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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 8,000



Main Article

The representation of Lancashire continued to be shared between the Whig Edward Smith Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, and what Oldfield referred to in 1792 as the ‘independent’ gentry and in 1816 as ‘the old Tory families’.1 There was little electoral excitement in this period. In 1796, both sitting Members, Derby’s cousin Col. Thomas Stanley, who had been supporting government since 1793, and John Blackburne of Hale, were said to have been apprehensive that if Derby’s son Lord Stanley were defeated at Preston, one of them would have to make way for him. Lord Stanley was successful, but in any case Derby made it known at the county election that ‘he had no intention of interfering’ with the sitting Members.2

There was a flurry in 1807, when both Stanley and Blackburne voted for Brand’s motion condemning the Portland ministry’s pledge on Catholic relief, 9 Apr. This provoked some hostility in Bolton, where it was wrongly believed that the Members had failed to present the town’s loyal address to the King, and also in Manchester, and Derby received intelligence of ‘a spirit of opposition from the intemperate and ungrateful manufacturers’. Public explanations of the misunderstanding over the address appeared to calm things down and Blackburne’s brother reported from Manchester five days before the election:

as far as I can discover, you have nothing to fear from any dissatisfaction in this town. Yours and Stanley’s letters have entirely done away any trace of it among the higher orders. ... The strange report of your refusing to present the address raised all the opposition, and when that was explained, little was thought of the late votes you gave against the new administration. You need not have any apprehensions of an opposition. No one is mentioned.

Yet supporters of the Portland ministry believed that ‘the name of an opponent is only wanted to defeat Blackburne’ and the following day there was a move in Warrington and Liverpool to put up Peter Patten* of Bank Hall, who was currently contesting Lancaster, whence Blackburne was warned by a supporter on the eve of the election:

there is every probability of a formidable opposition to you tomorrow. Many gentlemen I understand are coming from Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton etc. for the purpose of nominating Patten even against his consent. I have had some conversation with him. ... He is determined to give every discouragement to the intended proceedings, and will himself appear upon the hustings in your favour. But I really do believe it will require all the strength you can muster to counteract the intended opposition, and therefore I have sent you this information by express, that you may use every means in your power to gather round you whatever number of friends you can possibly procure before tomorrow, and to request you as much as possible to conciliate and regain to your interests those who by this unfortunate vote have seceded from you.

The opposition collapsed for lack of a candidate, but Blackburne’s brother thought it prudent to encourage circulation of the story that he would have stood a contest if necessary, having ‘£20,000 in your banker’s hands for that purpose, and 4,000 voters at Lancaster ready to have brought up without expense’. Five weeks after the election, (Sir) Robert Peel I* claimed in the press that he had declined an invitation to stand.3

In 1812, Col. Stanley retired and Lord Stanley, a Whig like his father, came forward in his place. Peel’s brother-in-law Jonathan Yates of Bury wrote to his nephew, the Irish secretary, 28 Sept.:

It is to be hoped. ... that the county will assert its independence ... [and] will, in preference, select a man who is not deaf and dumb, who is not a friend to Sir F. Burdett, to Brougham, Roscoe and all the illuminati. I think one might be found, that though failing on the grand point, might at all events give old Blackburne the go-by.

A canvass was started for the ministerialist Edward Wilbraham Bootle* of Lathom, but nothing came of it, as Blackburne told Lord Sidmouth, 19 Oct. 1812: ‘We had ... a little alarm, but the general sense of the county soon smothered it, nor was the opposition intended at me’.4

In February 1817 the reformer Dr Peter Crompton and members of the Liverpool Concentric Society attended the county meeting called to vote a loyal address to the Regent and carried an amendment calling for reform and the dismissal of ministers. At the general election of 1818 Crompton contested Preston and, on his behalf, his son Henry and John Wood nominated their fellow reformer Walter Ramsden Fawkes* for the county against Blackburne, but the show of hands was ‘decidedly’ against them and they did not demand a poll.5

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Oldfield, Boroughs (1792), ii. 179 and Rep. Hist. iv. 89.
  • 2. Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 648.
  • 3. Blackburne mss (Prof. A. Aspinall’s transcripts), letters 20 Apr.-21 May; Kenyon mss, Sturges Bourne to Kenyon, 3 May; Manchester Gazette, 20 June 1807.
  • 4. Morning Chron. 28 Sept. 1812; Add. 40605, f. 46; W. R. Bean, Parl. Rep. Six Northern Counties, 184; Sidmouth mss.
  • 5. Preston Chron. 1 Mar. 1817, 27 June 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 162.