Cambridge University


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the doctors and masters of arts

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 2,000 by 1832

Number of voters:

1,450 in 1831


8 Mar. 1820HENRY JOHN TEMPLE, Visct. Palmerston [I] 
27 Nov. 1822WILLIAM JOHN BANKES vice Smyth, deceased419
 Frederick William Hervey, Lord Hervey281
 James Scarlett219
 HENRY JOHN TEMPLE, Visct. Palmerston [I]631
 William John Bankes508
 Henry Goulburn437
16 Dec. 1826COPLEY re-elected after appointment to office 
11 May 1827SIR NICHOLAS CONYNGHAM TINDAL vice Copley, called to the Upper House479
 William John Bankes378
18 June 1829WILLIAM CAVENDISH vice Tindal, appointed to office610
 George Bankes462
31 July 1830HENRY JOHN TEMPLE, Visct. Palmerston [I] 
30 Nov. 1830PALMERSTON re-elected after appointment to office 
 William Cavendish630
 Henry John Temple, Visct. Palmerston [I]610

Main Article

The political compromise of 1812 remained undisturbed in 1820 when the sitting Members, Lord Palmerston, secretary at war and a Johnian, and the Whig John Smyth of Trinity, nephew of the 4th duke of Grafton, a former Member, were unopposed. Reports that Palmerston was to be called to the Lords and replaced by either Charles Manners Sutton, Speaker of the Commons, or Charles John Shore, son of the 1st Lord Teignmouth, were soon discounted. Smyth was ‘not well enough to come down in person’.1 The town was partially illuminated to celebrate the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties, 13 Nov. 1820, despite alleged threats by the authorities of some colleges to withdraw their custom from tradesmen who participated. Two-hundred-and-fifty special constables were sworn in, but there were numerous fights between undergraduates, hostile to the queen, and rejoicing townsmen, which culminated in a mass brawl in Peas Hill.2 On 24 Nov. the senate voted an address to George IV ‘expressive of loyalty and attachment’ and their ‘utter detestation of the principles and practices of infidelity and faction’. It was presented at St. James’s, 7 Dec. 1820, by a delegation led by the vice-chancellor, Dr. Christopher Wordsworth, master of Trinity, and accompanied by about 300 alumni, who were afterwards dined by Palmerston.3 He was ‘canvassing his constituents’ three weeks later.4

The Catholic question had long been a lively issue in the university. In 1822, the 5th earl of Essex asserted that Cambridge was ‘more liberal than Oxford, and the Lady of Babylon is not so much dreaded on the banks of the Cam as she is on those of the Isis’. Yet the bishop of Bristol, writing at the same time, was aware that ‘on this point a very material change has taken place in the university; ten years ago the majority of the junior members of the senate were in favour of the Catholics; now they are directly the reverse’.5 On 12 Mar. 1821 the senate voted ‘by considerable majorities’ petitions to both Houses against the current relief bill; and on 15 May 1822 it carried a petition to the Lords against Canning’s Catholic peers bill.6 Smyth’s death in October 1822 precipitated a contest which turned largely on the Catholic issue and ushered in a decade of electoral turmoil. First in the field was the 22-year-old Lord Hervey*, another Trinity man, eldest son of the 5th earl of Bristol and nephew of the prime minister Lord Liverpool, who, despite private reservations about his youth and inexperience, promised him ‘every support’. Unlike Liverpool, Hervey was known to be favourable to Catholic relief. In his circular letter, pitching his appeal to those likely to be influenced by the prospect of preferment, especially in the church, he indicated that he was ‘disposed to place a reasonable confidence’ in ministers on general issues.7 He made a preliminary visit and sounded Wordsworth, who, notwithstanding their differences on Catholic relief, was ‘very open and kind’. Hervey’s impression was that ‘whatever desire there may be to have a person of acknowledged experience and public reputation ... at least there is a very flattering disposition towards me’.8 Bristol secured support not only from the duke of Gloucester, chancellor of the university, but from some Whig peers, including the Catholic 12th duke of Norfolk, Grafton, Essex and the 6th duke of Devonshire. He hoped that an endorsement from the 3rd earl of Hardwicke, high steward of the university, which he tried to obtain through Lord Grenville, ‘might ... prevent a contest’, but nothing came of this.9 Hervey’s first competitor was Shore, also of Trinity and pro-Catholic, who sought the backing of what he referred to many years later as the ‘independent’ party.10 Yet he had little to commend him, as the young Tom Macaulay* saw it, ‘except a respectable character and a gentlemanly address’. He was in any case pledged to step aside if either of the Magdalene-educated and academically gifted sons of Charles Grant†, the prominent East India Company director and member of the Clapham Sect, decided to stand. Charles Grant junior, a former Irish secretary, currently sitting for Inverness-shire, was not interested; but his younger brother Robert Grant* was put up by his friends and summoned to Cambridge from Yorkshire. When he arrived, a week after Hervey had started, and indicated his intention of proceeding, Shore, ignoring pressure from some of his own supporters to persevere, fulfilled his promise and withdrew.11 So too, soon afterwards, did Spencer Perceval*, the son of the assassinated prime minister, who had offered himself, supposedly as a supporter of Catholic claims.12 Bigger guns than these seemed to pose a threat to Hervey. The solicitor-general, Sir John Copley, a Trinity man of great intellectual distinction and the outstanding common lawyer of his day, sought Liverpool’s support. Although the premier duly notified him that he was committed to Hervey, Copley canvassed the residents, 26 Oct., professing himself ‘a stout anti-Catholic’, and formed a London committee on which Lord Lowther*, a lord of the treasury, was active.13 Copley had apparently come forward on an understanding that Manners Sutton would not stand. As the son of the archbishop of Canterbury, a kinsman of the 5th duke of Rutland, who returned the Members for Cambridge, a Trinity man and an anti-Catholic, the Speaker, it was thought by Whig observers, would be ‘irresistible’, for ‘he unites so many interests that he would be elected probably without opposition’.14 There was, however, a serious doubt as to whether he could legally be re-elected to the Chair after vacating his seat during a Parliament. Liverpool, who would have preferred Copley or Henry Goulburn*, the Irish secretary, now also showing an interest, to Manners Sutton, gave him no encouragement and advised him to consult his predecessors in office, Lords Sidmouth and Colchester, on the technical problem. Yet, while promising and delivering to Bristol the support of the deans of Ely and Peterborough for Hervey, Liverpool warned him that if Manners Sutton ‘should stand I think that you must be prepared for his success’, for ‘his situation (if no objection) would give him great advantages and would be an excuse for most of the other interests to compromise in his favour’.15 Manners Sutton ignored Liverpool’s advice and declared his candidature, 29 Oct. Copley withdrew and Lowther and his other leading supporters rallied to the Speaker. The situation became farcical when Charles Williams Wynn*, the pro-Catholic president of the India board and a pundit on procedure, ‘hit the blot which had been overlooked, or probably never looked for’, by drawing attention to a precedent of 1801 which seemed to rule conclusively against the Speaker’s eligibility. Though not entirely convinced, Manners Sutton ‘finally agreed to retire from the contest’, 2 Nov. 1822; it was generally assumed that he would try again at the next general election. Williams Wynn thought he had ‘made the most stupid and unpardonable mess at Cambridge ever made by man’. It was too late for Copley to re-enter, and Williams Wynn’s associate William Fremantle* believed the Speaker’s vacillation had deprived him of ‘a certain success’.16 As for Goulburn, whom it was thought Manners Sutton would have ‘little chance’ of turning out at a general election, he heeded the advice of his close friend Robert Peel, the home secretary, who pointed out that his personal connection with Liverpool would make it ‘very difficult for him now to declare himself in opposition to Lord L’s nephew, and ten days after Lord L’s good wishes in favour of that nephew have been made known’. At the same time, Goulburn criticized Manners Sutton’s conduct and put down his marker for the next opportunity.17

While some Whigs in and outside Cambridge had promised to support Hervey, others were keen to have a candidate of their own, especially as the government interest seemed to be in disarray. James Scarlett of Trinity, Lord Fitzwilliam’s Member for Peterborough, and a lawyer of some eminence, duly declared his candidature, 30 Oct., and confirmed it, 4 Nov. 1822, after the Speaker’s retirement.18 Scarlett’s supporters were said initially to be ‘very sanguine’ of success, with the ministerial interest apparently divided between Hervey and Grant. Certainly there was confusion as to where it lay, and it was pointed out to Bristol that

there may be an ill-judged hesitation among some of the friends of government, and in others a coolness, natural perhaps but perfectly absurd, in supporting a candidate, not the first object of their choice, although that object can no longer be in view.

Liverpool continued to do all he could for Hervey, particularly with the clerical hierarchy; he

reminded Bristol that

my peculiar situation obliges me to caution. I must interfere through great interests. Every individual clergyman to whom I may apply will build upon it a claim for preferment within the next six months. This can happen to no other minister, unless it is the chancellor.

While Liverpool believed that Hervey’s ‘prospects as to the resident voters’ had been greatly improved by the withdrawal of the Speaker, he told Bristol, as did others, that Hervey’s lack of a London committee was a serious handicap; this deficiency was remedied.19 As against this, Scarlett was personally not the most popular of men, and was handicapped by his late start and the prior commitment of a number of Whigs.20 His London committee man John Whishaw told Lady Holland, 8 Nov:

We are doing what we can for Scarlett, but it is difficult to deal with the high church Tories of Cambridge, who are very averse to Whigs and Saints. They seem likely to give an unwilling support to Lord Hervey at present, and reserve themselves for the Speaker at the next general election.

Four days later he mentioned to her his regret that Serjeant John Lens of St. John’s and Downing, counsel for the university, had not made it known a fortnight earlier that he ‘would very willingly be a candidate’.21 By this time, a fourth man was in the field. Hervey, Grant and Scarlett were all pro-Catholic; and on 5 Nov. 1822 William John Bankes* of Trinity, a wealthy, charming, witty and plausible bisexual, who had failed in Parliament, 1810-12, but had been fetêd in society on his recent return from exotic Eastern travels, offered as a firm opponent of Catholic claims. He promised to give ‘the most steady and decided opposition to any measure tending to undermine or alter the established church’. He was supported actively by the 10th earl of Westmorland, the lord privy seal, and had the ‘good wishes’ of Peel, leader of the anti-Catholics in the Commons.22

The intervention of Bankes, whose ‘colloquial facility’, as Shore put it, ‘proved very serviceable to him on his canvass’ of the residents, created even more confusion as to where the government interest lay. Mrs. Arbuthnot got into ‘a great scrape’ with her husband, the secretary to the treasury, by canvassing for Bankes, whom she admired personally; and Lowther reported that

however Lord Liverpool is trying to support [Hervey], many of his friends will not move; others give a cold support, saying they only do it on the ground that of the three [Tory] candidates he will be the easiest removed at a general election.

Bankes’s father, Member for Corfe Castle, told Colchester that his son’s showing would be at least ‘creditable’, and complained that Liverpool’s conduct did him no honour by ‘bringing his sincerity upon the Roman Catholic claims into question’.23 On 22 Nov. 1822, four days before the election, Whishaw told Lady Holland:

The treasury has at last sent out its letters in favour of Lord Hervey, who seems at present to have the fairest chance. It is not improbable that Grant may retire in favour of Lord Hervey, who is considered as a sort of Saint. He has played his cards very ill in not coming to some understanding with us at an earlier period of the canvass. The Whigs and Saints together might have done a great deal towards defeating the intolerant interest.

Grant did withdraw that day, publicly admitting that he had no hope; Shore thought he had ‘injured his cause by blowing hot and cold’ on the Catholic question.24 On the eve of the election, according to Colchester, Liverpool ‘spoke of Lord Hervey’s success as certain; of Scarlett’s numbers as large; of Bankes’s chance as ridiculous’. In the event Bankes, boosted by a great influx of rural clergymen on the second day, finished 138 ahead of Hervey and 200 of Scarlett in a poll of 919.25 Bankes had 46 per cent of the vote, Hervey 30 and Scarlett 24. Hervey won in St. John’s and Scarlett in Trinity (which between them supplied 468 voters, or 51 per cent of the total), with Bankes second in both. Bankes received 257 (61 per cent) of his votes from the other 15 colleges, in all but one of which (Christ’s - an easy win for Hervey) he was the winner. His strongholds, in percentage terms, were Clare (84), Trinity Hall (80), Pembroke (73), Downing (72), King’s (69), Queens’ (61) and Emmanuel (58). He received the votes of nine heads of houses; Hervey those of two (Wood of St. John’s and Frere of Downing); and Scarlett also those of two (Davy of Caius and Lamb of Corpus).

The anti-Catholic party in the government were jubilant at the result which, in the view of Peel’s brother-in-law George Dawson*, ‘proves the strength of Protestant feeling and the weakness of Whig politics in the university’.26 The Whig Adam Sedgwick, professor of Geology, gave a resume of the election to a friend, 1 Feb. 1823:

Bankes was principally brought in by the interest of the country clergymen, who came up from all parts of England to vote for the anti-Catholic candidate. Undoubtedly all this was the operation of principle ... because all the government influence was exerted for Hervey. ... The highest of our Cambridge high-church men ... all went for Hervey ... If Lord Liverpool supported a relation, though favourable to Catholic concession, they ought not to have left their avowed principles to follow him. The Whig candidate was not a popular one, and was not heartily supported by the staunch men of his own party.27

The marquess of Lansdowne, a former Member, considered it ‘a great misfortune that Lens was not induced to turn his thoughts to it previous to the event’: it was ‘another instance of the way in which Whigs fail and will continue to fail in their objects for want of forethought and any rational system of communication’.28 Many years later George Pryme, a lecturer in political economy, chairman of Scarlett’s Cambridge committee and the inveterate opponent of Rutland in borough and county politics, wrote that ‘the Whig cause appeared then so hopeless that Lords Tavistock* and Althorp* withdrew their names from the boards of Trinity College in consequence’. Whishaw took a less gloomy contemporary view, as he told Lady Holland, 27 Nov. 1822:

The cry of ‘No Popery’ has been revived and kept up with astonishing success ... Bankes is an excellent canvasser, and has done great things by his good humour, and pleasant stories about Africa and the East. Lord Hervey acted very honourably in resisting the proposal urged upon him by many of his friends, to declare against the Catholics. Had he done this, he would have been supported by the whole High Church party, and Bankes would not have been heard of. Our friends are come very gallantly from great distances with great cheerfulness and spirit ... We bear our misfortunes with great good temper, and are not at all heart broken. Our strength is in the young lawyers, most distinguished for their talents and independence; and they seem determined to prepare for another contest ... however we fail in numbers; but I have never known the Cambridge Whig party so respectable or unanimous as at the present.29

A gloating Colchester noted that ‘the common talk of London since the election’ was that Palmerston, a pro-Catholic, would be in danger at the next general election. For his own part Palmerston, though ‘surprised by the result’, was not too dismayed:

This certainly shows that Protestantism is very rife at Cambridge, but still I do not see with what face people who have year after year promised me support knowing my sentiments on the Catholic question can all of a sudden turn round and leave me because a Protestant enters the field against me; but, however, one must take one’s chance and let things come as they will. The diminution of Protestant feeling which I had observed was among the residents, but as 900 people voted the residents of course formed but a small part of the pollers, and the non-resident clergy are all of them Protestants.

When he visited St. John’s for ‘combination room festivities’ at Christmas 1822 he found ‘Protestantism abroad certainly’, but was ‘under no apprehensions as to its results’, for his supporters were staunch. Bankes, who was soon afterwards the subject of scandal over his crim. con. with Lady Buckinghamshire, was also ‘feasting with his constituents’, and Robert Grant was supposed to be intent on standing next time.30 On 19 Feb. 1823 the senate passed ‘by a very considerable majority’ an anti-Catholic petition to the Commons, which Palmerston presented, 16 Apr. That day petitions to both Houses for the ‘gradual extinction’ of slavery were carried; but a grace to petition against the Irish tithes commutation bill was negatived, 24 Apr. 1823.31 In 1824, Pryme, working with Sedgwick and the radical Whig John Cam Hobhouse*, once an aspirant to a university seat, tried to interest the residents in the cause of Greek independence.32 On a Christmas visit that year Palmerston found that Manners Sutton’s ‘summer excursion to the continent’ with Mrs. Purves, sister of the notorious Lady Blessington, whose husband was still alive, had ‘probably’ done for him at Cambridge. (They married in 1827 and the Speaker came in there in 1832.)33 On 8 Mar. 1825 petitions to both Houses against any further concessions to Catholics were voted by 70-38; and two months later Williams Wynn reported that Palmerston’s ‘re-election for Cambridge is so doubtful (to say the best of it) that I fully expect him to withdraw from it into the Upper House’.34

Manners Sutton confirmed his intention of not standing in late August 1825. A few weeks later Hobhouse was told by Sedgwick that Whigs ‘were, even in Trinity, fast declining into a minority, and the anti-liberals particularly amongst the juniors getting uppermost’; Bankes, it was thought, was ‘pretty sure of coming in’.35 In November Copley, now attorney-general, and Goulburn declared their candidatures for the general election expected the following year. Both Palmerston and Bankes made it clear that they would seek re-election, thus raising the potentially embarrassing prospect of a contest involving three members of the government and one of its backbench supporters.36 The rumoured interventions of Charles Grant, John Frederick William Herschel, a fellow of St. John’s, Hervey and Shore came to nothing. It was also reported that if Palmerston did stand down his fellow Johnian Frederick Robinson*, the chancellor of the exchequer, would replace him on the pro-Catholic interest; and indeed Canning, the foreign secretary, communicated to Robinson an offer from a Cambridge Whig of ‘the fairest promises of Whig support’ if he came forward. Robinson, who was committed to support Palmerston, ruled himself out.37 As a full scale canvass got under way some six months in advance of the election, the situation created tensions within the government and called into question the viability of its policy of leaving the Catholic question an open one.38 Liverpool maintained neutrality; but Peel alerted Goulburn, who was handicapped by being in Ireland, to the fact that the duke of York had told him that he had been pressed by John Herries*, the secretary to the treasury, to ‘do everything in his power’ (which, through his connection with Rutland, was thought to be a great deal) for Copley. Peel deplored any active interference by government against Palmerston as a sitting Member. Having ascertained that the communication had been made to York without higher authority by George Harrison, the assistant secretary, he put the duke in the picture. He continued personally to work for the return of ‘a damned good Protestant’.39 When Goulburn came over from Dublin in mid-December 1825 to begin his canvass, he was said to be ‘very angry with Copley’.40 Bankes, unabashed at the ridicule which some of his oratorical efforts in the House had provoked, wondered ‘why could not Goulburn and the attorney-general let us alone?’; but he expected general government support as a sitting Member and, as Charles Long* commented, he would ‘not lose it for want of activity’.41

Palmerston, who canvassed in Cambridge in early December, initially did ‘not feel much apprehension as to the result’, being ‘sure of a great many Protestants, from a coincidence of opinion on other questions, and of many Whigs, from an agreement on the Catholic question’: if, as seemed likely, there was no Whig candidate, he expected to ‘have all the Whig interest at Cambridge’. Pleased by his friendly reception, especially in St. John’s and Trinity, he noted that ‘Bankes has certainly lost ground very much’, that Copley, who had a reputation as a political turncoat, was ‘unpopular with the Whigs’ and that Goulburn was ‘not much talked of’. Nor could he envisage the two latter both going to the poll, as they were of the same ‘college, politics and Protestantism’. He assembled a ‘nominal’ committee ‘in order to have people engaged’, but deemed it ‘useless to go through all the manual exercise of a contest now’.42 His complacency did not last long, as he became aware of the fierceness of the Protestant attack on him and the hostility of some of his ministerial colleagues. He established active committees in Cambridge and London, chaired respectively by John Stevens Henslow, professor of Botany, and his brother-in-law Laurence Sulivan, a war office official. While he remained confident that he had a lead among the residents and that ‘with few exceptions all those whose support is worth having are with me’, he had ‘great apprehensions’ as to the result, for ‘the anti-Catholic fever is raging high amongst the country parsons’, and ‘if they come up in mass against me, their charge will be as formidable as that of the Black Hussars’.43 When Palmerston discovered that ‘a considerable amount’ of Copley’s canvassing letters had been franked from the foreign office, Canning, who remained benevolently neutral, managed to mollify him; but he became increasingly irritated by the attitude of some senior anti-Catholic members of the government, whose ‘active influence’ he believed was being exerted against him.44 He sought to flush out his chief suspects, Lord Eldon, the lord chancellor, and Lord Bathurst, the colonial secretary, whose first preferences he knew to be (for perfectly good reasons) Bankes and Goulburn respectively. Neither would promise him support and, while he did not pursue the matter with Eldon (to whom, he told Sulivan, he had written ‘as a bit of fun’), he sent an angry reply to Bathurst, complaining that he was ‘either unsupported or opposed by so many of the government to which I belong’.45 He was particularly aggrieved by Liverpool’s ‘shabby’ neutrality, believing that he should have prevented such an ‘unseemly contest’ and that their difference of opinion on the Catholic question should have made the premier ‘as a point of delicacy particularly anxious to prevent his Protestant office men from attacking his Catholic ones on that ground’. On 19 Jan. 1826 he wrote a long and indignant letter to Liverpool, alleging that in his case the principle of keeping the Catholic question open had been violated, in that two anti-Catholic colleagues had been allowed to attack him. He argued that even if it had been thought appropriate to sanction this intervention, he, as the official man in possession of the seat, had a ‘just and indispensable claim to the fullest and most effective support which the government as a body could give him’. As it was, he was ‘attacked by colleagues, unsupported by the head of the administration, and opposed by many of the anti-Catholic connections of the government’; and he had had ‘no resource but to make a strong and general appeal’ to all pro-Catholics, who of course included the government’s customary opponents. In reply Liverpool claimed to have made ‘an explicit declaration’ that he felt the sitting Members ‘ought not to be disturbed’, and that, in view of his family connection and close friendship with Goulburn, strict neutrality was all that could fairly be expected of him. He conceded that Palmerston was entitled to take ‘all fair and legitimate means’ to ensure his success.46 Palmerston, indeed, had been drawing heavily on Whig support almost from the outset. When Hobhouse promised him ‘a plumper for voting for Catholics’, provided no opposition candidate started, 24 Dec. 1825, Palmerston told him that ‘the resident Cambridge Whigs have promised to do the same’.47 Sedgwick, who considered Bankes to be ‘a fool’, Copley insincere, and Goulburn ‘the idol of the Saints’, warmly espoused Palmerston’s cause, as he told Hobhouse, 8 Jan. 1826:

I am hardly yet reconciled to my position as a committee man in the interests of a Tory and a king’s minister. But these are evil days, in which we do not fight so much for honour as contend against disgrace ... Many of the liberal party appear to take little interest in the contest, partly because they cannot have a candidate exactly after their own hearts, and partly under a mistaken notion that Lord Palmerston’s seat is quite safe. Now I wish to observe in the first place that although Lord Palmerston’s chance is good yet his seat is by no means secure without the greatest exertions of those who support him. In the next place, if he go out it will be entirely in consequence of his vote on the Catholic question. A defeat will be a complete triumph for the No Popery faction: it will consolidate their interests, and the pride of it will ring through every corner of the kingdom. If the Catholic question be an important question, it is important for us to defeat the country parsons and the bigots who at this moment are dishonouring the land we live in.

Althorp wrote in the same terms to Lord Milton*, 22 Jan. 1826.48

Palmerston admitted to Henslow, 16 Jan. 1826, that he had had ‘some difficulty in organizing a committee’ in London, as most of his personal friends were out of town, and he ‘did not like to begin with a committee entirely strangers and chiefly opposition men’. On the other hand, he had the previous day overruled an objection by Sulivan to the inclusion of a leading Whig on the London committee:

Without a committee I am defeated and ... nothing but the cordial and active assistance of the Whigs can effectively aid me even by means of a committee. My desire to succeed is, I confess, increased by the wish to frustrate an underhand Protestant cabal, and on this occasion those who support me are my friends be they Whig or Tory; and if you want people to help you, you do not go the best way to work by showing that you receive their aid distrustfully or reluctantly.

At the end of January 1826, after an incident during the canvass, Palmerston had an exchange of letters with Copley, who assured him that he was only seeking to turn out Bankes. Palmerston, swallowing his anger, made a civil reply.49 As the canvass continued Palmerston, who stressed that ‘every vote must be piled one upon the other by hard labour and by dint of repeated applications’, remained on the whole optimistic: Copley, it was clear, had a considerable lead, but he was reasonably confident of beating Bankes, whose reported determination to go to the poll without fail encouraged him to hope for a split in the anti-Catholic vote. Shortly before making a visit to Cambridge in the second week of February he asked Henslow to let it be known there that he was ‘decidedly adverse to the existence of slavery’ and would support ‘every practicable step’ towards its extinction. A fortnight later the senate voted petitions to both Houses for abolition; and on 28 Feb. 1826 Palmerston presented and endorsed the one to the Commons.50 Goulburn knew that he had only a faint chance of outpolling Bankes on this occasion, but he was confident of success ‘at the first vacancy afterwards’.51

While it had been the custom since at least 1806 for candidates to pay the travelling expenses of their non-resident supporters, Bankes had apparently spent lavishly on this in 1822, causing Hervey and Scarlett to be swindled. As matters threatened to be even worse at the impending election a group of residents, led by Henslow and John Lamb, master of Corpus and a member of Goulburn’s committee, began in February 1826 an attempt to avoid needless expenditure by persuading the candidates to agree to ‘conduct their plans for facilitating the arrival of out-voters, and providing for their accommodation in Cambridge, upon one common footing; and above all by refusing to pay the expenses of any who might come to poll’. Henslow, Lamb and John Griffith of Emmanuel, one of Copley’s committee, met and invited William French, master of Jesus and chairman of Bankes’s committee, to confer with them. French did so, but declined on behalf of the committee to discuss the subject further, on the ground that the campaign was too far advanced. The other three concocted a declaration of the intention of Copley, Goulburn and Palmerston not to pay expenses and to ‘unite in counteracting any obstructions which might accidentally arise to out-voters upon the different lines of road, from the private arrangements’ of Bankes’s committee, whose refusal to co-operate was emphasized. This, however, was unacceptable to Copley’s London committee, who suggested a ‘public declaration of the university’, but declined further collaboration. Rather than allow the matter to lapse, Henslow and Lamb, acting as individual members of the university, drew up a public recommendation that the practice be discontinued; it was eventually signed by the heads of seven colleges, ten professors and over 80 senior residents. In a bid to secure ‘an unanimous and explicit declaration’ against the practice from all four candidates, they detailed these proceedings in their Remarks, published in early April 1826. This drew a rejoinder from ‘A Non-Resident Master of Arts’ in the form of Observations, in which Henslow and Lamb were accused of exaggerating the scale of the problem and of seeking in effect to deprive the non-residents (who constituted four-fifths of an electorate currently put at 1,850) of the franchise. At the end of April 1826 Henslow and Lamb issued a Letter admitting the failure of their endeavours to secure an agreement from all four candidates, and appending extracts from the replies to their appeal in Remarks: Palmerston, Copley and Goulburn had paid lip service to their willingness to unite with the others in effecting the residents’ wishes, while Bankes had stood by his committee’s judgement that it was far too late in the day.52

In the month before the election the anxieties of the anti-Catholics were betrayed in calls in the press for the weaker of Bankes and Goulburn to drop out. Palmerston remained sure that as ‘Goulburn thinks himself stronger than Bankes ... both will certainly go to the poll’; and so it proved, for a few days before the election Goulburn, who remained confident of making a ‘respectable showing’ and told his wife that ‘the wags and Whigs of Cambridge have designated the four candidates. ... Profligacy, Roguery, Bigotry and Folly’, turned down Bankes’s public request for a decisive comparison of strengths.53 A fortnight in advance of the election Palmerston, who felt that 650 votes would probably be enough to secure second place, complained to Henslow that Copley’s committee, having ‘done nothing but manoeuvre all along’, were trying to ‘bully us out of our second votes’ by claiming that Palmerston’s friends were canvassing against their man. He told Henslow not to ‘give way’:

Anything like a coalition would tell as much against us as for us. It would disgust the Whigs, who are now most zealous and will certainly come up, and would probably keep them all away ... Copley’s second votes we shall have by individual exchanges, which is the only safe way of getting them ... If you hear me accused of canvassing against him I wish you to say upon my authority that I have certainly from the beginning ... endeavoured to get as many plumpers as possible, and I imagine every other candidate has done the same ... but that I have never in any one instance asked a friend who had promised a second vote to another candidate to withdraw that promise.

Two days before the dissolution, 31 May 1826, Palmerston wrote to Liverpool, whom he considered to have ‘acted as he always does to a friend in personal questions, shabbily, timidly and ill’, to say that if he was defeated, he would resign from the government.54 Anxious not to alienate the Whigs, he continued to enjoin caution on Henslow as to overt co-operation with Copley’s friends, though he was sure that it was more in Copley’s interest to secure his (Palmerston’s) return than that of Bankes. Four days before the election Palmerston told Henslow that Copley’s engaged plumpers were now to be set at liberty as to the disposal of their second votes. His own latest calculation was that the 650 votes which he hoped to get would be enough to beat Bankes.55 Arriving in Cambridge on the eve of the election, 12 June, Palmerston discovered that Bankes’s ‘ungentlemanlike and unfair’ conduct towards Goulburn had cost him some of Copley’s second votes. He went on:

Our travelling arrangements work out very well ... Bankes has been bringing his people up and evidently means to make a push tomorrow. Goulburn is not quite so strong in men up ... I think we shall do well. Bankes looks very downcast and I am sure we shall beat him. We have been negotiating about exchanges with Copley and Goulburn, but not with Bankes.56

In a departure from customary practice, whereby voters had written their own and their choices’ names on slips of paper and placed them in boxes, the pollbook procedure was adopted. More controversially, on the first day John Bland and Thomas Paynter of Trinity insisted that the bribery oath be administered to every voter. This provoked ‘the greatest indignation’ which, as Palmerston reported, ‘when dinner had roused minds to more than morning calmness ... broke out’ after the vice-chancellor had left the Senate House. There was ‘a tumultuous debate’ around the table, which the indignant Tory Samuel Grove Price* mounted in protest. Brand and Paynter dropped their proposal, and polling was unimpeded for the last hour. At the close, Copley had 319, Palmerston 239, Bankes 222 and Goulburn 203. As he had ‘kept back our votes as much as possible’, Palmerston was more than satisfied.57 For a time on the second day Bankes got four ahead of Palmerston and, according to Hobhouse, boasted that he would ‘the next day pass him easily’. Yet Palmerston finished the day 35 above him, and when he turned loose his supporters on the third day, he established a lead of 99. Bankes insisted on extending proceedings for another day, but he ended 123 behind Palmerston, who trailed Copley by 141, with Goulburn a distant last. ‘So much for No Popery at Cambridge’, wrote Hobhouse.58

One thousand-two-hundred and ninety-three voted, of whom 54 per cent (693) belonged to St. John’s (308) and Trinity (385). Palmerston had 142 plumpers, Bankes 55, Copley 25 and Goulburn 16. Bankes shared 310 votes with Copley and Palmerston 252; but Palmerston had an advantage of 165 to 71 in splits with Goulburn. Seventy-two electors divided their votes between Palmerston and Bankes. Palmerston benefited greatly from the division of the anti-Catholic vote between three candidates. Of the 219 who had voted for Scarlett in 1822, 48 (22 per cent) plumped for Palmerston and another 78 (35) gave him split votes; while only 15 (seven) voted flat against him and 78 (36) did not vote. Of Bankes’s 419 supporters in 1822, 231 (55 per cent) stood by him, 86 (21) opposed him and 102 (24) did not vote. Palmerston won the most votes in St. John’s and Trinity, and his lead over Bankes in both (101 and 114 respectively) easily outdid Bankes’s advantage of 93 in the other colleges. Palmerston’s other strongholds were Magdalene, Downing and Jesus. Bankes again did well in Clare, Sidney, Trinity Hall, King’s, Emmanuel and Queens’, and performed better than he did overall in Peterhouse and Caius. Copley was ahead in Peterhouse, Pembroke, Caius, Trinity Hall, Corpus, St. Catharine’s, Jesus, Christ’s and Emmanuel. Six heads of houses cast a vote for Copley, six for Palmerston, eight for Bankes and three for Goulburn: French, Grenville (Magdalene) and Webb (Clare) plumped for Bankes, Wood (St. John’s) for Palmerston and Le Blanc (Trinity Hall) for Copley. Palmerston’s success was ‘looked upon as a great triumph for the Catholics’. Palmerston himself, to whom the outcome was ‘most gratifying and beyond my expectations’, commented:

The number of my majority is most satisfactory, because it makes me feel pretty secure as to the future ... One advantage at Cambridge will be, that party feeling on the Catholic question must abate; for all the Johnians who supported me cannot hold now on this subject the violent language which they formerly did. The Whigs supported me most handsomely, and were indeed my chief and most active friends; and to them and the Johnians I owe my triumph over the No Popery faction behind the government if not in it.

While he admitted that Liverpool had returned a ‘civil answer’, begging him not to do anything rash, to his threat to resign if beaten, he remained sore at his treatment; and, in retrospect, he identified this episode as ‘the first decided step’ towards his breach with the Tories and gravitation to the Whigs.59 Bankes and his supporters were ‘very angry’ with Goulburn, being convinced that he, ‘a man of straw’, had only remained in the contest at the behest of senior ministers to ensure Palmerston’s safety. Bankes said as much to Liverpool’s face, 25 June, and predicted that when Copley’s anticipated legal promotion vacated his seat, he himself was ‘sure to come in’, while the discredited Goulburn ‘had no chance whatever’.60 Yet Goulburn, who told Lord Wellesley, the Irish viceroy, that he could not ‘regret’ Palmerston’s return, was convinced that the election had ‘laid the foundation of my success at a later period’.61

He made no move when Copley’s appointment as master of the rolls necessitated his re-election (which cost £14 13s.) in December 1826; but he demanded the earliest possible intimation of any intention to elevate Copley to the Lords.62 He declared his hand when Copley, whose intemperate speech against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, was widely seen as a gesture to his constituents, became lord chancellor in Canning’s administration, in which Goulburn refused to serve, the following month.63 He was joined by the persistent Bankes and Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal*, an academically distinguished former fellow of Trinity and learned equity lawyer, who had stayed on as solicitor-general under Canning despite his anti-Catholicism.64 Canning offered Palmerston the chancellorship of the exchequer but, ‘to avoid tumbling into Goulburn’s contest’ with his own re-election, he decided to stay at the war office until the end of the session. He claimed that Canning had ‘told Tindal that he must not stand against me’ and had persuaded Bristol not to put up Hervey (now Lord Jermyn), though in his view ‘the Cantabs would have sent him back quicker than he went’.65 Of the three anti-Catholic Trinity men vying for the seat, Goulburn was reckoned by Lowther as certain to be ‘beat hollow’; and, when the weakness of his position, undermined by continued resentment over his conduct the previous year, as well as some personal financial problems, became apparent, he dropped out.66 Although Tindal far outweighed Bankes in gravitas and talent, quite apart from having government backing, his association with Canning created doubts about the firmness of his commitment to the Protestant cause, and he was criticized by some of its adherents for having hitherto given only silent votes on the issue. To meet these difficulties, he issued a second circular emphasizing his ‘decided and firm support’ for ‘the ascendancy of the Protestant church’. No attempt was made to enforce the bribery oath. The candidates were neck-and-neck after the first day, but Tindal established a lead of 21 on the second and forged ahead on the third to win by 101 in a poll of 857. It was made clear to him by the anti-Catholics that he was expected in future to speak as well as vote against relief; but supporters of emancipation were able to put a gloss on his success over the now largely discredited Bankes by portraying it as a vote of confidence in the new ministry.67 Bankes had an overall lead of 11 votes in the smaller colleges, finishing ahead in eight to Tindal’s six (Magdalene was even); but he was decisively trounced in Trinity by 191-78. The candidates finished level in St. John’s. The big two colleges provided 53 per cent of the voters. Bankes again polled better than overall in Sidney, Clare, Emmanuel, Queens’ and King’s, and did well this time in St. Catharine’s, Corpus and Pembroke. Tindal’s strongholds other than Trinity were Downing, Christ’s and Peterhouse. Seven heads of houses (including Frere of Downing who had supported Bankes in 1826) voted for Tindal, and six voted for Bankes. Of the 508 electors who had cast a vote for Bankes in 1826, 244 (48 per cent) remained loyal, and only 44 (nine) opted for Tindal; but 220 (43) did not vote. This apathy (if that is what it was) was particularly apparent in Pembroke, King’s, Trinity Hall, St. Catharine’s and Christ’s. Bankes’s detractors claimed that only 49 out of 166 voting residents had supported him, because the university ‘seems to have felt very strongly that it should be represented in Parliament by some person who is not laughed at whenever he addresses the House of Commons’. It was also calculated that professors, wranglers and prizemen had overwhelmingly favoured Tindal, while Bankes had been largely dependent on the votes of rural clergymen; the election inspired Macaulay’s verse lampoon, The Country Clergyman’s Trip to Cambridge.68

Immediately afterwards Bankes and Jermyn indicated that they intended to stand at the next opportunity, but Palmerston’s anticipated re-election did not take place, as Canning withdrew his offer of the exchequer.69 Nor did anything come of reports that Tindal was to vacate for judicial office in September 1827, when Jermyn and Jonathan Frederick Pollock* of Trinity, a rising barrister, were ‘talked of as candidates’.70 In 1828, the senate petitioned the Commons against the tithes commutation bill, 26 Mar., and both Houses for the ‘amelioration’ and ‘ultimate abolition’ of slavery, 14 May. Tindal, who stayed in office under Wellington, made a point of speaking against Catholic relief, 6 May.71 On 6 Feb. 1829 he announced in the House his pragmatic decision to support emancipation. Five days later a grace for a petition against the proposed concession was defeated in the senate by 52-44, thanks mainly to the efforts of Sedgwick, George Peacock, Joseph Romilly, Professor William Whewell and other liberal members of Trinity, abetted by Macaulay, who got some pro-Catholic London lawyers to hurry to Cambridge to vote it down. Palmerston, now acting with the Huskissonites in Parliament, thought he was ‘landed at Cambridge by this decision of the government’, and had professed indifference to the fate of the petition; but he asked Sulivan to make an excuse for not going to Cambridge to vote on it, fearing that this would only irritate his anti-Catholic ‘Johnian friends’.72 ‘No Popery’ was not dead in Cambridge, for in the mistaken expectation that Tindal was to be made attorney-general Bankes’s brother George, Member for Corfe Castle, who had resigned his place at the India board in protest at emancipation but subsequently resumed it, took preparatory steps to oppose his re-election. A Cambridge committee was formed, and anti-Catholic slogans were daubed on walls there. Bankes it was who presented to the Commons, 23 Mar. 1829, the petition of about 600 bachelors and undergraduates against emancipation. Their petition to the Lords was presented by the bishop of Bath and Wells the following day.73

In late May 1829 Tindal was made lord chief justice of common pleas. George Bankes, who had ‘the support of government’, started immediately. He was tentatively challenged by Edward Alderson of Caius, an accomplished scholar and practising barrister, who endorsed `the present measures of ministers’. Scarlett, who now joined the government as attorney-general, later claimed that he had been offered the university seat ‘with all the interest of government’, but that at the behest of the Fitzwilliams he had agreed to remain Member for Peterborough.74 There emerged a strong feeling, originating in Trinity, in favour of their man William Cavendish, Devonshire’s cousin and heir presumptive, who only five months earlier had greatly distinguished himself in the tripos. Cavendish, who had only come of age in April, was willing to stand, but Devonshire initially demurred. His reservations were disregarded by Cavendish’s principal backers, who included Sedgwick, Peacock, Professor George Airy and James Upton of Trinity. Determined to nominate him in any event, they organized a public declaration of support, 1 June, which was signed by Lamb, who chaired the Cambridge committee, ten professors, and over 30 senior residents. A London committee was formed under the chairmanship of Professor Charles Babbage, the eminent mathematician. Alderson withdrew, pledging his support to Cavendish, and Devonshire, not without misgivings, dropped his objections: he was reported to have concluded that having been asked to stand, Cavendish would not be too closely ‘bound ... to the university’. A notion that Lord Grey’s son Lord Howick, Member for Northumberland, might be invited to enter was soon discounted.75 Cavendish attracted support not only on account of his impeccable Whig pedigree and connections, but because many residents, irrespective of party allegiance, saw him as a young man of genuine intellectual distinction who, once returned, could remain Member until he became duke of Devonshire, so putting an end to the recent turbulence of university politics. He was publicly endorsed by Robert Grant, one of Palmerston’s associates in the parliamentary Huskissonite group. To some, however, Cavendish’s extreme youth was a serious objection, and there were suggestions that he was being foisted on the university by a cabal of liberal scientists.76 Bankes’s supporters attempted to sharpen the party distinctions which Cavendish’s promoters were keen to soften. The backing which Bankes received from the government disgusted many leading Whigs, who regarded it as poor reward for their assistance in carrying Catholic emancipation against the Ultras. Sedgwick, who worked ‘day and night’ for Cavendish, composed an anonymous public letter denouncing Goulburn, now chancellor of the exchequer, for writing letters in support of Bankes. At the same time, it was thought that Wellington himself took no active part and that the enthusiasm of many senior ministers for Bankes was at best lukewarm. Devonshire’s auditor James Abercromby*, who disapproved of Cavendish’s candidature, observed that Bankes’s resumption of office had made him suspect in the eyes of many of those who, furious at the ministry’s concession of Catholic relief, might have been expected to rally to an Ultra candidate.77

On the first day, when Lamb mischievously questioned Goulburn’s right to vote as ‘a collector of taxes’, Cavendish established a lead of nine. Hobhouse, who arranged a pair in London, noted that Bankes’s committee room there was staffed by ‘several gaunt looking parsons’. Cavendish forged steadily ahead in the next three days and ended with a majority of 148 in a poll of 1,072.78 Bankes won in the smaller colleges by 43; but Cavendish took St. John’s by seven and had a huge and decisive advantage of 181 (260-79) in Trinity. St. John’s and Trinity supplied 51 per cent of the voters. Cavendish also won comfortably in Magdalene, Downing, King’s, Christ’s and Pembroke, and more narrowly in Corpus and Peterhouse; while Bankes did so emphatically in Queens’, Emmanuel, Clare, Trinity Hall, Caius, Sidney, Jesus and St. Catharine’s. The 12 heads of houses who voted were evenly divided. Of the 378 electors who had supported William Bankes in 1827, 190 (50 per cent) voted for George, 39 (ten) deserted to Cavendish, and 149 (40) did not vote. There were significant defections in Corpus (27 per cent) and Trinity (14), and a marked failure to turn out in Trinity (60), Christ’s (56), King’s (50) and Clare (46). Of the 479 who had voted for Tindal in 1827, 228 (48) supported Cavendish, 49 (ten) went for Bankes, and 202 (42) did not vote. Therefore 56 per cent of Cavendish’s supporters and 48 per cent of Bankes’s had not voted in 1827. Sedgwick and others portrayed Cavendish’s success as ‘the triumph of liberal opinions and private virtue’ over ‘bigotry’ and ‘the withering influence of party spirit’, claiming a majority of 114-49 among the residents. Professors voted 16-6 in Cavendish’s favour, barristers 87-11, and wranglers, prizemen, medallists and scholars were said to have favoured him by three to one. Wordsworth was reported to have asserted at a celebration dinner in Trinity that Cavendish was secure in the seat ‘for life’; but the cautious Abercromby, while admitting that ‘for the moment the result is a triumph to the liberals’, maintained that if Cavendish ‘had been opposed by a Cambridge Wetherell, he would have been defeated’.79

A fortnight after the election Sir James Willoughby Gordon*, the quartermaster-general, pressed on Wellington the pretensions of his son, Henry Percy Gordon of Peterhouse, the senior wrangler of 1827, to stand on a future occasion, but no more was heard of him in this period.80 By the time of the king’s death in 1830 the university had two Members in opposition, Palmerston being now alienated from the Wellington ministry; there was speculation that the Tories would make ‘a great run’ against him as ‘a rat’. Palmerston himself, canvassing in Cambridge in the first week of July, thought that while ‘the ultra Tory and anti-Catholic party want ... [a contest] excessively’, they ‘see little chance of success, and can find no good candidate’: Lowther, Pollock and Sir John Beckett*, the judge advocate, were mentioned; and French of Jesus was said to have gone to London to try to find ‘a good candidate’ through lord chancellor Lyndhurst (Copley). Palmerston was ‘confident of success’ even if there was a contest, for he considered Cavendish to be more vulnerable, in that some of his recent opposition votes, notably one with O’Connell on the Irish vestry laws, had offended his moderate supporters. For his own part Cavendish, canvassing at the same time as Palmerston, was ‘very doubtful ... whether I shall get in or not’ if there was a contest. He told his wife that he would in any case be ‘very glad’ to give the seat up ‘at once’, for many of his constituents were ‘venomous Tories’ who would turn him out sooner or later. In the event he and Palmerston were returned quietly ‘in the presence of a select party of about 30 persons’.81

Palmerston was appointed foreign secretary in Grey’s ministry, which Cavendish of course supported, and there was no opposition to his re-election in 1830. The reform bill (which, ironically, did not affect the university’s representative system) alarmed many residents. On 21 Mar. 1831, amid allegations of secrecy and opportunism by ‘a poor timid set of monks’, the senate carried by 91-53 a petition to the Commons against the ‘sudden and sweeping changes’ proposed in the bill, particularly the ‘extension of the elective franchise to great numbers of persons of small property’. An original, uncompromising denunciation of the bill was said to have been considerably modified before its submission. In the House, 22 Mar., before the start of the last day’s debate on the second reading of the reform bill, George Bankes and Peel’s younger brother William Yates Peel, a Johnian, sought to embarrass Palmerston and Cavendish. Palmerston was not present, but Cavendish admitted that a petition ‘against certain provisions of the bill was in existence’. Later, speaking enthusiastically for the measure, he acknowledged the hostility of some of his constituents, but suggested that many welcomed the proposed disfranchisement of rotten boroughs. In Cambridge Sedgwick, Whewell, Henslow, Airy and other liberals, scenting a reactionary opposition to the sitting Members if there was a general election, promoted a declaration of support for them, 23 Mar., which was supposedly signed by some of the instigators of the petition. The 36 signatories included the masters of Caius and Corpus (Davy and Lamb) and seven professors.82 Their opponents, amongst whom were the masters of Clare, St. Catharine’s and Jesus (Webb, Procter and French), responded immediately by organizing backing for two candidates to oppose Palmerston and Cavendish. It was alleged that French and the Rev. Temple Chevallier of St. Catharine’s went to London to engage William Peel to stand; and by 25 Mar. it was known that he and Goulburn would come forward in the event of a dissolution. Without naming them, their leading supporters issued, 28 Mar., a statement, signed by over 40 residents, advocating the return of two men ‘entertaining more moderate views’ on reform than those of the sitting Members.83 When Palmerston eventually presented the university petition, 30 Mar. 1831, William Bankes exercised his wit on the subject of the length of time it had taken to reach the House. Cavendish tried to play down its significance, asserting that it was ‘not directed against reform generally’. When Lord John Russell criticized the obscurantism of ‘residents of colleges, sitting in their cloisters’, Goulburn protested, arguing that it was ludicrous to pretend that the petition, whose promoters were well-informed and intelligent men, was not hostile to the bill. Palmerston, who also presented a pro-reform petition from the resident bachelors, lamely denied being guilty of ‘wilful delay’, and pointed out that many of the signatories of the senate’s petition were his former opponents on Catholic relief.84

At the dissolution which followed the bill’s defeat Goulburn and Peel, who were favourites from the outset, duly presented themselves as supporters of ‘a temperate measure of reform’. Gout prevented Peel from participating in the Cambridge canvass, which took place in the last week of April. A planned meeting of bachelors and undergraduates to address the king against the reform bill was quashed by the authorities.85 Palmerston’s initial impression, 24 Apr., was not good:

St. John’s gets blacker and blacker ... Some of them mean I hear even to plump for Cavendish rather than vote for me. Trinity however are zealous and cordial. Among the residents, 180 in number, I should be beat. All depends on the country clergy, and how and in what numbers they come up. We all however in my committee talk big and confidently, and say to each other who’s afraid.

The same day Cavendish, who had ‘extreme difficulty’ in finding a chairman for his London committee (Babbage agreed to serve again) feared he had ‘lost a great many votes’ and that ‘if I do get in at all, it will be a very sharp run’, though next day he reported that ‘things [are] going on pretty well, better than could have been expected’.86 The London committees of Goulburn and Peel were accused of infringing the usual custom by mobilizing voters there on the Sunday, two days before the election; and an attempt was made to slur Goulburn, who had West Indian interests, as ‘the advocate of negro slavery’.87 On the eve of the poll Cavendish was ‘almost afraid we shall be beat’, though he told his wife that ‘we are going on very well here and in better spirits than hitherto all the way through’. The bulk of his supporters had by now been persuaded to give their second votes to Palmerston. At the close of the first day, the reformers were some 70 in arrears of Goulburn and Peel, in a poll of about 550. While Cavendish did ‘not quite despair’, as it was ‘still very possible we may make up this tomorrow’, he thought that ‘we have very little chance’. Their deficit of about 180 after the second day forced him to admit that ‘we are beat as hollow as anything can possibly be’, for ‘no one ever dreamed of their bringing up such numbers’. At the close Goulburn and Peel, who were separated by a single vote, were over 170 clear of Cavendish, with Palmerston, whose expenses came to about £1,100, bottom of the poll by 20 votes.88

Of the 1,450 who voted, 783 split for Goulburn and Peel and 595 for Palmerston and Cavendish. Cavendish had 21 plumpers, Peel 13, Goulburn nine and Palmerston eight. Only 21 electors split their votes between pro and anti-reform candidates, and of these ten voted for Goulburn and Cavendish. The total anti-reform vote was 805 (56 per cent) and the total pro-reform vote 624 (43). Fifty-four per cent of the voters belonged to St. John’s or Trinity. The anti-reformers, with Peel six ahead of Goulburn, emphatically won the former by more than two to one (67 to 31 per cent); but Trinity, where Cavendish came out ahead, favoured the reformers by 254-202 (55 to 44 per cent). The only other colleges whose voters were more than averagely favourable to reform were Downing, Magdalene, King’s, Christ’s and Peterhouse, and even in the two last, the anti-reformers were narrowly ahead. The latters’ strongholds other than St. John’s were St. Catharine’s, Queens’, Sidney, Trinity Hall and Emmanuel. Eight heads of houses, including Wordsworth, voted for Goulburn and Peel, five for Palmerston and Cavendish and one, Godfrey of Queens’, split for Goulburn and Cavendish. Of the 462 who had voted for George Bankes in 1829, 289 (63 per cent) voted against reform, 42 (nine per cent) for it, and 128 (28) did not vote. The same proportion (173) of Cavendish’s 610 supporters in 1829 did not vote; but only 53 per cent (325) voted for reform in 1831, while as many as 18 per cent (107) deserted to the anti-reformers. Of those who voted for the anti-reformers, 409 (51 per cent) had not voted at all in 1829; but only 257 (41) of the reform supporters fell into this category. Analyses of the vote in the pro-reform press indicated that professors had favoured Palmerston and Cavendish by 15-6, and classical scholars by 13-6, but that the 25 voting senior wranglers had divided almost evenly.89

The trouncing of Palmerston and Cavendish by ‘the bigoted monks and friars of Cambridge’, as Thomas Creevey* put it, was the Grey ministry’s only defeat in a large open constituency at the 1831 general election. The consensus of opinion among supporters of the government was that however galling, it was no surprise. Whishaw commented that ‘it is idle to think of liberal politics in an English university’, and that ‘considering how violent the clergy were against the bill, it is wonderful that our minority is so numerous’.90 Grey, however, thought Palmerston had been ‘hurt by the foolish conversation of those who think complaints of the bill afford the best means of supporting those who are pledged to it’; and Sedgwick, who was ‘mortified at the result, more than I can find words to express’, reflected that ‘the defeat was courted by the vacillation of our own party’. Palmerston wrote to Lady Holland, 8 May 1831:

It is a terrible bore to be so defeated at Cambridge after holding it for 20 years, and having weathered even the Catholic question. But they were frightened at parts of our bill, and the stupid phrase which has been invented against us by our opponents, ‘The bill, the whole bill and nothing but the bill’. The laity, of whom there are great numbers amongst the Masters of Arts, were nearly as bad as the clergy. But it must not be supposed that all those who voted against us are adverse to reform; for a great number declared to me that they were for an efficient and substantial reform, though they could not approve of our arrangements for carrying it into execution. But as the king, they said, had asked their opinion upon the bill, they were bound to give it, by voting against me ... I have little doubt, however, of recovering my seat at the next election when the bill and the panic shall have passed.91

His confidence was woefully misplaced, as he soon realized in August 1832. Goulburn, who remained Member for life, was joined at the subsequent general election by Manners Sutton, and an attempt to put up a reformer collapsed.92 There were only four contested elections in the next 50 years, during which all the Members were Conservatives.

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 19, 26 Feb., 11 Mar.; Cambridge Chron. 25 Feb., 10 Mar. 1820; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 149.
  • 2. C.H Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iv. 529; The Times, 17, 18 Nov. 1820; O. Teichman, Cambridge Undergraduate 100 Years Ago, 68.
  • 3. Cooper, iv. 529; Cambridge Chron. 1, 15 Dec.; The Times, 5, 8 Dec. 1820.
  • 4. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 2 Jan. [1821].
  • 5. Suff. RO (Bury St. Edmunds), Hervey mss 941/11a, Essex to Bristol, 24 Oct. 1822; Add. 38291, f. 160.
  • 6. Cooper, iv. 530, 537; Cambridge Chron. 16 Mar. 1821, 17 May 1822; CJ, lxxvi. 172; LJ, liv. 179; lv. 182.
  • 7. Hervey mss 941/11a, Liverpool to Bristol, 22 Oct.; Sheffield Archives, Wharncliffe mss, same to Lady Erne, 12 Nov.; Cambridge Chron. 1 Nov. 1822.
  • 8. Hervey mss 941/11a, Hervey to Bristol [c. 24 Oct.]; Add. 58993, Bristol to Grenville, 25 Oct. [1822].
  • 9. Hervey mss 941/11a, T. Clarkson to Bristol, 23 Oct., Norfolk to same, 23 Oct., Essex to same, 24 Oct., Bute to same, 27 Oct., Devonshire to same, 30 Oct., Grafton to same, 14 Nov.; Add 58993, Bristol to Grenville, 25 Oct. 1822.
  • 10. The Times, 26 Oct.; Cambridge Chron. 1 Nov. 1822; Lord Teignmouth, Reminiscences, i. 300.
  • 11. Macaulay Letters, i. 181; Hervey mss 941/11a, Wilberforce to Bristol, 25 Oct.; Add. 51653, Mackintosh to Holland, 27 Oct.; 51659, Whishaw to Lady Holland, 25, 29 Oct.; Hants RO, Calthorpe mss 26M62/F/C 545; Cambridge Chron. 2 Nov.; The Times, 2 Nov. 1822; Teignmouth, i. 302.
  • 12. Mitchell Lib. (Sydney), Macarthur mss ML A 2911, f. 436; Cambridge Chron. 2 Nov.; Teignmouth, i. 302; Harewood mss, Williams Wynn to Canning, 2 Nov. 1822.
  • 13. Add. 38291, f. 147; 51659, Whishaw to Lady Holland, 29 Oct.; Lonsdale mss, Copley to Lowther [26 Oct.], Lowther to Lonsdale [c.29 Oct.]; Hervey mss 941/11a, Stuart Wortley to Bristol [29 Oct.]; Cambridge Chron. 1 Nov.; The Times, 2 Nov. 1822.
  • 14. Add. 40353, f. 92; 51563, Mackintosh to Holland, 27 Oct.; 51569, Whishaw to Lady Holland, 25 Oct. 1822.
  • 15. Add. 38291, f. 150; 51659, Whishaw to Lady Holland, 29 Oct.; Hervey mss 941/11a, Liverpool to Bristol, 29 Oct., 1, 2 Nov. 1822.
  • 16. Macarthur mss 2911, ff. 438, 441, 446, 449, 457, 458; Cambridge Chron. 1 Nov.; The Times, 2, 4 Nov.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale [c. 29 Oct. 1822]; Add. 38291, f. 158; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 391-4; Colchester Diary, ii. 262.
  • 17. Add. 38291, f. 160; 40328, ff. 184, 194.
  • 18. Add. 51586, Tierney to Lady Holland, 28 Oct.; 51596, Ellenborough to Holland [c.28 Oct.]; 51679, Lord J. Russell to Lady Holland [c.28 Oct.]; Bessborough mss, Grey to Duncannon, 28 Oct.; Hervey mss 942/11a, Lansdowne to Bristol, 31 Oct., 4 Nov.; Castle Howard mss, Mrs. G. Lamb to Lady Morpeth, 31 Oct.; Cambridge Chron. 1, 8 Nov.; The Times, 1, 4 Nov. 1822.
  • 19. Harewood mss, Williams Wynn to Canning, 2 Nov.; Buckingham, i. 392; Teignmouth, i. 303; Hervey mss 941/11a, Liverpool to Bristol, 2, 7 Nov., J.C. Villiers to same, 6 Nov. 1822.
  • 20. Add. 51663, Bedford to Holland, 18 Nov. [1822].
  • 21. Add. 51659.
  • 22. Cambridge Chron. 8 Nov.; Castle Howard mss, Mrs. Lamb to Lady Morpeth, 11 Nov.; Add 36460, f. 150; 40352, ff. 272, 274; Hervey mss 941/11a, Westmorland to Bristol, 14 Nov. 1822.
  • 23. Calthorpe mss C 87, 128, 553; Teignmouth, i. 301; Arbuthnot Jnl.i.196; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 Nov. [1822]; Colchester Diary, iii. 261-2.
  • 24. Add. 51659; Cambridge Chron. 22 Nov. 1822; Teignmouth, i. 303.
  • 25. Colchester Diary, iii. 269; Cambridge Chron. 15, 22, 29 Nov., 6 Dec.; The Times, 23, 29 Nov., 7 Dec.; Cent. Kent. Stud. Harris mss U624 C249, Lushington to Harris, 24 Nov. 1822. See also D. Cook, ‘Rep. Hist. County, Town and Univ. of Cambridge’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1935), 304-8.
  • 26. Devon RO, Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 1 Dec.1822; Add. 40353, f. 93; TNA 30/29/9/5/19.
  • 27. J.W. Clark and T.M. Hughes, Life and Letters of Sedgwick, i. 258-9.
  • 28. Add. 51690, Lansdowne to Lady Holland, 27 Nov. [1822].
  • 29. G. Pryme, Autobiog. Recollections, 141-2; Add. 51659.
  • 30. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 153-5; Buckingham, i. 401.
  • 31. Cambridge Chron. 21 Feb., 18, 25 Apr. 1823; Cooper, iv. 541-2; CJ, lxxviii. 210, 238; LJ, lv. 635.
  • 32. Pryme, 143-4.
  • 33. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 172.
  • 34. Cambridge Chron. 11 Mar. 1825; Cooper, iv. 546; CJ, lxxx. 204; LJ, lvii. 122; Buckingham, ii. 249.
  • 35. Add. 40331, f. 143; 56550, f. 20.
  • 36. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 15 Nov., same to Copley [16 Nov.], Beckett to Lowther, 17 Nov.; Add. 36461, f. 343; 40383, f. 294; 51659, Whishaw to Holland, 3 Dec. 1825.
  • 37. The Times, 28 Nov., 10 Dec.; Cambridge Chron. 2 Dec.; Harewood mss, Canning to Robinson and reply, 2 Dec. 1825.
  • 38. Calthorpe mss C 94, 95, 938, 941; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C199/2, Stanhope to Copley, 9 Jan. 1826.
  • 39. Add. 40331, ff. 233, 246, 275, 279; 40384, ff. 130, 205; 57401, Goulburn to Herries, 26 Nov. [1825]; Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 328-9.
  • 40. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 17 Dec. 1825; Add. 40606, f. 105.
  • 41. Hunts. RO, Sandwich mss Hinch 8/234; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 17 Dec. [1825]; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 10 Dec. 1825, 7 Jan. 1826; Cambridge Weekly Jnl. 31 Dec. 1825; Cambridge Chron. 6 Jan. 1826.
  • 42. Bulwer, Palmerston, i. 161, 164-6; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 176-7.
  • 43. CUL, Add. 8339, ff. 14, 15, 23; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 177; Hatherton mss, Palmerston to Littleton, 2 Jan. 1826; K. Bourne, Palmerston, 243.
  • 44. Harewood mss, Canning to Palmerston, 21 Dec. 1825; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 177; Bulwer, i. 153-4.
  • 45. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 177-9; Southampton Univ. Lib. Broadlands mss, Bathurst to Palmerston, 10 Jan. 1826; HMC Bathurst, 598-9; Bourne, 244.
  • 46. Broadlands mss, Liverpool to Palmerston, 23 Jan. 1826; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 178; Bourne, 245.
  • 47. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 177; Add. 56550, f. 40; CUL, Add. 8339, f. 31.
  • 48. Clark and Hughes, i. 268-9; Add. 36461, f. 389; G.I.T Machin, Catholic Question in English Politics, 81.
  • 49. CUL, Add. 8339, f. 33; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 179-81.
  • 50. CUL, Add. 8339, ff. 39, 58, 64, 75, 84, 88, 90, 95, 109, 110, 122; Cambridge Chron. 24 Feb. 1826; Cooper, iv. 550; CJ, lxxxi. 111; LJ, lviii. 70.
  • 51. Surr. Hist. Cent. Goulburn mss Acc 304/67A, Goulburn to wife, 12 Feb. 1826.
  • 52. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 182; CUL, Add. 8339, ff. 111, 121, 127, 134, 135, 139-41; Cambridge Chron. 31 Mar., 28 Apr., 5 May; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 1 Apr. 1826; Bourne, 246. Remarks and Letter are in CUL (Cam. c. 826. 6, 7); Observations is in BL (8365. c. 1.).
  • 53. Cambridge Chron. 5, 12, 19, 26 May, 2, 9 June; The Times, 29 May, 10, 12 June; Bulwer, i. 167; CUL, Add. 8339, f. 142; Goulburn mss 67A, Goulburn to wife, 17, 20, 24 May 1826; Clark and Hughes, i. 275.
  • 54. CUL, Add. 8339, ff. 152, 153; Broadlands mss, Palmerston to Liverpool, 31 May 1826; Bulwer, i. 155, 167; Machin, 82.
  • 55. CUL, Add. 8339, ff. 179, 181, 184, 185.
  • 56. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 181-2.
  • 57. The Times, 13, 14 June; Cambridge Chron. 16 June 1826; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 182-3.
  • 58. Add. 56550, ff. 96-97, 98; Bulwer, i. 170; The Times, 16, 17 June; Cambridge Chron. 16, 23 June; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 17 June 1826; Macarthur mss ML A 2911, f. 343. See also Cook, 308-18.
  • 59. Lady Airlie, Lady Palmerston, i. 132; Bulwer, i. 155, 168-70; Machin, 82-83; Bourne, 247-8.
  • 60. Rutland mss, (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Lord C. Manners to Rutland, 18 June [1826]; Add. 40606, f. 186; Colchester Diary, ii. 441-2.
  • 61. Add. 37304, f. 146; Goulburn mss 67A, Goulburn to wife, 11-16 June 1826.
  • 62. Add. 40332, f. 123; Martin, Lyndhurst, 212.
  • 63. Bagot, ii. 378; Add. 40332, ff. 317, 319.
  • 64. Clark and Hughes, i. 278-9; Cambridge Chron. 20, 27 Apr.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 21 Apr. 1827.
  • 65. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 187.
  • 66. Mr. Gregory’s Letter-Box. ed. Lady Gregory, 230-2.
  • 67. Cambridge Chron. 4, 11, 18, 25 May; The Times, 8, 10-12, 14 May; Cambridge Weekly Jnl. 19 May 1827; Cooper, iv. 554.
  • 68. Cook, 318-19; The Times, 14, 19 May 1827.
  • 69. Dorset RO, Bankes mss D/BKL HJ1/304, 307, 311, 312; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 187.
  • 70. Suff. Chron. 2 June 1827; Bucks. RO, Buckinghamshire mss, Lansdowne to Goderich, 17 Sept. 1827; Lansdowne mss, Rice to Lansdowne, 17 Sept. 1827.
  • 71. Cooper, iv. 557; Cambridge Chron. 28 Mar., 16 May 1828; CJ, lxxxiii. 217, 393; LJ, lx. 485.
  • 72. Clark and Hughes, i. 336; Cambridge Chron. 13, 20 Feb.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 14 Feb; Hervey mss 941/56/60; Wilts. RO, Pembroke mss 2057/F4/50, E. to S. Herbert [13 Feb.1829]; Cooper, iv. 559; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 230.
  • 73. Cambridge Chron. 13, 20, 27 Mar.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 14 Mar.; Cooper, iv. 560; Fitzwilliam mss, Upton to Milton, 13 Mar. 1829.
  • 74. Cambridge Chron. 29 May, 5 June; The Times, 1 June 1829; Add. 56554, ff. 20, 24; Clark and Hughes, i. 341; Brougham mss, Scarlett to Brougham [July 1830].
  • 75. Fitzwilliam mss, Upton to Milton, 28 May [2 June]; Add. 37184, ff. 321, 323; The Times, 2 June; Cambridge Chron. 5 June; Agar Ellis diary, 12 June; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 284; Grey mss, Howick jnl. 2 June [1829].
  • 76. Fitzwilliam mss, Upton to Milton [2 June]; Clark and Hughes, 346-9; Cambridge Chron. 5, 12 June; Althorp Letters, 143; The Times, 11, 13 June 1829.
  • 77. Cambridge Chron. 5 June; The Times, 19 June; Greville Mems. i. 295; Fitzwilliam mss vol. 731, p. 161, Milton to Scarlett, 14 June; Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 17 June; NLS mss 24770, f. 35; Clark and Hughes, i. 342-6; Duke Univ. Lib. Fazakerley mss, Abercromby to Fazakerley [22 June 1829].
  • 78. [lxxviii] The Times, 17-20 June; Cambridge Chron. 19 June; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 20 June 1829; Add. 56554, f. 24.
  • 79. The Times, 19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 29 June; Cambridge Chron. 19 June; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 20, 27 June; Fazakerley mss, Abercromby to Fazakerley, 22 June 1829; Cent. Kent. Stud. Camden mss U840 C442, Wells to Brecknock [June 1829]; Cook, 319-23.
  • 80. Wellington mss WP1/1028/8.
  • 81. Add. 51578, Carlisle to Holland, 10 July; 51655, Mackintosh to Lady Holland, Mon. [July]; 51659, Whishaw to same, 12 June; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 240; Airlie, i. 172-3; Chatsworth mss 6DD/GPI/1951, 1952; Cambridge Chron. 9, 30 July, 6 Aug. 1830.
  • 82. Cooper, iv. 569-70; The Times, 22-24 Mar.; Cambridge Chron. 25 Mar. 1831; Clark and Hughes, 373-5.
  • 83. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 26 Mar.; Cambridge Chron. 1, 8 Apr.; The Times, 2, 5 Apr. 1831; Ellenborough Diary, 72.
  • 84. The Times, 31 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 465-6.
  • 85. The Times, 27 Apr.; Cambridge Chron. 29 Apr.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 30 Apr. 1831; Three Diaries, 89; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 249.
  • 86. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 248-9; Bourne, 506-7; Add. 37185, f. 533; Chatsworth mss 6DD/GPI/2213, 2215.
  • 87. The Times, 3, 4 May 1831.
  • 88. Chatsworth mss 6DD/GPI/2233, 2234, 2236, 2239, 2242, 2243; The Times, 4-7 May; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 5 May; Cambridge Chron. 6, 13 May 1831; Add. 56555, ff. 135-6; Three Diaries, 91; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 249; see Cook, 325-8.
  • 89. The Times, 7, 14, 19 May; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 21 May 1831.
  • 90. Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord [May ]; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 419; Add. 37185, f. 538; 51659, Whishaw to Holland, 6 May [1831].
  • 91. Lieven-Grey Corresp. ii. 220; Clark and Hughes, i. 376; Add. 51600.
  • 92. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 252; Clark and Hughes, i. 398-9.