Parliament and electoral corruption in the nineteenth century
Despite hopes that the 1832 Reform Act had ushered in a new era of electoral purity in Britain, bribery and other forms of corruption remained persistent problems at elections in subsequent decades. Historians have tended to focus their attention on the major reforms intended to curtail electoral malpractice in the nineteenth century, notably the 1854 and 1883 Corrupt Practices Acts and the 1872 Ballot Act, neglecting the wider trajectory of legislative proposals to improve electoral morality. This chapter aims to redress this gap, demonstrating the ongoing extent of contemporary concerns about this issue by considering the amount of parliamentary time it occupied, both in the Commons chamber and in the committee rooms. It explores the wide range of potential remedies which legislators discussed, including the disenfranchisement of constituencies, curbing election spending by candidates and reforming the system of election petitions, and it reassesses the rationales shaping MPs’ priorities and concerns in their often abortive attempts at reform. It argues that for MPs grappling with this problem, the growing demands on their own pockets due to their constituents’ expectations regarding election spending – corrupt or otherwise – served as a crucial incentive to take decisive action on this question, with the landmark 1883 Corrupt Practices Act eventually tackling the twin evils of electoral corruption and excessive election spending.
The complexities of the mid-century reform agenda articulated by the 1854 Northcote–Trevelyan Report have been much discussed. These complexities, however, have rarely been explored in the context of particular departments, or in relation to Conservative ministries. This chapter makes up for this neglect and does so by considering the Conservative administration of Lord Derby (February 1858–June 1859) and its uneasy relationship with reform of the Foreign Office and the ‘corruption’ associated with nepotism. In this era, incoming ministries attempted to get supporters into diplomatic jobs and eject opponents, both to shore up domestic support and to ensure that foreign policy was enacted by sympathetic representatives. The professionalisation of the diplomatic corps gradually changed matters, as competitive examinations arrived. Yet, as this chapter will suggest, the process of change was neither as smooth nor as unchallenged as it might appear. Both Derby and his Foreign Secretary, Lord Malmesbury, had a sense of the requirements of public service; but they were also confronted with a diplomatic service dominated by Whigs, apparently set on a new course in the wake of reforms by Palmerston and Clarendon. They sought to rebalance it; and, as will be suggested, their administration represents a microcosm of a mid-century struggle to achieve equilibrium between nepotism on the one hand and disinterested standards on the other, though such standards were by no means as self-evident as they might now appear.
Since the work of J. G. A. Pocock, the tension between commerce and virtue has been a prominent analytic framework for understanding the Scottish Enlightenment. A large literature has developed that stresses the tensions in the social and political thought of the period, and places thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Hume and Adam Ferguson on a spectrum ranging between civic republicanism and commercial liberalism. This chapter reassesses the usefulness of this approach as a lens for interpreting the thought of the period. It does so by focusing on the analysis of corruption and the defence of public service provided by Adam Ferguson. Ferguson is often seen as the foremost Scottish sceptic of commerce, whose analysis of corruption serves as a foil for Hume and Smith’s more optimistic view. However, such readings often fail to consider the fact that Ferguson was broadly favourable towards commerce and had a developed theory of public service and education that he regarded as a suitable palliative for the corruption of eighteenth-century Britain. By grasping this we get a very different view of the Scottish Enlightenment’s attitude to virtue and corruption in a commercial society.
This chapter focuses upon the polemical career of Thomas Bakewell, a baker and Presbyterian ruling elder of middling wealth who traded from a shop in Hanging Sword Court, just off London’s Fleet Street. Like the more famous Thomas Edwards studied in Ann Hughes’ works, Bakewell was a devout religious Presbyterian whose commitment to Reformed ‘orthodoxy’ led him into a series of disputes with Antinomians, Separatists, Baptists, Congregationalists to Fifth Monarchists that formed part of the struggle to demarcate the boundaries of religious ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heterodoxy’ during the period. Bakewell’s mid-seventeenth-century printed polemics, however, were grounded in the face-to-face experience of oral and private lay religious disputation dating back to the early 1630s and his narratives illustrate another dimension of the struggles of the Puritan underground to maintain orthodoxy identified in the recent work of Peter Lake, David Como and Ann Hughes. The chapter will analyse the engagements between Bakewell and his opponents to gain an understanding of the ‘rules’ of lay religious debate and polemic. In addition it focuses upon how originally oral debates between disputants who were known to each other on a face-to-face basis within the relatively small geographical area of mid-seventeenth-century London were expressed in print and how this ‘lived experience’ structured the literary forms, and genre experimentation, used to communicate religious disputation to a wider audience. As such, the chapter builds on Ann Hughes’ contribution to this area of historiography and thus, I hope, presents a fitting tribute to her work as a historian.
Conservative responses to nationalisation and Poplarism, 1900–40
The chapter is concerned with the politicisation of ‘corruption’ during the early twentieth century. It contends that corruption remained a contested concept long into the twentieth century, when – much as before – it was deployed to support a variety of political arguments and objectives. It does so through a focus on Conservative objections to nationalisation and so-called ‘Poplarism’, a term used to stigmatise the efforts of high-spending left-wing local councils in the 1920s to provide generous levels of outdoor relief and unemployment compensation. The Conservative critique of nationalisation rested on the argument that public ownership was anathema to good government. Shorn of commercial imperatives, socialist politicians sitting on the boards of nationalised industries would grant privileges to trade union officials and bribe working-class electors with promises of material benefits. Infused by similar anti-democratic assumptions, Conservatives opposed Poplarism on the grounds that it was corrupt and even, some suggested, analogous ‘to the open and extensive bribery which prevailed in elections in the good old days’. The Poplarist credo of generous outdoor relief was felt to be demoralising and inimical to the spirit of self-help, constituting a flagrant violation of orthodox Poor Law principles. Whereas in previous centuries condemnations of corrupt practices were often bound up with radical demands for a more representative polity, they now, at the start of the twentieth century, registered a profound unease with the realities and ramifications of universal suffrage.
Ranters, Quakers and the revolutionary public sphere
This chapter re-examines relations between Quakers and Ranters in the 1650s. Although J. C. Davis’ robust attack on the Ranters in the 1990s has been widely rebutted, it retains nevertheless an enduring influence on scholarly approaches to radical sects in the 1650s. Accounts of Ranters still focus on the small handful of so-called Ranter authors. Their broader significance is largely understood negatively, as a thorn in the side of religious and political settlement in the 1650s, or as esoteric intellectuals operating on the margins of acceptable religious doctrine. Using material from Quaker correspondence, this chapter explores the broader impact of Ranter preaching and Ranter authors on local audiences. Quakers and Ranters sought out public debate and conducted formal disputations with each other in front of religiously diverse local audiences throughout the 1650s; Quaker authors worked hard, both in print and in local meetings, to refute Ranter ideas on sin and transgression, and argued for the importance of moral regulation governed by conscience, as part of their on-going campaign for the statutory provision of liberty of conscience. Ann Hughes’ work has been pivotal in founding a scholarship that has established the vibrancy and participatory nature of religion and politics during the 1640s and 1650s. This chapter builds upon her work and argue that the public exchanges and formal debates between Ranter and Quaker preachers can be integrated into this participatory model.
This chapter examines why Montaigne, the great French Catholic writer and sceptic, was so appealing to the radical writer and Leveller leader William Walwyn. It argues that Montaigne was crucial to Walwyn’s self-fashioning, though he would not have used the term with its implications of theatrical self-presentation. Plain, direct, true to his self (especially his conscience), and made uneasy by any kind of behaviour marked by dissimulation, the ‘honest papist’ (as Walwyn characterised Montaigne) provided a kind of broad-minded, multi-vocal European model for Walwyn in his seventeenth-century world too often marred by religious enmity, suspicion, treachery and uncharitable Christian behaviour. Walwyn was making a powerful polemical point by using the ‘honest papist’ writer as a major authority on ethical, religious and political matters. Montaigne may have been ‘but a Romish Catholique’, but his essays, and the often startling perspectives they provided, offered Walwyn some of the most provocative, unorthodox observations about Christian religion and behaviour in a seventeenth-century world of Protestant divisions in which ‘pretence of pietie and religion’ (to recall a phrase from Montaigne’s ‘Of Cannibals’) was too often manipulated and where toleration itself was far from assured. Montaigne appealed to Walwyn the radical tolerationist not simply because of his irenic sensibility – as unusual as that was in his own age of religious extremism – but because of his tendency to interpret against the grain and to unsettle deeply ingrained stereotypes, dogmatic perspectives, and religious prejudices based upon claiming doctrinal infallibility.
Richard Culmer and the practices of polemic during the English Revolution
Richard Culmer – the famous Canterbury iconoclast – shares certain characteristics with the well-known Presbyterian preacher from the civil wars, Thomas Edwards. Both were controversial ministers, and both became involved in the world of print culture and pamphleteering. With both men, however, there has always been a danger that the printed pamphlets are studied in order to reconstruct their lives and ideas, or the beliefs and activities of those that they studied, in ways which left unanswered questions about the role that print played within their careers, and the ways in which they thought about its uses. Of course, pioneering work by Ann Hughes has helped to revolutionise our understanding of the print revolution, and the innovative ways in which Edwards appropriated print as part of mobilisation strategies. This piece revisits the texts produced by and about both Richard Culmer and his son, in order to deepen our understanding of the nature, practices and role of polemic during the civil wars and interregnum, not least in relation to the ways in which pamphlets deployed evidence in order to mould reputations, and did so in ways that might be thought to have resonated – perhaps in different ways – both nationally and in the locality.
The conclusion ties together the three parts of the book and reflects on the souvenir. It poses a challenge to previous scholarship that has downplayed the souvenir as an object that creates inauthentic and manufactured feeling divorced from the means of production, eliding its female-driven origins. It is argued that the souvenir only became popular and monetised in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries because women had created a market for small, inexpensive objects which recalled their travels. Men merely magnified and marketed a practice that elite women travellers of the second half of the eighteenth century had created. By viewing the souvenir through a gendered lens, we see how women of the past challenged and subverted gender norms in the pursuit of their own subjectivity.
Chapter 3 demonstrates that souvenirs gave elite women a platform to perform cultural capital for which they were well received, often leading to the establishment of salons and similar settings in which men and women could mingle and discuss experiences to which only the elite were privy. It provides an in-depth analysis of how two women, Lady Anna Miller and Hester Piozzi, used their travel collections to establish successful salons that resembled the French aristocratic salons and Italian conversazioni. Travelling a decade apart, in 1771 and 1782, each of these women held an insecure social position, the former through social status and the latter through marital status. Each sought to exploit the prestige of having undertaken a tour of Italy to establish herself more firmly in society upon her return home.