The Age of George III

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The Ghost of a Rotten Borough appearing on the Hustings of Covent Garden

This image was sent to me by Bill Webber; my thanks to him. My thanks also to Yong Mun Hin for advice on formatting the image.

The Ghost of a Rotten Borough

For a larger image click here

This cartoon was drawn by Thomas Rowlandson and was published by Thomas Tegg of Cheapside on 17 May 1807.

The "ghost" of Honiton is saying, "Look at this Dirty Shirt. Dost thou know me now?" The label on his tongue says "Bribery and corruption". The remaining principal characters in the cartoon are the other candidates. To his right, Sir Francis Burdett is saying, " Let the gall'd Jade in once our withers are unwrung", to which Richard Sheridan (with the very red face) replies, "I beg you will not mention the subject. You hurt my feelings". Lord Cochrane says, "Take any shape but that and my firm nerves shall never tremble"; behind him, James Paull says, "I thought some mischief was brewing".

There had been a bye-election in the potwalloper borough of Honiton in June 1805 following the death of the sitting MP, George Shum. Lord Thomas Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald (later Admiral Lord Cochrane) stood as a candidate on a platform of parliamentary reform for the borough. At that time, it was accepted practise that candidates "treated" (bribed) the voters but Cochrane offered nothing and lost the election. In October 1806, he again ran for Parliament in Honiton and won. Cochrane initially denied that he paid any bribes, but ten years later, he revealed in a Parliamentary debate that he had paid ten guineas per voter through Mr. Townshend, the local headman and banker.

In May 1807 after a very "dirty" election campaign, Cochrane was elected by the voters of Westminster in a more democratic election. As an MP, Cochrane campaigned for parliamentary reform, allied with such Radicals as William Cobbett, Sir Francis Burdett and Henry Hunt.

The result of the Westminster election of 1807 was:

Sir Francis Burdett (Whig) and Lord Cochrane (Tory) became MPs for Westminster . The defeated candidates were Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Whig) who finally found a seat as MP for Ilchester, John Elliot (Tory) and James Paull (radical).

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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