Item of the Day: History of the Westminster Election (1784)

Full Title: History of the Westminster Election, containing Every Material Occurence, from its Commencement on the First of April, to the Final Close of the Poll, on the 17th of May. To which is prefixed A Summary Account6 of the Proceedings of the Late Parliament, so far as they appear connected with the East India Business, and the Dismission of the Portland Administration, with other Select and Interesting Occurences at the Westminster Meetings, Previous to its Dissolution on the 25th Day of March, 1784. By Lovers of Truth and Justice. London: Printed for the Editors, and sold by J. Debrett, opposite Burlington-house, Piccadilly, and all other Booksellers, M.DCC.LXXXIV.

PREFACE to the READER.

THERE never was, perhaps, an apology for the subject and arrangment of a Work more necessary than on the present occasion: The volume we now lay before the Public is a book of VARIATIONS, and contains, probably, more information than instruction. The occurrences recorded are singular and curious; whimsical, serious, and ridiculous; a broken narrative, yet we presume to say, a regular history. The reader, however, on considering the subject, will, we hope, excuse the medley appearance it makes. —KING, Lords, and CommonsMajorities,  Minorities, Debates, and Disslution, in SUPERIOR TYPE. Westminster Meetings, Quarrels, Negotiations, Advertisments, Hand Bills, &c. &c. &c. mobbing it along in small and crouded letter. In the midst the GREAT SEAL is held up, and claims the reader’s notice. Next, Mr. Pitt and Grocer’s Hall, feasting and parade, with other illustious matters of this kind. A succeeding page introduces HOOD and WRAY, Covent Garden and Confusion! —then FOX, MAN OF THE PEOPLE, and men of various descriptions; Constables, Justices of Peace, Armed Force, and Murder! Paragraph follows next, serious and comic; point and counter-point; Hood and Wray, VERSUS Fox and Laurel. Following the Laurel, not unhappily indeed, the Muse, with her waiting maids, comes forward and closes the procession. Here we may aptly inform the reader, that in the poetical part of our miscellany he will find by production, that sometimes the Muse hereself composed, and sometimes one or more of her humble attendants. Indeed, in revising our collection in form, we discover here and there certain appearances that give us reason to suspect some of these attendants to be no other than scullion-boys in disguise, who, possibly having an intrigue with those a little above them in situation, had formed the desperate plan of slipping on a female dress over their own dirty linen, and most gallantly determined to follow their mistresses in this expedition from Parnassus, even unto the “Place of Cabbages.” To be serious, we are afraid that many will think our Covent Garden something like its great prototype, not so clean swept as it ought to be. —In truth, we are far from being satisfied in this respect: We can, notwithstanding, assure the reader, that we commenced our work with a determined resolution of weeding out every obnoxious plant, nor have we spared great pains to effect our purpose. If, after all, the reader should find objectionable matter, we hope he will shew a little candour, and reflect, how imperceptibly we might be led astray from our original design of elegant selection. “Evil communication (he will be pleased to remember) corrupteth good manner,” and we may truly say that we have been obliged to keep bad company. Under the necessity of treading dirty ground, no wonder some of the soil should stick to our feet. Our late compiling situation may be compared, as to its effects on the mental faculties, with those of the chymist, as to smelling. At the outset of his business he feels incommoded with the fumes of his still; —a few days pass, and it becomes less intolerable; —a few more, he hardly is sensible of inconvenience; —at last the time arrives, when he endures the opposite of sweet as well as sweet itself, and is surprized when told by a stranger, that his shop is disagreeable. This may prove to be our case. We at first, indignant, threw away composition unfit for the public eye, and continued so to do (in our apprehension at least) all through the Work; yet not unlikely the stranger, on visiting our shop, will complain that he cannot bear it, and leave us in disgust. Be this as it may, at the moment we write our apology, we are sensible it is too late to repent; the book is printed, and must now take its chance. We intended not to offend, and shall deeply regret the occasion, if offence, either against Justice or Delicacy, be attributed to premeditated design. The errors of the head claim to be forgiven, when depravity at the heart finds not an habitation. In the selection made of the Caricature Prints, regard to Decency has entirely guided us. To those who may cavil at our apparent partiality in giving to the public such alone as principally tend to ridicule the opponents of Mr. Fox, and so few against him, we shortly reply, that the indelicacy with which the partizans of Hood and Wray constantly thought proper to display their ideas, render their productions unfit for the public eye, and would disgrace our Work if inserted in it. But yet another objection arises. —The designs of the least indelicate are universally puerile and riciculous; —the satire intended appears obscure, or, if found out at all, is flat and inapplicable. We boldy assert this as the truth, and doubt not but the artist at least, if not the public in general, will acquit us of party prejedice in this respect. Our readers will perceive the subjects of those given are various and pointed; many of them were published pending the Election, and some previoius to that time. All, however, without exception, have relation to occurrences that come within the limits of our history. —The paragraphical part of our miscellany, in the opinion of some, may be thought trifling and unnecessary; but as we deemed ourselves engaged to give a complete collection of pointed Electioneering Intelligence, we could not with satisfaction to our own minds pass by the daily vehicles of information. Besides the facts related in the newspapers, we met here and there with some excellent prosaical Epigram, well pointed to the subject on hand. In many places the reader will meet with notes, that serve either to refute or illustrate. If, in this management of annotation, we have betrayed a partiality to Mr. fox, we hope to find credit for our candour in here declaring ourselves firm in his cause, and ready to defend it upon principle. His conduct merits our approbation, and has our warmest praise. But it is not the Westminster Electores alone, who are interested in Mr. Fox’s success; the kingdom throughout have their eyes upon him, and know and declare how necessary his abilities are to his country, and hope soon to see him again in an official capacity. The faction that displaced him have not, we dare affirm, the confidence of the nation. If they continue long in power, the authority retaining them must be founded on other views than those of popular accommodation. The unfair means by which the present Administration stepped into place, will be remembered with indignation, when the phrenzy of the people is effectually done away. The Minister already sees his popularity decline, and reads no where his panegyric but in a few newspapers that are paid for the service, and libel him with praise. His late taxes are generally odious and oppressive. The Commutation of Tea Duty, made good by the additional Tax on Windows, is a national vexation, and submitted to by none but the serious complaint.

It is not in our plan here to go into a ministerial history of Mr. Pitt and his followers; this subject we have fully expatiated upon in a separate quarto pamphlet to be published in a very few days, intended to bind up with this Work, (to which it has reference,) at the option of the purchaser.

The Editors of two Morning Papers will, we doubt not, wince at our remarks on their publications and conduct during the time of the Election; but we are prepared to meet their censure, and will defend our principles. The scandall and abuse they poured forth against the great and amiable Patroness of Mr. Fox’s cause and party, we hope, for the credit of England, has now the execration of a discerning public. We have retained a few instances of their illiberality in the volume before us, to keep alive the public attention towards certain characters, who were interested in preventing the operations of friendly generosity, exerted in a popular cause, by an illustious female character, in whose mind is eminently conspicious every great and noble sentiment, with all those other requisites so truly fascinating and valuable in the sex, when united, as in her GRACE OF DEVONSHIRE, with extreme beauty, elevated rank, and splendid fortune.

 

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Filed under 1780's, Great Britain, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Satire

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