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Henry Brougham and the 1818 Westmorland Election: A Study in Provincial Opinion and the Opening of Constituency Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 July 2014

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An extensive literature that has appeared over the past two decades on the Hanoverian electorate and political culture at the constituency level provides a more sophisticated understanding of party conflict in Britain during the long eighteenth century than earlier work focused on high politics or other subjects. H. T. Dickinson points out that most people experienced politics at the constituency level where negotiations between different political groups within communities and the voters provided a voice for competing interests that an older historiography focused on high politics failed to recognize. These local aspects of Hanoverian politics established the context for two important developments in the early nineteenth century; a greater appreciation for the impact of public opinion on politics at Westminster and the development of a two-party system. The emergence of a self-conscious provincial identity sustained by new economic and institutional forces drove both trends. Christopher Wyvill's Yorkshire Association formed in 1779, the General Chamber of Manufacturers founded in 1785, anti-war petitioning efforts by local groups during the conflict with Napoleon, and the successful campaign in 1812 against the regulatory Orders in Council demonstrated the growing impact of provincial activism. The intersection between new provincial interests focused on issues debated at Westminster and constituency politics with its own rituals and dynamics provides an opening to explore the final decades of the Hanoverian political order. Connections between local and metropolitan drew into sharper focus as party conflict at Westminster extended into national politics.

Research Article
Albion , Volume 36 , Issue 1 , Spring 2004 , pp. 28 - 51
Copyright © North American Conference on British Studies 2004

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37 Kendal Chronicle, February 14, 1818. Presenting a total calculated for seven years represented the income derived over the maximum life of a Parliament under the Septennial Act.

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97 Thanet to Brougham, February 12 and 15, 1818, Brougham Mss. The Lowther family's interests extended into Cumberland, where they shared power with local Whigs, and the two counties had a joint Lord Lieutenancy held by Lord Lonsdale.

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101 Croker to Lowther, July 4, 1818; Poll Book, Westmorland Election, 1818, Lowther Mss.

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