Ticket Voting
Identification of Voter Choice:  Slogans

1880 Re-Adjuster ticket, Virginia

Courtesy of the Huntington Library

The most distinctive aspect of tickets, usually reflected at the local level, was the messages carried. This is the first of eleven examples, in which Virginia Democrats seeking a downward adjustment in the payment of the state debt associates their cause with the death of tyrants.
The phrase printed on this ballot, Sic Semper Tyrannis, or "Thus Always to Tyrants,” has served causes noble and ignoble. As Virginia’s state motto it reaches back to the War for Independence; as the phrase John Wilkes Booth shouted as he leapt to the stage of the Ford Theater after assassinating President Lincoln, it is profoundly ignoble.
Used on this ticket the relatively benign state motto is presented with the state seal, altered in a non-benign manner to present a beheaded tyrant. This was the hallmark of a distinctly radical political party, the “Re-adjusters.” Formed in 1879 and dead by 1885, it was a coalition of African-Americans, poor white farmers, white Republicans and disaffected Democrats. In these respects it was a precursor of the People’s Party twenty years later. It sought to free the of Virginia from a pre-Civil War debt created by undisciplined state funding for internal improvement projects, mainly railroads, compounded by exorbitant interest payments to holders of the debt in state bonds.
Democrats split between the Regular Conservative Democratic Ticket and the Re-Adjuster Ticket, both picturing Hancock and English for President and Vice President but differing on the Congressional nominee. The Republican ticket showed Garfield and Arthur for President and Vice President, but supported John Wise for Congress from the Third District.
Virginia was divided between those who supported paying the state debt (“Funders”) and those who insisted the state debt would be “Re-Adjusted;” for them education was a far more important priority than paying a pre-War state debt, which had expanded greatly through inaction during the Civil War and the high interest payments to bondholders.
John Wise failed in his Congressional bid on this ticket in but prevailed in 1882, still on the Re-Adjuster ticket.

Explore "Ticket" databases:
Explore "Voice" databases: