Political correspondence relating to Kingston-upon-Hull, 1678-1835
This study covers aspects of political life at Kingston-upon-Hull between 1678 and 1835, and is part history and part edition. The historical section is an essay on the character and course of Hull politics between these dates. The edition on which that essay is based, consists of a selection from the surviving correspondence. The resulting picture is fragmentary, but it does contribute to our understanding of Hull at that time. The years 1678 to 1835 were marked by a political stability at Hull established during the first ten years and challenged only during the concluding five. Until the mid 1830's local political power was held by a merchant-maritime oligarchy which in times of need called upon local magnates who served the town as High Stewards. The Crown had some influence at Hull, as it was a garrison town and port; but the town corporation, Trinity House, Dock Company, and a number of wealthy families, some of whom had reached gentry status, held the monopoly of political influence. The freeman electorate was large, and as elections approached, unregistered voters pressed the Bench for their franchise. Some attempt was made by the corporation to restrict this. The paying of polling money was almost inevitable, especially in the later eighteenth century, and wise candidates also contributed to local charities, clubs and racing plates. Members of Parliament kept the town fully informed of national political issues especially up to about 1710. From then until the late 1760's the members seem less assiduous in their correspondence, and also in their performance in the Commons. Between 1766 and 1820 the Rockingham Fitzwilliam interest returned many personal nominees, and the quality of many of the members rose. These Whig magnates did not, however, have a monopoly at Hull. Wilberforce stood as an independent and later several government, or perhaps Tory candidates, were returned. Closely contested and expensive elections were common after 1796. Threats from Jacobites and American privateers, with the possibility of a French invasion, caused local political squabbles, but the French danger may have helped prevent the spread of revolutionary societies and Radicalism was really born in Hull in 1818 with the Political Protestants. However it played some part in turning Hull Whig/Liberal opinion against Liverpool's Tory government. The 1830's, with the campaign for the Reform and Municipal Corporation Acts, led to a crystallisation of local political parties which culminated in the defeat of the Tory corporation in the municipal election of 1835. The activities of the radical Acland added to the political strife, but he overplayed his hand. The stability created by conflict in the 1680's was transformed by conflict in the 1830's. The intervening years thus have some unity.