Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
28 May 2015

How a liberal MP introduced the ballot box in the City of London

In December 1837, the Fife Herald noted that it had been sent a “model of Mr Grote’s balloting box, which has been exhibited at many public meetings”.

By Stephen Brasher

The City of London elected four MPs to the House of Commons until 1885. George Grote was elected as one of four Liberals in 1832, serving until 1841. Grote – a philosopher radical who once gave money to Auguste Comte, the French founder of sociology – introduced an annual bill to parliament for the provision of the (secret) ballot.

In December 1837, the Fife Herald noted that it had been sent a “model of Mr Grote’s balloting box, which has been exhibited at many public meetings”. The Newcastle Journal called it the “rat-trap ballot box”: voters had to punch the card with a piece of metal and then press a button so that the card fell into the box. The newspaper felt that this would disenfranchise the illiterate and the blind and, as such, “It will never do.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy