To the Independent Electors of Bridgwater, June 11th 1818

This anonymous political flybill is an exhortation to the ‘independent electors of Bridgwater’ (ie the few men in the town who could vote for the town’s two Members of Parliament) to vote against the incumbent holders, and vote for two other candidates. It was printed by J. Poole, and is dated 11 June 1818. This sort of open letter would be pasted in public places in the town for the townsfolk to read.

The MPs the writer is urging the replacement of were George Pocock and William Astell. Pocock entered Parliament for Bridgwater in May 1796 until 1806, then again for 1807 to 1820. Astell was first elected in 1812 and would serve until 1833.

The writer has three main issues. First was that one of the members voted in favour of the Corn Bill, which had been introduced in 1815 and dictated a fixed high price for grain, and tariffs on imports, meaning that bread, the staple of everyone’s diet, would be artificially expensive. The act was primarily beneficial to the landowners who grew and sold the corn.

The second complaint was that both MPs had voted for the Habeas Corpus Act of 1816. This was a complicated technical matter, but the fear was that it eroded the rights of individuals to legal due process.

Thirdly was a general complaint about bribery and corruption, which would be an ongoing issue in Bridgwater (and most towns) in the first half of the nineteenth century. This may be somewhat exaggerated, as bribery probably took place on all sides.

The two opposition candidates were Mr J.H. Moggridge and Mr E. Parkins.

Two further flybills from the candidates themselves were published in The Late Elections, an Impartial Statement of all Proceedings connected with the Progress and Result of the late elections (London, 1818)

MKP 31 July 2021