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:

2,000 rising to 3,000


(1801): 77,653


 Richard Pennant, Baron Penrhyn [I]716
 Thomas Townley Parker4
1 June 1796ISAAC GASCOYNE672
 John Tarleton317
10 July 1802ISAAC GASCOYNE884
 Joseph Birch477
 Francis Chalmer31
8 Nov. 1806WILLIAM ROSCOE1151
 Banastre Tarleton986
 William Roscoe397
 William Joseph Denison39
 George Dyke8
16 Oct. 1812GEORGE CANNING I1631
 Henry Peter Brougham1131
 Thomas Creevey1068
 Banastre Tarleton11
12 June 1816 CANNING re-elected after appointment to office1280
 Thomas Leyland738
25 June 1818GEORGE CANNING I1654
 William Philip Molyneux, Earl of Sefton [I]1280
 Arthur Heywood8
 George Williams2
 John Bolton1
 Ralph Benson1
 Sir William Barton1
 John Bridge Aspinall1

Main Article

As a port Liverpool was by now second only to London, enjoying a quarter of the country’s foreign trade and the largest share of its African trade. It gave employment to about 3,000 shipwrights, who, with ancillary trades, made up the majority of the electorate. Freemen qualified by birth or servitude and no longer by purchase, so the corporation was unable to command them; there was in any case a long-standing political conflict between that Anglican body and the dissenting freemen. A further bid by the freemen, begun in 1791, to reduce corporation influence achieved temporary success, but was subsequently bogged down in litigation. The corporation looked to government patronage, but government could not expect to sway parliamentary elections. The venality of the freemen at large was admitted, the merchant class were divided and many of them not even freemen, so contests were both inevitable and rowdy. Candidates were expected to serve the port’s commercial interests, though mutual jealousy precluded local merchants from any prospect of success at the polls, and until 1806, irrespective of politics, Members were under pressure from the corporation to resist the abolition of the African slave trade.1

The contest of 1784 had ended in a political compromise, Gascoyne being the corporation favourite and Lord Penrhyn the representative of the independent freemen. Col. Tarleton, defeated then, renewed his candidature in 1790. Like Penrhyn, he was a Whig, but a more outspoken one; and, unlike Penrhyn, he did not have an extensive knowledge of Liverpool’s commercial interests. It was a coalition of the sitting Members, publicly proposed on 16 June, that paved his road to success. At the time he left Liverpool disgruntled and his opponents stopped the taps; the mob ‘threatened to pull down Mr Ellis [Leckonby] Hodgson’s house if he did not stand for Col. Tarleton’; an express was sent after Tarleton and he returned to triumph: ‘The journeymen carpenters, and other mechanics, have quitted their masters, and joined the colonel’s party. Nothing is heard in the streets but Tarleton, Freedom and no Coalition!’ Penrhyn retired in a huff, 22 June: ‘as my re-election is attended now with the same contest, disorder and confusion that I have experienced at every dissolution of Parliament for these twenty years past, though I am first on the poll, and have no doubt of success, I beg leave to retire’. Penrhyn’s friends continued the poll in his name, to no avail. Gascoyne, ‘the avowed friend ... of Mr Pitt’ and ‘the shadow, echo and instrument of his father’, was too ill to attend the hustings. Tarleton, ‘the brave Colonel’, ‘the True Blue’, was the ‘Anti-corporate’ champion and Penrhyn written off for having ‘sullied his honour in joining a man of diametrically opposed principles’. Parker, the fourth man, opened ‘a bar of convenience only for Col. Tarleton’. By September 1795 report had it that ‘General Tarleton has defeated Lord Penrhyn in his views on Liverpool for the next Parliament’. Nevertheless, ‘a certain number of gentlemen’ who had subscribed £5,300 for Tarleton’s expenses in 1790 now disapproved his persistence in opposition.2

Of five candidates in 1796, three went to the poll: Col. Isaac Gascoyne stepped into his indisposed brother Bamber’s shoes and ministers were urged to encourage a candidate (such as Robert Banks Jenkinson*) to oppose Tarleton. Tarleton found himself challenged by his own brother John, then Member for Seaford. The latter was an eminent Liverpool West India merchant and on that account proclaimed a fitter representative by his supporters: but was also ‘a decided supporter of the present administration’, while his brother was reproached for his ‘attachment to French principles’. Nothing came of efforts to persuade Ellis Leckonby Hodgson or Col. Bryan Blundell to stand on the same interest as Col. Tarleton; or of advertisements on behalf of local merchants such as George Case, Thomas Earl or the slave trader Thomas Clarke. John Tarleton was sponsored by John Bolton, and although the candidates stood singly and a coalition between Gascoyne and John Tarleton was disavowed, they split many votes between them before the latter gave up. His candidature had been rebuked as ‘unbrotherly’ and his corporation politics and personal probity impugned by the independent freemen. Even so, Col. Tarleton was assured by ‘Fellow Burgess’ that his politics were uncongenial to many of his own supporters. He was ‘enabled to keep his ground—if not by the discriminating judgment of the town, by the personal attachment of the lower orders over whom he has considerable influence’.3

In 1802 the sitting Members met at first with only a puny opposition from Francis Chalmer, tobacco broker and printer, posing as a champion of the poor. He persevered, but got nowhere. More formidable was the challenge of Joseph Birch, a local merchant esteemed in dissenting circles. He maintained that he would have succeeded but for his late start, and his supporters alleged that the sitting Members had forgotten their political differences to coalesce against him. Dr James Currie described the contest as follows in a letter to Thomas Creevey, 9 July:

I told you that Birch had declined standing, but unfortunately he could not keep to his resolution: people came round about him to say what support he would have had, etc. ... they kindled the fire in his ambitious heart and on the morning of the commencement of the poll he came suddenly forward and was proposed as a candidate after the poll had been open an hour. He appeared in great strength and had a decided advantage over Tarleton. In his public profession he avowed his opposition to the late administration and the war, but expressed his approbation of the present administration as peace-makers, and his intention of supporting them while they continued their present career. I dare say this alarmed Gascoyne’s friends: he is you know a Grenvillite and voted against the peace, and holds the patronage of Liverpool, it may be presumed on sufferance only. They had declared against all coalition, but from the first I understand they began more or less to split on General Tarleton, and even lent him a tally now and then when at a loss. As Birch showed more and more strength this partiality appeared more and more, which it might the more safely do as both parties splitting from the first on Gascoyne sent him rapidly ahead. The poll is just closed by Birch’s resignation after four days close contest. ... There has been a good deal of ill humour and it will not cease, I fear. The handbills published by Tarleton’s friends have been singularly scurrilous, though the committee disavow them. It is not a little curious that he has been brought in, by a small part only of the interest that has thrice before fought his battle, singly paid every expense, joined to the whole of the party that at last election endeavoured to throw him out and bring in Jack Tarleton, and reinforced by the corporation without which Birch would infallibly have succeeded easy. On this election Jack Tarleton subscribed £500 towards the support of his brother; yet after all I doubt if Tarleton has changed his principles, or rather his party, for principles he never had. I am told that he is in correspondence with Fox and that he even talked of it on the hustings.

Birch proceeded to Nottingham, where he was elected.4

Tarleton, who like Birch was well disposed to Addington’s ministry, deserted them in the spring of 1804. Dr Currie wrote of him to Creevey, 11 Mar.:

... it is understood that he is got into opposition and that the patronage of this great town is a-gone a-begging. If you would play the knave you might have it, and no doubt ensure a seat for Liverpool, the present administration standing. I have a good mind to write to Tierney and put in a claim for myself, for really I do not see (strange as it may appear) the least chance of a legitimate claimant. Blackburne, Member for this county, has it seems refused it before Tarleton got it: Lord Derby and Colonel Stanley are out of the question, so is Dent, Gascoyne, etc. Loyal Liverpool has actually got two opposition Members!

In the event Tarleton went on to support Pitt’s second ministry and forfeited Whig support. In February 1806 Lord Sefton, a neighbouring Whig magnate, was urged to come forward on their behalf, but at the dissolution he ‘positively declined’. The Whigs, in office, had no candidate. Ellis Leckonby Hodgson, since become a Yorkshire country gentleman, offered his services. He informed Earl Fitzwilliam, 25 Oct. 1806:

I have been applied to from Liverpool to offer myself there by a large body of freemen—and I should thank your lordship to inform me whether any friend of government is gone down to support their interest. ... My friend Arthur Heywood promised to vote for me the last time if I would then have offered myself, and your lordship’s immediate interference with him would have the greatest weight. The voters consist of 1,600 journeymen, and about 500 merchants, and respectable tradesmen—the women and freemen at large are my steady friends, were they left to themselves.

Hodgson duly offered, counting on government support and on that of Sefton’s friends:

As I have always been a strong partisan at Liverpool in favour of Mr Fox the government agents are not very fond of me—they will therefore have the goodness to write in very strong terms to them to influence their relations.

Fitzwilliam’s provisional application to the premier on Hodgson’s behalf was preceded by another from Lord Derby recommending Joseph Birch, who was giving up Nottingham and likely to be ‘an active and zealous supporter of the present administration’. Neither Hodgson nor Birch was thought to be as promising a candidate as Sefton would have been. (Thomas Creevey, whom the chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to sponsor, would not bite.) Hodgson feared that he must be dished by Gascoyne:

I have opposed the Gascoyne family at every election since the year 1780—and I don’t doubt he wishes to be thought the government Member; that I might interfere with his patronage also would be another ground of support to Tarleton.

In the event Birch did not offer and Hodgson made way for William Roscoe, the day before the election. Others who had declined included Sir Thomas Hesketh, Sir Isaac Coffin* and Thomas Earl. A self-made Whig intellectual, Roscoe was a startling choice, notably because of his avowed opposition to the slave trade, but he had the support of Lords Sefton and Stanley and government, and that of his fellow Presbyterians and the anti-corporation party. He supported a moderate reform of Parliament, peace and retrenchment. He polled plumpers and the sitting Members felt obliged to deny that they had coalesced against him. On the sixth day he overtook Tarleton, assisted by a muster of outvotes. Tarleton’s friends (led by John Bolton) failed in a bid for alliance with him. Amid riotous scenes, Roscoe headed the poll of 2,345 electors, receiving 867 plumpers, and he was f’ted in a triumphal procession of 10,000 people. He himself was ‘almost surprised at the event and cannot but own that my townsmen are highly risen in my estimation’: how else could they return ‘a friend to liberty and toleration, and an open and proclaimed enemy to the African slave trade’. But his younger supporters had not spared the expense and his return cost over £11,000 compared with the other candidates’ £7,000.5

Roscoe’s débâcle at the Liverpool election of 1807 was thus described by him:

The abolition of the slave trade took place on the 1st May, and on the 2nd I arrived there to offer myself as a candidate. That I had given unpardonable offence to many of those concerned in that traffic I was well aware, but this I believe I should have surmounted, had it not been for the additional cry of Church and King, No Popery etc. which served as a vehicle for the ill will of those who opposed me on grounds which they could not so publicly avow.

He intended to withdraw, but his supporters persisted in nominating him. A subscription for him, proposed on 29 Apr., was reported to amount to £27,000, but he complained of being outmatched by his opponents the generals, who, he claimed, spent over £20,000 in 7 days. There was even a report that Thomas Leyland, Roscoe’s former banking partner and supporter, would offer on a joint interest with Tarleton, who returned to the fray, to revenge ‘a bitter mortification’ at the previous election. Tarleton’s address was friendly to the Portland administration and he claimed to stand singly; Roscoe, however, maintained that thanks to the hostility of the corporation there was a coalition against him, and the poll book confirms it. His opponents both called for the restoration of the slave trade. The candidature of William Joseph Denison* was ‘totally unknown’ to him ‘and done with a view to seat Mr Roscoe and myself by petition’, so he learned. He disavowed it. An electors’ petition of 8 July against Tarleton and Gascoyne alleging bribery, treating and foreclosure of the poll was not pursued, though its chances were said to be good.6

Before the next election Liverpool politics were in a state of flux. Roscoe had made it clear that he would not offer again, but he was prepared to be an agent behind the scenes. The campaign against the orders in council, in which local merchants were active, gave prominence to Henry Brougham, counsel for the Liverpool petition against the orders in 1808. An even bigger fish was angled for: in March 1810 George Canning heard ‘there was an arrangement going on at Liverpool for preparing a purse to bring me in ... free of expense—and that the offer was to be made to me when the arrangement was completed’. He noted that he had been approached by one Turner of Liverpool who, he suspected, wished to obtain ‘the merit with me of the proposal which he may know is to come’.7 Subsequently a clumsy effort was made by Canning’s friends to make a convert of Gen. Gascoyne, who rebuffed it. Tarleton had disappointed his sponsors’ expectations that he would be a firm supporter of government. In March 1812 Gascoyne alleged to Robert Ward* that

Tarleton would infallibly be thrown out for Liverpool, and that Canning was in negotiation to come in upon the interest that returned him; that a deputation from that interest had conferred with him, and he had consented to go to a certain sum in point of expense; that government ought to know this as the thing was advancing, and it might be too late to interfere if long delayed. He agreed with me, that this would be a great triumph for Canning if he succeeded; and as it was so great a commercial interest, coupled with his conduct on the question of the orders in council, the success would be a proportionable blow upon the government: he added, however, that he was sure of coming in himself, and, if government would give him a coadjutor of a certain weight and consequence in the place, he thought the interest on which he stood might return both Members, but it must be resolved upon directly.

Gascoyne declining to do so, Ward informed the premier, Spencer Perceval, who said:

There was a Mr [John] Bolton, a man of great local weight and consideration at Liverpool, who had expressed a willingness to stand against Tarleton, who was decidedly a friend to government, and who had been in communication with him on commercial questions, particularly in showing that the trading interest there was by no means so adverse on the public policy of the ministry as had been represented. Him he thought of as the sort of man Gascoyne mentioned.

Perceval did not then wish to press for Bolton’s services and was soon afterwards informed by Gascoyne, through Ward, ‘that if anyone stood beside the present Members, whether Canning or the other mentioned, Patten, the present Member for Lancaster, would certainly come forward’.8

Canning, who was at this time (March 1812) under pressure from Mr Lytt, ‘a very great man at Liverpool’, to commit himself, hesitated: ‘nothing but an election as unsought, and as unexpensive as that would be, shall induce me to come into Parliament again’. He doubted if his pro-Catholic views would hurt him at Liverpool, but ‘everything else is uncertain there’.9 That session Brougham earned the gratitude of opponents of the orders in council by his successful campaign against them in the House (supported by Canning). At Liverpool the conduct of the sitting Members was condemned and, both then and on receiving public thanks at Liverpool on 4 Sept., Brougham was given every encouragement to regard himself as a prospective candidate, though he would not commit himself. Roscoe was his stage manager and Lords Derby and Sefton were cheerleaders. Sefton had assured Brougham, on the admission of Foster, ‘the organ of the corporation’, that he was ‘almost certain’ to succeed. On 18 Aug. Broughton had informed the Whig leader Earl Grey, who disliked a notion then current that Brougham and Canning might stand jointly, ‘I would rather come in with Gascoyne than Canning 1,000 times but I still incline to think it not worthwhile if we can’t carry both’.

The Whig dream of carrying both Members was very much Roscoe’s property and he induced Brougham to accept as his running partner Thomas Creevey, a native Whig whose campaign against the East India Company commercial monopoly went down well at Liverpool. Creevey had given his assent to Roscoe on 4 July. He pointed out that he had a seat for Thetford to defend, but consented to come on to Liverpool after securing his election, provided that he was wholeheartedly supported. This he was not, but Roscoe would not go back on his own decision not to stand.10 At this point matters were complicated by a bid by Tarleton to secure his re-election by inducing Grey, the Whig leader, to give up the idea of winning both seats. Informed of this, Brougham, who on the whole objected to standing alone, swore that ‘next to turning out both the generals—and almost equally with that, I should like to come in with Tarleton’. He would jump at a compromise with Tarleton; it would mean dropping Creevey, but Creevey ‘won’t do’. The manoeuvre must never be divulged at Liverpool or the game would be up, and Brougham dared not communicate with Tarleton himself. Nothing came of this. Tarleton protested to Grey, ‘You cannot say the conduct of Brougham and Creevey has been kind and fair to a person who walked out of the House with them ... and never to any human being had intimated an intention of withdrawing on the dissolution’. He subsequently insisted that ‘the whole business might have been arranged better and Brougham and I might have been the sitting Members’.11

A subscription was opened for the two Whig candidates on 21 Sept. 1812 at a public meeting attended by 1,000 people, but it was agreed that they should not be formally invited to stand until the dissolution. Their prospects, depressed by the prospect of war with the USA, were momentarily enhanced by a manoeuvre of the Prince Regent’s favourite Lord Yarmouth, in concert with Lord Lowther and Sir James Graham (who declined the honour) to sponsor William Congreve* as ministerial candidate. The premier Lord Liverpool concurred, but nothing came of the venture, or of another speculation that (Sir) Edward Buller* would play the same role. Brougham assured Grey on the eve of his triumphal entry into Liverpool on 5 Oct., ‘If three stand against which we trust will happen, we are next to sure and we rely on their quarrels and poverty’. To Creevey he wrote, ‘An ample fund is ready’. The big question, however, was whether Canning would come. Brougham thought that Canning’s ‘taking the popular line is a piece of stupidity never paralleled. It hampers him for life with his own side and cuts him off from 9/10 of his topics, as you may call them—principles he has none.’ He added, ‘I still doubt his coming. It is so absurd a step, especially if he ever is to be in office again, for we can then make him spend £10,000 without risking £500.’ Canning arrived a day late for his eve of poll entrée joyeuse of 7 Oct. He had received his formal invitation to stand only after the Whig decision to field two candidates and complained that ‘a timely offer’ to him might have prevented a contest on which he would not spend ‘one single obulus’, being assured of a quieter seat. His Liverpool supporters were warned by him of this and about £6,000 was subscribed for him: not enough, he thought, but he refused to assist the chairman of his committee, John Gladstone*, in augmenting it to £10,000, and took it for granted that his supporters were prepared to swallow his non-alignment with government. Of the wish of John Bolton that he should pledge support to ministers, he wrote to Bootle Wilbraham, one of the devotees whose services he enlisted at Liverpool, ‘I would not give such a pledge for 50 seats’. He stood alone, but from the start noted ‘all Gascoyne’s voters vote for me’, in return for which some of his plumpers were directed to vote for Gascoyne as well.12

The contest involved the candidates in an exhausting round of speeches and drinking at the freemen’s clubs. Creevey, who had arrived late from Thetford, assured his wife, ‘There never was such an election here before, the people are as tractable as lambs’. (With candidates of such stature as Canning and Brougham to court them, the unruly almost forgot to riot.) Creevey averred that the other side would spend £20,000 to carry their point ‘and it is a most formidable coalition, it is the corporation and Tarleton’s old party, ours is really the cause of the town and the people’s, and we have in William Heywood, William Ashton and the Earls the best gentry in the place’. He also commended Lord Sefton for his eloquent assistance and Lord Derby for ignoring a corporation threat to oppose his son for the county if he allowed militiamen to vote for the Whig candidates. He praised 21 young men who canvassed for the Whigs and noted that a letter of his to Roscoe denouncing the corporation oligarchy was being circulated. If he did not succeed this time, he was sure that he would at the next opportunity.13

On 13 Oct. 1812 Brougham informed Grey:

Overtures, or half-overtures, of accommodation have been made, but we are so desirous of gaining a complete victory, and of dishing Canning, that these have been rejected, and we are fighting it out.

At that point Brougham was second to Canning, who led from the start, and Creevey just behind Gascoyne. The refusal to negotiate was decisive. On 15 Oct. Gascoyne overtook Brougham and next day at noon the Whigs gave up, with about 150 votes unpolled. The outvote had been drawn on as in 1806 and 2,726 voted. The victors had spent £20,000, as Creevey predicted, and Brougham alleged that they gave ‘20 and 30 guineas a vote, and the thing was done. Our friends have not spent £8,000.’ He had received subsidies of £400 from his admirers at Glasgow and Hull and the offer to buy him a seat elsewhere from Birmingham. The speeches of Canning and Brougham also made it the first Liverpool election to be of national interest—both published them. Canning did not avoid the issue of Catholic relief, denounced reform and favoured war with the USA. Brougham was particularly proud of an impromptu attack on the ‘immortality’ of Pitt to an audience of several thousand, 15 Oct., which he followed up next day with an encomium on Fox.14 Writing to Roscoe after the election in a state of exhaustion, he was ‘clear that the perpetual lectures on good principles read by us all have done great service’, though he saw that his enmity to the slave trade had damaged him. He did not approve of Whig jeremiads which alleged that a compromise with Canning would have been justifiable merely to ensure his winning a seat. Canning, who regarded Gascoyne as his passenger and expected his adherence in Parliament, was equally relieved that no compromise had taken place. Creevey was contented that he had not come in as ‘second fiddle’ to Brougham, being sure that they could not preserve both seats and preferring his own prospects in future.15

What light did the contest of 1812 throw on the need for parliamentary reform? Canning maintained that he had beaten the reformers in a popular election, but Brougham insisted that Liverpool was, in fact, like a close borough:

The proportion of the voters to the inhabitants is exactly the same (and the right of voting too) in Liverpool, as in Camelford—a close borough for which I sat in last Parliament namely—three per cent—and with this difference, that in Liverpool the freemen ... are chiefly the lowest and least worthy inhabitants and under the entire control of the shipping interest and other bodies. Thirty or forty individuals really return the Members, and the only wonder was that beside the natural strength of our friends, we could obtain so many of those poor people to vote with us at the certain loss of their bread—as many a one said on giving his vote—while many others openly avowed on the hustings that their hearts were with us but they durst not! This support we owed to the whole people being with us loudly. A reform in Parliament would cure all this.

This was what Brougham wrote to a sympathizer Leigh Hunt, whom he also urged:

Think of such men as Roscoe, having no vote—while every slave captain who served seven years’ apprenticeship to that traffic of blood was enabled to vote against the person who made it a felony. ... Every means of influence was exhausted and at last gold carried the day.

(With this last view the embittered Tarleton, who had polled 11 votes and claimed to be assisting the Whigs, so far agreed as to present a petition alleging bribery and corruption, 14 Dec. 1812, but his scheme of revenge failed.)16 Brougham found that other Whigs were sceptical about his Liverpool thesis. To John Allen he wrote at more length:

each shipowner, shipbuilder etc has a certain number of the freemen in his service, and these men vote as a matter of course with their masters. Canning’s friends are the shipping interest, ours the American traders and country gentlemen. The former have if united with the corporation a larger number in their service than the latter, and therefore, being combined together in this instance they carried the day. ... In Roscoe’s case, the men were active with him who are now Canning’s chief supporters, and together they beat the corporation. Forty or 50 of these men have the whole freemen—at least a hollow majority in their hands. The wonder was our doing what we did, for we in fact ran them within 200. This being the real number they would have beat us by had we gone on to the end of our force, but the enemy polled a whole day after we gave in. This small majority, and the fact of their considering themselves as beaten on the 3rd and 4th days (when I suspect though I don’t know it for certain they would have agreed to a compromise very gladly) which they acknowledge, and which led to the final coalition of Canning and Gascoyne, can only be explained by the fact of our having the whole people or nearly so with us, which is undoubted, and this tide carrying so many of the freemen off their feet and making them vote with us in spite of all bribes and threats. Many are at this moment starving by having been turned off. I must add that on the 4th day when they were desperate our adversaries said if £50,000 were required they were determined to carry it, and immediately doubled their subscriptions. This raised their money to £20,000, and it has cost them £25,000, us £10,000. ... Of course bribery was the last thing they tried and 20 or 30 guineas a man were currently given.

Lord Lansdowne, to whom Allen showed this letter, commented: ‘He has certainly failed in convincing me that Liverpool is a close borough. Proportion of voters to inhabitants signifies nothing where the positive number is so great.’ But to Lord Milton, Brougham wrote unrepentantly that Liverpool was not ‘in any sense whatever a popular election; had it been so at all, I was perfectly sure of coming in and bringing another in with me’.17

On 26 Dec. 1812 Lord Lonsdale, writing to the prime minister for a piece of Liverpool patronage, asked it on behalf of John Bolton, whom he described as ‘the chief means’ of bringing in Gascoyne and as having ‘required a pledge from him that he should support the government’. Canning had already informed Lord Liverpool that no patronage application made by him was to be construed as serving his personal wishes or interest and had received a very civil reply. So soon afterwards it was suggested that ‘the petition from Liverpool, praying the aid of Parliament for the docks, will perhaps explain in part the preference given there to Mr Canning over Mr Brougham’.18 Canning was nevertheless prepared to shake off Liverpool, which had just established a London office as a channel for patronage applications, and to come in for Oxford University at the first opening. When in the autumn of 1814 he obtained a post at Lisbon after his rapprochement with government he introduced William Huskisson* at Liverpool ‘as the friend who had undertaken their business during his absence on the Continent’. The plan was to retain the seat now, lest Brougham capture it, and to substitute Huskisson for himself when the vacancy for the university occurred; but his colleague Gascoyne refused to acquiesce. That Gascoyne felt vulnerable is clear from his objections to Canning’s Liverpool champion (and his own potential challenger) John Gladstone corresponding directly with Lord Liverpool on politics.19 On his return to England and office in 1816 Canning must needs seek reelection at Liverpool—a seat for his university eluded him. He was opposed, ineffectively, by ‘a man of straw’, Thomas Leyland, mayor the previous year, and he reported his chairing as cordial as well as magnificent. The prospect of East India patronage endeared him to his constituents. Brougham, still without a seat, had washed his hands of Liverpool, described by him in 1812 as his ‘second home’.20

Leyland declined an invitation to stand again in the election of 1818. Joseph Birch* was mentioned as the likeliest Whig candidate, but in the event Lord Sefton stood in absentia, sending his heir Lord Molyneux to represent him and stake his own claims for the future. ‘I only consented to be nominated because they could get no one else’, explained Sefton to Creevey, adding that he did not ask a single vote and had instructed Molyneux not to canvass, to avoid any expense. Canning ‘had never a moment’s doubt ... there was not a hitch, or a rub of any kind from beginning to end’. The only question was whether Gascoyne could keep Sefton at bay—he had ignored the threat of a compromise between Canning and Sefton, intended to frighten him off. There was ‘no mischief, though plenty of shouting—and the names of Oliver and Ogden occasionally audible among a multitude of inarticulate yellings’, reported Canning. The candidates stood singly. On 20 June the Whigs named a new candidate, Arthur Heywood, to which Canning’s party responded by naming his host John Bolton, and Gascoyne’s friends followed suit. ‘The meaning of this is—that two voting-places (bars as they are called) friendly to each other multiply the effect of the votes—whereas a single candidate can only succeed by what are called plumpers’. By 22 June ‘there were 21 names of candidates on the mayor’s book and nine in whose names votes were actually taken’, and ‘the substantial candidates agreed to withdraw their shadows’. On 25 June the Whigs conceded victory, after 2,876 voters had polled. The outvotes were called in, but Canning had over 300 votes unpolled. Sefton polled 1,148 plumpers, Gascoyne 52. Gascoyne clearly owed his security to Canning’s second votes, and Canning noted that Lord Molyneux would be ‘a formidable opponent to the general next time if there is a third candidate in my room’.21

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


  • 1. Oldfield Rep. Hist. iv. 99; R. Muir and E. M. Platt, Hist. Munic. Govt. Liverpool, 121, 129-32; J. A. Picton, Liverpool Munic. Recs. 1700-1835, pp. 214-20; Life of Wilberforce (1838), ii. 147.
  • 2. An Address to the Freemen of Liverpool (1790); The Poll ... (1790); Public Advertiser, 22, 25, 26 June, 3 July 1790; Ignotus, Letter to Earl of Sefton (1806), 6, 7, 11; Oracle, 14 Sept. 1795; Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 422.
  • 3. HMC Kenyon, 544; SRO GD51/1/200/15; True Briton, 18, 24 May; The Poll ... (1796); Add. 51650, Roscoe to Holland, 8 June 1796.
  • 4. The Poll ... (1802); A Complete List of the ... Burgesses who polled ... (1802); Creevey mss.
  • 5. Letter to Earl of Sefton (1806); HMC Fortescue, viii. 396; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. E210, Heywood to Fitzwilliam, 2 Oct., Hodgson to same, 25, 26, 27 Oct., 1 Nov., Hodgson to same, 25, 26, 27 Oct., 1 Nov.; Creevey mss, Petty to Creevey, 13 Oct.; Fortescue mss, Derby to Grenville, 23 Oct.; Fremantle mss, Temple to Fremantle, Sunday [Nov.]; Lansdowne mss, Roscoe to Petty, 13 Nov.; Add. 51650, Roscoe to Holland, 13 Nov. 1806; Hist. of the Election ... for ... Liverpool (1806); A Compendious and Impartial Account of the Election at Liverpool (1806); Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, lxxix. 77-84.
  • 6. Add. 51650, Roscoe to Holland, 3 June; The Poll ... (1807); Manchester Gazette, 2, 9, 23 May; Bristol Jnl. 2 May; Ipswich Jnl. 9 May; Lancaster Gazette, 9 May; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 18 May; Hull Advertiser, 20 June 1807; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F48/16; Liverpool, the African Slave Trade, and Abolition ed. Anstey and Hair, 227; CJ, lxii. 657.
  • 7. Liverpool RO, Roscoe mss 2012, Roscoe to Hibbert, 5 Sept. 1811; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 2, 5 Apr. 1810.
  • 8. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 338, 466-8.
  • 9. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 20, 22 Feb., 30 Mar. 1812.
  • 10. Roscoe mss 457, 489, 1058; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 51-59; Brougham mss 10344-6, 15298, 32315, 32583, 34992, 39072; Brougham to Grey [2, 8, 18 Aug.], 9, 25 Sept.; Creevey mss, Brougham to Creevey, Fri. [?11 Sept.]; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 26 Sept. 1812.
  • 11. Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey [16, 18, 25 Sept.]; Grey mss, Tarleton to Grey, 29 Sept., 3, 11 Oct. 1812.
  • 12. Roscoe mss 487, 492; Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey [20 Sept., 4, 6 Oct.]; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22, 25 Sept., Liverpool to same, 24 Sept., Long to same, 29 Sept.; Horner mss 5, f. 240; Whitbread mss W1/1951; Creevey mss, Brougham to Creevey, Mon. [?28 Sept. 1812]; Leveson Gower, ii. 446; PRO 30/29/8/5, ff. 640, 645, 647; Add. 38739, ff. 37, 68; 48220, f. 96; Canning and his Friends, i. 392.
  • 13. Creevey mss, Creevey to his wife, Sunday, Sunday evening 7 o’clock, Mon. [Oct. 1812].
  • 14. Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey, Tues. morning; A Correct Account of the Poll ... (1812); Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 61; Add. 37297, f. 181.
  • 15. Roscoe mss 498; Creevey mss, Creevey to his wife, Wed. morning half past 7, Fri. morning half past 8 [Oct.], 25 Oct.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 19 Oct.; Bankes mss, Canning to Bankes, 19 Oct.; Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey, Sat. night [24 Oct. 1812]; Whitbread mss W1/1926; Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 172; Add. 48220, ff. 99, 102.
  • 16. Add. 38108, ff. 59, 61-62; Morning Chron. 14 Oct.; Blair Adam mss, Tarleton to Adam [30 Oct.], 10 Dec. 1812; CJ, lxviii. 51, 272.
  • 17. Add. 52178, Brougham to Allen, Wed. [28 Oct.]; 52194, Lansdowne to Allen, 1 Nov.; Fitzwilliam mss, X1606, Brougham to Milton, Sat. [Nov. 1812].
  • 18. Add. 38251, f. 60; 38568, f. 32; NMM, WYN/105, Blagden to Pole, 3 Feb. 1813.
  • 19. Ward, Letters to Bp. of Llandaff, 47; S. G. Checkland, The Gladstones, 73, 99; Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 27 Sept., Tierney to same, 15 Oct. 1814; Add. 38740, f. 79; 51658, Allen to Lady Holland, 12 Oct. 1814.
  • 20. Add. 38241, f. 55; 48221, f. 12; Checkland, 115; Brougham, ii. 106-7; Letters to Bp. of Llandaff, 144.
  • 21. The Poll ... (1818); The Squib Book (Liverpool, 1818); Creevey mss, Holland to Creevey, n.d., Sefton to same, 26 June; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 16-25 June; Bankes mss, Canning to Bankes, 7 July 1818; PRO 30/29/8/6, f. 699; The Late Elections (1818), 180.