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’. 

The moment this became known to the locals, ‘who, almost to a man, sided with the Reformers’, commenced a furious retaliatory attack on the windows of the hotel – all were smashed and frames broken, but luckily without any injuries sustained. The deference of the miners to their Tory employer was evidently not guaranteed by drink – during this event, they immediately ‘wheeled about’, and were among the leading elements attacking the Conservative hotel!

A Conservative mob of locals (presumably now not including the outsider miners) then proceeded to attack the homes of many prominent Liberal supporters for around thirty minutes, after which peace returned to the town of Mold.

Despite the end of these events, the Conservative magistrates of the town sent for soldiers stationed in nearby Chester, who arrived at around 11pm at night – the town being by this point entirely quiet, and the streets cleared of people. One of the Conservative Magistrates, a Mr Pemberton, was said to be ‘blinded by party zeal’. He led a posse of soldiers to the Leewood Arms, the HQ of the Liberal campaign. It was said that Pemberton did so in the hope of finding and releasing ‘a rich booty of cooped voters’ – Tory electors who had been effectively kidnapped by the Liberals for the duration of the poll to prevent them from voting Conservative.

One member of Mostyn’s election committee was violently ousted from the Leewood Arms, and others arrested. Mr Eyton, Mostyn’s Election Agent, loudly remonstrated with Pemberton at the scene, ‘on the extreme illegality of his proceedings’.  The long, complex, and extremely blatant series of partisan violent attacks originating from both sides thus far were obviously illegal – but likely to be entirely ignored by the authorities. It would appear, however, that a partisan magistrate leading official government troops to raid an opposing party headquarters was recognised by all as crossing a line – ‘extreme illegality’, with likely consequences. Pemberton beat a hasty retreat with his soldiers, having become ‘panic-stricken’ at the possible personal repercussions. The article concluded, ominously for Pemberton, by stating ‘it is said that this extraordinary proceeding will not be allowed to rest here’.


(Source: Shrewsbury Chronicle, 16 July 1841Retrieved 2019, via British Newspaper Archive. Newspaper Images © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

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