Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 6,000


28 June 1790SIR THOMAS CAVE, Bt. 
27 Feb. 1792 PENN ASSHETON CURZON vice Cave, deceased 
25 Oct. 1797 GEORGE ANTHONY LEGH KECK vice Curzon, deceased 
1 Nov. 1798 SIR EDMUND CRADOCK HARTOPP, Bt., vice Pochin, deceased 
 Thomas Babington257

Main Article

Since 1780 a compromise had operated whereby the 4th Duke of Rutland, the dominant peer, returned one Member on his interest (the Orange) and the independent gentry (the Blues) returned the other. The 4th Duke died in 1787 leaving three infant sons and his duchess to manage his interest in conjunction with Pitt and the Duke of Beaufort. Not until 1806 was there a Rutland family nominee and the compromise was maintained throughout the period.

In 1790 John Peach Hungerford, the independent Member, retired and the contenders for his seat were Sir Thomas Cave and Penn Assheton Curzon. Cave, strongly supported by Lord Harborough, got the preference and came in quietly with Pochin, the Rutland nominee. The Whigs, headed by the 5th Earl of Stamford, Portland’s brother-in-law, demurred in the person of Stamford’s son Lord Grey*.1 Nor did Stamford attempt anything on Cave’s death in 1792. The names of John Palmer, Peers Anthony Keck and Charles Lorraine Smith† were at first mentioned, but it was Curzon, Lord Howe’s son-in-law, who was unanimously chosen.

Not a soul had stood forth but [Thomas] Babington*, and though he is a firm Pittite his name was so thoroughly unpopular among the Old Blues that Curzon, who never appeared till the meeting, was greeted with joyful acclamation. Babington is known to be a favourer of the dissenters, and is a disciple of your Yorkshire knight Wilberforce—in short is ... righteous over much.2

There was no stir in 1796, by which time Stamford had gone over to the ministry, and nothing came of a supposed opposition from Sir William Manners*. Peers Anthony Keck was by then ‘a great favourite with the county’ and ‘considered as likely to succeed, if he offers himself’, but he died 1 Mar. 1797, and when Curzon died a few months later it was Keck’s brother who came in.3

Pochin’s death in 1798 posed a problem for the Duchess of Rutland, whose sons were still not of age. She selected Sir Edmund Cradock Hartopp, recommended to Pitt by his friend William Wilberforce, as a locum tenens. He was attended at his nomination by Lord Robert William Manners, his intended replacement, and was sure of general support, even among ‘some violent Blues’. Thomas March Phillipps of Garendon, who dissented, was expected to look to Keck’s seat, as the latter was ailing. Samuel Abney of Lindley, another contender, had to wait until his grandfather died and be satisfied with a complaint at the interference of peers on Cradock Hartopp’s behalf. The latter, cold shouldered by Peach Hungerford, was advised not to allow a Blue to second him, lest it throw the operation of the compromise into confusion.4 The Rutland family allowed him to retain his seat in 1802 for one more Parliament and in the summer of 1806 prepared to put up Lord Robert William Manners; but Cradock Hartopp was shy of relinquishing his seat. The duchess roundly requested him to do so, 1 Sept. 1806, and meanwhile support was solicited for Manners lest Cradock Hartopp appeal to the sense of the county. That was precisely what he threatened to do, arguing that he had done nothing to forfeit his position and had made no binding compact. He doubtless hoped that Manners would be withdrawn. The decision of the leading Whig Lord Moira to support Manners with the premier Lord Grenville’s concurrence forced Cradock Hartopp’s hand and he retired quietly. Manners was no supporter of the ministry—he ‘put out the most flaming Pittite advertisements’ but, as Moira put it, the Duke of Rutland was not sponsoring ‘a mere political adherent: and I know not any better title to the representation of that country than what one of the duke’s brothers may advance’.5

A contest of sorts there was, in 1818. Despite disparaging references to ‘patrician influence’, Manners was safe and it was Keck who came under fire. The pretext was his energetic hostility to radicalism in the manufacturing districts. In the view of Charles March Phillipps of Garendon and others he had thereby ‘lost the good opinion of the people of Hinckley and Leicester, and the commercial interest altogether’. March Phillipps refused to stand against him; so did Thomas Babington, who was giving up the representation of Leicester. James Sutton of Shardlow Hall was the forlorn hope of Keck’s critics. March Phillipps, with over £10,000 a year, was the best candidate, but believed ‘his own politics were rather too liberal for the generality of the landed interest of this country’. He was prepared to support Babington. He told Keck, who expected his support, that he was unpopular and Keck was frightened into retirement. Protesting to the end, March Phillipps was nominated, as was Babington, whose brother-in-law Gen. Colin Macaulay had been expected to offer, but did not materialize.

The contest will be tremendous and ruinous to Babington [wrote an observer], unless the Thorntons and that party pay for it ... The gentlemen are chiefly with Lord R. Manners and plumpers—but never was county (owing to Keck’s conduct) so divided—parties are jumbled together, and the supporters of the candidates are formed of the most heterogeneous materials.

Babington soon gave up: ‘the supposed ground of the measure was the fear of risking the election of Lord Robert Manners’. In the riotous scenes that ensued Manners was assailed with filth and stones. He described his new colleague, privately, as ‘the nastiest little sneaking jacobinical rascal that ever offered himself in any county’, though he had felt precluded from joining forces with Babington. Keck’s friends sought to expose March Phillipps as a trickster and Keck, encouraged by the backlash in his favour, prepared for revenge in coalition with Manners.6 Thus in 1820 the compromise of 1780 lost all meaning.

Authors: M. H. Port / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Spencer mss, Spencer to his mother, 11 June 1790; Leicester Mus. Braye mss 23D57/3425-3439.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/174, f. 269; Public Advertiser, 24 Jan., 7 Feb.; Kenyon mss, Assheton Curzon to Kenyon, 16 Feb.; Spencer mss, Mrs Howe to Lady Spencer, 18 Feb. 1792; M. Elwin, Noels and Milbankes, 414.
  • 3. True Briton, 26 May 1797.
  • 4. Add. 37844, f. 175; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 2/43; Rutland mss, Cradock Hartopp to Duchess of Rutland, 21 Sept., 3, 7, 23 Oct. and undated letters, Sir J. Palmer to same, 2, 8 Oct., Beaufort to Rutland, 11 Oct. 1798.
  • 5. Rutland mss, Rutland to ?, 27 July, Duchess to Cradock Hartopp, 1 Sept., Forester to Duchess, 25 Sept., to Curzon, 25 Sept.; Cradock Hartopp to Duchess, 25 Oct.; Moira to Hill, 28 Oct. Fortesque mss, Moira to Grenville, 22 Oct.; Add. 51795, Ossory to Holland, 29 Oct. [1806].
  • 6. Braye mss 23D57/3442-3452; Fitzwilliam mss, box 92, Maltby to Milton, 30 June 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 166; Rutland mss, Ld. R. W. Manners to Rutland, 22, [29 June]; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 10 Nov.; Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 30 Nov. 1818.