The Representative of the People?: Voters and Voting in by Derek Hirst

By Derek Hirst

Contested elections turned a truth of political lifestyles for the 1st time in early-17th-century England because the gentry pressed for seats in a parliament which was once transforming into more and more very important. Dr Hirst examines politics from the perspective of the standard guy prior to the Civil battle. He asks what an election and being represented intended: what sort of individual voted; how did he vote and why; and what may he achieve by means of it. England was once now not but formed within the oligarchic mold that characterized it within the 18th century, and a outstanding characteristic of this era used to be the level to which parliamentary politics was once open to a wide social staff. Inflation and peasant survival at the land, and resistance to oligarchy within the boroughs (supported via the parliamentary gentry looking renowned allies for his or her personal political battles), produced a wide rural and concrete citizens. the necessity for votes additionally ensured that contributors have been quite attentive to, and consultant of, pressures from under. In arriving at this verdict, Dr Hirst demanding situations the thought that politics during this interval displayed a powerful experience of course. in any respect degrees, even if within the technique of keep watch over hired by way of the magnates, in electoral method, or in vote casting behaviour, uncertainty was once happen, for contests have been exceptional.

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Conversely, the sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1630 ordered his bailiff to ensure that all potential jurymen had a freehold of 20s. per annum or a copyhold of four nobles, while the Hertfordshire freeholders' book of 1657-8 was used for the selection of the Grand Jury, and is thus unlikely to have included the lesser freeholders. 30 Such a blatant tactic was unlikely to have been used if a less obtrusive one had been available. There remains one other conceivable test: who, or whose father, had voted before?

33 Seven years later, after a return bout in the same county, the House was driven to resolve 'that if an elector or freeholder beinge by the shereefe uppon the pole demaunded his name if he refuse it this shall not disable him from givinge his voyce in the election'. It rejected Wentworth's opponents' assertions that a list was essential to prevent perjury, 34 on the grounds that, as the Committee of Privileges put it, it was 'inconvenient, to have them set down their Names; because Notice might be taken of them, to their Prejudice'.

39 These problems caused by novelty were apparently intensified by the intermission occasioned by the Eleven Years without parliaments. Someone thought it necessary, or at least profitable, to issue a guide-book to a 2O INTRODUCTION variety of parliamentary matters when elections were at last in view. That there was a market is suggested by the action of Oxford corporation, which made orders on how to conduct itself for the Short Parliament election of 1640. Ludlow was in similar difficulties: 'for the better informacion of their Judgments howe to proceed therein they consulted with the statutes touchinge the electinge of burgesses .

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