The Case of Bramber-Election, which was on Thursday the 27th of January, 1714. For Edward Minshull, Esq; against Sir Thomas Stiles, Bart. Return'd...[caption title]
[London? ca. 1714]. Broadsheet, 13½ x 8½ inches. p. plus printed docket title on verso. Disbound. Early folds and early stab holes in left margin. Minor foxing.
A petition to Parliament by Edward Minshull, a parliamentary candidate who argues that his loss to Sir Thomas Stiles in the 1714 Bramber election was the result of illegal voting. Bramber, a small village in West Sussex, was one of the most notorious of the "rotten boroughs," parliamentary constituencies whose representation in the House of Commons far exceeded the appropriate ratio to the voting population, thus allowing one or a few major landholders in the area undue political influence in the government. In 1295, when Bramber was a larger market town, it and the neighboring town of Steyning collectively returned two members of Parliament; by the reign of Edward IV in the 15th century, Bramber and Steyning returned two MP's each, with properties in a part of Bramber that overlapped Steyning theoretically entitled to a vote in each borough. In 1831, a year before the Great Reform Act abolished the rotten boroughs, Bramber contained only thirty-five houses and twenty voters. As this document shows, Bramber was somewhat unusual in that the "Right of Election is in the Inhabitants of the Burgage-Tenements," rather than in the owners, who generally lived elsewhere. The petitioning candidate, Edward Minshull, points out the difficult matter that of the residents of the thirty-two existing tenements, a large number were widows of former tenants and thus unable to vote, leaving very few legal voters in the election. He claims that seven non-inhabitants were called in to vote for Thomas Stiles (three of whom were servants or attendants of one of the landlords) and that four inhabitants supporting himself were refused their votes, creating a false count of seventeen to thirteen in favor of Stiles rather than the true count of ten to seventeen in favor of Minshull. An early example of lobbying literature, which first began proliferating in the lobby of the House of Commons at the time of the accession of King George I and the British general election of 1715. A fascinating case of election abuses and a rare document, with ESTC recording only three copies: at Oxford, the British Library, and Harvard.