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 resident freemen

Number of voters:

less than 20


(1801): 2,982


9 May 1794 ROBERT DUNDAS (afterwards SAUNDERS DUNDAS) vice Arden, vacated his seat
3 July 1798 WILLIAM STURGES vice Sanderson, deceased
6 July 1802SYLVESTER DOUGLAS, Baron Glenbervie [I]
11 Feb. 1803 GLENBERVIE re-elected after appointment to office
21 Apr. 1812 HUME re-elected after vacating his seat
6 Oct. 1812SIR ABRAHAM HUME, Bt.

Main Article

Throughout the period Hastings was regarded as a Treasury borough and at every election supporters of administration were returned. Crewe’s Act had reduced the electorate to insignificant proportions, and, according to Oldfield, those freemen who remained qualified to vote were ‘quartered on such of their brother freemen as are in possession of the more lucrative situations’, while ‘others, rather than lose their franchises by the operation of that bill, have given up their places to their sons, and other near relations’. As in the case of Rye, the major effect of the Act had been to strengthen the influence of the government agents in the borough, Edward Milward (d.1811) and his son Edward, comptroller of the excise, at the expense of direct Treasury control; but as Oldfield recognized, any distinction between Treasury and agent was speculative rather than real as long as the Milwards continued to support the government of the day.1 Hastings was one of the boroughs mentioned by William Madocks in the House, 11 May 1809, when he brought charges of electoral corruption against Perceval and Castlereagh. Madocks multiplied the younger Milward’s salary as comptroller by seven when he claimed that ‘it cost the people for every Parliament £9,975’.

Only a few scraps of information have been found on particular episodes in the electoral history of Hastings in this period. Jackman, the Whig agent sent to investigate the Cinque Ports before the general election of 1790, informed William Adam* through Charles Whiting, 1 June:

I have in a former letter mentioned what hath passed between Milward and myself. You must understand that nothing can be done at this place, but through the medium of this extraordinary man. Without a ray from erudition, he professes an astonishing fund of natural sagacity. He constantly talks of his honour, his integrity, and his consistency, and yet, he will at some moments betray himself, if you flatter him with caution, and which will convince you that his morality is constantly in masquerade. Appear to do homage at the shrine of his authority, and you have him. This I found to be his weak side, and I made my own use of it.

On the receipt of this letter you must get ... [Adam] to furnish me with the names of two gentlemen as candidates for Hastings. My Folkstone friend, who stands so well in Milward’s confidence informs me he will go no further in the treaty without knowing who the gentlemen are that look to his friendship, on the next general election. In my opinion you have not a moment to lose in this business.

The Duke of Portland doubted his party’s chances of success at Hastings and no Whig candidates went to a poll.2

When Sanderson’s death appeared imminent, Lord Liverpool informed Pitt, 17 Feb. 1798, that John Brickwood, a rich City merchant and firm ‘friend of government’, hoped to replace him and was ‘very ready to bear the expense’.3 Nothing came of Brickwood’s ambition and on Sanderson’s death the seat went to William Sturges, a friend of Canning and Pitt.

On 6 Oct. 1809 Canning, who had just resigned from the government, wrote to Mrs Leigh:

You must do me a job ... with Mr Milward ... he and his old father have the whole power of the borough ... in their hands. But their influence there depends in some degree, I suppose perhaps in a very great degree, perhaps entirely (I do not know how that is) upon their being able to get little matters for their friends the voters from the Treasury, etc. etc. The only substitute for that sort of influence is money. My colleague and I between us paid Mr M. £4,500 or £5,000 for our two seats last time. But now Mr Curwen’s bill has just put an end to the possibility of a pecuniary bargain ... what I want to learn is whether Mr M. feels bold enough, and sufficiently well-disposed towards me, and whether having these dispositions himself he would have the power with the Hastings voters to return me, out of office, perhaps in opposition, to the next Parliament ... If he thinks he can, it must probably be on one of these grounds—1st, that he thinks himself quite secure of his voters, without Treasury or money; or 2nd, that he thinks he can bargain with the Treasury for one and one, that is that if he returns one Member of their nomination, he is to have the other of his own choice, which I should think fair enough and probable; or 3rd, that speculating on my return to power, he would risk offending the present people, in the hope that I should indemnify him hereafter.4

The sequel to this letter is not known, but by 1810 Canning had resolved not to be at any expense for a seat again, and in 1812, still out of office and at odds with government, he successfully contested Liverpool by invitation.

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Boroughs, ii. 296-7.
  • 2. Ginter, Whig Organization, 168-9, 173.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/132, f. 189.
  • 4. Harewood mss.