Maria's Diary 13
As in the heavens, the urns divine,
Of golden light, for ever shine;
Though clouds may darken, storms may rage,
They still shine on from age to age
I have not written in this diary for some time, so I will do some summing up.
During 1931 Papa went to France with Sir H. Parnell in the duty of examining and reporting on the public accounts of France, ‘a task which was so satisfactorily performed that he was appointed secretary to the commission for inspecting the accounts of the United Kingdom.’ Papa visited Paris, the Hague, and Brussels, and examined the finance departments of their various governments. The first report made by the commission led to a complete change in the English exchequer. The second report, dealing with the military accounts, was carried into immediate effect. Papa was part of the inner circle in government and had many good friends there.
When the Duke of Wellington, who didn’t like Papa and blocked him from several appointings, resigned, Charles 2nd Earl Grey was asked to form a government.
In March of last year Lord Russell outlined the Reform Bill to the House of Commons and on the 23rd of March the Bill was passed by just one vote.
The Reform Bill was something Papa was very much in favour of. It was so that the Parliament would be more equally representative. At the time, most of the MPs were rich and privileged, and got their positions as a favour without any election taking place. However, the House of Lords rejected the Bill and Earl Grey dissolved Parliament on April 23rd.
After fresh elections held between April and June the Whigs were returned with a majority of 136 and the Reform Bill was reintroduced, and again passed by the Commons by 367 to 231. In October the House of Lords once again rejected it. After this show of defiance by the Lords rioting occurred throughout the country. But eventually, in June, they gave in, with some pressure forcing them to make a decision which would either let in more people, or lessen their powers, they decided for the best of a bad lot.
As a quick summary, 56 boroughs were disenfranchised, as they were called rotten boroughs, where there was no election process. 30 others were reduced from 2 members to 1; 26 counties were divided into 2 – each with 2 MPs, and 41 new boroughs were created, some with 1 MP and some with 2.
Papa was suggested as a candidate for one of the new ones – Blackburn.
In May of this year, Papa went to Blackburn and had a well attended meeting at the Bull Inn, including many non voters. He said, “I will be the first to demand an extension of popular rights if the ten pound householder vote proves insufficient. I will come to you annually to give account of my conduct.” He went on to say, “Wherever there is misery it is the duty of the government to remove it, and where there is happiness, it is incumbent on the government to increase it.”
As soon as the meeting was over, Papa hastened back to London, where his good friend Jeremy Bentham was having his last moments. Mr. Bentham had a solicitor come to the house and put a codicil to his will, saying that he wanted to make Papa the person who wrote up his work, his literary custodian, and that to put this into effect, he wanted Papa to have his house at 2 Queen’s Square in London. He mentioned that his nephew who will inherit most of his estate, could take whatever of the items from the house he wished, but Papa was to live in the house, and have all to do with his writing. A week later, Mr. Bentham died in Papa’s arms.
(I will write more about us moving to Mr. Bentham’s house later. )
Then in July Papa paid a second visit to the town and was met with an enthusiastic welcome. Then Papa went to France for three months, and only returned just before the election on December 3rd.
All males with an interest in property worth over £10 per year had the vote. Out of a population of 27,091 Blackburn had 627 electors. There were four candidates initially - William Feilden, William Turner, John Hindle, and John Bowring.
Each person was allowed two votes but not all of the voters used them both, these voters were known as “plumpers.” The fact that any one could see how a person had voted could and did make life difficult for the voters. The voters’ list also gives the rateable value of each house.
William Turner’s family were very popular in Blackburn and he was a much-liked employer. Outside the Old Bull Hotel on Church Street in front of a large crowd of working men he said, “Gentlemen, they said I wouldn’t come; but I am come, and will be here at the day of the election. I’ll stand the contest. It rains; it will wet you and will wet me. Good night. Give us three cheers.”
Turner then went into the Old Bull Hotel and bought barrels of beer for the crowds. The barrels of beer were rolled into the yard of the ancient parish church, the ends were knocked out and the people were debauched with drink and over the very graves which contained their forefathers.
At first the Tories resisted this type of electioneering but they finally succumbed to it and it was said that money was being left in pubs by Fielding and Turner to buy drinks for the undecided, amounts between £60 and £200 pounds were mentioned as being laid out.
Mr. Bowring and John Fowden Hindle resisted this type of electioneering. But by the next day, Mr. Hindle had dropped out of the race.
Only two publicans “plumped” for Papa. These were John Durham, of the Star Inn, Shorrock Fold and Henry Baines, New Inn, Victoria Street.
Papa’s supporters issued placards threatening “to use exclusive dealing against those burgesses who did not record their votes in favour of Bowring.” As there were no secret ballots at this time this sort of threat could be achieved quite easily and did in fact happen in this election.
“The Conservatives, who had the “sinews of war,” were occupied in conveying the “free and independent” voters to the various hostelries in the town, regaling them with drink, etc., which, from the result of the poll, was more convincing than the threats of exclusive dealing.”
After the first day of polling the results were,
As the second day of voting began it became clear that some tactical voting was being done to stop me gaining a seat. At 2 o-clock on Thursday my party, the Radicals, conceded defeat and the poll shut.
The returning Officer then gave out the final result, which was,
But Papa’s supporters were not happy with how things had gone. An angry crowd met outside the Bull Inn, and they began attacking the constables and smashing the windows of the inn and would probably have invaded the building itself had not Papa who had been hurriedly sent for, arrived and persuaded them to desist. But great excitement continued to prevail during the remainder of the day and also on Friday and some windows were broken at the Wellington and Mitre public houses.
This is what Papa says about the election.
“After the Reform Bill, several constituencies did me the honour of asking me to become a candidate. Blackburn appeared to have an irresistible and superior claim. Mr James Pilkington, father of the late member, was my special friend, and my hospitable host.
“It was on the 30th of July, that my first public reception took place. At Darwen, twenty thousand people came out to meet me with flags, banners, and music, and reiterated bursts of enthusiasm broke out in the whole line of the procession. Vast crowds accompanied us on our canvass the following day, and at every house we entered “Bowring forever” was the cry.
Then the election itself came. First came the hand vote, and I won the top vote in that, but the losers demanded a polled vote.
“That night, the candidates and their supporters were out drumming up support. It was reported that large sums of money were being offered for votes, but nothing was ever proved on this matter.
“There were four candidates in the field, and every inquiry led to the conclusion that I should have a large majority, and be returned at the top of the poll. It was believed that Mr. Feilden's success was certain; he belonged to a very respectable family - was a gentleman, and though certainly not a zealous Liberal, he had been a partizan of the Reform Bill; indeed, it was scarcely possible for any one to be otherwise, who desired to represent a constituency which had been created by that Bill.
“Mr. William Turner had absolutely no recommendation whatever, but that he had wealth and was willing to spend it to obtain the honour of a position which he was about as fitted to fill as to quadrate the circle, to calculate an eclipse, or to give a lecture on Plato.
“He had the distinction of being the father of the young lady who was abducted by Edward Gibbon Wakefield. (Personally I would have preferred Mr Wakefield as a candidate as he has done much to improve conditions in prison since he has been in one.) Turner’s success was due, and could only be due, to a fixed purpose, to accomplish his objective by the drunkenness and demoralisation of the people.
“A third candidate was a Mr. Hindle, whose opinions were not much known, but who was believed to belong to the Tory party. He had never any chance of being elected. He withdrew, but his withdrawal flung all his votes into the hands of Feilden and Turner, who naturally brought a great amount of local influence, to oppose a stranger who had no other claim than that of his long devotion to the cause of reform.
“I had, therefore, to struggle not only with all the powers of corruption - with gross intimidation, exercised by masters over their dependents - but against that connection with the manufacturing interests of the adjacent districts, which my opponents had at their command; besides which I determined that neither in drink nor bribery should a single farthing be spent by me or with my sanction. I knew that it was my mission to elevate and not brutalise the people - to make them wiser and happier, and never to degrade and disgrace them.
“But the evil influences had the ascendancy, and on the 13th December, the state of the poll was declared to be Feilden, 376; Turner, 346, Bowring 334. Elections so conducted are an opprobrium to the national character, and the men who employ such instruments to obtain the honour of being the makers of laws for their country, only show emphatically that they are the breakers of the higher laws of sobriety and truth, and are more deserving of punishment for their own offences than fitted to award punishment for the offences of others.
“This analysis of the poll is instructive. The number of voters was 637.
Plumpers Bowring 126; Turner 20; Feilden 6;
Bowring and Feilden 126 126
Bowring and Turner 82 82
Turner and Feilden 244 244
Total Bowring 334; Turner 346; Feilden 376.
[Plumpers are those who voted for only one candidate]
“Thus if the plumpers had the same value as the divided votes, the state of opinion would have been represented by Bowring, 460; Feilden, 382; Turner, 366.”
Soon after this as described in Hansard, Papa’s election details were discussed in the House of Commons, as taken from Hansard.
(Mr. Irving). I could not but take the present opportunity of noticing the conduct which had been pursued by a candidate for the neighbouring town of Blackburn, Dr. Bowring, who had been pleased, in the course of his speeches and addresses to the electors of that borough, to attack and cast imputations upon me. The learned doctor had alluded to my being a West-India proprietor, and insinuated that, therefore, I was inimical to the abolition of slavery, while at the same time, the learned doctor well knew that he had suggested a plan which had met the attention of his Majesty's Government, by which that subject might be set at rest. The learned doctor had said much elsewhere as to what I was, and I will take the liberty of telling the House what the Doctor is not. He is neither an Atheist nor a Deist in his religious principles; neither is he republican in his political principles, nor has he trafficked in revolutions.
My Irving thanked the House for the patience with which they had heard his statement, and for the attention they had bestowed upon it.
(Mr. Hume) said that the statement made by the hon. Member (Mr. Irving) was so much in accordance with the account he had received of the transaction, that he had no doubt of its accuracy. He regretted very much that attempts had been made, not only at Clithero, but in various other places, to raise a prejudice against Members by connecting them with the West-India interest. Such a course, he admitted, was not likely to lead to a reasonable or satisfactory adjustment of the slave question. With respect to Dr. Bowring, the Hon. Member had really thrown out aspersions which were wholly unfounded, and ought never to have been made. Dr. Bowring, in his speech, after his triumphal entry into Blackburn, might have called the Hon. Member a slave proprietor; and if that tended in any degree to cause the Hon. Member to be treated as he afterwards was treated, no doubt Dr. Bowring would very much regret having used that expression. But what was now the Hon. Gentleman's conduct? He now came down coolly, and charged Dr. Bowring with being an Atheist, a Deist, and a Republican. Now he (Mr. Hume) did not believe that any of those words were correctly applied to Dr. Bowring. That learned person was a friend to every measure calculated to improve the happiness of mankind, and he was most enthusiastic in his desire to put an end to slavery; but that was no ground for throwing such aspersions on him as those in which the Hon. Member had indulged.