Available from Boydell and Brewer
Number of voters:
|29 Mar. 1660||THOMAS WENDY|
|Sir Dudley North I|
|Sir Thomas Willys|
|28 Mar. 1661||THOMAS CHICHELEY|
|15 Jan. 1674||SIR THOMAS HATTON, Bt. vice Wendy deceased||872|
|6 Feb. 1679||GERARD RUSSELL|
|Sir Robert Cotton|
|21 Aug. 1679||SIR LEVINUS BENNET, Bt.|
|SIR ROBERT COTTON|
|3 Mar. 1681||SIR LEVINUS BENNET, Bt.||1400|
|SIR ROBERT COTTON||1375|
|26 Mar. 1685||SIR LEVINUS BENNET, Bt.|
|SIR ROBERT COTTON|
|15 Jan. 1689||SIR LEVINUS BENNET, Bt.|
|SIR ROBERT COTTON|
Cambridgeshire was a strongly political constituency throughout this period, and all but two of the elections are known to have been contested. In 1660 Sir Dudley North I, a Parliamentarian during the Civil War, and Sir Thomas Willys, who had held local office throughout the Interregnum, might have been returned unopposed if they would have pledged themselves for an unconditional restoration of Church and King. But when their refusal was announced to the freeholders, they were defeated ‘against all expectations’, by Thomas Wendy and Isaac Thornton, in spite of their ‘greater quality and estate’. Wendy was re-elected in 1661 and Thornton probably stood down in favour of the Royalist, Thomas Chicheley. At the by-election held on Wendy’s death the loyalist vote was divided between Sir Thomas Hatton and Sir William Wren, the son of the Laudian bishop of Ely, the country candidate Gerard Russell finishing less than 50 votes behind Hatton.3
On the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament Hatton retired in favour of his cousin, William Alington, Lord Alington. Chicheley canvassed vigorously for re-election, and obtained possession of the writ, which was not delivered to the under-sheriff until the evening of 3 Feb. 1679, three days before the county court was due to meet. A gentry meeting convened in Cambridge by Alington and Chicheley on the following day failed to reach unanimity on the choice of candidates. But it was agreed to postpone the election for a fortnight because the late delivery of the writ would otherwise prevent many voters from reaching Cambridge in time. However, when the sheriff arrived to hold the county court on 6 Feb. and found many freeholders ready to vote, he proceeded with the election. No opposition was offered to the country candidates, Russell and Edward Partherich, both probably of the Green Ribbon Club, and a court sympathizer reported them elected, though ‘by a trick too long to write’. Before the county court met again on 20 Feb. Chicheley and Alington had been returned for the borough. Wren and Sir Robert Cotton were nominated as court candidates, and a poll was demanded. Although their opponents initially objected, on the grounds that they had been elected already, they were in fact successful by a large majority, their indenture being dated 6 Feb.4
At the next election Wren, whose status as a Cambridgeshire freeholder may have been open to question, was replaced by Sir Levinus Bennet. An opposition pamphlet alleges that the court candidates spent almost £1,000, most of which was contributed by Chicheley. At the hustings the supporters of Russell and Partherich were taunted, reproached, jostled, and threatened, whilst those ‘great men’ for Bennet and Cotton were allowed ‘wholly to manage the election’. Unlike the previous election, voting was restricted to two polling stations only, which were ‘beset with the justices of the peace, militia officers, clergymen, etc.’. After some hours’ polling an adjournment was announced, and many freeholders went home. But about 9 p.m. the sheriff was persuaded to declare the court candidates elected without even casting up the votes. Russell and Partherich petitioned, but the elections committee did not report, which in the circumstances of the second Exclusion Parliament suggests a poor case. Moreover Bennet and Cotton went on to carry the next four elections, and their invincible partnership was terminated only by death. In 1681, however, when the same candidates stood, it was claimed that on the view they were outnumbered two to one, though Partherich had been only four or five days in the county between the dissolution of the last Parliament and the election, and Russell had made no effort to be chosen, leaving the freeholders ‘perfectly at liberty to elect as they thought fit’. A court pamphleteer claimed that:
all things were carried with a great evenness and calmness, till towards the conclusion when some of the dissenting Protestants, doubting the event, began to bustle, purposely to gain some foundation for a future petition; and one of his Majesty’s justices of the peace, for taking notice of their insolence, had like to have fallen under the judicature of their club-law. But he seasonably demanding whether the fanatics had a mind to outdo the Papists by murdering a justice ... in the execution of his office in the very face of the country, the fear of infamy proved a more restraining grace to the consciences of their clubs, than the club principles of their consciences.
Apparently the affront was so bitterly resented by most of the freeholders that Cotton was obliged to conduct one of the defeated candidates to his coach to protect him. An address was accepted, urging the Members to show ‘all imaginable regard and tenderness’ to the King, and
to use your utmost endeavour to preserve the Government of Church and State as now by law established, and in order to that, to suppress all seditious and scandalous practices wherewith many disaffected persons have most insolently and insufferably libelled and defamed it.5
There was apparently no contest in 1685. But Partherich came forward again in 1688, this time as a court candidate. The King’s electoral agents reported in April that ‘the dissenters and many others are entirely satisfied that he is right’. For the other seat they proposed either Samuel Clarke, son of John Clarke I, who had acquired Thornton’s property at Snailwell, but was serving as sheriff of Suffolk, or John Bennet, the nonconformist son of John Bennet and a cousin of the sitting Member. ‘Two of these three will be elected. They are not willing to elect any other, nor are there any that can make interest to oppose them.’ This was presumably intended as a warning to Lord Dover, the Roman Catholic lord lieutenant. Nevertheless in September it was reported that he had been ‘desired to pitch upon two, of which we have yet no account’. Though Partherich went to the poll again in 1689, he ‘was injuriously overborne and lost it’, and the two Tory Members were re-elected.6
Authors: E. R. Edwards / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Diary of Samuel Newton (Camb. Antiq. Soc. Pubs. xxiii), 71.
- 2. True Account of the Election at Cambridge (1681).
- 3. VCH Cambs. ii. 411; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 657; Pepys Diary, 20 Apr. 1660.
- 4. Case of Many Protestant Freeholders (1680); BL, M636/32, Stewkeley to Verney, 10 Feb. 1679.
- 5. Case of Many Protestant Freeholders; True Account; CJ, ix. 639; Prot. Intell. 24 Mar. 1681
- 6. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 322, 323; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 429.