See also: Nigel Morgans’s Desirable Dwellings
Preston cotton mills in 1847
A Tory view of Political Bonds and the rise of Radicalism in 1830
Preston Pilot 14th August 1830 following elections of Stanley and Wood.
it is… evident… that what is called the Blue party… has established a controlling influence in election matters (but was in difficulties on this occasion) through the sheer neglect of its leaders….
Nor do we desire… to uphold… a course… too much adopted at the late occasion – we mean that of coercing dependent persons into a compliance with the wishes of those upon whom they happen to depend.
We call the working classes generally Radicals, and so they are – but why? Certainly not because they have any very anxious desire to see this or that particular branch of the legislature reformed, for we believe the portion of their body, who (saving election time perhaps) manifest any wish to understand the abstract question at all, is comparatively so very small, that if the maintenance of Radical doctrines were to be left alone to their championship we should never again hear more about them. But the fact is; that men in this town are actually forced into the ranks of Radicalism by the want of due consideration in those with whom rests the power of preventing such desertion. For example, we will suppose the employer of two or three hundred men to express for some months, or weeks, or days just previous to an election an intention of holding himself neutral during such election. What follows? The people, finding their master feels no interest in digesting them one way or the other, consider themselves at liberty to parade what, in the excusable pride of human nature, they are pleased to call their independence. This we may be sure is done in all tap-room coteries, and, as in such assemblies there are never wanting discontented spirits to take advantage of moments favourable to their wishes, it is soon trumpeted abroad that Mr Such-a-one and Messrs So-and-so have determined on taking no part in the election, by which the Radical faction become emboldened to look out for the most notorious demagogue they can find, in order to seize the golden opportunity…
… The multitude, flattered and deceived by the affected sympathy of the orator, become enamoured of the doctrines he propounds… they cordially mount the hackneyed stalking horse of Reform – and so far and no farther do they become members of the Radical confederacy. And besides it is no small charm with poor folks – at all times too prone to deem the aristocracy their oppressors to think they can command the energies of men so nearly allied to their own body as your Radical champions most commonly are…
… We are firmly persuaded that in general the men require no coercion to induce them to follow the direction it may be the pleasure of their employers to indicate; since nothing is more common, where there is a good understanding between the master and his men (than) for the latter, on the eve of an election, to attend the former in a body and place their votes at his disposal; and in so doing, we beg to add, they manifest a correct and creditable feeling. In this commercial country we all know that wealth will be represented in preference to numbers, and we are amongst those who think that a certain degree of influence may at all times be used amongst dependants without the slightest compromise of privilege or principle. Such influence we should ever wish to see exercised in this place, and sure are we that if it be only carried into operation in proper season for it all resolves itself into a question of time – the inevitable consequence will be an uninterrupted continuance of good will and kindly feeling amongst all classes.
Analysis of occupational composition of Preston electorate: 1832 and 1838
(a) Because Preston enjoyed virtually universal manhood suffrage in 1832, the electorate was very large and occupationally comprehensive. There were 6,352 electors in 1832, and 3,702 in 1838. The Voters List of 1838 contains 256 different occupations. To simplify the social and political analysis of pollbooks I have therefore counted all the electors in 1838 by occupation (and by ward) and then classified the occupations under 18 different headings, and from those classes then selected the occupations numerous enough to enable me to make simple statistical comparisons. I rejected the alternative of counting whole groups (e.g. all specialist shopkeepers) and taking a ten per cent random sample, for a number of practical reasons, including the difficulty of reading selectively for a number of different occupations simultaneously, the problem of classifying marginal occupations, and the mathematical complexities of checking the validity of a small sample.
The method I adopted yielded 33 occupational classifications distributed among eleven crudely distinguished groups.
For comparison with the much larger number in 1832, I counted these classes in the first third of the 1832 pollbook, that is, 2,117 names out of 6,352, and multiplied the results by three.
For crude social and occupational comparison between the six municipal wards established in 1835 I selected fifteen occupational classes in 1838, dividing these fifteen into three groups according to the assumed degree of their political independence. Thus the first division, the local upper crust, includes textile employers, ‘gentlemen’, merchants and professionals. In the third division I placed those who were economically dependent upon, and, from other evidence, liable to varying degrees of direct political influence by, employers – spinners and weavers, mechanics, labourers. The middle division lacks such positive definition: it includes occupations which could not be clearly assigned to either of the other groups, such as overlookers and managers, shopkeepers both specialist and general, joiners, shoemakers etc. The organising logic in this case is simply that of convenience, it does not imply historical judgment. The people in this middle division may have been described by contemporaries as the middling sort, but so far from regarding them as a distinct ‘class’ in the historical sense, I suggest that it is likely that distinctions would be found within this social range. Overlookers, for example, voted overwhelmingly on the Conservative side in 1832, tailors on the Radical side. Significantly, the tiny minority who voted for the liberal candidate between the tory and radical pairs in 1832 were almost all of ‘the middling sort’.
The accompanying table shows the results of this process of analysis for 1832and 1838; and the histograms, constructed from a slightly different selection of occupations, show some of the main differences between the municipal wards, derived from the voters list not the burgess list (which is of course much smaller, and does not give occupations), in 1838.
(b) Methods of analysing and calculating results of elections from pollbook evidence
The tables and graphs relating to the distribution of votes have been calculated by two methods.
1. To compare the performance of parties in different elections, both for the whole borough and for the individual wards, and to compare the distribution of votes between wards, I have taken the global totals published in the pollbooks or the press. My choice of which candidates’ votes to compare with which has been determined by the interpretive approach explained in the text (see Chapter 6.5). With the exception of 1852 and 1859 it has been possible to treat each election as essentially a struggle between two sides, even when there were three, four or even five candidates; analysis of cross-party voting demonstrates that this is justifiable (see (c) below). The percentage share of votes between the two sides has been obtained by adding together the votes for the candidates thus identified, and calculating their shares of that total. The figures used for this purpose in Appendix 9 ‘Distribution of votes by wards’ are indicated by the linking brackets in that table, and the percentages included are the Liberal share of the total.
In general I have followed Dr Fraser in taking ‘leading Liberal’ and ‘leading Conservative’ but in certain elections with three candidates, when one candidate could be regarded by the electors as occupying a central position though nominally of the same party as one of the other two, I have taken the figures which relate to the struggle for the second seat, i.e. the trailing one of a nominal pair. In 1837 this was the Tory Parker, and in 1857 the Liberal Strickland. The election of 1859, in which there were also three candidates, could not be treated in this way because it posed problems of party definition, both for contemporaries and for me.
A theoretical weakness in the use of raw totals, namely the inclusion of unknown proportions of cross-party votes, proved to be statistically negligible in most elections (see (c) below).
2. To compare the votes of different occupational groups (selected by the method described in (a) above), and to analyse the spatial distribution of votes in small localities within wards, I have counted every voter of those occupations or localities as far as human error would allow according to whether he voted for one side or the other (as defined above). This eliminated split votes, which were in any case very few in the two elections principally examined in this way, those of 1837 and 1841.
(c) Analysis of cross-party voting 1852-1852 (except 1852)
- Results of analysis
Cross party or split voting was so low (before 1859) as to have a negligible effect on calculations using global totals:
2. Calculations for each election
1832 – Total electorate: 6,352.
(i) Splits between one of the Tory/Whig pair and one of the Radical pair: 142 (2.2%)
(ii) Splits of voters for Liberal candidate: with Fleetwood (Tory): 6; with Stanley (Whig): 66; with Hunt (Radical): 16; with Forbes (Radical): 2; Total: 117
1835 – Total electorate: 3,744
(i) Splits between Liberal and either Conservative (Fleetwood ) or Whig (Stanley): 544 (14.5%)
(ii) Splits between Liberal and Conservative (Fleetwood): 332 (9%)
(iii) Splits between Liberal and Whig (Stanley): 212 (5.6%)
NB See comments on shift of Liberal preference between 1832 and 1835 in 3 below.
1837 – Total electorate: 3,700
Splits between Liberal (Crawford) and Tory (Parker): 159 (4.3%)
1841 – Total electorate : 3,300
Splits between one of the Liberal pair (Fleetwood and Strickland) and one of the Tory pair (Parker or Swainson): 54 (1.6%)
1847 – Total electorate: 3,054
Splits between Tory (Parker) and one of the Liberal pair (Strickland and Grenfell): 120 (3.9%)
1857 – Total electorate: 2,742
Splits between Conservative (Cross) and the trailing Liberal (Strickland): 89 (3.2%)
Note: The ‘leading Liberal’ in this election (Grenfell) was moving in a conservative direction, compared with Strickland, and was therefore the centre of three, like Fleetwood in 1837.
1859 – Total electorate: 2,742
(i) Splits between Liberal (Grenfell) and either of the Conservatives (Cross and Clifton): 442 (16.6%)
(ii) Splits between Grenfell and Cross: 418 (15.7%)
(iii) Splits between Grenfell and Clifton: 24 (0.9%)
Note: Catholic political leaders in Preston ‘turned away from the Liberal ranks’ in 1859, there being no Liberal alternative to Grenfell, to whom they had been ‘implacably opposed since 1852. There were therefore at least two different contests in Preston in 1859: between Conservatives and Liberals, and between Grenfell and the Catholics, who threw their weight behind Clifton in order to oust Grenfell; It is noticeable that the cross-party voting between Grenfell and Clifton (0.9%) is by far the lowest in the whole period from 1832.
(Reference : Evidence Given to the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Preston Election Petition 1859, especially evidence of John Goodair pp 157-8)
3. Conclusions and observations
(i) There was a high degree of party discipline in parliamentary elections in Preston during this period. This suggests either individually sophisticated political perception in an exceptionally wide franchise (which is unlikely), or a combination of communal identity and efficient party organisation (efficient in terms of the prevailing tradition of corruption).
(ii) Comparison of the different patterns of cross-party preference in 1832, 1835 and 1837 reveals an immediately measurable (though small) result of the party organisation which was initiated in 1835 (see pp 313 and 317-8). The majority of Liberal splits shifted from the Whig Stanley to the Tory Fleetwood in 1835, anticipating the pattern of 1837 and 1841.
(iii) If social and economic ‘class’ influenced voting in parliamentary elections in Preston during this period, it did so in the earlier rather than the later period, when Old Franchise voters predominated. As they fell into the minority in the 1850s, other social groupings, local and individual connections, and religious interests, seem to have played a larger part in political conflict.
Analysis of occupational composition of Preston electorate: 1832 and 1838
Composition of Preston electorate 1832 and 1838
Social comparison of wards: 1838 register of voters
Preston Parliamentary election results 1826-62
Changes in voting of selected occupations between 1837 and 1841
Distribution of votes by wards