CHAPTER IV
VIRGINIA FINANCES

THE TASTE of public life which Madison had in 1776 was pleasant to him and, the Assembly having adjourned, he offered himself for re-election to the House of Delegates. He was young and he had not yet secured a firm hold upon his constituents. He attempted, nevertheless, to secure their votes, while at the same time he combatted one of the election customs to which they were firmly attached. This was the custom of treating the voters liberally with rum and punch, a form of corruption which was always practised in colonial elections, and which George Washington himself had observed when he was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1758. But Madison conceived that a new and better order of things had now begun, and he determined to endeavor to put a stop to a practice demoralizing to candidates and voters alike, and to secure his election without making his supporters tipsy. His motives were commendable, but his opponents represented them as springing from a parsimonious spirit and an indifference to the wishes of the people. He was a rich man's son, and it was proclaimed that he was not the poor man's friend, and a successful appeal was made to class prejudice. His opponent, Charles Porter, treated lavishly and was elected. A number of Madison's supporters presented a petition to the House of Delegates, May 16, 1777, saying Porter had used bribery and corruption and praying that his seat be declared vacant. It went to a committee, but was allowed to drop.*

The victim of Porter's punch had no occasion to press

____________________
*
Journal of the House of Delegates.

-24-

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