Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XIII. – The 1841 Liverpool election

CHAPTER XIII.  There is a bit more explanation of the 1841 election here, and there are quite a few recent posts about the Irish elections that year. This is Hugh and Josh’s take on the election, with almost nothing mentioned about family. Josh and Adeline had become grandparents the year before, with the birth of Charles and Elizabeth Binns daughter who was named Adeline after her grandmother. Richard Sheil was the first Catholic alderman elected to Liverpool council; Richard Cobden – the Anti-Corn Law campaigner became the M.P. for Stockport that year, and seven years later he and Josh were next door neighbours in the rather grand Westbourne Terrace, in London. Then there is Josh’s mention of the advowson of St Luke’s in Liverpool which he ” had presented to a good and pious man “. An advowson was the right to appoint a vicar, and Josh may well have presented it to a good and pious man, but within three years he had given it to his nephew William Mulleneux.

 

Wavertree Hall, 1829

Returning to his duties in the council, Sir Joshua now devoted himself to the Educational Committee. Shortly before his mayoralty, he had removed to Wavertree Hall, and there had drawn around him men whose names were well known in Liverpool. Locke, Dr. Shepherd, Cobden, the two Stephensons, Brassey, William Rathbone, and Colonel Williams were to be met here. This latter gentleman had been member for Ashton-under-Lyne, and was now justice of the peace. His upright, uncompromising principles were well known. Sir Joshua tells how, upon one occasion, he, as county magistrate, received an application for a summons from a servant, whose master had struck him. The master was an intimate friend of the colonel. On receiving the summons he treated the affair as a joke, failed to come, and a warrant was issued against him, ordering him to appear the following morning at six. It was seven when he came, and found the colonel working in his fields. Advancing, he held out his hand, laughing. ” Stand back, sir, this is our court,’‘ exclaimed the magistrate. ” Take off your hat.” The case was gone into, the defendant admitted the assault, paid the fine, and remained to breakfast with his judge.

Mr. Cobden, accompanied by some members of the League, visited Liverpool early in May, and a monster meeting assembled in the Amphitheatre to greet him.

Sir Joshua presided, and often said : ” It was I introduced Cobden to Liverpool “ The Corn-Law agitation had at this time entered on a new phase. The Whig ministry, beaten on the Jamaica, the Appropriation Clause, and other measures, still clung to office. When a deficit of two million pounds in the budget had to be announced, Lord John Russell made a bold effort to retrieve his popularity by bringing forward the following motion : ” That in a month hence, the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider the Acts relating to the trade in corn.”

With some show of reason, the Tories denounced this as a party move, intended by the Whigs as a means of keeping their hold of office. The Free-Traders, although convinced that the requisite change in the corn and import duties could only be effected by a strong and honest ministry, yet eagerly grasped at Lord John’s announcement, changing, as it did, the whole aspect of the repeal question. From being a theory advocated on platforms the Corn-Law agitation now advanced to the stage of a distinct official policy.

Ministerialists and Free-Traders united to convene meetings all over the country. ” In Liverpool,” says Sir Joshua, ” great excitement was caused by Mr. Cobden’s visit. The feelings of monopolists and anti-monopolists were strained to the utmost pitch. Upwards of thirteen thousand families in the town were dependent upon parish relief. Whatever, therefore, could affect the price of bread was of vital import. Notwithstanding the intensity of feeling aroused, the great Anti-Corn-Law meeting passed off quietly enough. Cobden’s eloquence, his earnest concentrated manner, produced a marked impression on his audience, amongst which were many antagonistic to his cause. ”

The 4th of June was the day fixed by Lord John Russell for bringing the corn question before Parliament, but before that day the Government added another to its long list of defeats. It was beaten on the Bill for the Reduction of Sugar Duties, As under this new check the Whigs still showed no indication of resigning office, Sir Robert Peel moved a vote of want of confidence in the ministry ; which vote being carried by a majority of one, the ministers dissolved Parliament and appealed to the country.

All over England, canvassing now began in right earnest. ” In Liverpool,” says Sir Joshua Walmsley, ” the first step of the Whig notabilities was to endeavour to bring me to a sense of my extraordinary presumption in presenting myself as candidate for the representation of the town. An eminently respectable group assembled in a house of business in Poole Lane, and there waited for me. Doubtless many of these gentlemen remembered my knocking at their office door, twenty-eight years ago. a friendless lad, seeking for employment. When I entered, portentous looks greeted me on all sides. No effort was left untried to shake my determination to contest Liverpool, and any amour propre I may have had was sorely punished ; yet these were the men that ought to have been my supporters. At last the storm broke fairly upon my head. Who was I, to dare to aspire to the position of representative of a town like Liverpool, when so many of higher standing had never dreamt of such a thing ? On what possible grounds could I base such pretensions ? Putting my hand into my pocket I drew out a paper. It was a requisition, presented to me that morning, bearing upwards of three thousand six hundred signatures — the most numerously- signed requisition that had ever emanated from the electors of Liverpool.”

” ‘ On this, gentlemen,’ I said, facing them, for my blood was up, ‘ On this requisition, signed by three thousand six hundred of my fellow-townsmen, I take my stand. And let me tell you, gentlemen, there is not a man here who will not forfeit his reputation for consistency if he does not vote for me. Nay, I go a step farther, and tell you there is not a man here who will not vote for me.’ ”

Thus ended the discussion. The next day in the Liberal papers, and on the walls of the town, appeared Sir Joshua’s address. It was a summary of the political views he had steadily advocated in public and private life. It declared for free trade, for national education, for “ enfranchisement steadily keeping pace with increasing intelligence,” and for the independence of the voter. ” The Legislature,” Sir Joshua said, ” that on the one hand fosters the desire for civil rights, and on the other affords protection to their conscientious exercise, adopts the only policy that can give stability to the Government and satisfaction to the people.”

“During six weeks,” says Sir Joshua, ” attended by Alderman Shiel, I visited personally from house to house, I attended public meetings nightly. That there should be a necessity for such canvassing I regretted, and the use and value of the ballot system urged itself strongly on my mind during this experience. I earnestly charged my supporters, although I should win thereby ten thousand votes, not to coerce anyone or use any undue influence in my favour. I could not but feel flattered at the reception I met with, during my canvass, from my fellow- townsmen of all shades of opinion. It proved to me that in my private capacity I had gained their respect and esteem ; but as a public man I had to encounter the opposition of the Tories, making common cause with the Abolitionists, the sugar-growers, the ship- owners, and agriculturists. The rallying cry of the Tory party, the ‘Church in Danger,’ was the more effectually used from the fact that the Dissenters had lately called for the separation of Church and State. “

” The pulpit lent its powerful aid against me; and in Liverpool, I, who had helped to throw open the Corporation schools to children of every sect and denomination, was emphatically and publicly denounced as an enemy of religion. On the other hand, I had the hearty co-operation of the advocates of free trade, the enthusiastic support of the members of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association.”

These were the active agencies for and against Sir Joshua Walmsley. A passive antagonistic element also remained to be overcome; one that had an influence on the cause of Liberalism all over England. The people had lost confidence in the Whig administration, but, not yet able to grasp the idea of free trade, identified the programme of the rising party with the antiquated Whig ministerial policy. A certain exhaustion likewise was perceptible throughout the country — a languor following the agitation that accompanied the passing of the Reform Bill.

Sir Joshua described himself as belonging to no party. He was simply an ” Anti-Monopolist ; “ in all sincerity he could thus describe himself, for with him, as with all genuine reformers, every political dogma he held was sanctified by a constant reference to the needs of the people. The repeal of the Corn Laws, the removal of all restrictions on commerce, was not a party question, but an aim some men had set themselves to attain for the better welfare of the whole nation.

Sir Joshua’s speeches during this period simply and broadly assert that his sole object in seeking to enter Parliament is to labour for the abolition of the Corn Laws and all monopolies, “ as unjust, and sanctioned by no law, moral or economic, and utterly adverse to the selfish ends of their promoters.”

The members of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association gathered loyally around him. The mass of non- electors, unconnected with the shipping interest, were in his favour. The Whigs no longer opposed him, but they preserved a sullen and passive attitude.

Lord Palmerston, in answer to a requisition to stand for Liverpool, had accepted to do so, on condition that the other Liberal candidate be returned with him.

When this answer was made known, the Tories bestirred themselves to ensure the return of Mr. Cresswell with that of Lord Sandon, whose seat was considered secure. Tuesday, the 28th June, was the nomination-day.

For days previous, preparations had been going on, especially directed to prevent the too close contact opposite the hustings of the friends of the contending parties, for the coming contest, it was anticipated, would be the keenest the old town had known for years. The Tory procession, preceded by a body of forty mounted policemen, was the first to march past. ” No Manchester dictation “ was the favourite device on its banners. Then came the procession of the friends of free trade, gay also with banners embroidered with mottoes : ” Walmsley, Free Trade, and National Education;” ” Walmsley, friend of the people.” Lord Palmerston was not present, but he was represented by Mr. Brocklebank.

Sir Joshua Walmsley was proposed by Colonel Williams. His speech was brief and to the purpose.

” Sir Joshua’s life,” he said, ” had been spent before his fellow-townsmen. He had served them through every grade of municipal offices. His political creed might be summed up in a few words. He believed ‘the object of all just and wise legislation should be the equal distribution of civil rights and privileges.’ He did not advocate sudden changes in the constitution, but he would support every measure, matured by enlightened men, and by them adapted to the altered circumstances of the time, and the increased intelligence of the people. “ To the badgering cries of ” Church ! Church !” he answered that at the sale of the advowson by the corporation, he had bought that of St. Luke, and although he was accused of injuring the Church, he had not sold that living, but had presented it to a good and pious man.

The next was the decisive day. Very early on that summer morning, groups began to form in the streets ; children, plucked by the clergy out of the tainted atmosphere of the Corporation schools, ran about carrying tiny scarlet flags, bearing the inscription : ” The Queen, the Church, and Scriptural Education.” Women, too, clustered together and discussed the issue of the coming struggle. They understood little of the import of the words Whig and Tory, but they knew but too well what hard times meant, and the sight of hungry children before empty cupboards.

” May the Lord send us those who will give us the big loaf, “ was the prayer that summed up their politics.

At eight o’clock the poll opened ; voting was backward ; a perceptible hesitation held back both parties. By noon came the news from London that three Conservatives had been returned for the city. The Tories hoisted a placard proclaiming the tidings.

As the day went on, and victory kept on the Conservative side, the town grew excited. To the cry of “Walmsley, friend of the people,” the Orangemen shouted, ” No Popery.” The shipbuilders began a riot to silence the cry : ” Walmsley and Free Trade.” Before the final state of the poll was declared, Liverpool was in an uproar, and Mr. Whitty and his police were striving vigorously but vainly to restore quiet. The Liberals were beaten ; the Tories had won the day.

Lord Sandon had polled 5,979 votes;

Mr. Cresswell, 5,792 ;

Sir Joshua Walmsley, 4,647,

and Viscount Palmerston, 4,431.

Mr. Whitty ‘s words fully described the effect produced by Sir Joshua’s defeat. ” The town that night was in a state of intense agitation. So soon as it became known that Sir Joshua was defeated, the lower classes broke loose, and the new police force became powerless to preserve order. They were forced to retire, and the mob remained in possession of the streets. Little damage was done, but the yells and shouts against the winners, the burning in effigy of the successful candidates, went on during the night. I never passed a more anxious time, and thought it would never come to an end.”

On the examination of the poll, it was found that several who had signed the requisition to Sir Joshua voted against him; but the influential Whigs, who had taunted him with presumption, had voted for him. There, however, they stopped. The powerful interest of the party had not been used in his favour.

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XII.

CHAPTER XII. 

When Mr. Walmsley returned from his mission to London [in early 1839], as representative of Liverpool in the little Parliament assembled at Brown’s Hotel, the experience it had given him of political life, its richer tone, its larger scope, its all-embracing interest, wrought its full effect upon him. Wider horizons opened before him than those which bound the sphere of local politics ; and before he was elected mayor of Liverpool he had already resolved he would one day enter Parliament. He was not without compeers who cavilled at the ambition of this self-made man.

Mr. Walmsley often related with gusto the effect produced upon one of the local magnates on hearing of his new resolve to enter Parliament :

“ Returning from my mission to London, as member of the Anti-Corn-Law Delegation,” said Mr. Walmsley, ” I received a message from this gentleman, asking me to call on him, explaining that he himself was confined to the house by illness. I found my host suffering, but, as was his wont, he came directly to the point. He disapproved of my ambition to occupy the civic chair — deemed it presumptuous. There was no ‘ suaviter in modo ‘ [pleasantly in manner] in the words with which he taxed me with undue pretensions, I bore with perfect equanimity the shower of sarcasms. The closing words of the conversation I well remember :  ‘ You persist, then, in your wish to fill the office of mayor ? ‘ said my interlocutor. ‘ I do,’ I replied. ‘ But what then ? ‘ said my host. ‘ As a step to the representation,’ I said, boldly looking him in the face.

The alderman bounded in his chair, and striking the table with his fist, ejaculated ‘Never ! ‘ ‘What is more,’ I replied, ‘ you will vote for me when the time comes. At present I have only determined to be mayor.’ ‘ Then I suppose you must be,’ said my host. And at the next election I was made chief magistrate.”

On accepting the office, Mr. Walmsley, in his address to the council, said : ” It is well known to all of you that I have decided political opinions, and that I have always maintained these with firmness and zeal. I trust, however, I shall be able to show that I feel it to be the duty of the mayor of Liverpool to steer his course without party bias.” A few days after, he wrote to the Tradesmen’s Reform Association, resigning, not only the presidency, but the rights and privileges of membership of its body.

” It was my object,” he says, ” to unite in social gatherings the various classes and the holders of different opinions. To carry this out, I abandoned the old practice of restricting the hospitality of the town- hall to only a select few of the leading merchants, and increased the number of dinners,gave evening parties to the ladies, asked merchants and tradesmen alike, and secured that the clergy of every denomination should be mixed.”

In this genial atmosphere, men who had not spoken to one another for years became friends again; political opponents discussed each other’s views temperately; and thus a kinder feeling between the different classes of the town dated from Mr. Walmsley’s installation in office.

Liverpool Town Hall

On the occasion of the Queen’s marriage [10 February 1840] he gave, at his own expense, a ball to one thousand two hundred persons. The ample entertainment, and the cordial welcome the chief magistrate extended alike to Radicals, Whigs, and Tories, elicited praise even from his adversaries. The most Ultra-Conservative organ testified approbation at the manner in which this thoroughgoing Radical performed his duties as mayor.

We cannot resist giving one or two of the anecdotes, scattered so brightly through the pages of notes devoted to this period. ” There lived,” writes Mr. Walmsley, ” in Liverpool a merchant, a corn-broker, a good honest-hearted fellow. He was the plainest man I ever saw — tall, ungainly, with an inveterate squint, a pair of long arms, and legs that were a match for those arms. Having a great sense of fun, he made others enjoy his ugliness ; by-the- way, he laughed at it. It happened that during my mayoralty a fancy ball was given, under the patronage of the neighbouring nobility, at the town-hall, to further the ends of charity and amusement. The ball was crowded with plebeians, and the patricians kept themselves aloof in a small room adjoining the great ball-room. The crowd did not dare cross the threshold of those sacred precincts. There were the Blundells of Crosby, the Grosvenors, the Seftons, the Derby family, and the Duchess of St. Albans.”

” This lady was of excessive embonpoint. She formed the centre of the patrician group; her brightness and gaiety, her evident enjoyment of the scene around, animated somewhat the frigid stateliness of the aristocratic party. She wore an old-fashioned costume, her skirt distended by a hoop of vast circumference, and it is no exaggeration to say that her grace’s figure did look enormous. In the course of the evening came our merchant, admirably got up as ‘Dominie Sampson.’ Nature seemed to have intended him for the part, and the manner in which he acted it excited much laughter and amusement. Presently, catching sight of the group round the Duchess of St. Albans, he strode up to it, crossed the barrier, and gazed with distended eyes at the duchess. Walking awkwardly round her, he flung his long arms aloft. ‘ Pro-di-gi-ous ! pro-di-gi-us ! ‘’  he exclaimed, shuffling away, amidst the silence of the astounded patricians. But the duchess loved a joke, and soon the mirth excited by the incident spread; the tale passed from mouth to mouth; her grace sent for ‘Dominie Sampson,’ and the ball turned out the merriest of the season.”

Dining Room, Liverpool Town Hall

That year, the Eisteddfod festival was held in Liverpool ” I decided,” says Mr. Walmsley, ” to give a grand entertainment to the descendants of the Cymric bards. I consulted Archdeacon Williams, a name well known to all students of the Welsh tongue, as to the style of entertainment likely to be most agreeable to the minstrels. The archdeacon suggested that at dinner the toasts should be given out in Welsh. A slight difficulty existed — I did not know one word of the language. It was a difficulty that might be conquered, however, and I resolved to surmount it. I wrote out the lists of toasts and the speeches I purposed delivering, and the archdeacon translated them into Welsh. For three weeks, I devoted every minute I could spare to mastering these, assisted by the archdeacon.”

” The promised evening came, the table was laid out in baronial style. Harpers and minstrels were gathered together from North and South Wales in the banqueting-hall. With a flourish of trumpets, and borne by men in the beefeater’s dress, a baron of beef was carried in. The minstrels played their national airs, and around sat the representatives of the old families of the Cymri. A pause of surprise followed the first toast, given in Welsh ; but a moment after burst out a shout of enthusiasm. The compliment paid to the Principality was appreciated, and I felt my three weeks’ study had not been labour in vain. Some time after, when to me the entertainment was but a pleasant memory in the past, I was agreeably surprised on being presented, at a dinner given by the Cymreigydden Society, with a beautiful silver- mounted Hirlas horn, and a congratulatory ode in Welsh.”

Sir Joshua Walmsley (1794-1871), Mayor of Liverpool by Thomas Henry Illidge ; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks

 

Another proof of the high estimation and respect he was held in was given to Mrs. Walmsley in the shape of the public presentation to her of his full-length portrait, painted by Illidge.Thomas Henry Illidge (1799–1851)]. This gift was especially gratifying from the fact that the subscribers to the testimonial were chiefly persons holding opposite political views to his own. [ Rather pleasingly the portrait is now in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool]

Lord Brougham had caused Mr. Walmsley’s name to be inserted in the Commission of the Peace for the county of Lancaster and on the occasion of the Queen’s marriage, accompanied by Mr. Alderman Sheil and Mr. Councillor Bushell, he went up to London and presented the address of congratulation from the town of Liverpool. Soon after, Lord Normanby communicated to Mr. Walmsley that it was the Queen’s pleasure to confer knighthood upon him, an honour which he accepted.

At this time, it was anticipated that ere long a vacancy would occur in the representation of Liverpool. The death of the Earl of Harrowby was expected, and in this eventuality his son Lord Sandon, would be raised to the Upper House. At Liberal meetings, Sir Joshua Walmsley’s name was now frequently forward as the man best suited to represent the borough in Parliament, there to assist in the work of ameliorating the condition of the people, extending the blessings of national education, promoting free trade, and helping to break Corn-Law monopoly. The Liberals all the more openly affirmed this, seeing that the influential Whigs opposed him on the plea that his experience of public life did not justify it. The Tories, as was natural, determined to contest his election tooth and nail. The battle of conflicting opinions upon the mayor’s fitness to represent the borough was fought in the columns of the different newspapers and at public meetings.

Soon the Whigs complained that the Liberal papers refused to publish a line that might discredit Sir Joshua Walmsley’s claims. A requisition was presented to him, signed by more than half the electors of the borough, asking him to come forward as their representative at the next election. This next election was to be brought about by events nearer at hand than the death of the Earl of Harrowby.

On the 31st of October, Sir Joshua’s year of office came to a close. A vote of cordial thanks to the mayor was moved and passed by the council, acknowledging the ability, kindness, and great impartiality which he uniformly maintained in presiding over the council during the last year.

The newspapers unanimously echoed the praise the town council had bestowed upon their chief magistrate. Even the Tory papers had a good word to say. ” We cannot take a better opportunity,” says The Mail, November 10th, ” than the present of bearing our testimony, that Sir Joshua Walmsley has conducted himself during his whole mayoralty with a fairness and impartiality which reflect upon him the highest credit. He was the first reformed mayor who drew around him at his civic entertainments men of all shades of opinions. His urbanity, his well-selected parties, his desire to render his guests happy, without one taint of party feeling or invidious bias, redound to his honour, deserve to be held in remembrance, and will not soon be forgotten.”

The life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter X.

CHAPTER X.  This chapter covers 1838 to 1838 and Josh’s re-election to the council as a Liberal, or Reformer. The terms Liberal/Reformer/Whig and Radical were all used to describe the rough alliance, though the Liberal party in its modernly accepted form wasn’t officially used until the 1860’s. Josh probably regarded himself as a Reformer, and the Tradesmen’s Reform Association was without doubt an attempt to build a power-base outside the Whig [aka. Aristocratic, and landed gentry] interest. He seems to be very much in the tradition of proud northern businessmen who thought ” extending the franchise so sensible male voters would prevent profligate governments spending too much.”

At this period the scheme for the foundation of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association was conceived by Mr. Walmsley, and thirty of the leading reformers of the town entering into his views, the new society drew up its declaration of principles. [1836] Its public career was inaugurated by a banquet given to the Liberal member, Mr. Ewart. Great enthusiasm prevailed, the guests exceeding by many hundreds any similar demonstration. The Association soon became recognised as an important political body, and its numbers increased until there were two thousand five hundred names on its muster-roll. Its committee, formed of three representatives from each of the sixteen wards of the town, met weekly, while some of the leading reformers of Liverpool became its sub-presidents.

As president, it was Mr. Walmsley’s custom to address the monthly meetings, in a speech wherein he handled the leading political questions of the day — the Ballot Bill, laid by Mr. Grote before Parliament, the Irish Municipal Bill, and especially the Repeal of the Corn Laws. This address was followed by public discussion. The Tradesmen’s Reform Association was destined to fail, however, in the first object for which it was formed, namely, to secure a Liberal representation for Liverpool. In June, 1838, [Hugh’s wrong it was 1837] William IV. died, and the country was plunged into the turmoil of a general election.

On the result of the forthcoming contest throughout the kingdom, Mr. Walmsley considered the fate of the Corn Laws depended. Empowered by the General and Tradesmen’s Reform Associations to select a second Liberal candidate to stand with Mr. Ewart for Liverpool, he singled out Mr. Elphinstone, an uncompromising advocate of free trade. A requisition with four or five thousand signatures appended was forwarded to Mr. Elphinstone. No candidate had ever been solicited by so many voices to stand for the borough. The public meetings at the Amphitheatre, addressed by Mr. Walmsley, were crowded. All the indications tended to confirm his anticipations that Liverpool would certainly send to Parliament two reformers ready to fight for the abolition of all monopolies.

The Tories, however, were equally zealous in their efforts to secure the representation of the town. They continued to play their part of Defenders of the Faith, generally winding up their public meetings with three cheers for the Bible ; while, on the other hand, a vague notion dominated the uneducated mind that popery or infidelity was a latent element in that heavily- laden word Liberalism. In the taverns, the country people, as they smoked their pipes and drank their beer, declared that the Liberals were enemies to the Word of God !

On the 24th July, the election took place. Conspicuous in this pageantry of ribbons and flags were the blue colours of the Tradesmen’s Reform Association. The Tories’ procession was headed by a wooden Bible, carried aloft in full view of the crowd. The Liberals adopted for their device a loaf, bounteous in size, as one manufactured in the land of Brobdingnag, and a Lilliputian loaf contrasting with it. The big loaf was dubbed the “Ewart and Elphinstone loaf,” the small loaf the “Sandon loaf.” Beer flowed freely, and in due course the streets of Liverpool became the scene of rioting and violence. Mr. Whitty brought out his men, who valiantly strove to restore order, he directing the movement of his troops like a general on a battlefield. The final state of the poll showed the defeat of the Liberal candidates, and the victory of Lord Sandon and Mr. Cresswell.

”The failure of the Liberals greatly discouraged me,” says Sir Joshua, ” but it also made me reserve to work all the more strenuously to disseminate education amongst my fellow-citizens.” ” We must, more than the Tories,” he said at the first meeting of the Association after the Parliamentary defeat, “work for the diffusion of knowledge; and by establishing reading-rooms on a scale commensurate with that of the Association, offer to the humblest member that which, while tending to strengthen conviction of the justice of our principles, will make him a wiser citizen and a better man.”

This plan of forming libraries, and of inviting down eminent lecturers, was carried out.

Notwithstanding its failure to return a Liberal representative for Liverpool, the Tradesmen’s Reform Association did not lose influence in the town. Its president had many friends and many enemies. We find his name loudly called for at all Liberal public meetings, and his words attentively followed. We also find him abused in the columns of the Tory papers. Under his leadership the Tradesmen’s Reform Association became a recognised central power, to which the inhabitants looked for the removal of any local oppression.

We must not overlook, the public duties Mr. Walmsley during this time performed as councillor. He continued to be chairman of the Watch Committee, he was appointed member of the Dock Trust and Pilot Committee, the Finance and Improvement Committees. He became president of the Educational Committee. Of his energy and fitness we have the following testimony from one who worked with him : “Mr. Walmsley’s prompt business-like determination never came out to better purpose, making him the leading member of whatever committee he attended. He neglected no detail, and no inquiry was too trifling or too irksome for him to enter into.”

The following anecdote, given to us by Mr. Tindal Atkinson, secretary to the Association, illustrates the integrity of spirit which ever actuated Mr. Walmsley :

“ The general monthly meeting of the Association was at hand; as secretary I received due notice to prepare the minutes and accounts to be laid before the members. Weighted with much occupation, the time slipped by unnoticed, and the appointed day came round before I had drawn up the required paper. I knew, however, I could rely upon my memory, and on the night in question I fearlessly occupied my place on the platform, by the president’s side. When my turn came to speak I rose, took a blank sheet of paper, and proceeding apparently to read from it, gave a detailed and very exact report of the doings and the expenditure of the Association, On resuming my seat, Mr. Walmsley, very quietly, in a low voice, said : ‘ Very clever, Atkinson, very clever indeed; but do not repeat it, or “never more be officer of mine.” ‘ I never forgot the impression those few words made upon me.”

In November, 1838, Mr. Walmsley’s turn for retiring from the council board came round. An address, signed by the majority of the burgesses, urgently requested him to allow himself to be renominated. The address thanked him for the services he had rendered in the establishment and reorganisation of the police, and the indefatigable manner in which he had discharged the various and important duties of the different committees in the council. Mr. Walmsley, accepting to stand, was re-elected to the Castle Street ward without opposition ; no Tory candidate ventured to put up for a ward so thoroughly devoted to one of the leading reformers of the town. ” Who is to occupy the civic chair for the ensuing year ? “ asks The Liverpool Mercury of the 9th November. “ We know not. If it goes by desert, if it is to be determined by real and substantial services rendered to the cause of reform, there is one man whose zeal, energy, and ability entitle him to such a compliment from the hands of his fellow-townsmen ; and, whatever may be thought of the matter in the council, we are quite sure that the great body of reformers out of doors will be very much disappointed if his claims are again passed over. To him the town is mainly indebted for the establishment of the new police, the formation and the organisation of the ‘ Tradesmen’s Reform Association.’ We need hardly say that we allude to Mr. Joshua Walmsley, or add that it is he whom a majority of reformers wish to see mayor of Liverpool.”

Owing to a combination of circumstances, unnecessary to enter into here, Mr. Walmsley was not on that occasion elected mayor.

Liverpool Election 1841

The Westminster Review says of the 1841 election, “the annals of parliamentary warfare contained no page more stained with the foulness of corruption and falsehood than that which relates the history of the general election in the year 1841”. 

At the general election in 1841, the candidates for the two Liverpool seats were Lord Sandon and Mr. Cresswell, the sitting Tory M.P.’s, and Sir Joshua Walmsley, and Lord Palmerston standing as Whigs/Liberals. Why on earth Palmerston was standing in Liverpool when he had no connexion to it is a slight mystery, – still an arrogant, bombastic, opportunistic, womanising Foreign Secretary is hardly unknown in British political life. Sir Josh’s own version of the election follows shortly. The short piece below is from the Tory supporting Spectator.

Cooke’s Royal Amphitheatre of Arts, Liverpool

LIVERPOOL. Lord Sandon and Mr. Cresswell visited their supporters for the first time on Friday, and have personally addressed the electors. There was a large meeting at the Amphitheatre on Monday. Lord Sandon avowed himself ” such a Free-trader as Mr. Huskisson “; and endeavoured to show that Mr. Huskisson was such a Free-trader as Lord Sandon. He asked the electors what claim Lord Palmerston had upon them, when he had to accompany deputations from the town to complain of the Foreign Secretary’s inattention and neglect of the commercial interests of the country ?

The Spectator  26 June 1841, Page 6

Each of the Tories had a majority of over a thousand votes.

William Huskisson (1770-1830) had been one of the M.P.’s for Liverpool between 1823 and his death in 1830. Amongst other ministerial roles, he had been President of the Board of Trade; he was regarded as one of the few men who could reconcile Tory merchants to a free trade policy; hence Lord Sandon’s comments, in what was a very mercantile city. Huskisson is now rather better known as the world’s first  railway passenger casualty when he was run over and fatally wounded by George Stephenson’s Rocket, at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway. We’ll come to Sir Josh’s own version of this as well.

Viscount Sandon (1798 – 1882),was the Tory M.P. for Liverpool between 1831 and 1847 when he succeeded his father as Earl of Harrowby.  

Sir Cresswell Cresswell, (1794 – 1863), was born Cresswell Easterby. He took the surname Cresswell in 1807 when his wife inherited much of the Cresswell family money. His mother was also a Cresswell. He had a reputation as a “violent Tory”. He was elected as one of the Tory M.P.’s for Liverpool in  1837, and again in 1841. He resigned his parliamentary seat in 1842 when he was made a judge of the Court of Common Pleas.