This image by William Hogarth, printed in 1755, depicts the violence, gluttony and bribery of an election banquet among supporters of the Whig party. Surrounded by food and drink, members of the electorate spend the day in the company of two Whig candidates for Parliament, while all around them election agents bribe the guests with money and alcohol in return for their votes.
Though exaggerated for comic effect, such scenes were often common at election time during the 18th century owing to the relatively small and exclusive electorate responsible for casting parliamentary votes. The property qualification to vote stood at 40 shillings freehold value during the century, meaning that only those of means could have any influence on the outcome of elections. Prior to election day lengthy canvassing took place, with agents of candidates approaching voters in person in an attempt to ascertain their political preferences. Many freeholders were offered free transport and alcohol on polling day in order to directly influence their voting decisions.