On this day … 15 May 1713

Richard Langton wrote to George Kenyon from Preston, explaining that they would have to spend more bribing the town’s voters if they wanted to make sure their candidate, Edward Southwell, was elected in the forthcoming general election. The voters had already been plied with inducements in cash and kind, but ‘their bellies and pockets are as empty as at the beginning’.

Richard Langton was the son of a former Preston MP and he himself was a former mayor of the town. George Kenyon was the Lancashire clerk of the peace, the eighteenth-century equivalent of today’s county chief executive, but with more power and more territory. Both were staunchTories.

The ‘deep purse provided … proved effective’, and Southwell was duly elected, topping the poll. Not surprising, since the Preston electors were known to be ‘mercenary and easily drawn aside’. The other MP returned for the town was Henry Fleetwood, who had first been elected for Preston in 1708, and continued to serve as MP until 1722.

Both MPs were Tories, the other party at the time being the Whigs.

There were two different shades of Tory. Fleetwood was a Jacobite Tory, a member of the Preston Jacobite Club and head of the Lancashire Jacobites during Queen Anne’s reign. His loyalty was pledged to the Catholic James III, the ‘Old Pretender’. Southwell, was a Hanoverian Tory, committed to the succession of the Protestant House of Hanover.

At the time of the election, the next in line to the throne was Sophia of Hanover, but she died in 1714, shortly before the death of Queen Anne, and the succession passed to her son George, who became the first of a long line of King Georges. She might have made an interesting monarch, well capable of handling her unruly ministers, to judge by her advice to her daughter on how to deal with marital quarrels, ‘don’t make a thunderclap out of a fart’.

With the succession of George, the Jacobite Tories had to make plain their public allegiance to the new king, although many continued their Jacobite loyalties in secret.

No such problem for Southwell, for both he and his father had been early supporters of William of Orange, and he had accompanied the now William III on his 1690 campaign to oust James II from Ireland. Such support was clearly in his own interest, since the family had made their fortune from the plantations in Ireland under James I, and they had an extensive estate in Co. Cork, including the town of Kinsale. Such estates would have faced an uncertain future if James’ forces had defeated William.

Southwell was only very briefly a Preston MP. He lost his seat at the 1715 general election that followed the death of Queen Anne.

The Langton letter in the Kenyon papers:

1713, May 15. Preston.—I believe Mr. Southwell’s friends have already spent 100li. [pounds] amongst his voters here, and their bellies and pockets are as empty as at the beginning ; and further expenses are necessary to establish an interest (if possible), but to name a sum I cannot tell how, for the expense will be uncertain. If you please, you may hint to the Chancellor, or Mr. Southwell, that letters of compliment from one of them to Mr. Aldermen Sudell, Lemon, Gruddell, and Lamplugh, and also to Mr. Rawstorn, Mr. Foster, Dr. Farington, and Mr. Thornton (which two last are useful and zealous friends) might be of good service.

Kenyon Papers: https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/_/VWI_AQAAMAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1
Dictionary of Irish Biography: https://www.dib.ie/biography/southwell-edward-a8198
Tim Blanning, George I – the Lucky King

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