Fighting Elections II: Conscience and Coercion at Nineteenth-Century Elections
Carmarthenshire elections were frequently marked by outbreaks of violence throughout the nineteenth century. The 1868 election witnessed a major disagreement as to precisely where in Carmarthen the votes should be taken. The Liberals favoured the Shire Hall, but the Conservatives feared that the approaches were too narrow, and that the mob which would inevitably gather would prevent ‘timid voters’ from casting their votes. The simple fact that there were two parties to any contested election obliged the protagonists to make politics in some sense ‘popular’ and to actively promote partisanship. Significantly, it was only when an election was uncontested, and there was thus no danger of its being lost, that the oft-repeated condemnations of bribery, treating, and violence could be translated safely into action. Violence also involved the intimidation or coercion of voters, persuading them to vote for a particular candidate by the threat of punishment if they did not. In Wales, the coercion of Liberal tenants by Conservative landlords has a secure place in the historiographical canon.
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