Granville Leveson-Gower: Political Career and Influence

Image: South-West View of Lichfield. John Jackson, History of the City and Cathedral of Lichfield (London, 1805)

Image from: Local Studies and History, Birmingham Central Library

In the 18th century the landed aristocracy formed the ruling class in England.  They and their families filled the important offices of state (and some not so important but lucrative ones called sinecures.)  They served as MPs, Lord Lieutenants and Justices of the Peace.

The young Granville Leveson-Gower started his political career as an MP for Bishops Castle in Shropshire (1744-1747).  As Viscount Trentham he then switched to a Westminster seat (1747-1754) before becoming MP for Lichfield in 1754.  Electioneering at the time involved much treating and bribery.  It has been estimated the family spent £30,000 on the elections of 1747 and 1749.

An extreme example of the way in which elections were carried at that time out is illustrated by the 1749 campaign.  Viscount Trentham was opposed by Sir George Vandeput.  When Vandeput lost he petitioned Parliament who enquired into the conduct of the election.  They found his chief agent, Alexander Murray

 attended by a mob did, before the return was made, come to the house of Mr Baldwin, the Deputy High Bailiff  of the said city, and then and there declared in a menacing and insulting manner, that he and a thousand men had sworn that the High Bailiff should make his return in the middle of Covent Garden  and not in the portico….and that the said Alexander Murray, immediately after the return was made, at the head of a mob who appeared to be on the part of Sir George Vandeput, did then utter words exciting and inflaming the said multitude to assault and murder the returning officer…saying’ Will nobody knock the dog down?  Will nobody kill the dog?’ Or words to that effect 

Murray was sent to Newgate goal.


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