The Case Of Sir Robert Austen And Sir Robert Furnese, Petitioners For New-romney In The County Of Kent..


At some time bound into a volume and subsequently removed, inner blank margin partly cut away, traces of previous folding, and some foxing. Four lines, contemporaneously deleted in ink, but still legible.





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Item Description

Folio. Single sheet letterpress broadside. 9.75 x 15 inches. With a docket title to otherwise blank verso, The Case of Sir Robert Austen and Sir Robert Furnese } Barts.


Decorative initial.


A rare printed broadside concerning the disputed New Romney parliamentary election of 1727. As a Cinque Port, New Romney returned two MPs (Barons) to Parliament from 1371 to 1832. The right to vote in elections was restricted to the Mayor and the Common Council or, as the broadside states, 'by the Mayor, Jurats, and the Commonalty of the Corporation, and there are only two Ways of obtaining such Freedom; the one by Birth, being the Sons of Freemen, and Resident within the Corporation, and the other ex Gratia, by Election of a Common Assembly of the Corporation.' At the election held on 17th August 1727, the two petitioners, Sir Robert Austen and Sir Robert Furnese stood against David Papillon (who had been MP since 1722) and John Essington. All four candidates secured eleven votes each, the Mayor, John Coates, voting for Papillon and Essington. The Mayor then voted again for these two and declared them elected as MPs for New Romney. Disputing this result, the two losing candidates drew up the petition. They also pointed out that the Mayor had omitted the vote of John Mascall, an elected freeman, but had allowed the vote of Jeremiah Smith who had been refused admission as a freeman in 1724. If these irregularities were set aside, the petitioners, Austen and Furnese, would have been returned by a majority of one. It should be noted that although the petitioners claim that both Papillon and Essington were the sitting members, the list of New Romney MPs indicates that only Papillon had already been MP, whereas the other sitting MP was no less than Furnese (elected 1710, 1713 and 1722). The Petition was evidently granted for in 1728, the election results were set aside and Austen and Furnese were declared the winners. Austen therefore served as one of the New Romney MPs, 1728-34. In the case of Furnese, however, a further complication arose when he was also elected for one of the Kent county seats, which he chose to represent, rather than New Romney. Consequently the recently unseated Papillon was returned again, this time as the legitimate MP for New Romney. Papillon was re-elected in 1734 but had also been elected for Dover, which he chose to represent instead of New Romney. Austen, who had been unseated in 1734 was returned again in 1736 to serve until 1741. About seven years later John Coates was playing the same game again. As outgoing Mayor he irregularly swore in two additional freemen, without the consent of the commonalty as required, and then used their votes, with the addition of two non-residents (thereby not entitled to vote), including David Papillon, then still MP, to elect Mr Wightwick as the new Mayor. The opposing faction, however, chose Richard Elles, leading to unseemly scuffling at the swearing-in ceremony: 'For upwards of a year there were, in fact, two Mayors acting in New Romney for part of the time two Town Clerks, and indeed something like two rival and independent administrations. It must of course, be remembered that the main functions of an eighteenth century municipal corporation were to return burgesses to Parliament, to spend the corporation property, and to feast its members'. Both sides filed writs against each other, and after three separate court hearings, judgement was passed against both mayors. After the new election of 1735 Richard Elles was sworn Mayor and Sir Robert Austen and Henry Furnese (presumably the heir of Sir Robert Furnese) were invited to come to the town and partake of an entertainment: 'New Romney had returned to normal conditions, and the Corporation was resuming one of its three essential functions - to feast its members'. Only two copies of this broadside are recorded by COPAC; in the British Library and the National Library of Scotland.

[Stock No. 21260]

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