There was a peculiar excellence in the Cornish boroughs, an elaborate and quaint machinery for making Members of Parliament, in which irrelevancy reached its acme. Twenty-one boroughs returned 42 Members; their total electorate was less than 1400; and those enfranchised did not think of politics while engaged in election business. As an archaic ritual and a pursuit of pleasure and profit, Cornish borough elections have the charm inherent in human actions when sincere; and there was no humbug about the way in which Cornish boroughs chose their representatives. Thomas Pitt, an old experienced hand, wrote in October 1740: ‘… there are few [Cornish] boroughs where the common sort of people do not think they have as much right to sell themselves and their votes, as they have to sell their corn and their cattle’.1


General Election Eighteenth Century East India Company Post Ship Return Officer 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lewis Namier

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