Popular elections

On the purity of these depend the reputation & success of Representative Govts. In some of the States whilst they were Colonies, the original maners & usage of the people maintained this purity. It was much favored also by the frequency of elections, which were annual, nor were half yearly elections without example. The rule of voting by ballot was another precaution and guard agst the use of undue means by Candidates for the popular suffrage. In a number of the Colonies Candidates were in the practice not only of publicly offering their services, but of soliciting the votes of the people and of giving them treats, particularly of intoxicating drinks. In Virga when the elections for the Colonial Legislature were septennial, & the original Settlers of the prevailing sentiments & religious manners of the parent nation, the modes of canvassing for popular votes in that Country were generally practiced. The people not only tolerated, but expected and even required to be courted and treated. No Candidate who neglected these attentions could be elected. His forbearance wd have been ascribed to a mean parsimony, or to a proud disrespect for the voters.

The spirit of the revolution and adoption of anual Elections seeming to favor a more chaste mode of conducting elections in Virga, my way of thinking on the subject determined me to attempt by an example to introduce one. It was found that the old habits were too deeply rooted to be suddenly reformed. Particular circumstances obtained for me success in the first election at which I was a Candidate. At the next I was outvoted by two Candidates, neither of them having superior pretensions and one peculiarly deficient in them, but both of them availing themselves fully of all the means of influence familiar to the people. My reserve was imputed to want of respect for them, if to no other unpopular motive.

Time, the genius of her Govn and the shortness of the term, have considerably diminished the undue means of canvassing, but the practice still prevails too much of treating the people, and the Candidates failing to do so would be charged with or suspected of unworthy motives — As a remedy — Let one or more of the Candidates, propose in the outset, that all should, instead of spending money on ardent spirits and other treats contribute the estimated amount, as a fund for supporting & educating the poor, and if not agreed to by others let him take that course as an example. So beneficent a substitute, for a corrupting practice wd be espoused by all the most virtuous & respectable voters — & might soon triumph over the remaining prejudices.