Papers of John Adams, volume 10

To Jean Luzac

To the President of Congress, No. 7


The general election of 1780 resulted from the North ministry's dissolution of Parliament on 1 Sept., and its expectation that popular enthusiasm over Clinton's victory at Charleston and reaction to the Gordon Riots offered an opportunity to increase its parliamentary majority. While this would have little effect on the conduct of the war, since the ministry already enjoyed a substantial majority on that issue, it would prevent a recurrence of the opposition victories in the spring of 1780 in the wake of Edmund Burke's introduction of his economic reform bill. Contrary to the ministry's expectations, however, the election turned out badly and its majority was reduced. This was largely due to poor organization and a failure to appreciate the extent to which economic reform and local issues had taken hold with the electorate.

Digges clearly believed that the ministry was succeeding in its effort to build a more substantial majority. But the election results, which he supplied from newspaper reports, reflect the successes of the opposition rather than the ministry. George Hayley, John Kirkman, Frederick Bull, and Nathaniel Newenham were elected to Parliament from the City of London. But Newenham, if not as radical as John Sawbridge, was opposed to the war and consistently voted against the ministry. Moreover, Sawbridge, although defeated in the general election, was named to replace John Kirkman, who died shortly before the polls closed on 15 Sept., at a by-election in November. Edmund Burke withdrew his name prior to the election in Bristol, but was returned to Parliament in December from Malton, Yorkshire, while Henry Cruger regained his seat in the general election of 1784. The election of Adm. Sir George Rodney and Charles James Fox by substantial margins from Westminster had less to do with any action by the ministry or the opposition than 156to their own popularity with the electorate (Namier and Brooke, House of Commons ; London Courant, 15, 16, and 18 September).