Brett Volume 3: Chapter XXXII - Hastings 1844

From Historical Hastings

Transcriber’s note

Chapter XXXII - Hastings 1844

Meeting at Hastings in support of the Tenterden, Rye, and Hastings railway, in opposition to the St.Leonards meeting, which favoured the BRIGHTON, Lewes and Hastings railway
Resignation of Sir Joseph Planta
Musgrave Brisco and Robert Ross Rowan Moore competing .candidates for the vacant seat
Nomination speeches
Election of Brisco, followed by a grand procession
The "Golden Roll" emended and annotated
Municipal elections
Mr. Moore again at Hastings, with Mr. Richard Cobden.

[ 275 ]

The two Towns in Opposition over the Proposed Railway - Parliamentary Election

The public meeting at St. Leonards on the 20th of February having decided to favour the Brighton, Lewes and Hastings Railway in preference to the Tenterden, Rye and Hastings route, a second public meeting was held (this time at Hastings), at which the Mayor (Dr. MacCabe) presided. Ex}}cuses for non-attendance were read from the Borough Members (Planta and Hollond), the first on the score of illness, and the second through “inability.” These gentlemen had been previously requested by the St. Leonards Commissioners (of which Board they had both been members, and one still held office) to support in Parliament the Bill for the Brighton line. They therefore knew of the rivalry of the two towns; and they also knew of the Duke of Wellington’s desire, for military eventualities, to have railways round the coasts. In not attending the Hastings meetings the Borough Members doubtless thought discretion the better part of valor. The Mayor having expressed his disappointment, Mr. North moved and Mr. Steines seconded,

“That a railway communication between London and Hastings is desirable, and likely to prove highly advantageous to the borough and its neighborhood.”

This being carried. Mr. Fearon said he represented the “Hastings, Rye and Tenterden Railway,” and also the Board of Directors of the South-Eastern Company, of which latter board there were four members present; namely, Major-Gen. Hodgson, Mr. Hankie, Mr. Lewis Cubitt and Mr. Stewart. They were, he said, going to take the line in their own hands, and were determined to back it with all their strength, Mr. Lucas-Shadwell then moved, and Mr. Ginner seconded,

“That this meeting having had under consideration the two lines of railway projected between London and Hastings, and now before Parliament, the one having its terminus in the parish of St. Mary-in-the-Castle, and the other in St. Leonards, of opinion that the Hastings, Rye and Tenterden Railway, as being the nearest to London and passing through the most populous district, is the best adapted to meet our interests“

It was moved by Mr. Langham, and seconded by Mr. Phillips,

“ That this meeting pledges itself to support the Hastings, Rye and Tenterden Railway, as opposed to the Brighton, Lewes and Hastings line, by all the means in its power.“

Then commenced the real tug of war. In the densely crowded hall, there were persons from the western part of the borough who had no objection to a railway communication with Hastings in addition to the one projected to St. Leonards. Some of them, indeed, rejoiced in the prospect of having two lines instead of one coming to different parts of the borough; but when Mr. Langham’s strongly-worded motion was made, “as against,” &c., signs and expressions of dissent were used by those who were present from the districts within and without, the St. Leonards Archway. They were told, however, by Mr. Langham that they had no locus standi, for although living in the borough, they were out of the township of Hastings, and were not of those who signed the requisition for the meeting.

This ruling was practically remembered, some years later, in retaliation, when a forcible but unsuccessful attempt was made to bring a portion of the said district under the designation "Hastings".

In consequence of serious illness, Sir Joseph Planta virtually resigned his seat in Parliament by accepting the Chiltern Hundreds, and as shown in the preceding chapter, Robert Ross Rowan Moore, Esq., and Musgrave Brisco, Esq., were candidates for the vacant seat.

The former gentleman addressed large and enthusiastic meetings in the Pelham Arcade every evening for an entire week, assisted on one occasion by Mr, John Bright, while the latter candidate held meetings at the Swan Hotel, at which the principal speakers were Dr. Sleigh, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Feavor and Mr. T. B. Baker. On the 27th of March the nomination took place on a specially-erected hustings on the Priory Brook estate, afterwards the Recreation Ground, Mr. Brisco’s carriage was drawn by four greys, preceded by two outriders, and all gorgeously decorated with orange and white satin and silk Mr. Moore and his party displaved no colours, they being determined to make an innovation in the respect in electioneering proceedings.

There was a third candidate in the person of Dr. Sleigh, but his nomination was regarded as a mere feint. Dr. MacCabe, as the then Mayor of Hastings, was the returning officer, and in commencing the proceedings at the hustings, he expressed his wish to the assembled throng that, as they had that day amongst them several strangers from a distance, the people of Hastings would set an example by their respectful and orderly conduct.

Major Jeffries, of St. Leonards, in proposing Mr. Brisco, alluded to the long residence of that gentleman, and enlarged upon the advantages of having a wealthy and charitable resident to represent them. in Parliament.

Mr. Francis Smith, banker, of Hastings, seconded the nomination, and spoke of Mr Brisco as a gentleman possessing an unimpeachable private character, large estates and great benevolence.

Mr. B. Smith, M.P. for Norwich, and a frequent resident at Hastings, proposed Mr. Robert Ross Rowan Moore as a candidate who came not amongst’ them with the recommendation of large landed estates and for themselves he (Mr. S.) might say they were not there to elect a man for his property or his private charity, but one who would take a comprehensive view of the various circumstances affecting the interests of the country. They wanted a man of powerful intellect, and one who would make a vigorous search for those measures which would tend: to the happiness of all; one who, with the grasp of: a commanding mind, would point out where aid was most required, and from what sources prosperity” could be best extracted. The population of England was about 27 millions; and did Mr. Brisco propose to support this vast number by his estates and benevolence, of which so much had been said? Would he give them all a little piece of land in humble imitation of the Irish system? Mr. Brisco began life as a Tory; in 1835 he called himself a Liberal and a Reformer, and expressed his indignation at any imputation to the contrary. Now, however, in his printed address, Mr. Brisco describes himself as a Conservative, and he (Mr, Smith) would like to know what that gentleman's polities really were.

Mr. J. D. Thwaites, in seconding the nomination of Mr. Moore, contended that their duty was to elect. a representative not for his landed estates and his mansions, but to use the privileges conferred upon them by the Reform Bill in their widest and truest sense.

Mr. Anthony Harvey, in proposing Dr. Sleigh [as a pseudo candidate], could not obtain a hearing, the same difficulty being experienced by Mr. Hugh Penfold, who seconded Dr. Sleigh’s nomination.

Mr. Brisco, in a speech not tedious for its length, said he stood there in consequence of a numerously signed requisition. His sentiments were too well known to require explanation, but he would support Her Majesty’s Government, and would exert himself to advance the prosperity of Hastings. He was sure that the Corn-laws were proper, and that if protection were not afforded to agriculture the revenue must be ruined. Allowing that he was once a moderate Reformer, the times had since changed, the Moderate-reformer being not what the Anticorn-law-league Radical was now.

Mr. Moore addressed the electors at great length, and with an eloquence that rivetted the attention of friends and foes alike. In that long, elocutional, statistical, and thoroughly argumentative speech, the Liberal candidate combatted the idea that a man was to be sent to Parliament merely because he was benevolent and hospitable. As a stranger he himself had no local interest but that which the cause he pleaded gave him. He asked for their suffrages in favor(sic) of Free Trade, the arguments in support of which he had, night after night, laid before crowded audiences. The decline of that country might safely be foretold whose people trusted in protection afforded by restrictive laws. There were 10,000,000 of people in these islands who subsisted on oatmeal and potatoes. He sought to raise those people to a better position, and he deemed it possible to do it by admitting wheat from Europe and America without taking a single customer from the British farmer.

He would pay for it with the produce of labor(sic), and thus cause a greater demand for labor(sic), and consequently an increase in the rate of wages. The speaker then explained how that was to be done,and although several attempts were made to break the force of his arguments, he dexterously parried the assaults of his opponents and turned their objections to his advantage. He said he rather liked the impatience which they occasionally exhibited, for although he was a young man, he was an old debater, and it would be impossible to turn him from his arguments or to put him out of temper. Referring to Dr. Sleigh’s candidature, he said he would put it to Mr. Brisco as a man of honour, whether it was creditabie to put forth a candidate who was not intended to go to the poll. He (Mr. Moore) had been a week among them, and they would know whether he had not conducted the contest in the fairest manner. He came as a [ 276 ]stranger, but he should have the satisfaction of leaving them well informed on the principles he advocated. He was also confident that the time would come when even his opponents would wish they had had a share in the great work of emancipating British industry. [On the eve of a more recent election, the late Mr. Lucas-Shadwell — a thorough Conservative and a good man — when asked by a Liberal elector at a public meeting, “ How about Free Trade?” replied, ”Well, my friend, I hope we are all Free-traders now!”] Mr. Moore concluded his address with saying that he longed for the time to come when there would be free-trade with all the world.

Dr. Sleigh attempted to address the meeting, but the hisses and groans were so deafening that he was obliged to desist.

Mr. Brisco Elected - The ”Golden Roll” - Municipal Election

The election took place on the following day, March 28, and at the time for closing the poll it was known that Mr. Brisco had been elected by a majority of about three to one. A band, with banners, was sent round the borough to announce the fact, and the faces of the Conservatives beamed with joy at the result, On the third day a party of 60 or 79 horsemen went to Coghurst to escort the successful candidate to hear the declaration of the poll. At the appointed time these entered the town, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Brisco in their handsome carriage drawn by four greys, richly comparisoned, and preceded by two outriders. When at the hustings, the numbers given out were

For Mr. Brisco, 513

For Mr. Moore, 174 — Majority 339.

In Mr. Moore's parting address, that gentleman thanked those 174 honest men who, without fee or reward, had voted on the ground of principle alone. He left them, he said, with the proud satisfaction of having laid the foundation of Free Trade in Hastings — a foundation that would never be overthrown. He came with no expectation of winning the election, but to plant the standard of unrestricted commerce and purity of elections. They had only to be active, with confidence in the future, and they would then win back the borough.

Mr. Brisco’s magnificent cavalcade and numerous retinue then proceeded round the borough in triumphal procession, accompanied by two bands, in one of which the present writer was a performer. It was not the only time that the services of the St, Leonards Band (to which Mr. Brisco subscribed two guineas per year) were specially retained for Mr. Brisco’s public demonstrations, although it was well known to his party that the principal member o that band invariably voted against him. On the occasion here alluded to, the said bandsman so far opposed the political professions of his occasional and generous employer as to write and set to music 3 song with the title of “ Free-trade Prospects,” in which was set forth some of the teachings of Mr. Brisco’s rival. Just as sturdily independent was the said bandsman on a later occasion when he declined to accede to the request of an agent of the Liberal party for the voting portion of his band to join certain members of a defunct band, to perform during an election, and when, after engaging with Mr. Brisco’s agent for the whole of his band, he voted against Mr. Brisco, notwithstanding that he was wearing Mr. Brisco’s colours at the time. The independent attitude — and I wish it were less exceptional — taken together with what has been before stated, and with more important revelations that are to follow, will prove, by-and-by, to be a sufficient justification for the indifference one feels at being judged “a bad Liberal and a worse Tory.”

Ere I have done with the election of 1844, it behoves me to say that the names of those electors who voted for Mr. Moore on a forlorn hope, but with a purpose of publicly demonstrating their belief in Freetrade principles, were afterwards printed in gold letters on enamelled paper, and a copy sent to each man to be kept, if he so willed it, as a souvenir. The one that was in my own possession has long since disappeared, but a copy has been lent to me by a neighbour, from which I take the following names; omitting, however, the addresses, which after such a lapse of time might not much lead to identification, but adding the trades or professions (so far as I know them) as a better indication of personality. I may premise — as showing the huge gaps which Death makes in our ranks during a period of forty years —that out of the 174 persons whose names appear in the list, only 25 or 26 were alive in 1883. I may also remark that in the original “Roll” there were several inaccuracies, such as Tupper for Tuppen, Small for Smale, Coot for Coote, Tydem for Tydeman, 28 George street for 18 George street, April 5th for March 28th, etc. Mr. John Jolly was, I believe, the man who prepared the list for the printer, and it was regretted at the time that greater accuracy was not secured, especially with regard to the date of the election. The list here given is with emendations.

Edward Alderton, accountant; Walter Adams, rate-collector; Samuel Avery; John Akehurst 5 John Austin, builder; Nelson Andrews, draper 3 Joseph Avery, carpenter; William Birch, innkeeper; Joseph Bannister, election-agent; John Burgess, ironmonger; Thomas Bourne, carpenter; John Roger Bromley, grocer; Jeremiah Brook, gunsmith; William Bourner, pawnbroker; Thomas Brooker, Joseph Beal, stonemason; Thomas Bissenden, lapidary; William Barham, painter; Walter Beattie, draper; John Burgess, bricklayer; Thomas B. Brett, draper and stationer; Thos. Burgess, builder; Thomas Fautley Bossom, carpenter; George Carly, baker; Geo, Carpenter, mace-bearer; Elias Coussens, tailor; Thomas Crossley; John Cox, shoemaker; Alfred Chatfield, hairdresser; Robt. Cull, tailor; Thomas Coussens; James Coe, stonemason; William Collins, whitesmith; William Crooks, sailmaker; Joseph Cooper, librarian; Walter Carey; Thomas Crowhurst; Richard E. Chandler, innkeeper; Edward Coote, labourer; George Dearing; James Dowsett, shoemaker, William Diplock, librarian; William Davis, minister; Robert Dunk, grocer; George Duke, solicitor; Thomas Edwards, shoemaker; James Emary, jun., hotel-keeper; Geo. English, blacksmith; John Foster; Thomas Foord, Cooper: William Galop; fisherman; John Griffin, painter; Will Ginner, merchant; John Gurr, fish seller; Thos. Gallop; John Hadden, shop-keeper; John Hide; Mark Household, basket-maker; Geo, Hide, painter; William Hallaway; Stephen Harris, basket-maker; Henry Harris, tailor; Wm Huggett, blacksmith; John Hull, tailor; William Harman, shop-keeper; John Howell, builder; John Howe, coach-maker; Robert Hazle, tailor; Geo. Hayter, labourer; James Ives, tailor; Chas. John Jeudwine, grocer; Joseph Judge, broker; George Jackson, retired draper; Joseph Job, watchmaker; Richard Jenner, shoemaker 3 John Jolly, retired grocer; Matthew Kelland, retired draper; William King; William Knight, late shoemaker; William Love, brewer; John Lott, hatter; Charles Moore, cooper; John Hornby Maw, the next year’s mayor; Wm. Mace, shoemaker; Henry Moore, tobacconist; John Mannington, retired ironmonger; Thomas Mann, carver and gilder; William Mason, chemist; James. Mann, beerhouse-keeper; Richard Milton, shoemaker; John Benjamin Moon, sen. and jun., jewellers and fancy-goods dealers; Thomas Mitchell, carpenter; John Murdock, shoemaker; Edward Mitchell, painter; John MacVicar, tailor; James Goldsmith Mann, blacksmith; Joseph Nash; Rich. Nash; Wilham Nabbs, sail-maker; Henry Osborne (1806-), printer; John Oliver, boat-owner;.Charles John Pears; Edward Picknell, carpenter; Wm. Phipps, poulterer; Stephen Putland, merchant; Edward Potter; John Pearson, tailor; Jeremiah Plane, bricklayer; George Poole, plumber; Alexander Paine, reporter; Lewis Phillips; Wm. Richardson, jun., shopkeeper; Joseph Ranger, surgeon; Henry Richardson; Robert Robinson, innkeeper; Thos. Ross, sen., ex-Master-gunner; Thomas Ross, jun., stationer; William Russell, tailor and barber; Geo. Stanford, tailor; George Smallfield, cabinet-maker John Snaith, gardener; John Spratt Scott, shopkeeper; Stephen Sinden, greengrocer; Jas. Smale, grocer; Wm. Spice, fisherman; Jacob W. Siems, confectioner; Charles Stanley, tailor; George Stanford, shipwright; Benjamin Smith, M.P. for Nor. wich; Jabez Smith, painter; Wilham Sweatman; Eti Sharpe, baker; Henry Sarles, watchmaker; George Steadman; Benjamin Smith, shoemaker; Stephen Sparshott; John Smith, builder; Thowias Thorne, jun,, plasterer; Henry Thwaites, retired grocer; William Town, builder; George Tutt, boat-builder; Jno. Tanner, tailor; Stephen Thwaites, grocer; Jeremiah Thwaites, pork-butcher; Thomas Thwaites, retired grocer; David Thomas; William Tuppen, hair-dresser; Edmund Tydeman, billiardmaster; George Thwaites, shipwright; Thomas Tutt; David Tree, innkeeper; Joseph Tree; Benjamin Tree, builder; William Went Tree, tailor; Frederick Tree, carpenter; J. Dungate Thwaites, block-maker; George Veness; Alfred Vialer, painter; Thomas Vidler; Henry Vennall, stonemason; George Voysey, surveyor; Wm. Verrall, shoemaker; Austen White, baker; Joseph Watkinson; Thomas White, shoemaker; Hy. Winter, printer; Thomas Woollett, tailor; Charles. J. Womersley, upholsterer; Wm. Woodroffe, brewer; Wm. Lawrence Yates, hotel-keeper; Washington Yarroll, tailor.

After the victory of the Conservatives by the election of Mr. Brisco, it was rumoured that Mr. Hollond intended to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, but there appeared to be no solid foundation for the statement. At any rate, this Parliamentary fiction to cover the resignation of a seat was not resorted to by the Liberal Member, and political matters went on pretty smoothly until the near approach of November, when, as usual, the aspirants for municipal honours began to make a stir. The number of votes obtained by the several candidates on the 1st of the month were Mr. Scrivens, 415; W. Ginner, 381; T. Ross, jun., 376; and C. Burfield, 363. These gentlemen (three Liberals and one Conservative) were the successful candidates for the East Ward, whilst A. Harvey and G. Clement (one Conservative and one Liberal) lost their election by 12 and 28 votes respectively. The numbers polled by the West-ward candidates were 93 for C. H. Southall, librarian; 88 for G. F. Murton, chemist; and 81 for J. Troup, gentleman. The first and second were therefore elected. At the Council meeting on the 9th of November, Mr. George Scrivens, a Liberal banker, and Mr Francis Smith, a Conservative banker - partners of the same firm - were proposed for the mayoralty, when the former obtained twelve votes and the latter six.

Although Mr. Anthony Harvey missed his election to a seat in the Town Council by only a dozen votes, the Liberals were so elated at his discomfiture, which gave them a return of three new members instead of the two of their own calculation, that they summoned a mock jury of “twelve good men and true to sit upon the defunct politician and to inquire by what means he had come by his death.” I do not recollect the precise terms of the verdict - it was perhaps too technical to be retained in the memory — but it contained a recommendation for the body to be buried in an ignoble manner befitting the political character of the deceased subject. Those were the ”Merrie days of Old England,” and methinks that political rivalries were more humorous than in these later times, when party spirit and personal feelings are embittered by bribery petitions.

One more event will bring the political records of the year to a close. Three months after Mr. R. R. R. Moore took his leave of the Hastings electors — or, to be more precise,on the 1st of July, that gentleman returned, in company with Mr. Richard Cobden, and addressed a large meeting from a specially-erected hustings near to where the Municipal Buildings now are. It was estimated that two thousand persons were present to listen to the two although in a county great Free-trade advocates, journal, which was opposed to the movement, a paragraph appeared in which it was described as “a sorry affair, witnessed probably by some 500 persons, including women.’ I have now shown that both Mr. John Bright and Mr. Richard Cobden visited Hastings and delivered addresses in the year 1844.