The following article is extracted from "The Illustrated History of Portsmouth" by William Gates, published in 1900.
The first return of Burgesses for Portsmouth was in the 26th year of the reign of Edward I, when John le Engleys and Robert Atte Norde were returned. By whom, or in what manner these first Burgesses were chosen, or by whom returned to the Sheriff, no where appears.
From this time to the reign of Henry VI, writes Mr. Daniel Howard, whose MSS. has been almost exclusively used in the compilation of this Parliamentary record, nothing can be collected from the returns concerning the elections, beyond the names of the Burgesses elected. In two instances during the long period referred to, from 1298 to 1448, the Bailiffs made no return, failing therein in the second and 12th years of Edward II. ; but with these exceptions, and presuming on the regularity of the returns from 1177 to 1542, which are lost, it may be observed that the representation of the Borough in Parliament has been kept up from its commencement down to the present time.
Concerning the wages of the representatives of the Town in the early period of its sending Burgesses to Parliament, we find in Prynne a writ for their expenses in the 51st Edward the Third—viz., seven pounds sixteen shillings for 39 days; and in the Court Books of the Manor of Portsea, under the head of " Reprises," is an entry to the following effect : " Item. There is to be paid with the Burgesses of the Town of Portsmouth for the expenses of the Burgesses to Parliament, when it shall happen, for land within the Liberty of the Town, ten pounds, sometimes more and sometimes less."
The documents of the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, respecting the representation, throw but little light upon the subject. The return in the 27th of Henry VI. is by the Bailiff, with the consent and assent of the whole community of the town ; and in the 12th Edward IV. it is by the Bailiff and burgesses ; but the return of the 17th of Edward IV. is by thirteen burgesses who are individually named as parties to the indenture. The names of these burgesses were Peter Martyn, Thos. Yoxall, John Germyn, Thos. Bokeland, John Carpynter, John Bykley, John Druet, William Estwood, John Rear, Thos. Berner, Hen. Haket, Robt. Frende, Jas. Hackett. Whether these thirteen burgesses were the whole body or a part only does not appear.
The returns subsequent to the one last noticed to the end of the reign of Henry VIII. being lost, we are left even without the names of those who represented the borough during the interval.
The returns during the reign of Edward VI. and of his two immediate successors were subjected to considerable scrutiny on the trial of the question whether non-resident burgesses had a right to vote. Those returns are by the Mayor and burgesses' nomination, and it appears by the aid of other documents that the burgesses named in them were for the most part inhabitants of the borough.
During the reign of Elizabeth there were two instances of elections which at a subsequent period afforded ground for claim on the part of the inhabitants at large to a right of voting. In the 14th year of her reign the Mayor, Chamberlain, and commonalty elected, and in the 25th year the election was by the Mayor, burgesses and freeholders. The other elections in the reign of Elisabeth were by the Mayor and Burgesses who continued to return the members until the Charter of Charles I from which period to tho time of the Revolution they were elected by the Corporation, under its new title of Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses.
Whatever may have been the case in respect to the fact of non-resident burgesses voting for the members of Parliament for the borough prior to the restoration of Charles II, there can be no doubt that it was the practice for non-residents to vote at the elections afterwords.
In 1662, when the existing books of the Corporation commence, it consisted of 139 burgesses, beside the Mayor, Aldermen, and Recorder ; and from that time to the Revolution the number gradually increased to more than 300, the greater part of whom were non-residents.
The Revolution of 1688 was a natural occasion to call forth the exercise of popular rights. We accordingly find the inhabitants voting with the burgesses at the election for the Convention Parliament, and again at the election in 1689. But the privilege assumed by the inhabitants of choosing for themselves was of short duration.
At the General Election in November 1695, the candidates were Admiral Russell, Aldermen Hedger, and Edmund Dummer. The inhabitants of Portsea living within the jurisdiction of the borough and paying Scot and Lot, and who supported Mr. Dummer, insisted on their right to vote. In this, as alleged by a petition presented to the House of Commons, they were opposed by measures adopted on behalf of Mr. Hedger. The gates of the town were shut against them, while threats and other unconstitutional measures were resorted to. Nothing, however, was done on the petition.
Admiral Russell been returned for Cambridge as well as for Portsmouth, chose Cambridge, and the vacant seat became the object of contest between the Hon. Colonel Gibson, Lieutenant-Governor of the town, and Admiral Aylmer the friend of Admiral Russell. On this occasion the inhabitants again demanded to vote, and were admitted to poll promiscuously with the members of the Corporation, and the result was that, after a violent contest, the numbers for Admiral Aylmer were 234, and for Colonel Gibson 219, and although it seems that the poll was taken of all the votes by consent, yet the Mayor was induced to make a double return, returning Colonel Gibson as having been chosen by the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses by a majority above 20 of the Corporation, and that a part of the Burgesses with the major part of the inhabitants, had chosen Admiral Aylmer.
This return produced a petition from each of the candidates and also from some of the Aldermen and Burgesses, with the result that the House of Commons came to a determination which entirely disposed of the question concerning the right of the inhabitants to vote. It was resolved :
That the right of election of Burgesses to serve in Parliament for this borough is in the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses only ; that neither candidate was duly elected and that the election was void.
Early in the last century a return was controverted on curious grounds. There had polled for Sir Charles Wager 66, for Sir John Jennings 64, for Sir James Wishart and Sir William Clifford 51 each ; and the two former being returned Sir James Wishart and Sir William Gifford petitioned against the return. The question was whether Joseph Whitehorne, who was elected Mayor in 1700, was a legal Mayor, and whether the Aldermen and Burgesses elected during his Mayoralty were good and legal Aldermen and Burgesses. It appeared that Whitehorne had not qualified himself by taking the sacrament before he entered office, and it was therefore held that, not being the legal Mayor, the Aldermen and Burgesses elected under him had no right to vote, and that Sir James Wishart and Sir William Gifford had the majority of legal votes.
Since that period the only material question agitated in Parliament respecting the representation of the borough was whether the right of voting was confined to the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses resident within the borough or extended to such as were non-resident.
The question came before a Committee of the House of Commons in 1820, which decided in effect that residence was not a necessary qualification in the voter.
To the account already given of the representation of Portsmouth prior to the time of the last Edward little more can be added. Our early representatives were in general, no doubt, the same description of persons as in other places—the actual Burgesses of the town dwelling and free in the same—but it is impossible to form any judgment of the manner in which the Parliamentary duties of the Borough were performed or in what respect its interests were advanced during the first 250 years after it began to send members to Parliament. The presumption is that under the circumstances of Borough representation in general at this period nothing occurred out of the ordinary course. The primitive Burgesses were sent to Parliament chiefly for the purpose of making a bargain with the Crown concerning the taxes to be imposed on their constituents ; and the representatives of each Borough had merely the power of consenting to the sum paid by the community which they represented, without interfering with what was paid by any other. They composed not, properly speaking, an essential part of the Parliament. They sat apart both from the Barons and Knights, who disdained to mix with such mean personages. After they had given their consent to the taxes required of them, their business being finished, they separated, even though the Parliament continued to sit and to canvass the national business.
In the reign of Edward VI the state of the representation of Portsmouth begins to be more discernible.
At this time, and for some years after Elizabeth came to the throne, John White was the possessor of Southwick Priory, with its extensive domains, which he had received by grant from Henry VIII. He was a burgess of Portsmouth and also Steward of the Court Leet, an office which was analogous to that of Recorder of the present day. From an early period the Priory and Convent of Southwick were closely connected with Portsmouth. Both the churches of Portsmouth and Portsea belonged to the Priory before the dissolution of religious houses, and although the churches were afterwards granted by Henry to Winchester College, yet the Lord of Southwick appears to have possessed considerable, if not paramount, interest in the borough of Portsmouth. He was not only a voter, but had several relations in the Corporation ; and on one occasion Henry Byckley, his cousin, was returned to Parliament ; and at another election Ralph Henslow, the brother-in-law of John White, was returned. In addition to the influence which his large possessions in the neighbourhood of Portsmouth must have conferred upon him, Mr. White had high connections in the Church, and was of a most munificent and hospitable character. The family of the Byckleys had been long settled at Portsmouth ; we find them in the rent rolls and amongst the burgesses of the reign of Edward IV. Henry Byckley was the son of Thomas Byckley, of Portsmouth, and on his mother's side was the grandson of John de Port; and had derived from his ancestors considerable property in the Borough and elsewhere ; he was in all probability, from what has come down to us respecting him, no ordinary character, and he appears to have been a determined supporter of the rights and immunities of the town. In this state of circumstances the representation of the borough may be regarded with some interest.
Whatever may have been the case in the time of Henry VIII in respect to returning military persons to servo as burgesses for Portsmouth, the first return extant of the reign of Edward VI furnishes an instance of two being chosen at the General Election in 1552, namely, Sir Richard Wingfield, Knight, and John Chaderton. The one was Captain of the Town, and was afterwards Field Marshal, and sent to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth ; the other was Keeper and Captain of Southsea Castle. Both were connected with the borough by property. Kingston Farm was originally the estate of Sir Richard Wingfield, and it is not improbable that he acquired some at least of his possessions by gift from the Crown in connection with the office of Captain of the Town. On the suppression of the religious Orders it was prudent, at least, to transfer some portion of their domains to those who were capable of defending them, and in this way Sir Richard Wingfield may have acquired Kingston Farm, etc., together with the occupation of the mansion of God's House. When the custody of Southsea Castle was given to Jno. Chaderton by Henry VIII it was granted to him for life, with the profits of the marshes and morasses near it, and either in respect to a part of these or other lands, his name is enrolled amongst the freeholders of Portsmouth at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI. He was elected for two Parliaments successively ; and in the second was chosen with Mr. Byckley.
A name that does honour to the Borough, as one of its representatives in the second of Queen Mary's Parliaments, is Sir Richard Sackville, Knight. He had attended Henry VIII in his wars ; and had been treasurer of his army. Though his religious sentiments did not agree with those of Queen Elizabeth, she chose him of her Privy Council ; and at the time that he enjoyed the esteem and confidence of his Sovereign he was equally regarded by the people.
In several instances during the reign of Elizabeth, one or the other of the burgesses returned was actually resident in the borough—namely, Henry Slater and Thomas Thorney, both of whom had served the office of Mayor, and on one occasion the Captain of the town, Sir Henry Radcliffe was elected, and at another election William Green, who, it is not improbable, held the same office. Thomas Thorney represented the borough in four successive Parliaments, and his colleague in one of them was Edward Radcliffe, who by his marriage with one of the co-heiresses of Anthony Pound, of Drayton, was connected with the family of the Whites, of Southwick Priory.
After the first election in the reign of James I, in 1603, at which Sir Oliver St. John was chosen for Portsmouth, with Richard Jenvey, an Alderman and merchant of the town, we find Sir Daniel Nerton one of its representatives, not only in the next two Parliaments of King James, but also in the first Parliament of Charles I. Previously to Sir Daniel Norton's introduction as a member, he had intermarried with one of the daughters and co-heiresses of John White (the second) of Southwick, and had thereby become possessed of the Priory Estate, and from this alliance his connection with the borough seems to have originated, a connection which was continued in the family of the Nortons down to the Revolution and in a lesser degree for many years afterwards.
The family was one of the first in point of consequence in the County, and at the time when the Royal favourite Buckingham was assassinated at Portsmouth, Charles I was staying at Southwick with Sir Daniel Norton, who no doubt was of the Court party as the succeeding representatives of the Town most probably were in the remainder of the King's Parliament. Two of the Aldermen nominated in his Charter of 1627 were shortly afterwards returned as members, namely, Jenens and Towerson, and the first two members in the Long Parliament were Henry Percy, brother of the Earl 0f Northumberland, and Colonel Goring, son of Lord Goring, and Governor of the Town. Both Percy and Goring were concerned in the premeditated scheme of bringing the Army to London to overawe the Parliament and of fortifying Portsmouth for the King, and it was through Goring that the place in the following year was the first to declare in the King's Favour. In Barebone's Parliament neither Portsmouth nor any other borough was represented, and to the two next afterwards during the Protectorate the town sent one member only, and in one of these it was represented by the Governor, Colonel Whitham, a man devoted to the Presbyterian Republican party. The members who sat afterwards in the restored, or Rump Parliament in 1659, were Francis Willoughby, probably the same as had been one of the Lords of the Council in Ireland in 1643, and John Child, a burgess, and probably the brother or some other relative of Josiah Child (afterwards Sir Josiah Child, Baronet, of Wansted House), who, in 1656 was Mayor of the Borough, and as well as John Child was, on the Restoration of Charles II, expunged from the Corporation as inimical to the Government.
During the Commonwealth a great many persons in favour of the new order of things were admitted into the Corporation, whose party without doubt thereby acquired a majority in the election of Mayor and other officers, and in the returning of members. Amongst those admitted were Sir William Waller, Robert Titchbourne, one of the High Court who sat on the trial of the King, and Colonel Whitham.
In the disputes between the King and his Parliaments, Colonel Norton, of Southwick House, the son of Sir Daniel Norton, having espoused the cause of the Parliament, acted a conspicuous part in the Civil commotions which ensued. He was, however, at length induced to co-operate in the re-establishment of the Royal authority, and having made his peace with Charles the Second, through Robert Legge, who had married Colonel Norton's sister and was a great friend of the King, Colonel Norton had Portsmouth delivered up to Legge in order to the Restoration.
The return to Monarchy was attended with considerable changes in the Corporation, but Colonel Norton was again prominent. He was elected one of its representatives, and Henry Whitehead, who had married his daughter, the other. As the Corporation had been filled before for one purpose, so on the present occasion by displacing some and admitting others it was now moulded to another purpose. The Presbyterians and Republicans were ousted and naval and military officers and other public functionaries and the King's friends were introduced in their stead. The Duke of York was Lord High Admiral, and it would seem that all connected with him in office or who were immediately under his authority were made burgesses. But notwithstanding all the means taken to obtain control over the borough and to ensure the choice of its members, the Court appears at the General Election in February, 1678-9, to have failed in its purpose.
Colonel Norton being a candidate to represent the county, the two candidates for Portsmouth were the Hon. Colonel George Legge, Governor of the town, and Sir John Kempthorne, the Commissioner of the Dockyard. The latter had distinguished himself as a Naval officer, but he had lost his influence at Court, and the King personally interposed to prevent his election. Sir John, however, stood to his guns, and had the satisfaction of being returned. Another Parliament was summoned to meet in October, when Colonel Norton and Colonel Legge were chosen, Sir John Kempthorne not being a candidate. The same two members were also chosen at the General Election for the Oxford Parliament in February, 1680-1, and continued to represent the town during the remainder of Charles's reign. Judging from one of Cromwell's letters to Colonel Norton, he was never inclined much to attend his duty in Parliament. In his circumstances he was not likely to have been an active opponent of any of the measures of Charles' Government, whilst there can be no doubt that, of whatever nature they were, they had the support of his colleague, Colonel Legge, who was identified with the House of Stuart, and ultimately rewarded for his services by being created Earl of Dartmouth. The surrender of the Charter of Charles I and the acceptance of another which rendered the Corporation dependent on the pleasure of the Crown, are sufficient proofs of its subserviency. With several new Aldermen, a host of new Burgesses, principally non - residents, either in office or of the Court party, were introduced into the Corporation by the Charter, and after its adoption the Governor's brother and the Lieutenant-Governor were elected into the Court of Aldermen. Chief Justice Jeffries was made a Burgess and Colonel Legge chosen Mayor. Constituted as the Corporation was at the accession of James the Second, it was duly prepared for all the purposes of his infatuated but short-lived reign. Colonel Legge resigned the office of Mayor, and he and Colonel Slingsby, the other Military Alderman, whose father, Sir Henry Slingsby, had been led to the scaffold for his attachment to the Royal cause, were sent to the new House of Commons. The assemblage of Burgesses at Portsmouth from all parts on the occasion of this election sufficiently shows the means taken to ensure the return of the proposed members.
It was natural that upon the Revolution the inhabitants should think themselves entitled to choose representatives for the Parliament, and that at such a crisis they should join with the Corporation in the election of members. The altered state of things, as may be fairly presumed, brought forward Mr. Norton. The new Charter being thrown aside, the Mayor, Aldermen and Burgesses, under the old Charter, in conjunction with the inhabitants, elected him one of their representatives to the Convention Parliament and Colonel Slingsby, who had solicited the suffrages of the Corporation and had interested himself to recover its surrendered Charter, was chosen for the other. The summons for the next Parliament in 1689 called forth two new candidates for the office of representatives, Alderman Russell and Alderman Hedger, a merchant and an old inhabitant of the town. It is evident that a new interest had sprung up in the Corporation. Mr. hedger was in the Corporation as a Burgess during the Commonwealth, and on the Restoration was excluded with many others by the authority of the Act for the better regulation of Corporations. He was afterwards re-admitted, and at the surrender of the Charter of Charles 1 had been an Alderman for some years, but not being continued by the new Charter he was no longer considered as belonging to the Corporation. Being re-instated by the Revolution he was again chosen Mayor, but resigning his mayoralty he stood for the representation of the Borough, and, after a contest with Colonel Slingsby, was elected, with Admiral Russell. They were again chosen at the General Election in 1695, and the inhabitants having voted upon both occasions, the returned members may have been considered to have been the united choice of the town and Corporation. At the election immediately afterwards to supply the place of Admiral Russell, the Corporation and the inhabitants were divided. The greater part of the Corporation, including the Presbyterians, were in favour of Colonel Gibson, the Lieutenant - Governor, who, if not of that persuasion, was well inclined to it. The inhabitants for the most part were for Admiral Aylmer, who was supported by the interest of Admiral Russell. The election being declared void by the House of Commons on the double return, stating how each was chosen, another election ensued, when Colonel Gibson was again elected by the Corporation, and became the colleague of Mr. Hedger without further opposition.
Whilst the Whigs remained in power the subsequent elections in the reign of William and those which occurred in the first seven years of Queen Anne were with one consent. The politics and the interests of the Corporation were in unison with those of the Ministry, and were directed to its support. Major-General Erle, Governor of the town, was chosen one of its representatives, Sir George Rooke, a Lord of the Admiralty, the other ; and from hence for a long course of years the Admiralty under every change appears to have had considerable interest in the representation.
It is said of Sir George Rooke that notwithstanding he was in office under the Whigs, he voted mostly with the Tories ; and that during the reign of William the King was pressed much to remove him from the Board of Admiralty, and that the King, highly to his honour, refused to do so. " I will not," answered the King. " Sir George Rooke served me faithfully at sea and I will never displace him for acting as he thinks most fit for the service of his country in the House of Commons."
Previous to the overthrow of the Whig Administration in 1710 the Whig party and the Dissenters in the Corporation had by filling up the vacancies in the Court of Aldermen, and making an additional number of burgesses, strengthened their interests, and Seager, a Nonconformist, was chosen Mayer. In these circumstances a contest took place for the Borough. On one side the candidates were Sir James Wishart and Sir William Giffard ; on the other side Admiral Sir Charles Wager and Sir John Jennings. The two former had 51 votes each ; the Whig candidates, Sir Charles Wager and Sir John Jennings, 66 and 64 and they were accordingly returned; but not having a majority of legal votes, their election was set aside by the House of Commons, and their opponents were declared to be duly elected. Sir James Wishart shortly afterwards came into office under the New Ministry us one of the Lords of the Admiralty.
At the election for the next and last Parliament of Queen Anne, Sir James Wishart again came in for the Borough, and at the head of the poll, when Sir William Giffard was thrown out and was succeeded by Sir Thomas Mackworth, Baronet.
The death of Queen Anne put an end to the Harleian Ministry, and on the accession of George I the Whigs were recalled to the Councils of the King. An address was voted to him by the Corporation of the town denouncing the late Minister, and another contest ensued for the representation of the borough. Sir James Wishart and Sir John Suffield, an Alderman of the borough, elected on the removal of the nonconforming Aldermen, in 1710, stood in one interest, and Sir Edward Ernely, Bart., and Sir Charles Wager in the Whig and Ministerial interest. The latter carried their election by a considerable majority. Sir Charles Wager was shortly afterwards made Comptroller of the Navy, and subsequently one of the Lords of the Admiralty and was re-elected at the next General Election in the time of George I, and at the one which followed the accession of George II. On both occasions Sir John Norris, another member of the Admiralty Board, was also elected. Sir John Jennings, whose election was annulled by the House, when chosen with Sir Charles Wager became one of the Lord Commissioners under George I.
Upon the death of Admiral Stewart, who had sat from 1737 to 1711, the tide of public opinion was high in favour of Admiral Vernon, and he was accordingly elected soon after the intelligence of his success at Porto Bello reached England. His connection with the Borough, however, soon ceased, and at the General Election which followed, Admiral Cavendish, who had represented the Borough in the last Parliament, and who was destined shortly to become one of the Lords of the Admiralty, was retained with Martin Bladen, one of the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations.
Passing over several elections of Admirals and of the Commissary General of Musters and of the Hon. Edward Legge, but not without noticing Admiral Sir Charles Hardy as having succeeded Admiral Cavendish, we come to a name which in every point of view commands the highest degree of respect, that of Sir Edward Hawke, who, amidst the splendour of his Naval actions, and before and after he was at the Board of Admiralty, and whilst presiding there as First Commissioner, was one of the representatives of Portsmouth. Elected first in 1747, in the reign of George II, shortly after his victory over the French fleet, off Ushant, he served in five successive Parliaments till the year 1776, when he received from the King the honour of a peerage. Thereupon the Comptroller of the Navy, Maurice Suckling, came in without opposition, and on two other vacancies in the same Parliament, occasioned by the death, first of Mr. Taylor and afterwards of Mr. Suckling, the election of their successors, Sir William Gordon, K.B., and the Hon. Robert Monckton, the Lieutenant-Governor, were not contested.
On Sir William Gordon vacating his seat in 1783, in consequence of his having accepted a pension, the Hon. Thomas Erskine, who had already distinguished himself by his intrepidity and eloquence, was elected in his stead. He was not returned to the next Parliament, Admiral Cornwallis being chosen in his place, and he was not elected again until the General Election in 1790. The liberty of the Press and trial by Jury owe much to the measures adopted in the Parliament that now ensued, and to no individual more than to the Member for Portsmouth.
Mr. Erskine also sat for Portsmouth in the two succeeding Parliaments, having been chosen in 1796 with Lord Hugh Seymour, and in 1802 with Captain (afterwards Admiral) Markham, son of the Archbishop of York, and who had been elected in the preceding Parliament in the room of Lord Hugh Seymour, deceased. On the change of administration in 1806 Mr. Erskine was raised to the Peerage and made Lord Chancellor. Admiral Markham became one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and was afterwards re-elected, and the Hon. David Erskine at the same time succeeded to the seat of his father, but at the General Election in 1806 he gave place to Sir Thomas Miller, Baronet.
To the honour of the Parliament which assembled at the close of that year, the measure of abolishing the slave trade was brought under its consideration and an Act passed for the purpose. The town and Corporation not only petitioned in favour of the abolition, but supported it by the voice and by the votes of their representatives. Upon the death of Sir Thomas Miller, in Sept., 1816, John Carter, a native of the town and the son of Sir John Carter, one of its most distinguished citizens and nine times Mayor, was unanimously chosen to represent the borough. Mr. John Carter, or John Bonham-Carter as he was afterwards known, on inheriting the landed estate of Thomas Bonham, was a reformer at the beginning and a reformer to the end. He was ever a warm and consistent advocate of popular rights, and a firm and unflinching friend of civil and religious liberty. In the great political changes that took place during the twenty-one years he represented the borough he was ever in the van of progress, always on the side of right. He was largely consulted in the preparation of the great Reform Bill, and it is a fact worth recording that he and Mr. Baring (afterwards Lord Northbrook) were the only pair of representatives who were elected for the same borough both before and after the Reform Act of 1832. Mr. Bonham-Carter was 4th Wrangler in 1810 and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and till he succeeded to his inheritance was a distinguished member of the Junior Bar on the Western Circuit.
On the 10th of February, 1817, a great Reform meeting was held on Portsdown at which a petition to Parliament was adopted, praying, amongst other things, for universal suffrage and annual elections. In presenting the petition the next day, Lord Cochrane, who had been present, said that either from motives of prudence or others not quite so defensible, the cavalry had been called out, ball cartridges served out, and the guns of the garrison loaded. Handbills were also posted warning all who valued their safety to keep away. Had it not been for these measures the assemblage would have numbered not only 20,000 but 100,000.
In 1818, the Government having been defeated over a proposal to increase the Civil List, a dissolution of Parliament ensued. Both Mr. Carter and Admiral Markham sought re-election. But Rear-Admiral Sir George Cockburn also wanted to represent Portsmouth, so he hastened to the borough, saw most of the forty-seven electors, assured them that "though a Lord of the Admiralty he would be found an honest man," and succeeded in winning over a sufficient number to convince Admiral Markham that his defeat was certain. The latter accepted the situation, withdrew from the contest, and on the 17th Carter and Cockburn were returned unopposed. Sir George was evidently much pleased. On the following evening, after a public banquet, he gave a grand ball at the Green Row Assembly Rooms, and before leaving the town gave several sums in charity, including 20s to each debtor confined in the gaol.
But his career as member for Portsmouth was brief, for when next he came before the electors, in March, 1820, after the death of the King, there was indignation in the borough at the reduction which had taken place in the Navy, and this, coupled with his somewhat lukewarm views on the subject of reform, led to his rejection. Admiral Markham had once more been brought into the field, and the result of the voting was for Carter 53, Markham 37, Cockburn, 22. At the next election in June, 1826, Admiral Markham, having represented the borough for a quarter of a century, retired with honour, and Mr. Francis Baring was chosen as Mr. Carter's colleague. The new member thoroughly justified the choice of the electors. Upon all questions of religious belief he invariably voted on the side which conceded liberty of Conscience and upheld political and civil rights. He was a ready and zealous advocate of the suppression of slavery and the repeal of the Corn Laws, and also assisted in the passing of the Reform Bill.
He served Portsmouth and the country for an uninterrupted period of 37 years, and the high offices he held under the Crown were the reward of his intelligence, zeal, and loyalty to the principles which he had espoused. Prom 1830 to 1834 he was a Lord of the Treasury ; from 1835 to 1839, one of the Joint Secretaries to the Treasury ; from 1839 to 1841, Chancellor of the Exchequer; and from 1849 to 1852, First Lord of the Admiralty.
In the spring of 1831 there was great excitement in Portsmouth and throughout the country concerning the fate of the Reform Bill, and the elections consequent upon the rejection of the measure by eight votes are famous in Hampshire history. Before the Dissolution only five of the twenty-six members were Reformers, after the election there were fourteen Reformers and only twelve on the other side. How the Great Bill was finally passed in the following year is matter of national history, and upon the occasion Portsmouth gave itself up to general rejoicing. There were processions and dinner parties (1,100 being present in one case and 1,000 in another), horse racing, boat racing, and a display of fireworks hitherto unequalled in the borough.
At the next election, in January, 1835, an attempt was made to upset the Reform candidates, but without success. The opposition was led by Sir C. Rowley and Captain Charles Napier, the following being the result of the poll :—
J. Bonham-Carter, 613, Francis T. Baring, 571, Sir C. Rowley, 558, Charles Napier, 335
These figures, the first under the reformed franchise, afford an interesting contrast to those at the last contested election in 1820 under the old regime. Then the highest number of votes recorded was 53.
At the first election in the Queen's reign, July, 1837, another attempt was made by the Conservatives to win the seat, but with no better result than before, the poll at the close standing thus :-
Francis T. Baring, 634, J. Bonham-Carter, 631, Right Hon. Sir Geo.Cockburn, 519, Lord Viscount Fitzharris, 439
On February 12th, 1838, Mr. John Bonham-Carter died, and Sir Geo. Thos. Staunton, Bart., of Leigh Park, was chosen to fill the vacancy. A very exciting contest was avoided by the withdrawal on the eve of the poll of Dr. Daniel Quarrier, who had been brought forward in the Conservative interest. The new member worthily upheld the principles of the Party he represented. He was an advocate of State education, he was in favour of universal suffrage "when the people were sufficiently educated to use it rightly," and he was a consistent supporter of all measures for lessening the burdens upon the people. In 1811 and again in 1817 he was, with Mr. Francis Baring, returned unopposed. At the General Election in July, 1852, Sir Geo. Staunton retired, and Viscount Monk was, with Sir Francis Baring, returned without opposition. In July, 1857, came the first signs of a Conservative reaction. The town hall been so long under the sway of the Liberal party that many of the electors had grown tired of it and desired a change, with the result that Sir James D. Elphinstone, a Scotch Baronet, with no local connection whatever, was returned at the head of the poll with 1,522 votes ; Sir Francis Baring coming second with 1,496, and Lord Monck last with 1,476. Again in April, 1859, the representation was split up. On this occasion the Conservative Party, emboldened by success, ran two candidates, but they only succeeded in returning one. The second Liberal candidate on this occasion was Admiral Sir Koppel. The result of the poll was as follows :
Sir James Elphinstone, 1640, Sir Francis Baring, 1574, Hon. Thos. Bruce, 1447, Admiral Sir H. Keppel, 1354
In July, 1865, the borough returned for a time to the old faith. Sir Francis Baring having retired from the representation of the borough, Mr. W.H. Stone and Mr. Stephen Gaselee were chosen as the Liberal candidates, those on the other side being Sir J. D. Elphinstone and the Hon. T. Bruce. The poll, which was taken at the hustings in St. George's Square amid great excitement, resulted thus :-
W.H. Stone, 2161, Stephen Gaselee, 2103, Sir J.D. Elphinstone, 1677, Hon. T. Bruce, 1559,
At the next election, in November, 1868, the new Borough franchise brought the Conservatives once more to the top with a bound. Sir J. D. Elphinstone stood alone in that interest and gained a staggering victory, the poll being:-
Elphinstone 5276, Stone 3797, Gaselee 3703.
The triumph thus obtained was carried to completion in February, 1874, when both Conservative candidates were returned, the poll being :-
Sir J. D. Elphinstone 5927, Hon. T. Bruce 5879, Mr. W. H. Stone 4644, Mr. Wyndham Portal 4588.
The Liberals had no better success at the next election in April 1880. Sir J. Elphinstone having retired Sir Henry Drummond Wolff was the second Conservative candidate in conjunction with the Hon. Thomas Bruce, the Liberals being Mr. John F. Norris and Captain Edmund Verney, R.N. The voting was as follows :-
Hon. T. Bruce 6683, Sir H. D. Wolff 6593, John Norris 6040, Captain E. Verney 6023
In November, 1885, the Liberals once more re-asserted themselves and gained an unexpected victory over their opponents. The poll resulted thus :-
Sir William Crossman (L) 8367, Mr. Philip Vanderbyl (L) 8214, Hon. T. Bruce (C) 7650, Sir H. D. Wolff (C) 7595.
Then came the ill-starred Home Rule Bill and the cleavage of the Liberal Party. Sir W. Crossman voted against the measure and threw in his lot with the Liberal Unionists, while Mr. Vanderbyl declared in favour of the Bill. The Liberals thereupon prevailed upon Alderman John Baker to stand with Mr. Vanderbyl, while the Conservatives selected Sir Samuel Wilson to contest the seat with Sir William Crossman. The result was a triumph for the anti-Home Rulers, the poll being :-
Sir W. Crossman (L.U.) 8482, Sir S. Wilson (C.) 8325, Mr. P. Vanderbyl (L.) 7196, Mr, J. Baker (L.) 7069.
But by the time the next election came round, in July, 1892, the opinion of the electorate had undergone it change ; there was a great reversion to Liberal principles, and the Party professing them gained a notable victory. Alderman John Baker, a man who in municipal life had done splendid service for the town, was the leader of the campaign, and he found an able colleague in Mr. Walter Owen Clough. The Conservatives had a strong and popular candidate in General Sir George Willis, while the Right Hon. Evelyn Ashley bore the colours of the Liberal Unionists. The result of the poll, which came as a surprise to both parties, was :-
John Baker (L) 9643, Walter 0. Clough (L) 9448, Gen. Sir G. Willis 9135, Hon. E. Ashley (LU) 9000.
In July, 1895, when the next election took place, a determined effort made to displace the Liberal members but without success. The poll which the largest ever taken in the borough resulted as follows:-
John Baker (L) 10451, Walter O. Clough (L) 10255, Alfred C. Harmsworth (C) 9717, Hon. E. Ashley (LU) 9567.
With this election the political history of Portsmouth is brought up to date. Sir John Baker and Mr. Clough still represent the borough, and the principles which it has professed during so many years of its existence receive consistent advocacy at their hands.