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Election

ELECTION. A choosing, hence the "chosen people" of God. There are three views taken of election,—the Calvinistic, the Arminian, and the Catholic. The Calvinistic view is that certain persons are from all eternity chosen or elected by God to salvation, the rest of mankind being condemned to eternal death (See PredestinationCalvinismAntinomianism.)

The Arminian view is that God, knowing what the life of every man born into the world shall be, and foreseeing that some "will refuse the evil and choose the good," hath elected them to eternal life. (See Arminianism.)

The Catholic view is that God of his mercy elects certain of His creatures for a place in the visible Church, and thus causes them to be placed in "a state of salvation," of which, however, they may fall short by their own perverseness.

The Church of England, as a branch of the great Church Catholic, is believed to teach this latter view, as will be seen by a study of her Liturgy.

Elections in Literature

It is not surprising that Parliamentary contests should have figured largely in the English plays, stories, and poems of the past. That they will hold so prominent a place in them in future is, of course, by no means certain. If elections have been made purer than they were, they have been made less picturesque. They have now but little romance about them. Nearly everything in them is precise and practical. The literary artist, therefore, is likely to find in them few things to attract him, and will be, to that extent, at a disadvantage as compared with those who have preceded him. There were days when the preliminary canvassing, the nomination and the polling days, had features which invited treatment on the stage or in print. The whole atmosphere of electioneering was different to that which now exists. Those involved in it went about their work with a reckless jollity productive of results eminently interesting to students of character and manners. A battle at the polls brought out all which was most characteristic in the Englishmen of the times, and to describe such a conflict was naturally the aim of many a man of letters.

Several theatrical pieces have been based almost wholly upon the varied incidents of such a contest. There was, for example, that ‘musical interlude,' ‘The Election,' written by Miles Peter Andrews, and produced at Drury Lane in 1774. In this, Trusty and Sir Courtly are candidates for a seat, and, while one John, a baker, would fain vote for the former, his wife is desirous that he should support the latter. As she wheedlingly remarks,

‘Sir Courtly says, if you'll but vote for him,
He'll fill your pockets to the very brim.'

But John is not to be corrupted:

‘Honest John no bribe can charm;
His heart is like his oven, warm;
Though poor as Job,
He will not rob,
Nor sell his truth to fill his fob.'

Nay, not though by so doing he may secure a husband for his daughter Sally. He votes for Trusty, and Sally's sweetheart respects him all the more for it. As the lover says to the lady:

‘Your father's merit sets him up to view,
And more enhances my esteem for you.'

And, in truth, everybody is delighted, for, as they sing in chorus:

‘What to a Briton so grateful can be,
As the triumph of Freedom and Virtue to see?'

 

Then there is that forgotten play of Joanna Baillie, also called ‘The Election,' printed in 1802, and turned into an opera in 1817. Here, again, we have two candidates—one Baltimore, of ancient but decayed family, and one Freeman, a nouveau riche  of equally familiar type—neighbours, but not friends, and rivals for the representation of the borough of Westown. Of Tom Taylor's ‘Contested Election,' produced in 1859, most people have heard, if they have not had an opportunity of seeing it performed. It gives a fairly faithful picture of the unreformed method of carrying on electoral warfare. There is an attorney, originally played by Charles Mathews, who undertakes to secure the success of Honeybun, and is quite prepared to pay for the votes which may be promised to him. There is also one Peekover, President of the Blue Lambs, who is equally prepared to accept the proffered payment for himself and friends. Honeybun does not get in, but that is hardly the fault of his attorney, or due to any general unwillingness to sell votes to the highest bidder. Bribery, it will be remembered, is an important element in Robertson's ‘M.P.,' which dates no further back than 1870, though the action of the comedy, if I remember rightly, belongs also to pre-reforming times. Cecilia is willing to buy votes for Talbot, and three typical electors are willing to dispose of her money to the best advantage. The last scene is tolerably exciting. Talbot addresses the crowd from his window, and there is much exhilaration when the result of the contest is announced. To more recent representations of elections on the stage, it is scarcely necessary to allude.

Turning from drama to song, one thinks at once of the poem ‘in seven books' which its author, Carlyle's John Sterling, dubbed ‘The Election' and published in 1841. Sterling had been anticipated, a few years previously—in 1835—by the author of a satire called ‘Election Day,' which supplied quite an elaborate description of such a day under the respective heads of ‘The Inn,' ‘The Hustings,' ‘The Chairing,' and ‘The Dinner.' ‘Although,' said the writer, in his preface, ‘there are some great improvements in the manner in which elections are now conducted, still the immoral and degrading principles that accompany them appear to remain nearly the same.' According to this earnest and depressed observer—

‘Mud and stones and waving hats,
And broken heads and putrid cats,
Are offerings made to aid the cause
Of order, government, and laws.'

But especially is he struck by the amount of eating and drinking that appears inseparable from an election in his time:

‘'Tis strange how much a splendid larder
Lights up electioneering ardour;
You soon awake to patriæ amor
When stirred about with ale and clamour.'

 

Sterling, though singing of

‘Those high days when Aleborough proudly sent
Her man to sit in England's Parliament,'

makes the plot of his poem turn upon a love affair in which one of the candidates embarks, and for the sake of which, indeed, he pretends to solicit the votes of the electors. There are, however, a few passages descriptive of electioneering phenomena. We are told, for instance, how one of the candidates went out to canvass:

‘With smiling look and word, and promise bold,
And dainty flatteries meet for young and old,
The tender kiss on squalling mouths impressed,
The glistening ribbon for the maiden's breast,
Grave talk with men how this poor Empire thrives,
The high-priced purchase for their prudent wives,
The sympathizing glance, the attentive ear,
The shake of hands laboriously sincere.'

We have, too, a graphic picture of the nomination day, telling how

‘Ten public-houses opening for the Blues
Their floods of moral influence diffuse,
And each of seven its blameless nectar sheds
To nerve the spirits of the valiant Reds.'

By-and-by we read:

‘And now the poll begins. The assessors sit
Sublimely sure that what is writ is writ.
The lawyers watch the votes. The skies look down
Unpardonably calm, nor heed the town.'

 

In how many novels elections figure, I need not say. The name of political tales is legion, and merely to enumerate them would occupy a fair amount of space. Who, for example, does not remember the contest pictured by George Eliot in ‘Felix Holt'—that which leads to the riot in which Felix becomes unintentionally and unfortunately embroiled? ‘The nomination day,' says the novelist, ‘was a great epoch of successful trickery, or, to speak in a more parliamentary manner, of war-stratagem, on the part of skilful agents.' And she goes on to describe

‘the show of hands, and the cheering, the bustling and the pelting, the roaring and the hissing, the hard hits with small missiles and the soft hits with small jokes.'

Of the polling day, she writes:

‘Every public-house in Treby was lively with changing and numerous company. Not, of course, that there was any treating; treating necessarily had stopped, from moral scruples, when once “the writs were out;” but there was drinking, which did equally well under any name.'

 

This was in 1832. In 1840 there was published at Dublin a tale, entitled ‘The Election,' in which the author bluntly declared that ‘bribery and perjury are the returning officers.' He was, in truth, a very ‘high-toned' writer, for we find him declaiming vigorously against that which Sterling mentions as one of the canvassing weapons of a candidate—‘the practice of shaking hands with all and every person whose vote is solicited, whether they be old friends or the acquaintance of the moment.' There are, we are told, ‘cases when such buxom familiarity is out of place—when it assumes too much the appearance of vulgar cajolery to be received as a compliment.' Elsewhere we come across an instructive bit of talk between an Irish maiden lady of a certain age, and one of the gentlemen who desires her ‘vote and interest.' The lady protests that she does not know the difference between the Whigs, the Tories, and the Radicals:

‘I know two of them are in the history of England, where they gave trouble enough, whatever they were. But as for the Radicals, it is a newspaper word that I can't say I'm well acquainted with.'

Whereupon the candidate replies that all he can say for the Whigs is that

‘they are very fair spoken, when it suits their convenience. But the Radicals are a foul-mouthed race, on all and every occasion, and are the bitter enemies to Church and State.'

 

Nevertheless, the contest (of course an Irish one) which forms the main feature of the tale, ends in the return of Sir Andrew Shrivel, the Radical, together with Thaddeus O'Sullivan Gaffrey, Esq., representing the Nationalists.