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Election Address

1867-8: Representation of the People Acts

Publication: Poems by Henry Shanks

Publisher: Baird and Hamilton

Published: 1872

Place of publication: Lanarkshire, Airdrie, Scotland

Publication type: Book

A full copy of this poem is available.

Archive/Library: National Library of Scotland
Classmark(s): NG.1169.c.12
Pages(s): 229-32

Henry Shanks was a Bathgate poet, who had worked in trade in Leith and then as a farmer. In 1862 he went blind, and began to try to eke out a living through his poetry, which had been published in the Airdrie Advertiser and elsewhere, and through other literary pursuits. Shanks was one of the founders and president of an influential literary society, 'Under the Beeches', in Bathgate from 1874 onwards. He published poetry collections in 1868 and 1872, and a collection of poems with short memoir and his essay on 'The Peasant Poets of Scotland' in 1881. He was also known as 'The Blind Poet of the Deans.'

'Election Address' is a post-1867 Reform poem, concerned (as the headnote tells us) with the fiercely contested 1868 election in Linlithgow, between Liberals John Pender and Peter McLagan. Shanks supports McLagan, and the poem asks newly enfranchised voters to choose wisely and prove 'Ye are worthy to be free', or else 'Legislators yet unborn/ Will point Linlithgow as example/ Of the danger of reform.' It appears in his 1872 collection, though was almost certainly first published in the local press or as a pamphlet poem.