+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


THE attempts made to procure
parliamentary representation for such interests of
the people as did not happen to be also
regarded as the interests of those who ruled
them, were few and ineffectual before the
year eighteen hundred and thirty-two. The
strongest efforts to procure popular representatives
were made, as we have before said, in
the city of Westminster, where court, government,
and people came into immediate collision.
For this reason, we propose now to set
down a few notes upon the subject of Westminster

In the year seventeen hundred and twenty-
one, there was such a contest. Archibald
Hutchinson who appealed to the country
mainly on the ground of direct antagonism
to the government, was elected for both
Westminster and Hastings, although all the
power of the ministry was exercised to procure
his defeat. At Hastings he was chosen
(by the majority of but a single vote), after
the Duke of Newcastle had been down, with
his brother, Mr. Pelham, one of the Lords of
the Treasury, to canvass in person against the
obnoxious candidate.

But, let us take our details in due order,
and begin by adverting to the ancient manner
of election in the city of Westminster.
In the seventeenth century, polling was carried
on all night by torchlight, and ceased
when there was no vote polled during an
hour. In the eighteenth century, the time
allowed for polling was forty days. In the
nineteenth century, and at the end of the
eighteenth, the time was curtailed to fifteen
days, and by the Reform Bill, to one day.
The hustings, were first erected in Tuttle
Fields, afterwards the poll was taken in
Westminster Hall; the hustings were
removed next to the porch of Saint Martin's
Church, and thence to Covent Garden.

All the persons who claimed formerly to
vote as electors for prayer or payment, would
not now be admitted. The whole of the
occupants of chambers in the inns of Chancery,
preceded by their porters, went to vote in
procession, in a very pompous manner. The
dean and prebends of Westminster Abbey,
preceded by the high constable and other
officials, went also in procession to the poll.
A body of watermen, who claimed a right
to vote through partly supporting their own
poor, went in grand state, riding to the hustings
in boats set upon wheels. The King's
servants and the courtiers, when the Court
was at Whitehall, voted in a body at the
order of their Royal Master. The Guards
appear to have voted from the Restoration up
to the end of the eighteenth century. In the
memorable election of Hood, Fox, and Wray,
in seventeen hundred and eighty-four, the
Guards were led up to the poll in companies,
by their officers, and voted for Hood and
Wray, the Court candidates. They were in
those days addressed as the worthy and
independent sergeants, corporals, and
gentlemen soldiers, resident in the Savoy, or
dwelling in or near the city of Westminster.
In the contest of seventeen hundred and
forty-nine, between Lord Trentham and Sir
George Vandeput, a public proclamation,
was made, that if any man in the Fleet
prison would vote for Lord Trentham, he
should be discharged upon application to an
officer from the Treasury, then waiting to
receive applications, if his debts did not
exceed fifteen pounds.

The fun of a Westminster election
occurred at the nominations, at the close of the
poll, and at the chairing of successful
candidates. The close of the poll was celebrated
by the Battle of the Hustings, an event which
strangers came from far and near to witness.
Up to the time of Burdett's election, it had
been the custom from long usage to offer up
the hustings as a sacrifice to the unruly election
gods. It was the late Francis Place who
put an end to the Battle of the Hustings, at
the election of Sir Frances Burdett and Lord
Cochrane. The high-bailiff having declared
the election closed, thousands of roughs
attacked the platform; and, in a few minutes,
razed it to the ground. The privilege of
bearing off a yard or so of deal planking, was
as freely open to the lads of Wapping and the
boys of Saint Giles's, as to the non-electors of
Duck Lane and the Almonry. Every site
from which a safe view could be had of the
scramble, was engaged at play-house prices.
The house-tops around Covent Garden, and
the windows and balconies were crowded
with well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, whose
encouraging cheers to the belligerents and