Primary Resource

Defining the Franchise (1655)

The following law, passed by the General Assembly in its March 1655 session, articulates election procedures and defines the franchise. Some spelling has been modernized.

Transcription from Original

— page 411 —

BE it enacted by this present Grand Assembly that all Burgesses shall be sumoned and elected in manner hereafter expressed, That is to say, that the severall and respective sherriffs shall within ten dayes after the receipt of such writts as they shall receive to that purpose cause the same to be published and by giving notice of the same from house to house by the sherriff or this deputy to all persons interested in elections, which he is to doe ex officio: And then and there also to publish and declare the certain day of the week and moneth for chooseing Burgesses to serve in the Assembly for all accustomed places in the severall countyes and parishes respectively.

That at the day and place of elections the sher-

— page 412 —

rifss shall take view of the said elections, and before the sitting of the Assembly make returne into the secretary's office, att James Cittie, of the persons then and there elected, by subscription and of the major part of the hands of the electors; and that the sherriff who shall wittingly or willingly make any false return or neglect his duty shall incurr the pennalty of 10000 lb. of tob'o.

That the persons who shall be elected to serve in Assembly shall be such and no other then such as are persons of knowne integrity and of good conversation and of the age of one & twenty yeares—That all house keepers whether ffreeholders, lease holders, or otherwise tenants, shall onely be capeable to elect Burgesses, and none hereby made uncapable shall give his subscription to elect a Burgesse upon the pennalty of four hundred pounds of tobacco and cask to be disposed of by the court of each county where such contempt shall be used: Provided that this word house keepers repeated in this act extend no further then to one person in a ffamily.