This coloured etching shows a crowd assembled outside St Paul's Church, Covent Garden for the general election of 1818. Forty years after Dighton's view of a drunken scrum filled with violence and theft, this shows a slightly more orderly election, although still much more raucous than modern ones. The candidates for parliament can be seen toward the back of the image, on the raised wooden structure temporarily built against the church. A placard in the left foreground shows the current state of the poll.
The main focus however is on the crowd, where children, men and women of many races wave banners, argue, cheer and generally purchase and sell foodstuffs. Street vendors include a pie man, milk man with a basket of undentified articles, a woman with a large basket containing small wicker containers of what might be shellfish. The message is clear: for many Londoners, Election Day was more about spectacle and a carnival atmosphere than it was politics.
There is a hint of radical change depicted here. One banner being waved reads 'Universal Suffrage' - at this point, an appeal for all men to have the vote. The candidate Hunt, trailing a poor fourth, was the radical Henry 'Orator' Hunt, who proposed annual parliaments, universal suffrage, a secret ballot and repeal of the Corn Laws. He was imprisoned several times by the government, but the political goals of radicals like Hunt moved us towards the voting system we enjoy today.