Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
about 200 in 1796 rising to about 600 in 1818
|1 July 1790||JOHN GEORGE PHILIPPS|
|27 May 1796||MAGENS DORRIEN MAGENS||94|
|John George Philipps||89|
|PHILIPPS vice Dorrien Magens, on petition, 7 Nov. 1796|
|26 July 1802||JOHN GEORGE PHILIPPS|
|27 Dec. 1803||SIR WILLIAM PAXTON vice Philipps, vacated his seat|
|3 Nov. 1806||GEORGE CAMPBELL|
|8 May 1807||GEORGE CAMPBELL|
|12 Oct. 1812||GEORGE CAMPBELL||156|
|20 Dec. 1813||HON. JOHN FREDERICK CAMPBELL vice Campbell, vacated his seat|
|29 June 1818||HON. JOHN FREDERICK CAMPBELL||306|
Carmarthen was the most unruly borough in Wales and elections there continued to be dominated, as they had been for 50 years past, by the rivalry of the Blue and Red factions. In this period, the Whig Blues were triumphant; and it was a renegade from their camp, the firebrand John Jones, who from 1812 onwards revived the Red party nominally led by Lord Dynevor and secured their vengeance in the by-election of 1821.1
The leader of the Blue party, Philipps of Cwmgwili, was to have been opposed in 1790 by Sir William Mansel, 9th Bt., the county Member, who thought he had a better chance in the borough, though he had little money to spend. Mansel was a zealous supporter of Pitt’s administration, while Philipps was a Foxite who had incurred the wrath of Bishop Horsley of St. Davids by his championship of the dissenters over the Test Act. Philipps found, however, that he had a majority in his favour and that it was unnecessary to pursue remote voters, though on his appeal to Whig headquarters the Duke of Portland had offered to procure Lord Verney’s votes for him. To make doubly sure, he renewed his father’s alliance with Rice of Dynevor, who was contesting the county, named him mayor and created two Blue sheriffs and 115 new burgesses in his interest, which his hold over the corporation enabled him to do. He also secured the support of John Vaughan† of Golden Grove, which he had not received on his first election in 1784; and finally, with Rice’s help, he foiled an attempt by Sir John Stepney† to procure the writ to his disadvantage. Sir William Mansel gave up the unequal struggle.2
George Rice, who became Lord Dynevor in 1793, was now induced by Herbert Lloyd, the deputy recorder and leader of the borough Reds, to espouse their cause and give up his family’s traditional alliance with Philipps of Cwmgwili. Of Herbert Lloyd, an enemy wrote in March 1796 that he was
the dictator of the place—using his ill-acquired power with all the insolence and tyranny of a Robespierre. ... He fairly crept into business under the protection of the family he is now so anxious to displace; and into power, by being agent to some of the principal families in the neighbourhood, and by managing their interest in the borough, which gave him an opportunity of insinuating himself into the good opinion of a few; but generally by lending money to distressed burgesses, and leasing the corporation lands at an easy rate to his immediate creatures and dependants. Having by pig-driving, perseverance, and plodding, obtained a majority in the common council, he now rules with absolute sway; having the complete disposal of the corporation money to enable him to gratify his avarice, and to extend his influence. ... He constantly associates with, and gets drunk with the canaille of the place, who hail him their lord and master, thereby feeding his vanity and pride, which is now become insolent in the extreme.
The most pointed effect of this was to throw John Vaughan of Golden Grove, whom Philipps had not been able to count upon, into his arms. The story was thus told by David Paynter, a Pembroke attorney:
This contest was brought forward by some private quarrel between Herbert Lloyd and Mr Philipps and much inflamed by an intemperate and imprudent declaration of the former who publicly threatened to turn him out in spite of all opposition—as this assertion raised his own consequence it of course lessened that of many of the adherents of Lord Dynevor and roused them to oppose the interest they had always supported [viz the Blues]. One can hardly reconcile Lord D’s conduct with prudence or sound policy, for whatever may be the issue of this contest, it must considerably shake his connections in the county as well as divide his interest in the borough—It’s in Mr Vaughan’s power, at any future occasion, to defy all opposition in this borough.3
Dynevor’s wish was to bring in his brother Edward for the borough when he came of age (Edward in fact became a clergyman) and he put up his brother-in-law, the London banker Dorrien Magens, as a locum tenens in the meantime. John Vaughan commented, ‘I think his plan will require more attention and judgment to effect than he is aware of’. Vaughan, whom Dynevor had solicited, gave the preference to Philipps, then to John Campbell I* and last to Dynevor’s man. There had been a rumour that Philipps intended to retire, but when Dynevor’s canvass began in November 1795, Philipps’s friends encouraged him to contradict it; a list drawn up by them suggested a majority of 84 to 63 for Philipps and independent opinion rallied to him. Thus David Edward Lewes Lloyd wrote from Bath, 27 Jan. 1796:
I find Lord Dynevor has started his brother-in-law against you, a man perfectly unknown in the country and consequently without the smallest pretensions for I cannot consider the mere connections with him as giving him any: this is really treating the country as if he looked upon the representations of the town and county of Carmarthen (for I believe he aims at both) as part of the hereditary possessions of his family, and had a right to transfer them as he thought proper.
Even the Stepneys, formerly his opponents, sided with Philipps, and thanks to John Vaughan he secured the support of the Morgans of Furnace House who had some weight in the borough.4
Despite this, Philipps was defeated: Dynevor procured the writ and he had obtained the election of friends of his as mayor and sheriffs, in the corporate elections in September 1795, who rejected the votes of 115 burgesses created by the Blues. There were riots, and Dorrien Magens’s election chair was destroyed by the Blue hatters. Philipps reversed the result on petition, after securing a powerful lobby in the House, aided by subscriptions from his friends. He was awarded a majority of 20.5 On 15 Nov. 1796 his triumphal procession in the borough was headed by John Vaughan, the king maker. The alliance with him irked Philipps’s true Blue friends. William Williams wrote, 17 June 1796:
Take care, Sir, of committing yourself too much to the party who now support you, for when they have won over your peculiar friends, and are now strong enough to do without you, they will set up one of their own kidney against you as well as the Newtonians [Lord Dynevor’s friends].
Sure enough, Vaughan put up Capt. George Bowen of the Llwyngwair family for mayor in September 1796, but the Blues secured the return of their reliable friend, David John Edwardes of Rhydygors. They also began to purge the corporation of Reds: David Rees was ousted and replaced by John Vaughan, 14 Oct. 1796, and when he continued to attend he was stabbed outside the town hall and thereafter stayed away. In August 1797 John Williams Hughes of Tre-gib was introduced on the Blue interest instead of another Red; and subsequently, when six Reds refused to attend in protest, they were proceeded against and resigned rather than face the legal costs: Herbert Lloyd was one of them. Six Blues replaced them and Dynevor ceased to attend. The Blues, meanwhile, admitted 62 new burgesses.6
Philipps was ‘disgusted with politics’ and hard up by 1800 and would have been loath to face a contest in 1802, but he was unopposed. The fact was that the Reds were demoralized and Vaughan of Golden Grove quiescent: the latter’s interest was reported to be on the wane by now and that of the Morgans of Furnace House superior to it. Dynevor, admittedly, tried to scare Philipps by applying for quo warrantos against several of his friends on the eve of the election, but nothing came of this. In December 1803 Philipps suddenly and perhaps for a price vacated his seat in favour of Sir William Paxton, the unsuccessful Blue candidate for the county in 1802. According to one of the Reds, Sir William Mansel, 10th Bt., writing to Pitt, 1 July 1804:
Paxton has succeeded Mr J. G. Philipps by stratagem and little difficulty, on account of the skulking manner in which he retired. However I trust the next election will with same trifling difficulty turn him out, but in a more open manner than the one adopted to bring him in.
The event was thus described by George Price Watkins, recorder of Carmarthen, who had hopes of succeeding to Philipps’s seat, 7 Dec. 1803, in a letter to Philipps:
I have been informed that a meeting of the party is to be held at Carmarthen for the purpose of requesting you to vacate your seat and to nominate Sir W. Paxton as successor. I know not how to think this is with your concurrence. However, when you do vacate your seat I hope to be favoured with your support.7
Although Watkins and also John Vaughan of Golden Grove and John Morgan of Furnace were regarded as potential successors to Philipps, Paxton’s wealth and services were evidently decisive: Philipps acquiesced, for he continued, in retirement, to support the Blues, and when in January 1804 Vaughan died leaving Golden Grove to Lord Cawdor, one of the leading Pembrokeshire Blues, he looked to Cawdor as patron in chief of the Blue cause at Carmarthen. In 1804 the Reds unsuccessfully contested the corporation elections and the excitement and activity were reported to be as great as at parliamentary elections, ‘voters having been brought down from distant parts of the kingdom’: quo warranto proceedings against Blues were also begun. Cawdor reported, 26 Oct. 1804:
Our success at Carmarthen is generally considered very decisive as the whole strength of the Reds was exerted although Dynevor affected to me not to be solicitous and came to give only his own vote in consideration to his friends: notwithstanding my knowledge of the insincerity of that declaration, still we shall continue to be very civil and good neighbours.8
Consequently Cawdor was able to bring in his brother George Campbell unopposed in 1806, when Paxton contested the county. George Price Watkins offered, but withdrew when the Blues adhered to Campbell: it seems that if the Morgans of Furnace had backed Watkins, he would have persisted, but Cawdor scotched this. The Reds were rumoured to be trying to persuade John Morgan to stand with their support, but failed: the Blues came to resent the anxiety they felt over ‘the aid of the little pale faced tinplate manufacturer’. In 1807 Campbell was criticized as a non-resident stranger and ineffective Member in an anonymous address (possibly by Sir William Mansel), but no opposition materialized.9 It eventually came from an unexpected quarter: John Jones of Ystrad, an ambitious native lawyer who had entered the corporation as a Blue in 1801 and served Cawdor’s interest as mayor in 1809, turned coat before the election of 1812, owing apparently to his disappointment that Cawdor reserved Carmarthen for members of his family, and would not promote Jones’s candidature.10 George Campbell had informed Cawdor in 1811 that he wished to resign, a step Cawdor would not allow until he was sure that his heir could not win a seat for Pembrokeshire, in which case he might fall back on Carmarthen. John Jones went to Dynevor and secured Red support, taking with him other malcontent Blues such as Edwardes of Rhydygors, and some of the old Golden Grove party, such as the Bowens of Llwyngwair. Jones attempted an understanding with Cawdor in December 1811, denying that he had traduced George Campbell in the borough and alleging that he would prefer to have Cawdor’s concurrence, though invited by the Reds to stand independently; but Cawdor refused him with reproaches, and attempts to secure a ‘united interest’ for Jones failed. Jones’s approach to Cawdor was thought to be a manoeuvre to gain credit with undecided Blues and his support came primarily from the other party. Dynevor admitted to Cawdor that as his friends were supporting Jones, he felt obliged to do the same, though he would not engage others to do so. Watkins and Sir William Mansel threatened to stand, but desisted, though the Blues thought the former’s candidature would have probably done them more good than harm.11 The Blue hold on the corporation ensured George Campbell’s victory at the general election, but the mob favoured Jones, who lost by only 13 votes (Cawdor had rejected a proposal for creating new voters en masse), and Jones petitioned, alleging partiality and unconstitutional interference by Lords Kensington and Cawdor. The petition failed.12
In July 1813 Jones started a vendetta with the Blues, securing by mandamus a meeting of common hall to question admissions to burgess-ship. The Blue mayor frustrated him and Jones failed to get his friend Edwardes elected mayor at Michaelmas. He then assailed the new Blue mayor, Griffies Williams, by quo warranto. In December 1813 Cawdor dislodged his brother from his seat to make way for his heir, who had lost the Pembrokeshire election. Jones canvassed, but Cawdor tried to pacify him through Lord Kensington and he decided not to contest the by-election, though the town mob was with him.13 In 1815 he was awarded a vacant seat for Pembroke Boroughs by Cawdor’s rival in that county, Sir John Owen. Had he retained the seat, he intended to sponsor a friend as his replacement at Carmarthen, but Owen came to terms with Cawdor in 1816 and Jones was deprived of the seat. He had already applied to government, as a supporter, for a share of the borough patronage, awarded while the sitting Member was a foe to the county Member Lord Robert Seymour. He fell back on Carmarthen in 1818, publicly blaming Cawdor for the loss of his seat, in order to enlist support among critics of ‘an entailed family borough’. Jones’s parliamentary record was also evoked by his friends.14
Jones’s cause was weakened by the creation of 190 new burgesses by the Blue corporation on the eve of the election and by a division among the Reds, some of whom favoured Watkins, who secretly threatened to remain neutral if Jones were preferred to him, and carried out the threat. Jones in turn left no stone unturned to divide the Blues; the latter estimated that they had 320 qualified burgesses in their favour against 173; 53 ‘unqualified’ burgesses for, and 97 against; and that there were 61 ‘neuters’. Jones was again defeated, though such was the violence of the mob that Campbell had to be constrained by his father to go to Carmarthen for his election and he was unable to face his chairing, whereupon the hatters destroyed his chair.15 Jones now recommenced his campaign to gain control of the corporation for the Reds by quo warranto proceedings, and although in 1820 he stood down to facilitate Dynevor’s heir’s return for the county, he at length triumphed in 1821 when Campbell went up to the Lords. A ‘revolution in borough politics’ ensued: the Blues were very much weakened by the disinclination of the new Lord Cawdor, who had no reason to love Carmarthen politics, and of young Philipps of Cwmgwili to meddle, and their makeshift champion, Sir William Paxton, stood no chance against the stormy petrel of borough politics. As such, John Jones was not unique: he took over a role which Herbert Lloyd had already played in the Red camp, but his determination was greater, in proportion to his ambition.16
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. G. Roberts, Hist. Cam. ed. Lloyd, ii. 1-87; R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), i. 176.
- 2. Add. 38458, f. 161; Carm. RO, Cwmgwili mss 184, 277, 294, 312a, 315, 321; Blair Adam mss, Heywood to Adam, 16 Dec. 1789, enc. Bp. Horsley’s circular to the clergy of 24 Aug.; Ginter, Whig Organization, 80, 97, 146.
- 3. NLW mss 12169, f. 16; Carm. RO, 1 Cawdor 129, Paynter to Campbell, 6 Feb. 1796.
- 4. 1 Cawdor 129, Vaughan to Campbell, 19 Mar., 19 Nov. 1795; 42, canvassing list ; Cwmgwili mss 384, 390, 395a, 400, 416a.
- 5. W. Spurrell, Carmarthen, 107, 131; Cwmgwili mss 422a, 424a; CJ, lii. 13, 102; 2 Cawdor 135, ms bk. of evidence before the election committee, 1796.
- 6. Cwmgwili mss 424a, 432a; Spurrell, 132.
- 7. Cwmgwili mss 486, 509, 514, 533; NLW, Mayberry mss 6455; PRO 30/8/155, f. 246; 1 Cawdor 130, Cawdor to Philipps, 25 Feb. 1804.
- 8. The Times, 12 Oct. Cambrian, 6 Oct., 17 Nov.; 1 Cawdor 129, Cawdor to Greville, 26 Oct. 1804.
- 9. Cwmgwili mss 574; 1 Cawdor 131, Rev. Beynon to Cawdor, 30 Oct., 2 Nov. 1806, 7 May 1807; 130, Morgan to Brown, Wed. night [Oct.], Kensington to Cawdor, 20 Oct.; 133, Jones to same [Oct.]; Cambrian, 1, 8 Nov. 1806, 2 May 1807.
- 10. Cwmgwili mss 502; 1 Cawdor 130, Jones to Cawdor, 12 Sept. 1809; 2 Cawdor 135, J. F. Campbell’s address, 5 Aug. 1812.
- 11. Cwmgwili mss 659; 1 Cawdor 132, Jones to Cawdor, 31 Dec. 1811, draft reply, to Kensington, 9 June, Cawdor to Jones, 26 June; Lewis of Clynfiew to Cawdor, 18 June; J. F. Campbell to same, 16 July; 133, Morgan to Lewis, 1 Jan., Dynevor to Cawdor, 28 Sept.; Hughes and other burgesses in the Blue interest to Cawdor, 14 May 1812.
- 12. Carm. Jnl., 10, 17 Oct.; 1 Cawdor 225, Willy to Cawdor, 24 Mar. 1812; CJ, lxviii. 55, 284.
- 13. Cambrian, 10 July, 9 Oct., 27 Nov.; Carm. Jnl. 17 Dec.; 1 Cawdor 130, J. F. Campbell to Cawdor, 19 Dec. 1813.
- 14. Essex RO, Sperling mss DSE/13, Jones to Brogden, 28 Sept., 25 Oct. 1815; 2 Cawdor 135, 136, addresses 1818.
- 15. 1 Cawdor 132, Allen to Cawdor, 15, 30 Apr.; 133, Williams to same, 1 Mar.; Cawdor to Campbell, 20 June; Carm. Jnl. 26 June, 3 July 1818.
- 16. Carm. Jnl. 25 Feb. 1820, 11 Oct. 1822; R. G. Thorne, Trans. Cymmrodorion (1977), 103.