Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
|16 Apr. 16601||SIR THOMAS WIDDRINGTON|
|13 May 1661||(SIR) METCALFE ROBINSON|
|16 Jan. 1665||SIR THOMAS OSBORNE, Bt. vice Scott, deceased||majority 185|
|Sir Roger Langley|
|10 Nov. 1673||SIR HENRY THOMPSON vice Osborne, called to the Upper House||over 1100|
|Sir John Hewley||under 6002|
|24 Feb. 1679||SIR JOHN HEWLEY|
|SIR HENRY THOMPSON|
|(Sir) Metcalfe Robinson, Bt.|
|8 Sept. 1679||SIR JOHN HEWLEY|
|SIR HENRY THOMPSON|
|21 Feb. 1681||SIR JOHN HEWLEY|
|SIR HENRY THOMPSON|
|16 Mar. 1685||SIR JOHN RERESBY, Bt.||937|
|(SIR) METCALFE ROBINSON||781|
|9 Jan. 1689||PEREGRINE OSBORNE, Visct. Dunblane|
The corporation interest at York seems to have been fairly consistently hostile to the Stuarts during this period, even after the drastic purge of 1662, but this could be to some extent counterbalanced by the influence of the high steward and the governor.It was expected that John Hewley, an Independent lawyer who was counsel to the corporation, would stand in 1660, but Sir George Savile was told that he would not have prevailed against the successful candidates. These were Sir Thomas Widdrington, a former recorder, who had complied with all the Interregnum governments, and Metcalfe Robinson, the son of a royalist colonel, who defied the Long Parliament ordinance against Cavaliers and their sons. The corporation tried to prevent him from standing for re-election in 1661 by nominating him as sheriff, ‘but the King sent a mandamus to elect another’ for the post. It was also on the King’s personal intervention that John Scott, an obscure royalist conspirator who had been made governor at the Restoration, was enabled by the grant of his freedom to contest the second seat. Widdrington had quarrelled with the corporation and was not re-elected. Both candidates in the by-election which followed Scott’s death had royalist antecedents, but whereas the candidature of Sir Roger Langley was approved by Lord Chancellor Clarendon, Sir Thomas Osborne at this date was a supporter of the Duke of Buckingham, the high steward. It was doubtless Buckingham who obtained the King’s signature to a letter requesting that Osborne should be admitted a freeman ‘as a person for whom his Majesty had a particular regard’. Langley formally desisted, but he must have changed his mind, for there was a poll in which Osborne triumphed by 185 votes.4
When Osborne was appointed lord treasurer in 1673 and raised to the peerage as Lord Latimer, he wrote to the corporation
to assure you that since my remove is not by death, but to a station more capable of doing you service, you may depend upon a return of gratitude from me suitable to the obligation you have laid upon me. I acknowledge to have many several ties of friendship to the city of York, as the place not only of my education, but whose kindness was ever extended as well to my father as myself, and the consideration of those ties has bred in me so natural an inclination both to wish and act anything that might be to the good of it that I never received any of your commands but I applied myself with as much delight to effect them as any of those could take whose concern it was to obtain their desires. And I thank God my successes have been suitable, for I know not anything directed to me in behalf of the city wherein I have not speeded according to my wishes.
Having been thus happy, not only myself but in my family by the services which have been likewise paid you by my father, I confess I am ambitious of having one link more added to the chain of our friendship by admitting my son to the same honour of serving you in Parliament, by which as you will give me occasion to value myself upon the continued favour and kindness of so noble and ancient a city, so you will have two obliged and constant attendants in both Houses to take care of your concerns there, and promote any commands you have for them; and whatever you have with his Majesty I shall always be ready to charge myself withal preferably to any business of my own.
The corporation, however, replied on 12 Sept.:
We are heartily sorry that we are utterly incapable of answering your Lordship’s expectation in our choice of your son for we do truly own your Lordship’s so often repeated favours to this place, which we have a deep sense of. But upon knowledge of your Lordship’s promotion ... ’twas thought fit to choose one of our own body, so we made our application to Sir Henry Thompson of Escrick for our burgess.
Latimer’s agents, including Hewley, attempted to get Thompson to stand down, but found him ‘very stiff in the business of his election’ and unwilling to withdraw except at the express desire of the corporation. The corporation also objected that Edward Osborne was under age, and despite a letter from Buckingham on his behalf, continued to support Thompson. On 16 Sept. Latimer wrote an angry letter to the corporation:
I hear also that it is made a great inducement to the election of Sir Henry because he will be so great a promoter of the trade of the city, but certainly it is the first time that any man’s interest was thought equal to the lord treasurer’s in promoting of trade in England.
Osborne withdrew, whereupon Hewley stood against Thompson, but was defeated. Thompson claimed to have been elected by ‘the lord mayor, aldermen, common council, and citizens of the best quality’, whereas Hewley
had not 600 votes, many whereof were no freemen and were challenged for undue polling, and of those that had the right of election, not above 32 were of that consideration as to be assessed to the poor rate and most of the rest were apprentices and youths under 20 and soldiers hired to take their freedom two or three days before the election and vote for him.
Hewley petitioned repeatedly, presumably with Latimer’s support, but Thompson was voted duly elected on 15 Mar. 1677.5
It was reported on 21 Feb. 1679 that Hewley was ‘labouring hard at York, and many are of opinion that he will put Sir Metcalfe Robinson hard to it’. Hewley and Thompson, both exclusionists, were successful, and were re-elected unopposed in September. Next month the corporation deeply offended the Duke of York, then on his way to Scotland, by refusing to wait on him, for which they were rebuked by the King through Sunderland. The following year the city further annoyed the King by presenting a petition for the meeting of Parliament, signed by most of the corporation and by its two Members, and a quo warranto was contemplated. Before the 1681 election Thompson
was met with about 400 of the best citizens on horseback, and conducted through the city to Sir John Hewley, the bells ringing and proclaiming their joy at their intended election. Whence all the citizens in general, went to wait on them at the Guildhall; and after reading the writ, and making proclamation, these two worthy gentlemen were unanimously chosen. The indentures being sealed, and the election declared, the recorder made them an eloquent speech, declaring the thanks of the city for their great and faithful services the two last Parliaments, and desiring they would persevere, in giving their furtherance to such good laws, as may secure them and their posterities, the Protestant religion, the King’s sacred person, and the well established government of the realm, from Popery and arbitrary power ... The election being done, the lord mayor invited the two knights, with the aldermen, several gentlemen and citizens to a splendid dinner: as they were also invited by 200 citizens, to a great feast the Thursday following, thereby showing their dislike and abhorrence of debauched and irregular elections; as also to take off their representatives from any occasion of expense.6
Sir John Reresby, the governor of York, wrote c.1682:
the loyal party in York is much inferior in number to the factious. The first consists of the gentry, clergy, officers and dependents of the Church, militia officers and soldiers, and about a fourth part (as is computed) of the citizens, the second of the mayor and the whole magistracy (two aldermen only excepted), the sheriffs, and most of the common council, with the rest of the city.
Alarmed by the proceedings against the London charter, however, the Whigs, led by the Thompsons, made some conciliatory gestures towards the Government. They replaced Buckingham by the Duke of Richmond as their high steward and produced a loyal address abhorring the Rye House Plot. Nevertheless they had to surrender their charter in July 1684. No replacement had been issued before the next election, when Edward Thompson and four other Whig aldermen, in the hope of retaining their seats on the bench, offered Reresby and Robinson the corporation interest. But Reresby’s governorship was coveted by the ultra-Tory Sir Thomas Slingsby, who persuaded the common council to put up two other candidates. One of them was Reresby’s step-father, James Moyser, and the other, Colonel Tobias Jenkins of Grimston, was brother-in-law to the dean of York. Neither was a freeman; but the judges advised the mayor, despite Reresby’s efforts, not to obstruct their candidature, and six days before the election the corporation resolved to grant them their freedom, though only by a majority of one. Reresby then ‘went about the streets from house to house ... to ask the votes of the citizens’ and entertained the town ‘with good liquor’ at the cost of £350. He and Robinson were returned, though the latter only by a majority of 11. Separate petitions from the defeated candidates, Jenkins against Reresby and Moyser against Robinson, were not reported. Slingsby had his revenge under the new charter of 8 Aug. 1685, when Thompson and his associates were removed.7
The corporation sent a loyal address on the birth of the Prince of Wales, but when the King proposed Reresby to them as court candidate in 1688 the lord mayor replied that they were pre-engaged to Prickett, the deputy recorder, and Sir Stephen Thompson. James then told Reresby that Robert Brent, the regulator, would make whatever changes he desired to safeguard his election, and on 9 Sept. Prickett was removed, along with the lord mayor, ten aldermen, and 13 of the common council. The King’s electoral agents were assured that the city would now re-elect the sitting Members. But the old charter was restored in the following month, and Danby became high steward. On 22 Nov. he occupied the city for the Protestant cause, arrested Reresby, and procured an address from the corporation to the Prince of Orange asking to be allowed to play their part ‘in so glorious a design’. Reresby on his release applied to Danby for permission to stand for York, but was told that the corporation were already engaged for his son, Lord Dunblane, and Edward Thompson. They were returned unopposed on James’s writs on 17 Dec. and probably again in the following month.8
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. Notts. RO, DDSR 221/96, Turner to Savile, 17 Apr. 1660.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 122.
- 3. Reresby Mems. 358.
- 4. VCH York. 191-2; Notts. RO, DDSR 221/96, Turner to Savile, 21 Apr. 1660; C. Hildyard, Antiqs. York, 115, 119; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1945; Browning, Danby, i. 29; York corp. house bk. B38/9; The Newes, 26 Jan. 1665.
- 5. Add. 28051, ff. 14-32; Browning, ii. 18, 41-45; CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 122; CJ, ix. 291, 400; Marvell ed. Margoliouth, ii. 313-14, 316-17.
- 6. HMC Astley, 42; Jones, First Whigs, 121; Drake, Eboracum, 175; Reresby Mems. 191, 283-4; Prot. Dom. Intell. 25 Feb. 1681.
- 7. Reresby Mems. 301-2, 354-8, 363, 370-1, 579-80; London Gazette, 23 July 1683; Drake, 176; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 75; CJ, ix. 716, 723.
- 8. London Gazette, 30 July 1688; Reresby Mems. 507-9, 540; PC2/72/734-5; Duckett, 102; English Currant, 21 Dec. 1688; Eg. 3336, f. 138.