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Honiton Parliamentary Election, 1754
Benjamin Westcott, I & II

Background: Parliamentary elections in 18th century Honiton were substantially different from modern times. Only a few hundred adult males, those who had demonstrated a certain level of wealth, were entitled to vote. Women were excluded, of course, until the 20th century. In addition, there was no secret ballot -- voters' preferences were placed in the public record.

Candidates for Parliament were typically members of the wealthy upper class: in Honiton, these were the Courtenay, Pole and Yonge families. Competition among them resulted in pervasive vote-buying and consequent corruption, which continued well into the 19th century. The Yonges were the most successful, enduring from 1640 until 1802. Five members of the family served, including Sir Walter (1678-1710), Sir William (1713-1747) and lastly Sir George (1754-1802), who completed their financial ruin.

Title of the Register Book

poll book title (left side)

poll book title (right side)

An Alphabetical Copy of the Poll Taken at Honiton the 16th day of April 1754 Before Mr. Robert Gidley Portreave for Electing Two Members to serve in Parliament when the Candidates were Henry Reginald Courtenay George Yonge and John Duke Esqrs.

How the Westcotts voted -- no secrets in those days!

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Voters Names for whom they Voted
  C Y D
Westcott Benjamin / /  
Westcott Benjn. Junr. / /  
voting detail

Final result: their candidates won -- again!

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Total votes cast 561   
for Courtenay 482 (elected)
for Yonge 334 (elected) 
for Duke 295  
voting summary

Source: 1754 Honiton Poll Book, Devon Record Office
Thanks: (historical background) Ian Yonge