Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
at least 508 in 1701; 900-1,000 in 17081
|4 Mar. 1690||Paul Foley|
|22 Oct. 1695||Paul Foley|
|29 July 1698||Hon. James Brydges|
|8 Dec. 1699||Samuel Pytts vice Foley, deceased|
|6 Jan. 1701||Thomas Foley||451|
|Hon. James Brydges||309|
|25 Nov. 1701||Thomas Foley||300|
|Hon. James Brydges||273|
|20 July 1702||Hon. James Brydges|
|12 May 1705||Hon. James Brydges|
|8 May 1708||Hon. James Brydges||656||654|
|Sir Thomas Morgan, Bt.||4074||4475|
|7 Oct. 1710||Hon. James Brydges||670|
|Sir Thomas Morgan, Bt.||3246|
|16 July 1712||Foley re-elected after reappointment to office||116|
|31 Aug. 1713||Hon. James Brydges|
Hereford, described by Defoe as ‘large and populous’ but ‘old, mean built and very dirty’, had a ‘popular and numerous’ electorate with a substantial proportion of non-resident freemen, some as far afield as London, a fact that facilitated the domination of the constituency by local magnates, in particular the Foleys of Stoke Edith, the 8th Lord Chandos and, at the beginning of this period, Lords Coningsby (Thomas*) and Scudamore (John†). The interest of the corporation was not insignificant. Corporators were conscious of their status and it was incumbent upon a candidate to court the favour of the aldermen and common councilmen, and especially the mayor, who as the returning officer naturally enjoyed a position of peculiar influence. But in the last resort the support of the out-freemen and the power of money could always overcome their opposition. An example is the general election of 1690, when the corporation evidently declined to support the re-election of one of the outgoing Members, Paul Foley I, who had been angered by the borough’s refusal to elect his nominee in a by-election for the second seat in June 1689 and, by way of revenge, had sought to have Hereford excluded from the bill to restore corporations. When, at the dissolution, he wrote ‘offering his service, and that he would come down to them’, the corporation allegedly answered that ‘he might spare his pains, for they were resolved to choose no man that had given his vote to destroy them’. Because of this quarrel, there were strong rumours at the time of the election that Foley would be ‘thrown out’, but both outgoing Members, Foley and Henry Cornewall, were returned unopposed, the former having spent some £143 to entertain the voters.8
The 1695 election promised to be more interesting, for although Cornewall had abandoned the borough to seek a county seat there were still two other prospective candidates, James Morgan of Kinnersley, whose reputation as an irascible and difficult man preceded his entry into Hereford politics and was soon enhanced by his behaviour there, and the young Henry Gorges* of Eye, who was also something of a maverick. Simultaneously, symptoms of party conflict began to manifest themselves in Hereford: first an affray in an alehouse between a ‘private club’ of Jacobite sympathizers and some visiting soldiers; and subsequently a dispute over the high stewardship of the borough, which members of the corporation successfully sought to remove from the hands of Scudamore, presumably because of his refusal to take the oaths to William and Mary, and give instead to Coningsby. The party alignment does not seem to have affected the parliamentary election. While Morgan and Gorges were both Tories of a sort, an alliance of the two men on a party basis against the ‘old Whig’ Foley would have been precluded by Foley’s status as a leader of the Country party in the Commons. An alliance on rather more personal grounds would still have been possible, for Morgan came to Hereford fresh from a quarrel with Foley’s kinsmen the Harleys in Radnorshire, and Gorges was the brother-in-law and, at this stage, the protégé of Coningsby, whose relations with the Foleys and Harleys, beneath a superficial cordiality, were profoundly ambivalent. Coningsby’s position is in fact not at all clear. He warned Foley of ‘an interest making in Hereford and out of the country’ against him, but this turned out to be ‘young Gorges’, as Foley reported, ‘busily insinuating that I was against making Wye navigable’, a reference to the project for improving the navigation of the Wye and Lugg, which was widely and vigorously supported in Hereford. The strength of Foley’s position, however, effectively deterred any combination from being formed against him. At the beginning of October he was assured by his family that ‘all is quiet and none are moved’ by the efforts of the other candidates, and as the election drew near he confided to a friend ‘that he understands the great striving in Hereford will be which of the other two competitors, that stand for one, himself being agreed for the other’. Gorges had evidently made the less headway, for he withdrew, leaving Morgan to be returned unopposed with Foley.9
Secure as it was in 1695, Foley’s interest, in the city of Hereford at least, suffered a setback during the ensuing Parliament. By October 1697 the voters were said to be ‘out of conceit with formal Paul and peevish Morgan’. Besides the general stiffness of manner which Foley and his colleague seem, in their different ways, to have shared, the citizens had a more specific grievance against them: their failure adequately to represent and to relieve the distress caused to the leather and leather-related industries (especially glove manufacture) by the imposition of the leather tax. Glovers and tanners from Hereford petitioned the Commons with allegations of the widespread hardship which had followed the collapse of their trades, and in 1697 ‘the leather mob . . . from Hereford’ paid a visit to Foley at Westminster, to whom they were ‘very rude, even to threaten the pulling down his house’. They had previously ‘affronted his son and lady at Hereford’ and had also insulted Morgan. Thereafter both Members probably made efforts to repair their local reputations, Morgan piloting through the Commons a bill to establish a workhouse in Hereford, and Foley doubtless assisting the corporation to obtain a new charter in 1698 which confirmed that of James I and ‘removed all doubts and controversies’ arising from the events of the 1680s. Neither attempt was particularly successful. Morgan ‘quitted’ the borough in 1698, while Foley arrived in Hereford to find the city ‘in a strange humour’; though he was as yet the only candidate, he found that ‘not one in five would promise’. Feelers had been extended by corporators in the direction of Henry Cornewall and Chandos’ son Hon. James Brydges. Cornewall, a candidate for the county, would not be ‘commonly civil’, in all probability still angry at his reception in 1695, when, canvassing very late in the day, he had met with an entirely negative response. Brydges also had his eyes set on a county seat, but his father, whose interest, according to Foley’s son, comprised ‘half the town’, was keeping other options free. Although he promised Foley ‘all his interest for one’, none of his ‘creatures’ would pledge their votes. Less than a fortnight before the election there was still only one candidate. But suddenly Brydges abandoned a difficult contest for knight of the shire, and took the second seat in Hereford. As the Foleys had predicted, it ‘dropped into his mouth’. A week before the election Brydges recorded in his diary that he had walked ‘up and down the town’, significantly enough in the company of Henry Cornewall, and had received promises from ‘near 400’ voters. Foley in turn was boasting that at a poll he would have had ‘all the votes within 50 or 60’. The two men were returned unopposed.10
Foley’s death in 1699, at a time when his elder son Thomas II had already been provided with a parliamentary seat and his younger son Paul II* was not yet ready for one, provoked a scramble for the vacancy involving several outsiders and a local man, one ‘Clerk’, who may have been Alderman Thomas Clarke or his father and namesake, the town clerk. Chief among the outsiders were the London merchant, John Jeffreys*, Sir John Williams* of Pengethley, Edmund Brydges, a kinsman of Chandos who enjoyed the Earl’s recommendation, and Samuel Pytts, a landowner whose estates straddled the Herefordshire–Worcestershire border. In party terms, all were Tories, including Clarke, or so it would appear, since a ‘Thomas Clarke’ had twice served as mayor of Hereford under the 1682 charter. The attitude of the Foleys towards the rival candidates is unclear, though from the evidence of subsequent elections it seems probable that they were supporting Pytts, who was indeed returned, and without opposition. A connexion with Pytts may be inferred from the fact that at the next election, in which Thomas Foley II stood for his father’s old seat, Pytts appeared again, but to challenge Brydges rather than the Foleys. Brydges had taken the precaution of treating the freemen some time in advance, and his diary records that on his arrival in Hereford, on 30 Dec. 1700, he spent some time going ‘up and down the town for votes’. His companion on these excursions was Williams, who was standing for knight of the shire, and not Foley, towards whom Brydges maintained a posture of armed neutrality. Then, on the eve of the election, Pytts ‘came to town’. He ‘professed great friendship to Mr Foley and me’, wrote Brydges, ‘declaring he came . . . only to keep up his interest, and not to oppose either Mr Foley or myself’. However, at the election itself Pytts surprised Brydges by demanding a poll, at which he ended within 100 votes of Brydges, with Foley a further 150 ahead. ‘Warm words passed’ between Brydges and Pytts before the matter ‘passed off’. Foley’s detachment from the quarrel, and the proportions of votes polled, would suggest that Pytts was true to his word in not opposing him. Evidence to the contrary, a claim advanced by Chandos in a letter to Robert Harley*, that Brydges and Foley ‘join interest in friendship . . . against the foreigner’, was probably a disingenuous attempt to influence Harley to back Chandos’ candidate in the county election. Besides Williams, Brydges enjoyed the active assistance of James Morgan at the poll, indicating a coming together of old Tory interests to support him, interests that were perhaps still suspicious of the Foleys, especially Thomas, who had more of the ‘canting Presbyterian’ in his disposition than had other members of his family. The second general election of 1701 was in many respects a re-run of the first, with Pytts the only candidate to oppose either of the outgoing Members. An early rumour that ‘Tom Birch of Hampton’, a ‘brother’ of John Birch II*, would put up, probably as a Whig, came to nothing. Brydges had lost the backing of Morgan, following a quarrel between his father and Morgan which eventually drew Brydges into a duel to defend Chandos’ honour, but Pytts did not represent much of a threat, possibly because he no longer enjoyed even a surreptitious encouragement from Foley. Before the polling had been completed Pytts, ‘seeing that he was not likely to carry it’, withdrew gracefully, never to trouble the Hereford electors again. Brydges and Foley were unchallenged in 1702, and again in 1705. During this time the members of the corporation, which responded favourably to their MPs’ blandishments, gave some hints of Whiggish sympathies. The borough’s address on Queen Anne’s accession prayed for God’s help to enable her to ‘debilitate and pull down, in this age, the French usurping monarchy’ and promised to stand by her right to the throne against ‘the pretended Prince of Wales’; while the address on Blenheim in 1704 refrained from making any sidelong references to the Tory Sir George Rooke*. However, such sentiments accorded with the ministerial allegiance of both Brydges and Foley, in the same way that the corporation’s enthusiasm for the reformation of manners accorded with Foley’s, an enthusiasm manifested both in the activities of the local bench and in the 1704 borough address, which went out of its way to praise the Queen’s ‘great piety and resolution to advance the true worship of God and to suppress all vice and immorality, the bold sins of former times’.11
When this applecart was threatened with an upset in 1708 by a challenge from a third party, the contest was coloured by national politics as well as by local and personal rivalries. The challenger was Morgan, who had contemplated putting up in the preceding election before having second thoughts. Now he saw an opportunity, with the ministerial changes at Westminster, to take advantage of reports that Brydges was ‘out of favour’. The effect was to throw Brydges into a panic. He immediately rushed to Hereford, excusing his departure from London in letters to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†). ‘Popular elections (such as mine . . .)’, he wrote, ‘are subject to so many accidents that the strongest family interest is often defeated’. And his ‘opponents’ had ‘formed so strong an interest’ of their own as to make his return ‘doubtful’. So great was his anxiety that he persuaded Godolphin to find him a ‘refuge’ in a Cornish borough (Truro) in case he was defeated. And in Hereford itself he redoubled his efforts, with a violence that in turn alarmed his erstwhile colleague, Foley. At first Foley had been sympathetic to Brydges, and had stood by him, deploring the likelihood of ‘so much trouble’. When it became apparent to him that Brydges’ agents were, as he put it, ‘aiming much more to put me out than Mr Morgan’, he drew apart, and the three candidates stood independently. Foley was confident that he had at least 650 ‘absolute promises’ and that he would be safe despite the treating undertaken by both his opponents, and Brydges’ other ‘notorious practices’, ‘open bribery’ and ‘extravagant expenses’. However, it was Brydges who topped the poll, and was able to plume himself on a ‘very successful’ result. Morgan had replaced himself as candidate by his nephew, Sir Thomas Morgan, 3rd Bt.*, the titular head of the family but a young man who had only recently attained his majority and was clearly at this time still the instrument of his uncle’s stratagems. He was soundly defeated. Rather than bribery or treating, the most important factor in increasing the size of Brydges’ vote was probably, for once, his standing with the corporation. Foley had been anxious about the impact of a mass admission of ‘new freemen’, presumably Brydges’ supporters, which would explain the expansion of the electorate since the elections of 1701. Foley also hinted at a division in the Tory interest that may have helped Brydges: ‘I have . . . the Church party very zealous for me’, he wrote, but ‘the Jacobites very much against me’. Whether this Jacobite faction favoured Brydges or Morgan, or both, is not clear. Post-election inquests by the successful candidates blamed the intrigues of enemies for the difficulties each had experienced. According to Robert Harley the opposition to Foley had been ‘stirred up’ by Henry Gorges, who had certainly established a firm electoral compact with Brydges to promote his own electoral prospects for the county, while Brydges spoke darkly to Marlborough of ‘a countryman of mine well known to your grace, who is sufficiently versed in the arts of undermining’, a description which could have applied to Harley in his turn, or to Coningsby.12
By 1710 the Hereford corporation had become so strongly Tory that it made a great show of giving the freedom to (Sir) Simon Harcourt I* ‘for the service he had done the Church and Doctor Sacheverell’ and then sent up what Dyer called a ‘superlative’ address, condemning, inter alia, the establishing of Dissenting academies as ‘as much contrary to law as the doctrine they teach is destructive to Church and state’. Notwithstanding this High Church enthusiasm, Brydges, who had remained loyal to the Marlborough–?Godolphin ministry when the Harleys and Foleys had left it, did not apprehend any opposition in Hereford should Parliament be dissolved. He paid a short visit to the borough in August, but did not consider it necessary to attend the poll itself, especially after his ‘friends’ there had reassured him. Foley was similarly confident, though as the election approached he detected rumours of ‘an opposition’ to Brydges, ‘underhand encouraged by his agent Mr Philpot’. He did not think it would result in any more than ‘a bustle by a poll’, and was proved right. As the Post Boy reported, ‘some citizens, out of a frolic, demanded a poll, and polled 3 or 400 voluntary votes for Sir Tho[mas] Morgan . . . who never asked a vote, nor stood or appeared at the election’. There was a ‘mobbish and unwarrantable crowd’, possibly incited by James Morgan, but no real danger to either of the outgoing Members. Two years later Morgan tried to embarrass Foley, who was obliged to seek re-election after taking an Exchequer office. On this occasion the principal interests were united: Brydges, since 1710 dependent on Robert Harley for political protection, instructed his agent to ‘treat’ his voters and to give his ‘interest’ to his partner; and even Sir Thomas Morgan had deserted his uncle and joined with the Foleys, in return for their backing for his candidacy in a simultaneous by-election for the county. But Foley found that he was unpopular with the freemen, from whom he received a ‘cool’ reception. They had taken exception to some of the ‘proceedings in Parliament’, over the leather duty and possibly also the peace negotiations, although the corporation itself made a loyal address on the communication of the peace terms. The discontent was stoked up by James Morgan, ‘who had ready several votes and pamphlets in order to discommend some of the proceedings of this Parliament and his [Foley] voting in the House’. There was strong opposition from the ‘tanners, glovers and shoemakers . . . on account of the Leather Act’, and from ‘some of the best of the town’ too, who were dismayed to see such a self-proclaimed patriot ‘serving himself in getting a place’. Once again the voting power of the ‘country freemen’ and, to a lesser extent, of the corporation, deterred Morgan from making a real fight of it. ‘Mr Morgan when I went to him would not say whether he would stand or not’, wrote Foley:
only that he would ask nobody, and a great many of the ordinary men of the town declaring they would have a poll, I thought it requisite to be upon my guard . . . upon reading the precept one Jackson, a beggar of the town [described elsewhere by Foley as ‘young Jackson the carpenter’] demanded a poll . . . It held about two hours, in which time there voted for Mr Morgan but two besides Jackson, 116 voted for me and more than twice as many were ready, but I desired them to forbear unless any more would vote for Mr Morgan. I had much ado to [have] kept them from carrying Jackson in sport, either on a pole, or in a wheelbarrow, both which they had brought for him. I was obliged to most of the gentlemen of the county who came and appeared very heartily for me.
The ‘quiet and success’ that Foley met with was enjoyed by the outgoing Members again the following year at the general election. The news in August 1713 was that ‘everything is quiet’, and indeed no opposition whatsoever raised its head.13
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. HMC Portland, iv. 485; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(2), pp. 28-30.
- 2. Stowe mss 26(2), James Brydges’ diary, 6 Jan. 1701.
- 3. Ibid. 25 Nov. 1701.
- 4. Bean’s notebk.
- 5. Post Boy, 11–13 May 1708; Bodl. Willis 51, f. 27.
- 6. Stowe mss 57(4), p. 178.
- 7. Add. 70226, Thomas Foley II to Robert Harley, 18 July 1712.
- 8. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, ii. 448–9; Stowe mss 57(2), pp. 29–30; Add. 29594, f. 196; Bodl. Ballard 35, f. 48; Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss, acct. of a treat at Hereford, 24 Feb. 1689[–90].
- 9. Add. 70225, [Paul Foley I] to Robert Harley, 26 June 1694; 70117, Abigail to Sir Edward Harley*, 5 July 1695; 70018, ff. 35, 67, 91; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 351; Bodl. Carte 239, f. 71.
- 10. Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 24, ff. 331; CJ, xii. 18, 57, 153, 162, 181, 273; HMC Downshire, i. 743–4; Duncumb, Herefs. i. 360–2; Add. 70114, Thomas Foley II to Sir Edward Harley, 16 July 1698, Paul Foley I to [Robert Harley], 1 Aug. 1698; Stowe mss 26(1), Brydges diary, 22 July 1698; Carte 79, f. 758.
- 11. HMC Portland, iii. 611; Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Brydges mss, Edmund to Marshall Brydges, 18 Nov. 1699; Duncumb, 362, 368–9; Stowe mss 26(2), Brydges’ diary, 27 Sept., 30 Dec. 1700, 2, 5, 6 Jan., 20, 25–26 Nov. 1701; 57(1), pp. 30–31; Huntington Lib. Q. xii. 322–7; Add. 70019, f. 301; 70254, Robert Price* to Robert Harley, 11 Oct. 1701; 70226, Thomas Foley II to same, 24 Apr. 1702; London Gazette, 26–30 Mar. 1702, 5–9 Oct. 1704; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 351–2; Post Boy, 9–12 Nov. 1700.
- 12. Add. 70221, Sir Herbert Croft, 1st Bt.*, to Robert Harley, 16 Feb. 1704[–5]; 70254, Robert Harley to Price, 27 May 1708; 61134, Brydges to Marlborough, 4 June 1708 (Speck trans.); Stowe mss 58(2), pp. 219–20; 57(2), pp. 28–31, 34; W.A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 29–30; HMC Portland, iv. 485, 487–8.
- 13. Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletters 1 Apr., 30 May, 3 June 1710; 70226, Thomas Foley II to Robert Harley, 12 Aug., 30 Sept. 1710, 18 July 1712, 19 Aug. 1713; Stowe mss 57(3), p. 226; 57(4), pp. 18, 47, 89, 161–2, 171, 176; 58(9), p. 96; 58(11), pp. 12, 98; 57(7), pp. 135–8, 158, 211–12; 58(12), pp. 7, 45, 131, 245, 247; 57(9), pp. 82, 138; Speck, 57; Post Boy, 10–12 Oct. 1710; London Gazette, 12–15 July 1712.