chapter  Chapter 3
21 Pages

The Rag Plot: The Politics of Influence in Oxford, 1754

WithElaine Chalus

he Rag Plot occurred, however, at a transitional moment in popular political culture. Early modern political practices, such as libellous verses, which had emerged as a means of shaping local political opinion in a partially literate society, were by the mid-eighteenth century being replaced by the increasingly influential, literacy-dependent, national political press. Although the Rag Plot was a direct result of the New Interest’s defeat in the vitriolic and inconclusive 1754 Oxfordshire election, it also wove together a number of other, older concerns. Underlying the Plot as a whole was an assumption (which proved to be outdated) that the public still feared Jacobitism in the way that it had earlier in the century. The Plot was the New Interest’s most daring salvo in a battle for political control of the county that lasted for more than two years. The election campaign had been notorious even at the time for its excess, violence and cost.