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

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 1,398 in 1705; about 1,735 in 17131


20 Feb. 1690CHARLES SOMERSET, Mq. of Worcester  
7 Nov. 1695SIR CHARLES KEMYS, 3rd Bt.  
11 Aug. 1698THOMAS MORGAN  
23 Jan. 1701JOHN MORGAN II  
27 Nov. 1701JOHN MORGAN II  
6 Aug. 1702JOHN MORGAN II  
23 May 1705JOHN MORGAN II843 
 John Morgan I659 
 Sir Thomas Powell, Bt.5642 
20 May 1708JOHN MORGAN II10951149
 THOMAS WINDSOR, Visct.Windsor [I]895 911
 Sir Hopton Williams, Bt.60536584
19 Oct. 1710JOHN MORGAN II  
 THOMAS WINDSOR, Visct. Windsor [I]  
18 Feb. 1712JAMES GUNTER  vice Windsor, called to the Upper House  
30 Apr. 1713THOMAS LEWIS  vice Gunter, deceased  
17 Sept. 1713JOHN MORGAN II1196 
 Thomas Lewis8515 

Main Article

An unusually high relative concentration of Catholics in its northern quarter had made Monmouthshire a cockpit of religious and party political animosities in the 1670s and 1680s, but at the 1690 general election the Whig and Tory interests, in the form of two of the three leading magnate families, the Morgans of Tredegar and the Somersets, dukes of Beaufort, respectively, shared the county representation. The dormancy of the third magnate power, that of the Herberts, whose Monmouthshire estates had passed to a daughter of the 7th Earl of Pembroke, probably facilitated the survival as knight of the shire of the Beaufort heir, Lord Worcester, in the face of the formidable Whig faction. But by 1695 Worcester was bent on withdrawal, possibly because of ill-health or because he had been implicated in Jacobite conspiracy. The outgoing borough Member, Sir Charles Kemys, 3rd Bt., formerly a Beaufort follower but now being drawn into the political orbit of his wife’s family, the Whartons, joined forces with Thomas Morgan (recently appointed custos) in a move which divided the Tories. A group which Kemys characterized as ‘the Jacobites (as some folks call ’em)’ and which was headed by Sir John Williams, 2nd Bt., of Llangibby (himself the successor to one of the most violent Whigs of the older generation) opposed him. An emissary of theirs was sent to Troy for Worcester’s blessing, but received only a pledge of non-interference. Though disapproving heartily of Kemys’s conduct the Somersets were unwilling to publicize their hostility, and perhaps for this reason Williams failed to carry his challenge through to a poll, settling instead for an arrangement by which Kemys and Morgan were to be returned, with Williams to replace Kemys at the following election, a promise which was duly exacted in 1698 in spite of what appears to have been some last-minute tergiversation on Kemys’s part. A further provision of the agreement had been that Kemys would come back as knight at the first opportunity thereafter. After the committee decision on the Brecon election (see BRECON), in which Morgan was also involved, had paved the way for a by-election in Monmouthshire, Kemys began to canvass the county in February and March 1700. He met opposition, however, from John Arnold, a leading local Whig who had sat for Monmouth in the 1695 Parliament, who also began to solicit votes in the county. However, the Brecon election case was never reported, and Morgan retained the seat until his death in December 1700. In the general election a month later the Williams and Morgan interests were sufficiently strong, and sufficiently in accord, to freeze Kemys out. Williams and the heir to Tredegar, John Morgan II, were returned together at this and the next two elections. No opposition is recorded, but the fact that in both November 1701 and 1702 there were two separate indentures suggests that party differences (Morgan fully shared his family’s Whiggism) may have given rise to tension. The county address on Queen Anne’s accession represented a compromise between Whig and Tory prejudices: resolute opposition to ‘the exorbitant power of France and the growth of popery’, and at the same time vigorous support for ‘the true interest of the Church of England’. It is not clear whether any significance should be attached to Williams’ absence at its presentation, which was the work of Morgan and his uncle and namesake, the borough Member.6

The harmony ostensibly prevailing in Monmouthshire elections was broken in 1705, and while this breach coincides with the first tangible impact on county politics of the 2nd Duke of Beaufort, often a bull in a china shop where elections were concerned, the evidence points instead to the generally more cautious John Morgan of Tredegar as the culprit. For Beaufort wrote to Morgan in January 1705:

I have received your letter, and must confess I was not a little surprised to see several of your circular letters, that had gone about to secure an interest, without your taking the least notice to me thereof, as if you had lain under no engagement by your promise so very lately made to me at Troy, that nothing should be done therein without my concurrence and [that of] the rest of the gentlemen of the county, in which I have been so particularly observant that, notwithstanding some applications have been made me, I have kept myself very strictly to my promise, as they can testify for me; not doubting but that you and the rest of the gentlemen and myself should have an opportunity some time this summer . . . to meet and unanimously to settle that point amongst us, and till then (being under so general an engagement) I cannot look upon myself to be free, separately, to promise my interest to any particular; otherwise you would not want, by this, those testimonies of that respect I have for my cousin Morgan [John I] and yourself.

Clearly Morgan had been canvassing for himself and his uncle John Morgan I, a merchant who had been buying land in Monmouthshire and whose ambition to progress from the borough to the county seat may have been at the root of this contretemps. Beaufort’s next surviving letters date from April 1705, when he sent a representative to a meeting of gentlemen convened at Usk, hoping to settle matters ‘consistent with that agreement’ John Morgan II ‘and the rest of the gentlemen made with me at Troy’ (either before January or on another, more recent, occasion). The result was not to his liking: ‘finding that Mr Morgan of Tredegar and his friends’, he wrote in a circular letter,

(notwithstanding all their promises to me . . . which I relied on, and now appears only made by them to gain time and votes) are not for admitting anyone but whom they please to be chosen, not only in the county but town, also engrossing to themselves the power over all the gentlemen besides; I cannot but look upon it to be a very disingenuous way of proceeding, and, having no design but to assert the share other gentlemen of the country ought to have and that that freedom may not be restrained by one single family, I do propose (being free of that engagement at Troy) Sir Hopton Williams [3rd Bt.] and Sir Thomas Powell [1st Bt.] and desire you will join your interest with mine and theirs.

Characteristically, Beaufort now flung all his energies into supporting ‘the two baronets’, assuring that they enjoyed the favour of the sheriff, and approaching the Pembroke heiress, the wife of Lord Windsor, for her ‘interest’. He was unable to dislodge the master of Tredegar, but Sir Hopton Williams, 3rd Bt. (who had recently succeeded his brother Sir John at Llangibby) pipped the elder Morgan to the second seat, provoking a petition from Morgan, presented to the Commons on 2 Nov. 1705, on the grounds that the Tories had been guilty of ‘menaces, and treating of divers freeholders, after the teste of the writ’. This was referred to the committee of privileges, but never reported.7

Both sets of principals seem to have shrunk back from a repetition of this contest in 1708. The Morgans perhaps realized the unpopularity of putting up for both seats, and ‘Morgan the merchant’ retired from the electoral scene. Beaufort, meanwhile, was satisfied with his success in 1705, and was also induced to adopt a defensive posture by the increasing Whig ascendancy in national politics. He therefore supported a combination between Morgan of Tredegar and the Tory Lord Windsor, now intent on exploiting his wife’s estates for his own political purposes, and left Sir Hopton Williams to fend for himself. At one point Williams was reported to be making ‘a strong interest’ and ‘soliciting everybody in Mr Morgan’s name, and had prevailed with abundance of country fellows under the notion of their being joined’. At the poll, however, he trailed in third place. Comparison with 1705 in the hundred in which Beaufort’s proprietorial influence was strongest indicates a powerful swing away from Williams and towards Morgan. The détente between Troy and Tredegar survived the efforts of a pamphleteer in 1708 to stoke up local resentment at ‘Beaufordian tyranny’ by reviving a 30-year-old grievance of the enclosure of Wentwood Chase; and two years later an outbreak of Sacheverellite fervour, manifested in a county address and in an enthusiastic reception accorded (Sir) Simon Harcourt I* in Monmouth town. The only fly in the ointment was Thomas Lewis II of St. Pierre, who hoped to join with Morgan against Lord Windsor in the 1710 election. To head off this challenge, Beaufort proposed that Morgan make a public alliance with Windsor, remarking on ‘the readiness both you and I have showed to have a friendship and not oppose one another’. The reply was cordial enough, but Morgan demurred: he had already announced his neutrality, to Lewis and to Sir Hopton Williams (whose abortive campaign at this election was to be his swan-song). The farthest Morgan would go at first was to bid Windsor ‘welcome into my neighbourhood to make what interest he pleased’. His aim in these negotiations was if possible to insert Lewis into the borough seat. When Beaufort refused to abandon a prior commitment there, Morgan ‘submitted’ to the Duke’s ‘opinion’ over the county. Windsor and he were returned.8

The ensuing period saw Morgan and Beaufort circling one another warily in Monmouthshire politics, maintaining a forced cordiality until finally drawn into conflict in the 1713 election. Beaufort had expressed himself greatly pleased in 1710 ‘to see so good a correspondence with the house of Tredegar’ and anxious that for the future the two interests should act in concert. When Windsor was called to the Lords in December 1711 Beaufort did not hurry to take the initiative. When approached by a local Tory squire, James Gunter, he acquiesced: ‘if you are inclined to make use of my interest it is at your service’. But he was careful to add in his reply to Gunter, ‘I should have thought Mr Morgan the merchant a proper person but fear the gent[lemen] of the county will not like two of one family’. Opposition came from an unexpected quarter. Thomas Lewis had been expecting to stand, but instead Lewis’ ‘kinsman’ (unidentified in the sources) and ‘those he [Lewis] thought his friends’ set up Sir Charles Kemys, 4th Bt., the son of the former Member and himself a High Tory with Whig connexions. This development galvanized Beaufort. His local agent was ordered into action to secure Gunter’s return, ‘my future interest depending very much upon it’. Lewis, peeved at being by-passed, was quickly won over. ‘He assures me’, Beaufort informed Gunter,

he will not come into any of their measures for Sir Charles, and wrote down this post to his steward to acquaint his tenants with his desisting, to give my agents free liberty and encouragement to secure as good an interest as they can amongst them. He is unwilling to have his name used, or [to] become a party because it will look like resentment but underhand he will espouse your cause and assist you by private instructions to his dependants.

Lord Mansel’s (Thomas I*) interest was also obtained, and Morgan, after at first ‘seeming to be neuter’ for fear of the reaction of his ‘friends’, eventually lent his weight, so that Gunter was chosen. A year later another by-election was necessitated by Gunter’s death, and Lewis was able to count on Beaufort’s endorsement for the vacancy, albeit a lukewarm approval and probably no more than the repayment of the obligation incurred when Lewis had made way for Gunter. It was Lewis, in fact, who was subsequently to precipitate electoral warfare between Beaufort and Morgan. The Duke, ‘disappointed’ by Lewis’ Whiggish voting in the House, transferred his patronage in the 1713 general election to Kemys. For little more than form’s sake, he asked Morgan to join with Kemys, or to ‘stand neuter’ as he had done before, but Morgan had already promised Lewis. With Kemys opposed by two candidates, Beaufort redoubled his efforts. Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) and Lord Chancellor Harcourt (Simon I) were pressed to have Beaufort nominated as lord lieutenant and custos. Without them the Duke and ‘the Church interest’ would suffer a ‘great loss’; ‘if I do not succeed for Sir Charles Kemys this time’, wrote Beaufort in typical vein, ‘I may despair for the future of ever having a Tory Member for the county’. It was said that Morgan ‘being custos . . . browbeats many freeholders whose inclinations are for the Duke of Beaufort’s interest’. Neither these demands nor a request for a new commission of sewers for the county, ‘the present one by the influence of the commissioners being almost 100 votes’, were met, but by their own efforts, the assistance of sympathizers like Windsor, and the strategy of concentrating their fire on Lewis and not opposing Morgan, Beaufort’s men were able to squeeze Kemys into second place at the poll. Lewis, the loser by a mere five votes, petitioned the Commons citing corrupt and partial conduct on the part of the sheriff and under-sheriff, who had, he alleged, deliberately delayed and prolonged the polling to Kemys’s advantage. There may have been some justice in his claims, for Beaufort had written to the sheriff earlier in the year to ask that he favour Kemys’s ‘endeavours’ as far ‘as is proper for your post’. No report was made. Beaufort’s narrow success did not end the conflict with Morgan, and after the election he resumed his solicitations of the ministers: to be custos himself, to have the commission of sewers remodelled, to have his most deserving supporters rewarded with local office. The moderately substantial alterations to the commission of the peace in March 1714, with six removals and 11 additions, seem to have been the only response, and in any case the Hanoverian succession soon closed off further opportunity.9

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. NLW, Tredegar mss 53/4, 'An abstract of the contested election... in Sept. 1713'.
  • 2. NLW Jnl. x. 168.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Post Man, 25–27 May 1708.
  • 5. NLW Jnl. 169.
  • 6. Recusant Hist. xv. 176–83; NLW Jnl. 167; P. Jenkins, Making of a Ruling Class, 137; NLW, Penrice and Margam mss L298, 355, Sir Charles Kemys, 3rd Bt., to Thomas Mansel I, 29 Oct. 1695, 28 Oct. 1698; NLW, Kemeys-Tynte mss 252, 375, Edward Perkins to Thomas Morgan, 1 Nov. 1695, 9 Mar. 1699–1700; 253, Francis Catchmay to Sir Charles Kemys, 2 Nov. 1695; 310, Ld. Abergavenny to same, 23 July 1698; 367, Arnold to George Kemeys, 27 Feb.1699–1700; 371, William Morgan to Sir Charles Kemys, 2 Mar. 1699–1700; 374, Charles Price to same, 5 Mar. 1699–1700; 384, Arnold to same, 10 Jan. 1700[–1]; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 405; London Gazette, 2–6, 6–9 Apr. 1702.
  • 7. NLW Jnl. 167; NLW, Tredegar mss 53/94–95, Beaufort to John Morgan II, 27 Jan. 1704–5, 11 Apr. 1705; 96, same to William Lewis, 16 Apr. 1705; E.E. Havill, ‘Parl. Rep. Mon. and Monmouth Boroughs 1536–1832’ (Wales MA thesis, 1949), 86; Beaufort mss at Badminton House, Beaufort to Ld. Granville (Hon. John*), 5 Feb. 1705; Yorks. Arch. Soc. Lib. Leeds mss DD5/26, 20, Granville to Beaufort, 19 Apr., 7 June 1705 (Speck trans.); HMC Portland, iv. 195.
  • 8. Penrice and Margam mss L570, Sir Edward Stradling, 5th Bt.*, to Sir Humphrey Mackworth*, 17 Mar. 1707 (Speck trans.); NLW Jnl. 168–9; N. Rogers, Mems. of Mon. (1708); Bodl. Carte 230, f. 225; Beaufort mss, circular letter to Mon. electors, 2 Sept. 1710, Beaufort to John Morgan II, 12 Sept. 1710.
  • 9. Beaufort mss, Beaufort to John Morgan I, 14 Sept. 1710, same to Gunter, 29 Dec. 1711, 10, 15 Jan. 1712, same to Mr Gwyn, 12 Jan. 1712, same to Godfrey Harcourt, 12 Jan. 1712, same to John Morgan II, 15 Jan. 1712, 11 July 1713, same to John Curre, 1 Nov. 1712, 11 July 1713, same to sheriff of Mon. [c.Jan. 1713], same to Kemys, 11 July 1713, same to Giles Meredith, 11 July 1713, same to Sir Hopton Williams et al. 11 July 1713, same to Thomas Lewis II, [c.11 July 1713], same to Ld. Chancellor Harcourt, 15 Aug., 4 Nov. 1713, same to Oxford, 15 Aug. 1713, same to Clayton Milborne*, 15 Aug. 1713, circular letters to Mon. electors, [Jan. 1712], 11 July 1713; NLW, Tredegar mss 53/105(b), John Morgan II to Gunter, 2 Jan. 1711–2; 108, same to [Beaufort], 16 July 1713; Add. 70203, Milborne to Oxford, 24 Aug. 1713; 70257, Beaufort to same, 6 Sept., 21 Dec. 1713; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 223.