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 1,000


15 Apr. 1754George Monson635
 John Chaplin617
 Robert Cracroft436
27 Mar. 1761George Monson733
 Coningsby Sibthorp486
 Thomas Scrope373
19 Mar. 1768Thomas Scrope534
 Constantine Phipps500
 Robert Vyner449
12 Oct. 1774George Augusta Lumley Saunderson, Visct. Lumley575
 Robert Vyner jun.522
 Thomas Scrope238
 Humphrey Sibthorp225
13 Sept. 1780Sir Thomas Clarges626
 Robert Vyner616
 Visct. Lumley339
 Thomas Scrope4
27 Jan. 1783John Fenton Cawthorne vice Clarges, deceased 
3 Apr. 1784John Fenton Cawthorne 
 Richard Lumley Savile 

Main Article

Lincoln was an open borough, and contests were so frequent and expensive that in 1784 Sir Joseph Banks, a neighbouring gentleman, wrote: ‘after having distressed two or three families, no one will now attempt’.1 The Monsons of Burton and the Lumleys of Glentworth had the best interest, and several local gentlemen had influence, but any combination between the gentry was sure to be opposed by a third party among the freemen. The London outvoters comprised a considerable part of the electorate, and were always anxious for a contest.

In 1754 George Monson, on his brother’s interest, and John Chaplin, with the support of Lord Scarbrough, defeated another local man, Robert Cracroft of Hackthorn. Lord Monson wrote to Newcastle subsequently that the election had cost him £7,000, ‘exclusive of my house being like a fair for two years’.2

The same interests were successful in 1761. Thomas Thoroton wrote to Lord Granby, 13 Jan. 1761: ‘At Lincoln town, all affairs are compromised. Mr. Chaplin declines, and Lord Scarbrough brings in Mr. Sibthorp in his stead.’3 An opposition was raised at the last minute by an eccentric local gentleman, Thomas Scrope, who stood as the third man on the interest of ‘the free and independent voters’. Scrope’s petition against Sibthorp, alleging bribery, was withdrawn unheard.4

In 1768 Scrope succeeded in buying himself into first place: he was said to have paid three guineas to city voters, four guineas to country voters, and seven guineas to Londoners. The Hon. Constantine Phipps, who came second, seems to have been supported by Lord Monson.5

At the general election of 1774 Lord Lumley and Robert Vyner jun. defeated Scrope and Humphrey Sibthorp. Scrope complained later in a letter to Lord Monson of the opposition he had received from Monson and his friends:6

The consequence of which was the loss of my election, and the bringing in Mr. Vyner, whose political principles and conduct in Parliament I conceive to be totally different from yours, and most certainly from mine. My wish was that Lord Lumley and myself might be chose, and I flattered myself I should at least not be opposed, if not supported, by those who to me seemed engaged in the same public spirited cause, but I found myself much mistaken.

On the next occasion when Scrope stood, in 1780, he received only four votes. An understanding between the Monson and Lumley interests to support Vyner and Lumley seems to have provoked the independents into bringing forward a third man, Sir Thomas Clarges, after Sir Joseph Banks had declined to stand.

The inhabitants of this city [wrote the English Chronicle] have distinguished themselves for a generous independence in the choice of their Members by exempting themselves from the influence of those old obligations that had nothing but prescriptions to recommend them and making free offers of the honour of their representation to various gentlemen who had not obtruded themselves upon their choice.

Clarges headed the poll, and Lumley came a bad third.

When Clarges died in 1782, the Lumleys were uncertain whether to put up a candidate. Sir George Savile wrote, 12 Jan. 1783, to reprove his nephew, Richard Lumley Savile, for fastidious misgivings:7

[It is] perfect Methodism in politics to talk of the Lumley interest at Lincoln rather as a curse than a blessing (not to be cultivated like an estate but got rid of like a mortgage), and that so far from such a seat as it has been being honourable, it is more dirty than a seat in a necessary ... The plan, however, we will suppose to be to start with a most positive and most explicit declaration that you would not give a sixpence ... Do you think that they’ll choose you? Their gratitude, you say? Gratitude! I answer you in the words of Shakespeare—‘milk of a male tiger’. Gratitude indeed!

The seat ultimately went to John Fenton Cawthorne, son-in-law of John Hussey Delaval of Doddington, returned unopposed.8

In 1784 John Robinson hoped to promote an opposition to Cawthorne; George Rose, secretary of the Treasury, was ‘to find a butcher who has great interest’.9 But by now gentlemen were wary of Lincoln, and Cawthorne and Richard Lumley Savile were returned without opposition.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Mss of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society.
  • 2. Add. 32880, f. 200.
  • 3. HMC Rutland, ii. 239.
  • 4. Add. 32921, f. 133; CJ, xxix. 49.
  • 5. Ex inf. J. W. F. Hill; Whateley to Burke, 30 Aug. 1769.
  • 6. Monson mss.
  • 7. Scarbrough mss.
  • 8. Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Merc. 3 Feb. 1783.
  • 9. Laprade, 116.