Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

less than 150


(1801): 10,087


12 Feb. 1791 ROBERT MANNERS vice Dickins, chose to sit for Northamptonshire 
9 Feb. 1801 MANNERS re-elected after appointment to office 
18 June 1818HON. EDWARD FINCH76
 Henry John Adeane56
3 Dec. 1819 FREDERICK WILLIAM TRENCH vice Finch, vacated his seat 

Main Article

By an agreement made in 1787 between John Mortlock†, the banker who had acquired a political ascendancy in the town, and the 4th Duke of Rutland, who possessed an established interest there, Cambridge became a Rutland nomination borough. The duke’s death soon afterwards made no difference. When in 1788 Mortlock, who retained the management of the borough with a promise of office worth £1,000 p.a., surrendered his seat to Francis Dickins, opposition was ineffective: the neighbouring gentry were discouraged and the Yorkes of Wimpole resentful, but prepared to act only ‘behind the curtain’ in conjunction with William Fisher, Mortlock’s banking rival.1 A year later Mortlock’s triumph was complete when Gen. Adeane switched to the vacant county seat to let in Edward Finch for the town: the Duchess of Rutland, on Pitt’s advice, agreed to the transfer ‘provided the general and Mr Yorke will give up all their interest in the borough of Cambridge to me and my family’.2 Their doing so would be expected of them as fellow supporters of Pitt’s government.

It was Mortlock who gave the duchess grounds for anxiety: he had gone over to opposition once while Member and might be bought by them. On 4 July 1789 she warned Pitt that Mortlock was impatient for his reward, and on 4 Nov. that he was ‘extremely discomposed’ at not receiving it, which was ominous ‘as an election draws near’. To humour him, she asked Pitt to prevent the vice-chancellor of the university from taking the university bank account out of Mortlock’s hands for the benefit of his rival Fisher.3 Mortlock did not turn coat, but he had so far received only a commissionership of salt duties, worth £500 p.a. gross and necessitating visits to London. So on 4 July 1791 he appealed to the Duke of Beaufort as trustee of the Rutland family during the minority of the 5th Duke, to wind up the transaction, ‘either by its completion, or by restoring me to the situation I was in previous to the commencement of the treaty’, and suggested that ‘there is now to fulfil the agreement upwards of four thousand guineas due to me’. The duke replied evasively and wrote to Pitt for his advice. Mortlock wrote back on 15 July that he was not ‘soliciting a provision’: he was

only desiring after an interval of near five years, to receive that which it was agreed I should be paid for what, not only was then deemed tanti, but which I am ready to take back again upon being placed in statu quo, if such is the wish of the Duchess [of Rutland], your Grace and Mr Pitt. I earnestly entreat to have this business brought to some conclusion not only from what I have felt on my own account but also from seeing the interest of the late duke (whose memory will ever be dear to me) so entirely unprotected in this town and county, and consequently injured by not having a single person upon the spot to act with any power or authority for them, that their friends dare not openly avow their attachment ... It is now necessary to have my situation with the family defined, and I trust there are persons still living who will enable those concerned to ascertain it.

To this Beaufort replied on 25 July:

I never understood that it was expected that the Rutland family should make good so large a deficiency as that you seem to claim in your former letter ... The Rutland interest in the town and county of Cambridge must of course suffer as all interests must in a long minority where they have usually depended upon the personal respect paid to the individual who is in possession of the estate.

Mortlock answered on 4 Aug. that he was ‘exceedingly hurt at the apparent misunderstanding’. He commended his disinterestedness and explained that his observations on the damage to the Rutland interest ‘did not arise solely from the neglect of it, but from the individuals being daily persecuted by the adherents of Lord H[ardwicke] for their attachment, which makes them afraid of acting’. The situation at this point was saved by a new prospect emerging for Mortlock, who on 10 Aug. sought Beaufort’s aid (and the Duchess of Rutland’s) in obtaining the receiver-generalship of the customs, the holder being at death’s door:

I shall consider it as satisfying every part of the agreement and also for the trouble and expense of future management of the borough which from the office of mayor being constantly held by me or my nominees, and the unavoidable inattention of the representatives, must be a considerable one.

He added that he would also be ready to give up the place he then held. Although this application was unsuccessful, Pitt resolved the situation. On 22 Nov. Beaufort informed him:

I have just seen Mr Mortlock who very readily agrees to your proposal of his being appointed receiver-general of the Post Office, which together with his present place will entirely arrange all his agreements with the Rutland family.4

Thus Mortlock remained manager of the Rutland interest. On 5 Sept. 1800 the 5th Duke informed Pitt that his manager wished for health reasons to retire in favour of his son, if the latter were provided with a place, such as a seat at the excise board. He added, ‘It will always be my wish to keep the borough of Cambridge firmly and quietly in the service and support of the present government’. Nothing came of this. In 1802 when the duke’s brother Lord Charles Manners contested the county, Lord Hardwicke’s resentment was revived: he made no secret of his contempt for the methods by which Mortlock had made the town ‘as secure to his interest as a Cornish borough’, but that being the case was inclined ‘to confine the Duke of Rutland to his fortress at Cambridge in the town hall, and not to suffer him to make incursions into the county’; the duke should either bring Lord Charles in for the town, or if he insisted on the county for him, put ‘a gentleman of the county’ in for the town. Lord Charles carried the county without apparent prejudice to the family’s borough interest, which remained unchallenged until Mortlock’s death in 1816. Cambridge was one of the ‘Treasury’ boroughs unfavourably mentioned by Madocks in his motion against corruption on 11 May 1809. Charles Arbuthnot at the Treasury had this to say in 1813 about Cambridge patronage: ‘Mr Mortlock may be a whale, but the Duke of Rutland is a Leviathan who scents at a great distance’.5

Mortlock was succeeded as manager by his son Sir John Cheetham Mortlock, whose heart was not in it, until he obtained a place at the excise board in 1819. In September 1817 he failed to secure election as mayor, and a Whig agent had hopes that Whig freemen might be created, regretting only that the Duke of Bedford would not espouse their cause in the borough.6 When in March 1818 Henry John Adeane†, grandson of the former Member, came forward to strike a blow for independence, the duke found Mortlock a Job’s comforter. His anxieties arose from the sitting Members ‘having no personal friends in town or county, and from my father’s having acted as though the borough had been his and not yours, and studiously kept them away as much as possible’. The Rutland Club, the social instrument of his father’s hold on the town, was losing ground compared with the new one formed by ‘the friends of freedom’: ‘would your Grace had some men of gentlemanly feeling to take a lead among us; we sadly want renovation’. There was disaffection among his father’s erstwhile adherents: notably Haggerstone and Purchas, then mayor, who according to Adeane’s father, Robert Jones Adeane, had encouraged him to sponsor his son. There was also the problem of the admission to the freedom of the borough of new claimants led by Whittred and friendly to Adeane (Whittred published a pamphlet denouncing the servitude of the borough). Mortlock junior had promised the mayor when he resisted their admission in April 1818 that he would indemnify him on the duke’s behalf if they resorted to litigation: had they been accepted, the expense of quo warranto proceedings would have been necessary to challenge them. Whittred’s contingent were thus temporarily thwarted: but with Adeane attacking the government on taxation and want of economy, criticizing the Rutland monopoly and making a strong bid for the votes of dissenters, ‘religious and political’, it was a near enough thing. Mortland could count on only half the 70 or so resident voters and dismissed a forecast of victory by 93 votes to 40 as over optimistic. The duke’s Members had to do without chairing, ‘so infuriated was the mob’.7 Mortlock had warned the duke beforehand that on the next vacancy it was questionable whether ‘an unconnected person, and nonresident and unacquainted with Cambridge would beat Adeane, especially if he is really of moderate politics’, but the duke preferred to replace the sitting Members. He also proposed 33 new freemen, who were townsmen, finding that he could no longer foist non-resident freemen, like his Cheveley tenants, on the town. Adeane was nominated against a non-resident stranger put up on the Rutland interest in the by-election of December 1819: but he declined a poll, exposing his opponent to the insults of the mob.8 Nor did he succeed at the ensuing general election.

Authors: M. H. Port / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. H. Cam. Camb. Hist. Jnl. viii. 146; Add. 35392, f. 74; 35627, passim.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/174, f. 237.
  • 3. Ibid. ff. 239, 245.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/112, ff. 147-64.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/174, f. 292; Add. 35393, f. 46; 35701, ff. 176, 305; Add. 45045, f. 96.
  • 6. Rutland mss, Mortlock to Rutland, 17, 26 Aug. 1817; Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 5 Sept. 1817.
  • 7. Rutland mss, Rutland to Adeane, 8 Mar. 1818, Mortlock to Rutland, 6, 7, 9, 11, 18, 21 Mar., 1, 19, 24 Apr., 10, 19 June 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 51.
  • 8. J. Hodson, The Cambridge Election 1819; The Times, 6 Dec. 1819.