Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the elizers and freemen 1660-84, Jan. 1689; in the corporation 1685; in the 'lords of the borough' and the householders not receiving alms Dec. 1689

Number of voters:

24 in 1660-84, Jan. 1689; 18 in 1685; about 50 in Sept. 1689


9 Apr. 1660THOMAS CAREW I 17
  Double return. CAREW and FINCH seated, 5 May 1660  
22 June 1660JOHN ALLEYN vice Finch, chose to sit for Canterbury 23
27 Mar. 1661MATTHEW WREN  
  Double return of Mosley and Borlase. MOSLEY seated, 16 May 1661  
7 Dec. 1665FRANCIS HAWLEY, Baron Hawley, vice  Mosley, deceased  
12 Feb. 1673HUMPHREY BORLASE vice Wren, deceased 24
 Jeremiah Snow  0
10 Feb. 1679SIR JOHN ST. AUBYN, 1st Bt. 24
 Humphrey Borlase 1
30 Aug. 1679SIR JOHN ST. AUBYN, 1st Bt. 16
 Humphrey Borlase 1
 Humphrey Borlase271
 Nicholas Borlase22 0
7 May 1685THOMAS PRICE 13
16 Jan. 1689CHARLES FANSHAWE, Visct. Fanshawe 22
 Humphrey Courtney 1
18 Sept. 1689WILLIAM CORYTON vice Fanshawe, discharged from sitting2314
 Humphrey Courtney198
 COURTNEY vice Coryton, on petition, 17 Dec. 1689  

Main Article

Mitchell was little more than a hamlet on the high road through Cornwall. As lord of the manor Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, a Roman Catholic, exercised a discreet influence over elections, doubtless in favour of Humphrey Borlase, one of his principal tenants, who lived in the borough and had many Roman Catholic connexions. The Protestant Arundells of Trerice and the Courtneys of Trethurfe also enjoyed an interest. The system of election was peculiar. The portreeve, who acted as returning officer, was chosen annually at the court leet of the manor from the principal tenants, sometimes styled the lords of the borough. For the purposes of a parliamentary election he appointed two elizers, and they co-opted 22 ‘freemen’ to form an ad hoc electorate. At the general election of 1660 three indentures were completed. Two were signed by Sir Peter Courtney with the ‘unanimous consent and assent’ of the ‘commonalty’s in favour of Thomas Carew and Heneage Finch, both barristers of the Inner Temple. Carew’s father had been one of the principal tenants of the manor, and he was doubtless glad to find a seat for so prominent a Royalist, though neither of them, unlike Courtney, was comprised within the Long Parliament ordinance against Cavaliers. It is possible that Courtney had at one time deputed Samuel Nancarrow to act as returning officer, since he signed a third indenture for Borlase. Carew and Finch were seated on the merits of the return, but the latter at once chose to sit for Canterbury, and a by-election became necessary. His friend John Alleyn, another laywer, replaced him, with a return signed by 23 of the 24 electors. Meanwhile Borlase was pursuing his case against Carew, claiming that ‘the right of election belongs to the commonalty at large’. On 15 July the House accepted the report of (Sir) Edward Turnor, dismissing this contention, and resolved that Carew, ‘having the plurality of voices, is duly elected’.1

Three indentures were again returned in 1661. This time Courtney appointed John Woodhouse as deputy portreeve. He returned on separate indentures two outsiders, Matthew Wren, the lord chancellor’s secretary, and Sir Edward Mosley, one of Alleyn’s clients. The incorrigible Nancarrow produced an indenture with 30 signatures for Borlase and Wren. On 16 May (Sir) Job Charlton reported that his deputation had been revoked, and Mosley was seated on the merits of the return. On Mosley’s death in 1665 the Duke of York recommended one of his household, Lord Hawley, to Lord Arundell of Trerice (Richard Arundell) and he was returned by the ‘common consent and assent’ of the portreeve and ‘burgesses’. Presumably no elizers were required for an uncontested election, and the indenture bears 37 signatures. Wren was killed at the battle of Sole Bay in 1672; but there was apparently no government nominee for the by-election. The indefatigable Borlase stood again, securing all 24 votes on the freeman franchise and 36 signatures on his return. Against him Jeremiah Snow, a London banker who had lost £60,000 in the Stop of the Exchequer, petitioned unsuccessfully, claiming to have been duly elected.2

Borlase was considerably less successful in 1679, with a single vote at both elections. Charles Smythe stood in February 1679, but apparently withdrew after a canvass. The successful candidates on each occasion were Sir John St. Aubyn, whose wife had brought him an estate in the neighbourhood, and Walter Vincent, a successful lawyer. Both opposed exclusion, and their support declined significantly between February and August, when eight of the freemen refused to record a vote, though the indenture bore 48 signatures. Vincent died before the second Exclusion Parliament met, but there was no writ for a by-election, perhaps because Borlase’s petition was still undetermined. In 1681 separate indentures were made out for Vincent’s son Henry and Sir William Russell, one of the leaders of the court party in the City. Borlase and his son Nicholas petitioned against them, but the Oxford Parliament was dissolved before any report was made. The ‘corporation’ presented a loyal address in July approving the dissolution.3

The charter of Mitchell was surrendered in December 1684 by Sir John Arundell with the portreeve and burgesses. The new charter of 30 Apr. 1685 gave the franchise to a corporation consisting of a mayor and 17 freemen, many of whom were local gentry. Lord Bath, the Government’s electoral manager for Cornwall, was nominated recorder. A week later John Vivian was returned on Lord Arundell’s interest with Thomas Price, a protégé of Lord Treasurer Rochester (Laurence Hyde). One report in 1688 described Mitchell as ‘at the devotion of Sir John Arundell’, while another stated that ‘Mr Borlase undertakes to choose who [sic] the King pleases’. At the general election of 1689 two Tories were returned by the freemen ‘unanimously with our consent and assent’. Vivian’s brother Francis had acquired property in the borough by marriage, but Lord Fanshawe was a stranger. Humphrey Courtney, who had inherited the Trethurfe interest, stood as a Whig on the inhabitant franchise, but withdrew his petition when Fanshawe was discharged as a non-juror. At the by-election in September he was again defeated, this time by William Coryton, the portreeve noting in his pollbook that 17 inhabitants ‘were refused to be sworn, according to ancient custom’. When Parliament met again after the autumn recess Courtney’s petition was read, claiming a majority of the inhabitants paying scot and lot, and submitting an indenture signed by the sheriff of Cornwall. He alleged a contrivance between the steward of the manor, a hurriedly nominated portreeve, and the under-sheriff to return Coryton, ‘not having four qualified voices’. The Tories, who controlled the elections committee, succeeded in delaying proceedings, but on 9 Dec. a report was ordered. This defined the franchise in even broader terms as ‘in the lords of the borough, who are liable to be chosen portreeves of the same; and in the householders of the said borough, not receiving alms’. The House agreed by 168 votes to 139, and by an even larger margin, obviously on party lines, declared Courtney elected. Sir John Carew and Humphrey Nicoll were tellers for the majority, against the sons of St. Aubyn and Lord Bath.4

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


Polls in Cornw. RO, WH23M/SE2/2/6.

  • 1. Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 342-3; iii. 415; J. Miller, Popery and Pols. 17; W. P. Courtney, Parl. Hist. Cornw. 305-8; CJ, viii. 13, 92.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 251; ix. 258; Adm. 2/1745, f. 129, F. G. Hilton Price, London Bankers, 155.
  • 3. CJ, ix. 638, 707; London Gazette, 21 July 1681.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 245; Cornw. RO, AD107/22 (charter); Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 380; (1883), 269; CJ, x. 188, 272-3, 306-7.