he patched up the quarrel for the time being. Although £10,000 was allegedly offered to oust Eliot and the Whigs contemplated an attack on him, nothing came of opposition at the general election.1 By 1793 it seems that the malcontents were looking for a new patron: (Sir) Christopher Hawkins*, seated nearby, whose family interest in the borough had long been in abeyance, was the obvious choice and he rose to the bait. He won over Symons and his friends, neutralized Charles Rashleigh and on 28 Oct. 1794 reported from Grampound: ‘All my friends I believe are very firm. Mr J. Eliot has canvassed here but met with a refusal.’2 The Eliots put up a resistance when Hawkins ousted their acting mayor, Rev. William Edward Dillon, in 1795 and countered by ousting Hawkins’s friend John Hoyte; but it was too late. When Lord Eliot, the Hon. William Eliot* and William Elford* canvassed in March 1796 (at the same time attempting to harass Hawkins at nearby Tregony), they found their prospects poor. Hawkins bought up the venal electors and introduced two wealthy West India proprietors, who snatched both seats from the Eliot candidates. The Eliots had it that Hawkins had offered both seats to Pitt, but this story was refuted and according to Hawkins’s agent, Nicholas Middlecoat, who rallied the electors over punch, they were well pleased when he read them a speech made by Bryan Edwards, one of their new Members, in the House against the abolition of the slave trade, under the impression that he was in favour of it.3 In 1798 Hawkins, who had been negotiating it before the election, purchased Eliot’s property in the borough to reinforce his position: but he did not succeed in winning over Eliot’s rump of friends, and on a vacancy in 1800 preferred to take no risks when John Simpson* threatened to intervene, returning himself.4

In 1802 Hawkins and a paying guest were returned unopposed, but a memorandum drawn up before the election ran:

[Sir C. Hawkins] thinks G[rampound] should be quietly given up to him by E[liot], as the latter has lately tried the ground and found that he had not above three votes. The continuing an appearance of contest therefore only tends to harass without producing any real effect.

It appeared that Addington, then premier, persuaded Eliot to give up Grampound ‘in order to show his respect for the minister’. Yet when Hawkins came to terms with his competitor at Tregony, Richard Barwell*, after the election, he was careful to stipulate a promise of non-intervention at Grampound. His suspicions were fanned when he learnt that his discharged agent, Middlecoat, had ‘pledged himself to command Grampound for the Prince [of Wales]’, 18 Nov. 1802. He had still not succeeded in getting the Eliots ‘to draw off the two Grampound parsons from their opposition to him’, May 18034. His fears were justified, as Rev. George Moore was willing to promote ‘a new and respectable interest’ at Grampound and had contacted the wealthy Thellusson family in the hope that they would foot the bill for remodelling the corporation. Lord Eliot was involved, for Peter Isaac Thellusson* wrote to him, 7 July 1804, refusing to incur any expense and denying that he was engaged to support the parson’s plan. Soon afterwards, George Woodford Thellusson obtained a seat for Tregony and the family seem to have lost interest in Grampound, where they were to have been introduced by Moore on the pretext of promoting its trade.5

Hawkins stopped the rot by an agreement with five capital burgesses and 21 freemen, 3 Feb. 1804, and was able to return himself and a paying guest, Fawcett, in 1806. (Had his return at Penryn been secure, he would have taken another guest, Stephen Lushington*.) Fawcett’s subsequent failure to pay his bills started an electors’ rebellion. In Middlecoat’s view they were so afflicted ‘with the cursed thirst after money ... that they would stick at nothing in order to obtain it’: but Middlecoat himself was reported to have contracted to sell one seat at the election of 1806.6 While the corporation remained attached to Hawkins for the present, a group of freemen led by Thomas Croggan and James Cook induced Walter Pomery and J. Isabell, as their agents, to invite (Sir) Francis Burdett* to come and fight Hawkins, 14 Feb. 1807. Burdett refused, 23 Feb., but recommended two brothers, Andrew Cochrane Johnstone and George Cochrane, who could draw on the purse of a third brother, Basil, a wealthy East India merchant. The Cochranes’ politics were dubious; Hawkins’s nominees at the election of 1807 were friends of government; but a treat costing £400 at the King’s Head, where most of the freemen were present, seems to have settled the contest. Only six freemen, together with eight capital burgesses, voted for Hawkins’s friends. In his address, 11 May 1807, Cochrane Johnstone declared that this was a triumph of the freemen over the corporation and congratulated the electors on their narrow escape from the ‘devouring jaws’ of Hawkins who, he claimed, was now in collusion with the two parsons. He made much of Hawkins’s impending prosecution for corrupt practices and concluded: ‘We as a family will watch over your liberties, and privileges, and prevent the Trewithen baronet, or any of his descendants, from Mitchellizing your borough’.7

Hawkins’s nominees petitioned against the return, emphasizing the Cochranes’ want of property qualification, rather than corruption, and Hawkins meanwhile set about reducing the number of freemen and increasing the capital burgesses to regain control. Cochrane Johnstone in turn threatened an action in King’s bench for this interference. A compromise was suggested, whereby both petition and action were to be dropped and a private ballot of electors was to decide whether one or both Cochranes should sit; but his nominees reminded Hawkins (who was already looking for new ones) that he was not at liberty to treat with the sitting Members, having promised them a seat for £4,000 each. The petition took its course and the Cochranes were unseated in March 1808. Hawkins was assisted at this juncture by his erstwhile agent, Middlecoat, who had gone over to the Cochranes but fallen out with them and now returned to the fold: a secret agreement between Hawkins and the freemen was the upshot.8 Hawkins gained a narrow victory at the fresh election, 17 Mar. 1808. His opponents on the Cochrane interest, George Cochrane and William Holmes, petitioned after having a decisive number of supporters’ votes rejected. The House determined that the right of election lay ‘in the mayor and burgesses of Grampound’ and not ‘in the mayor, capital burgesses and resident freemen’; and this being the petitoners’ allegation, Hawkins’s nominees, Williams and Teed, were unseated. Teed can scarcely have commended himself to Hawkins by his independent conduct: in an address of 12 Mar., ‘a friend to Mr Teed’ maintained that he had hoped for Cochrane support, but now stood alone. Indeed, independence was now the theme at Grampound. John Bettesworth Trevanion*, who emphasized his local connexions, had also contemplated standing independently; and Middlecoat reported to Hawkins, 12 Mar. 1808, ‘candidates are pouring in upon us from every quarter’, referring particularly to ‘Mr Paul and the Honble.—Butler’, the former claiming credit for introducing the Cochranes at Grampound, but affecting disillusionment with their conduct. Nothing came of these candidatures.9

Hawkins was acquitted of the charge of illegal interference at Grampound in August 1808 and proceeded to choose 17 new freemen in his interest. To this the Cochrane party objected, and resorted to legal action, February 1809. At the same time Middlecoat assured Hawkins that John Teed, Cochrane Johnstone’s creditor for £1,400, was hoping to obtain a seat from him through the resignation of George Cochrane, but he believed that Cochrane Johnstone himself wished to occupy the seat: ‘Johnstone, I have reason to think, will not be acceptable with his late friends at G—, but if Teed is to be elected independent of you, it might as well be the former as anyone else’. In October 1809 Middlecoat anticipated a coalition between Teed and the Cochranes: it would have involved the resignation of the sitting Members and Teed’s being returned with one of the Cochrane family. There was also a report of William Cobbett† the publicist coming in, presumably on the Cochrane interest. But such manoeuvres could no longer be implemented with any confidence in the borough and a fear of rebellion among the electors prevented it. On the other hand, when the Cochranites resumed their legal action against Hawkins’s creation of new freemen early in 1810, the Hawkins interest was at a low ebb: Teed had been cultivating the corporation for the past year, while Charles Rashleigh canvassed the borough in March 1810 with a view to commending it to a new patron such as Lord Falmouth. Shortly before, Thomas Flindell had unsuccessfully urged Lord Grenville to become patron, alleging that the corporation and most of the freemen, ‘still estranged from their old patron Sir C. H.’, stood pledged to return Teed,

unless that gentleman succeeds in the meantime in obtaining a slice of the droits of Admiralty—when his interest there will be given to the person who shall help him to this his favourite object. Colonel Cochrane Johnstone has promised him his assistance and on the faith of that promise now stands prospectively as the colleague of Mr Teed. The colonel has also many friends among the freemen of that borough, attached to him personally; but the freemen have been divided by a misunderstanding which exists between Col. Johnstone and his brother the Hon. Basil Cochrane. These intrigues however refer to the next election only: and in the meantime a wish prevails to form a permanent connection with some great man.

Middlecoat, who still regarded Hawkins as Grampound’s inevitable patron, his only faux pas being the non-payment of the voters by Fawcett in 1806, reported the weaknesses of the Cochrane-Teed coalition to his master. The Cochranes were painfully aware of their brother Basil’s lack of credit with the ministry, from whom he could not obtain patronage. Middlecoat thought it of no moment if a vacancy was created by the Cochranes for Teed: at the dissolution Hawkins’s friends could then wash their hands of him. Meanwhile he noted a sub-plot: Joseph Childs, the Cochranes’ attorney, had fallen out with them over money they owed him and was encouraging the candidature of [?Benjamin] Tucker, brother of Joseph Tucker the master builder in the Plymouth dockyard. This endeavour proved futile.10

Nothing came of efforts to bring Hawkins and Teed together again, and when the vacancy finally arose in July 1812 it was not Teed but Cochrane Johnstone who replaced George Cochrane. He was unopposed, Hawkins finding himself too weak to challenge. At the ensuing general election, Teed and Cochrane Johnstone coalesced successfully against Hawkins’s brother-in-law, Trelawny Brereton. Charles Rashleigh, who had failed to persuade Lord Yarmouth, the Prince Regent’s manager for Cornwall, to intervene, insisted on sponsoring William Holmes* and William Congreve*, who also got nowhere. Nothing came of the expected candidature of W. H. Pullen of Clement’s Inn, London, who was threatening to expose the corruption of the borough in a pamphlet. Trelawny Brereton gave up a petition against both Members, 2 Feb. 1813, in favour of one against Cochrane Johnstone only, alleging disqualification and corruption. This failed, 15 Mar. 1813, though the petitioner was seeking a colleague for a fresh contest in anticipation of its success. Cochrane Johnstone believed that he had offended the Prince Regent by ignoring his friend Holmes and was displeased with the Prince’s claim that Teed and himself were Treasury nominees. He forced Charles Arbuthnot* to admit that he had not even applied to the Treasury for their support: au contraire, he alleged that ‘the violent opposition given to my re-election by Sir Christopher Hawkins’ was ‘encouraged ... by the Treasury’, though ‘I had no right to complain of their protecting one who would at all times sacrifice his own opinion to theirs’.11

Hawkins’s next gambit to regain control was to reduce the number of freemen which he had himself created. In 1814 the expulsion of Cochrane Johnstone from the House for fraud gave him his opening. He sponsored Collett, a London merchant, while Teed supported Vice-Adm. Montagu’s son, dropping hints about the disfranchisement of the borough if Montagu did not succeed. As was now usual at Grampound, there were other suitors: Matthew Wood* was championed by J. Rowe locally, while Joseph Childs was partial to a relative of Lord Lauderdale’s, probably John Bushby Maitland*. Robins, the London auctioneer, was willing to scan the market, and C. Anderdon, a London merchant, had ‘a wealthy and liberal friend’ ready to offer. In the end, Hawkin’s nominee defeated Teed’s in a straight fight: two petitions against the return came to nothing and Hawkins secured the admission of 12 new freemen in October 1814. Montagu’s petition, prepared by Joseph Childs, referred to a long-standing ‘general system and plan of bribery and corruption’ at Grampound. This was confirmed by events leading up to the election of 1818, except that ‘system and plan’ did not come into it.12

In November 1815 members of the corporation, dissatisfied with Hawkins’s patronage, sent his former friend Alderman William Hoare to London to ‘sell the borough’ for £2,000. Hoare saw ‘Sir J. Perring, Sir M. Lopes, Mr Fawcett, etc’, but it was (Sir) Masseh Lopes* who ‘bought’ it. He sent down to Grampound in February 1816 his agent Hunt, who knocked down the price of a vote from £50 to £35 a man (the mayor was said to have demanded £8,000 in all). Lopes authorized Hunt to concede that the bribed electors were free to change their allegiance to a higher bidder. The scheme was betrayed to John Teed by one Isaac Watts in August 1817 and Teed confronted Lopes with the details in order to force a coalition on him. Lopes refused, confident that the bribery could not damage him as it had taken place so long before an election. He was contesting Barnstaple and made over his interest at Grampound to Benjamin Shaw, a London merchant. Meanwhile others were showing an interest in the borough: Lord Lauderdale approached a local attorney John Richardson in 1817 to assist Michael Stewart Nicholson in his quest for a seat, and the latter learnt that if he advanced £650 on loan to the electors, he might come in, ‘the remainder of £3,000 being payable when the Member is seated’. Lord Darlington was offered both seats for £3,500, exclusive of the candidates’ expenses. In May 1818 a deputation of five, led by Nicholas Middlecoat, who once again betrayed his master, and including the treacherous Isaac Watts, proceeded to London to try the market. They demanded £7,000 and found two wealthy Scots, Innes and Robertson, ready to bite. During the week of the dissolution two more aspirants emerged in John Cam Hobhouse† and Michael ‘Lavalette’ Bruce. The former wrote: ‘I am to pay £2,000—no cure, no pay. Bruce my colleague, had the deuce to pay with his father, and poor fellow was obliged to shuffle sadly.’ This pair addressed the electors on 13 June, but found that their pretensions were discounted. Hobhouse admitted that ‘Ker the bootmaker’ who had lured them on was ‘a swindler’, and Thomas Watts, their man on the spot, was thrown into Bodmin gaol for debt by his enemies. Swindling was the order of the day: one Harvie raised £1,500 from two Cornish banks on the pretence of being a candidate for Grampound, but proceeded instead to Falmouth, where he embarked for France.13

Five candidates remained on the day of the election: Innes and Robertson on the rebellious electors’ interest, Collett standing again on Hawkins’s, Teed on his own and Shaw on that of Lopes. When the first voter bribed by Lopes presented himself, Teed’s agent exposed him and offered the returning officer a list of bribed electors. The mayor found this state of affairs ‘dreadful’ and ‘abominable’, but did not reject the vote. Teed then called for the bribery oath, which caused dismay: some voters withdrew in alarm and others ‘boldly arraigned’ him. Shaw appealed to Teed not to persist and the latter withdrew his demand amid scenes of comic confusion. William Allen of Kenwyn, an elector, now offered himself as a candidate, to renew the demand for the bribery oath, but ‘appearing to be not quite sober, it was objected that being intoxicated he could not be a candidate’. The mayor adjourned the poll. Next day Allen was faced with a demand that he swear as to his qualification to stand, but he was within his rights in declining to do so then; and he had already forced the withdrawal of one of the bribed electors unwilling to take the oath when, thinking he had made his point, he left the scene, only to be set upon by his foes, from whom he was rescued with difficulty. Meanwhile, the bribery oath lapsed. It subsequently appeared that 33 of the 36 supporters of the victorious Innes and Robertson were on the list of those bribed by Lopes. A Grampoundian, predicting disfranchisement, wrote, ‘We have had a more than ordinary proportion of murders, arsons and all sorts of horrors’.14

Teed petitioned against the return, brushing aside a bid by the victors to buy him off for £7,800 and accusing all the other candidates of bribery and corruption. For this he was submitted to medical examination. As chief witness for the prosecution of Sir Masseh Lopes for election offences at Exeter, 18 Mar. 1819, he disclosed his exchanges with Lopes, without reference to his own motives. Lopes and 23 electors were found guilty of bribery; others escaped by informing. Lord John Russell now prepared to campaign for the disfranchisement of Grampound and other such corrupt boroughs. The House rejected Teed’s petition, but agreed nem con. on Russell’s motion, 5 July 1819, that a ‘notorious system of corruption has prevailed in the borough’ and that its future should be decided early next session. Teed himself did not escape reprimand, as his agent had destroyed a compromising document. On 14 Dec. 1819 Russell included the disfranchisement of Grampound in his resolutions on borough reform and it was the one point which Castlereagh, for government, conceded. When the established practice of extending the franchise to the neighbouring hundreds was suggested instead, the reductio ad absurdum of the unreformed Parliament was accentuated by the objection that there were already four other parliamentary boroughs adjacent. On 18 Feb. 1820, in anticipation of the dissolution, Russell sought to prevent the issue of a writ for Grampound (as well as Penryn, Camelford and Barnstaple), but the Lords frustrated him a week later. Grampound was nevertheless doomed. It was in vain that the mayor and electors petitioned that ‘only 24 out of 69’ electors were corrupt and that even then Grampound had more electors than ten other Cornish boroughs. On 9 May 1820 Russell formally moved its disfranchisement in favour of Leeds. Finally, on 30 May 1821 Grampound was disfranchised and Yorkshire gained two seats after the next dissolution.15

Grampound’s crime was the freelance bid by its small electorate to turn the tables on their patron and use the system to their own advantage. The political entrepreneurs were frustrated and outraged. John Teed complained in 1814 that the electors were ‘about a century behind Penryn people for electioneering, they do commit themselves a hundred times a day’. Great was his satisfaction when this unregenerate experiment in electoral self-help collapsed: it was to his former rival, Sir Christopher Hawkins, that he wrote, 11 Oct. 1819:

I hope in November Middlecoat and the others will receive such a lesson as will teach them and those who remain that ingratitude and duplicity will not prevent them from punishment when they so grossly deserve it.16

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Cornw. RO, Coode mss CF4772, Rashleigh to Eliot, 29 Mar., reply 29 Mar., Moore to same, 6 Apr. 1788, Rashleigh to same, 13 Nov. 1789; Add. 28066, f. 36; Ginter, Whig Organization, 188.
  • 2. Portland mss, PwF279; Coode mss 4773, Hawkins to Coode, 28 Oct., Craggs Eliot to Rashleigh, 7 Nov., reply 7 Nov. 1794.
  • 3. Coode mss 4773, Hawkins to Coode, 13 Mar. 1795; PRO 30/8/132, f. 302; Cornw. RO, Johnstone mss DDJ 2098, ff. 25-27, 36, 37; Camelford mss, Rashleigh to Lady Camelford, 11 Mar., 13 May 1796; R. Inst. Cornw. Henderson mss HH13/96, 97.
  • 4. W. T. Lawrance, Parl Rep. Cornw. 285; Coode mss 4667, Hawkins to Revs. Moore and Dillon, n.d.; 4775, Hawkins to Coode, 24 June 1800.
  • 5. Buller mss BO/23/70; Johnstone mss 2100/6; 2100/7, Coffin to Sandys, 18 Nov. 1802; Pole Carew mss CC/L/35, Rashleigh to Pole Carew, 17 May 1803; Cornw. RO, Pennington mss.
  • 6. Coode mss 4665; Add. 37309, f. 208; Kent AO, Harris mss C67/33, 38; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iii. 243; Johnstone mss 2098, ff. 24, 72; Henderson mss HH/13/178-82.
  • 7. Bodl. Eng. Hist. b. 197, ff. 64, 163; Fortescue mss, Fremantle to Grenville, 18 May 1807; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 247; Coode mss 4619-21, 4778; Johnstone mss 2018/1.
  • 8. Cornw. RO, W. B. Elvins, ‘Aspects of Parl. Rep. in Cornw. before the Reform Bill’ (1957), ch. 2; Coode mss 4623, 4638, 4644, 4779; CJ, lxii. 629; lxiii. 151; Johnstone mss 2098, ff. 72, 73.
  • 9. Henderson mss HH/13/209, 216; CJ, lxiii, 227, 305; Johnstone mss 2019/1, 2; 2021; 2098, f. 74.
  • 10. Johnstone mss 2098, ff. 77-85, 87; 2104; Henderson mss HH/13/231-3, 241; Add. 45730, f. 50; Coode mss 4780, Rashleigh to Coode, 12 July 1810, James to same, 4 Jan. 1811; Fortescue mss, Flindell to Grenville, 4, 25 Feb., reply 12 Feb. 1810; NLS mss 2264, f. 162.
  • 11. Henderson mss HH/13/240; Coode mss 4781, James to Coode, 7 July, Rashleigh to Coode [Sept. 1812]; CJ, lxviii. 56, 311; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss C59, Western to Barrett Lennard, 11 Dec.; Beckford mss, Cochrane Johnstone to Beckford, 23, 24 Oct.; West Briton, 16 Oct. 1812.
  • 12. CJ, lxix. 515, 520; lxx. 3; Johnstone mss 2104; Henderson mss HH/13/250-4.
  • 13. The Times, 15 July; West Briton, 23 July 1819; The Late Elections (1818), 128; Parl. Deb. xl. 820-5; SRO GD46/17/48; Brougham mss 10029, 16393-6; Johnstone mss 2020/1; Add. 36457, ff. 54, 56; 47235, ff. 22, 40; Salisbury Jnl. 6 July 1818.
  • 14. Grimsby Pub. Lib. Tennyson mss, Smedley to Tennyson, 20 Mar. 1819.
  • 15. CJ, lxxiv. 91, 135, 370, 474, 617, 621; lxxv. 174, 228, 276; Parl. Deb. xl. 309, 820, 1515-18; (n.s.), i. 39, 237, 480, 863; iv. 583, 1068, 1077, 1338; v. 1043.
  • 16. Henderson mss HH/13/252, 275.