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Electioneering

Diary extracts (with transcripts) and other useful sources are discussed below.  Where possible, images of the source items have been provided and can be viewed online.

 

Extracts from the Duke's diaries

17 Feb 1846 (Ne 2 F 7, p. 242)

[...] Owen, who is employed by the D. of Portland to conduct, Ld Henry Bentincks [sic] Election - called here last night & told me that Lincoln had engaged all the attornies, & retained [sic] for some time forward by excessive retainers both for South & North Nott's - so that he Owen was unable to engage anyone for Ld Henry - he told me that it was impossible to conceive anything More extraordinary than the present state of things at & near Nottingham - parties changed, & parties united, & nothing to be known by its mere distinction - & all this effected by Govt money & my poor Son's deluded efforts - The mischief which he & people for him have done is inconcieviable [sic] - He was told that if Lincoln failed in S. Notts, that he was to come to the North - I do not believe it -

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Landowners such as the 4th Duke of Newcastle under Lyne and the 4th Duke of Portland used agents (often attorneys or those with legal training or experience) to help them look after their economic and political interests. Election candidates also required such assistance, not only to help conduct the campaign but to advise on electoral practices and on whether individual constituents had the right to vote. In this diary entry, Newcastle discovers that his son has caused his opponents some difficulty by retaining attorneys to work on his behalf in both divisions of the county. 

21 Feb 1846 (Ne 2 F 7, p. 242)

The nomination at Newark took place today - Mr Hildyard came in attended by a fine display of nearly 500 farmers on horseback - Poor Lincoln's was a very sorry shew [sic] - Sir R. Bromley & J. Sutton (Kelham) nominated [&] seconded Lincoln - Mr Barron & Mr Stone - Mr Hildyard - Lincoln who thinks that the merit of a speech lies in its length more than its breadth, gave them another long speech of which they must be already surfeited - I have not heard whether it were good or bad - but I am told that Mr Hildyard acquitted himself particularly well - this will stop Lincolns' mouth with regard to him he will make no more scurrilous remarks upon him & his youth. Lincoln is sure to lose his election - Polling begins on 24th -

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An important part of the election itself was the public nomination, at which the candidates would appear and be nominated and seconded by some well-known and respected members of the constituency. Candidates would also make speeches outlining the reasons why they deserved the support of the electors. Polling would begin a few days later.

 

Other relevant sources

Use the links to view images of these sources.  Transcripts are available for download:

 

Lord Lincoln discusses the election canvass

This short letter from the Earl of Lincoln to the Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel illustrates the power and importance of 'influence' in an election contest for an English county constituency during the mid-nineteenth century.

Lincoln refers to the importance of his election agents, whose role was to build and maintain support for him during the contest. The key method was to canvass the voters; this was used to demonstrate (and in turn increase) support for the candidate and their political views. Lincoln contrasts his own difficulties in securing the support of tenants and farmers in the constituency with the methods used by his father, the 4th Duke of Newcastle.

 

Hildyard also faces difficulties with his campaign

By contrast with the Earl of Lincoln's view of his electoral prospects, this letter from Lord George Bentinck to his father indicates some of the difficulties facing his opponent in the South Nottinghamshire by-election. The need to have a committee to manage and organise electioneering on behalf of a candidate and money to finance their activities were particularly important factors in a successful election campaign. Bentinck, writing from London, hopes that the 4th Duke of Portland can use his local knowledge and connections to assist in these matters.

 

The changing relationship between a parliamentary constituency and its M.P.

This interesting letter between Lord George Bentinck and his father suggests changes in the relationship between a constituency and its M.P.. Candidates for parliament were required, by law, to have a property qualification and needed to be sure that they could meet the cost of their election. The increasing workload associated with being in parliament and the demands which a constituency might make on their time could also put off candidates.

 

Lord Lincoln reports to Sir Robert Peel on the progress of his campaign

Throughout the campaign the Earl of Lincoln kept in close contact with the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. This series of letters provides a valuable commentary on the daily progress of the election contest, as Lincoln saw it. In particular, the letters show the patient work which a candidate needed to undertake in order to build up their electoral support. Activities included canvassing for votes by making public appearances and speeches and visiting individual constituents. Lincoln also mentions the number of promises which he has received. This was an important means of measuring how successfully a candidate's campaign was progressing in advance of the poll. However, there was no guarantee that the number of promises received would equal the actual number of votes which a candidate received.

 

George Rawson assesses the outcome of the election

This letter from one of the Earl of Lincoln's campaign team offers some comments on how different districts in the South Nottinghamshire constituency voted in the by-election. It also provides an agent's view of why the election was lost. Reference is also made to the possibility that Lincoln might stand in the North Nottinghamshire by-election as a Conservative free-trade candidate.

 

Individuals exert their electoral influence over the constituency

This series of letters demonstrates the different ways in which a candidate might be received by individuals who had electoral influence within a constituency, either as property owners with tenants who had the right to vote or as respected members of the local community. A candidate might not obtain a promise of support from property owners or permission to canvass their tenants but could receive an assurance of neutrality. This meant that their opponent would not gain their vote either.

 

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