Weapons drawne against us
A letter from Cirencester in 1647 about the recruiter election designed to fill gaps in the Long Parliament, which deteriorated into a battle between an army faction and a Presbyterian faction. Polling day ended up as a mixture of bribery, intimidation, insults and arguing over the result: a classic British election, then.
The writ for choosing Burgesses for this Town hath been 8 weeks dormant Saturday was (at last) Election day; and then came the High Sheriffe, and his friends, who stood for Mr. Giffard, and Mr Brummige; so disordered that the Bayliffe could not take the Poll. Sir Thomas Fairfax, and Collonel Rich had the greater number (fair) of the Electors, notwithstanding that many Cavaliers, who had served in the Kings Army were made against them: The Lady Poole also, (whose tenants many of the Electors are) discountenanced those that stood for them, and offered the Bayly money to adjourne, and divers Cavaliers, (some of whom had formerly plundered the Towne) did so mutinye that the Poll could not be taken; so that it was adjourned till Munday last, at which time we were affronted againe very highly, Weapons drawne against us, hunting us from place to place: And when the Sheriffe was desired to do justice, else that he would be complained of to the House of Commons, he bad, “do it when you will” (said he) “we have as strong a party in the House as ye”. But the poll (which gives a free election to his Excellency and the C0ll) would neither be granted then nor since, but I hope the Parliament will relieve this poore plundered place, who have so little left us but our Lives and Rights, amongst whom is your humble servant
C. H. the 7. Jan 1646/7
Perfect occurrences of every dayes journall in Parliament, 2 (8-15 January 1647), BL, TT, E.371, p. 13.
Given the intersection of national and local politics, it is probably not surprising that the dispute rumbled on without a satisfactory conclusion until the Presbyterians had been firmly eclipsed in Parliament. The election was only settled in 1649 – in favour of Fairfax and Rich – after Pride’s Purge had ejected the Presbyterians from the Commons.