Welcome to The Ephemera Society Website
News   About Us   Membership   Events   Links


Image of Bribery Oath

Bribery Oath

  • Election 15. County or Borough Bribery Oath
  • London: Published by Shaw & Sons, Fetter Lane
  • 203 x 108mm (8 x 4¼in)
  • Mid 19th century

The man who receives a bribe contaminates himself, and injures the Government he is connected with;
the man who bribes him commits a great offence against the State...then look to your bribery at elections,
that wholesale system of buying and selling men's consciences.
Lord Brougham

The oath was a solemn, formal declaration that could be administered to voters requiring them to state that no money, gift or reward had been accepted in consideration for their vote, often calling on God or a sacred object as witness. In this instance on the part-printed form a provision was made for Quakers to "solemnly affirm".

In the 18th and 19th century the harm arising from bribery at elections was great, the instances were numerous, and the arguments against the practice were sufficient to raise the issue for deliberation and discussion in Parliament.

By the mid-1800s the bribery oath was considered worse than useless for the effect of the oath was, not to diminish bribery, but to increase perjury. Lord Brougham in a speech of 1847 lampoons the evil working of the present system:

The bribery at that place was so notorious, and was so shamelessly practised, that the worthy and independent voters went up to the poll, as if glorying in their disgrace, with bank notes stuck in their hats as cockades. The gentleman at whose expense this was done, after his return, addressed them in these words, "Gentlemen, I have bought you, but, believe me, I will never sell you." The constituents cried out that they hoped he would come again; but his reply was, "No, no, my friends, it is out of the question; I cannot afford it."

Early voting card
No Bribery. Election candidate's card.


This regular feature shows special items from members’ own collections. Submissions by email should include a scan of the item.