Page images
PDF
EPUB

out parade, and sometimes in splendid equipages ornamented with ribands of their colour.

Before giving his vote, the elector takes an oath that he acts solely from the impulse of his conscience, and that he is biassed by no pecuniary or private considerations; his vote is then inscribed before his eyes, in the column of his favoured candidate. Disputes are settled by the sheriff's court in counties, and by the mayor in cities. The hustings are surrounded with an immense number of people, who come to give their support to the candidate whom they prefer, to encourage him by their plaudits, and to uphold him against his rivals, whom they overwhelm with their hootings, 'mud, &c. From a window in King street, Covent Garden, I viewed the area paved with heads below me, and heard the shouting, hisses and imprecations of the enlightened multitude. The ministerial candidate was saluted with groans and cries of“ get off and be dd to you!” Sir Francis Burdett and Mr. Hobhouse were always received with the most enthusiastic applause. Sir Francis was the hero of the day; it is impossible to give an adequate idea of the loud and continued cheers, and the expressions of attachment with which the people hailed this eminently popular personage. Hobhouse and his friend Kinneard appeared now and then at the windows of their committee room, and harangued the multitude, who seemed to be the scum of the creation; they looked even worse off than Falstaff's soldiers!

[ocr errors]

22.5

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

During the election, the mob is " thrown into tumult, raptured and alarmed” by the speeches of the candidates; but when the contest is over, the people, like a sovereign preparing for a long journey, (says Cotter,) descend tranquilly from their throne, delegating all their authority to their representatives, and admonishing them that their conduct will be watched, and that, on their return, either their services will be acknowledged, or themselves punished for their negligence or prevarication.

Some time after the election, the day of chairing arrives,-i. e. of the triumph (or

ovation,” as Burke would call it,) of the fortunate candidate. All the partisans of the returned member make a point of embellishing the ceremony; ladies place themselves at the windows by which the candidate passes, in the most sumptuous dresses, and decorated with his colours; the men accompany him on horseback, or in their carriages; banners covered with appropriate devices precede his carriage, and are greeted with the loudest acclamations. The representative appears himself like a tri. umphant Roman in an open chariot, tawdry enough for the wedding of Cupid and Psyche!

“ The statesman of the day
A pompous and slow moving pageant, comes.
Some shout him, and some hang upon his car,
To gaze in 's eyes, and bless him. Maidens wave
Their kerchiefs, and old women weep for joy:
While others, not so satisfied, unhorse
The gilded equipage, and turning loose
His steeds, usurp a place they well deserve.” COWPER.

The fete is terminated by a grand dinner, at which are sometimes assembled 500 electors; whilst, out of the room, streams of porter flow in abundance among the people. Toasts are afterwards proposed, to the royal family, the independence of England, the constitution, the revolution of 1688, &c. These toasts are communicated to the multitude by the guests nearest the windows, and are answered by shouts and transports.

All the government offices, the East and West India warehouses and docks were ransacked for voters in favour of the ministerial candidate. The Maxwellites even went to the alms' houses, from one of which, belonging to the East India Company, they actually lirought about a dozen old fellows in tattered weeds

and overwhelming brows,” and tendered them , to poll!

I have been told several electioneering anecdotes, which would amuse you. I will content myself with relating one of them. Mr. Harvey canvassed a quaker on a Sunday, who reprehended him for working on that sacred day, and referred him to the passage in the Holy Writ,“ thou shalt do no manner of work, &c.” Mr. H. replied, “ very true, my friend, but there is another passage, that seems to have escaped your recollection, which says, “make your calling and your election sure.""*

* In the Middlesex elections in 1820, an eminent ale-brewer called, with one of Mellish (the ministerial candidate's) canvassing parties, on a cooper who received annually a considerable

TE

In the contest for Westminster in 1784, the beautiful duchess of Devonshire canvassed with great zeal for Mr. Fox, who was opposed by Sir Cecil Wray. Fox was 318 behind his rival, when the charms of his lovely friend so completely fascinated the voters, that they very gallantly yielded to so impressive an advocate; persuasion sparkled in the eyes and dimpled in the smiles of the beautiful duchess, pleading for her brother whig!

I could not help thinking of Mrs. Heidelberg, in the Clandestine Marriage, whose hus. band “ lost his election because she would not demean herself to be slobbered about by drunk. en shoemakers, beastly cheesemongers, and greasy butchers and tallow-chandlers."

I leave town to morrow in the public stage, for Edinburgh. As I intend passing a few months in London during the summer, I will sum from the brewer. After his vote was solicited, the cooper addressing himself to Mellish, who attended the party, said, “ Sir, on the corn bill or the bullion committee, you might have known better than I did, and I bow to your better judgment; but as to the grant of 10,0001. a year to the Duke of York, for vis. iting his afflicted father, that is a simple question, easily understood by every father and son; and let the consequence, as respecting Mr.

's business be what it may, damn me if I will give my vote in favour of any man who could disgrace himself by forwarding so infamous a grant!"

The Middlesex struggle cost Mellish pearly 20000 pounds!. (300 guineas every day for 13 days, to bire coaches to drag up the voters to Brenton,) and, after every exertion of government influence, bribery and coercion, the ministerial hireling " aspira á descendre," and was obliged to retire. The friends of Mr. Whitbread spent little in comparison, not more than 25001., a very great proportion of his voters walked to tbe hustings! Such is the triumph of liberty over corruption and influence!

[ocr errors]

hefer till then any further observations on this tand of rotten boroughs and contested elections, of popular licentiousness and ministerial despotism, of press gangs and yeomanry cavalry!

LETTER XI.

I am convinced, Yorick, that there is a North-west passage to the intellectual world; and that the soul of man has shorter ways of going to work, in furnishing itself with knowledge and instruction, than we generally take with it. Tristram Shandy.

To DR, CALDWELL.

Edinburgh, March 17th, 1819. The buildings which compose the University of Edinburgh are grouped together in the most obscure corner of this magnificent city; and perhaps that is one reason why this institution presents so few attractions to strangers. There is no academical dress; the members of the University do not reside within the college, as in the great English seminaries of learning;

they live in various parts of the city, and go i during the day to hear the different lectures,

but have no other connection whatever with the locale of the college.

The students receive the first rudiments of education at this University; for they enter it at an early age, without any of that preliminary knowledge, which is found indispensable for admission in Oxford and Cambridge; so that

« PreviousContinue »