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 and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 700


(1801): 7,913


18 June 1790JAMES AMYATT411
 George Hay Dawkins184
26 Aug. 1794 GEORGE HENRY ROSE vice Martin, deceased267
 Bryan Edwards224
25 May 1796JAMES AMYATT 
 William Scott24
 Josias Jackson280
10 Oct. 1812ARTHUR ATHERLEY465
 William Chamberlayne301
7 Mar. 1818 WILLIAM CHAMBERLAYNE vice Rose, appointed to office 
 Frederick Trench, Baron Ashtown [I]296

Main Article

In August 1789, ridiculing a suggestion that he should stand for Southampton, where he knew only one member of the corporation, Charles Philip Yorke* added:

and in order to be a candidate for Southampton it is not only necessary to be known, but to be known sub modo; namely to be a rich man, at least one well disposed to spend money.

He disliked the prospect of patronage ‘jobs’—‘almost as many as for Dover’—and concluded:

I have no doubt that Amyatt who is a good natured man, very attentive to the place, and very popular, will retain his seat, and that if Rose cannot succeed with the government interest, which however I do not think probable, a certain Mr Dawkins who is rich and cultivates the town will come in upon the other side.1

This proved a fair prophecy. George Rose, secretary to the Treasury, who intended to cultivate the borough personally, was hard put to it to find the right ministerial candidate. John Fleming was retiring and there had been several Pittite contenders for the candidature in 1784. One of them, Col. John Woodford, a local resident and protégé of Lord Westmorland,2 was disgruntled because having, in his view, made way for Amyatt in 1784, Amyatt would not now return the compliment. He had received the blessing of a local meeting of his friends in December 1789, but ministers had put him ‘out of the question’, preferring first ‘Mr Copley’ who withdrew in March 1790 and then Henry Penruddocke Wyndham*, another contender in 1784.

The sequel was thus related by Woodford in a ‘Short statement of Southampton politics’ (14 June 1790):

Mr Amyatt, who left Mr Pitt in the last question of the Regency business has the greatest show of hands.

Mr Wyndham, who was supported at the last election by Mr Fox’s friends now offers under the recommendation and circular letters of the secretary of the Treasury, stands one day, but a coalition immediately forming on his being brought forward, Mr Martin, the comptroller of his Majesty’s navy appears as a government man though immediately proposed and chiefly countenanced by the North and Fox party, and brought to oppose the candidate of the secretary of the Treasury. Mr Wyndham, alarmed with a notion of his adversary’s strength, declines and flies.

At this point:

Colonel Woodford stands the nomination and loses it, by scarce a majority. But the comptroller of his Majesty’s navy gains it, though proposed by a gentleman and supported chiefly by a party opposing with vehemence Mr Pitt, and the government in the county.

The support of government is now taken away from Mr Woodford, and given to Mr Martin. This in a degree forces Col. Woodford to give up. His giving up however does not prevent the further division of Mr Pitt’s friends. For great part of the town alarmed by so strange a coalition and jumble of all parties, and determined to resist it as a Treasury and patrician attempt on their independence, unite, and resolve to give their votes to Mr Dawkins supposed to be in the interest of opposition. Thus Mr Pitt’s friends are driven out, and either one of Mr Fox’s will come in, or that party will have the merit and honour of electing the government man, while many of Mr Pitt’s friends from strange mismanagement may assist to bring in an opponent to him.

Woodford had to admit that he had prejudiced his prospects by refusing to join Amyatt, whose friends had therefore preferred Wyndham; that he had also alienated Robert Ballard, a local wine merchant who acted as a ministerial agent; and that his own friends were split, some opting for Martin as ‘a friend to government in general’, but others led by Peter Bernard, a surgeon, preferring Dawkins.3 Bernard headed a ‘select committee for the independence of Southampton’, consisting of 24 members (none of them freemen), which canvassed for Dawkins, son of Henry Dawkins, a West India planter who had stood in 1784. Dawkins, a Portland Whig, was defeated.4

The poll book of 1790 shows that of 72 freemen voters, 53 gave Amyatt and Martin a vote each. Of the inhabitant votes, 351 went to Amyatt, 236 to Martin and 166 to Dawkins. George Rose now set about consolidating his position, joining the corporation and securing non-resident friends as freemen. He also won over some of the ‘independent’ junto of 1790. On Martin’s death in 1794 he was able to secure the return of his son against another West India planter who had taken up local residence, Bryan Edwards*. Edwards, who canvassed three days before Rose, was indignant at the exertion of ministerial influence against him, since he was, though independent, well-disposed to the ministry. He failed to induce the Duke of Portland, through James Adair*, to prevent this, for as Adair pointed out to the duke, it was a test of loyalty to the government he had recently joined. Nevertheless, as Edwards boasted, he had the majority of the inhabitants on his side, 220 to 200; while Rose had 67 freemen (43 non-resident) against four for Edwards (three resident). Edwards commanded the support of many of the independent group who had supported Dawkins in 1790. Although he was expected to take on Rose again at the general election, Edwards looked elsewhere.5

The strength of Rose’s position was illustrated in the next contest in 1802, when ‘Citizen’ Scott, an opportunist radical barrister, obtained scant support.6 He did not pursue his threat of a petition against Amyatt, who now took second place to Rose and whose retirement was evidently anticipated. In October 1805 ‘An Old Burgess’ tried to secure Lord Palmerston, who lived nearby and whose father had represented the borough, as a ministerial candidate against a local Whig banker’s son, Arthur Atherley, who had meant to stand in 1802. Amyatt retired in 1806 and the Grenville ministry, supporting Atherley, did not look beyond a compromise with Rose, whose attitude towards them was at first ambiguous and then hostile. But Josias Jackson, a West India planter, was put up by Samuel Harrison, a local banker who was Rose’s ‘inveterate enemy’. Jackson was at loggerheads with the corporation over local matters and he was also well-disposed to government. A last minute bid was therefore made by the ministerial party to boost him at Rose’s expense, but it did not succeed. The poll lasted four days, and there were 611 voters. The freemen for the most part opted for Rose and Atherley, and although a few of them gave a vote to Jackson he relied largely on the inhabitant tradesmen, like previous independent candidates. Atherley led throughout. Rose raised the cry of government intimidation at Southampton as in the cases of Christchurch and Hampshire, but his evidence was feeble. The only possible snag was a letter to a government employee from Fremantle at the Treasury allegedly threatening him with dismissal if he did not support Jackson, which was passed on to Rose, for as Earl Temple pointed out, ‘the worst of it is that all these people are in their hearts attached to Rose, who placed them in their situations’. He reassured Fremantle:

Atherley thinks they cannot prove more to have been done than always has been done and especially by Rose himself. It is however necessary to prove that Rose has interfered and you must try to get that evidence.

Rose’s complaint in the House concentrated on the county and Christchurch rather than Southampton.7

In 1807 Atherley’s father, alarmed at the cry of ‘No Popery’ against his son, would not allow him to stand. This let in Jackson, who claimed to have turned against the Grenville ministry on the Catholic question, unopposed, with Rose’s son. Atherley claimed that those who had refused him their votes soon regretted their decision and he did not mean to give up his pretensions.8 When he renewed his candidature in 1812 he was sure of success. Jackson withdrew and the new candidate was William Chamberlayne, an erstwhile protégé of Rose’s who had befriended William Cobbett† and radical politics. Government were therefore bound to lose a supporter. Rose faced other sources of annoyance. The expense of Southampton elections had been borne by his Member for Christchurch, William Sturges Bourne, who had since left the government with Canning. Nor had Spencer Perceval been attentive to his son’s applications for local patronage, though Rose hoped to acquire ‘maritime patronage’ through his election as an elder of Trinity House. In September 1812 Rose urged his son to give up Southampton for Christchurch: ‘at present Southampton, which must be considered a fleeting interest, swallows up a large proportion of our means’. When he relented, Lord Liverpool wrote: ‘I am truly gratified to find that you have determined to stand your son again for Southampton, notwithstanding the difficulties with which you have to contend’.9 Atherley led throughout and Rose defeated Chamberlayne for second place. As in 1806, the freemen generally favoured Atherley and Rose, Chamberlayne drawing heavily on the inhabitant vote. Rose relied on 62 outvoters to secure his advantage over Chamberlayne. John Cotton Worthington, a local radical, had two years before been considering quo warranto proceedings against these outvoters, but without much hope of success. He also intended standing in 1812, but withdrew.10

Rose wrote of Chamberlayne’s defeat, ‘We are rid of a very troublesome and very eloquent gentleman’. Not so: before the year was out his son refused a post incompatible with Parliament, because vacating his seat would infallibly let Chamberlayne in. When he went abroad after all, his ageing father was hard put to it to maintain his interest. Rose senior died early in 1818 and his son, believing that he would not be re-elected if he stood for Southampton, stepped into his father’s seat for Christchurch, letting in Chamberlayne unopposed.11 Rose wished, nevertheless, to promote the return of one friend of government at the general election. On 29 Mar. 1818 he informed the premier:

In consequence of measures I took at Southampton with my friends to bring forward and support Lord Ashtown, Mr Atherley signified yesterday to his friends, that he will not start at the general election; but there is now some danger of mischief from collision amongst friends, some of these, who are attached to government, imagine that it gives its support to Sir [William Champion] de Crespigny, others to Sir George Cockburn*. Now as I ascertained at Southampton that Lord Ashtown would be favourably seen by our friends there, and in London that he would be a fit and safe person ..., I told Arbuthnot all I had learnt and he agreed with me, he was the person to be supported, and no other, under present circumstances, as it would not be safe to attempt two ...

He was anxious to find ‘a safe and easy manner of showing that the support of government is with Lord Ashtown’, through a piece of patronage, in which, however, Ashtown must not be named except as his ‘friend’. A ‘Mr Hulton ... a very fit and safe man’ who was prepared to stand as a ministerialist withdrew before Ashtown’s pretensions.12

Rose was perhaps over-cautious, for De Crespigny, who stood, seems to have been regarded in some quarters as a government nominee, though the speeches on the hustings belied it. The strong position formerly occupied by Rose was now Chamberlayne’s and he received a record number of votes in a six-day poll. Ashtown, who received only 29 plumpers and shared only 49 votes with De Crespigny, was easily beaten. The riotous election, during which Ashtown was insulted and assaulted, was a dance on the grave of George Rose. Nothing came of a petition threatened by Ashtown.13

Authors: R. G. Thorne / Brian Murphy


  • 1. Add. 35392, ff. 136-7.
  • 2. Add. 42772, ff. 23, 30; W. L. Clements Lib. Pitt letters, Pitt to Rose, 25 Oct. 1789; PRO 30/8/331, ff. 7, 20.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/111, f. 98; 191, ff. 124-34.
  • 4. Ginter, Whig Organization, 161; Southampton Univ. Lib. ‘Independence’ or A correct list of the independent commercial gentlemen tradesmen who voted for Mr Dawkins on the 17th and 18th June 1790 .
  • 5. Add. 50829, Portland to Adair, 4, 12 Aug. 1794; 53804, ff. 188, 190; Portland mss PwF21, 23; Portsmouth Gazette, 11, 18, 25 Aug., 1 Sept. 1794; Oracle, 24 Dec. 1795.
  • 6. E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 11 July 1802.
  • 7. Add. 51822, Atherley to Holland, 1 July 1802; Malmesbury mss, ‘An Old Burgess’ to Malmesbury, 8 Oct., Palmerston to same, 13 Oct. 1805; Fremantle mss box 55, Temple to Fremantle, Sat. [Oct.], Sunday, Tues. [Nov.]; Hants Telegraph, 3 Nov.; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 7 Oct., 18 Nov. 1806.
  • 8. Brougham mss 34977; Add. 34457, f. 291; 51544, Holland to Howick, 24 May [1807]; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 548.
  • 9. Brougham mss 34992; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 27 Jan. 1810; NLS mss 3796, ff. 3, 6, 44-5; Add. 38249, f. 274; 42774, f. 304; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 9 Oct. 1812.
  • 10. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iii. 552; Wakes Mus. Selborne, Holt White mss 406, 407; Salisbury Jnl. 28 Sept. 1812.
  • 11. NLS mss 3797, f. 33; HMC Bathurst, 222; Malmesbury mss, Malmesbury to FitzHarris, 21 Feb. 1818.
  • 12. Add. 38458, f. 229.
  • 13. Ibid. f. 329; Hants Telegraph, 22, 29 June 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 293-300.