Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
|13 Mar. 1690||Sir Henry Ashurst, Bt.|
|20 Nov. 1695||John Cloberry|
|3 Aug. 1698||Hugh Fortescue|
|15 Jan. 1701||Hugh Fortescue|
|4 Mar. 1701||Sir John Hawles vice Fortescue, chose to sit for Tregony|
|4 Dec. 1701||Sir William Scawen|
|12 Feb. 1702||Sir Robert Cotton vice Scawen, chose to sit for Grampound|
|25 July 1702||Sir Thomas Powys|
|26 Nov. 1702||Sir Philip Meadowes vice Powys, chose to sit for Ludlow|
|18 May 1705||Hugh Boscawen|
|30 Nov. 1705||Hon. Peregrine Bertie vice Boscawen, chose to sit for Cornwall|
|14 May 1708||Hon. James Brydges|
|16 Dec. 1708||Robert Furnese vice Brydges, chose to sit for Hereford|
|20 Oct. 1710||Hugh Boscawen|
|8 Sept. 1713||Thomas Hare|
|12 Aug. 1714||Hare re-elected after appointment to office|
Truro was the centre of the Cornish tin industry and the seat of the stannary courts. Celia Fiennes thought it second only in importance to Launceston and Browne Willis* commented on its ‘great inland trade’, which redounded to the benefit of the corporation. Despite the claims of the freemen, Truro was a corporation borough much influenced by local families. Chief among these were the Boscawens, whose seat at Tregothnan lay a short distance down the River Fal, and the Vincents of Trelavan, five miles from St. Austell. Henry Vincent I sat for the borough for most of this period, the other seat usually being disposed of by the Boscawens to relatives or men useful to the government.1
The 1689 election appears to have confirmed the franchise in the corporation. In 1690 Hugh Boscawen I was firmly ensconced as knight of the shire, so he again put up Sir Henry Ashurst, 1st Bt., a Whig, who was returned with Vincent. John Manley*, a local inhabitant and a hot Tory, stood against Ashurst and petitioned on 24 Mar. 1690, alleging misconduct by one Robert Avery, who, pretending to be the mayor, ‘got the precept, executed the same without giving any public notice there notwithstanding which the petitioner had the majority of voices’. Boscawen was sufficiently concerned about Manley’s attempt to unseat him to decline presenting Robert Harley’s* petition for New Radnor in order to avoid making enemies, but although Manley’s petition was renewed on 6 Oct. 1690 and 22 Oct. 1691, no report was ever made by the committee of elections and he was allowed to withdraw it on 19 Dec. 1691. This was the only contest in the period. In 1695 Vincent was returned with a Court supporter, John Cloberry (whose mother was a Fortescue), without any opposition, though the House was informed on 29 Nov. 1695 that the indenture and return for the borough had been received too late for the sheriff to annexe it to the writ so that the clerk of the crown was desired to do so.2
At the next two general elections Vincent was returned with Hugh Fortescue. On the second occasion Fortescue chose to sit for Tregony (another borough susceptible to Boscawen influence) and was replaced in March 1701 by (Sir) John Hawles, the solicitor-general. The death of Hugh Boscawen I in May 1701 saw his nephew, Hugh Boscawen II, take over the family interest. In December Sir William Scawen was returned, a London merchant with Cornish antecedents and a staunch Whig, but opted to sit for Grampound. He was replaced in February 1702 by Sir Robert Cotton, another outsider, who at that time was joint postmaster-general.
At the 1702 election Sir Thomas Powys, a kinsman of Hugh Boscawen II by virtue of his marriage to a sister of (Sir) Philip Meadowes, and a relation of Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†), joined Vincent in the Commons. Again, it was the case that Powys required a safe haven in case he was defeated at Ludlow. As Harley reported to Godolphin on 9 Aug.:
Cornwall hath extended herself into these parts for I hear my neighbour Sir Thomas Powys is elected for Truro there as well as Ludlow here. I mention this to your Lordship because I understand there will be great endeavours to prevail with Sir Thomas Powys to serve for Truro . . . I suppose Mr Boscawen’s interest brought him in.
Powys duly made his election for Ludlow, leaving the seat for Meadowes, who had married Boscawen’s sister, and who had resigned his commissionership of the excise in order to return to Parliament. At the next election Boscawen faced a contest in his first attempt on a county seat, so he had himself returned for Truro along with Vincent. Following his election for the county he brought in Vice-Chamberlain Bertie (Hon. Peregrine II), who had lost his seat at Boston. ‘Jack’ Howe*, who like Vincent was involved in the paymaster’s office, also tried to persuade Godolphin and Marlborough (John Churchill†) to intercede with Boscawen for the vacancy.3
A similar story unfolded in 1708. Hon. James Brydges, an influential and wealthy placeman in danger of defeat at Hereford, took the precaution of approaching Godolphin and Marlborough in order to secure a safe seat. Boscawen duly obliged at Truro, no doubt influenced by the fact that Brydges described Vincent as ‘a relation of mine’, through marriage. An absentee from the fray, Brydges was informed by James Craggs I a week before the election that ‘at Mr Boscawen’s recommendation they unanimously agreed to choose you’. Further correspondence between Brydges and Boscawen reveals how the corporation was handled to ensure that it remained compliant to Boscawen’s needs. Brydges was aware that tact was necessary and left the management exclusively to Boscawen, merely directing letters of fulsome thanks and promises of future service to the corporation. When Brydges opted to sit for Hereford, Boscawen was able to secure the return of Robert Furnese, the son of a leading government financier, in the by-election.4
After the fall of Lord Treasurer Godolphin in 1710 Boscawen was forced to take refuge at Truro following his defeat in the shire contest and was returned with Vincent. In 1712 John Trevanion* assessed the balance of interests at Truro as ‘Boscawen the one, Vincent or Enys the other’, Samuel Enys having been involved in the riots at the stannary court in Truro in 1710. In reality Boscawen was under threat from the Tories, especially as Vincent had been won over to the ministry by Harley’s willingness to allow his son, Henry Vincent II*, to succeed him at the Victualling Office. The crucial battle occurred over the mayoralty in October 1712. The Tory election manager for Cornwall, Lord Lansdown (George Granville*), joined the Vincents in their attempt to gain the mayoralty for the Tories, the key to the subsequent general election. To do this entailed personal application of the Vincents and the expenditure of money: £100 to the mayor and additional sums to pay the debts of other magistrates. Lansdown accordingly approached Lord Treasurer Oxford. To counter this, Boscawen’s party also offered inducements to wavering supporters, even according to one report offering the mayor £1,200. In the event Lansdown paid Vincent £100 for the mayor and although initial reports suggest that Boscawen had triumphed, it seems clear that Lansdown eventually gained the upper hand. Certainly, in January 1713 it was reported that the mayor was travelling to the sessions to enter office, Dr William Smyth characterizing the importunity of the triumvirate as proceeding from ‘our zeal to support my lord’s [Lansdown] interest, and frustrate Mr B[oscawen’s] designs in our corporation’. Boscawen certainly lost out at the 1713 election when Thomas Hare, under-secretary of state, and William Collier, solicitor to the Treasury, were returned unopposed. Neither had any Cornish connexions, but both were cronies of Viscount Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*), and Hare at least acknowledged Lansdown’s role in recommending him to the borough. Such success was merely temporary, for in 1715 it was reported that ‘old Henry Vincent has entirely struck in with Boscawen, and Nicholas Vincent† his younger son is come down, has visited and dined with Boscawen, and settled all matters at Truro according to his wish’. Two government Whigs were returned.5
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. HMC Egmont, ii. 194–5; Journeys of Celia Fiennes ed. Morris, 265; Courtney, Parl. Rep. Cornw. 1; Bodl. Willis 5, f. 148.
- 2. HMC Portland, iii. 450.
- 3. Add. 28055, ff. 3–4; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 433, 469; Marlborough Letters and Despatches ed. Murray, ii. 159.
- 4. Add. 9101, f. 2; W. A. Speck thesis, 296; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 57(2), pp. 33, 119, 140, 243–4, 262; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 74.
- 5. Add. 70014–15, Trevanion’s list; 70288, Lansdown to Oxford, 21 Oct. 1712; 70206, Smyth to Lansdown, 9 Oct. 1712; Morice mss at Bank of Eng. Richard Blighe to Sir Nicholas Morice, 2nd Bt.*, 28 Mar. 1712; HMC Portland, v. 229, 233–4, 241; HMC Cowper, iii. 104; Wilts. RO, Suffolk and Berkshire mss 88/10/93, Hare to Earl of Berkshire, 12 Sept. 1713, ex inf. Dr Clyve Jones; Bodl. Ballard 18, f. 72.