Search over 450 titles and 1.2 million pages
THE GOLDEN GROVE INTEREST IN CARMARTHENSHIRE POLITICS, 1804-1821 THE major concern of most recent studies of the unreformed parliamentary system has been to emphasize the extent to which the governing elite's monopoly of power was conditional. Voters, it is now argued, were apt to obey other principles than simply the force majeur of local patrons. Even in constituencies where a single patron might seem to have absolute control, voters were able to exchange their votes for tangible material gains, whether personal or civic.2 Thus, in practice, the politics of the unreformed period operated on a basis of mutual obligation between patrons and voters, however unequal their relative strengths might in fact have been. This article applies a similar approach to Welsh politics in the early nineteenth century. At present, there appears to be no consensus as to the exact nature of politics in the principality at this time. For John Brooke, writing in The House of Commons, 1756-1790, twenty-five years ago, Wales was a country which had no political life worthy of the name. 'In political development', he wrote, 'Wales lagged behind: party was not an element in the Welsh electoral scene and radicalism was as yet unknown.'3 Roland Thorne's introduction to the volumes that cover the period up to 1820 offers little modification of this general picture.4 More recently, however, Frank O'Gorman has found evidence of several 'independence' movements in Welsh boroughs, and concludes that the 'old tranquility in Welsh electoral affairs was clearly coming to an end in the closing decades of the unreformed system'.5 All the boroughs mentioned by Dr. O'Gorman were in fact situated in the proto-industrial, south-eastern quarter of the country. If the movements he discerns really were qualitatively different from the views of the dominant patrons they opposed, industrialization might be the key to explaining the quicker pace of political life. Nevertheless, caution should be counselled in I should like to thank David Howell and Bob Harris for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. See Frank O'Gorman, Voters, Patrons and Parties: the Unreformed Electoral System of Hanoverian England (Oxford, 1989); J. Philipps, Electoral Behaviour in Unreformed England (Princeton, 1983); R. M. Sunter. Patronage, and Politics in Scotland, 1707-1832 (Edinburgh, 1986). O'Gorman, Voters, pp. 7-8, 67. 3 L. Namier and J. Brooke, The House of Commons 1754-1790 (3 vols., London. 1969), I, 38. R. G. Thome, The House of Commons, 1790-1820 (5 vols., London, 1986), I, 63-70. O'Gorman, Voters, pp. 278-79; R. D. Rees. 'Electioneering Ideas Current in South Wales, 1790-1832', ante, 1964, pp. 248-49.