The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West

By Thomas D. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE

"ROTAION in office, and frequent election, salutary principles which disjoint the schemes of usurpation, and frustrate the systematic continuations of power," was the toast of a rampant frontiersman at a Washington's birthday celebration.1 This utterance was greeted with thunderous applause, lengthy swigging at the jug, and a sustained fire by the militia. "Rotation in office" and "frequent elections" were indeed "salutary principles" of the frontier. Western polls were storm centers of political activity. Fight after fight occurred during elections. Kentucky alone followed the time-honored precedent of Virginia and prolonged the delectable process of selecting public officials by keeping its polls open three days. By the time the Bluegrass State had endured a three-day bender its eyes were reddened for months to come.2

Strangers visiting in Kentucky during elections were frightened out of their wits. Fortesque Cuming had to pass through Carlisle where he said: "I counted above a hundred horses fastened under trees -- I was induced to hasten past this place as the voters in that sterile part of the country did not appear quite peaceable and orderly as those in Paris. Some of them might have been moved by the spirit of liquor to challenge me to run a race with them or to amuse the company with a game of rough and tumble, at both of which the backwoods Virginians are very dexterous."3 One would be led to doubt Cuming's statement of affairs in Kentucky during elections if it were not for the fact that other travelers, and, likewise, native observers, have left similar accounts.

Nothing could have provoked more excitement than a threeday election at which the voters made their choice known to

-120-

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The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter I - The Backwoods 17
  • Chapter II - Varmints 39
  • Chapter III - Green Un's 57
  • Chapter IV - Boom Poles and Paddle Wheels 79
  • Chapter V - Somebody in My Bed 102
  • Chapter VI - Servants of the People 120
  • Chapter VII - Where the Lion Roareth and the Wang Doodle Mourneth for His First-Born 142
  • Chapter VIII - Bench, Bar and Jury 163
  • Chapter IX - Gentlemen of Rank 183
  • Chapter X - Liars 205
  • Chapter XI - Qurater Hosses 224
  • Chapter XII - Keards 239
  • Chapter XIII - Fiddlin' 259
  • Chapter XIV - Foolin' with the Gals 281
  • Chapter XV - Yankees B'Gad 301
  • Notes 321
  • Bibliography. 341
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