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The guardians of that city evinced their gratitude by a watchful care of his political interests. Every elector in the constituency, with the exception of half a dozen unattached burgesses, was a member of one among the two-and-thirty guilds; and the officers of the Corporation were very particular in seeing that any adherent of the Blacketts should be enrolled as a freeman without being put to unnecessary expense or trouble. On Sir Walter's death it was taken for granted that his nephew, Sir John Trevelyan, who held his uncle's opinions, and who had succeeded to his landed estate, would occupy his seat in Parliament as a matter of course; but the electoral independence of Newcastle found an unexpected and a curious champion. Andrew Robinson Stoney was a bankrupt Irish lieutenant in a marching regiment, who had already wedded and buried a Tyneside heiress, after wasting her substance and breaking her heart. In January 1777, by means of a plot to which he contrived to give the appearance of a sordid romance, -he succeeded in marrying the widow of Lord Strathmore; who, as Miss Bowes, had inherited a very large fortune, and a country house some little way from Newcastle, on the Durham bank of the river. Mr. Stoney took his wife's family name, and, indeed, everything else of hers on which he could lay his hand by law, or force, or fraud. Thack. eray, in depicting Barry Lyndon, drew from Stoney Bowes, and flattered him; but Lady Lyndon, (and a wonderful portrait it is, was the Countess of Strathmore
The fight was keen, the canvass importunate, and the coercion unmerciful. Very much was talked and printed, on the one side, concerning the debt which Newcastle owed to the Blacketts; and, on the other, about the disgrace of converting a great city into a family borough. Sir John was abused as an anti-Wilkite, a Ministerial satellite, and a heavy-headed Somersetshire foxhunter ; nor had the Tories any difficulty in getting something to say against Stoney Bowes, than whom a more consummate villain never went through this world unhorse
whipped, and left it unhung. So far, however, as can be gathered from the literature of the election, (and a great mass of it has been preserved,) no allusions were made to the American controversy by partisans of the Government, and not very many by its adversaries; but those few were strong and uncompromising. Lord North's candidate kept all mention of the war studiously in the background. When asked about his views and principles, he would reply that he was a plain country. gentleman who proposed to reside much in Northumberland if the electors of Newcastle returned him to Parliament. No single circumstance was of more profit to Mr. Stoney Bowes than an attempt which had been recently made to represent Newcastle as an anti-American community. The proclamation of hostilities, in the preceding September, had been heard by the populace of that city amid dead silence; and there soon followed an open meeting of free burgesses, twelve hundred of whom signed a petition against the war, and entrusted it for presentation to no less eminent a Whig than Sir George Savile. Thereupon Sir Walter Blackett and Sir Matthew White Ridley, the sitting members, had procured an Address to the King, urging the subjugation of the colonies. The document was backed by fewer than two hundred names; - and not many of those signatures, (so the opponents of the Government averred,) would have commanded the confidence of a prudent bill-broker if affixed to mercantile paper.
2 Each party polled alternately in tallies of twelve, day by day, and week after week; during all which time the entire staff of the Corporation, high and low, were busy in securing votes for the Government interest. Quiet people complained that Mace-bearers, Marshals, Sergeants, Gaolers, and even Recorders, attacked them in
1 The Lives of Andrew Robinson Bowes and the Countess of Strathmore, by Jesse Foot, Surgeon; London, 1810,; passim.
John Sykes's Local Records ; Vol. I., pages 303, 304. Several Whig electioneering broadsides, relating to “The Newcastle smuggled Address, with the names of the gentlemen who signed it,” are among the Blackett papers at Wallington.
the streets, and blockaded them in their houses, more like debtors and felons than Englishmen and freemen. Some of the Guilds swarmed with paupers; and every pauper voted for Sir John Trevelyan. As ministerial candidate, he was supported by all the sixty-five Customhouse officers. No seafaring man, under the rank of mate, dared present himself at the polling-booth unless he had obtained, from the naval officer of the port, a guarantee that he should not be impressed while the election lasted. The Admiralty was then governed by a First Lord who treated our Naval Service as if it were an organisation designed, and maintained, for the discomfiture of his own political opponents; and a mariner, who had kept himself hitherto out of the clutches of the press-gang, would think twice before he marched into the jaws of the trap by applying to one of Lord Sandwich's underlings for a protection which would enable him to give a vote against the Government.1
All the advantages possessed by Lord North's candidate only gave point to the discovery that Lord North's Ministry had lost ground since the war broke out. October 1774 Sir Walter Blackett and Sir Matthew White Ridley, though opposed by two local gentlemen of rank, birth, and reputation, - had been returned by a majority of two to one. In March 1777 Sir John Trevelyan just managed to defeat the least respectable individual who, (as far as any authoritative record goes,) ever aspired to sit in Parliament, by less than a hundred votes on a poll of considerably more than two thousand.2
1 The certificate recorded the applicant's age, height, complexion, and dress; and then it went on to state ihat he had leave to attend the Election at Newcastle, (of which town he was a Freeman,) from the twentythird of February 1777 to the third of March following; during which period he was not “to be molested or impressed.” He did not need to be officially informed that his week on shore would be a time well worth living, and would cost him nothing. 2 The 1774 poll, as given in the Blackett MSS., stood thus : Sir Walter Blackett, Bart., .
1432 Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart.,
1411 The Hon. C. T. Phipps,
795 Mr. William Delaval,
The independent electors of Newcastle-on-Tyne, (so a London newspaper triumphantly argued,) wounded in their conscience by the events which were passing in America, had very nearly snatched a miraculous victory, “ in despite of the massy weight of a Corporation enjoying a revenue of sixteen thousand pounds a year, together with the interests of every peer, and every opulent landholder, in the neighbourhood.” The new member, - who had plenty of good sense, though he was no great speaker, — tacitly formed his own opinion about the chances of a second appeal to the constituency which he had so narrowly won. When the next general election came, Sir John stood, and was chosen, for Somersetshire. Stoney Bowes became member for Newcastle; and at such times as he happened to be more afraid of meeting his Northern, than his Southern, creditors, he went up to London, and voted against the war.
That war was marked by a feature unique in English history. Not a few officers of every grade, who were for the most part distinguished by valour and ability, flatly refused to serve against the colonists; and their
In 1777 Sir John Trevelyan got 1163 votes, to 1068 which were polled for Mr. Stoney Bowes.
1 Stoney Bowes made an ingenious use, during the contest, of his opponent's connection with the South of England. “We hear that, in case of Sir John Trevelyan's success in the present election, he has prepared cards of invitation to all free burgesses in his interest, to partake of an entertainment at his seat in Somersetshire, when the days are long, and the roads fit for travelling ; and that Mr. Bowes has ordered 10 oxen, 30 sheep, and OCEANS of Newcastle Ale to be ready at his seat at Gibside, immediately after the election, where open house will be kept for some time on account of his late happy nuptials.”
Three thousand five hundred copies of that handbill were printed and distributed ; for the Newcastle election was conducted by both parties with small regard to the Grenville Act. That celebrated law, as is the tendency with all ordinances against bribery, was already administered in a less Draconic spirit than at first. It came out on petition that any elector, who so chose, was hired as a messenger for Sir John Trevelyan. The witnesses, however, deposed that the payment which they received had no effect upon their action at the polls, “ for their votes and interests had always been with that family; " and the Committee accepted the explanation as satisfactory.
scruples were respected by their countrymen in general, and by the King and his ministers as well. An example was set in the highest quarters. The sailor and the soldier who stood first in the public esteem were Augustus Keppel, Vice Admiral of the White, and Lieutenant General Sir Jeffrey Amherst. Keppel made it known that he was ready as ever to serve against a European enemy, but that, although professional employment was the dearest object of his life, he would not accept it "in the line of America.” After that announcement was made, and to some degree on account of it, he enjoyed a great, and indeed an extravagant, popularity among all ranks of the Navy; and, when a European war broke out, he was promoted, and placed in command of the Channel Fleet. Amherst had absolutely declined to sail for New England in order to lead troops in the field. He withstood the expostulations and entreaties of his Sovereign, who in a personal interview, (as Dr. Johnson truly testified,') was as fine a gentleman as the world could see; and who never was more persuasive and impressive than when condescending to request one of his subjects to undertake a public duty as a private favour to himself. The circumstance was not remembered to Amherst's disadvantage. He was retained as Commander-in-Chief of the forces; within the ensuing five years he became a peer, the Colonel of a regiment of Household Cavalry, and a full General in the army; and he died a Field-Marshal.
Amherst, although determined not to fight against the colonists, who had fought so well under him, was a political friend of the existing Administration; and, in the main, a supporter of their colonial policy. His course of action naturally enough commended itself to military men who were opposed to the Government, and who believed that the American question had been grievously mismanaged. Their views obtained expression in a statement made by a brother-soldier, whom of all others
1 Johnson's account of his conversation with George the Third in February 1767.