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 resident freemen paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 20


17 Apr. 1754Samuel Martin
 John Lade
25 May 1759Bartholemew Burton vice Lade, deceased
30 Mar. 1761Samuel Martin
 Bartholemew Burton
19 Mar. 1768Charles Phillips
 William Wilson
10 Oct. 1774John Amyand
 Francis Herne
4 Nov. 1776Sir Ralph Payne vice Herne, deceased
16 June 1777Payne re-elected after appointment to office
11 Sept. 1780John Pardoe
 James Macpherson
6 Apr. 1784James Macpherson
 Jonathan Phillips
5 July 1784Sir Samuel Hannay vice Phillips, vacated his seat

Main Article

Lord Edgcumbe’s agent, Thomas Jones, wrote about Camelford in June 1760:

Mr. Martin, one of the present Members, seems to have acquired some personal interest in the borough. But Mr. [Charles] Phillips has the principal influence over the voters, who are generally a low set of people and depute him to make terms for them. The Duke of Bedford has the largest property in the town and of course if he attacks the borough, will be supported by many of his tenants, but ’tis much to be doubted whether his Grace could make himself strong enough to carry his point against Mr. Phillips and almost the whole bench.

John Phillips, Charles’s father, a Cornish attorney, was the founder of the family and of its interest in the borough. He had managed Camelford for the Pitt family, when the borough was disputed between Thomas Pitt and the Duke of Bedford. After the death of the Prince of Wales in 1751 Pitt, ruined financially, leased his borough interests to the Government; and it was between them and Bedford that the representation of Camelford was now to be settled, with Charles Phillips, who had succeeded his father as manager of the borough, a decisive third in the game. When Bedford offered a compromise, Henry Pelham wrote to Martin, 1 Sept. 1753:1 ‘Is it in the Duke’s power and our’s jointly to prevent an opposition? Will not the Phillips’s secure a contest on one side or the other, to show their own influence?’ In the end Pelham reached the conclusion that he could carry both Members and Bedford’s offer was rejected. The Bedford candidates, George Brydges Rodney and Richard Vernon, offered, according to Martin, ‘£4,000 to be chosen’, and according to Newcastle ‘£3,000 each’, whereas on the Government side only £2,740 was spent but supplemented by Government patronage to Phillips and the electors. Although the contest went nearly to the end, there is no evidence of a poll.

Charles Phillips continued to manage the borough for the Government, returning himself in 1768. ‘See Mr. Phillips hereon’, was Robinson’s note against Camelford in 1774.2 Charles Phillips died soon after the general election, and was succeeded at Camelford by his brother and heir Jonathan. Robinson wrote in his electoral survey of 1780: ‘It is apprehended that we shall have two friends brought in for us. Mr. Phillips is sent to, to settle it.’ About this time Phillips was in receipt ‘for parliamentary purposes’ at Camelford of £100 a year, and his brother-in-law and heir, John Carpenter, of £50.3 In December 1783 Robinson wrote about Camelford: ‘Is under the influence of Mr. Phillips. He has some engagements to one of the present Members [James Macpherson], it is apprehended, but whether to the other is uncertain ... with great attention, he will, it is apprehended, bring in two friends.’4 Phillips returned himself, but a few months later vacated the seat for a Government candidate, Sir Samuel Hannay. During all this time no attempt seems to have been made to re-establish the Bedford interest in the borough, and the Phillips family, who began as agents at Camelford, were now virtually in control.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


Namier, Structure, 335-44.

  • 1. Add. 41354, f. 14.
  • 2. Laprade, 23.
  • 3. Add. 37836, f. 138.
  • 4. Laprade, 83-84.