Jollie's Cumberland Guide & Directory 1811

  > POLITICAL HISTORY OF CARLISLE.

We are aware that in treating of a subject so extremely tender as politics we incur a considerable portion of responsibility: but by merely mentioning facts, and this with the strictest observance of truth, the edge of the weapon may be blunted, if not entirely destroyed.

In 1761, a dissolution of Parliament took place. For several preceding years the city had been represented by two General Officers, one of whom presided as Governor: - it was at this time that a northern Baronet opened his campaign of opposition. Notwithstanding that the generality of the freemen were dissatisfied with their members, one of them and a Hon. Mr. Vane, from the House of Raby, were nominated as candidates. From the active part taken by Sir James Lowther in this business, by some of the old freemen the disinterestedness of the Baronet was called in question, and their support was offered to any neighbouring gentleman. Their choice was finally fixed upon Henry Curwen, Esq. of Workington Hall, who was returned as representative of the city, its conjunction with Mr. Vane, notwithstanding the exertions of Sir James and the corporation. In the year 1763, a considerable degree of party spirit was excited amongst the members of the corporate body by the proposition of the offer of an alderman's gown to Sir James Lowther. This proposal was strongly opposed, chiefly on the grounds of its tending to throw into the hands of an ambitious individual a predominant influence: notwithstanding these remonstrances, Sir James was elected a member of that body. Some time after this (in the year 1765 we believe) a strong contest took place for the honour of the mayorality of Carlisle between Sir James and Henry Aglionby, Esq. In this contest, in which the former succeeded, partly through the influence of a Noble Duke, the body corporate was pretty equally divided, and from this śra sprang up the distinction of the blue and yellow party.

No sooner did Sir James begin to wield the wand of office, than the old regime of the corporation was changed. The bailiffs of the city, who had hitherto been chosen from the body corporate, were now elected from the freemen at large - three of the aldermen, viz. Messrs. Thomas and Joseph Coulthard and Mr. Yeates, were immediately disfranchised: Mr. Davidson resigned his alderman's gown, and Mr. Norman his office of councilman, soon after. During the Baronet's mayorality, it is but justice to state, that a rigorous examination took place into the public expenditure: at the same time impartiality compels us to notice that no person ever obtained a share of the good things in the gift of the corporation, who had ever proved inimical to the interest of the then mayor.

From this time party affairs began to run high. The two opponents, viz. His Grace the Duke of Portland and Sir James, exerted all their interest to secure seats in Parliament for each of their nomination, against the next general election: it is here necessary to remark, that his Grace had then large possessions in the neighbourhood of the city, and had espoused the cause of the defeated party in the corporation, commonly called the blue party. - Prior to the year 1766, the Duke had appeared to act only by his agents:- he now entered the lists propria persona; war was openly declared, and the once peaceable city of Carlisle, torn by intestine divisions, became the scene of nocturnal riot and dissipation. As the eve of action approached, the two combatants redoubled their efforts: the baleful spirit of party eradicated every social affection: the Circean cup of debauchery transformed those who called themselves men into brutes; in this state of moral degradation money seemed to have lost its former value, as the sum of a thousand pounds was considered a trifle for the expence of a single night. - In the blue interest, Lord Edward Bentink and a Mr. G. Musgrave were the candidates; while Sir James introduced two North Britons1, Mr. Johnston and Mr. Elliot; but after a sharp contest of five days, the former was returned. - This occurred in 1768.*

Notwithstanding this defeat, Sir James still endeavoured not only to preserve but to encrease his influence. He visited the city twice or thrice a year, and by his disposal of places, &c. continued to attach many persons to his interest.

The next great śra in the politics of Carlisle was the memorable contest in 1790 which, as affecting the freedom of election, was regarded with interest by the kingdom in general. During the progress of the election, the corporation, on the suggestion of the then Lord Lonsdale, (formerly Sir James Lowther) introduced into the corporation books the names of 1400 individuals, who, they contended, were thenceforward admitted to all the rights and privileges of freemen; and the candidates in the yellow interest, by means of this alleged majority, were returned. The business was spiritedly taken up by J. C. Curwen, Esq. and it was finally decided before a Committee of the House of Commons, that the new-made constituents, or Mushrooms, as they were called, had no right to exercise the elective franchise. J. C. Curwen, Esq. and Wilson Bradyll, Esq. were declared duly elected.

Until the death of the Earl of Lonsdale in 1802, the state of politics remained nearly the same as they had for many years previously. At this period, however, a partial compromise took place between the parties; notwithstanding, they are yet distinct, and not devoid of jealousy toward each other.

We must not here omit to mention, and to the honour of the place be it recorded, that notwithstanding the unhappy ferment of party, - whenever any thing of a national or patriotic object is brought forward, all petty quarrels are forgotten, and there is but one jealousy, viz. who shall most conduce to the encouragement of any patriotic or worthy object.

* The money expended in the contest is said to have been not less than £100,000.

 

Jollie's Cumberland Guide & Directory 1811

 

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Notes

1. i.e . Scots.


19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman