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?”
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”
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”
The dismantling and distribution of wood from the hustings was a hallowed tradition in many constituencies – but not always an accepted one. Project Research Assistant Elise Boothroyd explores one such instance of the practice in which official intransigence provoked a serious incident of election violence:
Much of the electoral violence reported in articles from nineteenth-century newspapers is attributed to causes immediately relevant to elections, including disagreements between electors, electors’ disapproval of candidates, or a more general desire to create trouble and disturb the political process. In an article describing events in Whittlesey in April 1857, however, there is no specific mention of political feeling in favour of, or against, any party, nor about the election more generally. Indeed, 1857 was reputed to be one of the quieter Victorian General Elections. Yet, still a riot occurred. The cause? According to one newspaper report, the townsfolk of Whittlesey decided that they fancied the wood from the hustings platform, where candidates gave their nomination speeches, for their personal use. Having taken the wood by force, a conflict with the police ensued. Continue reading “Elections, Riots, and Election Riots: Whittlesey”
The carnival atmosphere of Victorian elections was often characterised by visible party colours and the presence of music. This atmosphere was thought by many to contribute to the ‘excitement’ of participants and bystanders – with occasionally terrible consequences. In this blog post, Paul Reynolds, one of our Project’s Research Assistants, shares his summary and analysis of a particularly tragic case of election violence involving both colour and music:
On the evening of the 12th of July 1865, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, William Lynes, a ‘labouring man’ who worked as a messenger for the Liberal candidate Colonel Francis Berkeley, was wandering down the High-Street with another messenger called Fitts. Passing them along the street came a band, playing the Scottish ‘The Bonnets of Blue’, and Lynes piped up with a hearty ‘Hurrah for the Bonnets of Yellow’, as yellow was the Liberal colour.
Hogarth’s Enraged Musician (1741) Continue reading “Tragic Election Death at Cheltenham”
Sophie Franklin, a Research Assistant on the Project, writes about an Edwardian Conservative poem which gives a revealing view of attitudes towards the disrupters of political meetings:
Five days before the General Election in January 1910, the Conservative bi-weekly Manchester Courier published a curious poem titled ‘Radical Rowdyism’. It begins with a challenge to those loud ‘Socialistic gang of interrupters’, the Radicals of the poem’s title, who cause disturbance during hustings. Using the term ‘Radical’ in a derogatory fashion had a long tradition behind it, describing in various instances Chartists, staunch Liberals, and boisterous non-electors in general. The first stanza claims that those making the most noise were in fact the most well-fed, hinting at a kind of “champagne Socialism”, an accusation which runs throughout the poem:
Continue reading “Radical Rowdyism”