Showing posts with label Westminster Election of 1784. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Westminster Election of 1784. Show all posts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Lovely Lady Salisbury

The Duchess of Gordon was a notorious rival of Georgiana's.  However, she wasn't the only Tory hostess Georgiana had to contend with.  Lady Salisbury may not have made it personal with Georgiana like her fellow Tory society hostess, but she packed a few punches.

Mary Amelia (sometimes written as Emily) was a dashing Irish rose.  Reynolds painted her in 1781 seductively slipping on her gloves while on a walk with her hyperactive spaniel (Walkies, walkies?! Let's go, let's go!).  It wasn't only a love for pups that Georgiana had in common with Lady Salisbury, they were both big gamblers and consequently both in large amounts of debt.  Lady Salisbury led the Tory women in canvassing during the 1784 Westminster election, but didn't receive nearly as much press as Georgiana's campaign. In fact, after reading about Lady Salisbury canvassing in March of that year Lady Spencer sent her daughters on mission to outdo the countess.  This would be the same Lady Spencer who begged her two daughters to stop their canvassing a mere two months later.

Unlike Georgiana, Lady Salisbury lived to a ripe old age.  Madame Guillotine has a fabulous post on her life which you should most certainly check out here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Voting Registry

I was thinking on this fine, sunny day how it was perfect weather for a good canvass. Then I remembered, why this was canvassing season after all! When Georgiana infamously canvassed for Charles James Fox in the 1784 Westminster election, she began in April and went into May. So my faithful citizens of the blogosphere, it is time for you to do your duty and register in your political party of choice. And no, Independent is not an option! We're talking serious politics here! Everyone knows the only two real parties are Tory and Whig. So which one are you?

You might be a Tory if:
  • You support the King's right to the direction of state
  • You support or attended Oxford
  • You would rather have a mad king on the throne than a party-animal prince
  • You are not totally opposed to slavery...the prices of massages these day, sheesh!
  • You tend to be a bit conservative
  • You think religion is very important, and by religion I mean the only religion, Anglican!
  • You are a fan of William Pitt, even if he won't admit he's really a Tory
  • You wouldn't mind kidnapping someone in the name of getting the right person elected.
  • You think of yourself as old-fashioned, because some values should never go extinct

You might be a Whig if:
  • You constantly find yourself out with the lads at the local Gentlemen's Club
  • You support or attended Cambridge
  • You think the King is great and all but...Parliament should have more say than one guy!
  • Any religion is good with you, pass the wine!
  • You are from a great aristocratic family
  • You like free trade
  • You think slavery is abominable
  • You think a good old-fashioned revolution is good for a country
  • You think the colour combination of blue and buff could just never go out of style
You can "register" in the sidebar. Now get out there and canvass for your favorite candidate! Bonus: Show your patriotism with these political party buttons!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Westminister Election of 1784

Every liberal mind revolts at the wretched abuse now leveled at the most amiable of our country women! The base and blurring hand of calumny, however, is raised in vain against the lovely DEVON and her SISTER PATRIOTS, who at this juncture, so much resemble the fair celestials of the Grecian bard, whose attributes of divinity never appeared so brilliant as when forming a shield for the HEROIC LEADER of the OPRESSED PEOPLE!
The Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, 24 April 1784

As the world watches in anticipation of the US election (I know that sounds pompous but unfortunately is true), I thought today would be an appropriate day to talk of an election that was very important to Georgiana. This election went down in infamy because, for the first time, it appeared as if women could make an impact in politics.

The 1783 election of Pitt as Prime Minister sent the Whigs scrambling to secure a dominance over the the Tory MPs. Charles Fox, perhaps the biggest Whig of all, decided a good way to do this would be to run for a seat in the borough of Westminster. Westminster was perhaps the most coveted borough due to its voter size and the fact that it could boast that every male homeowner could vote, unlike other boroughs. Two seats were up for grabs, and there were only three candidates: Fox; the naval hero, Lord Hood; and the rich landowner, Sir Cecil Wray. It was one Whig verses two Pittites and Fox needed all the help he could get.

Of course, this is the 18th century, so things were done a little differently...and maybe, were a little more fun. If you went to the theatre at this time you may have gone just for the circus of the elections. On one side the Duchess of Rutland would be screaming from her opera box, "Damn Fox!" while Lady Maria Waldengrave would retort with, "Damn Pitt!" Ladies, ladies, please; I am trying to enjoy La Reine de Golconde! Obviously, aristocratic women were getting more passionate about politics, despite not being able to vote.

Georgiana loved this circus and decided to put herself right in the middle of it. One can only wonder if she knew what she was getting involved in. She became the ringleader of aristocratic ladies canvassing night and day for Fox. Walking through the cobbled streets with foxtails in her hat, Georgiana would hand out medals to those who professed their support to Fox. Sometimes she would even go door to door into the middle and working class homes to talk to the voters who were on the fence. Her Grace was even known to thrown down a beer with Joe the Plumber Butcher and talk politics. The people of Westminster found that the tall, fashionable, celebrity wasn't all just feathers and faro; she actually presented some really good points. In the process the new mother worked herself to absolute exhaustion.

Georgiana wasn't the only one working her butt off. The person who was by her side almost every day was her devoted sister (to both her and the Whigs), Harriet. Other canvassing team leaders were Mrs. Crewe and Mrs. Damer. The women/tarts who made up these teams consisted of, The Duchess of Portland, the three Ladies Waldengrave, Lady Jersey, Lady Carlisle, Mrs. Bouverie, Lady Worsley, Mrs. Robinson, and Lady Archer.

Of course, being a woman in a man's world and a man's race made Georgiana the target for scathing lies about her methods of securing votes. When rumours came about that Georgiana had exchanged a kiss with a butcher for a vote for Fox, the press ran away with it. Although, Harriet (and maybe the other canvassers) did this, Georgiana always fervently denied doing it. In fact, a bunch of Hood supporters cornered her when she was in their shop canvassing, and demanded kisses of the frightened duchess. The male-driven press and opposing party just couldn't accept that Georgiana's wit and charisma were winning votes, and not her sexual abilities. In satirical prints, and all-out war erupted, with one side criticizing her for kissing butchers, and the other hailing her as an allegory for politics and justice. Hundreds of these prints were published (and are on my broken laptop) but what was and is noticeable is the absence of criticism of the few Tory women-canvassers. Apparently, the campaign was also a celebrity-competition.

After all the criticism and exhaustion Georgiana retired from canvassing. But the votes were so close she was begged to come back. Against her mother's wishes, she returned to canvassing and not a minute too soon too, Fox won the second seat over Wray by 200 votes. Georgiana and the other ladies' efforts did not go to waste.

I will make the argument that without these patriotic women's help, Fox would not have won the election. He was criticized for being quite lazy in the process while his canvassers blistered their feet campaigning for him. He also was behind in the polls many times, and would sulk and become a recluse at Brooks as a reaction, all while his supporters tireless converted voters. The 1784 Westminster Election upset many because it proved that women (shock!) could change the results of an election.