Chapter 9 - The Result
So, on 1st April 1768, the final vote was cast. For some days the number of valid votes had been reducing and the Whigs had been struggling to find plumpers but, in the end, a cocktail of exhaustion, disinterest and cost drew the process to an end. The mayor declared the result as a victory for the Standish and Leicester so that would seem to be the end of the story - but it wasn’t.
A description of the end of the voting appears in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal for Monday 11th April 1768. In it there is an extract of a letter from a gentleman in Preston and it shows that, even after the end of the voting, the mob still ruled.
"The poll finished here on Friday, and the Mayor returned Sir Peter Leicester and Sir Frank Standish: they durst not appear in the court, but were returned in their absence; nor durst the Mayor go down to the Town-hall, till he had previously sent a message to Sir Harry Hoghton and Col. Burgoyne, to acquaint them that so great a concourse of people were assembled that he would not venture out without their protection. Several pistols had been loaded by some of the mob on Sir Peter Leicester's and Frank Standish's part, in order to protect their Baronets whilst they rode thro' the town; but having been found out by the men on the other side, they forced them from them and fired them in the air."
"Sir Harry Hoghton and Col. Burgoyne went to the Mayor's house, and accompanied him to the Hall; at the Hall-door he was received with a general hiss, and had not Sir Harry Hoghton and Col. Burgoyne walked close on each side of him, his brains would certainly have been beat out; as it was he was pelted with mud. The mob chaired Sir Harry Hoghton and Col. Burgoyne, and carried them home on their shoulders; after which they dressed up two people for the Members returned in plaid waistcoats and white cockades, and carried them round the town, one of them with a halter round his neck, when this was over, they dressed up a man for the Mayor, with a representation of Newgate pinned to his breast, and paraded him through the streets: after these ceremonies, the mob dispersed, and were very quiet the rest of the night."
So, even after the election was complete, the riotous atmosphere continued with the mob reluctant to accept the result announced by the Mayor.
As far as the Mayor was concerned, the restricted electorate, defined by custom and practice, should be the only true voters. Only their votes should stand and this was reflected in the return (or as it was called "indenture").
As mentioned in an earlier section the running totals don't quite agree with the result declared by the Mayor. The reason for this being that none of the extant records seem to agree.
Thomas Rutter in the 46th tally (1) is a fine example of the problems that the Mayor had in determining the final vote.
In this example he was accepted "de bene esse" ie accepted for the moment and then later, it appears he was rejected. Some records show acceptance and others show rejection. Somehow the Mayor had to make sense of this.
The chart on the next page gives a breakdown of the different categories of voter with the most important one, in the final analysis, being those being enfranchised by the term "all the inhabitants".
Amazingly, Abram (2) describes a second return that had been produced by the Mayor which delivered the victory to the Whigs - but this was never sent to Parliament. It is suggested that if rioting broke out again, it could be produced to pacify the mob. Fortunately it wasn’t needed.
Immediately after the return was announced the Whigs disputed the initial figures and came up with their own which expands on the Mayor’s return.
These figures give an overwhelming victory for Burgoyne and Hoghton and would provide the basis of future legal cases. Further analysis of the votes displays the interesting fact that 26 of the votes cast were by “papists”. Removal of their votes would have produced a closer run result – even in the official figures.
The Stamford Mercury for Thursday, 7th April contains a letter that must have been written in the middle of the election.
The contest for Representatives here is carried on with a warmth not to be described. It is thought Col. Burgoyne and Sir Harry Hoghton would have carried it by a great majority, had not all the reputed Papists taken the oaths, and a number of occasional inhabitants been admitted.
As it is, the numbers will be very near. The poll, which used to be finished in six houses, has already last a complete week: The are many able Council on both sides. The wagers amongst the knowing-one are even money that Sir Peter Leicester and Sir Frank Standish are returned; and twenty to one that Colonel Burgoyne and Sir Harry Hoghton at the Sitting Members.
So the feeling seems to be that the Catholic vote for Leicester & Standish would be decisive but the above comments on Papists could also provide an argument if the vote went against Burgoyne & Hoghton.
The final result was immediately disputed on the grounds that the Mayor & bailiffs had rejected a large number of valid votes. Hoghton & Burgoyne wrote a letter to the people of Preston, a copy of which eventually appeared in the Manchester Mercury on the 26th July. It seems to have been originally written on April 2nd, 1768.
To the free and independent Electors of the Borough of Preston.
The uncommon Attention with which the Proceedings of the late Election were observed by Men of every Class, during a Poll of eleven Days, makes it unnecessary for us to expatiate on the Conduct by which a Return has been made in Favour of our Opponents, against a great Majority of Legal Votes in our Interest.
We now think it a Duty to our Country, to you, and to ourselves, to declare in the most publick Manner, our Resolution to carry our cause before a Tribunal where we are sure the Rights of the People, and the Laws of the Land, will be asserted and maintained.
In the mean Time, we beg leave to assure you, that we retain the most grateful Sense of the steady and zealous Support with which you have honoured us, and we are, with the sincerest regard, Gentlemen,Your most obliged, and most obedient humble Servants,
HENRY HOGHTON. J. BURGOYNE.
Only Parliament could overturn the original declaration and so, in the petition to Parliament, Sir Henry Hoghton & Colonel Burgoyne declared that the Mayor (Robert Moss) and Bailiff (Robert Farrer) had conducted the poll in the interests of Sir Peter Leicester and Sir Frank Standish, ignoring or rejecting a great majority of persons entitled to vote.
This being in violation of laws governing free and fair elections and being contrary to a resolution of the house concerning the right of election to the said borough of Preston.
At the same time as Burgoyne and Hoghton pressed their claim for the result to be overturned by Parliament, so did other groupings within the Town. Two sections pushed their claims; 165 inhabitants who had been denied the status as freemen and 91 resident freemen whose valid votes had been rejected by the returning officers under various pretences. Parliament decided that these petitions were to be taken at the same time as the Hoghton & Burgoyne petition.
The full petition was as follows:-
To the Honourable the Commons of Great Britain in the Parliament Assembled. The Honourable Petition of Sir Henry Houghton Bart & Jno Burgoyne Esq. Sheweth. That ye Petioners being Candidates at the late Election of Members to serve in this present Parliament for the Boro' of Preston in the County Palitine of Lancaster were duly elected by a great majority of the persons qualified to vote by the Constitution of the sd Boro' but that Robert Moss Esq, barrister at law, the Mayor of the sd Boro' with Robert Farrer, one of the Baliffs of the sd Boro' presiding at the sd Election as returning officers conducted the poll with the most apparent partiality to the Interest of Sir Peter Leicester and Sir ffrank Standish Bart, the other candidates rejected without any good reason aforesaid on any just exception a very great majority of ye persons intended to vote by the consitutution of the Boro' the last resolution of this Honourable House & the statutes making such resolutions final.
That the sd Mayor & Bailiff not continued with a false arbitrary & illegal definition of the Rt of Election also - rejected under the most frivolous pretences many persons who voted for the petitioners altho' they were within their own description of the Qualification & altho' they received many others in favour of Sir Peter Leicester and Sir fftank Standish in circumstances exactly similar to many of the votes for your petitioners so rejected.
That under colour of a very small majority obtained thro' these & divers other arbitrary & illegal practices of the sd Mayor & Bailiff the sd Sir P. L. & Sir ff. St.have been returned by the sd Mayor and Bailiff as having been duly elected to represent the sd Boro' in Parliament contrary to the truth of the last Resolution of this Honourable House concerning the right of election for the aid Boro' in defiance of the laws requiring fair and free elections in manifest violation of the rights of the electors & to the great injury of the petitioners.
The crux of this petition being the reference to "false arbitrary and illegal definition of the right of Election" - a veiled allusion to the 1661 House of Commons resolution.
The inhabitant’s petition complained that
returning officers took upon themselves to reject the votes of the petitioners and divers others who voted for Sir Henry Hoghton and John Burgoyne, under various pretences, all either devoid of foundation in truth, or though true, insufficient, as the petitioners conceive, to support any solid objection to the votes so rejected, particularly with a view and design to render the sending Members of Parliament for the said borough wholly subservient to the will and pleasure of themselves and the rest of the body corporate of the said Boro’, pretended that the franchise of an Inn-Burgess of the said Boro', being among the requisites to a qualification to vote, and your Petitioners and others not being such had not any right to give their votes.
The response of J. Cust, the speaker of the Commons, probably accounts for the number of documents that have survived and that there are several copies of the same documents. He requested a wide range of documents from historical papers and charters (to check on custom and practice) through to the Pole (or canvas) and rate books. Both sides would have presented the results in a form that reinforced their claims. John Cust had, previously, been consulted about various legal matters in the build up to the election.
It is interesting to note that this petition was being presented at the same time as the case held at the Kings Bench concerning the rioting in Preston was in the process of being held - but this seems to have been ignored and the result of that trial would only appear a year later.
Cust’s request follows.
Whereas by an order of the House of Commons the matter of the Petition of Sir Henry Hoghton Baronet and John Burgoyne Esquire complaining of an undue Election and Return for the Borough of Preston in the County of Lancaster is appointed to be heard at the Bar of the said House upon Tuesday the Twenty ninth day of this instant November. These are therefore to require you the mayor of the said Borough and such other person or persons who have in his, her or their custody the original Pole taken at the last Election of members to serve in Parliament for the said Borough and every other Pole or Poles for the said Borough also any Charters, Publick Books or Records Rates or assessments relating or belonging to the said Borough or and Parish or Place......
The comprehensive and repetitive request for documents then continues...
Subsequent to this instruction a request was put to John Nabb, the Town Clerk of Preston, for various documents. These include charters going back as far as Richard the Second and Henry the Fourth.
Charters granted by King Richard the second, King Henry the fourth, Philip and Mary, Queen Elizabeth and King Charles the Second and also a book intitled this is the Book of Orders for the Town of Preston in Amounderness in the County of Lancaster, Richard Blundell Mayor one thousand and six hundred and eight which is generally called the White Book of Orders made at the Guild Merchant in one thousand and five hundred eighty two, one thousand six hundred and two, one thousand six hundred and sixty two, one thousand six hundred eighty two, one thousand seven hundred forty two and one thousand seven hundred sixty two. Dated this sixteenth day of November one thousand seven hundred sixty eight.
From this it appears that there is an intent to look over the custom & practice of running an election in Preston. The “Book of Orders for 1662” is the one that jumps out at the reader since this Guild took place a year after the Commons ruling that contained the phrase “all the inhabitants.”
Many of the arguments for and against the Hoghton/Burgoyne case are to be found in the petition documents (3).
The case was eventually placed before the whole House of Commons and according to Hardwick
The council for the corporation argued that the term "all the inhabitants" had reference only to "such in-burgesses of the last guild, or those admitted since by copy of court roll, as were inhabitants of the place." One hundred and thirteen voted for this view of the case, and one hundred and eighty-three against it.
This decision seemed to be largely based upon the ruling of 1661. As a result of the petition to the House of Commons on the 10th November, 1768 the original return was overturned with Burgoyne and Hoghton taking the place of Leicester & Standish in Parliament. Preston, if we discount some paupers, had accidental universal male suffrage.
The Manchester Mercury for 6th December, 1768 has the following passage
On Thursday night an express arrived at Knowsley with an account the Col. Burgoyne & Henry Hoghton, Bart., were declared members in Parliament for the Borough of Preston. The right of election for the Borough of Preston, we hear, is in the inhabitants in general, and not in a select number.
As a result of the Parliamentary ruling, Preston gained this wider franchise for another 20 years. When Parliament finally realised that “there was nothing to stop a regiment of soldiers from marching into the Town one night, and voting at an election in the morning” something needed to be done. Sense prevailed and, in 1786, a six month residential qualification was added to the voter requirements.
Interestingly those who had been en-franchised under the 1768 ruling maintained those rights until the day they died. Even when the 1832 Reform Act (4) came in there was a restriction to those male householders who lived in a property worth £10 a year or more. For Preston this was a contraction of the electorate.
A number of writers express the view that, behind the scenes, the influence of Lord Strange on the House of Commons that was critical in it adopting the same stance as declared in the 1661 election. Unfortunately, in spite of the bribery and corruption in the local election, there is no way of proving that this extended to Parliament. Abram argues that the most logical result of the petition would have been to the let the original return stand since foreign burgesses had no right to vote in any previous Parliamentary election. Two year earlier, in 1766, some 30 such foreign burgesses came into town to vote and they were rejected by both sides. Even a brief glimpse of the documents covering the rules of the Corporation would have revealed that the Mayor and Corporation had maintained custom & practice even though it now looks completely undemocratic. Only Lord Strange and his allies could put forward a convincing argument against this to be accepted in the Commons and overturn the original result.
Junius, a well-known commentator of the time, wrote several letters to the Prime Minister ( the Duke of Grafton), hiding in flowery language, allegations of corruption and bribery. Archer’s Bath Chronicle for November 30th, 1769 contains one such accusation, in a tirade of accusations, against Colonel Burgoyne.
Nothing less than many thousands of pounds could pay Colonel Burgoyne’s expenses in Preston.
There would have been some legitimate expenses but nothing like the amount mentioned above. Junius is implying the extra would have been to finance bribery and corruption.
On December 12th, the same newspaper printed more of Junius’ accusations. In the midst of these we find.
…(and which, I have reason to think, was not less than three thousand five hundred pounds) was, with your connivance and consent, paid to Colonel Burgoyne, to reward him, I presume, for the decency of his deportment in Preston; or to reimburse him perhaps for a fine of one thousand pounds, which, for that very deportment, the Court of King’s Bench thought proper to set upon him - It is not often the Chief Justice and the Prime Minister are so strangely at variance in their opinion of men and things.
The Court case against Burgoyne resulted in a fine of £1000 and Junius is comparing this with Burgoyne obtaining the sinecure as the Governor of Fort William. More on Hoghton & Burgoyne’s expenses later.
Later, again referring to Burgoyne
Besides he is but a young officer considering his preferment, and, excepting his activity in Preston, not very conspicuous in his profession.
His rank, and thus his salary, would have failed to provide anything like the resources required to fight a disputed election. A combination the Stanleys and Hoghtons must have bank-rolled him.
As was mentioned earlier Burgoyne was fined £1000 but this wasn’t the end of the expenditure. A typical contested election would cost the candidates several thousand pounds. As an example, although it was some years later, the 1796 election the costs of food and drink alone cost the Whig candidates more than £5500 - approaching a million pounds in modern terms. Other, more legitimate, expenses would easily have taken the total to more than £10,000. The 1768 election would easily have cost a similar amount and, given the number of “supporters” brought into the town, probably far greater.
Proctor (5) makes a number of interesting points regarding the ruling from the House of Commons overturning the original return. She puts forward the possibility that given the level of rioting during the elections there was a fear that worse might follow if the return was to stand - especially with the climate of rioting in other areas. Secondly, one of the tellers counting the “Ayes” and “Noes” was a certain Lord Strange. It couldn’t be, could it?
The following extract from a document (in Hardwick) issued by the Derby party, gives the proportion of voters on each qualification as follows:
Once the original return had been overturned the Whig celebrations could begin. For some reason this occurred in Leyland rather than Preston.
Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Monday 19th December 1768
By a letter from Leyland in Lancashire, we are informed, that an express arriving with an account of the determination of a great assembly in favour Sir Harry Hoghton, and Col. Burgoyne, now members for Preston, the village Leyland exprd'ed their joy in the following manner; the morning was in with ringing of bells, at noon an ox was roasted at a large bonfire, and distributed to the poor with a quantity of ale; the evening the whole town was illuminated, and the night concluded with great decency and cheerfulness.
Dated the 1st December, 1768, the election squibs also contain a list toasts for the above event “on gaining the cause”. Exactly what the "cause" was, it was never explained.
1. Lancashire Archives – Register of Voters 1768 - DDPd 11/51
2. W. A. Abram - “Sketches in Local History” – Sketch 38
3. Lancashire Archives – Petition, Answers & Orders – Hoghton & Burgoyne against the Election return – DDPr 131/8.
4. 1832 Reform Act - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reform_Act_1832
5. Proctor - “Electioneering in Lancashire before the secret ballot: The Preston Election of 1768” read before Preston Historical Society, 6th April 1959 and reprinted in the Journal of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Volume 111, 1959. Can be found in the Lancashire Archives or at HSLC website.