Governance: Social and Political Authority

The hundred, a unique political unit falling somewhere between the townships of Pennsylvania and the counties of Maryland, formed the basis of government and community in Delaware. In the southern counties, wealthy planters who solicited the support of middle-class property holders directed political life. In northern New Castle County, with fewer slaves and planters, both merchants and farmers were more active in politics. Throughout Delaware, freeholders elected prominent and wealthy men to some local offices, while the governor, acting on the recommendation of the assembly, appointed judges and justices of the peace. Voters in each county elected tax assessors and sheriffs, who together with the justices of the peace governed the counties. Widespread ownership of land by European men, combined with a liberal-voting requirement, meant that most free white men in Delaware had the right to participate in local and colonial government. They did so infrequently, however, and remained generally satisfied with the governing classes, freeing Delaware from the political strife that plagued other colonies. The Amstel House, dating to the 1730s, is one of several colonial and federal buildings still standing in New Castle, Delaware, a thriving center of trade that served briefly (1776 1777) as the state capital. (Courtesy of the New Castle Historical Society) In Delaware as a whole, widespread ownership of land allowed white males to create self-governing communities of property holders, with property holders responsible for governing their dependents. In southern Delaware, with its large, unfree population, hierarchy and subordination shaped social relationships. Planters dominated southern Delaware’s rural society of gentry planters, yeoman farmers, free but propertyless whites, white indentured servants, and enslaved Africans. Ideally, the patriarchal family head governed all of his dependents: his wife, children, slaves, and servants. In northern Delaware, the greater Quaker presence, combined with the smaller unfree population, meant less emphasis on hierarchy and subordination. Consequently, in northern Delaware, women enjoyed greater authority in the family and in community institutions such as churches. As in the rest of British North America, ownership of land provided families with some independence and economic security, and white families in Delaware made acquiring land their overriding goal. Enslaved African Americans, denied opportunities for independence, sought to create and maintain extended families to provide some security against the vagaries of life. They also sought greater personal freedoms within the institution of slavery through the process of subtle negotiations with masters. With independence, Delaware maintained its dual identity as a place in between Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake states. Northern Delaware became an important manufacturing center beginning in the early 1800s, while the southern counties remained overwhelmingly rural and agricultural. Finally, slavery, perhaps more than any institution, illuminates the effect of Northern and Southern influences on Delaware. Like Maryland and Virginia, Delaware never abolished slavery. But like Pennsylvania, Delaware largely managed to eradicate the institution by the time of the Civil War, as slavery declined in importance through the nineteenth century. On the eve of the Civil War, as few as 1,000 African Americans remained enslaved in Delaware, even though the legislature had taken no legal steps toward gradual emancipation. John Craig Hammond See also: Delaware (Chronology); Lenni Lenape (Delaware); Swedes; Document: Founding of New Sweden (1700s). Bibliography Essah, Patience. A House Divided: Slavery and Emancipation in Delaware, 1638 1865. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996. Munroe, John A. Colonial Delaware: A History. Millwood, NY: KTO, 1978. Munroe, John A. History of Delaware. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1979. Williams, William H. Slavery and Freedom in Delaware, 1639 1865. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Imprints, 1997 Fontana, B.: Montaigne’s Politics: Authority and Governance in the … Mapq89780199365166 Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and … Mapq8Multilevel Governance and Multilevel Metagovernance Bob Jessop Mapq8

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