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Gentlemen and freeholders : electoral politics in colonial Virginia /
John Gilman Kolp.
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
description
xi, 249 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0801858437 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
series title
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
isbn
0801858437 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
2411295
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [201]-233) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
One-hundred years ago, a New England historian discovered in the records of colonial Virginia a peculiar set of documents called pollbooks. Frequently found in county deed and record books and occasionally in private papers, pollbooks report the voting behavior of individual adult male freeholders in elections for the provincial legislative assembly, the House of Burgesses. They include not only a listing by name of all persons voting for each candidate, but often the total votes appear at the bottom followed by the signatures of the county sheriff and clerk attesting to the document's accuracy and authenticity. Concentrated in the 50-year period before the American Revolution, these surviving colonial pollbooks have long puzzled historians, for it has never been perfectly clear what they reveal about the political culture of this critical era in Virginia's and America's past.--from the Introduction
First Chapter
One-hundred years ago, a New England historian discovered in the records of colonial Virginia a peculiar set of documents called pollbooks. Frequently found in county deed and record books and occasionally in private papers, pollbooks report the voting behavior of individual adult male freeholders in elections for the provincial legislative assembly, the House of Burgesses. They include not only a listing by name of all persons voting for each candidate, but often the total votes appear at the bottom followed by the signatures of the county sheriff and clerk attesting to the document's accuracy and authenticity. Concentrated in the 50-year period before the American Revolution, these surviving colonial pollbooks have long puzzled historians, for it has never been perfectly clear what they reveal about the political culture of this critical era in Virginia's and America's past.--from the Introduction
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1999-07-01:
Kolp has produced a detailed analysis of electoral process in Virginia during the half century preceding the American Revolution to understand influences affecting the selection of representatives to the House of Burgesses. Taking on the accepted formula that the gentry ruled and the freeholders voiced their approval by electing them, the author examines county-level politics in great detail. He concludes that there was not one universal system at work, but rather that the dynamics of elections varied over both time and geography across the colony. The position of Burgess provided a link in Colonial society between the provincial level politics of Williamsburg and the local concerns of the county courthouses. This was one of the key factors in Burgess elections, but in each county, Kolp finds, influences and issues created a unique electoral situation. Kolp begins with an overview of the Colonial political culture, the nature of the electorate, and the common issues influencing elections; he supports these sections with examples from across the colony. The second portion of the book consists of detailed chronicles of elections in four counties--Accomack, Lancaster, Fairfax, and Halifax--as reflections of general patterns and reinforcement of the basic argument that each election exhibited its own unique set of dynamic influences. Graduate, faculty. M. J. Puglisi Virginia Intermont College
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, July 1999
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Summaries
Main Description
Gentlemen and Freeholders explores the role of elections in the public culture of Britain's most populous North American colony during the middle decades of the eighteenth century. In this pre-Revolutionary world, John Kolp explains, wealthy men with stately homes, fine clothes, and a genuine belief in rule by "Gentlemen of Ability and Fortune" shared the local political arena with common freeholders--small planters with a hundred acres and a servant or slave to help cultivate the labor intensive tobacco crop. Gentlemen clearly ruled this society, yet they did so with the electoral support of the freeholders. How did such a system work? Previous attempts to understand eighteenth-century Virginia's local politics have portrayed a stable, consistent, and uniform public culture extending from 1725 to 1815 and variously described as aristocratic, oligarchic, democratic, or ritualistic. Kolp, by contrast, proposes a dynamic model of a local political culture, one broadly shaped by regional, provincial, and imperial influences but primarily conditioned by local personalities and issues. Drawing on a wide variety of primary sources, he reveals who ran for office, who voted and with what frequency; he explains how candidates jostled for position before running for office, how they appealed to freeholders, how public issues and private considerations influenced voter behavior, and whether levels of competition can contribute to a better understanding of social stability and unrest. Not since Charles Sydnor's landmark work in 1952 has an historian of Virginia so thoroughly examined the political culture that produced such a startling number of revolutionary leaders and founding fathers. Gentlemen and Freeholders offers a fresh look at a subject of enduring interest.
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: Gentlemen and Freeholdersp. 1
The Political Culture of Electionsp. 13
The Colonial Electoratep. 36
The Dynamics of Electoral Competitionp. 59
Accomack County: Searching for Responsible Authority on the Eastern Shorep. 83
Lancaster County: Experiencing Parish Neighborhood in the Traditional Tidewaterp. 115
Fairfax County: Constructing Political Consensus in the Northern Neckp. 133
Halifax Country: Sustaining Contention on the Southside Frontierp. 165
Conclusion: Elections and Political Communityp. 191
Notesp. 201
Note on Sourcesp. 235
Indexp. 239
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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