1880 Election Violence Mapped

For Easter Friday, we have suspended our usual Short EV Accounts in favour of releasing a geographical day-by-day representation of our 1880 election violence tweets; the red dots appear on the day that they occurred, while the black dots represent all events over the election period:

It seems clear that election violence was both common and geographically widespread. reaching most areas of England and Wales.  The most interesting things among the dispersed events that we’ve noticed are as follows:

  1. The relative concentration of violent events in Lancashire and the surrounding region; this broadly conforms with our data for previous elections – possible causes for this include the economic and religious composition of the population.
  2. Given the size of London’s population, the number of events occurring in the capital is much lower than might be expected – one possible explanation for this is the relative skill of local authorities (especially the Metropolitan Police) in maintaining order, as opposed to still-developing Victorian constabularies in other areas of the country.

These, and other potential causes and consequences of electoral violence, will be explored in detail by our project.

 

(The county boundaries are provided by www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth)

Short EV Account: Struggle for an Effigy

Today’s Short EV Account took place #OnThisDay in 1880.  One feature of the disturbance was the presence of an effigy of a leading statesman – though it did not survive for long…

On the 12th of April 1880 (a Monday night), the local election contest in Barrow-in-Furness was in full swing.   A torchlight procession proceeded throughout the town to great fanfare.  At the head of the procession, an effigy of Lord Beaconsfield, Conservative Prime Minister (better known as Benjamin Disraeli), was held aloft.  As the figure was passing along Cavendish Street, however, ‘some of the admirers of the earl dashed into the crowd, and, seizing the figure, demolished it’, simultaneously trading blows with the ringleaders of the procession. Continue reading “Short EV Account: Struggle for an Effigy”

Short EV Account: Trouble at Goole

This blog explores an incident of election violence which occurred 139 years ago today.  There was some difficulty in selecting only one to highlight, as 5 April 1880 featured eight disturbances, two outright riots, one small incident, and a partridge in a pear tree:

In the Yorkshire town of Goole, the county election was in full swing. Historically said to be a rather quiet town during contests, a disturbance occurred ‘unlike any that has occurred before’.  The crowd, which included a considerable number of non-voters, gradually increased in size throughout the day; eventually, some members began amusing themselves by pulling off the favours and rosettes of those who supported the ‘blue’ party.  They ‘hooted and be-spattered with mud the blue vehicles and their opponents’, and then began to throw stones.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: Trouble at Goole”

Short EV Account: Torchlight Battle

This blog explores an incident of election violence which occurred 139 years ago tomorrow.  Quite possibly the largest event of that day, with an alleged crowd of 20-40,000 present, but it was by no means the only violence taking place on 30 March:

The Liberal candidate, Mr Reed, led a torchlight procession composed of his supporters, who numbered 2,000. Surrounding the procession was a much larger crowd, which ‘eventually numbered 20,000 persons, the total number of spectators being estimated at twice that number’.  During its progress, however, it was stopped in its tracks by a group reported to consist of ‘stalwart Irishmen, who literally mowed the foremost ward of Liberals down with long sticks’. Continue reading “Short EV Account: Torchlight Battle”

Short EV Account: On Your Marks, Get Set…

This blog explores an incident of election violence which occurred #OnThisDay 139 years ago – the very first recorded incident of violence for the 1880 UK General election.  We’ll be tweeting the many other incidents throughout the rest of March and into April:

In the run-up to the 1880 election for Derby, it was widely rumoured that the Conservative candidate, Thomas Collins, would be appearing at the open-air marketplace to give a speech to locals, both electors and non-electors.  On Monday night between six and seven o’clock at night, an ‘immense crowd’ gathered at the square in anticipation of his arrival.  Gradually, however, the conviction came over the crowd that Collins would not be attending, as he was ‘otherwise engaged’.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: On Your Marks, Get Set…”

Election Violence – In Verse

This week’s blog is taking a break from Short Accounts, instead publishing a somewhat amusing 1835 poem on the topic of post-polling election violence and the general spectacle associated with elections:  

 

THE ELECTION.

The Poll is closed—Electors hurry,

All the town in a scurry,

The bells are ringing—folks are shouting,

The crowd too close to get your snout in:

Flags are flying—music playing—

Drunken fools like asses braying,

Reeling, staggering, through the street,

With palsied legs, and tottering feet,

Glaring with “lack-lustre” eye,

Roaring forth the party cry,

‘Midst fumes of brandy, gin, and beer,

And good old England’s stouter cheer;

D––– bawls one—C–––, another,

Missiles fly, and mud to smother;

Windows crack—rare work for glaziers,

Fools find fists cut sharp as razors,

To the backbone, high or low,

Party blood is sure to flow,

As if the victory at the close,

Depended on a bloody nose,

Or the stake of candidate,

Rested on a broken pate.

Ribbons stuck in button holes,

With tawdry silk on painted poles,

Display the colours of the party,

And wave about mid shouts so hearty,

T’would seem some mystic power did lag,

Within the ribbon, or the flag,

What mighty honour to—a rag.

Now the crowd to hear the speeches

With ragged coats, and tattered breeches

Crush close to each—like sucking leeches.

Tailors, anon—have mending jobs,

And doctors smile at broken nobs;

Force of weight, the crowd is borne off,

Lappels of coats are nobly torn off;

While constables with wooden pokers,

Are dealing blows to charm the jokers.

All is uproar, noise, and din,

As though ’twere life and soul to win,

As though upon the casting die,

Were hung the source of peace and joy.

Ah me! cried I, in sad dejection,

“Folks will run mad at an election”

 

N––P –– [Delta]

 

(Source: Northampton Mercury, 24 January 1835. Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

Short EV Account: Hooliganism on the Decline?

This week’s Short Account covers elections which took place years apart, and illustrates how many writers thought that, when looking back, violence was due to natural exuberance and on the decline.  Editorials had been claiming such a decline since at least 1832, making the accuracy of such claims a matter of debate…

In 1906, polling for the county seat of East Worcestershire was reported to have proceeded peacefully.  Notably, it was ‘unmarked by any of that horseplay and disorderliness seen at some previous elections’.  It was the first contest the seat had experienced since 1892, and the reporter wrote approvingly of local party activists, who ‘wisely devoted themselves to looking up and checking off voters instead of chaffing and taunting political opponents’.  After the conclusion of polling, there was some ‘booing and hurrahing’, by a crowd mostly composed of boys and young men – despite the decline in boisterousness, it was still evidently thought by them the ‘election night [was] a capital opportunity for giving vent to their feelings, but it is safe to say any other excuse would have served just as well as an election ’.  The reporter goes out of his way to note that nothing was broken except the silence of the night – no windows smashed, nobody injured, merely that nearby residents were kept awake. Continue reading “Short EV Account: Hooliganism on the Decline?”

Short EV Account: Ballot Paper Controversy

This week’s election violence Short Account explores an incident of very personal almost-violence at one of the pivotal parts of the election process – the counting of ballot papers.  One candidate decided an attempt to force a recount was called for…

At the 1885 election for Ashton under Lyne, an extraordinary scene took place when the counting of votes had closed.  Ten votes were unaccounted for, and after many attempts to discover an explanation for this, counting continued.  The count had finally been completed by 10.45pm – it was concluded that the candidate Haugh Mason had prevailed with a majority of just three, but only if the particular table containing the discrepancies was excluded.  Including the table, however, it appeared that the other candidate, John Addison, had won by over forty votes.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: Ballot Paper Controversy”

Short EV Account: A Violent Mock-Funeral

This week’s election violence Short Account is closely connected to elements of pageantry and carnivalesque celebration – or, in the case of the mock funeral for the defeated candidate, feigned commiseration. Violence was often sparked by such factors, but there is also evidence of at least some partisan efforts to blunt the official response:

At the 1874 election for Evesham, the Liberal candidate Joseph Napier Higgins was defeated, losing by only forty-seven votes to the Conservative James Bourne.  Supporters of Bourne were in something of a triumphant mood; they organised a ‘mock funeral’ for the defeated Liberal, ‘having a coffin containing an effigy borne on a bier’.  The mob, said to be 200-strong and dressed in the party colours of blue, surrounded the coffin and proceeded along the principal street for as long as three hours.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: A Violent Mock-Funeral”

Short EV Account: Who Hired The Thugs?

In the course of an election, candidates often employed a large number of people to perform a varied set of functions – a Chief Agent, many sub-agents, on-the-ground canvassers, messengers, colour-carriers, bands of music… and ‘others’. Some of these carried out roles other than their stated ones, however:

After the Sheffield election of 1865, a large crowd of people loitered outside the George Hotel, the headquarters of the two of the candidates.  As noted in a newspaper article, ‘the crowd presented the same appearance as the gang who swept through the town on Wednesday night’.  The crowd had attended because it had been advertised by the election committee that they would, at that time and that place, pay those who had been employed to help the candidates win – ‘check-clerks, canvassers, writers, “and others”’.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: Who Hired The Thugs?”