Artwork - The Westminster Election. 1796.

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  • Title: The Westminster Election. 1796.
  • Artist: Robert Dighton
  • Medium: Colour aquatint
  • Categories: Events
  • Catalogue number: WOA 1618
  • Description: This picture is one of a series depicting each election at Westminster from 1784 to 1796. The print shows the hustings set up in front of St Paul\'s church, Covent Garden in 1796. Westminster elections, with their very large electorate of around 12,000, were notorious for their potential for radicalism and violent disturbance: however, after a run of very fierce contests in the 1780s costing both sides a huge amount of money, the government and opposition came to an agreement in the 1790 election to divide the two seats between them. In the 1796 election, however, the agreement came close to breaking down. The main candidates were, for the opposition, the leader of the Whig party, Charles James Fox. He is shown on the platform, in the centre of the picture with his arm around a post. For the government, Sir Alan Gardner, an admiral. He is shown in uniform, with his arms folded. The radical reformer, John Horne Tooke is stood between Fox and Gardner, holding his hat. Tooke had been tried and acquitted on a charge of high treason in 1794 connected to his contacts with French revolutionaries. He mounted a challenge to Gardner, and gathered 2,819 votes, against Gardner\'s 4,814 and Fox\'s 5,160. Tooke eventually found a seat in the Commons in 1801, although due to ill health, he did not return to the House after the dissolution of 1802.

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