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:



(1801): 1,483


22 June 1790HON. JOHN RODNEY 
9 Jan. 1795 WILLIAM GARTHSHORE vice Clinton, appointed to office16
 Hon. George Rawdon5
 Charles William Henry Montagu Scott, Earl of Dalkeith11
 William Garthshore11
4 Nov. 1806HUGH PERCY, Earl Percy 
11 May 1807HUGH PERCY, Earl Percy 
17 July 1807 RICHARD HENRY ALEXANDER BENNET vice Percy, chose to sit for Northumberland 
8 May 1812 JONATHAN RAINE vice Bennet, vacated his seat 
19 June 1818JAMES BROGDEN 

Main Article

By purchasing the Morice family’s estate of Werrington, Hugh, 1st Duke of Northumberland, acquired the leading interest from 1780; his heir Hugh, who succeeded to the title and to the recordership of Launceston in 1786, preserved his interest there by charging low rents and finding places for the corporators, as well as by keeping down the number of freemen created. Having fallen out with Pitt he had refused to return George Rose, the latter’s secretary at the Treasury, when he sought re-election at Launceston in 1788, and this decision had disagreeable consequences for him. In 1790 he was able to return his friend Sir Henry Clinton, who at least voted at first with opposition, and a needy friend of the Prince of Wales, Lord Rodney’s son, but on the next vacancy in 1795 he found that the Treasury had undermined him. They contrived this by encouraging the Duke of Buccleuch, assisted by Sir John Morshead*, who subsequently assured the government that Buccleuch might now, by purchase, form a permanent interest at Launceston, to put up William Garthshore, secretary to Dundas, against Northumberland’s nominee. To make matters worse, this was Lord Moira’s brother, though government did not know it in advance.1

The duke attributed the offensive to the ‘treachery’ of George Rose, but it was Pitt who informed the latter afterwards, 10 Sept. 1795: ‘I have no scruple about attacking the Duke of Northumberland at Launceston or anywhere else where there is a chance of doing it with effect’. Equally surprised at the minister’s attitude was the Duke of Portland who wrote to Pitt, 6 Jan. 1795, after he had committed the faux pas of assuring Northumberland that ministers were not behind the attack on his interest:

You mistake me much if you suppose I have made any arrangement with the Duke of Northumberland and as I remember the late Duke of Northumberland’s purchases of the late Mr Morice’s estates and as I never had an idea until I received your letter of the Duke of Buccleuch’s having any connexion with that part of the world, I imagined the attack upon the Duke of Northumberland to have been formed by some adventurer and therefore did not hesitate to say that it was my belief that it was not countenanced and was not likely to be so by you or any part of administration. Wherever the Duke of Bucceluch has a natural interest I should indeed be surprised if it had not your decided support.

Portland added that he would be surprised if so recent an interest were ‘so dilapidated in so short a time’. Buccleuch, however, was encouraged by the fact that all but five of the corporators, starved of places by their patron’s opposition to government and led by John Cudlipp, a physician, were prepared to support him for the benefit of ‘the glare of Treasury sunshine’, and he secured the return of his nominee.2

Northumberland wrote to his remaining Member John Rodney on 26 June 1795, complaining of ‘the treatment I have received from ministers’: he wished ‘to oppose them to the utmost’. Referring to Rodney’s inactivity during the current Parliament, which he had hitherto excused, he added, ‘this ... cannot continue, as otherwise if my Members and I do not agree in sentiments, my weight and consequence in Parliament is totally lost and the minister gains the very point at which he aims’. Rodney was required to give up his seat if he did not act as the duke desired; after consulting the Prince of Wales, he did so. The duke, having instigated unsuccessful quo warranto proceedings in King’s bench against his defaulting electors in 1795 and April 1796, now put up James Brogden, a London merchant, with his defeated nominee’s brother who, like Rodney, belonged to the Prince of Wales’s circle. Buccleuch put up Garthshore and his own heir, again ‘aided by Treasury influence’.3 After a close contest, Northumberland triumphed by one vacillating vote. Lord Dalkeith was sure of a seat elsewhere, from Lord Ailesbury, who deprecated the continuation of the struggle at Launceston, owing to Lady Ailesbury’s connexion with Northumberland.

Despite talk of future intervention by Buccleuch, Northumberland was left in undisturbed possession of the borough henceforward. As a security, the number of freemen was reduced to 20, then to 16.4 Although James Brogden, who became the duke’s confidant in public affairs, faithfully followed his crotchety patron’s somewhat shuffling line in politics, the other Members proved less compliant. Thus the duchess’s Whig nephew Capt. Bennet was required to vacate his seat in 1812, after the duke had decided to support the Liverpool administration. At that time, Sir Charles Monck* was assured that if he offered he would rout the duke’s nominee. Bennet’s successor, the duke’s lawyer friend Raine, auditor of his estates, was severely reprimanded when he voted with opposition on 11 June 1812; the duke wrote that Raine ‘must take the Chiltern Hundreds’, if he so behaved again.5

On the death of the 2nd Duke in 1817 his heir again nominated Brogden with the son of his friend Sir Edward Pellew, to whom he was obliged for the promotion of Algernon Percy in the navy. Nothing came of opposition announced by (Sir) Manasseh Masseh Lopes* at Launceston, beyond some electioneering squibs against the duke, though it led to a contest at his neighbouring borough of Newport.6

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Oldfield, Boroughs, i. 112; Farington, iii. 294; SRO GD51/1/200/5, 19; 224/663/4, passim; 224/663/9/4; Alnwick mss 57, f. 7.
  • 2. Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSE/3, to Brogden, 26 Nov. 1813; Rose Diaries, i. 200; PRO 30/8/168, f. 109 (wrongly dated 1794); Kent AO, Stanhope mss 730/13; H. S. Toy, The Cornish Pocket Borough, 12-14, 36-40; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iii. 217.
  • 3. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 1013; True Briton, 26 Jan.; Devon RO, Bedford mss, L1258 bdle. 10, Tyeth to Gotobed, 4 June 1796.
  • 4. NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole, 21 June 1796; A. F. Robbins, Launceston Past and Present, 286.
  • 5. Geo. IV Letters, i. 63, 128; Grey mss, Monck to Grey, 3 Oct. 1812.
  • 6. R. Cornw. Gazette, 13 June; Morning Herald, 16 June 1818.