Mill Voters 1802

Submitted by edpope on

Introduction to a dataset.

At the Middlesex election of 1802 the radical Catholic lawyer Henry Clifford DNB 1768-1813 met a local tradesman, Albion Cooper, on Kew Bridge, and learned of a scheme in Isleworth to set up a flour mill by selling shares to local people and cutting out the millers' profits. Since this would be worth forty shillings a year to the subscribers Clifford decided that they would all be entitled to vote in the election as forty shilling freeholders. Some 300 shareholders of the Good Intent Mill, Isleworth, cast their votes in the last few voting days and swung the election in favour of Sir Francis Burdett DNB 1770-1844 against William Mainwaring. This was a furiously contested election. There were two MPs for Middlesex and the third candidate George Byng topped the poll. Most of the Mill shareholders voted for Byng and Burdett, and a few "plumped" (made just one vote when they could have made two) for Burdett, but not a single one voted for Mainwaring. The shareholders lived mostly in Isleworth (114), Richmond (83), Hounslow (52) and Twickenham (42). Many had joined the scheme before they thought it would give them a vote, and many more joined during the election campaign to get a vote and a share. A few clearly joined for mainly political reasons, such as the five voters from Westminster addresses.  In 1804 a Parliamentary Committee ruled that the Mill votes were invalid and unseated Burdett, and the sheriff Robert Albion Cox who made the ultimate decision to allow the Mill votes was sentenced to a prison term. I am following my usual method of researching every single voter and have so far only got letters A & B online. Go to A-Z of Names and Addresses, select Mill Voters 1802 and click on APPLY.

I will extend this article later but here are the main printed sources apart from the Poll Book copies. "Report from the Select Committee who were appointed to try and determine the merits of the several Petitions complaining of an undue Election and Return for the County of Middlesex " &c Parliamentary Papers 1804 N (3), 3-4. /  Times 13.7.1802. / Considerations on the Late Elections for Westminster and Middlesex (London 1802) / Bowles, Thoughts on the late General Election / Cobbett's Political Register 17,24, 31,7,1802./ Society for Bettering the Conditions and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor III 1802 pp 49-54. Thanks to Joanna Innes for drawing my attention to the article "Co-operative Corn Milling: Self-Help During the Grain Crises of the Napoleonic Wars" by Jennifer Tann in The Agricultural History Review vol 28 no 1 (1980) pp 45-57, which mentions the Good Intent Mill (p50) but not its political dimension, and indeed her article suggests that these co-operative mills were not seen as a threat by the establishment.