How were voters influenced?

Sir Henry Josias Stracey, Conservative candidate for Norwich in the 1868 election, used a number of methods of influencing in order to secure votes and an eventual victory in the election. These methods were carried out by Stracey and a number of other canvassers in various locations across Norwich on  election day.

How and where were voters bribed?

Stracey and his canvassers were seen in Norwich pubs including the Marquess of Granby, The Woolpack, The Trumpet and The Swan, offering bribes to voters. 

The minute books contain anecdotal evidence of bribes of up to £5 being offered for votes by canvassers. Voters of  the 'lower classes'  were targeted, with bribes estimated to often be about the daily rate of a labourer at that time. The average bribe was about £1, though some were paid less or more. The judge's report, produced after the trial, indicates that a number of voters expected to be paid:

"These people did not go to work that day, but collected in considerable numbers in and about public houses and beershops, and there waited to be bribed."

How were voters treated?

Influencing came through the treating of voters to alcohol and food in local public houses. The voters were then escorted to the polls in large groups by canvassers, who ensured they voted as requested. A number of witness accounts describe voters as intensely intoxicated, some barely able to stand without support. The judge summarises this as follows:

“A number of these voters went to the polls in a gross state of drunkenness, some of them so drunk as not to know for whom they came to vote, and I have no doubt that a very considerable number of bribed voters gave their votes between two and four o’clock of the day of polling.”

Related information

The De Montfort Project is an outreach project run by the Parliamentary Archives which explores the life and impact of local MPs and Peers on both their local area and at Parliament.