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 700


(1801): 6,506


17 June 1790PHILIP STEPHENS374
 George Parker, Visct. Parker290
13 Mar. 1795 (SIR) PHILIP STEPHENS, Bt., re-elected after appointment to office 
25 May 1796(SIR) PHILIP STEPHENS, Bt. 
8 July 1802(SIR) PHILIP STEPHENS, Bt. 
3 Nov. 1806SIR HORATIO MANN, Bt. 
8 May 1807PETER RAINIER171
 Sir Horatio Mann, Bt.148
22 Apr. 1808 JOHN SPRATT RAINIER vice Rainier, deceased336
 Charles Morgan158

Main Article

At the three general elections before 1790 government, acting through the Admiralty, had taken both seats at Sandwich, one of the few boroughs in which its influence had been increasing. Government’s main strength lay in the person of Philip Stephens, a long-serving secretary to the Admiralty, of whom Oldfield wrote:

The inhabitants are bound to this gentleman by every tie of gratitude, as there is scarcely a single family, some part of which has not been provided for by him, in the Admiralty, navy, or marines.1

But the large electorate, composed of both resident and non-resident freemen, was difficult to keep under permanent control, and an independent interest, which in the earlier part of the period favoured men with local connexions and later politicians of an independent or radical turn of mind, was never negligible.

Four prospective candidates appeared before the common assembly of 21 Apr. 1790: Stephens and the courtier Viscount Parker* on the government interest; and, on the independent interest, Sir Horatio Mann, who had been invited to Sandwich by a body of freemen and derived influence from his neighbouring estates, and John Dilnot, a local resident, who claimed to have devoted ‘a large portion of my time to the preservation of our harbour’ and expressed interest in an inland navigation scheme. He was described by the Kentish Chronicle as a ‘constitutional Whig’, but said himself that he belonged to no party. Stephens and Mann won majorities at the assembly, whereupon Dilnot withdrew in Mann’s favour. Parker persisted in his canvass and on him Mann accordingly concentrated his attack. Mann’s strength lay in the resident freemen, of whom he polled 199 against Parker’s 72. Parker’s superiority among the outvoters was not quite sufficient to counteract this advantage.2 Although Oldfield wrote of retaliatory action taken by Stephens against those who had failed to support Parker, alleging that some had been ‘displaced, and no new places have been granted, but upon a promise of implicit obedience’,3 Mann was left undisturbed in 1796 and 1802.

When Stephens retired in 1806 he lent his support to the Grenville ministry’s Admiralty candidate, Thomas Francis Fremantle, with whom Mann joined forces. A week before the election Lord Keith reported to William Adam, one of the government’s election managers: ‘All is quiet at Sandwich still, but the people want a man. Sir Horace is not strong in purse ... If anyone not a friend appears, I shall send off to the Treasury.’4 In the event there was no disturbance. Mann repeated his manoeuvre in 1807 with the candidate of the Portland ministry, Charles Jenkinson, who was absent on diplomatic service at the time and relied on the backing of his brother Lord Hawkesbury, warden of the Cinque Ports. On this occasion Mann was forced to retire on the morning of the second day, having been pushed into third place by the intervention of Adm. Peter Rainier, who had strong family connexions with Sandwich, stood independently and polled 124 plumpers in his total of 171.5

In November 1807, when Jenkinson had returned to England to take up his appointment as undersecretary at the Home Office, Mann told Hawkesbury that ‘though I never will fail to cultivate the interest I have in Sandwich, yet will I never obtrude in favour of anyone’. He added wryly that Jenkinson’s constituents, to whom he had already ‘given ample and munificent proof of his attention’ would ‘put his patience and patronage to many a trial’.6 On Rainier’s death in 1808 it was his nephew, Capt. John Spratt Rainier, who assumed his interest. He secured ‘the entire goodwill and countenance of the government’ through Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Irish secretary, who had served with his uncle in India. The independent Richard Bateman Robson* canvassed the borough, but withdrew five days before the election, complaining that he had not been given sufficient notice of Mann’s unwillingness to stand. Independent opposition was then left to Maj. Charles Morgan of Howland Street, Marylebone, who, despite poor support, kept the poll open for four days. He petitioned unsuccessfully against Rainier’s return, alleging bribery, treating and corruption and protesting against the improper use made of the letter written by a peer and cabinet minister in support of his opponent.7

Morgan maintained his interest at Sandwich, but died in May 1812, when it was reported that ‘the independent interest of that place is disengaged’.8 Both Rainier and Jenkinson took their leave of the borough at the dissolution of 1812. The electors were said to be ‘crying out for a naval man’ and government, confident of carrying one seat, sent down Sir Joseph Yorke, a lord of the Admiralty, who was returned unopposed with Joseph Marryat, a wealthy and highly independent London merchant.9 On 18 Nov. 1812 John Wheatley of Erith, a Whig, complained to Charles Williams Wynn of opposition mismanagement at the general election and wrote of Sandwich:

I think the government Member would have been hard pressed ... but I knew not whom to write to, nor did any of the gentlemen who are in the Whig interest ... I was applied to to stand both for Dover and Sandwich. I made a show at Sandwich, but ran away upon Sir Joseph Yorke coming down.10

According to Oldfield, John Ashley Warre* declined an invitation to stand on the independent interest in 1818, when Marryat was returned unopposed with Sir George Warrender, another lord of the Admiralty. His description of both Members as Treasury nominees is misleading.11 On 24 Mar. 1818 Warrender, writing from Sandwich, told Lord Liverpool that he had declined Lord Falmouth’s request that he should continue to sit for Truro, because ‘I feel my duty to you and the government too much to leave this place under the circumstances in which I find it’. Marryat’s address made much of his independent conduct in Parliament, and his opposition to ministers on economy and the suspension of habeas corpus. After the election Warrender wrote to Lord Melville, first lord of the Admiralty:

I have just returned from Sandwich where I remained six days after the election, looking to ulterior objects there, and I can have no doubt that on a future occasion two Members can be carried. Mr Marryat was throughout as hostile as his address showed him to be, and although we dined together the last day, yet he having had all the Jacobins in the place on his committee, and an obvious intention existing of giving him single votes in the event of a contest, I am in no way indebted to him or his friends for a quiet election. There are between 30 and 40 post captains and commanders and lieutenants who were present at the election as freemen of Sandwich, many of them with high characters in the service and all of them senior to Captain Marryat ... the applications for employment were very numerous, and although neither before the election nor since did I make any promise whatever, yet I could not but feel that Captain Marryat’s having announced that he was immediately to have a ship was a serious injury to me, in the face of his father’s most gratuitous advertisement, and while the persons capable of the most violent proceedings were members of the committee for his election. I hope I shall have an opportunity of some conversation with you before Captain Marryat is appointed to a ship, and feeling as I do the importance in these times of keeping such a place as Sandwich right, I have spared no trouble or expense, nor will I either, for that object, although the electors now increased to 1200 make the situation anything but a sinecure.12

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Boroughs, ii. 319.
  • 2. Kentish Chron. 20, 27 Apr., 11 May, 22 June 1790.
  • 3. Boroughs, ii. 319.
  • 4. Fortescue mss, T. to Ld. Grenville, 17 Oct.; Kentish Chron. 24 Oct.; Blair Adam mss, Keith to Adam, 25 Oct. 1806.
  • 5. Kentish Chron. 1, 5, 12 May 1807.
  • 6. Add. 38242, f. 127.
  • 7. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 401; Kentish Chron. 22, 26 Apr. 1808; CJ, lxiii. 297, 375.
  • 8. Kentish Chron. 2 June 1812.
  • 9. Add. 35394, f. 139; 38249, f. 259; 38739, f. 45.
  • 10. NLW.
  • 11. Key (1820), 247.
  • 12. Add. 38458, f. 227; Kent AO Sa/ZP1, Marryat’s address, 26 May 1818; NLS mss 1041, f. 119. Warrender probably exaggerated the size of the electorate. The 1831 pollbook gives a total of 931 voters.