CAMBRIDGE ELECTION PETITION (1853)

This is a transcript of the reports in The Times on the proceedings of the committee to determine a petition raised by members of the Liberal (Whig) party against the election of two Conservative (Tory) candidates in the General Election of November 1852.

The Times, Monday, Feb. 28, 1853.

Election Committees - CAMBRIDGE.

The select committee in this case, consisting of Mr. R. C. Hildyard, Sir John Villiers Shelley, the Hon. Joceline William Percy, Sir Richard Williams Bulkeley, and the Right Hon. Robert Vernon Smith (chairman), met on Saturday for the first time at 12 o'clock.

Mr. Serjeant Wrangham[1] opened the case for the petitioners, describing the modus operandi of the alleged bribery. There were mysterious whisperings by the agents of the sitting members that "it would be all right." There were unaccountable deliveries of 5l. notes in envelopes at the houses of the more pliant electors. There were fair ladies, too, who, accompanying members of the Tory committee in their walk through the town, were in the habit of remaining behind to have a little elegant conversation with the free and independent possessors of the franchise whom they accidentally met, and of slipping 5l., 8l., and 10l. into their hands as small tokens of individual regard, and without reference to political circumstances. Refreshments, moreover, were dirt cheap, provided you had a vote for sale, and the printer of the refreshment tickets was a Tory, and a member of committee.

[1] "Mr. Serjeant Wrangham ... for the petitioners"—this looks like a mistake. The only other time the learned Serjeant is mentioned, he is evidently representing the sitting members.—Ed.

Ascombe said that the sitting members' solicitor had appointed him doorkeeper at the committee-room, and mentioned the names of persons whom he had seen go in and out there.

Haylock said that he had been employed on the Conservative side at the last election as messenger. Mr. Long, one of the sitting member's agents, sent him on one occasion with a sovereign to a voter of the name of Daulter, who afterwards voted for Astell and Macaulay. Daulter told him a few days after the election, that he had received from Mr. Taylor 4l. more, making 5l. in all, Witness was also sent by Mr. Long with a sovereign to a Mrs. Nurrish, for her husband.

Mrs. C. Nurrish said that her husband had a vote. She recollected Haylock fetching her a sovereign for her husband. She also received a sovereign from Mr. Warrington, and afterwards 3l. more from the same person. Mr. Taylor, too, called at her house with four sovereigns, and afterwards gave her a fifth. She had in all ten sovereigns to give to her husband. The money was for his vote, and he voted for Astell and Macaulay.

The inquiry will be resumed this (Monday) morning.



The Times, Tuesday, Mar. 1, 1853.

The committee at its sitting yesterday called, first

Joseph Dealtry, an elector, who stated that on the day of the nomination Haylock gave him a sovereign "to go on the spree," and that he also received sums of 2l. on different occasions from Taylor and Long. His evidence was of a confused and contradictory character, and he refused to state positively that the money which he had obtained had been given him for his vote.

Henry Mansfield, a fruiterer at Chesterton, near Cambridge, said that he had voted at the last election for Mr. Astell and Mr. Macaulay. On the day of the election Gilbert, a butcher, took him in his cart to the Butcher's Arms, telling him to go up stairs to a gentleman who would put things "all right." Witness went up accordingly into a small bedroom, where he saw the gentleman, who told him that another butcher, named Richardson, a friend of witness, had just been there and made it all right, and that he was to make haste and catch him. Witness did so, and overtook Richardson, with the landlord of the Butcher's Arms, Seabrook. They went to the Rose and Crown public-house, and thence to the poll, where he voted for Astell and Macaulay. Before he consented to vote, he asked Richardson if he had made it all right, and he said he had, and voted along with him. About a week after the election a middle-aged woman, wearing a black veil, called at his house and gave him an envelope, which he produced, enclosing a very clean new Bank of England note. He had not time to ask her what it was for, as she walked away at once, but he understood it was for his vote. On the Friday week after the election witness called on Mr. C. W. Naylor, of the Chronicle-office, having heard that other people were paid their expenses, and claimed compensation for loss of time and for coming into Cambridge to vote. Mr Naylor referred him to Mr. Peak, who was out, but whose clerk he saw. The clerk desired him to make out a bill, which he did, to the amount of 1l. 10s., and that he had been paid. Witness had previously pledged himself to vote for Mowatt and Adair.

George Richardson, a butcher at Chesterton, confirmed that portion of Mansfield's evidence which related to him, and stated besides, that he had not seen the candidates on either side, but was canvassed for Astell and Macaulay by Gilbert, the butcher, and Butterberry, keeper of a brothel, both of whom promised him money after the election. He would not take their word, but went to Long, at 2 o'clock on the day of the poll, at the Butchers' Arms. Long said to him, "Business is business; go and do the thing that's right, and I'll see it's right." Witness took his word, and recorded his vote for Astell and Macaulay. He had generally voted for the Liberal side, but the election was won at that time by their opponents, and he thought he might as well have 10l. as the rest. After the election, witness applied to Gilbert and Butterberry for money, and they said he should have it. One night he saw Long pass his house with two women, about 9 o'clock, and after passing, turn back again. Witness followed him, and one of the women, wearing a black veil, came up to him with an envelope, enclosing a 5l. note, and another 5l. wrapped in a piece of paper. She asked him where Mansfield lived, and witness offered to take his money to him, but she went back to consult Long, and then told him that she would go herself to Mansfield next morning. Two days after witness saw Dr. Knowles, and inquired to whom he should send in his bill for a little beer that he had given away. Dr. Knowles replied, "Don't make it too stiff, and take it to Mr. Naylor, at the Chronicle-office. Witness did so, the amount being 36s., and received 2l. in payment. He offered to give the change, but Naylor told him never to mind it. Since the petition had been talked of Gilbert told him that he would have to go away, and Mrs. and George Seabrook also, because a man named Lee had been "spouting of it all." Witness, however, replied that he would not leave his home for nobody.

John Hawkes, a cattle-dealer, also went to the Butcher's Arms, at 10 o'clock on the day of the poll, with a man named Wheaton, and in the little bedroom at the head of the stairs saw Long, who said to him, "Go and do right, and I'll do right." He voted, in consequence, for Astell and Macaulay, and on his return, when he stayed nearly the whole day, paying nothing for what he ate and drank. He saw Long in the Cattle-market on the Saturday after the election, and invited him to have a glass of ale. Long then gave him a little parcel, in which on opening it he found five sovereigns and a 5l. note.

Lee, a voter for the first time at the last election, described the negotiations which had taken place for his vote previous to the polling day, and which had ended unsatisfactorily to him as he would not promise. On that day, however, about 11 o'clock, he received a note from his brother, which induced him to go to Peak, the broker, a supporter of Astell and Macaulay. Peak told him that he would "make it all right," and desired him to walk backwards and forwards until he went and fetched the money. Witness saw him go to Astell and Macaulay's committee-rooms, and after being absent about five minutes, he returned, saying it was all right; that witness was to go to the Railway King public-house, and get some ale, and that he would come round to him there after he had made a call. Witness went, and Peak soon joined him, and paid for what he had. He then told witness that he had got some money, but that they were sure of winning the election, and that they could only give him 2l. or 3l. Witness objected, and the offer was raised to 5l., 7l., and 8l., the last of which he accepted. This was about 12 o'clock, when others were getting 10l., 12l., and 15l. Peak then gave him a 5l. note and two sovereigns, and it was agreed that he should take the rest out in furniture at his shop. As Peak said he was "rather duberous" about witness, the money was left in his brother's hands until witness had voted. He produced the receipt for the furniture bought with the balance of 1l., and stated that he had borrowed 6d., by which the things he received exceeded the 1l. in value, from a person named Stanley, a scalemaker.

Stanley corroborated Lee's evidence, both as to the loan of 6d. and the receipt.

The committee then adjourned.



The Times, Wednesday, Mar. 2, 1853.

Yesterday morning the committee met at 11 o'clock.

Mr. Serjeant Wrangham addressed the committee, and said he was going to make a proposition which, if adopted would save a great deal of time. The sitting members were willing to withdraw any further opposition to the petition, and to have the usual resolutions passed—namely, that the election was void, and that they, by their agents, were guilty of bribery. But they were most desirous, while they relinquished their seats, that they should have an opportunity of exculpating their own personal character. They could show that they were absolutely disconnected with any act of corruption whatever, and that they took every step that reasonable and cautious men, and men of integrity, would take to prevent the possibility of any such acts being practised. With the consent of the committee, therefore, and the learned counsel for the petitioners, he would put the sitting members into the box, in order that they might make their statement, which would exculpate them from even the shadow of suspicion that these acts of corruption were known to either of them.

Mr. James (for the petitioners) said, he certainly should withhold no consent on his part to the proposition of his learned friend, and it would be quite sufficient for his satisfaction if the sitting members declared that they were not guilty of any acts of this kind so far as they were concerned. He was, however, prepared to show to the committee that the most extensive bribery existed at Cambridge, and that above 100 people had been bribed at 10l. each, and he wished to bring evidence of this nature before them in order to ask them to report in such terms to the House as would make it issue a commission to inquire into corrupt practices at Cambridge.

The room was then cleared, and on the parties being admitted,

The Chairman announced that the committee were of opinion that the best course would be to examine the sitting members at the close of the case for the petitioners; and they suggested that the learned counsel (Mr. James) should confine himself to the most prominent cases of bribery, in order to show the system at Cambridge.

The following evidence was then adduced:—

John Sharman, tailor and beershop keeper, stated that he was an elector for the borough and used to be a member of the Conservative Mechanics Institution. It was eight years since he was a member. Mr. T. H. Naylor was the chairman. They used to meet at different public-houses. Witness canvassed Butcher, a tailor, to vote for Astell and Macaulay. Witness knew his politics were liberal. Sterne was a tailor. Witness spoke to him about Butcher's vote. Witness was anxious to get any vote. Nobody employed him to canvass for Astell and Macaulay. Witness told them that Butcher would vote for the Conservative party if he had money. Butcher had told him he would, and he wanted 10l. Witness told Naylor that he wanted 30l. for three votes—his own, his nephew's, a bird-stuffer and naturalist, and Butcher's. Witness mentioned to him also that he wanted a subscription for himself, as he was in distressed circumstances. Sterne said he would do what he could. Butcher and his nephew, Baker, and himself voted for Astell and Macaulay. About a fortnight after the election witness received a letter (produced) containing a 10l. note, with the Ely postmark on it. Witness did not know whether it was for his vote or not. He had never got one before or since. Butcher showed him a similar envelope, in which he had received 5l. After the election witness gave Baker 4l., which was given witness by Sterne. Austen had come down with Sterne. Witness understood it was for Baker's vote. He put down the money, and witness understood what it was for.

John Mills, a plasterer resident in Sun-street, Cambridge, was next called. He stated that he was a voter at the last election, and voted for Astell and Macaulay. Witness knew Samuel Long, a harness maker at Cambridge, and connected with elections. He was the man who was prosecuted and imprisoned for bribery at Cambridge in 1840. In an early part of the canvass Long told him he should like to speak to him about his brother, who was a voter. Long said, "I'll pay you well if your brother will vote, and I'll make it all right." Sterne came to him about 9 on the polling day and said, "If you will go up and vote you will have your expenses paid. Mr. Long will send you 10l. I have got a 'shay' all ready." Witness would not go up that day. Witness thought he might get "a little more," and therefore did no go at that time. At the election before (in 1843) he received 8l. for his vote from Long, and voted for Fitzroy Kelly. At another Long took him down to the Star and Garter and pitched a "dollop" of sovereigns on the table. There was a little window near, and 10l. was handed out to each. Witness got 10l. This was Forster and Kelly's election in 1845. Witness would not swear that Long gave him the money on that occasion, but there was a hand "through the window" which gave it to the people. At the last election it was notorious that 10l. was the price of a vote; that was the "general figure," people got more if they could. At the last election witness did not get anything because he stood out, but the 10l. was a temptation to him, as he was a poor man. Witness was not possessed of 1,000l., but he got a very good livelihood. He only set value on his vote as a means of getting money at that time. Witness voted for Macaulay and Astell.

The Chairman said that they were willing to hear the sitting members, according to their own request.

Mr. Macaulay, one of the sitting members, was then examined.—He stated that on the 11th March he was first communicated with about standing for the borough of Cambridge by Mr. Balls and Mr. Faucett. Mr. Macaulay at some length entered into the conversation which took place, from which it appeared that a meeting had been held in Cambridge, at which Mr. Astell (the other member) was present, and the meeting had decided to support Mr. Astell, and to offer to support Mr. Macaulay if he would come forward. They had appointed a committee at this meeting of which Mr. Balls was chairman, and had resolved that the total expense of the election to both the candidates should not exceed 1,200l., the committee undertaking to defray all over that sum. Witness told them that there was only one thing which prevented him from immediately acceding to their proposition, and that was that Cambridge had acquired a bad character for corrupt practices at elections. Witness mentioned some instances of this to Mr. Balls, and asked him whether the 1,200l. was to be the only sum expended, and that in an unexceptionable manner. Mr. Balls replied that he thought that sum was more than enough, and that it should be expended in a legal manner; that they, from the disgust they had felt at former practices at elections, had come forward and were determined to carry this one on pure principles. Mr. Balls arranged to have the superintendence of all money spent, in order that witness might feel perfectly secure. Witness told him that, in addition to every other consideration, his professional situation made him more sensible, perhaps, of the risk of incurring a questionable election. It was arranged that he should stand in conjunction with Mr. Astell, whom he was to meet, and arrange with in London for a public meeting at Cambridge. This was held, and they afterwards canvassed successfully. Shortly after his first interview with Mr. Balls, he and Mr. Astell paid 100l. each for the expenses of the election, and about a week before the election the remaining 1000l. Mr. Balls told him that he was very sorry to find that they had rather under-estimated the cost of the election, and said "We shall have some difficulty on 'whipping' a subscription among ourselves for it;" and witness said, "I hope you are not involving yourselves in any illegal expenses." Mr. Balls emphatically denied this; and witness mentioned the conversation to Mr. Astell, and afterwards told Mr. Balls that, if what he said was the case, they would subscribe 200l. each more. In September he received a letter from Mr. Balls, to say the expenses had exceeded the sum originally named, and he sent him 200l., and wrote to Mr. Astell to do the same. Witness had not the most distant idea that money was spent for illegal purposes at the late election, and, from his previous knowledge of the place he looked, perhaps, more closely than anyone else would have done; but he certainly formed an actual belief that there was no corruption at Cambridge at the last election.

In cross-examination witness explained how it was that he had not yet had the accounts rendered to him, and mentioned the names of the committee, of whom Mr. Balls was the chairman. With his knowledge nothing but the 1,600l. had been raised. He did not know that any of the committee subscribed.

Sir J. Shelley.—Have you ever had reason to suppose that the Carlton Club sent down any money for the election?

Mr. Macaulay.—Certainly not. Indeed, I have heard to the contrary.

Sir J. Shelley.—Did you believe the expense of chairing would be included in the 1,200l.?

Mr. Macaulay.—Yes, I believed it would.

Sir J. Shelley.—Now, you are a lawyer. I will ask you, do you consider chairing a legal expense?

Mr. Macaulay.—Why, as a lawyer, I cannot answer you, except on the usual terms. (Laughter.) I do not know of its being illegal.

Mr. Astell was then examined, and confirmed the statements made by Mr. Macaulay with reference to their election. He also stated that he had not the slightest idea that there would be any corrupt practices, or that the sum of money mentioned would be exceeded. He knew of no subscription, and had had no accounts rendered him of the election expenses.

Sir J. Shelley.—I will ask you the same question I put to Mr. Macaulay. Do you know of any subscriptions from any club in London for the Cambridge election? I believe you are a member of the Carlton?

Mr. Astell.—I am not aware of any, nor have I heard of any. I am a member of the Carlton, but I was never asked to subscribe a farthing for such purposes.

Mr. Hildyard.—Do you not know that every shilling spent by the Carlton Club is published, and accessible to Sir John Shelley or any other person?

Mr. Astell said he knew the club accounts were published.

Mr. James then address the committee, observing that though he exculpated the sitting members, yet that there was an organised system of corruption at Cambridge no one could doubt. There had been some indignation expressed about the question put by one of the members of the committee about the Carlton Club. Why, it was known that both the Carlton and the Reform Clubs gave money for these purposes, not out of the eight guineas a year which was the members' subscription, but out of a private subscription made up by the members for political purposes. This was as notorious as the sun at noonday.

Mr. Hildyard interrupted the learned counsel, saying, that the statement he was now making, he could tell him, was untrue, and he could not allow him to make it, knowing as a matter of fact that no sums were subscribed at the Carlton Club for the purposes of an election. What individuals might do in their individual character he (Mr. Hildyard) did not know, but he believed Mr. James was making a false statement when he said that the club, as a body, ever subscribed a shilling.

Sir J. Shelley understood Mr. James to say, not that it was the club, but members of it who subscribed. In putting the question he had done, it would have been just the same if the gentlemen examined had been members of the Reform Club. He put it because he considered it was high time that the House should protect itself against these political subscriptions.

Mr. James said, he was remarking, as he had a right to do, on an answer to a question put by the hon. baronet, and as he should, unless the committee intimated he was wrong. The subscription was not from the funds of the club, but made up by persons interested who were members. With reference to the courteous manner in which he had been told by the hon. member for Whitehaven that he had made a false statement——

Mr. Hildyard did not mean to say that the learned counsel made a false statement, but merely that he was stating a circumstance which he (Mr. Hildyard) knew was not the fact.

Mr. James then continued his address to the committee. He wished them to report that an extensive system of corruption was carried on at Cambridge, and to report the names of the parties concerned. He thought that, while they held up to public scorn and indignation the names of those who had been bribed, they would be shrinking from their duty if they did not also record in the annals of the House the names of those who attempted to corrupt them, in order that this system, which was a disgrace, and had been aptly characterised as a gangrene in our constituency, might be put an end to.

The room was then cleared, and when persons were re-admitted,

The Chairman announced that the committee had passed the following resolutions:—

"That Kenneth Macaulay, Esq., and John Harvey Astell, Esq., are not duly elected burgesses to serve in this present Parliament for the borough of Cambridge.

"That the last election for the said borough is a void election.

"That Kenneth Macaulay, Esq., and John Harvey Astell, Esq., were, by their agents, guilty of bribery at the said election.

"That it was proved to the committee that Charles Narrish was bribed by the payment of 10l., Joseph Dealtry with 6l. 10s., Henry Mansfield with 10l., George Richardson with 10l., John Sharman with 10l., Thomas Butcher with 5l., William Baker with 4l., John Hawker with 19l., and Thomas Lee with 7l. and 1l. in furniture.

"That Samuel Long, Joseph Sterne, William Taylor, William Peak, and William Gilbert were engaged in bribing at the last election; but that it was not proved that such bribery was committed with the knowledge or consent of the sitting members.

"That there is reason to believe that corrupt practices have extensively prevailed at the last election for the said borough of Cambridge."



Transcribed by Keith Edkins 2009. Original reports believed to be in the public domain due to their antiquity.

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