Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices

By Robert J. Dinkin | Go to book overview

1
The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods

1607-1789

Electioneering techniques developed slowly in early America. No political parties existed, and in some colonies elections were irregularly held. Only property owners, a group consisting of anywhere from half to four-fifths of all adult white males, were allowed to vote; indentured servants, women, blacks, and numerous religious dissenters were ineligible. Interest in politics naturally was low in an age when survival was the main concern in life. Given the limited forms of communication, the majority of people had little knowledge of political events anyway. Even among the politically aware, few saw much reason to take part in the electoral process because most major offices were appointive. In almost every colony the governor and members of the upper house of the legislature received their appointment from the British Crown or from a proprietor. Administrative and judicial posts also were not subject to public choice. Rhode Island and Connecticut were unique in having popularly elected governments throughout the colonial period. Elsewhere, only the lower house of the legislature and certain local offices continued to be elective.1

In the seventeenth century actual encounters for elective office were extremely rare. Elections for the Virginia House of Burgesses--the first legislature in America, established in 1619--commonly went uncontested. Bacon's Rebellion, a popular uprising in colonial Virginia in 1676, caused some turnover of representatives but involved no open appeal for votes. New York, colonized by the Dutch in the 1620s, had no elected assembly until it came under British rule in the mid-1660s. Only at the end of the century did any competition develop at the polls. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, founded in the 1630s, occasionally had competitive races, but these left little evidence of open electioneering. Other colonies, such as the

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Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles In Contributions in American History ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1- The Colonial and Revolutionary Periods - 1607-1789 1
  • 2- The Early National Period - 1790-1820 11
  • 3- The Jacksonian Period - 1824-52 31
  • 4- The Golden Age of Parties 1854-88 59
  • 5- The Merchandised Style of Campaigning - 1892-1920 95
  • 6- The Merchandised Style--Continued 1920-48 127
  • 7- The Mass Media Age 1952-88 159
  • Notes 199
  • Bibliographical Essay 221
  • Index 225
  • About the Author 233
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