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 the corporation

Number of voters:



 Thomas Heath 
16 Aug. 1727JOHN PERCEVAL, Visct. Perceval 
 John Perceval, Visct. Perceval13
13 Dec. 1743PHILLIPSON re-elected after appointment to office 
16 Apr. 1744PHILLIPSON re-elected after appointment to office 
2 July 1747EDWARD COKE, Visct. Coke 
21 Nov. 1753WENMAN COKE vice Edward Coke, Visct. Coke, deceased 

Main Article

The government interest at Harwich was based on the officers of the local customs and of the Harwich packet boats, the latter appointed by the Post Office. By giving these posts to members of the corporation the Government were usually able to secure the return of supporters. In 1715 the corporation returned two Whigs, Sir Philip Parker, a neighbouring landowner, and Thomas Heath, a London merchant, with no local connexions, who in 1717 were granted jointly a 31-year lease of the crown property in the town.1 Parker retained his seat till he retired in 1734 but Heath was defeated in 1722 by a Tory, Humphry Parsons, also a London merchant, who did not stand for Harwich again. In 1727 both the two joint postmasters general had candidates of their own for the second seat; John Phillipson, the agent for the packets, also put up his son; but the government interest was given to Parker’s brother-in-law, Lord Perceval, who was returned unopposed. In 1730 Parker and Perceval procured the dismissal of Phillipson for working against their interest.2

In 1733, when Parker and Perceval decided to retire at the next general election, Walpole told Perceval

that he had been applied to for Members for Harwich next Parliament, but that his answer was he would do nothing without consulting me, and must therefore ask me who I would have there. That accordingly he now desired me to tell him. I answered, I desired my son for one, and that the other might be who he pleased. He said Mr. Leathes had desired it, and he thought was a proper man unless I or my brother Parker had any objection. I answered I had none, and I dared say my brother [i.e. Parker] had none, but I would first ask him.

With Parker’s approval, it was agreed that Leathes and young Perceval should have the government interest. The nominations split the corporation into two parties: one, headed by Phillipson, supporting Leathes but refusing to vote for Perceval or ‘any of the family, who had used them ill, broke promises etc., and were odious to them’; the other supporting Perceval but opposing Leathes, on the ground that he had founded his interest on Phillipson’s friends, and would throw the borough into their hands. At the last moment, despite Walpole’s attempts at mediation, the anti-Perceval party put up a third candidate, Charles Stanhope, brother of Lord Harrington, who was returned with Leathes, six out of twelve government servants voting for Stanhope, in defiance of oral orders to vote for Perceval.3

In 1741, Leathes’s brother, Hill Mussenden, and Phillipson’s son were returned unopposed. In 1747 Phillipson was re-elected, but Mussenden was replaced on Henry Pelham’s recommendation by Lord Coke, the son of the senior postmaster general, Lord Leicester (Thomas Coke). On Coke’s death in 1753, he was replaced, again on Pelham’s recommendation, by Lord Leicester’s nephew, Wenman Coke.4

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxxi. 315.
  • 2. See PERCEVAL, John Visct. Perceval [I], 1st Earl of Egmont [I].
  • 3. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 327, 332, 404; ii. 90, 92, 95.
  • 4. Namier, Structure, 365.