Double Member Cinque Port

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 100


16 Apr. 1754Sir Thomas Hales 
 William Glanville 
25 Mar. 1761Lord George Sackville 
 William Glanville 
26 Dec. 1765Sackville re-elected after appointment to office 
17 Nov. 1766William Amherst vice Glanville, deceased 
16 Mar. 1768John Sawbridge59
 William Evelyn53
 Lord George Sackville11
 Sir Charles Farnaby11
7 Oct. 1774Sir Charles Farnaby66
 William Evelyn59
 John Sawbridge38
9 Sept. 1780Sir Charles Farnaby62
 William Evelyn61
 John Stevenson44
 Richard James42
1 Apr. 1784Sir Charles Farnaby61
 William Evelyn56
 John Sawbridge38

Main Article

In 1754 the chief interest was acknowledged to be in the Duke of Dorset, part personal and part derived from his office of lord warden of the Cinque Ports. ‘The Duke of Dorset has long cultivated an interest in the borough of Hythe’, wrote Lord George Sackville to Charles Jenkinson, 14 June 1763,1 ‘and has always been indulged by the lords of the Treasury in having his recommendations accepted for the few offices in that port.’ So long as this continued the Dorset interest was supreme.

The first Duke of Dorset died in 1765; and Lord George Sackville, who managed the family interest, recognized that the situation had changed. At the by-election of November 1766 he avoided the danger of Government interference by choosing a candidate acceptable to them. ‘I really thought’, Sackville wrote to John Irwin on 13 Feb. 1767, ‘when I took Amherst for my partner that I had shown such a decent attention to Government in that choice that I might have remained unmolested.’2 But Grafton, first lord of the Treasury, backed Lord Holdernesse, the new lord warden, in his attempt to break the Sackville interest at Hythe. ‘Lord Holdernesse assured the ministers’, wrote Sackville, ‘that my father had no other interest in that place than what arose from the interest of the lord warden’; while Sackville himself contended that his interest was of a family and personal nature.

The election of the mayor in February 1767 was a test of strength. Sackville wrote:

Threats, promises, and money were used in their fullest extent. The contest was not fair, as I could pretend to have neither the means of rewarding or punishing, and had nothing to set against present interest and future expectations but personal attachments or gratitude for past favours. However, to the honour of my constituents, my friends would not forsake me, and upon the poll I carried my mayor by 51 against 34, and I had the pleasure of seeing most of those in Custom House employments vote with me, and all of those who were under the lord warden.3

Shortly after the mayoral election Chase Price, brother-in-law of William Evelyn, one of Holdernesse’s candidates, sent Grafton a ‘State of the borough of Hythe’.4

If Government mean to elect only one Member at the next general election very little trouble will be necessary; if they mean to choose both the Members, it must be attended with great expense, application, and difficulty.

From the general complexion of the freemen the independent votes are in opposition to Lord George Sackville, the country dislike him, and the people are warm and animated against him; but the Government votes are very cautious and wary. From long habitude and connexion with the Dorset family they manifestly incline to his support; and from their numbers and situation in the borough they seem in all respects the most eligible body of the electors ...

The number of freemen for the borough of Hythe are about 92, 85 of whom only appeared; 34 polled for Mr. Evelyn and 51 for Lord George. Mr. Evelyn had three in his number that were dependent upon Government, Lord George had 16. To this majority he joins a power of making what number of freemen he thinks proper ... How then is it possible to overturn him in this formidable situation?

Honorary freemen can be set aside only by a resolution of the House of Commons. There will be none made, for supposing Lord George to understand his business he will assiduously avoid a petition, and the ground of honorary freemen is a most proper subject for it.

It behoves the candidates supported by Government to consider and take hold of any flaw that may appear upon the face of the charter or upon the usage and customs of the corporation that may strike at the private votes of the Dorset family; to be as active as it is possible in placing their principal expense lavishly and without noise about the country of their respective freemen; but to be very careful of an action upon the statute. Lord George is surrounded by attorneys, and every advantage is reckoned fair at an election.

There must be 20 votes added to Mr. Evelyn’s list to carry the point, and it would be salutary in Government to dismiss some of their officers at Hythe, without inveteracy; and above all to awaken the candidates to the mode of action already mentioned, that Lord Holdernesse may ... avoid equally the disgrace of being beat or of any improvident exertion of power.

The influence of the Treasury was used to win over the freemen of Hythe, and no ‘improvident exertion of power’ was necessary. The Sackville interest disappeared from Hythe, but Holdernesse gained nothing; the influence of the lord warden was henceforth of little importance. The borough was contested in 1774, 1780, and 1784: at each election Farnaby and Evelyn had Government support against John Sawbridge, the Radical, or candidates on his interest; and Government support was decisive.

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 38200, f. 358.
  • 2. Germain mss, Wm. L. Clements Lib.
  • 3. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 118.
  • 4. Grafton mss.