Double Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 150


15 Apr. 1754Thomas Hay, Visct. Dupplin 
 Thomas Bromley 
13 Jan. 1755Charles Sloane Cadogan vice Bromley, called to the Upper House 
22 Dec. 1755Dupplin re-elected after appointment to office 
31 Jan. 1758Dupplin re-elected after appointment to office 
29 Nov. 1758Soame Jenyns vice Dupplin, called to the Upper House 
25 Mar. 1761Charles Sloane Cadogan 
 Soame Jenyns 
23 Apr. 1764Cadogan re-elected after appointment to office 
18 Mar. 1768Charles Sloane Cadogan 
 Soame Jenyns 
15 May 1769Cadogan re-elected after appointment to office 
8 Oct. 1774Soame Jenyns92
 Charles Sloane Cadogan89
 Thomas Plumer Byde63
 Samuel Meeke60
7 Nov. 1776Benjamin Keene vice Cadogan, called to the Upper House101
 Thomas Plumer Byde34
6 Sept. 1780James Whorwood Adeane96
 Benjamin Keene83
 Christopher Potter18
3 Apr. 1784James Whorwood Adeane 
 John Mortlock 
29 May 1788Francis Dickins vice Mortlock, appointed to office41
 Thomas Adams7
11 May 1789Edward Finch vice Adeane, appointed to office 

Main Article

The corporation, an oligarchical body, self-recruiting under a set of intricate rules, listed under the banners of neighbouring landowners. About 1754 the dominant parliamentary influence was with the Bromleys of Horseheath; and from about 1760 with the Yorkes of Wimpole, till Mortlock and the Rutland family captured the borough in the 1780’s. Between 1737 and 1774 elections were uncontested, and the 1st and 2nd Lord Montfort, for a time with the help of Lord Dupplin, managed the borough for the Government. During Newcastle’s term at the Treasury a yearly payment of £550 was made to Cambridge; but there is nothing in the Newcastle mss to indicate its origin, nor how that sum was calculated or distributed. After a short interval the bounty re-occurs in 1764, though reduced to £300; and Rockingham’s secret service accounts contain the entry, 20 July 1766: ‘Lord Montfort, for the Cambridge distribution, two years to midsummer, £600.’1 No payments for Cambridge appear in Robinson’s accounts, 1779-82.

About 1766 an opposition, of which the nonconformists formed the core, started in the borough against Government influence, and in 1774 Thomas Plumer Byde and Samuel Meeke stood against Soame Jenyns and Charles Sloane Cadogan. ‘A statement binding the candidate, if elected, to oppose the Government’s American policy and to support an enlarged toleration of Protestant dissenters and a more equal representation in Parliament was after vehement opposition in a meeting at the Guildhall submitted to all four and signed by the new candidates, who obtained two-fifths of the votes polled, and, as the poll-book shows, a majority of the votes of resident freemen.’2 Although, largely owing to internal dissensions, the ‘New Party’ made a poor showing at the by-election of 1776, the movement continued, supported by the young Duke of Rutland and by John Mortlock, who was fast acquiring influence in the corporation and in the borough. In 1780 Mortlock supported James Whorwood Adeane, who for several years past had cultivated an interest, but not the Yorke candidate Benjamin Keene; and in 1782 declared his own candidature for the next election. Hardwicke was all along suspicious of him as too closely bound up with the Rutland interest, but Philip Yorke, whom Mortlock supported in the county, favoured him, and Keene having withdrawn, the Yorkes ran no candidate of their own in 1784: they were never again to recover their interest in the borough.

In the decade 1780-90, by means of a series of by-laws and lawsuits, the municipal government of Cambridge was ‘transformed from an oligarchy to a dictatorship’, and an open borough with varying affinities was converted into a pocket borough. The oligarchy of the aldermanic bench was entrenched behind an elaborate system of by-laws and customs: and these it proved possible to set aside without violating the charter, a vague document that ‘did little more than draw a few outlines within which municipal government functioned’.3 Step by step Mortlock, fortified by verdicts obtained in the courts, succeeded in changing the method of electing the mayor, the aldermen, and the common councillors, and in dispensing with the established rules of transacting municipal business. Broadly speaking, he first appealed to the body of freemen over the heads of the aldermen; and next packed the borough with batches of non-resident freemen chosen from among friends and dependants of the Rutland family to whom, under an agreement concluded in 1787, he made over the borough, though retaining its management. After a futile attempt at opposition at the by-election of 1788, the Rutland candidates were never again challenged in Mortlock’s lifetime.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Secret service lists, Royal archives, Windsor; Rockingham mss.
  • 2. H. Cam, ‘Quo Warranto Proceedings at Cambridge, 1788-90’, Camb. Hist. Jnl. viii. 148.
  • 3. Ibid. 146.