Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

SECOND CHAPTER
THE BEGINNINGS OF PARTY ORGANIZATIONS

I

THE parties, however, had laid hands on the very weapon which was being used against them, extra-parliamentary organization. The movement had begun somewhat late. For a long time parties had no distinct life of their own save in Parliament; in the country they barely existed as moral entities independently of the personages or families which were the embodiment of them. The language of the day only testified to the facts in using, instead of "Tory" and "Whig," such expressions as "the Rutland interest," "the Bedford interest," etc. The voters simply represented the personal following of the rivals who fought the electoral duel; they were their retainers or sold themselves to them on the polling- day for money. In the counties the tenant followed his landlord. When the estate changed hands, all the tenants changed their political complexion, if the new landlord did not belong to the same party as his predecessor. This occurred very often, even after the parliamentary reform of 1832.1 The rural free- holders, who were more independent, generally gravitated in the orbit of the great nobleman who irradiated the neighbourhood. Of the boroughs, several were directly dependent on territorial magnates, who owned them as private property or exerted a hereditary influence over them. Most of the other towns sold themselves at the elections, wholesale or in lots. The operations of sale and purchase were often conducted through the agency of organized bodies, sometimes public

____________________
1
Even after 1832, the custom of asking the landlord's permission to canvass his tenants had been continued. This permission was seldom granted (Report from the Select Committee on Bribery, 1835, Blue Books of 1835, Vol. VIII p. 228).

-135-

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