Cambridge University


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the doctors and masters of arts

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

193 in 1692; at least 316 in 1705


21 Feb. 1690Sir Robert Sawyer165
 Hon. Edward Finch141
 John Bennet87
21 Nov. 1692Hon. Henry Boyle, vice Sawyer, deceased139
 John Brooksbank541
25 Oct. 1695George Oxenden153
 Hon. Henry Boyle132
 John Isham1112
25 July 1698Hon. Henry Boyle247
 Anthony Hammond152
 James Montagu I130
4 Jan. 1701Hon. Henry Boyle 
 Anthony Hammond 
26 Nov. 1701Hon. Henry Boyle180
 Isaac Newton161
 Anthony Hammond64
18 July 1702Hon. Arthur Annesley180
 Hon. Henry Boyle143
 George Oxenden1233
17 May 1705Hon. Arthur Annesley182
 Hon. Dixie Windsor170
 Hon. Francis Godolphin162
 Sir Isaac Newton1174
7 May 1708Hon. Arthur Annesley 
 Hon. Dixie Windsor 
5 Oct. 1710Hon. Dixie Windsor198
 Thomas Paske150
 William Shaw93
 Westby Gill645
18 July 1712Windsor  re-elected after appointment to office 
27 Aug. 1713Hon. Dixie Windsor 
 Thomas Paske 

Main Article

To the doctors and ‘actual’ masters of arts at Cambridge, who comprised the university’s senate and its parliamentary electorate, the ‘Church interest’ naturally made a powerful appeal, and High Toryism flourished no less than at Oxford. Indeed, half as many fellows and scholars again were ejected from Cambridge at the Revolution as from the other university, and some non-jurors continued in residence there under the protection of sympathetic heads of house, notably at St. John’s under its master, Humphrey Gower. But party divisions at Cambridge also reflected the close texture of college politics, and broader intellectual differences over religion and natural philosophy. In particular, the university was a centre of Latitudinarian theology and Newtonian science, both of which drew over significant numbers towards a ‘Low Church’, and even a Whig, point of view. Moreover, by controlling the flow of academic and ecclesiastical patronage, the politically moderate chancellor of the university, the Duke of Somerset (abetted after 1697 by the Earl of Manchester as high steward), and successive Low Church archbishops of Canterbury were able to exert their influence in the same direction, either personally or through the medium of college heads. Thus the university always returned at least one Whiggish Member from 1692 until the general election of 1705, when external management failed and the popular Toryism which had hitherto been for the most part a latent force in university elections broke through.6

The 1690 contest, which predated Somerset’s direct involvement in Cambridge politics, had already demonstrated the predominance of Tory feeling among the voters. At this stage the university’s principal outside patron was still Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), the secretary of state, whose brother Hon. Edward, a fellow of Christ’s, had been narrowly defeated in the election to the Convention and was a candidate again. Nottingham was a leading Tory, but his brand of Anglicanism was not yet entirely uncongenial to Low Churchmen, and on these grounds Finch may have expected his candidacy to have been endorsed by a broad range of university opinion. Nevertheless, although on this occasion Finch was returned, the result of the poll left him only in second place behind James ii’s former attorney-general Sir Robert Sawyer. Expelled from the Convention only the month before, in a belated Whig reprisal for his participation in the prosecution of the Popish Plot informer Fitzharris, Sawyer seems to have benefited from a backlash against what was regarded as a petty and vindictive punishment. Some Whigs even voted for him, including his former colleague in the university representation, Isaac Newton, and one Tory voter added to the conventional formula on the ballot paper (for votes in university elections were submitted in writing) the comment that he had chosen Sawyer ‘ex amore iustitiae’. The third candidate, John Bennet* of Great Abington, a local squire who gained the majority of his votes from the Whigs, was heavily defeated despite the fact that he was a Trinity man, and could thus have drawn on support from the biggest of the colleges.7

When Sawyer died in 1692, prospective candidates for his seat from within the university soon began to swarm. George Oxenden, master of Trinity Hall and currently vice-chancellor, was the first to announce his ambition. He ‘brought down the news of the vacancy, and desired the university would pay him with the place for his pains’. Oxenden’s Whiggish family connexions and unscrupulous careerism counted against him, and his weak standing even in his own college was evident from the appearance of another Trinity Hall fellow, John Brooksbank, as his earliest challenger. Several non-resident members of the university were also reported to be interested, in particular the former Tory judge and counsel for the Seven Bishops, Sir Francis Pemberton. To begin with, according to one source, ‘Sir Francis stands fairest in the affections of the people, as being esteemed a High Churchman, and in disgrace at court, a recommendation very prevalent with many’. Then Somerset intervened, sending his secretary to Cambridge ‘to try whether the university may be inclinable to comply with me in case I should recommend a near relation of mine to stand for burgess’. Encouraged by the compliant response of several heads of house, he nominated his cousin Hon. Henry Boyle, a young man of considerable promise whose parliamentary career, begun in the Convention, had been unexpectedly cut short by his failure to find a seat in 1690. Boyle was a Whig but no courtier, and perhaps more to the point was also connected with the Hyde family, whose friendship and patronage gave him an entrée into various Tory circles. The one drawback to his candidature was that he was not a member of the university, a prerequisite for election and an omission which had hastily to be corrected. Trinity College, where Somerset’s chaplain was a tutor, agreed to admit him in time, despite the reservations of the master, John Montagu, and some fellows. The chancellor was making every possible effort on Boyle’s behalf. A fellow of Christ’s reported with some distaste that Somerset ‘is so zealous as not only to have sent a letter to the senate, but his secretary to visit every particular master in arts, and has given the vice-chancellor notice he will be here himself in person’; and indeed he did preside over the poll, Oxenden having promptly withdrawn as a candidate when Boyle was nominated and having then developed an illness (almost certainly diplomatic) that prevented him from coming up to Cambridge for the election. The chancellor, therefore, ‘performed all the humble offices of his deputy’, in collecting the votes. It was his clear intention to make the election a test of his own standing in the university, and to this end he did his best to stifle any element of party rivalry. He was happy to trade on the fact that many still believed him to be at bottom more sympathetic to the Tory cause than the Whig, erroneously as it turned out, but took pains to ensure that high-flying Churchmen did not participate in the poll:

The chancellor, tho’ he pretends to be that side of the way himself, sent the non-jurors of St. John’s word if they voted, for they were retained against his interest, that he would turn them out of their fellowships; this was a great surprise to them from a brother of the [?quill] as they thought him, but it had its desired effect, and they did not think it convenient to appear.

The pattern of voting would suggest that Boyle’s opponent, the pertinacious John Brooksbank, enjoyed significant support from Whiggish and Low Church interests – from John Montagu and Newton at Trinity College, Archbishop Tillotson’s protégé John Laughton, and John Cudworth (son of the Platonist Ralph). Conceivably these votes may have been determined less by partisan considerations than by resentment at Somerset’s high-handed determination to foist an outsider on the university: his ‘eager proceeding’ was said to ‘make some people a little jealous’. The size of Boyle’s majority, however – 85 votes out of a total of 193 – and the dominant role played by the chancellor provoked a don to observe of Somerset, ‘I suppose he has fixed us a burgess for life’. Certainly in the short term Boyle proved difficult to dislodge: Somerset’s backing (provided that the chancellor remained active), and Boyle’s own peculiar position as an anti-ministerial Whig, which brought him support from men of either party, made him feel ‘very sure’ of his re-election in 1695; though the presence of two other candidates, each standing separately, kept him, as he put it, ‘upon my guard’. One of these was George Oxenden, who had overcome his reticence to stand now that both seats were contested. The second was John Isham, a Tory from a prominent Northamptonshire family. Originally he had been the nominee of the Finch circle, recommended by Lord Nottingham himself (whose secretary he had been), Archbishop Sharp of York and Bishop Compton of London, but in a surprising move Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Montagu* had also written to the university on his behalf, presumably from a wish to make trouble for Boyle. Political configurations in the university in this election were thus more confused than on any other occasion during the period, especially among Low Churchmen and Whigs, who could have voted according to conscience for any of the three candidates. As it was, Boyle appears to have secured the votes of a number of Tories, including Humphrey Gower and the numerous contingent from St. John’s; most of the heads of house, including those of the other two largest colleges, King’s and Trinity, which together with St. John’s accounted for nearly half the university electorate; and some leading Whigs like Newton. Oxenden enjoyed similar backing from the college heads, although his more eminent supporters tended to be Latitudinarian or Whiggish, while Isham’s share of the vote, again including well-known Low Churchmen like John Laughton, was in university terms perhaps more ‘popular’ in complexion. In a close-run contest, Isham was the loser. He complained to his brother that he had received ‘more promises’ than either of his opponents, ‘but I could not prevail with them to perform what they had promised’. Boyle, although he had been returned, suffered the disappointment of seeing Oxenden top the poll, whereas he had previously thought that ‘the contest . . . will lie chiefly between the other two’ and that ‘there will not be much difference between . . . their votes’. The reasons for Isham’s defeat were twofold. More than half the margin of his overall deficit to Boyle could be accounted for by plumpers, for in a relatively high proportion of single votes he trailed his two rivals by 13. The remainder was made up from the difference of Oxenden’s second votes, ten more of which went to Boyle than to Isham. The pattern of second votes shows how Oxenden came to finish at the head of the poll: while 60 of Boyle’s voters also voted for him, and 50 or so of Isham’s, only 30 electors polled for Boyle and Isham together. Rather than the result showing a Whiggish ascendancy, it would seem that the chief contest was between Boyle and Isham, and that Oxenden, the only university don of the three, obtained first place, as it were, by default.8

Such a conclusion would in many respects be borne out by the result of the next general election, in 1698, when again three candidates were in competition. Somerset gave Boyle his customary hearty endorsement, sending a letter of recommendation to the vice-chancellor, to be read out ‘in full senate’, and this time, although Boyle had recently put aside his ‘Country’ principles and joined the ministry, the Duke’s nomination received the compliment of a thumping majority at the head of the poll. Boyle received votes from most heads of house, and, just as significantly, from men of every political colouring, the Tories clearly forgiving him his ratting to the Court, or paying no attention to it. He was also the beneficiary on this occasion of a contest between the other two candidates, who represented the two factions that had co-operated in 1695 in support of Isham: the Nottinghamite Tories, who endorsed the nomination of the young High Churchman, Anthony Hammond, and the Junto Whigs, more particularly Chancellor of the Exchequer Montagu, who now had a candidate of their own in Montagu’s brother, James Montagu I. Oxenden had withdrawn from the fray, presumably in deference to Montagu. Hammond had originally been ‘put up by the non-jurors of St. John’s’, but had taken it upon himself to apply to the Finches for their help, and Nottingham obliged by writing ‘very zealously’ to his ‘friends’ in the university. Bishop Compton also ‘sent his chaplain and 40 letters’ on Hammond’s behalf, so that Nottinghamite churchmen as well as the high-flyers joined in voting for Hammond and opposing Montagu, an important addition of support since the oaths were tendered to the men of St. John’s and other non-jurors and their votes consequently ‘barred’. The Whig campaign, managed by the vice-chancellor and by John Laughton, drew support from the university establishment, many college heads, including Oxenden, doubling their votes for Boyle and Montagu, but still finished 20 short of Hammond’s total for the second seat.9

The ‘Low Church’ party’s grip on university patronage tightened still further in 1699–1700 when the mastership of Trinity fell vacant, potentially the key to control of the parliamentary constituency by virtue of the size of the college. The royal commission to appoint, comprising the two archbishops and Bishops Burnet, Lloyd, Moore and Patrick, after failing to persuade Newton to accept, decided on the formidable Dr Richard Bentley, former chaplain to Bishop Stillingfleet and himself an enthusiastic Newtonian. As well as possessing a notable Latitudinarian pedigree, Bentley was currently engaged in a bitter feud with Francis Atterbury and other High Churchmen in Oxford, arising from a scholarly controversy instigated by an Oxonian undergraduate, Hon. Charles Boyle II*, in the course of which Bentley had become something of a Low Church champion. Moreover, Bentley was a pugnacious man, who could be relied upon at least to try to stamp his personality on the college. And indeed he soon formed an opinion that Trinity was ‘filled (for the most part) with ignorant, drunken, lewd fellows and scholars’ and set about the labour of reform, involving a purge of the collegiate body and a reimposition of discipline. Bentley’s appointment made a stir, and doubtless helped instil a feeling of apprehension in the ranks of High Churchmen in the university at large. Certainly Hammond was moved to pay a visit to St. John’s, where it was reported that ‘to preserve his acquaintance’ he ‘wears a gown, keeps chapel and hall, and bows very low’. It may also have contributed to encouraging friends of the poet and diplomatist Matthew Prior* to propose that he stand against Hammond at the next election. In later life a Tory, Prior was still at this stage a protégé of Lord Manchester, and his connexions at the university seem to have been mainly Whiggish. He wrote to one correspondent in October 1700:

I hear it said as from some of my acquaintance as if I was resolved not to serve the university in a future Parliament. I neither said [n]or wrote anything of this kind to anybody but yourself, and to everybody that had spoke to me of it . . . I have thought fit to give no other answer but such a one as might show the great respect I had for the university, and the true desire I had to serve that body upon all occasions, and yet might leave me a liberty of retiring, and not exposing my friends and myself in case I thought I might meet a repulse in this understanding . . . whilst I was in France, some of my friends from the university wrote me word that I was looked upon by them and others as a person fit to represent them in Parliament. In saying this, I presume they had an eye to [my] having been from the age of 16 and to my continuing till that of 34 a member of that community . . . my name constantly in the books and my correspondence with my friends kept up, as well as to my having acted abroad in several stations so as to capacitate me in all probability to represent so illustrious a body. To this I add that I understood they would have some person whose principle it was to represent, as occasion might require, their steadiness to support the true rights of the English monarchy and the real preservation of theirs and the nation’s liberty. On these considerations I was induced to think that they did me a great deal of honour when some of the heads had me in their thoughts, and as they please to continue that favourable opinion of me, I shall always most readily obey any summons they may have for me . . . This is the sentiments I was in when I was last at Cambridge, and in which I think I shall always persevere. I would no more plead my merit to be a Parliament-man than Coriolanus would show his wounds to be consul, and my proceeding in and desisting from my first intention will be wholly governed by the encouragement or coldness which I may receive from the university . . . in the meantime you may either show this letter to the vice-chancellor, to Dr Bentley . . . and the rest of our friends at Cambridge, or you may say out of it what you think proper, that we may take the measures of our boat before we put to sea, and then you may pilot me as you please.

The reply was more positive and optimistic than he had expected, and reveals a good deal about the working of electoral politics in the university: ‘Those who are most cordially yours’, Prior was told,

wish with me that you had leisure and inclination to visit this place, to revive your interest among your former acquaintance, and to increase it by new; which is the only certain expedient for working our friend Tory [i.e. Hammond], whose frequent residence here and constant application to our young masters has made him very popular among them. They make too great a number at elections to be neglected in the interim. The authority of their superiors, the merits of competitors, or the interest of the university, Church and nation all put together do not go so far with them as the single motive of a personal acquaintance, and I never knew any man but Mr Boyle (whose interest here, between friends, depends wholly upon the chancellor) succeed without it. When the project of your being set up for our burgess was first proposed to you from hence, you may remember ’twas upon the prospect not only of your settling here in England, but of your continuing so long as the statutes of your college would permit a gremial of this body; and all those who made that proposal were then and are still confident that title would set Mr Prior upon an equal foot here with any competitor . . . I dare assure you that those heads whom I then mentioned, and some others whom you have seen, are resolved to serve your interest as far as their own will go: and ’twere to be wished that masters upon such occasions had the same influence in their colleges as princes have in their courts. Their number, you know, is 16, and the votes they can command may upon a general computation amount to five times that number, which will come to about one third of the electors; the rest must be gained by personal application and the solicitation of private friends, letters from patrons, relations, etc., all which must be diligently used some considerable time before the election, which cannot be secured to the greatest merit without them, especially in the case of a new competitor . . . their assistance . . . is sufficient to give you fair footing, but the success of it will depend very much upon your joining with them in your endeavours to improve the interest they have set on foot . . . I must needs tell you that ’tis necessary you should have a professed agent in your own college, who should make it his business to keep up your interest there, and to visit for you elsewhere while you are absent . . . I cannot with decency to my Lord Duke of Somerset undertake the public solicitation of any other interest than Mr Boyle’s, which is the only one he has hitherto recommended or given me leave to appear in. I have secured you several votes in our college . . . but I want assistance to solicit on your behalf a hundred people whom I do not know, and this must be done, secundum formam, from St. John’s College [Prior’s own college] . . . I am very much a stranger in your college, and wish you could direct me to someone whom we might entrust with the management of your affairs there. Methinks something should be done while Hammond is away, who is the idol of that society, but I hope you will not suffer him to be any longer the oracle of this university . . . he must be defeated by his own talent, industry. The scheme we laid last winter must be reviewed and put in practice immediately, letters must be written hither by your friends, and visits made by yourself either now, or (if you shall think it more convenient) while Hammond is confined to his attendance on the House . . . If you would have a list of all the masters of arts in each college, I will procure one and will endeavour to inform myself which way particular persons may be influenced . . . Pray visit Dr Bentley . . . See Dr Oxenden, and make him your friend. I think, since your affair has been mentioned . . . to the King and declared here, we are too far gone to make a retreat, especially so long as we have hopes of victory.

Despite this encouragement, Prior did not in fact carry through his challenge to a poll. The election, in January 1701, may have come too soon for him to gather his forces; and his failure to make inroads into Hammond’s solid basis of support in St. John’s was probably crucial. At all events Hammond was confident of re-election by December 1700, and he and Boyle were returned together unopposed. It was a different story, however, at the second election of 1701. The balance of power both in national and in university politics was shifting away from the Tories. In Cambridge, Somerset, now a committed Whig, exerted himself not just in support of Boyle but actively against Hammond, who found himself opposed by none other than Newton himself, on whose behalf Bentley was also campaigning vigorously. The tenor of the university’s loyal address on the occasion of Louis xiv’s recognition of the Pretender, with its strong commitment to the Protestant succession, indicated the trend of university opinion, and Hammond was scarcely helped by his involvement in the ‘Poussineers’ affair, when he and two other Tories had been discovered at supper with the French chargé d’affaires and been smeared as Jacobites by the Whig press. The lord chamberlain, Lord Jersey, another former member of St. John’s, wrote to his friends at Cambridge to recommend Hammond, and Lord Keeper Wright sent two of his chaplains to vote for him, but the tide could not be stemmed, and Hammond was resoundingly defeated in a contest which contemporaries interpreted as demonstrating the weakness of the High Church interest in the university. This was a serious misjudgment, as the result of the very next general election only six months or so later was to prove. What the November 1701 poll showed was the existence of a hard core of High Tory voters, many of them junior members of the university, who were prepared to plump for a high-flying candidate even in the most adverse circumstances. So although the university establishment produced another Whiggish address on the occasion of Queen Anne’s accession, and Bentley in particular was able to secure a batch of doctorates for Low Church divines such as White Kennett and William Nicolson, the swing of the pendulum at court back towards the Tories was immediately reflected in the parliamentary constituency. There was only one Tory candidate in the 1702 election, Hon. Arthur Annesley, a representative of the new generation of High Churchmen who had stood by Hammond the previous November, and also the younger son of a peer, and therefore a man with powerful connexions in the world outside Cambridge. The fact that Newton had decided not to stand again was an advantage to the Tories, the more so since his effective replacement was George Oxenden, a man with a much less exalted reputation. Even so, Oxenden’s defeat and Annesley’s triumph at the head of the poll constituted a remarkable reverse for the Whigs. In the long term, the significance of the result was twofold: it marked the appearance on the electoral scene of a new leading actor in the brilliant and powerful figure of Annesley, and revealed for the first time in a decade a weakness in Somerset’s position, possibly brought about by his over-confidence and high-mindedness. Although many college heads still voted for Boyle, and a few for Boyle and Oxenden together, a number, including Ashton of Jesus, Lany of Pembroke, the highly influential Roderick of King’s, and of course Gower of St. John’s, polled for Annesley, possibly sniffing a change in the political wind. In the short term, however, the most important reason for Oxenden’s defeat and Annesley’s striking success was that the two Whigs do not seem in practice to have acted together. While Annesley enjoyed twice as many single votes as his rivals, he picked up second votes in plenty from both of them, 90 from Boyle and about 70 from Oxenden. By contrast only 40 or so electors polled two votes against him.10

The 1705 general election was to witness a decisive test of strength between Whig and Tory factions in the university. In the interim the High Church bandwagon had gathered some momentum: in December 1703 it was reported that Cambridge had joined Oxford in instructing its Members to vote for the second occasional conformity bill, and in the following year a particularly vociferous Tory, Thomas Sherwill, a fellow of Christ’s, published a sermon he had preached before the university denouncing occasional conformists, and Dissenters in general, and upholding the political doctrine of non-resistance. However, although embattled, the Whigs were not yet in retreat, and the university’s address of congratulation on the military triumphs of 1704 significantly restricted its approval to the victories won by the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and omitted the naval successes of the Tory hero Sir George Rooke*. Where the Whigs were at a disadvantage was in the demise of the authority of the chancellor. Somerset’s recent inattentiveness to business, combined with unconcealed imperiousness when he did seek to intervene, had weakened his influence to such a degree that by 1705 he had hardly any part left to play in elections. On the Whig side management had devolved upon a handful of bishops, notably Simon Patrick of Ely, on Lord Manchester as steward, and on Manchester’s kinsman Lord Halifax, the former Charles Montagu, who once more aspired to a role in Cambridge politics. It was Halifax who was personally responsible for persuading Newton to stand again in 1705, after a ‘Mr Patrick’, presumably a relation of the bishop, had dropped out. To Newton’s considerable reputation was added the full prestige of government, for his partner was to be the lord treasurer’s son, Hon. Francis Godolphin*. With the collapse of Somerset’s interest Boyle, never an entirely comfortable figure in the university environment, had turned his attentions to a less cloistered constituency. The lord treasurer himself made every effort to ensure his son’s return: ‘the Queen sent her own and my lord keeper his chaplain to vote’, as did ‘all the London clergy also’, and his son’s supporters ‘threatened to take away’ the army commission enjoyed by one of the opposing candidates. Moreover, the electors were left in no doubt that Godolphin’s campaign had the benefit not only of a ministerial but a royal imprimatur. Prior to the election Queen Anne visited the university in what leading Tories angrily interpreted as little more than a publicity stunt intended to influence the election. She was greeted with a speech from the public orator ‘full of obedience’, and enthusiastic undergraduates took the opportunity to protest their devotion to her person and to the crown in street demonstrations, but the monarch’s own conduct was far removed politically from this heady atmosphere of high-flying loyalism. She conferred doctorates on a squadron of Whig peers, including Halifax, Orford (Edward Russell*) and Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), knighthoods on Newton and on James Montagu I (the defeated Whig candidate for the university in 1698, who had recently achieved notoriety in Tory eyes by his involvement as counsel for the Aylesbury men in the case of Ashby v. White (see Aylesbury, Bucks.), and dined at Trinity with Dr Bentley. All this was looked upon, especially the knighthoods for Newton and Montagu, as a positive declaration in favour of the Whig candidates at the election. On their side the Tories made the most of the popularity of the High Church cause in the university in the aftermath of the parliamentary effort over the Tack, organizing an undergraduate mob to ‘hallow like schoolboys and porters’ at the poll itself, and ‘cry “No Fanatic”, “No Occasional Conformist”’ against the Whig candidates. Like the Whigs they scoured the country for votes, making this ‘the largest poll ever known’ in the constituency, according to one contemporary observer, with a turnout of near 90 per cent. Allegedly Godolphin sent appeals to voters as far afield as Westmorland and the Isle of Wight, while the Tories ‘went to Lincoln for one vote’ and one of their candidates ‘rode 100 miles in two days’ canvassing. More important was the choice of a partner for Annesley. In a Cambridge context, the great strength of Hon. Dixie Windsor as a candidate was less his aristocratic background (as the second son of the Earl of Plymouth) and pronounced Tory beliefs than his connexion with Trinity College, where he was a fellow and a popular man. In all, of the near 60 votes recorded by Trinity men at this election Windsor obtained just over two thirds, double the total achieved by his colleague there, Newton. This was despite the fact that Bentley himself had voted a straight Whig ticket (or perhaps in part because of it, given Bentley’s abrasiveness and increasing unpopularity in some quarters of the college). In such a close contest, with less than ten votes between Windsor in second place and Godolphin in third, this windfall of votes could have been crucial. The pattern throughout the colleges was not dissimilar. Heads of house tended to favour the Whigs, particularly Godolphin: five voted for Godolphin and Newton, five plumped for Godolphin (including Roderick of King’s), and a further four gave one vote to Godolphin and another to a Tory (probably showing a degree of deference to the Court against their own individual party allegiance). But the votes of the college body did not necessarily reflect these preferences. At Peterhouse, for example, the master voted for the two Whigs, but three times as many members voted Tory as Whig. The same applied at Clare Hall, while at Caius the disparity was even more striking. Near-unanimity seems to have prevailed only at St. John’s, where the master, despite pressure brought to bear on him by Secretary Harley (Robert*) cast two Tory votes and was followed by 33 out of 45 members, a further six dividing their votes between Annesley and Godolphin. As the poll proceeded, and it became clear that the Whigs were in difficulties, Godolphin’s party resorted to desperate measures, finally convincing Newton to withdraw and ‘resign all his influence and voices to Godolphin’. The impact of this tactic cannot easily be assessed, but the evidence of the poll would seem to indicate that it was negligible. Only a handful of voters had already polled jointly for Newton and one of the two Tory candidates. Whether any who had intended to do so now gave that Whig vote to Godolphin cannot be determined. Some probably plumped for Godolphin, but not many. In an election with very few single votes he obtained 15 plumpers, ten more than either of the Tories but half the number needed to secure his return.11

For all that the result of the 1705 election had been remarkably close, its effect was dramatic. Newton, for one, retired from the fray, never to stand again, while Lord Godolphin and the Whig magnates were staggered by their reverse. ‘The loss of Mr Godolphin’s election’, his father wrote, ‘is no small mortification to me, and I now have the same occasion to complain myself of the behaviour of the clergy, as some of my friends had before.’ Halifax commented, ‘I think my lord treasurer is truly moved at the behaviour of the university, and certainly there never was such usage offered to the throne, by a body that owe their dependence on the crown.’ Manchester had even been subjected to a personal insult at the polls by the chaplain of Trinity. Although the Whig faction in the university establishment gained some petty revenge shortly afterwards by procuring the suspension of the regius professor of music, Thomas Tudway, for ‘reflections’ on the Queen in some unguarded remarks occasioned by her refusal of the Hertford address (see Hertford, Herts.), the tone of the various loyal addresses the university itself sent up in 1706 and the succeeding years, on military successes, the Anglo-Scottish union and the defeat of the 1708 invasion attempt, were distinctively Tory in their repeated emphasis on loyalty, submission and the ‘sacred person’ of the monarch; and in the 1708 general election Annesley and Windsor were re-elected without opposition. Twice as many votes were recorded for Windsor as for Annesley during the formal proceedings on this uncontested return, which might conceivably indicate a silent protest by the remnant of the Low Church interest in the university, casting only one vote instead of two and opting for Windsor as the less extreme and less prominent Tory of the pair. Cambridge’s failure to join the addressing campaign in 1710 in support of Dr Sacheverell was viewed in some quarters as an indication that the tide of High Church sentiment there was beginning to ebb, but such a conclusion was premature, as a Tory pamphleteer was quick to point out. ‘However we may have been misrepresented on this occasion’, he wrote, assuming the character of a member of the university,

we are still resolved to give the world a convincing proof of our steady loyalty, by choosing again our present honourable and most worthy representatives, and that in spite of any opposition that may or can be made; tho’ the glory of our university and nation, Sir I. Newton, should be once more sent down to tempt us from our duty, by the great and just veneration we have for him.

The Tory interest in the university was now identified above all with Annesley who, with a small circle of cronies, was coming to dominate Cambridge politics: young men for the most part, and fellows rather than heads of their colleges; men of the calibre of Thomas Sherwill (the 1704 preacher), Thomas Gooch of Caius, and above all Thomas Paske of Clare Hall, Annesley’s ‘creature’ and unofficial ‘agent’ in parliamentary elections. All were involved in a curious incident in July 1710, when, foregathering with other friends at the Rose tavern in Cambridge, they found themselves confronted by a proctor, none other than Richard Laughton of Clare Hall, probably the most militant Whig in the university and a man who had already infuriated the Tories by his electoral activities and by his recent suppression of the university’s ‘music club’. When Laughton officiously ordered the revellers back to their colleges he was jeered and twitted, some of the company, ‘by way of affront’, ostentatiously drinking Dr Sacheverell’s health and urging Laughton to join them. The proctor retired discomfited and subsequently lodged a complaint with the university authorities. Although this came to nothing, the affair fired Tory resentment, and High Churchmen struck back with a disciplinary charge of their own against Ward Grey Ashenhurst, a fellow of Trinity, who had allegedly spoken words disrespectful of the Queen, and who was brought before the vice-chancellor and college heads for judgment. Such episodes helped to create a fevered atmosphere in the university during the summer and autumn of 1710, but were of no help to the Whigs in their prospects at the polls. It seemed inevitable that the two outgoing Members would once more be re-elected without challenge, more particularly that no one would ‘dare to oppose’ Annesley, but the sudden death of Annesley’s elder brother shortly before the election and his own consequent elevation to the peerage as Earl of Anglesey made the situation more fluid. Annesley’s personal choice as successor was Thomas Paske, but there were others prepared to dispute this nomination. Attempts by Harley to persuade Thomas Sclater* to stand, a barrister and local squire who had been a Trinity College undergraduate, foundered upon Sclater’s unwillingness to split the ‘Church interest’, in spite of his evident resentment at Anglesey’s claim to be the arbiter of university elections. However, two other Tory candidates did appear, both college fellows, Westby Gill of Jesus and the rather more impressive figure of William Shaw of St. John’s, whose own college was prepared to give him significant backing and who for that reason earned Anglesey’s special attentions, ‘his lordship . . . threatening and abusing’ Shaw’s solicitors. In the last resort, however, not even the solid support of the master and members of St. John’s, 31 out of 35 of whom voted for him, could enable Shaw to obtain a seat. In a comparatively low turnout (roughly 65 per cent of the electorate voted, according to the evidence of one pollbook) Windsor topped the poll by a substantial margin, with Paske returned comfortably to the second seat. The demoralization of the Whigs was emphasized by the fact that their one, unidentified, candidate could manage only ten votes before withdrawing. A number of heads of house took no part at all in the poll, including Sir John Ellis of Caius (who had received his knighthood with Newton and Montagu in the 1705 visitation), and Bentley. The latter, having been for some time in increasing difficulties with recalcitrant members of his own college, and now faced by an incipient rebellion headed by a Whiggish fellow, Edward Miller, had been ‘tacking about’ in his politics in the search for powerful friends and was beginning to make advances both to eminent local Tories and to Harley himself. The factionalism and internal divisions within the college and the defection of the master from the Whig cause seem to have resulted in the neutering of Whiggism at Trinity. Little more than half the college’s voters polled in 1710, and only six followed Richard Laughton in supporting Shaw and Gill, in order to spite Anglesey. Overall, the contest on the Tory side seems to have been principally between Paske and Shaw. Windsor and Paske evidently stood together, for nearly 140 of their votes were doubles, but Windsor also drew significant numbers of second votes from Shaw, and even from Gill. Only one elector polled for Paske and Shaw together. Interestingly, there were very few plumpers, despite the fact that the alignment of candidates was far from straightforward, indicating the reluctance of university electors at this time to make less than a full use of the privilege of the franchise.12

The division of the Tory interest in the 1710 election worried some High Church activists, in spite of the fact that the outcome of the poll had proved the weakness of Whiggism in the university. Addresses in support of the ministry’s peace policy in 1712 reflected the continued dominance of Tory sentiment, but local feuds between Anglesey’s adherents and more independent-minded Tories remained a potential threat at election times should the Whigs succeed in mounting a campaign. As early as 1711 moves were afoot to replace Paske with a more generally acceptable candidate at the next election, preferably Anglesey’s cousin Francis Annesley*. From a different viewpoint, Sclater renewed his interest in the constituency, hoping to stand as the representative of a coalition of discontented Tories and surviving Whig or Low Church interests. Such at least was the scheme he laid before Harley, now lord treasurer and Earl of Oxford. He hoped to persuade Oxford to resurrect the old methods of external management, in order to secure the return of a moderate in place of a party extremist like Paske, and a Member who would be personally dependent on the lord treasurer himself rather than upon the mercurial and ambitious Anglesey. ‘At present’, Sclater wrote,

the candidates are Mr Miller [Edward], a Whig of no interest but with some few fellows of his own college, by opposing their master Dr Bentley; Mr Shaw, lately of St. John’s College, has no considerable interest but in his own college; Mr Gill has no interest but in his own small college of Jesus; Dr Paske is the favourite of the Church party by his great acquaintance as agent to Mr Annesley and Mr Windsor. I can’t pretend (by reason of my long absence from the university) to balance his interest with the party, but I having several heads of the colleges, whereof Trinity is one, with most of the fellows of that and several other colleges; if I had a letter from Dr Gastrell [Francis, a royal chaplain] to Lany, master of Pembroke, one from the dean of Canterbury to Dr Roderick, provost of King’s, and one from you to Dr Gower, I should not doubt with the help of the Whigs (from whom I have all the assurances possible) to outvote Paske.

Sclater recognized, however, that this strategy was not without its own peril, namely of ‘breaking the Church party’ by an alliance with the Whigs. He therefore put forward the alternative ‘for Mr [Francis] Annesley to prevail with Mr Paske to desist, and the Church party to unite with me, to whom they make no objection but their entire resignation to Mr Annesley’. Neither proposal seems to have carried much weight with the lord treasurer, and the Annesleys were in no mood to comply with Sclater’s wishes. The correspondence therefore ceased. When Windsor accepted an office of profit under the crown in 1712 he was re-elected without opposition, and the return of both outgoing Members was effected in the general election the following year in the same circumstances.13

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Camb. Univ. Lib. univ. archs. OIII10/1–2.
  • 2. Ibid. OIII11/1–3; Reg. 50/3/6(1); Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1529, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 26 Oct. 1695.
  • 3. Univ. archs. Reg. 50/3/6(2).
  • 4. Ibid. Reg. 50/3/6(3).
  • 5. Ibid. Reg. 50/3/6(4); OIII18/?1–4; Daily Courant, 7 Oct. 1710.
  • 6. Willis, Not. Parl. i. 179; E. and A.G. Porritt, Unreformed House of Commons, i. 102; D. Cook, ‘Rep. Hist. of Co., Town and Univ. of Cambridge 1689–1832’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1935), 211–12, 223; J. Gascoigne, Camb. in Age of Enlightenment, 72–73, 75–76, 83, 85–86, 90; C.H. Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iv. 36.
  • 7. Gascoigne, 75–76, 88; Staffs. RO, Dartmouth mss D(W)1778/I/i/1804, Ld. Dartmouth (George Legge†) to William Legge†, 10 Feb. 1689–90; Macaulay, Hist. Eng. iv. 1794–5; NLW, Kemeys-Tynte mss 161, Charles Herbert* to Sir Charles Kemys, 3rd Bt.*, 7 Mar. 1689–90; univ. archs. OIII19/1–3; Cook, 213, 221.
  • 8. Add. 28931, ff. 61, 63, 66; 70018, ff. 44, 83; Cook, 210, 222–4; Nat. Lib. Ire. Lismore mss 13226, Ld. Burlington (Richard Boyle†) to William Congreve, 18 Oct. 1692 (ex inf. Dr T. C. Barnard); Adm. Trinity Coll. Camb. ed. Ball and Venn, ii. 583; Diary of Samuel Newton (Camb. Antiq. Soc. xxiii), 106; univ. archs. OIII10/1–2; OIII11/1–3; Reg. 50/3/6(1); HMC Portland, iii. 571–2; Isham mss IC 1529.
  • 9. Cook, 225; Cooper, 40; Add. 28931, ff. 192, 194; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Finch–Halifax pprs. Hammond to Sir John Banks, 1st Bt.*, 29 Mar. 1698, Banks to his da., 29 Mar. 1698; BL, Althorp mss, Nottingham to Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*), 15, 25 Apr. 1698; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 151; Gascoigne, 91; Camb. Univ. Lib. Add. mss 3, f. 13; univ. archs. OIII12/1–3.
  • 10. Gascoigne, 85–86, 90–91, 96; R. J. White, Dr Bentley, 109–17, 124–39; Corresp. of Richard Bentley (1842), ii. 448; HMC Bath, iii. 411, 423–4, 426–8; Cook, 225–31; HMC Cowper, ii. 411, 415; Algemeen Rijksarchief, Heinsius mss 730, Robethon to Heinsius, 2 Dec. N.S. 1701 (Horwitz trans.); Cooper, 46–47, 50–51; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 61; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(2), Hon. James Brydges’* diary, 13 Nov. 1701; Coxe, Walpole, ii. 3; univ. archs. OIII14/1–3; Reg. 50/3/6(2).
  • 11. Add. 17677 WWW, f. 403; AAA, f. 254; T. Sherwill, Degeneracy of the Present Age as to Principles . . . (1704), 12–27; Cooper, 66–67, 71–73; Gascoigne, 90, 96–97; Newton Corresp. iv. 439–41, 445; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 100–1, 107; Speck thesis, 315–16; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 11–13, 209; Add. 5868, ff. 21–22; HMC Portland, iv. 178–9, 189; Bodl. Carte 244, f. 58; Ballard 23, ff. 114–16; Rawl. D. 863, f. 89; univ. archs. Reg. 50/3/6(3); Cook, 232; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 15 May 1705.
  • 12. Cook, 233, 237–40; Speck, 107; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 359; Boyer, v. 333–5; vi. 212; vii. 28; Cooper, 76, 100; univ. archs. OIII17/1–2; Reg. 50/3/6(4); Univ. of Camb. Vindicated . . . (1710), 8, 14, 21–35; Diary of Edward Rud (Camb. Antiq. Soc. v), 5, 9; Cambridge under Q. Anne ed. Mayor, 459–60, 464; Add. 70262, Horatio Walpole I* to Oxford, 11 July [?1712]; HMC Portland, iv. 549, 605–6; v. 94; HMC Bath, iii. 442–3; White, 140–52; Bentley Corresp. ii. 456–8; Present State of Trinity Coll. Camb. . . . (1710).
  • 13. Cooper, 108, 111–13; HMC Portland, v. 93–94.