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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 1,200


(1801): 7,398


 Hon. George Rawdon464
14 May 1796 HON. GEORGE RAWDON vice Fenton Cawthorne, expelled the House 
9 Apr. 1800 HUMPHREY SIBTHORP vice Rawdon, deceased 
 John Sullivan468
13 Jan. 1808 JOHN SAVILE, Earl of Mexborough [I], vice Monson deceased639
 George William Richard Harcourt348
21 May 1814 CONINGSBY WALDO SIBTHORP vice Sullivan, deceased 
 Robert Percy Smith596

Main Article

Lincoln remained an open and expensive borough, despite the efforts of the neighbouring nobility and gentry to secure control over its representation. The freemen were eager to prevent any compromise among the former which was likely to minimize their say in elections, and, usually at the instigation of the London outvoters of whom there were nearly 200, encouraged a ‘third man’ to provide them with a contest.1 They did not always obtain one: in 1784 there was no opposition, despite Treasury encouragement, to the nominees of the local grandees, Cawthorne, son-in-law of Lord Delaval, whose seat at Doddington lay near the borough, and Richard Lumley Savile, brother of the 5th Earl of Scarbrough. When there was a rumour of the 5th Earl’s death in 1786, Pitt was approached by the Duke of Rutland on behalf of the Hon. Robert Hobart of Nocton, Lord Buckinghamshire’s son, but replied that he was already engaged to favour another local gentleman, Edmund Turnor*.2 Nothing came of the latter’s pretensions, but ‘Major Hubberd’, as he was called locally, persisted, understanding that Lumley Savile would not offer again. Others were spoken of too: in April 1789 Robert Vyner II*, whose family had former associations with Lincoln politics, was expected to stand, and in November the nabob John Petrie* was rumoured to be standing.

In the event Cawthorne, who like his father-in-law had deserted Fox for Pitt in 1784, and Hobart, likewise a friend of the prime minister, were opposed by Maj. George Rawdon, who was a member of the Prince of Wales’s set, supported by the London voters and, locally, by the Vyners. In his address, 25 Mar. 1790, Rawdon offered as ‘a third man’ attached to ‘the principles of public freedom’ and ‘Rawdon and Liberty’ was the slogan of his friends. His enemies styled him a ‘nabob’ and a ‘Foxite’. Hobart who returned from Ireland for the election, was reported to have given 1,000 guineas to secure the election writ and prevent the outvoters from getting to Lincoln in time to support his Whig rival. Cawthorne, who was thought to be safe after strenuous efforts to nurse his constituents in 1789, headed the poll of 960 voters, 428 of them resident, only at great expense, which was a bone of contention between him and his father-in-law, who had wished to spend only £300 and let government pay the rest of the expenses, and was furious to discover that Cawthorne needed £4,000 (including £5 to each of his voters). The upshot of this unseemly wrangle was that Cawthorne, who also complained to Pitt that his colleague monopolized the patronage, was disgraced for misappropriation of militia funds in 1796 and expelled from the House; whereupon, Lord Delaval’s connexion with Lincoln ceased. Rawdon stepped into his seat unopposed shortly before the dissolution.3

Meanwhile Hobart had gone out to India and his friend John Sullivan* was thought of by him as his replacement in the event of an election, August 1795; in October, however, Sullivan informed Pitt that the Hobart interest had been solicited by a strong local candidate, Richard Ellison of the Lincoln Bank, and that, if Pitt approved, Hobart would agree to Ellison’s candidature. The latter then came in unopposed with Rawdon, despite frantic efforts by the London voters to secure a third man, for which purpose they unanimously appealed to Pitt, 19 May 1796.4 Rawdon, who had drawn his chief support from London, had already given offence by his neglect, and on his death in 1800 his brother Lord Moira informed Sheridan, who was looking for an opening for a friend, that he had decided to have nothing more to do with Lincoln: ‘the loss of one brother and the indisposition of the other to parliamentary attendance left me no object in my family that could render the possession of a seat for Lincoln material. I have determined to drop the connexion at once.’ The vacancy was supplied by Col. Sibthorp, Ellison’s brother-in-law: there was some indignation among those freemen who regarded this as a corporation monopoly of representation, but their efforts to induce Sir Gilbert Heathcote* to be their champion were unavailing. Sibthorp’s election feast at Canwick got out of hand and his house was pillaged: nor did it secure his seat. In November 1801, John Monckton Hale, an election agent, whose father had sponsored Rawdon, wrote to William Windham*, informing him that he could secure him an invitation from 250 freemen of Lincoln and that at the expense of about 4,500 guineas he might obtain a seat, as the people were ‘much averse to their present representatives who have treated them with slight and neglect’. Windham did not act on this, though it was followed up by an offer to him by Thomas Robson, claiming to speak for ‘near 500’ London freemen, 8 Feb. 1802. Hale’s efforts to persuade Sir Thomas Clarges, 4th Bt., son of a former Member, were also unavailing, but the sitting Members spent lavishly in 1802 to prevent a third man from showing up.5

Such expense proved too much for Sibthorp, who gave this and his age as his reasons for retiring in 1806. Ellison was joined by John Sullivan on the Hobart interest, Lord Buckinghamshire having decided that ‘the opening at Lincoln appeared to me to present so good a face that I conceived it was right that I should embrace it’. Sullivan was, however, defeated by the self-styled ‘third man’, Col. William Monson. The Monsons of Burton had a strong natural interest in Lincoln which had in the past secured them one seat for the borough whenever they sought it, but their pretensions had long been in abeyance, and even now Monson stood without the concurrence of his young nephew, the 5th Baron. He did not need it; the cry of ‘Monson for ever’ and Earl Fitzwilliam’s assistance was enough to carry him, and Lord Monson relented. Monson was a friend of the Grenville ministry who felt obliged to deny in 1807 that he was a supporter of the Catholic claims, but he was then returned unopposed with Ellison, who fell back on Lincoln after unsuccessfully offering himself for the county. Had Ellison succeeded for the county, Sullivan would have been put up for the city by Lord Buckinghamshire. When Monson died in December 1807, Lord Monson cast about for a candidate to maintain his interest: acting probably through Fitzwilliam, an old family friend, he approached a former Whig Member, William Wrightson of Cusworth, Yorkshire, but the latter declined to stand, as did Sir Robert Heron*. It was Monson’s father-in-law, Lord Mexborough, who stood. Opposition was at first feared from John Sullivan or John Attersoll*, who had ‘a very long purse’, but it came from Col. George William Richard Harcourt*, the King’s godson, who stood as a friend of government. He received the support of the London and Sheffield voters, but little in Lincoln. Mexborough’s return cost him well over £6,000 and Harcourt left many bills unpaid, going abroad soon afterwards.6

Lord Monson died in 1809 leaving an infant son: his widow could not expect her father Mexborough to risk another contest and in 1811 began to look around for another candidate to maintain the interest. She had at hand her Whig suitor, George Osbaldeston*, who had taken up residence in Lincoln and was popular as a sportsman, but she evidently regarded him as a last resort, for she preferred to sponsor the candidature of William Wrightson’s son, William Battie Wrightson. The young man’s father informed Fitzwilliam, who was acting as intermediary, that he did not wish his son to forfeit his independence and his future comforts, 20 Apr. 1811, but he was obviously tempted, even if he declined for the present, 2 May. In February 1812, however, Wrightson judged that his son would not now be able to sit ‘under the administration stration of my political friends’ and thought he was ‘young enough to wait’, unless a sudden dissolution left Lady Monson without a candidate. This could not satisfy her, as her candidate would have to be prepared to persevere, if necessary, against a third man. Fitzwilliam wrote to Earl Grey, 23 Aug. 1812, asking him if he knew of any young man who wished for a seat ‘that he might continue to hold for near 20 years, Lady Monson would engage the interest, till her son came of age’. Grey recommended Henry Brougham* and Sir Gilbert Heathcote was also considered, but it was John Nicholas Fazakerley, ‘a good politician, who had money, and who wanted a seat in Parliament’, whom Fitzwilliam finally recommended, having been apprised of Fazakerley’s ambition through Robert Price*.7 George Osbaldeston, whom Lady Monson had been about to turn to in desperation, engaged to support Fazakerley and was rewarded with an introduction at East Retford. There was a last-minute surprise when Ellison retired, disclosing his reasons only to his committee. He was replaced quietly by Lord Buckinghamshire’s nominee, Sullivan, who was on active service in Spain. Rumour had it that Buckinghamshire’s intention was to compromise with the Monson interest, employing Robert Vyner II* or Sullivan for the purpose, which left no room for Ellison. No third man could be found, though it was thought ‘anything like a respectable one would have defeated the Buckinghamshire interest’. The mere apprehension of a third man had led to ‘a very great increase of expense’.8

Sullivan was killed in France in 1814 and his brother Charles, a naval officer, was at first expected to stand, but the freemen signified their displeasure (Sullivan had only visited Lincoln once) by asking their old Member Ellison to stand again; Ellison pointed out that he could not vacate his seat for Wootton Bassett in time and persuaded them to accept his nephew Waldo Sibthorp, who came in quietly. In July 1816 Fazakerley let it be known to his patron that he did not propose to offer himself again, having decided to try Grimsby. The Whig fear that this would result in the Monson interest falling under the management of the Tory Lord Warwick, whom Lady Monson was about to marry, proved groundless. As soon as she heard of it Lady Monson, with Fitzwilliam’s concurrence, approached Sir Gilbert Heathcote and asked him to put up his son. Heathcote replied that his son was abroad and that he did not feel so tempted by the opening as he had been in 1812. Alarmed by rumours of a dissolution, Lady Monson begged Fitzwilliam to find a candidate for her.9 None was found and in December 1817 a London alderman was approached by those seeking a ‘third man’, though unsuccessfully. The London freemen, acting through Stanbury, an election agent, subsequently secured Ralph Bernal, a wealthy London barrister, as their third man, while Robert Percy Smith* was prevailed on to stand on the Monson interest. Lady Warwick believed that Sibthorp would decline a contest, and that without a candidate she might forfeit her son’s inheritance; the Hon. Frederick John Robinson* mighy try to establish an interest at Lincoln. She was about to resort to Osbaldeston again, when Smith materialized. Fearing that candidates on her interest were scared away by fear of ‘ruin’, she engaged to pay all expenses above £5,000, reserving £2,000 for the purpose. Smith supplied £3,000 to the Monson agents, but insisted that it should be spent only under his supervision. Fitzwilliam secured the Sheffield voters for Smith, but the London voters went to Bernal and, as Lady Warwick, who regarded Bernal as a Burdettite, indignantly reported to her agent, ‘the intention of the Sibthorp party is to get us out and come in with Mr Bernal, as their object is to overthrow the Burton interest, and they don’t care who comes in, for that purpose’.10 Anticipating that Sibthorp’s friends would throw in votes for Bernal, she sought to secure plumpers for Smith, but to no avail: not even the strongest natural interest was safe at Lincoln, which with 1,154 voters in 1818, had become a source of vexation to both patrons and candidates.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. This draws on Sir J. W. F. Hill, Georgian Lincoln (1966), chs. iv and ix.
  • 2. Corresp. between Pitt and Duke of Rutland 1781-7, p. 3; the date should be 30 Apr. 1786.
  • 3. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iv. 136; HMC Var. vi. 210; A Complete Coll. of all the Papers ... pub. on occasion of the late Election (Lincoln, 1790); R. E. G. Cole, Doddington, 164-6; Lincs. AO, Hill mss 17/2/1; PRO 30/8/121, ff. 325-33.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/181, ff. 179-81; 234, f. 83.
  • 5. Lincs. AO, Ancaster mss 3 Anc. 9/6/29-31; Sheridan mss, Moira to Sheridan, 30 Mar. 1800; Add. 37880, ff. 193, 197, 226, 251.
  • 6. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 24 Oct. 1806; Add. 34457, f. 98; 35647, f. 87; Monson mss; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 11, 20 May 1807; Lincs. AO, Exley mss 27/54.
  • 7. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F108/1-18, 20, 21; Grey mss, Fitzwilliam to Grey, 23 Aug., 18 Aug.; Fitzwilliam mss, box 80, Grey to Fitzwilliam, 25 Aug. 1812.
  • 8. Mrs Napier Higgins, Bernards of Abington, iv. 173; Banks Letters ed. Dawson, 416; Oldfield, iv. 133; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F42/9, 20, 30, 36, 38.
  • 9. Fitzwilliam mss, box 85, Lady Monson to Fitzwilliam, 23 July; X1607, Heathcote to Milton, 29 July; Horner mss f. 153; Grey mss, Grey to Lady Holland, 6 Oct. 1816.
  • 10. Monson mss, Lady Warwick to Betham, Sunday [June], [2 June], to Monson, 10 June 1818; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F49/51-3.