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”

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”

Electoral Violence in Blackburn, 1868: The Politicisation of a Death

Election violence was seldom simple or isolated; it could be the result of a complex and interlinked chain of events, across multiple elections and involving themes which included class, religion, and nationality.  In this post, David Hughes explores one such richly complex event:

In November 1868, the Lancashire town of Blackburn was the site of intense electoral activity. The municipal elections, in which all six wards were contested, were held on Monday 2nd November. The borough parliamentary election followed on 16th November then, on the following day, the nominations for the newly created county seat of North East Lancashire. All three of these elections were accompanied by violence, with the most serious occurring, somewhat unusually, during the municipal elections – indeed, a man died two days after the municipal elections from injuries sustained at that contest. Soon, this death was politicised by both parties when alleged death threats were made against the Tory candidates. Continue reading “Electoral Violence in Blackburn, 1868: The Politicisation of a Death”

‘Rough Rollicking Enthusiasm’: Relationships Between Election Violence and the Restricted Franchise

Our project covers not one period, but many – at different points between 1832 and 1914, different proportions of the adult male populace were entitled to the vote, as successive Reform Acts expanded the franchise.  Towards the end, electoral violence by women seeking the vote is also evident. Research Assistant Genevieve Johnson explores the rather biased editorial line of an 1865 electoral violence report, one which suggests a close link between violence and exclusion from the franchise:

In nineteenth-century England and Wales, a wide and confusing variety of overlapping factors could prompt electoral violence, from the displaying of party colours to the utilisation of hired roughs as political weapons. Even more varied was the type of violence, which could range from brutal murders to the throwing of cabbages and herring. One common factor amongst many of the electoral events to be found in nineteenth-century newspapers was the type of person generally found in violent mobs. In many (if not most) cases across the decades, they were largely made up of working-class men and boys – labourers of various types, and “paupers”. In other words, the disenfranchised. Continue reading “‘Rough Rollicking Enthusiasm’: Relationships Between Election Violence and the Restricted Franchise”

“A Disgraceful Riot”: Intriguing Links between Irish Politics and a Cornish Village

Much of the election violence which plagued the UK in the nineteenth century was connected in various ways to Ireland and Irish-related policy issues; in this blog post, Zara Kesterton, one of our Project’s Research Assistants, discusses her own surprise at finding such links in seemingly-unlikely places:

Reading through newspapers for incidences of election violence provides a fascinating insight into the everyday preoccupations of those living in the 19th and early 20th centuries. During the 1886 election, reports of disturbances linked to the Irish Home Rule movement featured prominently in newspapers across Great Britain. Continue reading ““A Disgraceful Riot”: Intriguing Links between Irish Politics and a Cornish Village”

Reverend And The (Noise) Makers: A Mass Walkout

Religion played a prominent role in Victorian politics, and religious figures enjoyed a special (and precarious) position in relation to party politics.  In looking at a non-violent mass disruption which followed election property damage, Research Assistant Sam Holden explores the religious dimension to partisan rivalries:

Election violence generally involved damage to persons and/or property – the Causes and Consequences project also records the explicit and immediate threat of violence in order to examine events which never quite boiled over into outright violence. How such near-violent situations were resolved is, after all, indicative. The following event was never likely to descend into violence, but does illustrate that violence was merely one extreme in a spectrum of activity which encompassed remonstration, disobedience, and disruption.

On Friday 7 August 1847, the Liberals won the constituency of Taunton during a General Election. That Sunday, at St. Mary Magdalene Church, the Reverend Dr. Cottle was surprised to observe that there were over two hundred extra people in his congregation than was normal, many of whom he had never seen before. Continue reading “Reverend And The (Noise) Makers: A Mass Walkout”

Herring: A Dish Best Served Cold

Throwing things at elections may or may not be classed as election violence – a tomato is unlikely to do much damage, but a brick aimed at a candidate’s head could do a great deal of damage.  In this blog post, Richard Lambeth, one of our Project’s Research Assistants, shares his thoughts on one less dangerous but definitely unpleasant missile regularly employed – flying herring:

One striking feature of Victorian elections, amidst the frequent bouts of violence, was the use of symbolism by its bustling crowds. The placards and banners that Victorian crowds held aloft for all to see ranged from pro-free trade images of large and small loaves of bread side-by-side, to the near-inexplicable images of figures dressed in blue riding squirrels, or funeral processions followed by mourning donkeys! These visual aids were seemingly the memes of the Victorian period, except instead of provoking trolling in response to pithy political observations, banner-holders could end up in fist-fights, covered in mud and flour, and possibly rendered unconscious.

Continue reading “Herring: A Dish Best Served Cold”

Shaftesbury Goons Thwarted By Telegraph

During the 1874 election in Shaftesbury, an attempt to employ hired ‘roughs’ (goons employed to disrupt elections by violent means) was made. However, the plans, made by some significant political actors, came to naught before they even had a chance to begin.  In this particular incident, it’s clear that roughs were not only hired, but brought in specially from London by train:

Continue reading “Shaftesbury Goons Thwarted By Telegraph”