Author: John G. Kolp

adjunct professor of history at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, and professor of history (retired), U.S. Naval Academy

Francis Fauquier (bap. 1703–1768)

Francis Fauquier served as lieutenant governor of Virginia from 1758 until his death in 1768 and during the terms of two absentee governors, John Campbell, fourth earl of Loudoun, and Sir Jeffery Amherst. Born and educated in London, Fauquier was influential in business and the arts before coming to Virginia. Beginning in the midst of the French and Indian War (1754–1763), his administration was fraught with unusual difficulties. He struggled to establish defenses against Indian raids on the frontier and to recruit and supply Virginia regiments to supplement British expeditionary forces; he worked for a compromise between colonials and English merchants over the issue of paper money; and he maintained a strong grip upon the government in the midst of the Stamp Act crisis and revelations of irregularities in the Treasurer’s Office following the death of Speaker John Robinson (1705–1766). Influenced by the Enlightenment, Fauquier had a good relationship with Virginia’s colonial leaders and generally promoted education. Before his death, he stipulated that the families of his slaves not be split up upon his death.


Elections in Colonial Virginia

Elections were an integral part of the colonial political system and used primarily to choose members of the House of Burgesses, the lower house of the General Assembly in Virginia, and less frequently to select members of the vestry in each Anglican parish. Building on customs and practices brought from England in the seventeenth century, Virginians developed their own unique electoral system, which allowed counties, towns, and colleges to be represented; defined who got to vote through an evolving franchise law; and governed the behavior of candidates and voters before and during elections. While wealthy planters won nearly all of these political contests, the electorate, which was composed of small-landowning and tenant farmers, responded to a variety of personal, neighborhood, parish, county, provincial, and imperial factors in deciding which members of the gentry to elect. In most places, incumbents easily won reelection, but in some constituencies at certain points in time, one set of elites challenged another, heated campaigning went on for months, members of the most prominent families suffered defeat, and outcomes were so close and contentious that they could only be resolved by the House of Burgesses in the capital at Williamsburg.


Edmund Custis (d. after October 18, 1797)

Edmund Custis was a member of the House of Delegates (1787–1790) and the Convention of 1788. Born in Northampton County, on the Eastern Shore, he relocated to neighboring Accomack County as a young man. During the American Revolution (1775–1783) he appears to have been a Patriot despite some pro-British sentiments. In 1787, Custis was elected to the House of Delegates, serving for three years. In 1787, he was one of two Accomack County delegates to a state convention called to consider the proposed U.S. constitution. Custis was an antifederalist who opposed a strong national government and voted against ratification. The owner of more than 1,000 acres and more than a dozen slaves, he fell into debt and in 1797 moved to Baltimore, likely in an attempt to escape his creditors. He died sometime later.