Election expenses in the 17th century

Accounts paid 19 February 1679 for expenditure on ‘treating’ voters in Wrexham (£. s. d.)

To Mr John Randle at the Red Lyon ………….. £2

To Rees ap David’s widow for a small barrel of ale drunk in the street ………… 15s

At Edward Owen’s (ale)house ……….. 16s

At David Cadwallader’s house ………… £5 8s

At the Red Lyon ………… £3 8s

At Mrs Chritchley at the Blacke Boy whereof one barrel was brought to the street ……….. £2 8s

To Mrs Perry for 43 gentlemen at dinner £4 6s, 136 servants £5 6s 0d, wine £12 17s 10d, beer and tobacco £9 19s 2d, and for all the horse 6s 6d …………. £32 15s 6d

At Mr Glegg’s house for gentlemen at dinner and supper £6 4s 1d and their servants, for beer and tobacco £9 19s 5d, for their horses 35s ………….. £17 18s 6d

(From the Chirk Castle archives, printed in G M Griffiths, ‘Chirk Castle election activities 1600-1750’, National Library of Wales Journal, 10 (1957-8).)

Treating: Regaling, feasting, entertaining; spec. the action of providing a person (wholly or partly at one’s own expense) with food or drink at a parliamentary or other election in order to obtain (or in return for) his vote; bribery or corruption by feasting (illegal in Great Britain since 1854 by 17 & 18 Vict. c. 102, §4).

As an extremely rough guide, £1 in 1680 is estimated to be worth about £100 today (check this calculator). (Oh, and there were 20 shillings to an old pound, and 12 old pence (d) to a shilling; total 240d in a £.) Currency, coinage and cost of living in London, 1674-1834 gives quite a lot of information on wages, prices, etc in the eighteenth century. Current value of old money has masses of links to this kind of information.

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2 Responses to Election expenses in the 17th century

  1. Nabakov says:

    In my line of work, where the rather nebulous area mentioned above is often delved within (by others I hasten to add), the terminology is now all about “market research costs”, “introduction fees” and my particular charge code favourite, “reciprocal hospitality expenses.”

    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose – fuckin’ A.

  2. Chris Williams says:

    Election expenses in the C19th appear to have peaked in 1880, at which point they were running at a level (per voter) which in real terms is about 20 or so times today’s level.

    Not an early modern fact, but I thought you might want to know it.

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