Chapter 11 - And in the End
After all of the dust had died down, what are we left with? The Stanleys or their nominees had regained control of who Preston should send as their MP to Parliament and, for the next 150 years or so, the name “Stanley” appears as the name of Preston’s MP no less than 5 times.
Even though the 1768 election became a lost cause to the corporation there were attempts in 1780 and again in 1784 to fight against the Houghton/Derby coalition and reverse the "all inhabitants" clause. John Fenton, Esq., argued against the 1780 result on the grounds that "universal suffrage" was illegal. He lost. Again, various moves were made to define exactly what was meant by the original 1661 phrase “all the inhabitants”. The inn-burgesses put out a document (1) which argued that the 1661 phrase meant “all the inn-burgess inhabitants” but it had little effect on the status quo. As was mentioned earlier some restrictions on the electorate came about in 1786 when a clause was added in the act of Parliament relevant to Preston so that only someone who was resident in the borough for 6 months or more was given the vote. Only with the 1832 Reform Act (2) would the electorate become strictly defined.
In the late 18th century new money came into Preston in the shape of various industrialists. John Horrocks, who had mills in the town, fought the seat in 1796 and very nearly won. The Cragg family diaries (3) for that year contain the following entries
June 6th. The election at Preston is carried on with great vigour on both sides and have polled several days. Horrocks is 338 votes. The Earl of Derby's candidates 321 each and it is reported that Horrocks will gain the day he being supported by the Corporation. The Earl of Derby has considered the Borough almost his own for nearly 30 years.
The diary continues with
June 15th. Preston election is over and Stanley and Houghton are returned. Horrocks has lost the day. The numbers were Stanley 772, Houghton 767, Horrocks 739. It is said that Horrocks polled all that he had and the others did not, having some which they did not poll.
Horrocks finally succeeded in 1802 when Hoghton was dropped so, for the next decade, there was an uneasy alliance between the Corporation and the Stanleys. It is interesting that Cragg, even in remote Wyresdale, knew that the Earl of Derby (Stanleys) “had considered the borough almost his for 30 years”.
It could be said that the main raison d’etre for the Corporation’s existence was in creating and maintaining freemen - everything else followed from this. Freemen had had a number of rights in the town; the freedom to open businesses, shops, market stalls, employ men… as well as vote in local and national elections. With the loss of the 1768 election some of these rights started to evaporate.
The Corporation, through the Mayor, ran the Leet and Manor Courts to arbitrate on minor disputes and it is interesting to note that the majority of the Courts from around this time failed to contain any presentments - the Corporation was becoming neutered. In the early 1800’s there was a short resurgence in the Courts but by 1813 all records disappear completely.
As far as the main protagonists in the election were concerned, they soon followed widely differing paths.
Sir Peter Leicester’s year in parliament went by without impinging on the records books and, after his status as MP was overturned, he returned to his estates in Cheshire. The main house, built for him between 1761 and 1769 is shown to the left. Leicester died on the 12th February, 1770 but the estates in Cheshire remained within the family until 1975 and De Tabley House is still open to the public.
Sir Frank Standish withdrew from politics after the rigours of the 1768 election. He died in 1812, unmarried and therefore the fourth and last baronet of the Standish family.
Sir Henry Hoghton continued in politics though rarely putting his head above water. It is interesting to note that, even though he won the seat of Preston by the widening of the franchise, he did not vote for Parliamentary reform in 1783 and 1785. He died in 1795 and was succeeded as MP for Preston by his son, Sir Henry Philip Hoghton.
Lord Strange was still active behind the scenes until his death in 1771 when he was succeeded in his hereditary title of Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire by the 11th Earl of Derby. Various members of the Derby family continued in this prestigious role until 1851. Even into the 20th Century the 16th, 17th and 18th Earls of Derby occupied this position.
John Burgoyne’s life continued in the public eye. Even before the election result had been overturned, Burgoyne continued his climb up the greasy pole of power and influence. The suspicion, all along, being that the Stanley family were pulling the political strings - Burgoyne seemed to be awarded promotions and posts far in advance of his abilities and experience. As early as October, 1768 the Duke of Grafton, who had only been in post as Prime Minister a couple of weeks, wrote to Lord Granby, Commander in Chief of the British Forces, and recommended Burgoyne to him with the strangest comment.
‘an early mark of royal favour, on account of an expensive attack he has made in a part of the country the least affected to Government, and which has cost him a sum which I dare hardly name’.
This seems to be indicating that he should be helped with the expenses incurred in Preston - including organising and paying the rioters for which he was about to be prosecuted for. Most likely as a consequence of this communication Burgoyne was appointed to be governor of Fort William. As written in the History of Parliament online (4).
“To be colonel of a regiment and governor of a fort without having reached the rank of major-general in the army was unusual even for an officer with Burgoyne’s good connexions.”
Since the Jacobite threat had largely disappeared by this date, being governor of Fort William would have been a comparatively easy and lucrative sinecure. Burgoyne, at this stage, was a Colonel and the requirement for this appointment would been normally have been a Major-General.
Horace Walpole (5) describes Colonel Burgoyne the Parliamentarian as a “pompous man” and that
“he was a vain, very ambitious man, with a half understanding which was worse than none”
At various stages he aligned himself with different parties in order to avoid blame or take credit although he could take an unpopular line. When he was appointed the chairman of a select committee to investigate the East India Company and, in particular, Clive (of India) his vote of censure on Clive was defeated.
Burgoyne’s army career was pursued in parallel with his political one. In 1775 he was offered and, eventually after the intervention of the King, was persuaded to accept a command in America. This ended in disaster when the British Army, under his leadership, suffered a major defeat at Saratoga in 1777.
Most historians treat this loss as the turning point in the battle for independence. Burgoyne, and the majority of the army (6200 men), were taken prisoners of war. When he finally returned to Britain, by being paroled in return for the release of 1000 American troops, he faced intense criticism.
Burgoyne countered this criticism in a letter to General William Howe (who was also involved in the campaign in America) with
‘My army would not fight and could not subsist and ... I have made a treaty that saves them to the state for the next campaign.’
When the criticism increased at home he was asked to return to America to be with his captured troops. He refused, creating further bad feeling. Whilst he was making his excuses in Britain his troops continued to be held in America for several more years. A number of them finally escaped and eventually became American citizens.
The importance towards American independence can be illustrated by a medal, struck in 1975, presented to Queen Elizabeth II by the US Ambassador, Mr Elliot Richardson.
As a result of the American debacle the pressure on Burgoyne gradually increased and, probably as a gesture, he offered his resignation. As a surprise to his ego, this was accepted.
Richard Fitzpatrick, who was also an MP and had fought in America wrote
‘it is no less than £3,500 a year that he gives up and I suppose [he] has hardly anything left.’
Outside the political and military arena, Burgoyne also became a well-known playwrite on the London scene. Several plays and a number of poems added to his reputation.
Burgoyne died in 1792 engulfed in debts which were barely covered by the sale of his property, in fact Lord Derby covered these debts and supported Burgoynes children. The funeral procession consisted of one coach containing four gentlemen and a lady. How the mighty are fallen. His power and influential friends caused the “Great Election” and, so indirectly, he is responsible for this document.
1. Lancashire Archives – DDX 123/21
2. 1832 Reform Act - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_Act_1832
3. Lancashire Archives – Cragg Family of Ortner – DDX 760
4. History of Parliament Online - http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/burgoyne-john-1723-92
5. The Last Journals of Horace Walpole - https://archive.org/stream/lastjournalsofho01walp/lastjournalsofho01walp_djvu.txt