The 1656 Election, Polling and Public Opinion: A Warwickshire Case Study

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<ul><li><p>Parliamentary History, Vol. 23, p t . 3 (2004), p p . 357-374 </p><p>The 1656 Election, Polling and Public Opinion: A Warwickshire Case Study </p><p>S T E P H E N K . R O B E R T S History of Parliament </p><p>The 1656 general election is usually seen as the nations verdict on Oliver Cromwells major-generals. A new parliament was summoned by the government so that funds could be voted in order to sustain the war with Spain, but at the hustings, the war was not the dominant issue. Across England and Wales, the contests took place a year after the expedient of the major-generals was devised in the interests of domestic security and moral reformation. Inevitably, after the robust, sometimes rough, tactics adopted by the major-generals to secure compliance to their vision of sober, protes- tant godliness, the major-generals were themselves the focus of electors discontent, and they were in any case at the heart of the electoral process, as candidates for election. The impression that the swordsmen and decimators were central to the campaigns in the summer of 1656 is reinforced by the principal source for this entire episode in English and Welsh history, the state papers ofJohn Thurloe, widely known to students through Thomas Birchs 1742 edition. Here we may read the elations and disappointments of the major-generals as they filed their reports to Cromwells secretary of state, who rarely replied with the alacrity and decisiveness his men-of- action military correspondents so obviously yearned for. There are few opportunities available to us to study these elections other than through the major-generals eyes, but the Warwickshire election of 1656 affords an interesting case study. The survival of a poll book provides us with evidence of psephological behaviour of a relatively sophisticated kind at this early date, and suggests that electors were capable of strategic voting. The evidence from this election also suggests a contest in which the major- general was not the dominant factor, either as manipulator or as observer, but in which the interests of the local military establishment, as it had existed since the late 1640s, gentry social dominance, and a campaign by the beneficed, ordained ministry all figured strongly. This was an election, in other words, in which novelty of format encouraged the expression of co-ordinated public opinion. </p><p>1 </p><p>The 1656 election was the second general contest to be fought under the terms of the Instrument of Government, the paper constitution which had been in force as the foundation of the protectorate since December 1653. Warwickshire, like other coun- ties, increased its representation at Westminster as a result of the constitutional change. </p></li><li><p>358 Stephen K. Roberts </p><p>Its two knights ofthe shire were now four. The Instrument was intended to reflect the distribution of population, and as a relatively small county in territorial size, Wanvick- shires gain was modest compared with the ten seats in each county to be contested in Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire, for example. It was, however, comparable with the profile of other midlands counties such as Staffordshire (three seats), Worcestershire (five), Shropshire (four) and Leicestershire (four). No Warwickshire town was disen- franchised under the Instrument, but under the traditional arrangements, Wanvick and Coventry were the only corporations possessing separate parliamentary representation. Coventry retained its two members under the new arrangements, while Wanvick lost one of its two seats. Other than these two towns, Stratford-upon-Avon was the only chartered corporation in the county, and it continued to lack a seat at Westminster after 1653, as it had before. Warwickshire was a compact county, and most communities in the shire were within 20 miles ofwarwick, where county elections were usually held. </p><p>The returned indenture for this election in Warwickshire has not survived, but we know that the election for Warwick was held on 26 August, so it is safe to assume that the county election was held within a week or so of that. Nearly all our evidence about the contest comes from two poll books among the Temple papers at the Huntington Library, California.2 One is a collection of 14 paper leaves, each measuring roughly 33 cm. by 30 cm., loosely held together by one central stitch. Only one side of each leafis inscribed. Each leaf contains four columns of names, each column headed by the name of a candidate in the election. The whole document appears to be written in a single hand, which was also responsible for creating a subsidiary document, containing the names of three more candidates, under which in identical format, are the names of electors. Each of the seven candidates names is accorded a rank or title, Sir or esquire; the names below them in the columns are mainly unadorned either by suffix of social rank or residence. Some 3,053 names are listed under the candidates own. This format precludes the possibility that the lists were compiled before election day, as they are not organized by parish or hundred as they would be in a pre-electoral survey.3 There is nothing to suggest that these documents were part of the oficial process conducted by the returning officer, in this case the sheriff of Warwickshire, Thomas Willughby. The final resting place of these papers among the Temple manuscripts, the fact that Sir Richard Temples name appears in the first, that is extreme left-hand, column on each leaf and the crosses marked against some names in the Temple columns all suggest that it was an agent for Sir Richard who drew up these lists in order to help his candidature. </p><p> T h e Black Bonk of Warwick, ed. T. Kenip (Warwick, 1898), p. 413. I should like to thank Ann Hughes and the 17th Century British History seminar at the Institute of Historical Research for comments on this paper. I am also indebted to Mary Robertson of the Huntington Library for accurate measurements of the poll books. Huntington Library, California, Temple papers, Parliament section, poll hook 1656. There is a large </p><p>body of literature on poll hooks, which appear in numbers only from the late Stuart period. For surveys, see S . W. Baskerville, P. Adman, K. F. Beedham, Manuscript Poll Books and English County Elections in the First Age of Party: A Reconsideration of their Provenance and Purpose, Archivus, XIX (1991), 384-403; Harzrili.qt of Britidn Puriiarnerztury Po!/ Bonks, ed. J. Sims (Leicester, 1984). </p><p>For such a survey, see Tactical Organization in a Contested Election: Sir Edward Dermg and the Spring Election at Kent, 1640., ed. J . Peacey, in Padiament, Pditics and E l d o n s , 1604- 1648, ed. C. R. Kyle (Cainden Soc., 5th ser., XXV, 2001), 237-72. </p></li><li><p>The 1656 Election 359 </p><p>Temple was the youngest of the candidates, one of three to have had previous parlia- mentary experience. He had been returned as member for Warwickshire in 1654, but at the time of his election then was 20 years and a few months old, and had thus been under age. He was the eldest son ofSir Peter Temple ofstowe in Buckinghamshire, and succeeded to his fathers estates in September 1653. Among the patrimonial Temple estates was Burton Dassett in Warwickshire, which gave Temple an electoral interest in the county. But what was striking about Temple was not the size of his landed interest but the extent of his indebtedness. His fathers debts had been estimated at A;20,400 in 1647, and his plight had been worsened by the clandestine marriage ofhis daughter with Thomas Roper, son and heir of Lord Baltinglass. Richard Temples mother, Christian Leveson, was the second wife of Sir Peter, but his step-sister was the eldest child by their fathers first marriage. When Sir Richard first married, in 1614, the settlement had stipulated that two-thirds of Burton Dassett should be the portion of any child born of the marriage, and the Ropers laid claim to this for over 40 years.4 In Richard Temples minority, his guardians resorted to parliament, to procure by legislation the power for Richard to levy fines and make recoveries while still under age. His bill was before the Rump Parliament in June 1650 and August 1651, but it was not passed before his fathers death, whereupon his debts and his baronetcy, his creditors petitions and his own, were all referred to the committee for prisons and prisoners of the Nominated Assembly of 1653.5 </p><p>Only on 25 April 1654 did the council of state order the judges of common bench to declare Temple to be of majority age for the specific purpose of settling his estates on trustees, but this technicality probably opened up the possibility of his standing for parliament.6 He had been admitted to the Warwickshire bench of magistrates in September 1653, and had been made a J.P. in Buckinghamshire shortly after his eigh- teenth birthday, albeit briefly, but he had played no part in Warwickshire government, either in managing the militia or in supervising the collection of taxes. His interest in a parliamentary seat is likely to have been as a means to escape his creditors, as he inherited L2,OOO of his fathers debts not included in the 1653 settlement, and his borrowings on bonds alone between 1653 and 1656 totalled L4,500.8 Whether or not it was the haven of parliamentary privilege that attracted Temple to the first protec- torate parliament, his election was controversial, and it provoked a petition from 40 Warwickshire freeholders who objected to his standing because he was not yet 21. His step-sisters husband, Baltinglass, also petitioned against him. He may initially have been excluded, to judge from a letter sent him by the minister ofsoutham, near Burton Dassett, Samuel Andrewes, but he was in the House by 16 October 1654.9 There he </p><p> Victona County History [hereafter V . C . H . ] , Warwickshire, V, 71; E. F. Gay, The Temples of Stowe and their Debts: Sir Thomas Temple and Sir Peter Temple, 1603-1653, Huntington Library Quarterly, 11, (1938-9). 409-36. </p><p>CJ., VI, 193a, 219a, 420a. 425b; VII, 4b, 5a, 108b, 220b, 229b. C.S.P. Dorn., 1654, p. 116; Huntington Lib., Temple papers, Parliament, report of Col. H. </p><p>Mackworth, 25 Apr. 1654; E. F. Gay, Sir Richard Temple: The Debt Settlement and Estate Litigation, Huntington Library Quarterly, VI (1943), 263-4. T.N.A. (P.R.O.), C231/6 pp. 235, 259,268. </p><p>C.S.P. Dorn., 1654, p. 58; Gay, Sir Richard Temple: The Debt Settlement, 265-6, 273. Huntington Lib., Temple papers, Parliament: Samuel Andrewes to Temple, 16 Oct. 1654. </p></li><li><p>360 Stephen K. Roberts </p><p>sat on committees in the company of experienced public figures from Warwickshire and Coventry, such as William Purefoy and Robert Beake, but in January 1655 was petitioned against by John Wagstaff, a Warwickshire gentleman. Wagstaff argued that Temples continued presence in parliament would prejudice his chances of sueing him for a debt of ,111,000. Pursued by creditors and petitioners, Temple disappeared from view in the closing months of the first protectorate parliament; his appearance as a candidate in the second cannot be explained by any wider interest on his part beyond his personal circumstances. </p><p>We owe the existence of the poll book to Temples candidature, but we need to survey the careers of his competitors. The second candidate in the order they appear in the poll book was Richard Lucy, one of the family of Charlecote, near Stratford, and of all those throwing their hats in the ring, the most distinguished as to county family standing. He was a son of Sir Thomas Lucy, memorialized upon his death in 1640 as a light . . . a leader . . . a patriot. Sir Thomas had sat in seven parliaments, and the Lucys had been seated at Charlecote since the reign of Richard I.3 Despite the antiquity of his family and the universal recognition of his name in Warwickshire, Richard Lucy was not quite the unambiguous county leader he may have seemed. His family had divided politically in the civil war, and while his eldest brother, Spencer, had been colonel of a foot regiment for the king, Richard was briefly active on the parliamentarian county committee, in 1646.14 He was a third son, and had left Charlecote after 1649, when the estate passed to Sir Thomass second son. Richard Lucy attended no quarter sessions meetings between June 1652 and October 1658, but had developed a significant political career in L ~ n d o n . ~ H e had been the candidate of the county committee in Wanvickshires recruiter election of October 1645, a drawn-out, turbulent event which took place in three separate places, following adjournments.I6 Lucy was unsuccessful on that occasion. Admitted in his early 30s to Grays Inn, in 1652, perhaps through the good offices of Warwickshires local boss, William Purefoy - his promoter in 1645 - Lucy probably owed his place in the Nominated Assembly to influences outside his native county. Lucy had an estate on the Isle of Wight through his marriage, and William Sydenham, governor of the island, sat on the council of state committee which reviewed nominations to the Assembly. Sydenham and Lucy were first and second named to the committee for the </p><p>l o To the Hiyh Court oflarliarnent . . . The Humble Petition ofJohn Wqs ta j ( lh55) . I C j . , VII, 38la, 387b. </p><p>R. Hams, Ahnus Funeral (1641), quoted in Ann Hughes, Politics, Sociefy nnd Civil War in Wanuickshire, 1620-1660 (Cambridge, 1987), p. 50. </p><p>l 3 W. Dugdale, 7heAntiqirities i?f Wanvickshire, ed. W. Thomas (2 vols, 1730), I, 502; a c e Fairfax-Lucy, Charkclife and the Lucys (1958), pp. 27-42. </p><p>P.R. Newman, Royalist O$cers irr Englattd and Wales, 1642-1660 (1981), p. 241; Wanvick County Rwords. Qirnrter Sessions Order Book, Michaclrnas 1637, to Epiphany 1650 (Warwick, 1936), p. xxi; List .f S/wrifsjir England and Woksfrotti the Earliest Tinics to A.D. 2831 (1898), (T.N.A. (P.R.O.), Lists and Indexes, IX), p. 147; Hughes, Politics, Sociefy and Civil War in Wanuickshire, p. 363. </p><p>l 5 Wanuirk Counfy Records, Vol. Il l , XXI; Wawick County Records Vol. IV. Quarter Sessions Order Book Eacfer 1657, fo Epiphany 1665 (Warwick, 1938), p. xxv. </p><p>I 7he Scottish Dove, 108 (7-12 Nov. 1645), pp. 852-4; 109 (12-19 Nov. 1645). p. 858; The Lije, Diary and Correspondence CfSir William Dugdale, ed. W. Hamper (1827). pp. 82-3. </p><p>The Rejiisfer ofAdniissions to Grays Inn, 1521- 1889, ed. J. Foster (2 vols, 1889), I , 262. </p></li><li><p>The 1656 Election 361 </p><p>army appointed in July 1653, and the two men were working together on the army committee later in the 1650s.* </p><p>Lucys work on the army committee continued after the dissolution of the Nominated Assembly, and he added appointments as a commissioner for excise arrears and a judge of probate to his collection of central government ofices fiom late December 1653. From February 1654 he was named as a circuit commissioner of oyer and terminer, and later to ad hoc commissions to try rebels against the Cromwellian regime. As an ejector of unsuitable clergy under the new state church arrangements, Lucy was...</p></li></ul>

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