Monday, May 17, 2010

Vote-Buying: A Time-Honored American Tradition

As my main computer is currently Blue Screen Of Deathed, small entries for now.

You might think George Washington as completely and utterly above politics as the Machiavellian free-for-all it is today, disapproving of any and all underhanded methods of gaining votes.

Not quite.

When Virginia was a colony, they had something called the House of Burgess- a precursor to the state legislature. At the time, there was a law forbidding 'treating', or giving 'ticklers' to prospective voters. That meant, essentially, no trying to buy the voters off with booze or whatever else they may want. It was common back then.

So, that's the election law, Washington would uphold it, right? Well, when Washington sought office in the House of Burgess, friend and county boss Colonel John Wood regarded the law as a quaint suggestion. The voters of Frederick were treated. Oh, were they ever treated. The account consisted of the following:
40 gallons of Rum Punch
15 gallons of Wine
Dinner for your Friends
13-1/2 gallons of Wine
3-1/2 pts. of Brandy
13 Galls. Beer
8 qts. Cyder Royl
30 gallns. of strong beer
1 hhd & 1 Barrell of Punch, consisting of 26 gals. best Barbadoes rum, 12 lbs. S. Refd. Sugar
3 galls. and 3 quarts of Beer
10 Bowls of Punch
9 half pints of rum
1 pint of wine

Washington won, but what did he think of all this? He only told Wood, after the election, "I hope no Exception was taken to any that voted against me, but that all were alike treated, and all had enough. My only fear is that you spent with too sparing a hand."

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