The disputed Buckinghamshire Election of 1604 'the Goodwin case'

The extract is intended to illustrate something of the nature of an early Stuart election. The following questions, 'interrogatories' were directed to the Sheriff of Buckingham by a Commons' Committee. For the background to this case, see below.

Interr. 1. Why he removed the county from Aylesbury to Brickhill?

He saith it was by reason of the plague being at Aylesbury, the county being the 25th of January, at which time three were dead of the plague there: This was the only motive of removing his county.

Interr. 2. Whether he were present at the first election ?

Saith he was present; and was as faithful to wish the second place to Sir Francis Goodwin as the first to Sir John Fortescue. Sent Sir Francis Goodwin word before the election he should not need to bring any freeholders, for the election he thought would be without scruple for them both: first to Sir John; 2 to Sir Francis. About eight of the clock he came to Brickhill; was then told by Sir George Throckmorton and others that the first voice would be given for Sir Francis: He answered, he hoped it would not be so; and desired every gentleman to deal with his freeholders. After eight of the clock went to the election, a great number there being children, never at the county. After the writ read, he first intimated the points of the proclamation; then jointly propounded Sir John Fortescue and Sir Francis Goodwin. The freeholders cried first, 'A Goodwin! a Goodwin!' Every Justice of Peace on the bench said, 'A Fortescue! a Fortescue!' and came down from the bench before they named any for a second place; and desired the freeholders to name Sir John Fortescue for the first. Sir Francis Goodwin, being in a chamber near, was sent for by the Sheriff and Justices; and he came down and earnestly persuaded with the freeholders, saying Sir John was his good friend; had been his father's; and that they would not do Sir John that injury. Notwithstanding, the freeholders would not desist, but still cried, 'A Goodwin! a Goodwin!' some crying, 'A Fortescue !' to the number of sixty or thereabouts; the other, for Sir Francis Goodwin, being about two or three hundred. And Sir Francis Goodwin, to his thinking, dealt very plainly and earnestly in this matter for Sir John Fortescue, for that Sir Francis Goodwin did so earnestly protest it unto him...


county: A meeting summoned by the sheriff, such as an election, would be called 'the county'.

Background: Before the 1604 election James I had issued a proclamation requiring that 'an express care be had that there be not chosen any persons bankrupts or outlawed, but men of known behaviour and sufficient livelihood'. The electors of Buckinghamshire returned Sir Francis Goodwin, an outlaw, but his election was delclared invalid by the Judges in the Court of Chancery under the original proclamation. A second writ was issued which returned Sir John Fortescue. The House of Commons when it met declared Goodwin lawfully elected, since he had been wrongly described as an outlaw at his election. James I initially challenged the right of the Commons to judge the validity of electoral returns but afterwards acknowledged their power to do this and it was never hereafter questioned. The Common's felt the need to give the new King a constitutional history lesson after this case, the famous The Form of Apology and Satisfaction to be presented to his Majesty. The extract from the case and the accompanying notes are taken from J. R. Tanner, ed., Constitutional Documents of James I, 1603-1625, pp. 201-31.(Cambridge, 1952).