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?”

Short EV Account: History Repeats Itself

One of our previous blogs described an 1865 election murder, the result of a prank gone wrong; a person in Cheltenham had party colours pinned to them without their knowledge, which led to their assault and death.  As we move into analysing later elections, we’ve found that such pranks were not isolated, and could lead to other:

During the election of 1880, the county constituency of West Gloucestershire featured at least one violent event.  Rather than the mass election riots and extensive property damage which regularly occurred in nearby Bristol, this incident, was more individual in nature – but no less tragic.  A Mr Charles Butt, native of Kingswood near Bristol, went to Bridgeyate, where the polling was taking place to elect the two MPs for West Gloucestershire.  Unknown to him, some person had attached a piece of blue ribbon to his clothes – a party colour sure to infuriate local partisans.  When he approached the polling booth, a ‘Radical’ mob began to pelt him with very large stones.  Quite a few of these struck Mr Butt, and he was soon ‘literally covered with blood’.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: History Repeats Itself”

Short EV Account: Pre-Advertising a Riot

The disruption of political meetings by organised groups of opposing partisans became commonplace as the nineteenth century wore on. One such incident, discussed in an article ‘RIOT AT AN ELECTION MEETING’, illustrates just how organised and commonplace they could actually be:

During the 1886 contest for West Islington, the Unionist candidate, Richard Chamberlain, intended to address a political meeting.  Evidently, however, others had other ideas, and intended to disrupt this meeting with heckling, assaults, and an attempted rushing of the stage.  In fact, this was so anticipated that an advertisement announcing the disruption had been pre-placed in the Pall Mall Gazette! The electors were encouraged in print to ‘come and see the sport’ at the meeting, of which there would be a considerable amount.  In the meeting-room, there was considerable commotion; at a given signal, a rush was made at the platform, and the candidate only barely managed to escape.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: Pre-Advertising a Riot”

Short EV Account: ‘wantonly bayoneted while she lay on the ground’

The Peterloo Massacre, in which 15 people were killed and many injured, lives on in public memory. Yet, it was not an isolated event – the intervention of the military was not an uncommon response to nineteenth-century mass gatherings, especially during elections. As the following instance illustrates, this could lead to tragedy and death for bystanders:

During the 1868 election, the contest for Newport proved to be quite disorderly.  Newport in fact had something of a reputation as a centre of unrest, being the location of the famous Newport Rising of 1839, in which nearly 10,000 Chartist supporters had marched on the town, leading to military intervention and twenty-two deaths.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: ‘wantonly bayoneted while she lay on the ground’”

Short EV Account: The Torchlight Procession That Did Not Come Off

Newspapers often reported violent events connected to elections – less commonly, they also reported events which did not happen.  These reports are of great use to our project, as one of our main aims is to uncover not only the causes of electoral violence, but also why widespread election violence gradually disappeared from the political landscape as the nineteenth century progressed: 

One report, in the Bolton Evening News of 26 November 1868, discusses one such instance – or, rather, almost-instance, of election-related violence.  In an article entitled ‘THE TORY TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION THAT DID NOT COME OFF’, it is revealed that in Liverpool, local Orangemen intended to organise a torchlight procession to celebrate the successful election of Messrs. Turner and Cross, the new Conservative MPs for South-west Lancashire.  The local authorities, however, had had recent experiences of such events. Sectarian-related election violence had been a prominent feature of the 1868 contest throughout the region.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: The Torchlight Procession That Did Not Come Off”

Drunken Disturbances: Electoral Violence in Chepstow, 1847

Alcohol and Victorian elections often went hand-in-hand – this could promote a festive and exuberant atmosphere, but also create or exacerbate election violence if the mood turned sour; in this blog, Research Assistant Ilia Hionidou explores one such instance:

In 1847, the Nottingham Review reported some bemusing events that took place the Wednesday prior in Chepstow, a small town in south Wales. The report recalls incidents that took place during an 1842 election, a year that featured prominent Chartist uproar in Wales and around the UK. Chartism aimed to bring about far-reaching political reforms, which included universal male suffrage and the introduction of the secret ballot.  Continue reading “Drunken Disturbances: Electoral Violence in Chepstow, 1847”

Short EV Account: Prompt Payment of Bludgeon-Men Needed

This Short Account focuses on the aftermath of an election, illustrating that those not-so-shadowy figures who engaged hired roughs to intimidate voters could find themselves on the receiving end of rough treatment …

For no fewer than eight days after the conclusion of the 1852 Carlisle election, the town was still in a state of considerable ferment – solely because the ‘bludgeon-men’ hired by the Conservative party for the duration of the election had been unable to obtain their pay (said to be 5 shillings per day).  It was alleged that the Conservative candidate Hodgson had hired no less than 495 bludgeon-men; this is likely a slight exaggeration, as only the seat only boasted 1,134 electors. This would mean that there was almost one rough for every two electors, and a near one-to-one parity for every elector who had not voted Conservative.   Continue reading “Short EV Account: Prompt Payment of Bludgeon-Men Needed”

Short EV Account: The Press Fight Back

In another of our Short Accounts, Research Assistant Emma Varley explores a rather amusing (if unreliable) account of an incident involving an angry candidate, a printer skilled in self-defence, and a thorough dousing in black ink…

Slander, sensationalism, and general mockery are part and parcel of election politics. One need only look to the numerous cartoons depicting an exaggerated version of an orange-skinned, toupee-wearing former television star which continue to proliferate in nearly every newspaper across the globe. Opposing candidates, party members, and journalists are always on the lookout for the next opportunity to mock their competition, and it is all the better when this ammunition is handed to them by the opposition themselves. Continue reading “Short EV Account: The Press Fight Back”

Two Sides of the Coin: Bribery and Corruption in the 1852 Election

Intimidation and violence could be used as tools of electoral corruption, but there were other means at the disposal of candidates.  Research Assistant Sam Holden looks at one 1852 newspaper editorial and what it can tell us about the carrot and stick in mid-Victorian elections:

In 1852 a senior Government member was directly linked to a plot offering money for votes in Derby, while landlords demanded more than just rent from their tenants. An editorial carried by the Londonderry Times of 29 July 1852 lamented the corrupt state of British politics.

Elections during this period were particularly susceptible to “undue influence”. Continue reading “Two Sides of the Coin: Bribery and Corruption in the 1852 Election”