For three quarters of a century up to 1714 England was a byword for political instability. Civil War had replaced a monarchy with a republic which in turn was replaced by military rule. The swings in fortune of Parliament were matched by similar swings in fortune of the established Church. The monarchy had been restored only to be expelled and its hereditary rights repudiated by a parliament who then brought in a Dutch King, despite having been at war with that country for the previous 20 years. Yet certain legislation at this time was to have a far-reaching economic impact. On this uncertain base the Declaration of Rights established a new relationship between monarch and Parliament.
After the introduction of the Hanoverian monarchy, government entered a long phase of tripartite interdependency – the King controlled the Lords, the Lords controlled the Commons and the Commons controlled the King’s finances. The Hanoverian monarchy relied on the Whigs and the Whigs had to maintain a majority in Parliament that was not true of the country as a whole, but was made possible by the Tory party having being split by its Jacobean taint. The three estates operated through influence, before that became synonymous with corruption, and the pocket boroughs ensured that harmony: There was no royal veto and no government ever lost an election – until 1782.
.Having been made Lord Haversham (Lord of the Admiralty) Sir John Thompson had sold Upper Gatton to a fellow influential Whig, Paul Docminique in 1704. The same year, Thomas Turgis had died (“leaving an estate worth over £100,000”) and Gatton had passed to his 19 year old relative William Newland, another City-based Tory. Accordingly, throughout this 40 year period of parliamentary harmony, a Docminique and a Newland, Whig and Tory, shared Gatton through eight parliaments and three reigns. Apart from union with Scotland in 1707, a key piece of legislation was the 1716 Septennial Act which increased the value of a parliamentary seat since re-elections were thenceforth only required every seven years. This can be judged by Samuel Pepys spending £8-6/8d for a Harwich seat in 1689, whereas in 1727 the same seat cost the Earl of Egmont £900. The public were not ignorant of this state of affairs:
In 1724 Daniel Defoe wrote: “Here are two miserable borough towns too, which nevertheless send each of them two members to Parliament, to wit, Gatton under the side of the hill, almost at Rygate; and Bletchingly, more eastward on the same cross-road, which we were upon before: In the first of these Sir John Thomson, (afterwards Lord Haversham) having purchas'd the manor, was always elected; as Mr. Paul Docminique, an Italian merchant, has been since: The last was for many years the estate of Sir Robert Clayton, a known citizen and benefactor to the city of London, whose posterity still enjoy it: And at either town the purchasers seem to buy the election with the property. “
Paul Docminique was not Italian but he was an eminent merchant of Huguenot origin. He was in his 60s when he acquired Gatton and, once the Whigs had secured the royal favour, in 1714 he became one of the eight members of the Board of Trade & Plantations, the royal commission that governed the entire relationship between Britain and its colonies. He was 71 at the time. It was this tiny oligarchy whose control of the colonies was to be one of the constitutional issues that gave rise to American independence. Long before then, however, in 1735, Paul Docminique died aged 92. He had been a Member of Parliament for 30 years and was one of the few left to pre-date the Union. Three years later, his fellow member for Gatton, William Newland died at 53, to be succeeded by his brother George, an academic.
As Secretary of State the Duke of Newcastle made government influence an art form from 1724 for next 40 years. He made grants out of the Secret Service fund and established £1,500 as the norm for the nomination rights for pocket boroughs. Accordingly contested elections decreased. In 1715 over 60 seats where the electorate was less than 400 had been contested; in 1761, when Pitt resigned, there were only 15 such seats contested. The split ownership of Gatton made it less of an investment but still an investment:
Paul Humphrey was cousin & heir to Upper Gatton and was known as “a very low odd man”. When George Newland died, Humphrey was quick to offer the other Gatton seat to the highest bidder. The winner was Sir Charles Knowles, but the 21 voting tenants didn’t make it easy for Humphrey’s nominee, as he only won by a single vote. Knowles was c-in-c of the Jamaica squadron but was under court martial at the time for failing to engage the Spanish Havana squadron. The cost of his election was worth it: He survived the court martial, married a much younger Maria de Bouget and secured the lucrative post of Governor of Jamaica. Influence was power. Given his overall service record, though, it was not undeserved, and he must rank as one of the more impressive members for Gatton, however brief his tenure.
Paul Humphrey had used his inheritance to get a good fee for both Gatton seats. But once Newland’s heirs sold Gatton to James Colebrooke, of a family banking firm in the City, for £23,000 in 1751, he only controlled one seat and that went to a radical Thomas Brand, fresh back from the Grand tour of Europe with Thomas Hollis.