Report from the Select Committee appointed to try and determine the merits of the petition of James Calthorpe, Esquire, and Richard Beckford, Esquire, complaining of an undue election and return for the borough of Hindon, in the county of Wilts. Printed in the year MDCCLXXV.
Folio. 98pp. Contemporary quarter calf, marbled boards, worn at corners, rebacked with recent spine.
Beckford’s father, Alderman William Beckford, possessed property and an electoral interest at Hindon, only a couple of miles from Fonthill, and following his death in 1770 this passed to his widow, exercising it on behalf of the young William Beckford, not yet of age. This did not please Richard Beckford, William’s older illegitimate half brother, and at the general election of 1774 he and James Calthorpe mounted a vigorous campaign for the seat against Mrs Beckford’s candidates, General Richard Smith and Thomas Brand Hollis. Smith and Hollis were declared elected, but Richard Beckford and Calthorpe petitioned against their return, and the present Report records the overwhelming evidence of bribery on both sides that emerged when the petition was considered by the House of Commons.The evidence presented in the Report provides an unusually revealing picture of how contested parliamentary elections in eighteenth century England were open to corrupt influence. Mrs Beckford’s name is nowhere mentioned, but the campaign for Smith and Hollis was set in motion on her behalf by Rev.John Nairn, a local clergyman, and his brother Fasham Nairn, a retired Captain in the East India Company’s Maritime Service, both promising that voters for General Smith would be amply rewarded with cash, and both were therefore named by the Select Committee as accessories to “the notorious acts of bribery and corruption” that took place at Hindon.A scarce item, reported to ESTC from just three copies in the UK (British Library, National Library of Scotland, Leeds University) and two copies in the USA (Harvard, Yale).