Short EV Account: Party Urchins

Victorian elections took place before universal suffrage, when only some propertied men could vote.  Today’s Short EV Account looks at a serious riot started by a group which is still unenfranchised in the present day:

During the 1868 election at Trowbridge, a group of ‘disreputable characters’ were evidently hired by the Liberal party to cause disruption at polling, and intimidate the electors.  This group was, of course, unenfranchised. What makes them all the more unusual, however, is that the group would not possess the vote even in the present day – they were hired thugs well under the age of 16! Continue reading “Short EV Account: Party Urchins”

Short EV Account: Bottled Voters

This week’s Short EV Account is looks at some violence associated with a local municipal election. It would appear that the Victorians perpetrated and experienced violence during elections of all types:

During the 1868 election in Bolton, a major disturbance led to serious damage of a mill owned by Thomas Barlow, with the perpetrators eventually standing trial.  In their defence, it was asserted that the ‘riot’ had been caused by the system of ‘bottling’ employed by the Liberal party (this being a contemporary term for kidnapping/detaining voters during an election). On the night of Sunday 1 November, a number of voters were kidnapped and detained in Barlow’s mill, and then ‘supplied with drink until their senses were stupefied’. Continue reading “Short EV Account: Bottled Voters”

Short EV Account: Illegality and ‘Extreme Illegality’

This week’s Short EV Account looks at boisterous series of tit-for-tat violent exchanges between Welsh Conservatives and Liberals during the 1841 Flintshire contest. Many were illegal but ignored by authority, but the final incident may well have crossed the line – giving a useful indicator of where the line was located at that time and place:

A newspaper alleges that the Conservatives made every effort to win the contest, and that ‘neither cajolery, gold, nor threats was spared by them’.  When it became clear during the first of two days of polling that the Conservatives were significantly behind the Liberal candidate Mostyn, all seemed lost. It was at this point that ‘a certain indiscreet supporter of the Tory candidate’ brought a large party of miners in his employ to the polling place at Mold. They were alleged to have been brought ‘for the avowed purpose of fighting’.  The miners, having been ‘well primed with drink’, proceeded to do so, in the afternoon of the first polling day. A bottle and other missiles were hurled out of the Lion Hotel (The Conservative Election HQ) at a passing (and peaceful) group of opposing Liberal ‘Mostynites’.  Continue reading “Short EV Account: Illegality and ‘Extreme Illegality’”

Short EV Account: ‘Win, Tie, Or Bring It To A Wrangle’

Before the Liverpool election of 1852, the swift actions of local police prevented hundreds of deadly weapons from falling into the hands of partisans – uniquely, the detail offered by the reporter gives an idea of the scale of organisation behind election violence, especially when sectarian factors came into play:

Acting on information received, a group of constables raided a workshop operated by a Mr Turner of Williamson Street. There, they found an incredible cache of several hundred weapons, ‘of the most formidable description’. Having seized and then and conveyed them to the police station, they ‘filled a large spring cart’.

The article notes that for some time, the Protectionist party in Liverpool had been boasting that, with regard to the upcoming 1852 contest for the city, they would ‘win, tie, or bring it to a wrangle’. It was further alleged that many of the ‘worst characters’ in the surrounding counties had been brought to the city to intimidate Liberal electors, discouraging them from appearing at the polling booths.

The new Head Constable for the city however, Captain Greig, had taken several innovative precautionary measures in the run-up to the contest – as had the Mayor, who despite being a Protectionist was thought by the reporter to be a ‘high spirited honourable man’. The man who had allegedly ordered the weapons to be manufactured was in fact a colleague of the Mayor – an Alderman, who was both a Protectionist and a member of an Orange Society.

Each weapon consisted of a two-foot long wooden staff, with a handle at one end and an indent at the other, ‘into which a pike blade or spike could be driven’ – similar to a pikestaff. The reporter notes that other weapons of a similar (but not identical) description had been manufactured elsewhere; interestingly, he alleges that the original design for these was given by ‘a foreign refugee to the chartists some years ago’.

During and after the election itself, several riots nevertheless occurred in Liverpool with many weapons employed; in addition to widespread damage to property and injuries, this led (at least indirectly) to the death of a pregnant woman.  Even the most determined preventative measures were inadequate in the face of such a strong determination by various groups to ‘bring it to a wrangle’.

 

(Source: North & South Shields Gazette, 9 July 1852Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

Religion and Electoral Violence: Blackburn, 1868

The election of 1868 was particularly violent, as set out in our tweets of last year.  Following on from a previous blog exploring the 1868 election violence in Blackburn, David Hughes delves deeper into earlier events, identifying sectarianism as a major cause of subsequent events:

When William Murphy proposed giving a series of anti-Catholic lectures in Blackburn in October and November 1867, the mayor and magistrates tried to stop him. Murphy ended his visit to Blackburn with a ‘Great Protestant and Orange Demonstration’ which received no support from local political parties and was described sneeringly by the Conservative-supporting Blackburn Standard. Continue reading “Religion and Electoral Violence: Blackburn, 1868”

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: 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: 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: 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”