Cambridge University


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in doctors and masters of arts

Number of voters:

377 in 1727


26 Jan. 1715DIXIE WINDSOR 
19 Dec. 1720THOMAS WILLOUGHBY vice Paske, deceased176
 Henry Finch143
22 Mar. 1722DIXIE WINDSOR 
22 Aug. 1727EDWARD FINCH221
 Dixie Windsor176
 — Goodrick174
 Dixie Windsor137
23 July 1742FINCH re-elected after appointment to office 
26 June 1747EDWARD FINCH 

Main Article

Till 1727 Cambridge University, like Oxford, returned Tories. At the only contested election, in 1720, a strong Whig candidate, Henry Finch, a fellow of his college, whose father, Lord Nottingham, carried much weight with the church party, was defeated.

In 1727 the Government candidates were Edward Finch, another of Lord Nottingham’s sons, and Thomas Townshend, to whose father, Lord Townshend, the university owed a great benefaction. On 21 Aug. Finch’s elder brother, Lord Finch, wrote to Lord Townshend

When I came down last night I found ... Sir John Bernard was fled from Cambridge, nor did any of his friends continue to have any thoughts of serving him against his will, but did join with mine in desiring that Mr. Townshend should be named to join my brother and try to turn Mr. Windsor out. ... I think our interest is grown stronger since I was here last. I don’t think it a foolish attempt. I really think we have a fair prospect of success.1

This time Finch and Townshend were returned against Windsor, who stood single.

The situation was complicated at the next general election by the fact that though Finch himself was in the government service as envoy to Sweden, his elder brother had gone into opposition; and by the appearance of a fourth candidate, Goodrick, an opposition Whig. Early in the campaign one of Townshend’s supporters wrote:

Mr. Edward Finch having refused to join Mr. Townshend we are very much afraid he will be supported by the Tory and malcontent Whigs. Mr. Goodrick stands upon discontented Whig and Tory interest. The latter I believe flatter his expectation and vanity with a design to divide the true friends of our happy establishment and make room for some Tory.2

In the end Finch decided to stand as a government supporter jointly with Townshend, with whom he was returned. Thenceforth they sat for the university without opposition till they retired, Finch in 1768 and Townshend in 1774.

A Jacobite report in 1729 on the defection of the university attributes it to

the number of honorary doctors who have been made by the person in possession of the Crown, who has a power to make as many as he pleases at Cambridge, though not at Oxford, and all the doctors have votes for the election of Members of Parliament, and to this end when the Elector was last at Cambridge he made at once above 200 doctors in the several faculties.3

110 honorary degrees were conferred in 1726 and 286 in 1728.4

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. SP Dom. 36, vol. 2, ff. 9-10.
  • 2. E. Mellish to Ld. Malton, 10 Nov. 1733, Rockingham mss.
  • 3. Stuart mss 132/186.
  • 4. Pol. State, xxxii. 91; Cowper, Annals of Cambridge, iv. 197.