The first time George Washington ran for public office, he lost.
Today, we often think of Washington as an established statesman, leading a new nation. However, his political career began decades earlier in the Virginia House of Burgesses. The House of Burgesses was a democratically elected legislative body where each county in the colony sent two representatives. The majority of the House’s business was evaluating petitions from the public for specific interventions.1
Running for Office
In 1755, Washington ran for a seat in the House and was not elected. While he was fighting in the French and Indian War, Washington began testing the waters about a possible run. On May 28, 1755, he wrote to his brother John Augustine Washington and in the P.S., Washington inquired about a potentially open seat.
I shoud be glad if you coud come at Colo. Fairfax’s Intention’s, and let me know whether he purposes to offer himself as a Candadite; If he does not, I shoud be glad to take a pole, if I thought my chance tolerably good.2
In Winchester, Virginia, on December 10, 1755, some friends put Washington’s name forth as a candidate. It is unclear if Washington knew beforehand that his name was submitted. Voting took place by voice with the voter announcing to the crowd their vote. During this first election, Washington only received 40 votes. There were two other candidates; Hugh West received 271 votes and Thomas Swearingen got 270. Washington kept a copy of the poll sheet, which listed how each person voted, his entire life.3