Short EV Account: Violence Without (Political) Purpose?

Today’s short EV Account contextualises a rather disdainful account of popular violence, which perhaps reveals more about the attitudes of the writer than the nature of the violence:

In previous Short EV Accounts, we have mainly focused on incidents which appear to have been motivated by overtly political reasons (with the following exception). These could spring from the electoral machinations of political elites, or the dissatisfaction of the disenfranchised.  There were, however, incidents which appear to have owed little or nothing to politics – events which occurred as a by-product of the festival-like atmosphere of Victorian elections. These were often encouraged by the apparently widespread popular belief that disorder was (to an extent) tolerated by the authorities during contests. Continue reading “Short EV Account: Violence Without (Political) Purpose?”

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: 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…”

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: 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: 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”

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”