Saturday, September 28, 2002

Eastbourne Lifeboat: What Was Her Name?

The search continues for the name of the first Eastbourne Lifeboat, a gift to the town from Mad Jack Fuller in 1822. It is difficult to imagine that a boat of this importance was not formally named and launched. Attempts to learn the boat's name from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Museum have failed.

In response to a posting on the Sussexpast Yahoo group site, Ros Chislett provided several leads which are being followed up. Lifeboat - In Danger's Hour by Patrick Howarth (Hamlyn, 1981) ISBN 0-600-34959-4, considered to be a "lavishly illustrated authoritative history of the RNLI" is one of the sources recommend. A reading list compiled by the RNLI can be viewed at

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The Fuller Parliamentary Tradition

John Fuller (1680-1745) was MP for the county of Sussex in 1715. He was a Tory and by 1734 considered one of the three main leaders of the opposition in the county to the dominant Whig The Duke of Newcastle.
The other opponents were Sir Cecil Bishop and Thomas Sergison (John 'Mad Jack' Fuller would later face Colonel Warden Sergison as opponent in the 1807 election). Fuller and Bishop teamed up to contest the election of June 1734 hoping to win the two Sussex county seats - they were unsuccessful.
The result:
Henry Pelham 2271 votes
James Butler 2053
Sir Cecil Bishop 1704
John Fuller 1581
They were facing powerful opponents; they were heavily outspent; and the Whigs also had a concerted registration drive with a "prodigious number of false" votes according to Fuller.
The Honourable Henry Pelham (1695-1754) went on to become Prime Minister 1743-54. He was the brother of Thomas Pelham-Holles, first Duke of Newcastle, (1693-1768). His brother's interest had already provided him a seat in Parliament, first for the small borough of Seaford in 1717, then for the county of Sussex in 1722.
Newcastle succeeded his brother Henry Pelham as Prime Minister on the latter's death in 1754. He was Prime Minister 1754-6 and 1757-62. During his second term in office, he headed a coalition with William Pitt the Elder, until Pitt's resignation in 1761.

Crossley, D.W., & Saville, R.V., The Fuller Letters: Guns, Slaves and Finance 1728-1755 (S.R.S.
[Sussex Record Society] 1991) ISBN 0-85445-037-8

The West India lobby

John Fuller married Elizabeth Rose in July 1703 - she was the daughter of Dr Fulke Rose. She had inherited plantations in Jamaica. Here started the Fuller Jamaica connection - sugar, rum, slavery and all.
After the death of John Fuller in 1745, his son John (1706-1755) took a more pragmatic approach to the Whig administration - after all the Fuller family fortune depended on a strong navy to control the routes to the West Indies and orders for cannon for that navy.
When his brother Rose Fuller returned from Jamaica in 1755 he became MP for Rye and later was a key figure in the West India lobby in Parliament. This grouping, also known as the Jamaica interest, consisted of sixty or seventy members who protected the slave trade and profited from the sugar business.
But who were these people? To be continued....

Monday, September 02, 2002

Votes for Sale

William Cobbett stood for Parliament in Honiton in 1806 - his autobiography gives an explicit description of the corruption in parliamentary elections in the early 1800s:

Now, as to the state of this borough, who shall describe it?
Who shall describe the gulph wherein have been swallowed the fortunes
of so many ancient and respectable families? There was, the electors
would tell you, no bribery. They took a certain sum of money each,
according to their consequence; 'but this', they said, 'came in the
shape of a reward after the election and, therefore, the oath might be
safely taken'. Considered as a question of morality, how contemptible
this subterfuge was need hardly be noticed; but, to say the truth, they
did not deceive themselves, and I must do them the justice to say, that
they were not very anxious to deceive anybody else. They told you,
flatly and plainly, that the money which they obtained for their votes,
was absolutely necessary to enable them to live; that, without it, they
could not pay their rents; and that, from election to election, poor
men ran up scores at the shops, and were trusted by the shopkeepers,
expressly upon the credit of the ensuing election; and that, thus, the
whole of the inhabitants of the borough, the whole of the persons who
returned two of the members to every parliament, were bound together in
an indissoluble chain of venality.
The poorest of the people made a sort of pun upon my name as
descriptive of my non-bribing principles, and moulded their sentiments
into a cry of: 'Bread and Cheese, and no empty Cupboard'; and some of
them in a very serious and mild manner, remonstrated with me upon my
endeavour to deprive them of the profits of their vote, or, in their
own phrase, ' to take the bread out of poor people's mouths'.