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”

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”

Short EV Account: Death at Nuneaton, 1832

Aside from more analytical posts, the Causes and Consequences of Electoral Violence project will also be posting short EV Accounts – brief summaries of incidents of electoral violence gleaned from single (and often biased) newspaper reports.  Our first EV Account focuses on an election death during the Warwickshire contest of 1832-33, and the editorial line which it provoked:

During the 1832-33 county election for Warwickshire, at the polling place of Nuneaton, a disturbance took place during the polling, though the article’s author asserts that it was of no particular seriousness. Not convinced of this, however, the local Magistrates called in the military to quell the unrest.  This action took place (again, asserted by the author) long after any breach of the peace had long since passed. While the crowd was ‘quietly proceeding in the constitutional exercise of their right’, the military force attacked – several people were said to have been wounded, and one elderly person was killed.

Continue reading “Short EV Account: Death at Nuneaton, 1832”

‘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”