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.

Many, however, strongly disapproved, and expressed their sentiments in very bluntly. We have reproduced the following article exactly (with some emphasis added) to illustrate just how blunt some Victorian journalists could be. The picture painted presented of an apolitical disturbance might be taken with a pinch of salt given its tone:

“NEWMARKET. The election on Tuesday was carried on in this town very quietly and orderly until the evening, when a series of disturbances took place, and was kept up to the annoyance of many by a lot of ignorant and foolish fellows, who really knew not why they acted in the manner they did; in fact, those drunken rustics hardly knew the meaning of an election, much more Conservative or Liberal. At the close of the poll, lot of simple stable lads, agricultural labourers, and some clownish ignoramuses belonging to the lower orders of the town joined in tumultuous procession, and, being maddened by drink, rushed like a torrent along the High-street, smashing windows, knocking down people, and destroying the hats of any one they chanced to meet, throwing over stalls, and committing damage to all parties in their course indiscriminately. Some were taken into custody by the police and confined in the cage, but they were soon liberated by the rabble, who burst open the doors. The aspect of the mob was at one time quite formidable, but they were quickly discomfited by the prompt exertions of the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk police forces. On some of those cowards being remonstrated with, they confessed that they had been misled by an idea that they might do anything they wished in fun during election times. We hope some will be punished. Here the Conservatives, of course, had it all their own way, though the Rutland home influence secured for Lord George Manners a decided majority over his colleague. The poll at its close stood thus: Manners, 407; Royston, 344; Brand, 144; Young, 128.”


(Source: Cambridge Independent Press, 28 November 1868Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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