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Jun
07

Washington wins first election 1758 House of Burgesses

By
When:
July 24, 2014 all-day
2014-07-24T00:00:00-04:00
2014-07-25T00:00:00-04:00
Where:
1840 Courthouse
20 N Loudoun St
Winchester, VA 22601
USA

Washington’s Political Career Starts Here

Compiled by Jim Moyer, last updated 10/15/2015,  7/17/2016,10/2/16,  11/26/2016, 12/11/2016

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Click on any picture to enlarge.

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George Washington's Political Career Began on this Site Marker

This Inscription, located on the front of the 1840 Courthouse, states:

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George Washington’s Political Career Began on This Site

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“On July 24, 1758, [a Monday] at the first Frederick County Court House on this site, Colonel George Washington, age 26, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses. This was the first elective office of the young commander of Virginia’s forces here to guard her western frontier.”

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That inscription was placed here, because the original log courthouse where voters voted for GW existed right here, maybe to the back of center of this location of the 1840 Courthouse.

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Plaque to the Left of the Entrance

The Plaque continues:

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Colonial election procedure was quite different from today’s secret ballot at a convenient polling place. On election day, Sheriff, Justices, Candidates and voters gather at the County Court House here. As each eligible voter’s name was called, he stepped forward and vocally proclaimed his choice. Clerks recorded the vote and the candidate bowed in appreciation of the voter’s support.

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At the July 1758 election young Col. Washington could not be present because he was commanding Virginia’s troops then poised for attact upon Fort Duquesne. His campaign Manager, Col. Jame Wood, stood in his place.

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The County Courthouse

In May 1761, Col. Washington was elected to a second term as Burgess from Frederick County. In 1789 he was elected President of the United States.

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Thus, George Washington’s political, as well as his military career began here on Virginia’s western frontier during the ten years in which his activities centered about old Frederick County in the Colony of Virginia.

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From a Map Poster by Wilbur S Johnston.

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The Square Building in the Center is the old Courthouse.

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Court Square

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VOTING OUT LOUD

There was NO secret ballot. You the voter said OUT LOUD your preference in front of the candidates, and for all the other voters to hear!

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This Link prints the quote below.

Gentlemen Freeholders: Political Practices in Washington’s Virginia, Charles S. Sydnor wrote:

As each freeholder came before the sheriff, his name was called out in a loud voice, and the sheriff inquired how he would vote. The freeholder replied by giving the name of his preference. The appropriate clerk then wrote down the voter’s name, the sheriff announced it as enrolled, and often the candidate for whom he had voted arose, bowed, and publicly thanked him.

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See also this link, restating the above on Page 511 in Cartmell’s book :

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Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants A History of Frederick County, Virginia ( ILLUSTRATED ) From its Formation in 1738 to 1908 Compiled Mainly from Original Records of Old Frederick County, now Hampshire, Berkeley, Shenandoah, Jefferson, Hardy, Clarke, Warren, Morgan and Frederick T. K. Cartmell Clerk of the Old County Court MAR 24 1914 COPYRIGHT 1909 By T. K. CARTMELL printed BY THE Eddy Press Corporation Winchester, VA.

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So voting out loud could have been a proud event for these brave men. For lesser souls, maybe there was some peer pressure or other perceived threats if they voted for the wrong person, or a benefit of a favor if they voted the right way.

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And as mentioned earlier, George Washington liked to get his voters first in line, even to the point of asking the Sheriff who officiates at this election to help his voters be first in line.

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GW’S EARLY ELECTION HISTORY

Washington lost the 10 December 1755 election, then won the 24 July 1758 election and 18 May 1761 elections to represent Frederick County VA.

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See all of Washington’s House of Burgess Election totals

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In 1765, a House of Burgesses position became open in Fairfax County, enabling GW to represent his hometown area instead of Frederick County.

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Supporters and Helpers

gabriel jonesGabriel Jones, “the Valley Lawyer,” was another influential supporter of George Washington. Click on his letter gauging the shifting loyalties and the delay of the election day.

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“…in short affairs are totally changed & may be many times so yet before the day, your being elected absolutely depends on your presence that day. this is the Opinion of every thinking friend, & therefore must in the most pressing manner desire it.8 it happened very unluckily that the writs was so long delayed as it was the Case in Augusta, so that both Election’s will interfere. however as I have undertaken to serve you no Consideration shall deter me from it. I shall give up mine, in order to be at your’s, where if possible I hope you’l be.”

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This picture of the colorful and profane Gabriel Jones hangs high in the Winchester Frederick County Courthouse.

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Handley Library Archives has no information on the painting itself.

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THE 1758 ELECTION

james wood for washingon 24 July 1758At the July, 1758, election young Col. Washington, after receiving Col Bouquet’s blessing to leave his post for this election, chose not to leave his command of Virginia’s troops then poised for attack upon Fort Duquesne.

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His campaign manager, Col. James Wood, stood in his place at the voting table.  And James Wood, founder of Winchester VA, was illustrated here triumphantly carried on the shoulders of jubilant voters.

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This illustration is from the Graham’s Magazine in 1853 according to the Handley Library Archives  which bases its claim on Katherine R Glass Greene in her book, Winchester, Virginia and Its Beginnings, 1743-181, page 95, published 1926

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But !  I found the picture on Page 360 of Graham’s Magazine April 1854.

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ALCOHOL

Footnote from Founders Online shows the expenses listed by Charles Smith, his campaign treasurer, keeping an accounting of the alcohol purchases:

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“…where it is printed, Smith paid out a total of £39.6 to five vendors for 46¾ gallons of beer, 40 gallons, 1 hogshead, 1 barrel, and 10 bowls of rum punch, nearly 35 gallons of wine, 2 gallons of cider, and 3½ pints of brandy, as well as dinner for his “friends.”

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Law passed after this election reducing the abuse of alcohol provided at elections.

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In that same 1762 law, Volume IV, Chapter I, Page 526, “That no person hereafter to be elected a member of the general assembly …  give, present or allow, to any person or perons, having voice or vote in such elections, any money, meat, drink, entertainment or provision, or make any present, gift, reward or entertainment, or any promise, agreement, obligation or engagement, to or for any person or persons …”

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GETTING VOTERS FIRST IN LINE

See 1761 letter to Sheriff, asking for help in orchestrating his voters to front of line and not do it so obviously as to bring complaints.

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Also see list of voters in 1758 election showing that GW has the first 13 voters at front of line, just like he accomplished in the 1761 election when asking the Sheriff to help him.

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If voters hear who is voting for who ahead of them in line, they might spot a trend for the winner and join the bandwagon for their own good.

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Plaque to the Left of the Entrance

Where the plaque sits on the 1840 Courthouse wall.

 

The County Courthouse

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Washington begins his political career on this very site

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Poll sheet listing all the voters in this 24 July 1758 election

 

List of documents related to the July 24, 1758 election

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Founders Online Footnotes and Links

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1. GW’s letter has not been found. In the burgess election held at Winchester on 18 May 601 freeholders voted. GW received the support of 505, George Mercer 400, and Adam Stephen 294. GW’s copy of the poll sheet is in DLC:GW.

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For references to the pattern of voting, see GW to Van Swearingen, 15 May 1761.

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See also the poll sheet for the burgess election in Frederick County, 24 July 1758, printed as an enclosure to Charles Smith, 26 July 1758.

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For GW’s election expenses, see his Cash Accounts, 1761.

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For GW’s illness contracted while electioneering, see GW to Andrew Burnaby, 27 July 1761, n.7.

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2. Adam Stephen, who was in command of the Virginia Regiment at Winchester, remained behind for the election when Stewart marched toward Staunton with a part of the regiment on about 3 May. See the source note in Stewart to GW, c.6 May 1761. Presumably the adjutant of the regiment, William Hughes, was a political supporter of Stephen and Stephen had ordered him to return to Winchester so that he could give his suffrage for Stephen. Hughes became adjutant of the Virginia Regiment on 22 June 1757 and was a lieutenant in the regiment when it was disbanded at the end of 1762. Stephen’s summons seems to have come too late, for Hughes’s name does not appear on the poll sheet.

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Source of above

http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-07-02-0024

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The sessions dates of 1758-1761

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Excerpt from link:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x001603341;page=root;view=plaintext;size=100;seq=19;num=xi

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“OF the General Assembly of Virginia of 1758-1761 there were seven sessions.

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The first session continued from September 14, 1758, to the 12th of October of
the same year;

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the second session, from the 9th to the 11th of November, 1758;

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the third, from the 22nd of February, 1759, to the 14th of April;

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the fourth,  from the first to the 21st of November, 1759;

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the fifth, from the 4th to the 11th of March, 1760;

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the sixth, from the 19th to the 24th of May, 1760;

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the seventh, from the 6th of  October, 1760, to the 10th of April, 1761.”

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Excerpt from link:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x001603341;page=root;view=plaintext;size=100;seq=19;num=xi

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Journal, 1758, September Session
Journal, 1758, November Session
Journal, 1759, February Session
Journal, 1759, November Session
Journal, 1760, March Session .
Journal, 1760, May Session
Journal, 1760-1761, October-March Sessions

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[Our note: 18 May 1761 was the election of the next term of House of Burgesses]

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Source for the session dates listed above:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x001603341;page=root;view=plaintext;size=100;seq=13;num=vi

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1758-1761:

https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001746885

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List of all of the years:

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/browse?type=title&index=802989&key=journals%20of%20the%20house%20of%20burgesses%20of%20virginia%201619%201776&c=x

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Some Links:

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The senior James Wood’s papers at Handley Library Archives

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See all of Washington’s House of Burgess Election totals

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Graham Magazine Hathitrust source.

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Graham Magazine Gutenberg Press source.

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Online books source.

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Handley Archives illustration from Graham Magazine.

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Charles Smith who was he?

1. He was with George Washington at the Battle of Fort Necessity.

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2. Supervised work at Fort Loudoun.

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3. handled disbursements to the “miner”  of the well which lasts to this day.

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4. 1758 election campaign manager for GW, buying alcohol for the voters.

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5. The Punch that Killed. Charles Smith punched a man in a tavern in some dispute and the man died a half an hour later. Charles Smith turned himself in and was exonerated.

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6.  The Nook still stands at 106 E Main Street, Berryville VA.

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Earlier in the 18th century the area was the site of an 800-acre estate of the same name owned by Charles Smith, The Battletown estate’s main residence, known today as the Nook, was built between 1755 and 1765 and still survives at 106 E. Main Street.

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When Charles Smith died, he left the parcel to his wife, and eventually it was divided among their four children, Charles, John, Elizabeth Morton, and Sarah Easten.  John sold a portion of his land to Benjamin Berry, the town of Berryville’s founder.

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Charles Smith correspondence with George Washington

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McCarty Family

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Hilarious view of colonial lawyers

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