Bribery, Corruption and other practices.
' The popular idea of bribery and corruption as practised at parliamentary elections before the present stringent law came into force is simply that of money paid by or on behalf of a candidate to a voter for his vote. But this is a much too narrow view of the venality that prevailed. The poisonous Upas tree which contaminated elections before, and to a lesser extent since 1832, was of large dimensions. Its baneful toxin infected every class from the highest to the lowest. There were epochs before the year named when the Crown, Ministers, peers and squires who were the patrons of petty boroughs, their usually complacent nominees for the representation of such boroughs - borough masters and borough members - sundry other folks who sat in high places, as well as the humble, ill-informed voter were all impliplicated. In the eighteenth century the scandal was specially notorious. Boroughs were bought and sold both before and after Walpole's time. Parliamentary seats were bought at heavy prices. The traffic was carried on more or less throughout the century. Lord Chesterfield - who as a Commoner had sat for the Cornish boroughs of St. Germans and Lostwithiel - has placed it on record that, having offered £2,500 for a seat in Parliament, he was laughed at, and further in 1768 - the year of a notoriously corrupt election - a borough had been sold to two members for £9,000. This figure is much in excess of a statement by Bright that the price of a small borough about this time was £4,000. It was this year of 1768 when Wilkes was defeated for the City and afterwards being elected for the City was deemed incapable of sitting, with consequent riots and public disturbances. The year following saw Wilkes three further times elected for Middlesex, his opponent on the last occasion being Colonel Luttrell, who was persuaded to leave the Cornish pocket borough of Bossiney to oppose Wilkes. '
Back to the Top
Copyright © Ambra Books 2003. All rights reserved.