On this day James Halse was re-elected to represent the United Boroughs of St Ives in spite of tremendous popular disapproval of his unscrupulous methods which included bribery and corruption, false witness, dismissal and eviction. His opponent was William Praed, Squire of Trevethoe, who had the last laugh as we shall see. It is all the more remarkable that Halse was successful given that this election came after the passing of the New Reform Act in 1832 which aimed to end corruption in politics.
As a major shareholder in nearby Consols Mines and landlord of the hamlet of Halsetown, he was in a strong position to buy votes at a time when there was no secret ballot. Just seven years earlier this largely ironic verse had been circulated among the St Ives miners in an previous election, warning them of reprisals if they did not vote for Halse:
On August the fourth precisely at ten
When Halse and Morrison are going to contend,
It lies to your option which you will return;
If you don’t return Halse I’m afraid you will mourn.
It is better that half had been wounded or dead,
Than to see their poor children starving for bread;
When this thing is ended and Morrison fled,
And left no employ that you might be fed,
The pen in my hand with pity do shake
While I think on your folly, such steps for to take;
Then turn the things over within your own breast;
Let conscience speak out, then see which is best.
So now my good friends with Halse do not play.
You may want a good friend in a future day.
For he is a man as I have been told
That will take a revenge in a treble fold.
So now to friend Halse let us give a good cheer
By drinking his health with a horn of good beer,
And every true Briton the same to repeat
By crying that Halse is worthy the seat.
In fact Halse took action against at least three men who voted against him. He occasioned two miners to be imprisoned on false charges and another man to be evicted from his accustomed stand in the market-place in St Ives. Here is the last verse of another poem written this time in support of the unfortunate trader:
And Oh! when the bright Fates have banished
All tyrants and knaves from St Ives, -
When roguery and falsehood have vanished,
And nothing but honesty thrives, -
When the secret select are abolished,
As all of us wish them to be, -
In short, when James Halse is demolished
There’ll be room in the Market for me.
After an apparently undistinguished career in Parliament, James Halse died in May 1838 aged 69. It is clear that the electorate had been disillusioned with their MP for in 1837 the turnout was 495, while in the fairer bye-election after his death a year later the turnout was 742; this time William Praed was the victor.
St Ives Times & Echo; articles by Cyril Noall dated 27.04.1956; 28.09.1956; and by Tre Pol Pen dated 22.08.1997; 29.08.1956
Industrial Village to Peaceful Hamlet: Halsetown Homes 1832-1950 by Jenny Dearlove in Homes and Households in West Cornwall 1550-1950, Penwith Local History Group, 2010