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Title: Patrician and Plebeian - Or The Origin and Development of the Social Classes of the Old Dominion
Author: Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson, 1879-1966
Language: English
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Patrician and Plebeian
in Virginia

       *       *       *       *       *

Patrician and Plebeian
in Virginia



_New York_

COPYRIGHT 1910, 1958, 1959 BY



Dedicated to H.R.W.


Forty-seven years have passed since this volume was first published;
in that time a mass of source material has been made available to the
historian and numerous books on early Virginia history have been
published. But I believe that its main theses have not been shaken.
The old belief that the Virginia aristocracy had its origin in a
migration of Cavaliers after the defeat of the royalists in the
British Civil War has been relegated to the sphere of myths. It is
widely recognized that the leading Virginia families--the Carters, the
Ludwells, the Burwells, the Custises, the Lees, the Washingtons--were
shaped chiefly by conditions within the colony and by renewed contact
with Great Britain.

That the Virginia aristocracy was not part of the English aristocracy
transplanted in the colony is supported by contemporaneous evidence.
When Nathaniel Bacon, the rebel, the son of an English squire,
expressed surprise when Governor Berkeley appointed him to the Council
of State, Sir William replied: "When I had the first knowledge of you
I intended you and do now again all the services that are in my power
to serve, for gentlemen of your quality come very rarely into the
country, and therefore when they do come were used by me with all

Bacon was equally frank. "Consider ... the nature and quality of the
men in power ... as to their education, extraction, and learning, as
to their reputation for honor and honesty, see and consider whether
here, as in England, you can perceive men advanced for their noble

Governor Francis Nicholson ridiculed the pretensions of the leading
planters to distinguished lineage. "This generation know too well from
whence they come," he wrote in a letter to the Lords of Trade, in
March 1703, "and the ordinary sort of planters that have land of their
own, though not much, look upon themselves to be as good as the best
of them, for he knows, at least has heard, from whence these mighty
Dons derive their originals ... and that he or his ancestors were
their equals if not superiors."

On the other side of the Potomac Henry Callister was frank in refuting
the similar claims of wealthy Marylanders. "Some of the proudest
families here vaunt themselves of a pedigree, at the same time they
know not their grandfather's name. I never knew a good honest
Marylander that was not got by a merchant."

That many prominent families in Virginia also were founded by
merchants is attested by the fact that they continued to be traders
after they came to the colony. "In every river here are from ten to
thirty men who by trade and industry have gotten very competent
estates," wrote Colonel Robert Quary in 1763. "These gentlemen take
care to supply the poorer sort with provisions, goods, and
necessities, and are sure to keep them always in debt, and so
dependent on them. Out of this number are chosen her Majesty's
Council, the Assembly, the justices, and other officers of the

Hartwell, Blair, and Chilton, in their _The Present State of Virginia
and the College_, written in 1697, divide the people into three
classes--planters, tradesmen, and merchants. "The merchants live
best," they said. But though profits were large, their business was
carried on in the face of great difficulties. The tobacco they bought
from the small planters had to be carted or rolled to the landings and
put on board their sloops and shallops for transfer to the merchant
ships; they had to sell imported goods on credit; often there were
long delays in loading the ships.

Some of the most influential men in Virginia were importers of
servants and slaves. Among them were William Claiborne, Peter Ashton,
Isaac Allerton, Giles Brent, Joseph Bridger, Thomas Milner, Henry
Hartwell, and Robert Beverley.

The distinguished historian, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, in _Tyler's
Magazine_, Volume I, says that "Virginia owes much to the London
firms, because they were continually sending over trusted young agents
... many of whom settled down and founded Virginia families.... The
business of the merchants consisted largely in buying and selling
tobacco and importing settlers and servants, for each of which if
imported at their expense the merchants were entitled to fifty acres
of land. Then there was the usual trade in clothing and articles of
general use."

Though the Virginian who acquired a degree of wealth was no
aristocrat, he longed to be one. His grandfather, or his
great-grandfather might have been a younger son of an English squire.
He envied the honor, wealth, and power landholding brought that
ancestor, just as many Virginians today envy the life of the colonial
plantation owner. So when he found himself an extensive landholder, he
thought of himself as an English squire. He too would build a fine
residence, decorate his walls with family portraits, have a formal
garden, accumulate a library, and dress in the latest English fashion.

Virginia in the colonial period was linked to England by government,
commerce, religion, reading, education. The mother country sent over
governors who set the fashion in courtly living. It was the planter's
agent in London or Bristol who usually selected his furniture, his
silverware, his clothing, and often even his books. When on Sunday he
went to church he listened to a minister who had been born and
educated in England. The shelves of his library were lined with books
from England, if he could afford it he sent his son to Oxford or

When a Virginia planter visited England in the eighteenth century, he
was deeply impressed by the beauty and dignity of the great country
mansions there. As he viewed Longleat, or Blenheim, or Eaton Hall, he
must have resolved that he too would build a stately house on the
banks of the James. If he had never been to England, he might take
down an English book of architecture--Batty Langley's _Treasury of
Designs_, or Abraham Swan's _The British Architect_, or James Gibb's
_A Book of Architecture_--pick out a suitable design and model his
house on it. He might even send to England for an architect, as did
George Mason, when he engaged William Buckland to design beautiful
Gunston Hall. Westover, Carter's Grove, Mount Airy, Kenmore, Brandon,
all bear the stamp of the English Georgian.

If there was any doubt that the Virginia gentlemen followed the latest
English fashions in dress, a glimpse at their portraits would dispel
it. William Byrd II, as he appears in the painting by Sir Godfrey
Kneller would have made a fine figure in any assembly in England; no
English nobleman was better dressed than Robert Carter, of Nomini
Hall, as shown in the Reynolds portrait.

When a Virginian went to England he not only took the opportunity to
replenish his own wardrobe, but was charged by his relatives and
friends to make purchases for them. In a letter to Mrs. Thomas Jones,
in 1727, Mrs. Mary Stith asked: "When you come to London pray favor me
in your choice of a suit of pinners suitably dressed with a crossknot
roll or whatever the fashion requires, with suitable ruffles and
handkerchief." In 1752 Lady Gooch, wife of Governor William Gooch,
while in London bought for Mrs. Thomas Dawson a fashionable laced cap,
a handkerchief, ruffles, a brocade suit, a blue satin petticoat, a
pair of blue satin shoes, and a fashionable silver girdle. But it was
not always necessary to send to England for clothing, for there were
tailors in Virginia who advertised that they could make gentlemen's
suits and dresses for the ladies "in the newest and genteelest
fashions now wore in England." It was a valuable asset for a tailor if
he had just arrived from London.

The Virginians also imitated the English in their outdoor sports. The
fox chase, so dear to the Englishman's heart, was a favorite
amusement. When the crowds gathered around the county courthouse on
court days, they were often diverted from more serious business by
horseraces. And like their English cousins they were fond of
cockfighting, boat racing, and hunting.

The life of the wealthy planter was profoundly influenced by his
reading of English books. He took his religion more from the _Sermons_
of Archbishop Tillotson than from the preaching of the local
clergyman; as a county magistrate he had to know Blackstone and Coke;
he turned to Kip's _English Houses and Gardens_, or John James'
_Theory and Practice of Gardening_, to guide him in laying out his
flower beds and hedges and walks; if he or his wife or a servant
became ill he consulted Lynch's _Guide to Health_; he willingly obeyed
the dictates of Chippendale in furniture.

But despite all the bonds with the mother country he was slowly, but
inevitably, becoming more an American, less an Englishman. It was the
plantation which shaped the daily life of the Virginian and made him
different from the English squire. As he looked out over his wide
acres, his tobacco fields, his pastures, his woodlands, his little
village of servant and slave quarters, tobacco houses, barn, and
stable, he had a sense of responsibility, dignity, pride, and
self-reliance. He must look after the welfare of the men and women and
children under his care, seeing that they were housed, clothed, and
fed, protecting their health, playing the role of benevolent despot.
He had to be agriculturalist, business man, lawyer, builder, even

Visitors to the colony were quick to notice the difference between the
Virginian and the Englishman. Hugh Jones, in his _The Present State of
Virginia_ devotes several pages to a description of the colonists.
Andrew Burnaby, who visited Virginia in 1760, thought that the
authority had by the planters over their slaves made them "vain and
imperious.... They are haughty and jealous of their liberties,
impatient of restraint...." Lord Adam Gordon, writing in 1764, gives a
more favorable opinion: "I had an opportunity to see a good deal of
the country and many of the first people in the province and I must
say they far excel in good sense, affability, and ease any set of men
I have yet fallen in with, either in the West Indies or on the
Continent, this, in some degree, may be owing to their being most of
them educated at home (England) but cannot be altogether the cause,
since there are amongst them many gentlemen, and almost all the
ladies, who have never been out of their own province, and yet are as
sensible, conversible, and accomplished as one would wish to meet

In brief, the Virginia aristocracy was the product of three forces,
inheritance, continued contact with the mother country, and local
conditions. Coming largely from the middle class in England, though
with some connections with the squirearchy through younger sons, they
brought with them the English language, English political
institutions, the Anglican Church, English love of liberty. This
inheritance was buttressed by their political and cultural dependence
on the mother country. But it was profoundly affected, even reshaped,
by Virginia itself.

Dr. Samuel Johnson's charge that the Americans were a race of
convicts, if he meant it to be taken seriously, is of course absurd.
It is true that from time to time convicts were sent to the colonies.
This is proved by the protests of the Assemblies and by laws passed to
prohibit their importation. In Virginia there are records in some of
the county courthouses of the crimes committed by these jailbirds. But
they never entered in any appreciable numbers into the population of
the colony, not even of the lowest class. They were never numerous,
the planters considered it a risk to use them, some were forced to
serve as cannon fodder in the colonial wars, others were shunted off
to the frontiers.

The bulk of the immigrants to Virginia were poor men seeking to better
their condition in a new country. Many came as indentured workers, who
placed their signatures to contracts to work for four years in the
tobacco fields in return for their passage across the Atlantic; other
thousands paid their fare in advance and so entered the colony as
freemen. They were not essentially different from the millions who
came to the United States in the nineteenth century. Most of them,
indentured workers and freemen alike, sooner or later acquired small
plantations and became members of a yeoman class. A few acquired
wealth. Many went into the trades to become carpenters, or
bricklayers, or blacksmiths, or coopers, or saddlers, or wheelwrights.

Colonial Virginia has often been pictured as the land of the
aristocratic planter, the owner of thousands of acres and hundreds of
slaves. Scant attention has been paid to the far more numerous middle
class. Yet this class was the backbone of the colony. It is true that
most of the leaders came from the aristocracy, but it was the small
farmer who owned the bulk of the land, produced the larger part of the
tobacco crop, could outvote the aristocrat fifty to one, made up the
rank and file of the army in the colonial wars.

Among the thousands of Englishmen who left their homes to seek their
fortunes in Virginia there were no dukes, no earls, rarely a knight,
or even the son of a knight. They were, most of them, ragged farm
workers, deserters from the manor, ill paid day laborers, yeomen who
had been forced off their land by the enclosures, youthful tradesmen
tempted by the cheapness of land or by the opportunities for commerce,
now and then a lad who had taken a mug of doctored grog and awakened
to find himself a prisoner aboard a tobacco ship. But Virginia claimed
them all, moulded them into her own pattern, made them Virginians.

_Princeton, New Jersey_                     THOMAS J. WERTENBAKER
    _August, 1957_



The aristocratic character of Virginia society was the result of
development within the colony. It proceeded from economic, political
and social causes. On its economic side it was built up by the system
of large plantations, by the necessity for indentured or slave labor,
by the direct trade with England; politically it was engendered by the
lack of a vigorous middle class in the first half of the 17th century,
and was sustained by the method of appointment to office; on its
social side it was fostered by the increasing wealth of the planters
and by the ideal of the English gentleman.

It will be necessary, in explaining this development, to determine the
origin of the men that composed this aristocracy; for it will be
impossible to understand the action of the forces which prevailed in
Virginia during the colonial period unless we have a knowledge of the
material upon which they worked. Much error has prevailed upon this
subject. It was for years the general belief, and is still the belief
of many, that the wealthy families, whose culture, elegance and power
added such luster to Virginia in the 18th century, were the
descendants of cavalier or aristocratic settlers. It was so easy to
account for the noble nature of a Randolph, a Lee or a Mason by
nobleness of descent, that careful investigation was considered
unnecessary, and heredity was accepted as a sufficient explanation of
the existence and characteristics of the Virginia aristocracy.

We shall attempt to show that this view is erroneous. Recent
investigation in Virginia history has made it possible to determine
with some degree of accuracy the origin of the aristocracy. Yet the
mixed character of the settlers, and the long period of time over
which immigration to the colony continued make the problem difficult
of accurate solution, and the chances of error innumerable. Out of the
mass of evidence, however, three facts may be established beyond
controversy, that but few men of high social rank in England
established families in Virginia; that the larger part of the
aristocracy of the colony came directly from merchant ancestors; that
the leading planters of the 17th century were mercantile in instinct
and unlike the English aristocrat of the same period.

Much confusion has resulted from the assumption, so common with
Southern writers, that the English Cavaliers were all of distinguished
lineage or of high social rank. The word "Cavalier," as used at the
time of Charles I, denoted not a cast, or a distinct class of people,
but a political party. It is true that the majority of the gentry
supported the king in the civil war, and that the main reliance of
Parliament lay in the small landowners and the merchants, but there
were many men of humble origin that fought with the royalist party and
many aristocrats that joined the party of the people. Amongst the
enemies of the king were the Earls of Bedford, Warwick, Manchester and
Essex, while many leaders of the Roundheads such as Pym, Cromwell and
Hampden were of gentle blood. Thus the fact that a man was Cavalier or
Roundhead proved nothing as to his social rank or his lineage.[1]

No less misleading has been the conception that in Great Britain
there existed during the 17th century distinct orders of society,
similar to those of France or Spain at the same period. Many have
imagined the English nobility a class sharply and definitely separated
from the commonalty, and forming a distinct upper stratum of society.
In point of fact no sharp line of social demarkation can be drawn
between the peerage and the common people. For in England, even in the
days of the Plantagenets, the younger sons of the nobles did not
succeed to their fathers' rank, but sank to the gentry class, or at
most became "knights." They usually married beneath the rank of their
fathers and thus formed a link binding the nobility to the commons of
the country. Often the sons and brothers of earls were sent to
Parliament as representatives of the shires, and as such sat side by
side with shopkeepers and artisans from the towns. It is this
circumstance that explains why so many middle-class Englishmen of the
present day can trace back their lineage to the greatest and noblest
houses of the kingdom. The healthy political development which has
been such a blessing to the English nation is due in no small measure
to the lack of anything like caste in British society.

These facts help to explain much in the origin of the Virginia
aristocracy that has only too often been misunderstood. They make
evident the error of presuming that many persons of gentle blood came
to Virginia because there was an immigration of so called Cavaliers,
or because certain families in the colony could trace back their
ancestry to noble English houses.

Immigration to Virginia during the seventeen years after the founding
of Jamestown was different in character from that of any succeeding
period. The London Company in its efforts to send to the colony
desirable settlers induced a number of men of good family and
education to venture across the ocean to seek their fortunes in the
New World. Since the Company numbered among its stockholders some of
the greatest noblemen of the time, it could easily arouse in the
influential social classes extraordinary interest in Virginia. It is
due largely to this fact that among the first settlers are to be found
so many that are entitled to be called gentlemen.

Moreover, the true nature of the task that confronted the immigrants
to the wilds of America was little understood in England at this time.
Those unhappy gentlemen that sailed upon the Discovery, the Godspeed
and the Susan Constant hoped to find in Virginia another Mexico or
Peru and to gain there wealth as great as had fallen to the lot of
Cortez or of Pizarro. Had they known that the riches of the land they
were approaching could be obtained only by long years of toil and
sweat, of danger and hardship, they would hardly have left their homes
in England. That the First Supply took with them a perfumer and six
tailors shows how utterly unsuited they were to the task of planting a
new colony. Many, doubtless, were men of ruined fortune, who sought to
find in the New World a rapid road to wealth. When it became known in
England that gold mines were not to be found in Virginia and that
wealth could be had only by the sweat of the brow, these spendthrift
gentlemen ceased coming to the colony.

It is true, however, that the proportion of those officially termed
"gentlemen" that sailed with the early expeditions to Jamestown is
surprisingly large. Of the settlers of 1607, out of one hundred and
five men, thirty-five were called gentlemen.[2] The First Supply,
which arrived in 1608, contained thirty-three gentlemen out of one
hundred and twenty persons.[3] Captain John Smith declared these men
were worthless in character, more fitted "to spoyle a commonwealth
than to begin or maintain one," and that those that came with them as
"laborers" were really footmen in attendance upon their masters. In
the Second Supply came twenty-eight gentlemen in a total company of
seventy.[4] The conduct of those of the Third Supply shows them to
have been similar in character to their predecessors. Smith calls them
a "lewd company," among them "many unruly gallants packed thither by
their friends to escape il destinies."[5] These men, however, made
practically no imprint upon the character of the population of the
colony; for by far the larger part of them perished miserably within a
few months after their arrival. Of the five hundred persons alive in
Virginia in October, 1609, all but sixty had died by May of the
following year.[6]

As years went by, this influx of dissipated gentlemen began to wane.
It could not be concealed in England that the early settlers had
perished of starvation, disease and the tomahawk, and those that had
been led to believe that Virginia was an Eldorado, turned with a
shudder from the true picture of suffering and death told them by
those that returned from the colony. Moreover, the London Company soon
learned that no profit was to be expected from a colony settled by
dissipated gentlemen, and began to send over persons more suited for
the rough tasks of clearing woods, building huts and planting corn.
Their immigrant vessels were now filled with laborers, artisans,
tradesmen, apprentices and indentured servants. It is doubtless true
that occasionally gentlemen continued to arrive in Virginia even
during the last years of the Company's rule, yet their number must
have been very small indeed. When, in 1624, James I took from the
London Company its charter, the colony contained few others than
indentured servants and freemen of humble origin and means. In 1623
several of the planters, in answering charges that had been brought
against the colony by a certain Captain Nathaniel Butler, said that
the inhabitants were chiefly laboring men.[7]

With the downfall of the London Company one influence which had tended
to send to Virginia persons of good social standing ceased to exist.
The personal interest of those noblemen that had owned stock in the
enterprise was no longer exerted to obtain a desirable class of
settlers, and economic forces alone now determined the character of
those that established themselves in Virginia. During the remainder of
the 17th century it was the profit that could be obtained from the
planting of tobacco that brought the most desirable class of settlers
to the colony. It is true, however, that dissipated and spendthrift
gentlemen still came over at times, seeking in Virginia a refuge from
creditors, or expecting amid the unsettled conditions of a new country
to obtain license for their excesses. It was this element of the
population, doubtless, that the Dutch, trader De Vries referred to
when he asserted that some of the planters were inveterate gamblers,
even staking their servants.[8] Such a character was Captain Stone,
whom De Vries met at the home of Governor Harvey. This man was related
to families of good standing in England, but strutted, was lewd, swore
horribly and was guilty of shameless carousals wherever he went. While
in New Amsterdam he entered upon a drinking bout with Governor Von
Twiller, and stole a vessel of Plymouth. In Massachusetts he called
Roger Ludlow a just ass, and later, having been detected in other
crimes, was forced to flee from the colony. Beyond doubt men similar
to Stone were to be found in Virginia during the first half of the
17th century, but they became rarer and rarer as time went on.[9]

How few men of good social standing there were in the colony in this
period is shown by the number of important positions filled by
uneducated persons of humble origin and rank. The evidence is
conclusive that on many occasions indentured servants that had served
their term of bondage and had acquired property were elected by the
people to represent them in the House of Burgesses. This is notably
true of the first half of the 17th century, when the government was
largely in the hands of a few leading planters, and when pressure from
above could influence elections very decidedly. Had there been many
men of ability or rank to select from, these Plebeians would never
have found a place in the Assembly of the colony. The author of
Virginia's Cure stated that the burgesses were "usually such as went
over as servants thither," and although this is doubtless an
exaggeration, it shows that there must have been in the Assemblies
many men of humble extraction. In the case of some of the burgesses,
it has been shown definitely that they came to Virginia as servants.
Thus William Popleton was formerly the servant of John Davies; Richard
Townsend was in 1620 the servant of Dr. Potts; William Bentley arrived
in the colony in 1624 as a hired man. All three of these men were
burgesses.[10] The preacher, William Gatford, testified that persons
of mean extraction had filled places of importance and trust.[11]
Governor Berkeley, stated in 1651 while addressing the Assembly, that
hundreds of examples testified to the fact that no man in the colony
was denied the opportunity to acquire both honor and wealth. At times
men of humble origin became so influential that they obtained seats in
the Council, the most exclusive and powerful body in the colony. Thus
William Pearce, who came over in the days of the Company as a poor
settler, was a Councilor in 1632, and was before his death one of the
wealthiest and most powerful men in the colony.[12] In 1635 we find in
the Council John Brewer, formerly a grocer of London.[13] Malachy
Postlethwayt, a writer of several treaties on commerce, states that
even criminals often became leading men in Virginia. Although this is
obviously an exaggeration, Postlethwayt's testimony tends to add force
to the contention that many of humble rank did at times rise to
positions of honor. "Even your transported felons," he says, "sent to
Virginia instead of to Tyburn, thousands of them, if we are not
misinformed, have, by turning their hands to industry and improvement,
and (which is best of all) to honesty, become rich, substantial
planters and merchants, settled large families, and been famous in the
country; nay, we have seen many of them made magistrates, officers of
militia, captains of good ships, and masters of good estates."[14] In
England stories of the rapid advance of people of humble origin in
Virginia gave rise to the absurd belief that the most influential
families in the colony were chiefly composed of former criminals.
Defoe in two of his popular novels, gives voice to this opinion. In
Moll Flanders we find the following: "Among the rest, she often told
me how the greatest part of the inhabitants of that colony came hither
in very indifferent circumstances from England; that generally
speaking, they were of two sorts: either, 1st, such as were brought
over ... to be sold as servants, or, 2nd, such as are transported
after having been found guilty of crimes punishable with death. When
they come here ... the planters buy them, and they work together in
the field till their time is out.... (Then) they have ... land
allotted them ... and (they) ... plant it with tobacco and corn for
their own use; and as the merchants will trust them with tools ...
upon the credit of their crop before it is grown, so they plant every
year a little more (etc). Hence, child, says she, many a Newgate-bird
becomes a great man, and we have ... several justices of the peace,
officers of the trained band, and magistrates of the towns they live
in, that have been burnt in the hand."[15] In Mrs. Behn's comedy The
Widow Ranter, the same belief finds expression, for Friendly is made
to say: "This country wants nothing but to be peopled with a well-born
race to make it one of the best colonies in the world; but for want
of a governor we are ruled by a council, some of whom have been
perhaps transported criminals, who having acquired great estates are
now become Your Honour and Right Worshipful, and possess all places of
authority."[16] It is absolutely certain that the Virginia aristocracy
was not descended from felons, but this belief that found voice in
works of fiction of the 17th century must have had some slight
foundation in truth. It tends to strengthen the evidence that many men
of humble origin did attain places of honor and profit in the colony,
and it shows that in England in this period people were far from
imagining that many aristocrats had come to Virginia to settle.[17]

Although it is impossible to determine with accuracy the lineage of
all the leading families of Virginia during the 17th century, it is
definitely known that many of the most wealthy and influential houses
were founded by men that could boast of no social prominence in
England. In the days immediately following the downfall of the London
Company there was no more influential man in the colony than Abraham
Piersey. In matters of political interest he took always a leading
part, and was respected and feared by his fellow colonists. He was
well-to-do when he came to Virginia, having acquired property as a
successful merchant, but he was in no way a man of social distinction
or rank. John Chew was another man of great distinction in the colony.
He too was a plain merchant attracted to the colony by the profits to
be made from the planting and sale of tobacco.[18] George Menifie, who
for years took so prominent a part in the political affairs of
Virginia, and who, as a member of the Council was complicated in the
expulsion of Governor Harvey, speaks of himself as a "merchant,"
although in later years he acquired the more distinguished title of
"esquire." Menifie possessed an ample fortune, most of which was
acquired by his own business ability and foresight. It is stated that
his "large garden contained the fruits of Holland, and the roses of
Provence, and his orchard was planted with apple, pear and cherry
trees."[19] Samuel Mathews, a man of plain extraction, although well
connected by marriage, was a leader in the colony. In political
affairs his influence was second to none, and in the Commonwealth
period he became governor. He is described as "an old planter of above
30 years standing, one of the Council and a most deserving
Commonwealth man.... He hath a fine house, and all things answerable
to it; he sows yearly store of hemp and flax and causes it to be spun;
he keeps weavers and hath a tan house ... hath 40 negro servants,
brings them up to trade, in his house; he yearly sows abundance of
wheat, barley, etc.... kills store of beeves, and sells them to
victual the ships when they come thither; hath abundance of kine, a
brave dairy, swine great store and poultry."[20] Adam Thoroughgood,
although he came to Virginia as a servant or apprentice, became
wealthy and powerful. His estates were of great extent and at one time
he owned forty-nine sheep and one-hundred and seventeen cattle.[21]
Captain Ralph Hamor, a leading planter in the days of the Company, was
the son of a merchant tailor. Thomas Burbage, was another merchant
that acquired large property in Virginia and became recognized as a
man of influence. Ralph Warnet, who is described as a "merchant," died
in 1630, leaving a large fortune.[22] That these men, none of whom
could boast of high rank or social prominence in England, should have
been accepted as leaders in the colony shows that the best class of
settlers were of comparatively humble extraction. Had many men of
gentle blood come to Virginia during the first half of the 17th
century there would have been no chance for the "merchant" class to
acquire such prominence.

Nor did men of plain extraction cease to occupy prominent positions
after the Restoration, when the much misunderstood "Cavalier"
immigration had taken place, and the society of the colony had been
fixed. Amongst the leading planters was Isaac Allerton, a man
distinguished for his activities both in the House of Burgesses and
the Council, and the founder of a prominent family, who was the son of
an English merchant tailor.[23] The first of the famous family of
Byrds, which for nearly a century was noted for its wealth, its
influence, its social prominence, was the son of a London
goldsmith.[24] Oswald Cary, who settled in Middlesex in 1659 was the
son of an English merchant.[25] There was no man in the colony during
the second half of the 17th century that exerted a more powerful
influence in political affairs than Philip Ludwell. He was for years
the mainstay of the commons and he proved to be a thorn in the flesh
of more than one governor. He was admired for his ability, respected
for his wealth and feared for his power, an admitted leader socially
and politically in the colony, yet he was of humble extraction, his
father and uncle both being mercers. The noted Bland family sprang
from Adam Bland, a member of the skinners gild of London.[26] Thomas
Fitzhugh, one of the wealthiest and most prominent men of the colony,
was thought to have been the grandson of a maltster.

It was during the second half of the 17th century that occurred the
"Cavalier" immigration that took place as a consequence of the
overthrow of Charles I. Upon this subject there has been much
misapprehension. Many persons have supposed that the followers of the
unhappy monarch came to Virginia by the thousand to escape the
Puritans, and that it was from them that the aristocracy of the colony
in large part originated. Even so eminent a historian as John Fiske
has been led into the erroneous belief that this immigration was
chiefly responsible for the great increase in population that occurred
at this time. "The great Cavalier exodus," he says, "began with the
king's execution in 1649, and probably slackened after 1660. It must
have been a chief cause of the remarkable increase of the white
population of Virginia from 15,000 in 1649 to 38,000 in 1670."[27]
This deduction is utterly unwarranted. The increase in population
noted here was due chiefly to the stream of indentured servants that
came to the colony at this period. At the time when the so-called
Cavalier immigration was at its height between one thousand and
fifteen hundred servants were sent to Virginia each year. In 1671
Governor Berkeley estimated the number that came over annually at
fifteen hundred, and it is safe to say that during the Commonwealth
period the influx had been as great as at this date. The constant wars
in Great Britain had made it easier to obtain servants for exportation
to America, for thousands of prisoners were disposed of in this way
and under Cromwell Virginia received numerous batches of unfortunate
wretches that paid for their hostility to Parliament with banishment
and servitude. Not only soldiers from King Charles' army, but many
captives taken in the Scotch and Irish wars were sent to the colony.
On the other hand after the Restoration, hundreds of Cromwell's
soldiers were sold as servants. If we estimate the annual importation
of servants at 1200, the entire increase of population which Fiske
notes is at once accounted for. Moreover, the mortality that in the
earlier years had been so fatal to the newcomers, was now greatly
reduced owing to the introduction of Peruvian bark and to the
precautions taken by planters to prevent disease on their estates.
Governor Berkeley said in 1671 that not many hands perished at that
time, whereas formerly not one in five escaped the first year.

Nor can the increased number of births in the colony be neglected in
accounting for the growth of population. The historian Bruce,
referring to the period from 1634 to 1649, in which the population
trebled, says: "The faster growth during this interval was due, not to
any increase in the number of new settlers seeking homes in Virginia,
but rather to the advance in the birth-rate among the inhabitants.
There was by the middle of the century a large native population
thoroughly seasoned to all the trying variations of the climate and
inured to every side of plantation life, however harsh and severe it
might be in the struggle to press the frontier further and further
outward."[28] It may then be asserted positively that the growth of
population between the dates 1649 and 1670 was not due to an influx of

Had many men of note fled to Virginia at this period their arrival
would scarcely have escaped being recorded. Their prominence and the
circumstances of their coming to the colony would have insured for
them a place in the writings of the day. A careful collection of the
names of those Cavaliers that were prominent enough to find a place in
the records, shows that their number was insignificant. The following
list includes nearly all of any note whatsoever: Sir Thomas Lunsford,
Col. Hammond, Sir Philip Honeywood, Col. Norwood, Stevens, Brodnax,
Welsford, Molesworth, Col. Moryson, John Woodward, Robert Jones,
Nicholas Dunn, Anthony Langston, Bishop, Culpeper, Peter Jenings, John
Washington, Lawrence Washington, Sir Dudley Wiat, Major Fox, Dr.
Jeremiah Harrison, Sir Gray Shipworth, Sir Henry Chiskeley and Col.
Joseph Bridger. Of this number a large part returned to England and
others failed to establish families in the colony. How few were their
numbers is shown by the assertions of colonial writers. Sir William
Berkeley reported in 1671 that Cromwell's "tyranny" had sent divers
worthy men to the colony. Hugh Jones, writing in 1722, speaks of the
civil wars in England as causing several families of good birth and
fortune to settle in Virginia. This language certainly gives no
indication of a wholesale immigration of Cavaliers.

Some writers have pointed to the number of families in Virginia that
were entitled to the use of coats-of-arms as convincing proof that the
aristocracy of the colony was founded by men of high social rank. It
is true that in numerous instances Virginians had the right to
coats-of-arms, but this does not prove that their blood was noble, for
in most cases these emblems of gentility came to them through
ancestors that were mercantile in occupation and in instinct. During
the 17th century the trades were in high repute in England, and to
them resorted many younger sons of the gentry. These youths, excluded
from a share in the paternal estate by the law of primogeniture, were
forced either into the professions or the trades. It was the custom
for the country gentleman to leave to his eldest son the whole of his
landed estates; the second son he sent to Oxford or to Cambridge to
prepare for one of the learned professions, such as divinity, medicine
or law; the third was apprenticed to some local surgeon or
apothecary; the fourth was sent to London to learn the art of weaving,
of watchmaking or the like. It was the educating of the youngest sons
in the trades that gave rise to the close connection between the
commercial classes in England and the gentry. Great numbers of
merchants in the trading cities were related to the country squire or
even to the nobleman. These merchant families, since they did not
possess landed estates, could not style themselves "gentlemen," but
they clung to the use of the coat-of-arms that had descended to them
from their ancestors. Thus it happened that some of the immigrants to
Virginia possessed coats-of-arms. Since they still looked upon the
life of the country squire as the ideal existence, as soon as they
were settled upon the plantations, they imitated it as far as
possible. With the possession of land they assumed the title of
"gentleman." Since the squire or nobleman from whom the right to the
coat-of-arms came to them might have lived many generations before the
migration to Virginia, the use of this emblem could give but little
ground for a claim to gentle blood.

Finally, the opinion that the leading planters of the colony sprang
from families of distinction and high social rank, in England is being
discarded by the best authorities on Virginia history. The Virginia
Magazine of History and Biography, which has done so much to shed
light on the early history of Virginia, throws its influence without
compromise against the old belief. It says: "If the talk of 'Virginia
Cavaliers' indicates an idea that most of the Virginia gentry were
descended from men of high rank, who had adhered to the King's side
and afterwards emigrated to Virginia, it is assuredly incorrect. Some
members of distinguished families, a considerable number of the minor
gentry, as well as persons of the lower ranks, after the success of a
party which they believe to be composed of rebels and traitors, came
to Virginia, finding here a warm welcome, and leaving many
descendants."[29] Again it says: "As we have before urged, and as we
believe all genealogists having any competent acquaintance with the
subject will agree, but few 'scions of great English houses' came to
any of the colonies. Gloucester ... has always been distinguished in
Virginia as the residence of a large number of families of wealth,
education and good birth; but in only a few instances are they
descended from 'great houses' even of the English gentry. The families
of Wyatt, Peyton and Throckmorton are perhaps the only ones derived
from English houses of historic note; but they were never, in
Virginia, as eminent for large estates and political influence as
others of the same county whose English ancestry is of much less
distinction. Next, as known descendants of minor gentry, were the
families of Page, Burwell, Lightfoot and Clayton. Other leading names
of the county, nothing certain in regard to whose English ancestry is
known, were Kemp, Lewis, Warner, etc. These families were, like those
of the ruling class in other countries, doubtless derived from
ancestors of various ranks and professions ... members of the country
gentry, merchants and tradesmen and their sons and relatives, and
occasionally a minister, a physician, a lawyer or a captain in the
merchant service."[30] The William and Mary Quarterly makes the
unequivocal statement that it was the "shipping people and merchants
who really settled Virginia." John Fiske, despite the exaggerated
importance which he gives to the Cavalier immigration, agrees that the
leading planters were not descended from English families of high
rank. "Although," he says, "family records were until of late less
carefully preserved (in Virginia) than in New England, yet the
registered facts abundantly prove that the leading families had
precisely the same sort of origin as the leading families of New
England. For the most part they were either country squires, or
prosperous yeomen, or craftsmen from the numerous urban guilds; and
alike in Virginia and in New England there was a similar proportion of
persons connected with English families ennobled or otherwise eminent
for public service."[31]

Beyond doubt the most numerous section of the Virginia aristocracy was
derived from the English merchant class.[32] It was the opportunity of
amassing wealth by the cultivation of tobacco that caused great
numbers of these men to settle in the Old Dominion. Many had been
dealers in the plant in England, receiving it in their warehouses and
disposing of it to retailers. They kept up a constant and intimate
correspondence with the planter, acting for him as purchasing agent,
supplying him with clothes, with household goods, with the thousand
and one articles essential to the conducting of the plantation, and
thus were in a position to judge of the advantages he enjoyed. They
kept him in touch with the political situation in England and in
return received from him the latest tidings of what was going on in
Virginia. In fact for one hundred and fifty years after the founding
of Jamestown the colony was in closer touch with London, Bristol,
Plymouth and other English seaports than with its nearest neighbors in

The life of the Virginia planters offered an inviting spectacle to the
English merchant. He could but look with envious eyes upon the large
profits which for so many years the cultivation of tobacco afforded.
He held, in common with all Englishmen, the passion for land, and in
Virginia land could be had almost for the asking. He understood fully
that could he resolve to leave his native country a position of
political power and social supremacy awaited him in the colony.

The civil wars in England greatly accelerated the emigration of
merchants to Virginia. Business men are usually averse to war, for
nothing can derange the delicate fibers of commerce more quickly than
battles and sieges. And this is especially true of civil wars, for
then it is the very heart of the country that suffers. Many prominent
merchants of the English cities, fearing that their interests would be
ruined by the ravages of the contending armies or the general business
depression, withdrew to the colony, which was pursuing its usual quiet
life but slightly affected by the convulsions of the mother country.
William Hallam, a salter, wrote, "I fear if these times hold amongst
us, we must all be faine to come to Virginia." William Mason wrote in
1648, "I will assure you that we have had several great losses that
have befallen us and our charge is greater by reason of ye
differences that are in our kingdom, trading is dead."[34]

The most convincing evidence that the leading settlers in Virginia
were of the mercantile class is to be found by a study of the
characteristics of the planters of the 17th century. Contemporaneous
writers are unanimous in describing them as mercantile in their
instincts. De Vries, a Dutch trader, complaining of the sharpness of
the planters in a bargain, says, "You must look out when you trade
with them, for if they can deceive any one they account it a Roman
action."[35] Hugh Jones says, "The climate makes them bright and of
excellent sense, and sharp in trade.... They are generally diverted by
business or inclination from profound study ... being ripe for
management of their affairs.... They are more inclined to read men by
business and conversation than to dive into books ... being not easily
brought to new projects and schemes; so that I question, if they would
have been imposed upon by the Mississippi or South-Sea, or any other
such monstrous Bubbles."[36]

And this evidence is corroborated fully by letters of Virginia
planters to English merchants. They show that the wealthy Virginian of
the 17th century was careful in his business dealings, sharp in a
bargain, a painstaking manager, and in his private life often
economical even to stinginess. Robert Carter, one of the wealthiest
men of the colony, in a letter complains of the money spent upon the
outfit of the Wormley boys who were at school in England, thinking it
"entirely in excess of any need." William Fitzhugh, Philip Ludwell,
William Byrd I, typical leaders of their time, by the mercantile
instinct that they inherited from their fathers were enabled to build
up those great estates which added such splendor to the Virginia
aristocracy of the 18th, century.[37]

Having, as we hope, sufficiently shown that the leading planters of
Virginia were not in any large measure the descendants of Englishmen
of high social rank, and that with them the predominant instinct was
mercantile, we shall now proceed to point out those conditions to
which the planters were subjected that changed them from practical
business men to idealistic and chivalrous aristocrats.

Undoubtedly the most powerful influence that acted upon the character
of the Virginian was the plantation system. In man's existence it is
the ceaseless grind of the commonplace events of every day life that
shapes the character. The most violent passions or the most stirring
events leave but a fleeting impression in comparison with the effect
of one's daily occupation. There is something distinctive about the
doctor, the teacher, the tailor, the goldsmith. There is in each
something different from the rest of mankind, and this something has
been developed within him by the ceaseless recurrence of certain
duties required of him by his profession. Similarly the English
immigrant, isolated upon his vast plantation, surrounded by slaves and
servants, his time occupied largely with the cultivation of tobacco,
could not fail in the course of time to lose his mercantile instincts
and to become distinctly aristocratic in his nature.

The estates of the planters were very large, comprising frequently
thousands of acres. William Byrd II inherited from his father 23,231
acres, but so great was his hunger for land and so successful was he
in obtaining it that at his death he owned no less than 179,440 acres
of the best land in Virginia.[38] Robert Carter, of Nomini Hall, owned
60,000 acres.[39] The lands of William Fitzhugh amounted to 54,000
acres, at his death in 1701.[40] Other prominent men were possessed of
estates not less extensive. These vast tracts of land comprised
usually several plantations that were scattered in various parts of
the colony and which differed widely in value and in extent. In the
region to the west beyond tidewater estates of 20,000, 30,000, or
40,000 acres were not infrequent, while in the sections that had been
first settled the average size was much less. Yet the plantations that
stretched along the banks of the James, the York, the Rappahannock and
the Potomac were so extensive that often the residences of the
planters were several miles apart. From 4,000 to 6,000 acres was the
average size of the farms of the wealthier men.[41]

The author of Virginia's Cure, a pamphlet printed in 1661, says: "The
families ... are dispersedly and scatteringly seated upon the sides of
rivers, some of which running very far into the country, bear the
English plantations above a hundred miles, and being very broad, cause
the inhabitants of either side to be listed in several parishes. Every
such parish is extended many miles in length upon the rivers' side,
and usually not above a mile in breadth backward from the river,
which is the common stated breadth of every plantation, some extend
themselves half a mile, some a mile, some two miles upon the sides of
the rivers."[42]

The system of large plantations was in vogue in Virginia from the
early years of the 17th century. Even before the days of Sir William
Berkeley, many of the colonists possessed extensive tracts of land,
only part of which they could put under cultivation. Doubtless the
dignity which the possession of land gave in England was the principal
inducement for the planter to secure as large an estate as his means
would permit. The wealthier Virginians showed throughout the entire
colonial period a passion for land that frequently led them into the
grossest and most unjustifiable fraud.[43]

The tendency was accelerated by the law, made by the Virginia Company
of London to encourage immigration, which allotted fifty acres of land
to proprietors for every person they brought to the colony, "by which
means some men transporting many servants thither, and others
purchasing the rights of those that did, took possession of great
tracts of land at their pleasure."[44] In 1621 a number of extensive
grants were made to persons thus engaging themselves to take settlers
to Virginia. To Arthur Swain and Nathaniel Basse were given 5,000
acres for undertaking to transport one hundred persons. Five thousand
acres was also given Rowland Truelove "and divers other patentees."
Similar tracts were given to John Crowe, Edward Ryder, Captain Simon
Leeke and others.[45] Sir George Yeardly received a grant of 15,000
acres for engaging to take over three hundred persons.[46]

Even more potent in building up large plantations was the wasteful
system of agriculture adopted by the settlers. It soon became apparent
to them that the cultivation of tobacco was very exhausting to the
soil, but the abundance of land led them to neglect the most ordinary
precautions to preserve the fertility of their fields. They planted
year after year upon the same spot until the soil would produce no
more, and then cleared a new field. They were less provident even than
the peasants of the Middle Ages, for they failed to adopt the old
system of rotation of crops that would have arrested to some extent
the exhausting of their fields. Of the use of artificial fertilizers
they were ignorant.

This system of cultivation made it necessary for them to secure very
large plantations, for they could not be content with a tract of
territory sufficiently large to keep busy their force of laborers.
They must look forward to the time when their fields would become
useless, and if they were wise they would secure ten times more than
they could put into cultivation at once. If they failed to do this
they would find at the end of a few years that their estates consisted
of nothing but exhausted and useless fields. Thomas Whitlock, in his
will dated 1659, says: "I give my son Thomas Whitlock the land I live
on, 600 acres, when he is of the age 21, and during his minority to my
wife. The land not to be further made use of or by planting or
seating[47] than the first deep branch that is commonly rid over, that
my son may have some fresh land when he attains to age."[48]

The plantations, thus vast in extent, soon became little communities
independent in a marked degree of each other, and in many respects of
the entire colony. The planter, his family, his servants and slaves
lived to themselves in isolation almost as great as that of the feudal
barons or of the inhabitants of the vill of the 13th century.

But this isolation was due even more to the direct trade between the
planters and the foreign merchants than to the extent of the
plantations. This was made possible by the nature of the waterways.
The entire country was intersected with rivers, inlets and creeks that
were deep enough to float the sea going vessels of the age, and salt
water penetrated the woods for miles, forming of the whole country, as
John Fiske has expressed it, a sylvan Venice. Thus it was possible for
each planter to have his own wharf and to ship his tobacco directly
from his own estate. Moreover, it allowed him to receive from the
foreign vessels what merchandise he desired to purchase. Hugh Jones
wrote, "No country is better watered, for the conveniency of which
most houses are built near some landing-place; so that anything may be
delivered to a gentleman there from London, Bristol, &c., with less
trouble and cost, than to one living five miles in the country in
England; for you pay no freight from London and but little from
Bristol; only the party to whom the goods belong, is in gratitude
engaged to ship tobacco upon the ship consigned to her owners in

This system, so remarkably convenient for the planters, was continued
throughout the entire colonial period despite the many efforts made to
change it. The Virginians could not be induced to bring their tobacco
to towns for the purposes of shipping when the merchant vessels could
so easily land at their private wharves. The merchants had less reason
to like the system, for it forced them to take their vessels into
remote and inconvenient places; to spend much valuable time in going
from plantation to plantation before their vessels were laden; to keep
accounts with many men in many different places.[50] The sailors too
complained of the custom, for they were frequently required to roll
the tobacco in casks many yards over the ground to the landings,
causing them much greater trouble than in loading in other countries.
For this reason they are said to have had a great dislike of the
country. Throughout the 17th century and even later the English
government made repeated efforts to break up this system but without
success, for the saving to the planters by local shipping was so great
that threats and even attempted coercion could not make them give it

It is this that is chiefly responsible for the lack of towns in
Virginia during the entire 17th century. Not until the settlements had
spread out beyond the region of deep water did towns of any size
arise. Then it became necessary to bring goods overland to the nearest
deep water and from this circumstance shipping cities gradually
appeared at the falls line on the rivers. Then it was that Richmond
developed into the metropolis of Virginia.

How utterly insignificant the villages of the colony were during the
17th century is shown by a description of Jamestown given by Mrs. Ann
Cotton in her account of Bacon's Proceedings. "The town," she says,
"is built much about the middle of the south line close upon the
river, extending east and west about three-quarters of a mile; in
which is comprehended some sixteen or eighteen houses; most as is the
church built of brick faire and large; and in them about a dozen
famillies (for all their houses are not inhabited) getting their
liveings by keeping of ordinaries at extraordinary rates." This was in
1676, sixty-nine years after the first settlement, and when the
population of the colony was 45,000.

The lack of towns was a source of much uneasiness to the first
promoters of the colony, for they regarded it as a sign of unhealthful
and abnormal conditions and frequent directions were given to the
colonial governors to put an end to the scattered mode of life and to
encourage in every way possible the development of cities. Sir Francis
Wyatt was instructed "to draw tradesmen and handicraftmen into
towns."[51] Time and again throughout the 17th century the English
kings insisted that the Assembly should pass laws intended to
establish trading towns. In 1662, an act was passed at the command of
Charles II providing for the building of a city at Jamestown.[52]
There were to be thirty-two brick houses, forty feet long, twenty feet
wide, and eighteen feet high; the roof to be fifteen feet high and to
be covered with slate or tile. "And," says the Act, "because these
preparations of houses and stores will be altogether useless unless
the towne be made the marte of all the adjoyning places, bee it
therefore enacted that all the tobacco made in the three counties of
James Citty, Charles Citty, and Surrey shall the next yeare when the
stores be built be brought by the inhabitants to towne and putt in the
stores there built." This absurd attempt met with utter failure. One
of the complaints made to the King's Commissioners sent to investigate
the causes of Bacon's Rebellion was, "That great quantities of tobacco
was levied upon the poor people to the building of houses at
Jamestown, which was not made habitable but fell down again before
they were finished."[53]

In an effort to build up towns an act was passed in 1680 requiring all
merchants to bring their goods to certain specified spots and there
only to load their vessels with tobacco. "But several masters of ships
and traders ... not finding ... any reception or shelter for
themselves, goods or tobaccos, did absolutely refuse to comply with
the said act ... but traded and shipped tobaccos as they were
accustomed to doe in former years, for which some of them suffered
mouch trouble ... the prosecution being chiefly managed by such
persons ... as having particular regard to their privat ends and
designs, laid all the stumbling blocks they could in the way of
publick traffic (though to the great dissatisfaction of the most and
best part of the country)."[54]

In 1682 Lord Culpeper was instructed to do everything in his power to
develop Jamestown into a city. Charles II told him to announce to the
members of the Council that he would regard with special favor those
that built houses there and made it their permanent residence.
Culpeper seems to have recognized the uselessness of the attempt, for
he wrote, "I have given all encouragement possible for the rebuilding
of James Citty, ... as to the proposall of building houses by those of
the Counsell and the cheefe inhabitants, it hath once been attempted
in vaine, nothing but profitt and advantage can doe it, and then there
will be noe need of anything else."[55]

The Act of 1680 was never enforced. The planters complained that the
places selected for ports were too few in number and that they were
put to great expense in bringing their tobacco to them for shipment.
The English government then directed the Assembly so to change the Act
that it could be put into practical operation, but an attempt, in
1685, to follow these instructions proved futile. The Burgesses were
willing to pass a bill providing for ports in each county, but this
was not what the king wanted and so the whole matter came to

These failures were attributed by many to the obstinacy of the
Virginians. Men at that time understood but dimly the supremacy of
economic laws, and could not realize that so long as the planters
found it profitable to do their shipping from their private wharves so
long would there be no seaports in Virginia, no matter what laws were
enacted. In 1701 a pamphlet was published entitled, "A Plain and
Friendly Perswasive to the Inhabitants of Virginia and Maryland for
promoting Towns and Cohabitation." The author tried to prove that
towns would be an unmixed blessing to the colony, that they would
promote trade, stimulate immigration, build up manufacture and aid
education and religion.[57] A similar pamphlet, called Virginia's
Cure, had been written in 1661, complaining that the scattered mode of
life was the cause of the decline of religion in Virginia and
advocating the building of towns.

This lack of urban life reacted strongly upon the plantations. Since
there were no centers of activity in the colony where the planters
could gather on occasions of universal interest, it tended to isolate
them upon their estates. It forced them to become, except for their
trade with England, self-sustaining little communities. As there were
no towns to act as markets there was almost no trade between the
various parts of the colony. During the 17th century a stranger in
Virginia desiring to purchase any article whatever, could only obtain
it by applying at some plantation. Nowhere else in the colony could it
be had. The Friendly Perswasive dwelt especially on the evils of this
state of affairs. "And as to a home-trade," it says, "by towns, all
plantations far or near, would have some trade, less or more, to these
towns, and a frequent trade, and traffic, would soon grow and arise
between the several rivers and towns, by carrying and transporting
passengers and goods to and fro; and supplying all places with such
goods as they want most." Not until the end of the century was there
even the beginning of home trade. Then it was that Williamsburg,
Norfolk and Hampton, still mere villages, enjoyed a slight trade with
the surrounding plantations.

This state of affairs made necessary the system of plantation
manufacture. Those articles whose nature made importation from Europe
inconvenient were produced upon the plantations, and not in the towns
of the colony. It had been the purpose of the Virginia Company of
London to make the colony an industrial community and with this in
view they had so encouraged the immigration of tradesmen and artisans,
that between the years 1619 and 1624 hundreds of carpenters, smiths,
coopers, bricklayers, etc., settled in Virginia. These men soon found,
however, that they could not maintain themselves by their trades, and
many, giving up their calling, secured tracts of land and became
planters. Others took up their abode on some large plantation to serve
as overseers or head workmen. In 1639 Sir Francis Wyatt was instructed
to see to it "that tradesmen and handicraftsmen be compelled to follow
their several trades,"[58] but this order was entirely ineffectual and
soon but few artisans remained. Makensie says, "Our tradesmen are none
of the best, and seldom improve from the incouragement they have. If
some few stick to their trades, they demand extravigant rates, and few
employ them but out of pure necessity."[59] Not infrequently an
artisan would combine tobacco planting with his trade, since the
latter alone was but a slender and insufficient source of income. On
several occasions the Assembly tried to encourage the various trades
by exempting free artisans from taxation, but this too proved

The planters found it necessary to secure skilled servants to fill the
place of the hired workmen, and soon every estate had its smith, its
carpenter, its cooper, etc. At the home plantation of "King" Carter
were two house carpenters, a ship carpenter, a glazier, two tailors, a
gardener, a blacksmith, two bricklayers and two sailors, all
indentured servants.[61] In his will Col. Carter divided these men
among his three sons.[62] The inventory of the property of Ralph
Wormeley, who died in 1791, shows that at the home house there were
eight English servants, among them a shoemaker, a tailor and a miller.
In the 18th century, when the negro slave had to a large extent taken
the place of the white servant, attempts were made to teach the
Africans to become artisans, but with partial success only. Hugh
Jones, in speaking of the negroes, says, "Several of them are taught
to be sawyers, carpenters, smiths, coopers, &c. though for the most
part they be none of the aptest or nicest."[63]

An interesting picture of the life on the plantation is given in the
manuscript recollections of George Mason, by his son General John
Mason. "It was much the practice," he says, "with gentlemen of landed
and slave estates ... so to organize them as to have considerable
resources within themselves; to employ and pay but few tradesmen, and
to buy little or none of the course stuffs and materials used by
them.... Thus my father had among his slaves, carpenters, coopers,
sawyers, blacksmiths, tanners, curriers, shoemakers, spinners,
weavers, and knitters, and even a distiller. His woods furnished
timber and plank for the carpenters and coopers, and charcoal for the
blacksmiths; his cattle ... supplied skins for the tanners, curriers
and shoemakers; and his sheep gave wool and his fields produced
cotton and flax for the weavers and spinners, and his orchards fruit
for the distiller. His carpenters and sawyers built and kept in repair
all the dwelling houses, barns, stables, ploughs, harrows, gates,
etc., on the plantations, and the outhouses at the house. His coopers
made the hogsheads the tobacco was prized in, and the tight casks to
hold the cider and other liquors. The tanners and curriers, with the
proper vats, etc., tanned and dressed the skins as well for upper as
for lower leather to the full amount of the consumption of the estate,
and the shoemakers made them into shoes for the negroes. A professed
shoemaker was hired for three or four months in the year to come and
make up the shoes for the white part of the family. The blacksmith did
all the ironwork required by the establishment, as making and
repairing ploughs, harrows, teeth, chains, bolts, etc. The spinners,
weavers, and knitters made all the course cloths and stockings used by
the negroes, and some of finer texture worn by the white family,
nearly all worn by the children of it. The distiller made every fall a
good deal of apple, peach, and percimmon brandy.... Moreover, all the
beeves and hogs for consumption or sale were driven up and slaughtered
... at the proper seasons and whatever was to be preserved was salted
and packed away for after distribution."[64]

And the isolation that was a consequence of this industrial
independence was made all the more pronounced by the condition of the
roads. The task of cutting highways through the great forests was more
than the first settlers could undertake. During the 17th century boats
were the most common means of conveyance.[65] Each plantation
possessed a number of vessels of various sizes and the settlers made
use of them both in visiting their immediate neighbors and in
travelling to more remote parts of the colony. Owing to the great
width of the rivers, however, the use of small boats was fraught with
danger.[66] For many miles from their mouths the James, the York, and
the Rappahannock are rather broad inlets of the Chesapeake Bay than
rivers, and at many points to row across is no light undertaking.

Early in the 18th century efforts were made to construct serviceable
roads. The settlements had by that time extended back from the rivers
and creeks, and means of communication by land was absolutely
necessary. The nature of the country, however, presented great
difficulty. Hugh Jones wrote, "The worst inconveniency in travelling
across the country, is the circuit that must be taken to head creeks,
&c., for the main roads wind along the rising ground between the
rivers, tho' now they much shorten their passage by mending the swamps
and building of bridges in several places; and there are established
ferries at convenient places, over the great rivers." But slight
attention was given to keeping the roads in good condition and after
each long rain they become almost impassable. The lack of bridges was
a great hindrance to traffic and even the poor substitute of ferries
was often lacking, forcing travellers to long detours or to the
dangerous task of swimming the stream.[67]

Thus cut off from his neighbors the planter spent his life in
isolation almost as great as that of the feudal barons of the Middle
Ages. The plantation was to him a little world whose activities it was
his business to direct and this world moulded his character far more
than any outward influence.

It is a matter of no surprise that one of the first distinctive
characteristics to develop among the Virginia planters was pride. This
trait was natural to them even in the early years of the 17th century.
The operation of economic conditions upon a society is usually very
slow, and frequently the changes that it brings about may be detected
only after the lapse of centuries. This fact is nowhere more apparent
than in the development of the Virginia aristocracy, and we find that
its distinctive character had not been fully formed until after the
Revolution. Pride, however, is a failing so natural to humanity that
its development may be a matter of a few years only. Conditions in the
colony could not fail to produce, even in the first generations of
Virginians, all the dignity and self esteem of an old established
aristocracy. William Byrd I, Daniel Parke, "King" Carter were every
whit as proud as were Randolph, Madison or Jefferson.

It is interesting to note how careful were the Virginians of the 17th
century not to omit in documents and legal papers any term of
distinction to which a man was entitled. If he possessed two titles he
was usually given both. Thus Thomas Willoughby is alluded to in the
records of Lower Norfolk County as "Lieutenant Thomas Willoughby,
gentleman." The term "esquire" was used only by members of the
Council, and was the most honorable and respectful which could be
obtained in Virginia, implying a rank which corresponded with the
nobility in England. It invested those that bore it with dignity and
authority such as has been enjoyed by the aristocrats of few
countries. The respect shown to the leading men of the colony is
evinced by an incident which befell Colonel William Byrd I, in 1685.
One Humphrey Chamberlaine, a man of good birth, became angry with
Byrd, and drew his sword in order to attack him. The man was
immediately seized and put in jail. At his hearing before the court he
declared in palliation of his act that he was a stranger in the
country and ignorant of its customs, but the justices thought this a
poor excuse, declaring that "no stranger, especially an English
gentleman, could be insensible of ye respect and reverence due to so
honorable a person" as Col. Byrd. Chamberlaine was fined heavily.[68]

The arrogance of these early aristocrats is shown even more strikingly
by the conduct of Col. John Custis in 1688. As collector of duties on
the Eastern Shore he had been guilty of great exactions, extorting
from the merchants unjust and unreasonable fees. This had proceeded so
far that it was reacting unfavorably upon commerce, and when foreign
traders began to avoid entirely that part of the colony, the people of
Accomack in alarm drew up a paper of grievances which they intended to
present to the House of Burgesses. Custis one day seeing this paper
posted in public, flew into a great rage and tore it down, at the same
time shaking his cane at the crowd that had assembled around him and
using many threatening words. In this Custis was not only infringing
on the rights of the people, but he was offering a distinct affront to
the House of Burgesses. Yet so great was the awe that his authority
and dignity inspired, that the people of Accomack not only allowed him
to keep the paper, but "being terrified and affrighted drew up no
other aggreivances att that time."[69]

Robert Carter was another planter whose "extraordinary pride and
ambition" made many enemies. Governor Nicholson accuses him of "using
several people haughtily, sometimes making the justices of the peace
of the county wait two or three hours before they can speak to
him."... "In contempt of him," he adds, "he is sometimes called 'King'

Beyond doubt this haughtiness was chiefly the result of the life upon
the plantation. The command that the planter possessed over the lives
of scores of servants and slaves could not fail to impress him with a
feeling of respect for his own importance. John Bernard, the
traveller, shows that he understood this matter clearly. "Woe," he
says, "to the man who lives constantly with inferiors! He is doomed
never to hear himself contradicted, never to be told unwelcome truth,
never to sharpen his wits and learn to control his temper by argument
with equals. The Colonial Cavaliers were little kings, and they proved
the truth of the saying of the royal sage of Rome that the most
difficult of tasks is to lead life well in a palace."[71]

Political conditions also tended to the same result, for the leading
men of the colony were possessed of extraordinary influence and power.
Many of the prominent families of the 17th century were related to
each other and they formed a compact little oligarchy that at times
controlled the affairs of the colony at will.

But as time went on a decided change took place in the nature of the
Virginian's pride. During the 18th century he gradually lost that
arrogance that had been so characteristic of him in the age of
Nicholson and Spotswood. At the time of the Revolution are found no
longer men that do not hesitate to trample under foot the rights of
others as Custis, Byrd, and Carter had done. Nothing could be more
foreign to the nature of Washington or Jefferson than the haughtiness
of the typical Virginia planter of an earlier period. But it was
arrogance only that had been lost, not self-respect or dignity. The
Virginian of the later period had a most exalted conception of what a
man should be, and they respected themselves as exemplifiers of their
ideals, but they were always ready to accord to others the same
reverence they paid themselves. The change that had taken place is
shown in the lack of pretence and self-assertion in judges,
councillors, in college presidents and other dignitaries. Thomas
Nelson Page, in speaking of the fully developed Virginia gentleman,
says, "There was the foundation of a certain pride, based on
self-respect and consciousness of power. There were nearly always the
firm mouth with its strong lines, the calm, placid, direct gaze, the
quiet speech of one who is accustomed to command and have his commands

This change was beyond doubt the result of the increased political
resistance which the aristocracy encountered during the 18th century.
Within a few years after the founding of Jamestown the wealthy
planters may be noted as a body distinct from the other settlers.
Immediately after the downfall of the Virginia Company of London they
became a powerful force in the colony, and when, a few years later,
Governor Harvey tried to curb them, not only did they resist him
successfully, but they eventually brought upon him financial and
political ruin. This state of affairs was due largely to the vast
superiority of the merchant settlers to the lower class of immigrants,
both in intelligence and in wealth. Those English traders that made
their home in the colony, became at once leaders politically and
socially. Not infrequently they became burgesses, justices, or even
members of the Council after a few years' residence only, taking their
place quite naturally by the side of those that had come over
previously. This condition of affairs continued until late in the
century. Bacon the rebel was made a councillor, although he lived in
Virginia less than two years altogether, while the Lees, the
Washingtons and many others obtained places of influence and power as
soon as they reached the colony. On the other hand, the middle class
did not become a factor of very great importance in the government
until the surrender of the colony to the Parliamentary Commissioners
in 1652. The bulk of the immigrants during the first half of the 17th
century were indentured servants, brought over to cultivate the
tobacco fields. They came, most of them, from the ignorant laboring
class of England, and were incapable, even after the expiration of
their term of indenture, of taking an intelligent part in governmental
affairs. It is true that many free families of humble means came to
the colony in this period, but their numbers were not great enough to
counterbalance the power of the leading planters. These families
formed the nucleus of what later became an energetic middle class, but
not until their ranks were recruited by thousands of servants, did
they develop into a really formidable body.

It was the Commonwealth Period that gave to the middle class its first
taste of power. After the surrender of the colony to Parliament, the
House of Burgesses was made the ruling body in Virginia, in imitation
of conditions in England. Since the Burgesses were the representatives
of the common people, it might naturally be inferred that the rich
planters would be excluded from any share in the government. Such,
however, was not the case. By a conveniently rapid change of front the
most prominent men of the colony retained much of their old influence,
and the rabble, lacking leaders of ability, were forced to elect them
to places of trust and responsibility. But the Commonwealth Period
helped to organize the middle class, to give it a sense of unity and a
desire for a share in the government. At the time of Bacon's Rebellion
it had grown in numbers and strength, despite the oppression of the
Restoration Period, and showed, in a way never to be forgotten, that
it would no longer submit passively to tyranny or injustice.

Although England entered upon a policy of repression immediately after
the submission of the insurgents, which for some years threatened to
take from the common people every vestige of political liberty, it was
at this very time that the House of Burgesses began that splendid
struggle for its rights that was eventually to make it the supreme
power in the colony. Even in the waning years of the 17th century it
is evident that the middle class had become a power in political
affairs that must always be taken into account. The discontented
Berkeley party turned to it for support against the King's
Commissioners after Bacon's Rebellion; Culpeper, at the risk of
Charles' displeasure, compromised with it; Nicholson sought its
support in his memorable struggle with the Virginia aristocracy. In
the 18th century through the House of Burgesses its influence slowly
but steadily advanced. Governor Spotswood had once to beg the pardon
of the Burgesses for the insolence of the members of the Council in
wearing their hats in the presence of a committee of the House.[73]
Governor Dinwiddie expressed his surprise, when the mace bearer one
day entered the supreme court, and demanded that one of the judges
attend upon the House, whose servant he was.[74] Before the outbreak
of the Revolution the House of Burgesses had become the greatest power
in the colony. It is then a matter of no surprise that the rich
planters lost the arrogant spirit which had formerly characterized
them. Long years of vigorous opposition from a powerful middle class
had taught them to respect the privileges and feelings of others. They
were no longer at such a height above their humbler neighbors. The
spirit of democracy, which was fostered by the long resistance to the
English government, had so pervaded Virginia society, that even before
the open rupture with the mother country many of the aristocratic
privileges of the old families had been swept away. And when the war
broke out, the common cause of liberty in a sense placed every man
upon the same footing. An anecdote related by Major Anbury, one of the
British officers captured at Saratoga and brought to Virginia,
illustrates well the spirit of the times. "From my observations," he
says, "in my late journey, it appeared to me, that before the war, the
spirit of equality or levelling principle was not so prevalent in
Virginia, as in the other provinces; and that the different classes of
people in the former supported a greater distinction than those of the
latter; but since the war, that principle seems to have gained great
ground in Virginia; an instance of it I saw at Col. Randolph's at
Tuckahoe, where three country peasants, who came upon business,
entered the room where the Colonel and his company were sitting, took
themselves chairs, drew near the fire, began spitting, pulling off
their country boots all over mud, and then opened their business,
which was simply about some continental flour to be ground at the
Colonel's mill: When they were gone, some one observed what great
liberties they took; he replied it was unavoidable, the spirit of
independence was converted into equality, and every one who bore arms,
esteemed himself upon a footing with his neighbor, and concluded by
saying; 'No doubt, each of these men conceives himself, in every
respect, my equal.'"[75]

One of the most fertile sources of error in history is the tendency of
writers to confound the origin of institutions with the conditions
that brought them into life. In nothing is this more apparent than in
the various theories advanced in regard to the development of chivalry
during the Middle Ages. The fundamentals of chivalry can be traced to
the earliest period of German history. Many Teutonic writers, imbued
with a pride in their ancestors, have pointed out the respect for
women, the fondness for arms, the regard for the oppressed and
unfortunate, of the people of the Elbe and the Rhine. Chivalry, they
say, was but the expansion, the growth of characteristics natural and
individual with their forefathers.[76] This is erroneous. The early
Germanic customs may have contained the germ of chivalry, but that
germ was given life only by conditions that came into operation
centuries after the Teutons had deserted their old habits and mode of
life and had taken on some of the features of civilization.

Chivalry was the product of feudalism. It was that system that gave
birth to the noble sentiments, the thirst for great achievements, the
spirit of humanity that arose in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Feudalism, although it was the cause of much that was evil, also
produced in the hearts of men sentiments that were noble and generous.
If it delivered Europe into the hands of a host of ruthless and savage
barons, that trod under foot the rights of the common people, it
alone gave rise to the sentiment of honor which was so conspicuous
from the 10th to the 13th centuries.

Similarly it is erroneous to look to England for the explanation of
chivalry in Virginia. This spirit was almost entirely a development in
the colony. The settlers of the 17th century, even of the better class
were by no means characterized by gallantry and honor. The mortal
enemy of chivalry is commerce, for the practical common-sense merchant
looks with contempt upon the Quixotic fancies of a Bayard. His daily
life, his habits of thought, his associations tend to make him hostile
to all that glittering fabric of romance reared in the Middle Ages. He
abhors battles and wars, for they are destructive to his trade. He may
be honest, but he cares little for the idealistic honor of the days of
knighthood. He ascribes to woman no place of superiority in society.
We have already seen that the Virginia aristocracy had its origin
largely in the emigration of English merchants to the colony, and we
should naturally expect to find the planters of the 17th century
lacking in the spirit of chivalry. Such indeed was the case.

The Virginians were not a race of fighters. It was their misfortune to
be subjected to frequent and murderous attacks from a savage race
living in close proximity to them, and on this account were compelled
to keep alive the military spirit, but they never entered into war
with the feeling of joy that characterized the warriors of the Middle
Ages. Throughout the entire colonial period there was a numerous body
of militia, which was considered the bulwark of the people both
against the Indians and against attack from European armies. Its
commanders were selected from the leading planters of each community
and at times it numbered thousands of men. It never, however,
presented a really formidable fighting force, for it was at all times
lacking in discipline, owing to the fact that the people were so
scattered and the country so thinly settled that it was impossible for
them to meet often for military exercises. Repeated laws requiring the
militia to drill at stated periods created great discontent, and were
generally disobeyed. The Assembly, even in times of war, shirked the
responsibility of furnishing the companies with arms, while the people
were far too indifferent to purchase them for themselves. At times
the English government would send guns and powder and armor from the
royal arsenal, and then only would the colony be in a position to
repel foreign invasion. Governor Nicholson speaks of the utter
insufficiency of the militia, and spent a large part of his time in
reorganizing it, but conditions were so adverse that he met with
little success. Governor Spotswood, who had served under the Duke of
Marlborough and was an experienced soldier, also endeavored to
increase the efficiency of the militia and under his leadership better
discipline was obtained than before, but even he could effect no
permanent improvement. When the test of war came the militia was found
to be of no practical use. The companies could not be assembled
quickly enough to repel a sudden invasion, and when a considerable
body was gotten together desertion was so common that the force
immediately melted away. In the French and Indian War Governor
Dinwiddie soon learned that no dependence whatever could be placed in
the old organization and turned his attention to recruiting and arming
new companies. The Virginia troops that were driven from Fort
Duquesne, those that fought with Braddock, and those that held back
the attacks of the Indians along the frontier of the Shenandoah Valley
were in no way connected with the old militia.

This distaste of the colonists for war is shown clearly by the
consistent opposition of the Assembly to all measures either of
defense or of military aggression. On more than one occasion they were
commanded by the English kings to render aid to other colonies in
America. Thus in 1695, when there was grave danger that the French
would invade New York the Virginians were directed to send men and
money to aid the Northern colony, which was a bulwark to all the
English possessions in America. It was only after repeated and
peremptory demands and even threats that any assistance at all was
sent, and then it was miserably insufficient. In 1696 the burgesses
were shameless enough to assert that an attempt to impress men for
service in New York would probably be the means of frightening most of
the young freemen from the colony, even causing many to desert their
wives and children.[77] Governor Spotswood met with great opposition
in his attempt to aid South Carolina and North Carolina when those
colonies were threatened with extermination by the savage attacks of
the Indians. And in later years, when there was imminent danger of an
invasion of Virginia itself by the French with their savage allies,
Governor Dinwiddie was never able to persuade the Assembly to provide
adequate means of defence. Not until the news of massacres of
defenceless women and children upon the frontier struck terror to
every family in Virginia did the legislators vote money for a body of
men to drive back the enemy. And even then so niggardly were they in
their appropriations that with the insufficient means granted him even
the patient and frugal Washington was unable to prevent the
continuance of the murderous raids of the Indians. In the
Revolutionary War the same spirit prevailed. Virginia was not willing
to raise and equip a standing army to defend her soil from the English
invaders and as a consequence fell an easy victim to the first hostile
army that entered her borders. The resistance offered to Cornwallis
was shamefully weak, and the Virginians had the mortification of
seeing their plantations and their towns devastated by an army that
should have been driven back with ease. The militia to which the
safety of Virginia was entrusted, like similar troops from the other
states, proved ill disciplined, ill armed and cowardly.[78]

Although it was the House of Burgesses that offered the most strenuous
opposition at all periods to the improvement of the military
organization, a large measure of blame must be placed upon that
wealthy clique of men represented by the Council. The commissioned
officers were invariably selected from the wealthiest and most
influential planters, and it was they alone that could keep alive the
military spirit, that could drill the companies, that could enforce
the discipline that was so essential to efficiency. It is true that
the Council usually favored the measures proposed by various governors
for bettering the militia and for giving aid to neighboring colonies,
but this was due more to a desire to keep in harmony with the
executive than to military ardour. And it is significant that when
troops were enlisted for distant expeditions, the wealthy planters
were conspicuous by their absence. We see not the slightest
inclination on their part to rush into the conflict for the love of
fighting and adventure that was so typical of the aristocrat of the
Middle Ages. They were more than content to stay at home to attend to
the business of the plantation and to leave to humbler hands the task
of defending helpless families of the frontiers. But the economic and
political conditions in the colony were destined to work a change in
this as in other things in the Virginia planter. The gradual loss of
the mercantile instinct, the habit of command acquired by the control
of servants and slaves, and the long use of political power, the
growth of patriotism, eventually instilled into him a chivalric love
of warfare not unlike that of the knights of old. It is impossible to
say when this instinct first began to show itself. Perhaps the
earliest evidence that the warlike spirit was stirring in the breasts
of the planters is given in 1756, when two hundred gentlemen, moved by
the pitiful condition of the defenseless families of the Shenandoah
Valley, formed a volunteer company, and marched against the Indians.
It is probable that the expedition did not succeed in encountering
the enemy, but it was of much value in animating the lower class of
people with greater courage.[79] In the Revolutionary War the change
had become quite apparent. It is to the Old Dominion that the colonies
turn for the commander-in-chief of their armies. The Lees, Morgan and
other Virginia aristocrats were among the most gallant leaders of the
American army. But the development was even then far from its climax.
Not until the Civil War do we note that dash, that gallantry, and
bravery that made the Virginia gentleman famous as a warrior. Then it
was that the chivalrous Stuart and the reckless Mosby rivaled the
deeds of Bayard and of Rupert. Then it was that each plantation gave
forth its willing sacrifice of men for the defense of the South, and
thousands of the flower of Virginia aristocracy shed their blood upon
the battle field. And Virginia produced for this great struggle a
galaxy of chieftains seldom equalled in the world's history. Robert E.
Lee, "Stonewall" Jackson, Johnston and many other great generals show
that warfare had become natural to the people of the Old Dominion.

Even more striking is the development of duelling in Virginia. The
history of chivalry in Europe is indissolubly connected with thousands
of tournaments and duels. It was the ambition of each knight to
increase his fame by triumphing over as many warriors as possible. He
looked upon these fights as the greatest pleasure of his existence,
and his training and education were intended largely to prepare him
for them. As years passed and the feudal baron gave place to the
aristocratic lord, the tournament was no longer indulged in, but as
its successor the custom of duelling continued unabated. It remained,
as it had been for centuries, the acknowledged way for gentlemen to
settle difficulties. At the very time that the best class of settlers
was coming to Virginia, duelling was in high favor with the English
aristocracy. It was a common event for two gentlemen who were suitors
for the hand of the same lady to settle the matter by mortal combat,
and this was considered not only proper, but the highest compliment
that could be paid the lady's charms. Angry joustings were frequent in
places of amusement or even upon the streets. In London the ring in
Hyde Park, the back of Montague House, and the Barns Elms were the
favorite places for these combats.[80]

That the custom was not continued in Virginia adds convincing
testimony to the evidence that the best class of immigrants to the
colony were not members of the English aristocracy. Had many country
gentlemen or noblemen settled in the Old Dominion, duelling would have
been as common on the banks of the James as it was in London. The most
careful investigation has been able to bring to light evidence of but
five or six duels in Virginia during the entire colonial period.[81]
In 1619 Capt. Edward Stallings was slain in a duel with Mr. William
Epes at Dancing Point. Five years later Mr. George Harrison fought a
duel with Mr. Richard Stephens. "There was some words of discontent
between him and Mr. Stephens, with some blows. Eight or ten days after
Mr. Harrison sent a challenge to Stephens to meet him in a place,
which was made mention of, they meeting together it so fell out that
Mr. Harrison received a cut in the leg which did somewhat grieve him,
and fourteen days after he departed this life."[82]

After this fatal affair the custom of duelling died out almost
entirely in the colony. Had there been many of these encounters
frequent mention beyond doubt would have been made of them. Any deaths
resulting from them could hardly have escaped mention in the records,
and the general interest that always attaches itself to such affairs
would have caused them to find a place in the writings of the day.
Beverley, Hugh Jones, John Clayton and other authors who described the
customs of colonial Virginia made no mention of duelling. Only a few
scattered instances of challenges and encounters have been collected,
gleaned largely from the county records, and these serve to show that
duelling met with but little favor. Most of the challenges were not
accepted and provoked usually summary and harsh punishment at the
hands of the law. In 1643 a commissioner was disabled from holding
office for having challenged a councillor.[83] Some years later Capt.
Thomas Hackett sent a challenge by his son-in-law, Richard Denham, to
Mr. Daniel Fox, while the latter was sitting in the Lancaster County
court. The message was most insulting in its wording and ended by
declaring that if Fox "had anything of a gentleman or manhood" in him
he would render satisfaction in a personal encounter with rapiers. One
of the justices, Major Carter, was horrified at these proceedings. He
addressed Denham in words of harsh reproval, "saying that he knew not
how his father would acquit himself of an action of that nature, which
he said he would not be ye owner of for a world." Denham answered in a
slighting way "that his father would answer it well enough ...
whereupon ye court conceivinge ye said Denham to be a partye with his
father-in-law ... adjudged ye said Denham to receive six stripes on
his bare shoulder with a whip." The course pursued by Fox in this
affair is of great interest. Had duelling been in vogue he would have
been compelled to accept the challenge or run the risk of receiving
popular contempt as a coward. He could not have ignored the message on
grounds of social superiority, for Hackett ranked as a gentleman. Yet
he requested the court to arrest Hackett, "him to detain in safe
custody without baile or mainprize," in order to save himself from the
risk of a personal attack.[84] A similar case occurred in 1730, when
Mr. Solomon White entered complaint in the Princess Anne County court
against Rodolphus Melborne for challenging him "with sword and
pistoll." The court ordered the sheriff to arrest Melborne and to keep
him in custody until he entered bond in the sum of 50 pounds as
security for good behavior for twelve months.[85]

But though the Virginia gentleman, in the days when he still retained
the prosaic nature of the merchant, frowned upon duelling, it was
inevitable that in time he must become one of its greatest advocates.
The same conditions that instilled into him a taste for war, could not
fail in the end to make him fond of duelling. We are not surprised
then to find that, at the period of the Revolutionary War, duelling
began to grow in popularity in Virginia and that from that time until
the Civil War appeals to the code were both frequent and deadly.
Writers have sought to find a reason for this change in the military
customs introduced by a long war, or in the influence of the French.
There can be no doubt, however, that the rapid increase of duelling at
this time was due to the fact that conditions were ripe for its
reception. A spirit had been fostered by the life upon the plantation
which made it distasteful to gentlemen to turn to law for redress for
personal insults. The sense of dignity, of self reliance there
engendered, made them feel that the only proper retaliation against an
equal was to be found in a personal encounter.

Perhaps the most beautiful, the most elevating feature of the chivalry
of the Middle Ages was the homage paid to women. The knight always
held before him the image of his lady as an ideal of what was pure and
good, and this ideal served to make him less a savage and more a good
and true man. Although he was rendered no less brave and warlike by
this influence, it inclined him to tenderness and mercy, acting as a
curb to the ferocity that in his fathers had been almost entirely
unrestrained. It made him recognize the sacredness of womanhood. The
true value of the wife and the mother had never before been known. In
none of the ancient communities did women attain the position of
importance that they occupied in the age of chivalry, for neither the
Roman matron nor the Greek mother could equal the feudal lady in
dignity and influence.

And this was the direct outcome of the feudal system. The ancient
baron led a life of singular isolation, for he was separated in his
fortress home from frequent intercourse with other men of equal rank,
and around him were only his serfs and retainers, none of whom he
could make his companions. The only equals with whom he came in
contact day after day were his wife and children. Naturally he turned
to them for comradeship, sharing with them his joys and confiding to
them his sorrows. If he spent much of his time in hunting, or in
fishing, or in fighting he always returned to the softening influence
of his home, and it was inevitable, under these conditions, that the
importance of the female sex should increase.[86]

As we have seen, the Virginia plantation bore a striking analogy to
the feudal estate. The planter, like the baron, lived a life of
isolation, coming into daily contact not even with his nearest
neighbors. His time was spent with his servants and slaves. He too
could turn only to his family for companionship, and inevitably, as
homage and respect for women had grown up among the feudal barons, so
it developed in Virginia.

There is no proof that the colonists of the 17th century regarded
womanhood in any other than a commonplace light. They assigned to
their wives and daughters the same domestic lives that the women of
the middle classes of England led at that time. Predominated by the
instinct of commerce and trade, they had little conception of the
chivalric view of the superiority of the gentle sex, for in this as in
other things they were prosaic and practical.

The early Virginians did not hesitate to subject gossiping women to
the harsh punishment of the ducking stool. In 1662 the Assembly passed
an Act requiring wives that brought judgments on their husbands for
slander to be punished by ducking.[87] In 1705 and again in 1748 the
county courts were authorized to construct ducking stools if they
thought fit.[88] That the practice was early in vogue is shown by the
records of the county courts. We read in the Northampton records for
1634 the following, "Upon due examination it is thought fitt by the
board that said Joane Butler shall be drawen over the Rings Creeke at
the starn of a boat or canoux."

How inconsistent with all the ideals of chivalry was that action of
Bacon in his war with Governor Berkeley which won for his men the
contemptuous appellation of "White Aprons!" Bacon had made a quick
march on Jamestown and had surprised his enemies there. His force,
however, was so small that he set to work immediately constructing
earthworks around his camp. While his men were digging, "by several
small partyes of horse (2 or 3 in a party, for more he could not
spare) he fetcheth into his little league, all the prime men's wives,
whose husbands were with the Governour, (as Coll. Bacons lady, Madm.
Bray, Madm. Page, Madm. Ballard, and others) which the next morning he
presents to the view of there husbands and ffriends in towne, upon
the top of the smalle worke hee had cast up in the night; where he
caused them to tarey till he had finished his defense against his
enemies shott, ... which when completed, and the Governour
understanding that the gentle women were withdrawne in to a place of
safety, he sends out some 6 or 700 of his soulders, to beate Bacon out
of his trench."[89]

The fact that Bacon's family was one of great prominence in the colony
makes this ungallant action all the more significant. His uncle,
Nathaniel Bacon, was a leader in political affairs, being one of
Berkeley's most trusted advisers. He himself had been a member of the
Council. It is true that his harsh treatment of the ladies brought
upon him some censure, yet it is highly indicative of the lack of
chivalry of the times, that a gentleman should have been willing to
commit such a deed. How utterly impossible this would have been to
George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, typical Virginians a hundred
years later!

It remained to Berkeley, however, the so-called "Cavalier Governor"
of Virginia, to strike the most brutal blow at womanhood. After the
failure of Bacon's Rebellion, when the insurgents were being hunted
down by the implacable anger of the Governor, Major Chiesman, one of
the most prominent of the rebels, was captured. "When the Major was
brought into the Governours presence, and by him demanded, what made
him to ingage in Bacon's designs? Before that the Major could frame an
answer to the Governours demand; his wife steps in and tould his
honour that it was her provocations that made her husband joyne in the
cause that Bacon contended for; ading, that if he had not bin
influenced by her instigations, he had never don that which he had
done. Therefore (upon her bended knees) she desired of his honour,
that since what her husband had done, was by her means, and so, by
consequence, she most guilty, that she might be hanged, and he
pardoned." Had Berkeley had one atom of gallantry or chivalry in his
nature, he would have treated this unfortunate woman with courtesy.
Even though he condemned her husband to the gallows, he would have
raised her from her knees and palliated her grief as best he could
with kind words. That he spurned her with a vile insult shows how
little this "Cavalier" understood of the sacredness of womanhood.[90]

Some years later an incident occurred which, as Bishop Meade well
remarks, speaks ill for the chivalry and decorum of the times.[91] A
dispute arose between Col. Daniel Parke and Commissary Blair, the
rector of the church at Williamsburg. Mr. Blair's wife, having no pew
of her own in the church, was invited by Mr. Ludlow, of Green Spring,
to sit with his family during the services. Col. Parke was the
son-in-law of Mr. Ludlow, and one Sunday, with the purpose of
insulting the rector, he seized Mrs. Blair rudely by the arm, and
dragged her out of the pew, saying she should no longer sit there.
This ungallant act is made all the more cowardly by the fact that Mr.
Blair was not present at the time. We learn with pleasure that Mr.
Ludlow, who was also probably absent, was greatly offended at his
son-in-law for his brutal conduct. The incident is the more
suggestive in that both Col. Parke and Mrs. Blair were members of
leading families in the colony.

In matters of courtship there was little of romance and chivalry.
Women did not care for the formalities and petty courtesies of the
gallant suitor. Alsop, in describing the maids of Maryland, whose
social life was quite similar to that of their sisters of Virginia,
says, "All complimental courtships drest up in critical rarities are
meer strangers to them. Plain wit comes nearest to their genius; so
that he that intends to court a Maryland girle, must have something
more than the tautologies of a long-winded speech to carry on his
design, or else he may fall under the contempt of her frown and his
own windy discourse."

We will not attempt to trace through successive years the chivalric
view of womanhood. The movement was too subtle, the evidences too few.
At the period of the Revolutionary War, however, it is apparent that a
great change was taking place. The Virginia gentleman, taught by the
experience of many years, was beginning to understand aright the
reverence due the nobleness, the purity, the gentleness of woman. He
was learning to accord to his wife the unstinted and sincere homage
that her character deserved.

It is unfortunate that we should be compelled to rely to so great an
extent upon the testimony of travelers for our data regarding the
domestic life of the Virginia aristocracy of the 18th century. These
writers were frequently superficial observers and almost without
exception failed to understand and sympathize with the society of the
colony. Some were prejudiced against the Virginians even before they
set foot upon the soil of the Old Dominion, and their dislike is
reflected in their writings, while few tarried long enough to grasp
fully the meaning of the institutions and customs of the people. They
dwelt long on those things that they found displeasing, and passed
over in silence those distinctive virtues with which they were not in
harmony. It is not surprising then that they failed to grasp the
dignity and importance of the place filled by the Virginia woman. When
they spoke of her their criticisms were usually favorable, but only
too often they ignored her entirely. The gifted John Bernard, however,
was more penetrating than the others. "Of the planters' ladies," he
said, "I must speak in terms of unqualified praise; they had an easy
kindness of manner, as far removed from rudeness as from reserve,
which being natural to them ... was the more admirable.... To the
influence of their society I chiefly attribute their husbands'

To understand fully the sentiment of respect for womanhood that
finally became so pronounced a trait of the Virginia gentleman, it is
necessary to turn to Southern writers. Thomas Nelson Page, in "The Old
South," draws a beautiful and tender picture of the ante-bellum matron
and her influence over her husband. "What she was," he says, "only her
husband knew, and even he stood before her in dumb, half-amazed
admiration, as he might before the inscrutable vision of a superior
being. What she really was, was known only to God. Her life was one
long act of devotion--devotion to God, devotion to her husband,
devotion to her children, ... devotion to all humanity. She was the
head and front of the church; ... she regulated her servants, fed the
poor, nursed the sick, consoled the bereaved. The training of her
children was her work. She watched over them, led them, governed
them.... She was at the beck and call of every one, especially her
husband, to whom she was guide, philosopher, and friend."

Dr. George Bagby pays to the Virginia woman a tribute not less
beautiful. "My rambles before the war made me the guest of Virginians
of all grades. Brightest by far of the memories of those days ... is
that of the Virginia mother. Her delicacy, tenderness, freshness,
gentleness; the absolute purity of her life and thought, typified in
the spotless neatness of her apparel and her every surrounding, it is
quite impossible to convey. Withal, there was about her a naiveté
mingled with sadness, that gave her a surpassing charm."[93]

Further evidence is unnecessary. Enough has been said to show clearly
that in the matter of gallantry a great change took place among the
wealthy Virginia planters during the colonial period; that in the 17th
century they were by no means chivalrous in their treatment of women;
that at the time of the Revolution and in succeeding years homage to
the gentler sex was an important part of the social code. It is but
one more link in the long chain of evidence that shows that society in
Virginia was not an imitation of society in England, but was a
development in the colony; that the Virginia aristocracy was not a
part of the English aristocracy transplanted to the shores of the New
World, but a growth produced by local conditions.

A study of the spirit of honor in the colony leads us to the same
conclusion. It is not difficult to demonstrate that during the greater
part of the colonial period the Virginia aristocracy was not
characterized by the chivalric conception of what was honorable. The
mercantile atmosphere that they brought with them from England was not
well suited to this spirit. None were quicker to seize an unfair
advantage in a bargain, and the English and Dutch merchants that
traded with the Virginians made repeated complaints of unfair
treatment. So great were their losses by the system of credit then in
vogue in the colony that it was the custom for traders to employ
factors, whose business it was to recover bad debts from the planters,
and prolonged lawsuits became very frequent. The use of tobacco as
money caused a great amount of trouble, and the Virginians were not
slow to take advantage of any fluctuation in the value of their medium
of exchange. This was the occasion of great injustice and suffering.
It was the standing complaint of the clergy that they were defrauded
of a part of their salaries at frequent intervals by the varying price
of tobacco.

Accusations of frauds in regard to weights were also made against the
planters, and this species of deception at one time was so general,
that it became necessary to pass a special law declaring the English
statute concerning weights to be in force in Virginia. The Act is as
follows, "To prevent the great abuse and deceit by false stillyards in
this colony, It is enacted by this Assembly, That whoever shall use
false stillyards willingly shall pay unto the party grieved three fold
damages and cost of suit, and shall forfeit one thousand pounds of

It is not necessary to assume, however, that the Virginia planters
were noted for dishonesty in matters of business. They were neither
better nor worse than merchants in other parts of the world or in
other times. It was their daily life, their associations and habits of
thought that made it impossible for them to see in an ideal light the
highest conceptions of honor.

In their political capacity the leading men of the colony were
frequently guilty of inexcusable and open fraud. Again and again they
made use of their great influence and power to appropriate public
funds to their private use, to escape the payment of taxes, to obtain
under false pretenses vast tracts of land.

After Bacon's Rebellion, when the King's Commissioners were receiving
the complaints of the counties, from all parts of the colony came
accusations of misappropriated funds. The common people asserted, with
an earnestness and unanimity that carry conviction, that throughout
the second period of Governor Berkeley's administration large
quantities of tobacco had been collected from them which had served
only to enrich certain influential individuals. Other evidence tends
to corroborate these charges. In 1672, the Assembly passed a bill for
the repairing of forts in the colony, and entrusted the work to
associations of wealthy planters, who were empowered to levy as heavy
taxes in the various counties as they thought necessary. Although
large sums of money were collected under this Act, very little of it
was expended in repairing the forts and there is no reason to doubt
that much of it was stolen. Similar frauds were perpetrated in
connection with an Act for encouraging manufacture. The Assembly
decided to establish and run at public expense tanworks and other
industrial plants, and these too were entrusted to wealthy and
influential men. Most of these establishments were never completed and
none were put in successful operation and this was due largely to open
and shameless embezzlement.[95] The common people, emboldened by
promises of protection by Governor Jeffries, did not hesitate to bring
forward charges of fraud against some of the most influential men of
the colony. Col. Edward Hill, who had been one of Berkeley's chief
supporters, was the object of their bitterest attack. They even
accused him of stealing money that had been appropriated for the
repairing of roads. Hill defended himself vigorously, but there can be
little doubt that he was to some extent guilty.[96]

The Council members were the boldest of all in dishonesty, for they
did not scruple to defraud even the English government. There was a
tax on land in the colony called the quit rents, the proceeds of which
went to the king. Since there was very little coin in Virginia, this
tax was usually paid in tobacco. Except on rare occasions the quit
rents were allowed to remain in the colony to be drawn upon for
various governmental purposes, and for this reason it was convenient
to sell the tobacco before shipping it to England. These sales were
conducted by the Treasurer and through his connivance the councillors
were frequently able to purchase all the quit rents tobacco at very
low prices. In case the sale were by auction, intimidation was used to
prevent others than Council members from bidding. In 1697, Edward
Chilton testified before the Lords Commissioners of Trade and
Plantations that the quit rents had brought but four or six shillings
per hundred pounds, although the regular price of tobacco was twenty

The wealthy planters consistently avoided the payment of taxes. Their
enormous power in the colonial government made this an easy matter,
for the collectors and sheriffs in the various counties found it
convenient not to question their statements of the extent of their
property, while none would dare to prosecute them even when glaring
cases of fraud came to light. Estates of fifty or sixty thousand acres
often yielded less in quit rents than plantations of one-third their
size.[98] Sometimes the planters refused to pay taxes at all on their
land and no penalty was inflicted on them. Chilton declared that the
Virginians would be forced to resign their patents to huge tracts of
country if the government should demand the arrears of quit rents.[99]

Even greater frauds were perpetrated by prominent men in securing
patents for land. The law required that the public territory should be
patented only in small parcels, that a house should be built upon
each grant, and that a part should be put under cultivation. All these
provisions were continually neglected. It was no uncommon thing for
councillors to obtain patents for twenty or thirty thousand acres, and
sometimes they owned as much as sixty thousand acres. They neglected
frequently to erect houses on these estates, or, if they wished to
keep within the limits of the law, they built but slight shanties, so
small and ill constructed that no human being could inhabit them. On
one grant of 27,017 acres the house cost less than ten shillings. In
another case a sheriff found in one county 30,000 acres upon which
there was nothing which could be distrained for quit rents. At times
false names were made use of in securing patents in order to avoid the
restrictions of the law.[100]

Amid these acts of deception and fraud one deed is conspicuous. Col.
Philip Ludwell had brought into the colony forty immigrants and
according to a law which had been in force ever since the days of the
London Company, this entitled him to a grant of two thousand acres of
land. After securing the patent, he changed the record with his own
hand by adding one cipher each to the forty and the two thousand,
making them four hundred and twenty thousand respectively. In this way
he obtained ten times as much land as he was entitled to and despite
the fact that the fraud was notorious at the time, so great was his
influence that the matter was ignored and his rights were not

Alexander Spotswood was guilty of a theft even greater than that of
Ludwell. In 1722, just before retiring from the governorship, he made
out a patent for 40,000 acres in Spotsylvania County to Messrs. Jones,
Clayton and Hickman. As soon as he quitted the executive office these
men conveyed the land to him, receiving possibly some small reward for
their trouble. In a similar way he obtained possession of another
tract of 20,000 acres. Governor Drysdale exposed the matter before the
Board of Trade and Plantations, but Spotswood's influence at court was
great enough to protect him from punishment.[102]

The commonness of fraud of this kind among the Virginia planters of
the earlier period does not necessarily stamp them as being
conspicuously dishonest. They were subjected to great and unusual
temptations. Their vast power and their immunity from punishment, made
it easy for them to enrich themselves at the public expense, while
their sense of honor, deprived of the support of expediency, was not
great enough to restrain them. The very men that were the boldest in
stealing public land or in avoiding the tax collector might have
recoiled from an act of private dishonesty or injustice. However, it
would be absurd in the face of the facts here brought forth, to claim
that they were characterized by an ideal sense of honor.

But in this as in other things a change took place in the course of
time. As the self-respect of the Virginian became with him a stronger
instinct, his sense of honor was more pronounced, and he gradually
came to feel that deceit and falsehood were beneath him. Used to the
respect and admiration of all with whom he came in contact, he could
not descend to actions that would lower him in their estimation.
Certain it is that a high sense of honor became eventually one of the
most pronounced characteristics of the Virginians.

Nothing can demonstrate this more clearly than the "honor system" that
came into vogue in William and Mary College. The Old Oxford system of
espionage which was at first used, gradually fell into disuse. The
proud young Virginians deemed it an insult for prying professors to
watch over their every action, and the faculty eventually learned that
they could trust implicitly in the students' honor. In the Rules of
the College, published in 1819, there is an open recognition of the
honor system. The wording is as follows, "Any student may be required
to declare his guilt or innocence as to any particular offence of
which he may be suspected.... And should the perpetrator of any
mischief, in order to avoid detection, deny his guilt, then may the
Society require any student to give evidence on his honor touching
this foul enormity that the college may not be polluted by the
presence of those that have showed themselves equally regardless of
the laws of honour, the principles of morality and the precepts of

How potent an influence for good was this sense of honor among the
students of the college is shown even more strikingly by an address of
Prof. Nathaniel Beverley Tucker to his law class in 1834. "If," he
says, "There be anything by which the University of William and Mary
has been advantageously distinguished, it is the liberal and
magnanimous character of its discipline. It has been the study of its
professors to cultivate at the same time the intellect, the
principles, and the deportment of the student, labouring with equal
diligence to infuse the spirit of the scholar and the spirit of the
gentleman. As such we receive and treat him and resolutely refuse to
know him in any other character. He is not harrassed with petty
regulations; he is not insulted and annoyed by impertinent
surveillance. Spies and informers have no countenance among us. We
receive no accusation but from the conscience of the accused. His
honor is the only witness to which we appeal; and should he be even
capable of prevarication or falsehood, we admit no proof of the fact.
But I beg you to observe, that in this cautious and forbearing spirit
of our legislation, you have not only proof that we have no
disposition to harrass you with unreasonable requirements, but a
pledge that such regulations as we have found it necessary to make
will be enforced.... The effect of this system in inspiring a high and
scrupulous sense of honor, and a scorn of all disingenuous artifice,
has been ascertained by long experience."[104]

A society in which grew up such a system as this could have no place
for the petty artifices of the trader nor the frauds of leading men in
public affairs. It is clear that at this period the old customs had
passed away; that there was a new atmosphere in Virginia; that the
planter was no longer a merchant but a Cavalier. The commercial spirit
had become distinctly distasteful to him, and he criticised bitterly
in his northern neighbors the habits and methods that had
characterized his own forefathers in the 17th century. Governor Tyler,
in 1810, said in addressing the Legislature, "Commerce is certainly
beneficial to society in a secondary degree, but it produces also what
is called citizens of the world--the worst citizens in the world." And
In public affairs honesty and patriotism took the place of deceit and
fraud. Even in the Revolutionary period the change is apparent, and
long before the advent of the Civil War the very memory of the old
order of affairs had passed away. The Virginia gentleman in the 19th
century was the soul of honor. Thomas Nelson Page says, "He was proud,
but never haughty except to dishonor. To that he was inexorable.... He
was chivalrous, he was generous, he was usually incapable of fear or
meanness. To be a Virginia gentleman was the first duty."[105] The
spirit of these men is typified in the character of Robert E. Lee. To
this hero of the Southern people dishonesty was utterly impossible.
After the close of the Civil War, when he was greatly in need of money
he was offered the presidency of an insurance company. Word was sent
him that his lack of experience in the insurance business would not
matter, as the use of his name was all the company desired of him. Lee
politely, but firmly, rejected this proposal, for he saw that to
accept would have been to capitalize the homage and reverence paid
him by the people of the South.

Along with the instinct of pride and the spirit of chivalry in the
Virginia planters developed the power of commanding men. Among the
immigrants of the 17th century leadership was distinctly lacking, and
during almost all the colonial period there was a decided want of
great men. Captain John Smith, Governor William Berkeley, Nathaniel
Bacon and Alexander Spotswood are the only names that stand out amid
the general mediocrity of the age. If we look for other men of
prominence we must turn to Robert Beverley, Philip Ludwell, William
Byrd II, James Blair. These men played an important part in the
development of the colony, but they are practically unknown except to
students of Virginia history.

What a contrast is presented by a glance at the great names of the
latter part of the 18th century. The commonplace Virginia planters had
then been transformed into leaders of men. When the Revolution came it
was to them that the colonies looked chiefly for guidance and command,
and Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Mason, the Lees and many other
Virginians took the most active part in the great struggle that ended
in the overthrow of the sway of England and the establishment of the
independence of the colonies. Washington was the great warrior,
Jefferson the apostle of freedom, Henry the orator of the Revolution.
And when the Union had been formed it was still Virginia that
furnished leaders to the country. Of the first five presidents four
were Virginia planters.

This transformation was due partly to the life upon the plantation.
The business of the Virginia gentleman from early youth was to
command. An entire community looked to him for direction and
maintenance, and scores or even hundreds of persons obeyed him
implicitly. He was manager of all the vast industries of his estate,
directing his servants and slaves in all the details of farming,
attending to the planting, the curing, the casing of tobacco, the
cultivation of wheat and corn, the growing of fruits, the raising of
horses, cattle, sheep and hogs. He became a master architect, having
under him a force of carpenters, masons and mechanics. Some of the
wealthiest Virginians directed in every detail the construction of
those stately old mansions that were the pride of the colony in the
18th century. Thus Thomas Jefferson was both the architect and builder
of his home at Monticello, and gave to it many months of his time in
the prime of his life.

The public life of the aristocrat also tended to develop in him the
power of command. If he were appointed to the Council he found himself
in possession of enormous power, and in a position to resist the
ablest of governors, or even the commands of the king. In all that he
did, in private and public affairs, he was leader. His constant task
was to command and in nothing did he occupy a subservient position. No
wonder that, in the course of time, he developed into a leader of men,
equal to the stupendous undertaking of shaking off the yoke of England
and laying the foundations of a new nation.

The magnificence with which the members of the aristocracy in the 18th
century surrounded themselves, and the culture and polish of their
social life are not so distinctly the result of local conditions. The
customs, the tastes, the prejudices that were brought over from
England were never entirely effaced. The earliest immigrants
established on the banks of the James a civilization as similar in
every respect to that of the mother country as their situation would
permit. Had it not been for economic and climatic conditions there
would have grown up amid the wilderness of America an exact
reproduction of England in miniature. As it was, the colonists infused
into their new life the habits, moral standards, ideas and customs of
the old so firmly that their influence is apparent even at the present

And this imitation of English life was continued even after the period
of immigration was passed. The constant and intimate intercourse with
the mother country made necessary by commercial affairs had a most
important influence upon social life. Hugh Jones, writing of society
in Governor Spotswood's time, says: "The habits, life, customs,
computations &c of the Virginians are much the same as about London,
which they esteem their home; the planters generally talk good English
without idiom and tone and can discourse handsomely upon most common
subjects; and conversing with persons belonging to trade and
navigation in London, for the most part they are much civilized."
Again he says, "They live in the same neat manner, dress after the
same modes, and behave themselves exactly as the gentry in London."

Nor had this spirit of imitation become less apparent at the period of
the Revolution, or even after. Their furniture, their silver ware,
their musical instruments, their coaches and even their clothes were
still imported from England and were made after the latest English
fashions. John Bernard noted with astonishment that their favorite
topics of conversation were European. "I found," he says, "men leading
secluded lives in the woods of Virginia perfectly au fait as to the
literary, dramatic, and personal gossip of London and Paris." The lack
of good educational facilities in Virginia led many of the wealthy
planters to send their sons to England to enter the excellent schools
or universities there. Even after the establishment of William and
Mary College, the advantages to be derived from several years'
residence in the Old World, induced parents to send their sons to
Oxford or Cambridge. The culture, the ideas and habits there acquired
by the young Virginia aristocrats exerted a powerful influence upon
society in the Old Dominion.

But the peculiar conditions of the new country could not fail to
modify profoundly the life of the colonists. Despite the intimacy with
England and despite the tenacity with which the people clung to
British customs, Virginia society in both the 17th and 18th centuries
was different in many respects from that of the mother country. The
absence of towns eliminated from colonial life much that was
essentially English. There could be no counterpart of the coffee
house, the political club, the literary circle. And even rural
conditions were different. The lack of communication and the size of
the plantations could not fail to produce a social life unlike that of
the thickly settled country districts of England.

We note in Virginia a marked contrast between the 17th and 18th
centuries in the mode of living of the planters. In the first hundred
years of the colony's existence there was a conspicuous lack of that
elegance in the houses, the furniture, the vehicles, the table ware,
etc., that was so much in evidence at the time of the Revolution. This
was due in part to the newness of the country. It was impossible amid
the forests of America, where artisans were few and unskillful, to
imitate all the luxuries of England, and the planters were as yet too
busily employed in reducing the resources of the country to their
needs to think of more than the ordinary comforts of life. Moreover,
the wealth of the colony was by no means great. Before the end of the
century some of the planters had accumulated fortunes of some size,
but there were few that could afford to indulge in the costly and
elegant surroundings that became so common later. And the owners of
newly acquired fortunes were often fully satisfied with the plain and
unpretentious life to which they were accustomed and not inclined to
spend their money for large houses, fine furniture, or costly silver
ware. As time went on, however, the political and social supremacy of
the aristocracy, the broader education of its members, and the great
increase in wealth conspired to produce in the colony a love of
elegance that was second only to that of the French nobility.

During the 17th century the houses even of the wealthiest planters
were made of wood. Despite the fact that bricks were manufactured in
the colony and could be had at a reasonable price, the abundance of
timber on all sides made the use of that material almost universal
during the greater part of the colonial period. Shingles were used for
the roof, although slate was not unknown. The partitions in the
dwellings were first covered with a thick layer of tenacious mud and
then whitewashed. Sometimes there were no partitions at all as was the
case in a house mentioned by William Fitzhugh. This, however, was not
usual and we find that most of the houses of the wealthiest planters
contained from four to seven compartments of various sizes. The
residence of Governor William Berkeley at Green Spring contained six
rooms. Edmund Cobbs, a well-to-do farmer, lived in a house consisting
of a hall and kitchen on the lower floor and one room above stairs. In
the residence of Nathaniel Bacon, Sr., were five chambers, a hall, a
kitchen, a dairy and a storeroom. The apartments in the house of
Mathew Hubbard, a wealthy planter of York County, consisted of a
parlor and hall, a chamber, a kitchen and buttery. Robert Beverley,
who played so important a role in Bacon's Rebellion and in the
political struggles following that uprising, resided in a house which
contained three chambers, a dairy, a kitchen and the overseer's room.
The house of William Fauntleroy, a wealthy land owner, contained three
chambers, a hall, a closet and a kitchen.[106]

The surroundings, of the planters' residences were entirely lacking in
ornament. In the immediate vicinity of the house were usually grouped
stable, hen house, kitchen, milk house, servants' house and dove-cote.
Near at hand also was to be found the garden, which was devoted to
both vegetables and flowers. Around it were always placed strong
palings to keep out the hogs and cattle which were very numerous and
were allowed to wander unrestrained.[107]

The furniture of the planters was of fairly good quality, as most of
it was imported from England. The beds were similar to those used in
the mother country, ranging from the little trundle-bed to the
great-bed of the main chamber, which was usually surrounded by
curtains upheld by a rod. Rugs were quite common, but were of very
poor quality, being made frequently of worsted yarn or cotton. Various
materials were used in making couches. Some were of hides, some of
tanned leather, some of embroidered Russian leather. As a substitute
for wardrobes or closets in every bed room were chests, in which were
kept the most costly articles of clothing, the linen, trinkets of
value and occasionally plate. Chairs of various kinds were used, the
most costly being the Russian leather chair and the Turkey-worked
chair. In the houses of the wealthiest planters the walls were
sometimes hung with tapestry.[108]

When the families of the planters were large, which was frequently the
case, their little houses were exceedingly crowded. Beds are found in
every room except in the kitchen. In the parlor or reception room for
guests are not only beds, but chests of clothing and linen, while in
the hall which was used also as a dining room, are flock-beds, chests,
guns, pistols, swords, drums, saddles, and bridles. The chamber
contains every variety of article in use in the household. One of the
rooms in the house of Thomas Osborn contained a bedstead with
feather-bed, bolster, rug, blanket and sheets, two long table cloths,
twenty-eight napkins, four towels, one chest, two warming pans, four
brass candle-sticks, four guns, a carbine and belt, a silver beaker,
three tumblers, twelve spoons, one sock and one dram cup.[109]

The utensils in use in the dining room and kitchen were usually made
of pewter, this material being both cheap and durable. Even upon the
tables of the wealthiest planters were found sugar-pots, castors,
tumblers, spoons, dishes, ladles, knives and various other articles
all of pewter. Silver, however, was not unknown. In the closing years
of the 17th century the possession of silver plate and silver
table-ware was becoming more and more frequent.[110]

As the wealth of the leading planters increased they gradually
surrounded themselves with elegant homes and sumptuous furnishings. At
the period of the Revolution there were dozens of magnificent homes
scattered throughout Virginia. Shirley, Brandon, Rosewell, Monticello,
Blenheim, Mount Airy, and many more testified to the refined taste and
love of elegance of the aristocracy of this time. The most common
material used in the construction of these mansions was brick,
manufactured by the planter himself, upon his own estate. The usual
number of rooms was eight, although not infrequently there were as
many as fourteen or sixteen. These apartments were very large, often
being twenty-five feet square, and the pitch was invariably great. In
close proximity to the mansion were always other houses, some of which
contained bed rooms that could be used either by guests or by members
of the family. Thus the main house was really but the center of a
little group of buildings, that constituted altogether a residence of
great size. How spacious they were is shown by the number of guests
that were at times housed in them, for at balls and on other festive
occasions it was not at all infrequent for forty or fifty persons to
remain for several days in the home of their host. At a ball given by
Richard Lee, of Lee Hall, Westmoreland County, there were seventy
guests, most of whom remained three days.

Nomini Hall, the house of Robert Carter, is an excellent example of
the residences of the wealthier planters during the middle of the 18th
century. The main building was of brick, which was covered over with a
mortar of such perfect whiteness that at a little distance it appeared
to be marble. Although it was far larger than the houses of the
preceding century it was not of great size, being but seventy-six feet
long and forty-four wide. The pitch of the rooms, however, was very
great, that of the lower floor being seventeen feet and that of the
second floor being twelve. No less than twenty-six large windows gave
abundance of light to the various apartments, while at different
points in the roof projected five stacks of chimneys, two of these
serving only as ornaments. On one side a beautiful jett extended for
eighteen feet, supported by three tall pillars. On the first floor
were the dining room, the children's dining room, Col. Carter's study,
and a ball room thirty feet long, while the second story contained
four bed rooms, two of which were reserved for guests. At equal
distances from each corner of the mansion were four other buildings of
considerable size. One of these, a two story brick house of five
rooms, was called the school and here slept Col. Carter's three sons,
their tutor and the overseer. Corresponding to the school house at the
other corners of the mansion were the stable, the coach house and the
work house. The beauty of the lawn and the graceful sweep of a long
terrace which ran in front of the mansion testified to the abundant
care and taste expended in planning and laying out the grounds. East
of the house was an avenue of splendid poplars leading to the county
road, and the view of the buildings through these trees was most
attractive and beautiful. One side of the lawn was laid out in
rectangular walks paved with brick and covered over with burnt oyster
shells, and being perfectly level was used as a bowling green. In
addition to the buildings already mentioned there were close to the
mansion a wash house and a kitchen, both the same size as the school
house, a bake house, a dairy, a store house and several other small

Some of the mansions of the 18th century were much larger and more
beautiful than Nomini Hall. Rosewell, erected by the Page family, was
of immense size, containing a large number of halls and chambers, but
it was singularly devoid of architectural beauty and presented
somewhat the appearance of a hotel. The Westover mansion was very
large and could accommodate scores of guests. It was surrounded with
so many buildings and outhouses that to visitors it seemed a veritable
little city.[112] Chastellux, who was a guest of the Byrds in 1782,
says that Westover surpassed all other homes in Virginia in the
magnificence of the buildings and the beauty of the situation.[113]

It was the interior of these mansions, however, that gave them their
chief claim to elegance. The stairways, the floors, the mantles were
of the finest wood and were finished in the most costly manner. In the
beautiful halls of Rosewell richly carved mahogany wainscotings and
capitals abounded.[114] At Monticello the two main halls were given an
air of richness and beauty by the curiously designed mantles, the hard
wood floors and the stately windows and doors. John Bernard, who
thought the Virginia mansions lacking in architectural beauty, stated
that internally they were palaces.

The furniture was in keeping with its surroundings. It was frequently
of hard wood, beautifully decorated with hand work. All the furniture,
except that of the plainest design, was imported from England, and
could be bought by the planters at a price very little above that paid
in London. Costly chairs, tables, book-cases, bedsteads, etc., were
found in the homes of all well-to-do men.

The Virginians seem to have had at this period a passion for silver
ware, and in their homes were found a great variety of articles made
of this metal. There were silver candle-sticks, silver snuffers,
silver decanters, silver snuff-boxes, silver basins. The dining table
on festive occasions groaned with the weight of silver utensils, for
goblets, pitchers, plates, spoons of silver were then brought forth
to do honor to the guests. The punch might be served in silver bowls
and dished out with silver ladles into silver cups; for the fruit
might be silver plates, for the tea silver pots. The silver plate at
Westover was mortgaged by William Byrd III to the value of £662. Among
other articles we find that ten candle-sticks brought £70, one
snuffer-stand £5, two large punch bowls £30, a punch strainer £1.10,
and a punch ladle £1.[115] Robert Carter, of Nomini Hall, was very
fond of fine silver. In 1774 he invested about £30 in a pair of
fashionable goblets, a pair of sauce-cups and a pair of decanter

In many homes were collections of pictures of great merit and value.
In the spacious halls of the mansions were hung the portraits of
ancestors that were regarded with reverential pride. The Westover
collection was perhaps the most valuable in the colony, containing
several dozen pictures, among them one by Titian, one by Rubens, and
portraits of several lords of England.[117] Mount Airy, the beautiful
home of the Tayloe family, contained many paintings, which were well
executed and set in elegant frames.[118] Although most of the pictures
in the homes of the aristocracy were imported from England, some were
painted in Virginia, for at times artists of talent came to the
colony. In 1735 a man named Bridges painted William Byrd's children.
It is thought also that it was he that painted the portrait of
Governor Spotswood and possibly several pictures of the Page

The use of coaches during the 17th century was not common. The
universal highways of that period were the rivers. Every planter owned
boats and used them in visiting, in attending church and in travelling
through the colony. As the plantations for many years did not extend
far back from the rivers' banks, there was no need of roads or
vehicles. And even when many settlements had been made beyond
tidewater, the condition of the roads was so bad that the use of
vehicles was often impracticable and riding was the common method of
travelling. As the colony became more thickly populated and the roads
were gradually improved, various kinds of carriages were introduced.
During Governor Spotswood's administration most families of any note
owned a coach, chariot, berlin or chaise.[120] By the middle of the
18th century their use was general throughout the entire colony.

The coaches in use at the time of the Revolution were elegant and very
costly. A bill for a post chaise which has come down from the year
1784 gives the following description of that vehicle. The chaise was
to be very handsome, the body to be carved and run with raised beads
and scrolls, the roof and upper panels to have plated mouldings and
head plates; on the door panels were to be painted Prince of Wales
ruffs with arms and crests in large handsome mantlings; the body was
to be highly varnished, the inside lined with superfine light colored
cloth and trimmed with raised Casoy laces; the sides stuffed and
quilted; the best polished plate glasses; mahogany shutters were to be
used, with plated frames and plated handles to the door; there were to
be double folding inside steps, a wainscoted trunk under the seat and
a carpet.[121]

Every gentleman of means at this time owned a chariot drawn by four
horses. Frequently six horses were used.[122] These animals were of
the finest breed and were selected for their size and beauty from the
crowded stables of the planters. The vehicles were attended by
liveried negroes, powdered and dignified. Mrs. Carter, of Nomini Hall,
had three waiting men for her coach; a driver, a coachman and a

In the matter of dress there seems, from the earliest days, to have
been a love of show and elegance. Inventories of the first half of the
17th century mention frequently wearing apparel that is surprisingly
rich. Thus Thomas Warnet, who died in 1629, possessed a pair of silk
stockings, a pair of red slippers, a sea-green scarf edged with gold
lace, a felt hat, a black beaver, a doublet of black camlet and a gold
belt and sword.[124] At times these early immigrants wore highly
colored waistcoats, plush or broad cloth trousers, camlet coats with
lace ruffles. This gaudy apparel must have seemed odd amid the rough
surroundings of the new colony. Not all the wealthy planters, however,
indulged in the weakness of costly dress. Many of the richest men of
the 17th century, obedient to the spirit of frugality which so often
marks the merchant, dressed plainly.

At the time of the Revolution the use of costly apparel had become
general. The usual costume of both men and women at festivals or balls
was handsome and stately. Joseph Lane, while visiting at Nomini Hall,
was dressed in black superfine broadcloth, laced ruffles, black silk
stockings and gold laced hat.[125] Probably few even of the wealthiest
aristocrats could approach in matters of dress Lord Fairfax. The
inventory of this gentleman's estate shows an astonishing variety of
gaudy clothes. He possessed a suit of brown colored silk, a suit of
velvet, a suit of blue cloth, a suit of drab cloth, a green damask
laced waistcoat, a scarlet laced waistcoat, a pink damask laced
waistcoat, a gold tissue waistcoat, a brown laced coat, a green silk
waistcoat, a pair of black velvet breeches, and a pair of scarlet
plush breeches.[126]

As might be expected, reading and study were not common among the
early settlers. The rough life in the woods of the New World, the
struggle to drive back the Indians and to build up civilization left
no time for mental culture. During the first half of the 17th century
books are mentioned very rarely in the records. As time passed,
however, the planters began to build up libraries of considerable size
in their homes. The lack of educational facilities and the isolation
of the plantations made it necessary for each gentleman to trust to
his own collection of books if he desired to broaden and cultivate his
mind. Moreover, the use of overseers which became general in the 18th
century left to him leisure for reading. Many of the libraries in the
mansions of the aristocracy were surprisingly large and well selected.
Some of Col. Richard Lee's books were, Wing's Art of Surveying,
Scholastical History, Greek Grammar, Caesaris Comentarii, Praxis
Medicinae, Hesoid, Tulley's Orations, Virgil, Ovid, Livius, Diogenes,
Sallust, History of the World, Warrs of Italy, etc.[127] In the
library of Ralph Wormeley were found Glaber's Kimistry, The State of
the United Provinces, The Colledges of Oxford, Kings of England, The
Laws of Virginia, The Present State of England, Ecclesiastical History
in Latin, Lattin Bible, Skill in Music, A Description of the Persian
Monarchy, Plutoch's Lives, etc.[128] Many of these volumes were great
folios bound in the most expensive way and extensively illustrated.

The planters even in the 17th century were not insensible to the
refining and elevating influence of music. Inventories and wills show
that many homes contained virginals, hand lyres, violins, flutes and
haut boys. The cornet also was in use.[129] In the 18th century the
study of music became general throughout the colony and even the
classical compositions were performed often with some degree of skill.
Despite the difficulty of securing teachers, music became a customary
part of the education of ladies. Many of the planters themselves in
their leisure moments indulged in this delightful amusement. Robert
Carter had in his home in Westmoreland County a harpsichord, a
piano-forte, an harmonica, a guitar and a flute, and at Williamsburg
an organ. He had a good ear, a very delicate touch, was indefatigable
in practicing and performed well on several instruments. Especially
was he fond of the harmonica, and spent much time in practicing upon
it. His skill is thus described by his tutor, "The music was charming!
The notes are clear and soft, they swell and are inexpressibly grand;
and either it is because the sounds are new, and therefore please me,
or it is the most captivating instrument I have ever heard. The sounds
very much resemble the human voice, and in my opinion they far exceed
even the swelling organ."[130] Thomas Jefferson, amid the cares of
statesmanship and the study of philosophy, found time for music. He
performed upon the violin and during the Revolutionary War, when the
prisoners captured at Saratoga were encamped near his home, he took
great delight in playing with a British officer, who could accompany
him upon the guitar.

Dancing was indulged in by the Virginians from the earliest period.
Even when the immigrants lived in daily dread of the tomahawk of the
Indians, and when their homes were but log huts in the midst of the
forest, this form of amusement was not unknown. The music for dances
was at times furnished by negroes, who had acquired skill upon the
fiddle. There is evidence of the presence of dancing masters in the
colony even during the 17th century. One of these was Charles Cheate.
This man wandered through the colony for some time giving lessons, but
he was forced to flee from the country after the suppression of
Bacon's Rebellion, because of his attachment to the cause of the
insurgents. However, the sparseness of the population, the isolation
of the plantations, the lack of roads made festive gatherings
infrequent during the first century of the colony's existence. The
lack of towns made it necessary for dances to be held in private
houses, and distances were so great that it was frequently impossible
for many guests to assemble. Moreover, at this period the residences
of the planter were too small either to allow room for dancing or to
accommodate the visitors, who must necessarily spend the night after
the close of the festivities. Not until the administration of Governor
Spotswood were these difficulties somewhat overcome. Then it was, that
the increasing wealth of the colony gave rise to a more brilliant
social life among the aristocracy. Hugh Jones declared in 1722 that at
the Governor's house at balls and assemblies were as good diversion,
as splendid entertainment, as fine an appearance as he had ever seen
in England.[131]

At the time of the Revolution dancing was so general that it had
become a necessary part of the education of both gentlemen and ladies,
and dancing schools were quite common. The masters travelled from
house to house and the pupils followed them, remaining as guests
wherever the school was being held. A Mr. Christian conducted such a
school in Westmoreland County in 1773. Fithian thus describes one of
his classes held at Nomini Hall, "There were present of young misses
about eleven, and seven young fellows, including myself. After
breakfast, we all retired into the dancing room, and after the
scholars had their lessons singly round Mr. Christian, very politely,
requested me to step a minuet.... There were several minuets danced
with great ease and propriety; after which the whole company joined in
country dances, and it was indeed beautiful to admiration to see such
a number of young persons, set off by dress to the best advantage,
moving easily, to the sound of well performed music, and with perfect
regularity.... The dance continued til two, we dined at half after
three ... soon after dinner we repaired to the dancing-room again; I
observed in the course of the lessons, that Mr. Christian is punctual,
and rigid in his discipline, so strict indeed that he struck two of
the young misses for a fault in the course of their performance, even
in the presence of the mother of one of them!"[132]

The balls of this period were surprisingly brilliant. The spacious
halls of the mansions afforded ample room for a large company and
frequently scores of guests would be present to take part in the
stately minuet or the gay Virginia reel. The visitors were expected to
remain often several days in the home of their host resuming the
dance at frequent intervals, and indulging in other forms of
amusement. Fithian thus describes a ball given by Richard Lee, of Lee
Hall, Westmoreland County. "We set away from Mr. Carter's at two; Mrs.
Carter and the young ladies in the chariot, ... myself on horseback.
As soon as I had handed the ladies out, I was saluted by Parson Smith;
I was introduced into a small room where a number of gentlemen were
playing cards ... to lay off my boots, riding-coat &c. Next I was
directed into the dining-room to see young Mr. Lee; he introduced me
to his father. With them I conversed til dinner, which came in at half
after four.... The dinner was as elegant as could be well expected
when so great an assembly were to be kept for so long a time. For
drink there was several sorts of wine, good lemon punch, toddy, cyder,
porter &c. About seven the ladies and gentlemen begun to dance in the
ball room, first minuets one round; second giggs; third reels; and
last of all country dances; tho' they struck several marches
occasionally. The music was a French horn and two violins. The ladies
were dressed gay, and splendid, and when dancing, their skirts and
brocades rustled and trailed behind them! But all did not join in the
dance for there were parties in rooms made up, some at cards; some
drinking for pleasure; ... some singing 'Liberty Songs' as they called
them in which six, eight, ten or more would put their heads near
together and roar.... At eleven Mrs. Carter call'd upon me to go."
There were seventy guests at this ball, most of whom remained three
days at Lee Hall.[133]

Side by side with growth in luxury, in refinement and culture may be
noted a marked change in the daily occupation of the wealthy planters.
In the 17th century they were chiefly interested in building up large
fortunes and had little time for other things. They were masters of
the art of trading, and their close bargaining and careful attention
to detail made them very successful. Practically all of the fortunes
that were so numerous among the aristocracy in the 18th century were
accumulated in the colony, and it was the business instinct and
industry of the merchant settlers that made their existence possible.
The leading men in the colony in the last half of the 17th century
toiled ceaselessly upon their plantations, attending to the minutest
details of the countless enterprises that it was necessary for them to
conduct. They were the nation builders of Virginia. It is true that
they spent much of their energy upon political matters, but this was
to them but another way of increasing their fortunes. Altogether
neither their inclinations, nor the conditions in which they lived,
inclined them to devote much of their time to acquiring culture and

But the descendants of these early planters enjoyed to the full the
fruits of the energy and ability of their fathers. As time passed,
there grew up in the colony the overseer system, which relieved the
great property owners of the necessity of regulating in person all the
affairs of their estates. Even before the end of the 17th century many
men possessed plantations in various parts of the colony and it became
then absolutely necessary to appoint capable men to conduct those that
were remote from the home of the planter. At times the owner would
retain immediate control of the home plantation, which often served as
a center of industry for the remainder of the estate, but even this
in the 18th century was not infrequently intrusted to the care of an
overseer. These men were selected from the class of small farmers and
many proved to be so capable and trustworthy that they took from their
employers' shoulders all care and responsibility. They were well paid
when their management justified it and cases were frequent where
overseers remained for many years in the service of one man.

This system gave to the planters far greater leisure than they had
possessed in the earlier part of the colony's existence, and they made
use of this leisure to cultivate their minds and to diversify their
interests. It is only in this way that we can fully explain why the
aristocrat surrounded himself with a large library, indulged in the
delicate art of music, beautified his home with handsome paintings, and
revelled in the dance, in races or the fox hunt. This too explains why
there grew up amid the plantations that series of political
philosophers that proved so invaluable to the colonies in the hour of
need. Jefferson, Henry, Madison, Marshall, Randolph, would never have
been able to give birth to the thoughts that made them famous had they
been tied down to the old practical life of the planters of early days.
The old instinct had been distinctly lacking in the philosophical
spirit. As Hugh Jones says, the planters were not given to prying into
the depths of things, but were "ripe" for the management of their
affairs. With the greater leisure of the 18th century this spirit
changed entirely, and we find an inclination among the aristocrats to
go to the bottom of every matter that came to their attention. Thus
John Randolph was not only a practical statesman and a great orator, he
was a profound thinker; although Thomas Jefferson was twice president
of the United States, and was the author of the Declaration of
Independence, it is as the originator of a political creed that he has
the best claim to fame; John Marshall, amid the exacting duties of the
Supreme Court, found time for the study of philosophy. In men less
noted was the same spirit. Thus Robert Carter of Nomini Hall in his
love for music, did not content himself with acquiring the ability to
perform on various instruments, but pried into the depths of the art,
studying carefully the theory of thorough bass.[134] He himself
invented an appliance for tuning harpsichords.[135] This gentleman was
also fond of the study of law, while he and his wife often read
philosophy together.[136] Fithian speaks of him as a good scholar, even
in classical learning, and a remarkable one in English grammar.
Frequently the gentlemen of this period spent much time in the study of
such matters as astronomy, the ancient languages, rhetoric, history,

It is a matter of regret that this movement did not give birth to a
great literature. Doubtless it would have done so had the Virginia
planters been students only. Practical politics still held their
attention, however, and it is in the direction of governmental affairs
that the new tendency found its vent. The writings of this period that
are of most value are the letters and papers of the great political
leaders--Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others. Of poets there
were none, but in their place is a series of brilliant orators.
Pendleton, Henry, and Randolph gave vent to the heroic sentiments of
the age in sentences that burned with eloquence.

The change that was taking place in the daily thoughts and occupations
of the planters is strikingly illustrated by the lives of the three
men that bore the name of William Byrd. Father, son and grandson are
typical of the periods in which each lived. The first of the name was
representative of the last quarter of the 17th century. He possessed
to an extraordinary degree the instinct of the merchant, taking quick
advantage of any opportunity for trade that the colony afforded and
building up by his foresight, energy and ability a fortune of great
size. Not only did he carry on the cultivation of tobacco with
success, but he conducted with his neighbors a trade in a great
variety of articles. In his stores were to be found duffels and cotton
goods, window glass, lead and solder, pills, etc. At one time he
ordered from Barbadoes 1,200 gallons of rum, 3,000 pounds of
"muscovodo sugar," 200 pounds of white sugar, three tons of molasses,
one cask of lime-juice and two-hundredweight of ginger. A handsome
profit often came to him through the importing and sale of white
servants. In a letter to England he writes, "If you could send me
six, eight or ten servants by the first ship, and the procurement
might not be too dear, they would much assist in purchasing some of
the best crops they seldom being to be bought without servants." Byrd
was also interested in the Indian trade. His plantation at Henrico was
well located for this business and he often sent out traders for miles
into the wilderness to secure from the savages the furs and hides that
were so valued in England. He was provident even to stinginess and we
find him sending his wig to England to be made over and his old sword
to be exchanged for a new one. Although Byrd took a prominent part in
the political life of the day, it is evident that in this as in other
things he was predominated by the spirit of gain, for he took pains to
secure two of the most lucrative public offices in the colony. For
years he was auditor and receiver-general, receiving for both a large
yearly income.[137] At his death his estate was very large, the land
he owned being not less than 26,000 acres.

William Byrd II was also typical of the period in which he lived. He
was still the business man, but he lacked the talent for close
bargaining and the attention to details that characterized his father.
His business ventures were bold and well conceived, but they did not
meet with a great measure of success. His iron mines were never very
productive, while his Indian trade met with frequent and disastrous
interruptions from hostile tribes upon the frontier. Nor did he
confine his attention to business matters. He was intensely interested
in every thing pertaining to the welfare of the colony. He was one of
the commissioners that ran the dividing line between Virginia and
North Carolina. His writings show a brightness and wit that mark him
as the best author the colony possessed during the first half of the
18th century. In his every act we see that he is more the Cavalier
than his father, less the merchant.

The third William Byrd was entirely lacking in business ability. His
mismanagement and his vices kept him constantly in debt, and for a
while it seemed probable that he would have to sell his beautiful home
at Westover. At one time he owed as much as £5,561 to two English
merchants, whose importunities so embarrassed him that he was forced
to mortgage one hundred and fifty-nine slaves on two of his
plantations, and even his silver plate. These financial troubles were
brought on him partly because of his fondness for gambling. Anbury
says of him, "Being infatuated with play, his affairs, at his death,
were in a deranged state. The widow whom he left with eight children,
has, by prudent management, preserved out of the wreck of his princely
fortune, a beautiful home, at a place called Westover, upon James
River, some personal property, a few plantations, and a number of
slaves."[138] Another of Byrd's favorite amusements was racing and he
possessed many beautiful and swift horses. He died by his own hand in
1777. Despite his dissipation and his weakness, he was a man of many
admirable qualities. In the affairs of the colony he was prominent for
years, distinguishing himself both in political life and as a soldier.
He was a member of the Council and was one of the judges in the
parsons' case of 1763, in which he showed his love of justice by
voting on the side of the clergy. In the French and Indian War, he
commanded one of the two regiments raised to protect the frontier
from the savage inroads of the enemy, acquitting himself with much
credit. He was a kind father, a cultured gentleman, and a gallant
soldier; an excellent example of the Cavalier of the period preceding
the Revolution, whose noble tendencies were obscured by the excess to
which he carried the vices that were then so common in Virginia.

The story of the Byrd family is but the story of the Virginia
aristocracy. A similar development is noted in nearly all of the
distinguished families of the colony, for none could escape the
influences that were moulding them. The Carters, the Carys, the
Bollings, the Lees, the Bookers, the Blands at the time of the
Revolution were as unlike their ancestors of Nicholson's day as was
William Byrd III unlike his grandfather, the painstaking son of the
English goldsmith.

Such were the effects upon the Virginia aristocracy of the economic,
social and political conditions of the colony. There can be no doubt
that the Virginia gentleman of the time of Washington and Jefferson,
in his self-respect, his homage to womanhood, his sense of honor, his
power of command, in all that made him unique was but the product of
the conditions which surrounded him. And although the elegance and
refinement of his social life, the culture and depths of his mind can,
to some extent, be ascribed to the survival of English customs and the
constant intercourse with the mother country, these too were
profoundly influenced by conditions in the colony.


[1] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 12.

[2] Nar. of Early Va., p. 125.

[3] Ibid., pp. 140-141.

[4] Ibid., pp. 159-160.

[5] Ibid., p. 192.

[6] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. I, p. 154. The facts here
presented form a complete refutation of the assertion, so frequently
repeated by Northern historians, that the Virginia aristocracy had its
origin in this immigration of dissipated and worthless gentlemen. The
settlers of 1607, 1608 and 1609 were almost entirely swept out of
existence, and not one in fifty of these "gallants" survived to found
families. Most of the leading planters of Virginia came from later
immigrants, men of humbler rank, but of far more sterling qualities
than the adventurers of Smith's day.

[7] Nar. of Early Va., p. 415.

[8] Neill, Va. Carolorum.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Va. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, p. 317.

[14] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 182.

[15] Ibid., Vol. II, p. 179.

[16] Ibid., Vol. II, p. 170.

[17] As late as the year 1775 we find Dr. Samuel Johnson, with his
usual dislike of America, repeating the old error. In speaking of the
rebellious colonists, he says: "Sir, they are a race of convicts, and
ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."
Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, Temple Classics, Vol. III, p. 174.

[18] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, pp. 380, 366.

[19] Ibid., Vol. II, p. 377.

[20] Neill, Va. Carolorum.

[21] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, pp. 372, 377, 574.

[22] Bruce, Soc. Hist. of Va., p. 164; Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, p.

[23] Wm. and Mary Quar., Vol. IV, p. 39.

[24] Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 153.

[25] Va. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, p. 366.

[26] Bruce, Soc. Hist. of Va., p. 91.

[27] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 16.

[28] Bruce, Soc. Hist. of Va., pp. 18 and 19.

[29] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 215.

[30] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 217.

[31] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 187.

[32] Bruce, Soc. Hist. of Va., p. 83.

[33] Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. IV, p. 29; Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 173; Bruce,
Soc. Life of Va., p. 85; Jones' Virginia.

[34] Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. VIII, p. 243.

[35] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, pp. 359, 366, 453; Vol.
XII, pp. 170, 173; Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. IV, pp. 27, 39; Bruce, Soc.
Life of Va.

[36] Jones' Virginia.

[37] Thinking Virginians of today cannot but be gratified that the old
erroneous belief concerning the origin of the aristocracy is being
swept away. Why it should ever have been a matter of pride with old
families to point to the English nobility of the 17th century as the
class from which they sprang is not easy to understand. The lords of
that day were usually corrupt, unscrupulous and quite unfit to found
vigorous families in the "wilderness of America." How much better it
is to know that the aristocracy of the colony was a product of
Virginia itself! The self-respect, the power of command, the
hospitality, the chivalry of the Virginians were not borrowed from
England, but sprang into life on the soil of the Old Dominion. Amid
the universal admiration and respect for Washington, Jefferson,
Madison and Marshall, with what pride can the Virginian point to them
as the products of his native state!

[38] Bassett, Writings of Wm. Byrd, lxxxiii.

[39] Fithian, Journal and Letters, p. 128.

[40] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 17.

[41] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 221.

[42] Force, Hist. Tracts, Vol. III.

[43] The proofs of this statement are here omitted, as they are given
at much length on pages 96 to 98 of this volume.

[44] Virginia's Cure.

[45] Abst. Proceedings Va. Co. of London, Vol. I, p. 154.

[46] Abst. Proceedings Va. Co. of London, Vol. I, p. 160.

[47] The word seating is used here in the sense of occupying.

[48] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. V, p. 285.

[49] An account of Virginia in 1676 written by Mrs. Thomas Slover
says, "The planters' houses are built all along the sides of the
rivers for the conveniency of shipping."

[50] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. IV, p. 261.

[51] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, p. 56.

[52] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II, p. 172.

[53] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. II, p. 387.

[54] McDonald Papers, Vol. VI, p. 213.

[55] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, p. 398.

[56] Journal of Council, McDonald Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 457-566.

[57] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. IV, p. 255.

[58] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, p. 56.

[59] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. IV, p. 267.

[60] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. IX, p. 277.

[61] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VI, p. 367.

[62] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VI, p. 3.

[63] Jones' Virginia, p. 36.

[64] Rowland, Life of Geo. Mason, Vol. I, pp. 101, 102; compare
Fithian, Journal and Letters, pp. 67, 104, 130, 131, 138, 217, 259;
Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. XI, p. 62; Fiske, Old Va. and Her
Neighbors, Vol. II, pp. 208, 214, 217; Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va. Vol.
II, pp. 411, 418.

[65] Force Hist. Tracts, Vol. II, Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol.
VI, p. 267.

[66] Jones' Va., p. 49.

[67] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 215.

[68] Bruce, Soc. Life of Va., p. 133.

[69] Jour. of Burg. 1688, pp. 81, 82; Sainsbury, Calendar of State
Pap., Vol. IV, p. 252; McDonald Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 437-441.

[70] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VIII, p. 56.

[71] Compare Voyages dans l'Amérique Septentrionale, Vol. II, p. 136.
"On n'en pourra pas douter, si l'on considere qu'une autre cause agit
encore en concurrence avec la premiere (heredity): je veux parler de
l'esclavage; ... parce que l'empire qu'on exerce fur eux, entretient
la vanité & la paresse."

[72] Page, The Old South, p. 157.

[73] Compare Jour. of Coun. 1748, pp. 17, 18, and 19.

[74] Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. VI, p. 13.

[75] Anbury, p. 329.

[76] Guizot, Civ. in Europe, p. 117.

[77] Jour. of Bour. Apl. 1696.

[78] Marshall, Life of George Washington.

[79] Dinwiddie Papers, Vol. II, p. 427.

[80] Pict. Hist. of Eng., Vol. IV, p. 789.

[81] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 216.

[82] Brown, First Rep. in America, p. 582.

[83] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VIII, p. 69.

[84] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. II, p. 96; Bruce, Soc. Life of
Va., p. 246.

[85] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. III, p. 89. Compare McDonald
Papers, Vol. V, p. 35.

[86] Guizot, Hist. of Civ. in Europe, p. 106.

[87] Hening, Statutes, Vol. II, p. 66.

[88] Hening, Statutes, Vol. III, p. 268, Vol. V, p. 528.

[89] Force, Hist. Tracts, Vol. I, Our Late Troubles, p. 8.

[90] Force, Hist. Tracts, Vol. I, Ingram's Proceedings, p. 34.

[91] Meade, Vol. II, pp. 180, 181.

[92] Bernard, Retrospections of America, p. 150.

[93] Bagby, The Old Va. Gentleman, p. 125.

[94] Hening's Statutes, Vol. I, p. 391.

[95] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. III, pp. 136, 141, 142.

[96] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. III, p. 143.

[97] Sainsbury, Cal. of State Pap., Vol. V, pp. 334, 336; 360-2.

[98] Sainsbury, Cal. of State Pap., Vol. V, pp. 341-5.

[99] Sainsbury, Cal. of State Pap., Vol. V, pp. 260-2.

[100] Sainsbury, Cal. of State Pap., Vol. V, pp. 360-2.

[101] Sainsbury, Cal. of State Pap., Vol. V, pp. 360-2.

[102] Sainsbury, Cal. of State Pap., Vol. IX, pp. 131-2.

[103] Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. IX, p. 194.

[104] Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. VI, p. 184.

[105] Page, The Old South, p. 158.

[106] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va. Vol. II, p. 145-158.

[107] Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 160-161.

[108] Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 163-166.

[109] Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 177-179.

[110] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, pp. 165-175.

[111] Fithian, Journal and Letters, pp. 127-131.

[112] Voyages dans l'Amérique Septentrionale, Tome II, p. 128.

[113] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VI, p. 347.

[114] Meade, Vol. II, p. 331.

[115] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. IX, p. 82.

[116] Fithian, Journal and Letters, p. 251.

[117] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VI, p. 350.

[118] Fithian, Journal and Letters, p. 148.

[119] Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. I, p. 123; Vol. II, p. 121.

[120] Jones' Virginia.

[121] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog. Vol. VIII, p. 334.

[122] Fithian, Journals and Letters, p. 58.

[123] Ibid., p. 75.

[124] Bruce, Soc. Life in Va., p. 164.

[125] Fithian, Journal and Letters, p. 113.

[126] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog. Vol. VIII.

[127] Wm. & Mary Quar. Vol. II, p. 247, 248.

[128] Wm. & Mary Quar. Vol. II, p. 172.

[129] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va. Vol. II, p. 175; Soc. Life of Va. p.

[130] Bruce, Soc. Life of Va., pp. 181-185.

[131] Jones' Va.

[132] Fithian, Journal and Letters, p. 63.

[133] Ibid., pp. 94-97.

[134] Fithian, Journal and Letters, pp. 59 and 83.

[135] Ibid., p. 77.

[136] Ibid., pp. 83 and 90.

[137] Bassett, Writings of Wm. Byrd., Intro. XXV.

[138] Anbury, Vol. II, p. 329.



Like the aristocracy the middle class in Virginia developed within the
colony. It originated from free families of immigrants of humble means
and origin, and from servants that had served their term of indenture,
and its character was the result of climatic, economic, social and
political conditions. There is no more interesting chapter in the
history of Virginia than the development of an intelligent and
vigorous middle class out of the host of lowly immigrants that came to
the colony in the 17th century. Splendid natural opportunities, the
law of the survival of the fittest, and a government in which a
representative legislature took an important part coöperated to
elevate them. For many years after the founding of Jamestown the
middle class was so small and was so lacking in intelligence that it
could exercise but little influence in governmental affairs, and the
governors and the large planters ruled the colony almost at will.
During the last years of the 17th century it had grown in numbers, had
acquired something of culture and had been drilled so effectively in
political affairs that it could no longer be disregarded by governors
and aristocracy.

In the development of the middle class four distinct periods may be
noted. First, the period of formation, from 1607 to 1660, when, from
the free immigrants of humble means and from those who had entered the
colony as servants and whose term of indenture had expired, was
gradually emerging a class of small, independent farmers. Second, a
period of oppression, extending from 1660 to 1676. In these years,
when William Berkeley was for the second time the chief executive of
the colony, the poor people were so oppressed by the excessive burdens
imposed upon them by the arbitrary old governor and his favorites that
their progress was seriously retarded. Heavy taxes levied by the
Assembly for encouraging manufactures, for building houses at
Jamestown, for repairing forts, bore with great weight upon the small
farmers and in many cases brought them to the verge of ruin. During
this period the evil effects of the Navigation Acts were felt most
acutely in the colony, robbing the planters of the profit of their
tobacco and causing suffering and discontent. This period ends with
Bacon's Rebellion, when the down-trodden commons of the colony rushed
to arms, striking out blindly against their oppressors, and bringing
fire and sword to all parts of Virginia. The third period, from 1676
to 1700, was one of growth. The poor people still felt the effects of
the unjust Navigation Acts, but they were no longer oppressed at will
by their governors and the aristocracy. Led by discontented members of
the wealthy planter class, they made a gallant and effective fight in
the House of Burgesses for their rights, and showed that thenceforth
they had to be reckoned a powerful force in the government of the
colony. The representatives of the people kept a vigilant watch upon
the expenditures, and blocked all efforts to impose unjust and
oppressive taxes. During this last quarter of the 17th century the
middle class grew rapidly in numbers and in prosperity. The fourth
period, from 1700 to the Revolution, is marked by a division in the
middle class. At the beginning of the 18th century, there was no
lower class corresponding with the vast peasantry of Europe. All
whites, except the indentured servants and a mere handful of freemen
whose indolence doomed them to poverty, lived in comparative comfort
and ease. After the introduction of slaves, however, this state of
affairs no longer existed and there grew up a class of poor whites,
that eked out a wretched and degraded life. On the other hand planters
of the middle class that had acquired some degree of prosperity
benefited greatly by the introduction of slaves, for it lowered the
cost of labor to such an extent that they were able to cultivate their
fields more cheaply than before. At the time of the Revolutionary War
the distinction had become marked, and the prosperous middle class
farmers were in no way allied to the degraded poor whites.

During the first seventeen years of the colony's existence the
character of immigration was different from that of succeeding
periods. Virginia was at this time ruled by a private trading company.
This corporation, which was composed largely of men of rank and
ability, kept a strict watch upon the settlers, and excluded many
whom they thought would make undesirable colonists.[139] As a
consequence, the class of people that came over before 1624 were more
enlightened than the mass of the settlers during the remainder of the
century. The London Company looked upon the whole matter as a business
affair, and they knew that they could never expect returns from their
enterprise if they filled their plantations with vagabonds and
criminals. Those that were intrusted with the selection of settlers
were given explicit instructions to accept none but honest and
industrious persons. When it was found that these precautions were not
entirely effective, still stricter measures were adopted. It was
ordered by the Company in 1622 that before sailing for Virginia each
emigrant should give evidence of good character and should register
his age, country, profession and kindred.[140] So solicitous were they
in regard to this matter that when, in 1619, James I ordered them to
transport to Virginia a number of malefactors whose care was
burdensome to the state, they showed such a reluctance to obey that
they incurred the king's displeasure.[141]

What tended strongly to attract a desirable class of men in the
earliest years of the colony was the repeated attempt to establish
manufactures. Until the charter of the London Company was revoked,
that body never ceased to send over numbers of skilled artisans and
mechanics. In 1619, one hundred and fifty workmen from Warwickshire
and Stafford were employed to set up iron works on the James.[142]
Repeated attempts were made to foster the silk industry, and on more
than one occasion men practiced in the culture of the silk worm came
to Virginia.[143] An effort was made to start the manufacture of
glass,[144] while pipe staves and clapboards were produced in
considerable quantities.[145] Moreover, numerous tradesmen of all
kinds were sent to the colony. Among the settlers of this period were
smiths, carpenters, bricklayers, turners, potters and husbandmen.[146]
With the year 1624 there came a change for the worse in the
immigration, for the lack of the Company's paternal care over the
infant colony was keenly felt after the king undertook personally the
direction of affairs. James I and, after his death, Charles I were
desirous that Virginia should undertake various forms of manufacture,
and frequently gave directions to the governors to foster industrial
pursuits among the settlers, for they considered it a matter of
reproach that the people should devote themselves almost exclusively
to the cultivation of tobacco, but neither monarch was interested
enough in the matter to send over mechanics and artisans as the
Company had done, and we find after 1624 few men of that type among
the newcomers.[147] The immigration that occurred under the London
Company is, however, not of great importance, for the mortality among
the colonists was so great that but a small percentage of those that
came over in the early years survived the dangers that they were
compelled to face. In 1622, after the memorable massacre of that year,
there were but 1258 persons in the colony and during the next few
years there was no increase in the population.[148]

The immigration to Virginia of free families of humble means began in
the early years of the colony's existence, and continued throughout
the 17th century. The lowness of wages and the unfavorable economic
conditions that existed in England induced many poor men to seek their
fortunes in the New World.[149] The law which allotted to every
settler fifty acres of land for each member of his family insured all
that could pay for their transportation a plantation far larger than
they could hope to secure at home.[150] Thus it was that many men of
the laboring class or of the small tenant class, whose limited means
barely sufficed to pay for their passage across the ocean, came to
Virginia to secure farms of their own. The number of small grants in
the first half of the 17th century is quite large. Frequently patents
were made out for tracts of land varying from fifty to five hundred
acres in extent to immigrants that had entered the colony as
freemen.[151] The law allowed them to include in the head-rights of
their patents their wives, children, relatives, friends or servants
that came with them, and some immigrants in this way secured
plantations of considerable size. Thus in 1637 three hundred acres in
Henrico County were granted to Joseph Royall, "due: 50 acres for his
own personal adventure, 50 acres for the transportation of his first
wife Thomasin, 50 acres for the transportation of Ann, his now wife,
50 for the transportation of his brother Henry, and 100 for the
transportation of two persons, Robt. Warrell and Jon. Wells."[152]
These peasant immigrants sometimes prospered in their new homes and
increased the size of their plantations by the purchase of the
head-rights of other men, and the cheapness of land in the colony made
it possible for them to secure estates of considerable size. It is
probable that the average holding of the small farmers of this period
was between three and four hundred acres.[153]

Owing to the demand for servants and the cost of transporting them to
the colony, it was seldom that any other than wealthy planters could
afford to secure them. The wills of the first half of the 17th century
show that few of the smaller planters even when they had attained a
fair degree of prosperity made use of servant labor. Thus there was in
Virginia at this period a class of men who owned their own land and
tilled it entirely with their own hands. This condition of affairs
continued until the influx of negroes, which began about the year
1680, so diminished the cost of labor that none but the smallest
proprietors were dependent entirely upon their own exertions for the
cultivation of their fields.[154]

These men, like the wealthy planters, raised tobacco for exportation,
but they also planted enough corn for their own consumption. Their
support was largely from cattle and hogs, which were usually allowed
to wander at large, seeking sustenance in the woods or upon
unpatented land. The owners branded them in order to make
identification possible.[155] Some of the small farmers owned but one
cow and a few hogs, but others acquired numbers of the animals. The
testament of Edward Wilmoth, of Isle of Wight County, drawn in 1647,
is typical of the wills of that period. "I give," he says, "unto my
wife ... four milch cows, a steer, and a heifer that is on Lawns Creek
side, and a young yearling bull. Also I give unto my daughter Frances
a yearling heifer. Also I give unto my son John Wilmoth a cow calf,
and to my son Robert Wilmoth a cow calf."[156]

The patent rolls, some of which have been preserved to the present
day, show that the percentage of free immigrants to the colony was
quite appreciable during the years immediately following the downfall
of the London Company. There are on record 501 patents that were
issued between the dates 1628 and 1637, and in connection with them
are mentioned, either as recipients of land or as persons transported
to the colony, 2,675 names. Of these 336 are positively known to have
come over as freemen, and most of them as heads of families. There are
245 others who were probably freemen, although this has not yet been
proved. The remainder are persons whose transportation charges were
paid by others, including indentured servants, negroes, wives,
children, etc. Thus it is quite certain that of the names on this list
over one fourth were those of free persons, who came as freemen to
Virginia and established themselves as citizens of the colony.[157]
Although the patent rolls that have been preserved are far from
complete, there is no reason to suspect that they are not fairly
representative of the whole, and we may assume that the percentage of
free families that came to the colony in this period was by no means
small. As, however, the annual number of immigrants was as yet small
and the mortality was very heavy, the total number of men living in
Virginia in 1635 who had come over as freemen could not have been very
large. The total population at that date was 5,000, and it is probable
that at least 3,000 of these had come to the colony as servants.

After 1635 the percentage of free settlers became much smaller. This
was due largely to the fact that at this time the immigration of
indentured servants to Virginia increased very much. Secretary Kemp,
who was in office during Governor Harvey's administration, stated that
of hundreds of people that were arriving nearly all were brought in as
merchandise.[158] So great was the influx of these servants, that the
population tripled between 1635 and 1649. It is certain, however, that
at no period during the 17th century did freemen cease coming to the

With the exception of the merchants and other well-to-do men that
formed the basis of the aristocracy, the free immigrants were ignorant
and crude. But few of them could read and write, and many even of the
most prosperous, being unable to sign their names to their wills, were
compelled to make their mark to give legal force to their
testaments.[159] Some of them acquired considerable property and
became influential in their counties, but this was due rather to rough
qualities of manhood that fitted them for the life in the forests of
the New World, than to education or culture.

The use of the indentured servant by the Virginia planters was but the
result of the economic conditions of the colony. Even in the days of
the London Company the settlers had turned their attention to the
raising of tobacco, for they found that the plant needed but little
care, that it was admirably suited to the soil, and that it brought a
handsome return. Naturally it soon became the staple product of the
colony. The most active efforts of the Company and all the commands of
King James and King Charles were not sufficient to turn men from its
cultivation to less lucrative pursuits. Why should they devote
themselves to manufacture when they could, with far greater profit,
exchange their tobacco crop for the manufactured goods of England? It
was found that but two things were essential to the growth of the
plant--abundance of land and labor. The first of these could be had
almost for the asking. Around the colony was a vast expanse of
territory that needed only the woodman's axe to transform it into
fertile fields, and the poorest man could own a plantation that in
England would have been esteemed a rich estate. Labor, on the other
hand, was exceedingly scarce. The colony itself could furnish but a
limited supply, for few were willing to work for hire when they could
easily own farms of their own. The native Americans of this region
could not be made to toil in the fields for the white man, as the
aborigines of Mexico and the West Indies were made to toil for the
Spanish, for they were of too warlike and bold a spirit. Destruction
would have been more grateful to them than slavery. Their haughtiness
and pride were such that in their intercourse with the English they
would not brook the idea of inferiority. No thought could be
entertained of making them work in the fields. So the planters were
forced to turn to the mother country. As early as 1620 they sent
urgent requests for a supply of laborers, which they needed much more
than artisans or tradesmen. The Company, although it did not
relinquish its plan of establishing manufactures, was obliged to yield
somewhat to this demand, and sent to the planters a number of
indentured servants.[160] Thus early began that great stream of
laborers, flowing from England to Virginia, that kept up without
interruption for more than a century.

From the first the indenture system was in vogue. Circumstances made
this necessary, for had no obligations been put upon the immigrants to
work for a certain number of years in servitude, they would have
secured tracts of ground for themselves and set themselves up as
independent planters, as soon as they arrived in the country. It was
found to be impossible to establish a class of free laborers. Also the
system had its advantages for the immigrant. The voyage to the colony,
so long and so expensive, was the chief drawback to immigration.
Thousands of poor Englishmen, who could hardly earn enough money at
home to keep life in their bodies, would eagerly have gone to the New
World, had they been able to pay for their passage. Under the
indenture system this difficulty was removed, for anyone could secure
free transportation provided he were willing to sacrifice, for a few
years, his personal freedom.

And, despite the English love of liberty, great numbers availed
themselves of this opportunity. There came to Virginia, during the
period from 1635 to 1680, annually from 1000 to 1600 servants. The
immigration in the earlier years seems to have been nearly if not
fully as great as later in the century. During the year ending March
1636 sixteen hundred people came over, most of whom were undoubtedly
servants.[161] In 1670 Governor Berkeley estimated the annual
immigration of servants at 1500.[162] But we need no better evidence
that the stream at no time slackened during this period than the fact
that the demand for them remained constant. So long as the planter
could obtain no other labor for his tobacco fields, the great need of
the colony was for more servants, and able-bodied laborers always
brought a handsome price in the Virginia market. Col. William Byrd I
testified that servants were the most profitable import to the
colony.[163] The fact that the term of service was in most cases
comparatively short made it necessary for the planter to repeople his
estate at frequent intervals. The period of indenture was from four to
seven years, except in the case of criminals who sometimes served for
life, and without this constant immigration the plantations would have
been deserted. Thus in 1671, when the population of the colony was
40,000, the number of servants was but 6,000.[164] Nor was there any
sign of slackening in the stream until the last years of the century,
when there came a great increase in the importation of negro slaves.
As soon as it became practicable to secure enough Africans to do the
work of the servants, the need for the latter became less pressing.
For many reasons the slave was more desirable. He could withstand
better the heat of the summer sun in the fields, he was more
tractable, he served for life and could not desert his master after a
few years of service as could the servant. We find, then, that after
1680, the importation of servants decreased more and more, until, in
the middle of the 18th century, it died out entirely.

Thus it will be seen that the number of indentured servants that were
brought to the colony of Virginia is very large. The most conservative
estimate will place the figure at 80,000, and there is every reason
to believe that this is much too low. Now, if we consider the growth
of population in conjunction with these facts, it becomes evident that
the indentured servant was the most important factor in the settlement
of the colony. In 1671, according to the statement of Governor
Berkeley, there were but 40,000 people in the colony.[165] The
immigration of servants had then been in progress for fifty years, and
the number brought over must have exceeded the total population at
that date. Even after making deductions for the mortality among the
laborers in the tobacco fields, which in the first half of this
century was enormous, we are forced to the conclusion that the
percentage of those that came as freemen was small.

We have already seen that the larger part of the servants were men
that came over to work in the tobacco fields. Great numbers of these
were drawn from the rural districts of England, where the pitiful
condition of thousands of laborers made it easy to find recruits ready
to leave for Virginia. So low were the wages given the farm hands at
this period that their most excessive labor could hardly insure
enough to support life, and, after years of hard work, they were often
compelled to throw themselves upon charity in their old age. The
pittance that they received seldom made it possible for them to secure
food enough to sustain properly their arduous labors. Many worked for
fourteen pence a day, and those that were most favored earned two
shillings. The condition of the poorer class of workmen in the cities
was, if possible, worse than that of the agricultural laborers, for
economic conditions had combined with unwise laws to reduce them to
the verge of starvation. Those that had not some recognized trade were
compelled to labor incessantly for insufficient wages, and many were
forced into beggary and crime. They were clothed in rags and their
dwellings were both miserable and unsanitary. The number of those
dependent upon charity for subsistence was enormous. In Sheffield, in
1615, a third of the entire population was compelled to rely in part
on charity. No wonder these poor wretches were willing to sell their
liberty to go to the New World! They had the assurance that whatever
happened to them, their condition could not be altered much for the
worse. In Virginia there was a chance of improvement, at home they
were doomed to live lives of drudgery and misery.[166]

But not all the indentured servants came from this class. Some were
persons of culture, and, on rare occasions, of means. The word
"servant" did not at that time have the menial signification that it
has acquired in modern times, for it was applied to all that entered
upon a legal agreement to remain in the employment of another for a
prescribed time.[167] There are many instances of persons of gentle
blood becoming indentured servants to lawyers or physicians, in order
to acquire a knowledge of those professions.[168] All apprentices were
called servants. Tutors were sometimes brought over from England under
terms of indenture to instruct the children of wealthy planters in
courses higher than those offered by the local schools. Several
instances are recorded of gentlemen of large estates who are spoken of
as servants, but such cases are very rare.[169] What was of more
common occurrence was the entering into indenture of persons who had
become bankrupt. The severe English laws against debtors forced many
to fly from the country to escape imprisonment, and there could be no
surer way for them to evade their creditors than to place themselves
under the protection of some planter as a servant and to sail for
Virginia. How numerous was the debtor class in the colony is shown by
an act of the Assembly in 1642, which exempted from prosecution
persons that had fled from their creditors in England. The colonial
legislators declared openly that the failure to pass such a law would
have hazarded the desertion of a large part of the country.

At intervals large numbers of political prisoners were sent to
Virginia. During the civil wars in England, when the royal forces were
meeting defeat, many of the king's soldiers were captured, and many of
these were sold to the planters as servants. A large importation took
place after the defeat of Charles II at Worcester.[170] From 1653 to
1655 hundreds of unfortunate Irishmen suffered the consequence of
their resistance to the government of Cromwell by banishment to the
plantations.[171] After 1660, when the tables had been turned, and the
royalist party was once more in power, there set in a stream of
Commonwealth soldiers and nonconformists.[172] These were responsible
for a rising in the colony in 1663, that threatened to anticipate
Bacon's Rebellion by thirteen years.[173] The Scotch rebellion of 1678
was the occasion of another importation of soldiers. Finally, in 1685,
many of the wretches taken at the battle of Sedgemoor were sent to
Virginia, finding relief in the tobacco fields from the harshness of
their captors.[174]

These immigrations of political prisoners are of great importance.
They brought into Virginia a class of men much superior to the
ordinary laborer, for most of them were guilty only of having resisted
the party in power, and many were patriots in the truest sense of the
word, suffering for principles that they believed essential to the
welfare of their country.

We have already seen that under the London Company of Virginia few
criminals were sent to the colony. After the dissolution of that body
there was quite as great strictness in regard to the matter. As the
Company had feared to fill the country with malefactors, knowing that
it would ruin the enterprise in which they had expended so much time
and money, so, in later years, the Virginia people were solicitous of
the character of those that were to be their neighbors. They were firm
in demanding that no "jailbirds" be sent them. On more than one
occasion, when persons of ill repute arrived, they at once shipped
them back to England. There existed, however, in the mother country a
feeling that it was but proper to use Virginia as a dumping ground for
criminals, and the magistrates from time to time insisted on shipping
objectionable persons. But it is certain that the percentage of felons
among the servants was not large. At one period only were they sent
over in numbers great enough to make themselves felt as a menace to
the peace of the colony. After the Restoration, when England was just
beginning to recover from the convulsions of the preceding twenty
years and when the kingdom was swarming with vicious and criminal
persons, a fresh attempt was made to seek an outlet for this class in
Virginia. A sudden increase in lawlessness in the colony aroused the
people to the danger, and in 1670 the General Court prohibited the
introduction of English malefactors into the colony.[175] Although in
the 18th century criminals were sent to Virginia at times, their
numbers were insignificant and their influence small.

Having examined the various types of men that entered Virginia as
indentured servants, it now remains to determine to what extent these
types survived and became welded into the social life of the colony.
The importation of starving laborers and even of criminals was of
vital importance only in proportion to the frequency with which they
survived their term of service, acquired property, married and left
descendants. The law of the survival of the fittest, which is so great
a factor in elevating the human race, operated with telling effect in
Virginia. The bulk of the servants were subjected to a series of tests
so severe, that, when safely passed through, they were a guarantee of
soundness of body, mind, and character.

The mortality among the laborers in the tobacco fields was enormous.
Scattered along the banks of the rivers and creeks and frequently
adjacent to swamps and bogs, the plantations were unhealthful in the
extreme. Everywhere were swarms of mosquitoes,[176] and the colonists
were exposed to the sting of these pests both by night and day, and
many received through them the deadly malaria bacteria. Scarcely three
months had elapsed from the first landing at Jamestown in 1607, when
disease made its appearance in the colony. The first death occurred in
August, and so deadly were the conditions to which the settlers were
subjected that soon hardly a day passed without one death to record.
Before the end of September more than fifty were in their graves. Part
of the mortality was due, it is true, to starvation, but "fevers and
fluxes" were beyond doubt responsible for many of the deaths.[177]
George Percy, one of the party, describes in vivid colors the
sufferings of the settlers. "There were never Englishmen," he says,
"left in a forreigne countrey in such miserie as wee were in this new
discovered Virginia, Wee watched every three nights, lying on the
bare ground, what weather soever came; ... which brought our men to be
most feeble wretches, ... If there were any conscience in men, it
would make their harts to bleed to hears the pitifull murmurings and
outcries of our sick men without reliefe, every night and day for the
space of six weekes: some departing out of the World, many times three
or foure in a night; in the morning, their bodies trailed out of their
cabines like dogges, to be buried."[178] Of the hundred colonists that
had remained at Jamestown, but thirty-eight were alive when relief
came in January, 1608.

Nor were the colonists that followed in the wake of the Susan
Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery more fortunate. In the summer
of 1609, the newcomers under Lord Delaware were attacked by fever and
in a short while one hundred and fifty had died. It seemed for a while
that no one would escape the epidemic and that disease would prove
more effective than the Indians in protecting the country from the
encroachment of the Englishmen.[179] How terrible was the mortality in
these early years is shown by the statement of Molina in 1613, that
one hundred and fifty in every three hundred colonists died before
being in Virginia twelve months.[180]

In 1623 a certain Nathaniel Butler, who had been at one time governor
of the Bermuda Islands, testified to the unhealthfulness of the
colony. "I found," he says, "the plantations generally seated upon
meer salt marishes full of infectious boggs and muddy creeks and
lakes, and thereby subjected to all those inconveniences and diseases
which are soe commonly found in the most unsounde and most unhealthy
parts of England whereof everie country and clymate hath some." Butler
asserted that it was by no means uncommon to see newcomers from
England "dying under hedges and in the woods." He ended by declaring
that unless conditions were speedily redressed by some divine or
supreme hand, instead of a plantation Virginia would shortly get the
name of a slaughter house.[181]

The mortality was chiefly among the newcomers. If one managed to
survive during his first year of residence in the colony, he might
reasonably expect to escape with his life, being then "seasoned" as
the settlers called it. The death rate during this first year,
however, was frightful. De Vries said of the climate "that during the
months of June, July and August it was very unhealthy, that then
people that had lately arrived from England, die, during these months,
like cats and dogs, whence they call it the sickly season."[182] So
likely was it that a newcomer would be stricken down that a "seasoned"
servant was far more desirable than a fresh arrival. A new hand,
having seven and a half years to serve, was worth not more than
others, having one year more only. Governor William Berkeley stated in
1671, "there is not oft seasoned hands (as we term them) that die now,
whereas heretofore not one of five escaped the first year."[183]

Robert Evelyn, in his Description of the Province of New Albion,
printed in 1648, gives a vivid picture of the unhealthful climate of
Virginia. He declared that formerly five out of every six men
imported from Europe fell speedy victims to disease. "I," he said, "on
my view of Virginia, disliked Virginia, most of it being seated
scatteringly ... amongst salt-marshes and creeks, whence thrice worse
than Essex, ... and Kent for agues and diseases ... brackish water to
drink and use, and a flat country, and standing waters in woods bred a
double corrupt air."[184]

Much of the ill health of the immigrants was undoubtedly due to the
unwholesome conditions on board the ships during their passage from
Europe. The vessels were often crowded with wretched men, women and
children, and were foul beyond description. Gross uncleanliness was
the rule rather than the exception. William Copps, in a letter to
Deputy Treasurer Ferrar, says, "Betwixt decks there can hardlie a man
fetch his breath by reason there arisith such a funke in the night
that it causes putrifacation of blood and breedeth disease much like
the plague." Often the number of persons that died at sea was
frightful. One vessel lost one hundred and thirty persons out of one
hundred and eighty. The disease started in this way was often spread
in Virginia after the settlers had reached their new homes, and
terrible epidemics more than once resulted.

If the assertion of Berkeley that four out of five of the indentured
servants died during the first year's residence in the colony, or
Evelyn's statement that five out of six soon succumbed, be accepted as
correct, the number of deaths must have been very large indeed. Among
the hundreds of servants that were brought to the colony each year a
mortality of over eighty per cent would have amounted in a few years
to thousands. Statements made in regard to early Virginia history are
so frequently inaccurate, and the conditions here described are so
horrible that one is inclined to reject this testimony as obviously
exaggerated. However, a close examination of the number of persons
that came to Virginia from 1607 to 1649, and of the population between
those dates forces us to the conclusion that the statements of
Berkeley and Evelyn were not grossly incorrect. When, however, Evelyn
adds that "old Virginians affirm, the sicknesse there the first thirty
years to have killed 100,000 men," it is evident that this rumor was
false.[185] Yet even this is valuable because it shows in an
indefinite way that the mortality was very large.

When we consider the fact that it was the lowest class of immigrants
that were chiefly exposed to these perils it becomes evident how great
a purifying force was exerted. The indentured servants more than any
others had to face the hot sun of the fields, and upon them alone the
climate worked with deadly effect.

But disease was not the only danger that the indentured servant faced
in those days. At times starvation carried off great numbers. Even
after the colony had attained a certain degree of prosperity famines
occurred that bore with fearful weight upon the servants. In 1636
there was great scarcity of food and in that year 1,800 persons
perished. A servant, in 1623, complained in a letter to his parents
that the food that was given him would barely sustain life, and that
he had often eaten more at home in a day than was now allowed him for
a week.[186]

But if the servant survived all these dangers, if he escaped disease,
starvation and the tomahawk, his task was not yet finished. He had
then to build for himself a place in society. When the servant was
discharged, upon the expiration of his term, he was always given some
property with which to start life as a freeman. In the days of the
Company, each was granted 100 acres of land, and, when this was
seated, each was probably entitled to an additional tract of the same
extent. After 1624 the servant received, at the end of his term of
indenture, no allotment of land, but was given instead enough grain to
sustain him for one year. Also he was to receive two sets of apparel,
and in Berkeley's time a gun worth twenty shillings.[187] The
cheapness of land made it easy for these men to secure little farms,
and if they were sober and industrious they had an opportunity to
rise. They might acquire in time large estates; they might even become
leaders in the colony, but the task was a hard one, and those that
were successful were worthy of the social position they obtained.

It is of importance to note that of the servants that came to the
colony but a small number married and left descendants. Women were by
no means plentiful. During the earlier years this had been a drawback
to the advancement of the colony, for even the most prosperous
planters found it difficult to secure wives. It was this condition of
affairs that induced the Company to send to Virginia that cargo of
maids that has become so famous in colonial history. As years went on,
the scarcity of women became a distinct blessing, for it made it
impossible for the degraded laborer, even though he ultimately secured
his freedom, to leave descendants to perpetuate his lowly instincts.
Of the thousands of servants whose criminal instincts or lack of
industry made it impossible for them to become prosperous citizens,
great numbers left the colony. Many went to North Carolina. As
Virginia had served as a dumping ground for the refuse of the English
population, so did this new colony furnish a vent for undesirable
persons from Virginia. William Byrd II, who had an excellent
opportunity to observe conditions in North Carolina while running the
dividing line, bears testimony to the character of the immigrants to
that colony from Virginia and Maryland. "It is certain," he says,
"many slaves shelter themselves in this obscure part of the world, nor
will any of their righteous neighbors discover them. Nor were the
worthy borderers content to shelter runaway slaves, but debtors and
criminals have often met with the like indulgence. But if the
government of North Carolina has encourag'd this unneighbourly policy
in order to increase their people, it is no more than what ancient
Rome did before them."[188] Again he says, "The men ... just like the
Indians, impose all the work upon the poor women. They make their
wives rise out of their beds early in the morning, at the same time
that they lye and snore, til the sun has run one third of his
course.... Then, after stretching and yarning for half an hour, they
light their pipes, and, under the protection of a cloud of smoak,
venture out into the open air; tho' if it happens to be never so
little cold, they quickly return shivering into the chimney corner....
Thus they loiter away their lives, like Soloman's sluggard, with their
arms across, and at the winding up of the year scarcely have bread to
eat. To speak the truth, tis a thorough aversion to labor that makes
people file off to North Carolina, where plenty and a warm sun confirm
them in their disposition to laziness for their whole lives."[189] The
gangs of outlaws that infested North Carolina during the early years
of the 18th century and defied the authority of the governors, were
composed largely of runaway servants from Virginia. The laxness and
weakness of the government made it an inviting place for criminals,
while the numerous swamps and bogs, and the vast expanse of dense
woods offered them a safe retreat.[190]

Many freed servants took up in Virginia unpatented land, trusting that
their residence upon it might give to them in time a legal title.
Others settled upon tracts that had been deserted. In some instances,
where these people, or their descendants, had prospered and had built
homes and barns and stables on the property, or had otherwise improved
it, their claims to the land were confirmed by law. In other cases,
when patents were made out to land already occupied by "squatters,"
the lowly settlers were forced to leave their farms and to seek homes
elsewhere, probably on unclaimed territory in remote parts of the
colony. This gave rise to that fringe of rough humanity upon the
frontier, that spread continually westward as the colony grew. Many of
the servants that escaped from their masters fled to the mountains,
seeking refuge among the defiles and woods of the Blue Ridge or the
more distant Alleghanies. The descendants of these wretched people
still exist in the mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee
and Kentucky, exhibiting in their ignorance, their disregard for law,
their laziness and even in their dialect the lowness of their origin.

The facts presented in the preceding paragraphs lead us inevitably to
the conclusion that that portion of the vast body of indentured
servants that were brought to Virginia which made its lasting imprint
on the character of the population of the eastern countries was
composed of men of sterling qualities, and was rather an element of
strength than of weakness to the middle class into which they went.
That many did rise to places of trust and influence is well
established. There are numerous instances of servants, who, after
serving their term of indenture, became burgesses, justices, etc. Thus
John Trussell, who came over in 1622 as a servant, became a burgess in
1654.[191] The Assembly of 1629 included in its members William
Warlick, William Poppleton, Richard Townsend and Anthony Pagett, all
of whom had come to the colony under terms of indenture.[192] Gatford,
a puritanical preacher of the Commonwealth period, wrote that at that
time some of the former servants were still filling offices of trust
in the colony. The author of Virginia's Cure asserted, in 1662, that
the burgesses "were usuall such as went over as servants thither; and
though by time, and industry, they may have obtained competent
estates, yet by reason of their poor and mean condition, were
unskilful in judging of a good estate, either of church or
Commonwealth."[193] This, however, is undoubtedly an exaggeration.
Yet, in 1651, Governor Berkeley, in an address to the Assembly, stated
that hundreds of examples testified to the fact that no man in the
colony was denied the opportunity to acquire both honor and wealth.

The chief occupation to which the freed servant turned was
agriculture. During their term of indenture it was as field laborers
that most of them had spent their time, and many were ignorant of any
other means of earning a living. Moreover, farming was almost the only
occupation open to them in the colony. Some, who had been trained upon
the plantations as artisans, doubtless made use of their skill after
becoming free to increase their incomes, but even these were forced to
turn their attention chiefly to farming. With the payment that was
made by the former master, and the land which it was so easy to
obtain, the new freeman, if he were sober and industrious, was sure to
wrest from the soil an abundant supply of food and perhaps enough
tobacco to make him quite prosperous. He must first plant corn, for
were he to give all his land to tobacco, he would starve before he
received from it any returns. If things went well with him, he would
buy hogs and cattle, and thereafter these would constitute his most
valuable possession.

Some of the servants upon the expiration of their terms of indenture
secured work as overseers, if they found it impossible to obtain
patents to estates of their own. Throughout the greater part of the
colonial period the position occupied by the overseer was preferable
to that of the poorest class of independent farmers. His usual
remuneration was a part of the crop. Sometimes he received only
one-tenth of what was produced, but often his share was much greater,
for cases are on record where he was to keep one half. Later the pay
was regulated by the number of persons under his management, slaves as
well as hired and indentured servants forming the basis of the
calculation. Under both systems of payment he was liberally rewarded
for his services.[194] The control of many laborers, the necessity for
a knowledge of all the details of farming, the contact with his
employer in matters of business made requisite in the overseer both
intelligence and the power of command. Many were men of much ability
and were trusted by the planters with the entire management of their
estates. When the overseer worked upon the "home" plantation, he
usually dwelt either in the mansion itself or in one of the group of
houses nearby, in which were sleeping rooms used by members of the
household or guests. He was treated always with courtesy and was
accorded some social recognition by his aristocratic employer.
Sometimes the overseer through ability and care accumulated property
and became an independent planter.

Occasionally the servants upon the close of their term of indenture
earned a subsistence as hired laborers. This, however, was not very
common, for the opportunities for an independent existence were so
great that few would fail to grasp them. There could be no necessity
for laboring for others when land could be had so cheaply. Those that
did hire themselves out were tempted usually by the excessive wages
that could be obtained from wealthy planters. Throughout the 17th
century, the difficulty of obtaining a sufficient supply of servants
to keep in cultivation the tobacco fields of the colony, created a
lively demand for labor and made wages higher than in England. Even
in the early years of the century this state of affairs prevailed, and
we find planters complaining of the excessive cost of hired labor and
making urgent requests for indentured servants.[195] Despite the high
price of tobacco that prevailed before 1660, it was the general
opinion that no profit could be made from it when hired laborers were
used in its cultivation, and it is probable that they were never
employed except when the supply of servants fell far short of the
demand. In the 18th century, when the importation of many thousands of
slaves had lowered the price of labor in the colony, the employment of
hired hands became still less frequent.

The existence of high wages for so many years accelerated the
formation of the middle class, for the hired laborer could, if he were
economical, save enough to purchase land and to become an independent
farmer. So crude were the agricultural methods then in use in the
colony that very little capital was needed by the small planters, and
tobacco and corn could be raised by them almost as economically as
upon the large plantations. Moreover, since men of the middle class
could seldom afford to employ laborers to till their fields, they were
in a sense brought into competition with the wage earner. The price of
tobacco was dependent in large measure upon the cost of production,
and could not, except upon exceptional occasions, fall so low that
there could be no profit in bringing servants from England to
cultivate it, and this fact reacted favorably upon those that tilled
their fields with their own hands. On the other hand this very
circumstance made it hard for the small farmer to enlarge the scope of
his activities. Unless he had obtained a fair degree of prosperity, it
would be impossible for him to purchase servants or hire laborers and
the output of his plantation was limited to his own exertions, or
those of the members of his family.

By 1660, the middle class was fully formed. From the thousands of
indentured servants that had been brought to the colony numerous
families had emerged which, though rough and illiterate, proved
valuable citizens and played an important rôle in the development of
the country. Added to the free immigrants of humble means they formed
a large body that needed only organization and leaders to wield a
powerful influence in governmental affairs.

In the second period, from 1660 to 1676, the prosperity of the middle
class was seriously impaired by oppression by England and
misgovernment and tyranny in the colony. The Navigation Acts, which
were designed by the English to build up their commerce, regardless of
the consequences to their colonies, injured Virginians of all classes,
but bore with telling weight upon the poor independent planters.
Moreover, the arbitrary rule of Governor William Berkeley, the
corruption of the Assembly, the heavy and unjust taxes and the
frequent embezzlement of public funds conspired to retard the
advancement of the middle class and to impoverish its members.

The beginning of England's oppressive policy towards the commerce of
her colonies must date from 1651, when Parliament passed a stringent
Navigation Act, forbidding the importation of any commodities into
England or its territories except in English vessels or vessels of the
nation that produced the goods.[196] This law was aimed chiefly at
the Dutch carrying trade, which was so extensive that it had aroused
England's jealousy, but it came as a serious blow to Virginia. A large
part of her exports had for many years been transported by the Dutch,
and the entire exclusion of the "Hollanders" could not fail to react
unfavorably upon her prosperity. The immediate effect, since it
relieved the English ship owners of much of the competition with which
they had contended, was to raise the cost of transportation.

The Virginians protested strongly. In a speech to the Assembly,
Governor Berkeley, fairly foaming with rage, denounced the act. "We,"
he said, "the Governor, Councell and Burgesses of Virginia, have seene
a printed paper ... wherein (with other plantations of America) we are
prohibited trade and commerce with all but such as the present power
shall allow of: ... we think we can easily find out the cause of this
the excluding us the society of nations, which bring us necessaries
for what our country produces: And that is the averice of a few
interested persons, who endeavour to rob us of all we sweat and labor

But the evil was to some extent avoided during the Commonwealth
period, owing to constant evasions of the law. There is abundant
evidence to show that the Dutch trade, although hampered, was by no
means stamped out, and Dutch vessels continued to carry the Virginia
tobacco just as they had done during the reign of Charles I. In the
year 1657, there was a determined effort to enforce the law, and the
advance in the charges of transporting the crop of that year,
indicates that this effort was partly successful. The freight rate
rose from £4 a ton to £8 or £9, and in some cases to £14.[198]

A more serious blow came in 1660. A bill was passed prescribing that
no goods of any description should be imported into or exported from
any of the king's territories "in Asia, Africa, or America, in any
other than English, Irish, or plantation built ships."[199] It was
also required that at least three-fourths of the mariners of these
ships should be Englishmen. Moreover, another feature was added to the
law which was far more oppressive than the first provision. It was
enacted that "no sugar, tobacco, cotton, wool, indigo, ginger, justic,
and other dying woods, of the growth or manufacture of our Asian,
African, or American colonies, shall be shipped from the said colonies
to any place but to England, Ireland, or to some other of his
Majesty's plantations."

The results of this law were ruinous to Virginia. At one blow it cut
off her trade with all countries but England and her colonies, and
raised enormously the cost of transportation. Although England was the
largest purchaser of tobacco, Holland and other countries had taken a
large part of the crop each year. The colonists were now forced to
bring all their crop to England, and an immediate glut in the market
followed. The English could neither consume the enormously increased
supply of tobacco, nor rid themselves of it by exportation to
continental countries, and it piled up uselessly in the warehouses. An
alarming decline in the price followed, which reacted on the planters
to such an extent that it brought many to the verge of ruin. The
profit from tobacco was almost entirely wiped out.

The effects of this law are clearly shown in a paper by a London
merchant named John Bland, which was presented to the authorities in
England, protesting against the injustice done to the colonies. "If,"
he says, "the Hollanders must not trade to Virginia how shall the
planters dispose of their tobacco? the English will not buy it, for
what the Hollander carried thence was a sort of tobacco, not desired
by any other people, nor used by us in England but merely to transport
for Holland. Will it not then perish on the planters' hands?... the
tobacco will not vend in England, the Hollanders will not fetch it
from England; what must become thereof? even flung to the

The people of Virginia were reduced almost to despair. They made
desperate efforts to raise the price of their staple product.
Communications were entered into with Maryland and North Carolina to
restrict the planting of tobacco in order to relieve the
overproduction, but negotiations failed, giving rise to much
bitterness and contention.[201] Similar proposals were made by
Virginia from time to time, but the effort was never successful. In
1664, the whole tobacco crop of Virginia was worth less than £8.15s
for each person in the colony. In 1666 a large portion of the crop
could not be sold at any price and was left on the hands of the

Moreover, the strict enforcement of the law placing all carrying trade
in the hands of Englishmen created a monopoly for the English ship
owners, and raised enormously not only the freight rates, but the cost
of all imported goods. The planter, while he found his income greatly
decreased by the low price of tobacco, was forced to pay more for all
manufactured goods. The cost of clothing rose until the colony was
almost in nakedness.

At this crisis an attempt was made to turn the energies of the people
to manufacture. The Assembly offered rewards for the best pieces of
linen and woolen cloth spun in the colony,[203] and put a bounty on
the manufacture of silk. A law was passed requiring each county to
erect tan-houses, while encouragement was given to a salt works on the
Eastern Shore. Bounties were also offered for ship-building. In 1666 a
bill was passed making it compulsory for the counties to enter upon
the manufacture of cloth. The reading of this act shows that the
Assembly understood fully the causes of the distress of the people. It
begins: "Whereas the present obstruction of trade and the nakedness of
the country doe sufficiently evidence the necessity of providing
supply of our wants by improving all means of raysing and promoteing
manuffactures amonge ourselves.... Be it enacted by the authority of
this grand assembly that within two yeares at furthest after the date
of this act, the commissioners of each county court shall provide and
sett up a loome and weaver in each of the respective counties."[204]

The corruption and mismanagement that attended these measures made
them unsuccessful, and as time went on the planters became more and
more impoverished. The Virginians chafed bitterly under the harsh
enforcement of the law of 1660. Governor Berkeley when asked by the
Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations in 1671 what obstructions
there were to the improvement of trade and commerce in Virginia,
answered with his accustomed vigor, "Mighty and destructive, by that
severe act of Parliament which excludes us the having any commerce
with any other nation in Europe but our own.... If this were for his
majesty's service, or the good of his subjects, we should not repine,
whatever our sufferings are for it; but on my soul, it is the contrary
of both."[205]

Berkeley had gone to England in 1661, and while there exerted his
influence for the repeal of the act, but had been able to accomplish
nothing. The desire of the English to crush the Dutch trade was so
strong that they could not be induced to consider at all the welfare
of the colonies. The powerful and logical appeal of Bland also was
unheeded. This remarkable man, who seems to have understood fully the
operation of economic laws that were only established as truths many
years later, explained clearly the harmful consequences of the act
and demanded that justice be done the colonists. "Then let me," he
says, "on behalf of the said colonies of Virginia and Maryland make
the following proposals which I hope will appear but equitable:

"First, that the traders to Virginia and Maryland from England shall
furnish and supply the planters and inhabitants of those colonies with
all sorts of commodities and necessaries which they may want or
desire, at as cheap rates and prices as the Hollanders used to have
when the Hollander was admitted to trade thither.

"Secondly, that the said traders out of England to those colonies
shall not only buy of the planter such tobacco in the colonies as is
fit for England, but take off all that shall be yearly made by them,
at as good rates and prices as the Hollanders used to give for the

"Thirdly, that if any of the inhabitants or planters of the said
colonies shall desire to ship his tobacco or goods for England, that
the traders from England to Virginia and Maryland shall let them have
freight in their ships at as low and cheap rates, as they used to have
when the Hollanders and other nations traded thither."

Bland, of course, did not expect these suggestions to be followed, but
he did hope that the evils that he so clearly pointed out would be
done away with by the repeal of the act. So far from heeding him,
however, Parliament passed another bill, in 1673, taking away the last
vestige of freedom of trade. The colonists, when the Navigation Acts
began to be strictly enforced, in seeking an outlet for their
commodities turned to each other, and a considerable traffic had
sprung up between them. The New Englanders, tempted by the high price
of manufactured goods in the south, were competing with Englishmen for
the market of the tobacco raising colonies. The British merchants
brought pressure to bear on Parliament, and a law was passed
subjecting all goods that entered into competition with English
commodities to a duty equivalent to that imposed on their consumption
in England. This act crippled the new trade and deprived Virginia of
even this slight amelioration of her pitiful condition.

The decline in the price of tobacco and the increased cost of
manufactured goods bore with telling effect on the small farmers. It
was customary for them to sow the greater part of their fields with
tobacco, and the enormous decline in the price of that plant brought
many to the verge of ruin. Whenever the overproduction was so great
that the English traders left part of the crop in Virginia, it was the
planter of the middle class that was apt to suffer most, for the
merchants could not afford to affront the wealthy and influential men
of the colony, by refusing to transport their crops. Had it not been
for the ease with which the common people could obtain support from
Indian corn and from their hogs and cattle, many might have perished
during these years.

But, in addition to the causes of distress that were brought about by
the unjust policy of England, there were forces at work within the
colony, that were scarcely less potent for harm. Chief among these was
the attempt of Governor William Berkeley to make his government
independent of the people. Berkeley had, during the reign of Charles
I, made a good governor, and had won the respect of the people, but as
he became old there was a decided change for the worse in his nature.
He is depicted in his declining years, as arbitrary, crabbed and

He had for the populace the greatest contempt. To him they seemed a
mere rabble, whose sole function in life was to toil and whose chief
duty was to obey strictly the mandates of their rulers. He discouraged
education because it bred a spirit of disobedience. "I thank God," he
wrote, "there are no free schools and printing (in Virginia) and I
hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought
disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has
divulged them, and libels against the best governments."[206] That the
common people should have a share in the government seemed to him,
even more than it had seemed to Charles I, a thing absurd and
preposterous. After the Restoration, therefore, he resolved to free
himself as far as practicable from all restraint, and to assume an
arbitrary and almost absolute power.

Berkeley was far better qualified for this task than had been his
royal masters the Stuarts. He possessed remarkable vigor and
determination, and despite his quick temper was not lacking in tact
and diplomacy. With a discrimination and care that marked him as a
master in the art of corruption, he tried to make the Assembly
dependent upon himself, by bribing the members of both houses.
Selecting men that he thought he could most easily manage, he gave to
them places of honor and emolument in the colony, some being made
collectors, some sheriffs, some justices.[207] The House of Burgesses
was entirely corrupted, and so far from seeking to defend the rights
of the people they represented, they proved willing instruments to the
governor in his attempt to establish absolute power.[208] Nor could
the colony correct this evil by returning to the Assembly new
burgesses, for Berkeley would not permit an election, and having once
won over the House, continued to prorogue it from year to year.[209]
For nine years before Bacon's Rebellion there had been no election of
burgesses. "In this way," complained the commons of Charles City
county, "Berkeley hath soe fortifyed his power over us, as himselfe
without respect to our laws, to doe what soever he best pleased."[210]

His power over the Council became even more marked. The men composing
this important body looked to the governors for appointment to
lucrative offices and endeavored usually to keep their favor.[211]
Berkeley, more than any other governor, made use of this power over
the Council to make its members submissive to his will. When vacancies
occurred he took pains to appoint none whom he thought would be at all
refractory.[212] Moreover, "he very often discountenanced and placed
his frowns on such as he observed in the least to thrust or cross his
humor, soe that if by chance he had at any time choice of a person of
honor, or conscience, that durst like a noble patriot speake his mind
freely ... such person by some means or other was soone made weary of
coming to councelle, and others overawed from the like boldness."[213]
In making his selections for high offices, Berkeley had recourse at
times to men that had recently settled in the colony, hoping,
doubtless, to secure persons submissive to his will. "It has been the
common practice," it was stated, "to putt persons that are mere
strangers into places of great honor, profitt and trust who unduly
officiating therein, do abuse and wrong the people." These men proved
parasites upon the colony and many enriched themselves at the public
expense. Bacon, in his proclamation, called attention to this evil.
"Wee appeale," he said, "to the country itselfe what and of what
nature their oppressions have bin or by what caball and mistery the
designs of those whom we call great men in authority and favour to
whose hands the dispensation of the countries wealth has been
committed; let us observe the sudden rise of their estates compared
with the quality in which they first entered this country, or the
reputation they have held here amongst wise and discerning men, and
lett us see wither their extraction and education have not bin vile,
and by what pretence of learning and vertue they could soe soon come
into employments of so great trust and consequence ... let us see what
spounges have suckt up the publique treasures, and wither it hath not
bin privately contrived away by unworthy favorites and juggling
parasites whose tottering fortunes have been repaired and supported at
the publique charge."

These evils were aggravated by excessive taxation. The government at
Jamestown added each year something more to the great burden that the
poor were bearing. With utter recklessness they appropriated large
quantities of tobacco for the repairing of forts, for stores and
ammunition, for the construction of ships, the support of ministers,
the establishment of new industries, the building of towns, and for
other purposes, in addition to the usual expenses of maintaining the
government itself. On all sides the people protested with bitterness.
They declared the taxes excessive and unnecessary, and in more than
one instance the approach of the collectors precipitated a riot. The
fact that much of the money was appropriated, not to the purposes to
which it was intended, but to the private use of individuals, was
galling in the extreme to the poor people of the colony.[214] This
abuse was especially notorious in the fort bill of 1672. The people of
Charles City county declared after the Rebellion that large sums had
been levied "for building and erecting forts which were never finished
but suffered to go to ruine, the artillery buried in sand and spoyled
with rust and want of care, the ammunition imbezzled...." They
complained also of mismanagement and fraud in connection with the
bills passed for fostering manufacture in the colony. "Great
quantities of tobacco have been raised on us," they said, "for
building work houses and stoure houses and other houses for the
propogating and encouragement of handicraft and manufactury ... yet
for want of due care the said houses were never finished or made
useful ... and noe good ever effected ... save the particular profitt
of the undertakers, who (as is usually in such cases) were largely
rewarded for thus defrauding us."

The expense of maintaining the Assembly itself was very heavy. This
body not only added to the distress of the people by its corrupt and
unwise legislation, but drained their resources by frequent and
extended meetings, the cost of which was defrayed by taxation. The
people of Surry county stated "that ye last Assembly (before the
rebellion) continued many years and by their frequent meeting, being
once every yeare, hath been a continuall charge and burthen to the
poore inhabitants of this collony; and that the burgesses of the said
Assembly had 150lb tobacco p day for each member, they usually
continueing there three or 4 weeks togither, did arise to a great

This taxation would have been oppressive at any time, but coming as it
did at a period when the colony was suffering severely from the
Navigation Acts, and when the price of tobacco was so low that the
smaller planters could hardly cultivate it with profit, the effect was
crushing. The middle class during this period lost greatly in material
prosperity. Many that had been well-to-do and happy before the
Restoration, were reduced to poverty.

Politically, however, the evils of this period proved finally to be of
benefit to the middle class, for when their burdens had become
unbearable they rushed to arms and, striking out blindly at their
oppressors, showed in no uncertain way that they would submit no
longer to tyranny and injustice. It is true that Bacon's Rebellion was
put down amid the blood of those that were its chief promoters, but
the fury and horror of that outburst were not forgotten, and never
again did governors or aristocracy drive to despair the commons of the
colony by unjust taxation and arbitrary assumption of all power.
Moreover, the misfortunes that preceded the Rebellion stirred in the
breasts of the poor farmers a feeling of brotherhood, causing them to
realize that their interests were common, and that by common action
alone could they guard their interests. After 1676 we find that the
middle class had become a self-conscious body, watching jealously
every action of the Council or of the governors and resisting with
energy and success all measures that seemed to them detrimental to
their interests.

The period from 1676 to 1700 was marked by the growth of the middle
class both in material prosperity and in political power. It is true
that the Navigation Acts were still in force and that the price of
tobacco continued for a while so low that little profit could be made
from it, but the people were no longer so dependent on the plant as in
former times. The poor farmers had been forced by absolute necessity
to produce upon their own estates nearly all the articles necessary
for their maintenance and comfort, and could no longer be put so
completely at the mercy of the English merchants. Although the
attempts of the Assembly to establish public industries proved futile,
the end that had been held in view was in some measure attained by the
petty manufacture upon the little plantations. The farmers' wives
became expert spinners and weavers and supplied themselves and their
husbands with coarse cloth sufficient for their humble needs. By
planting less tobacco and more corn they could be sure of a plentiful
supply of bread, while their cattle and hogs furnished them with milk
and meat. The planting of apple or peach trees assured them not only
fruit in abundance, but made it possible for them to make cider or
brandy that were excellent substitutes for imported liquors. Their
furniture could be fashioned with their own hands, while, except in
rare cases, even household utensils might be made upon the farm. Thus
the small farmer to some extent prospered.

Before the end of the 17th century it was rare indeed to find freemen
in the colony living in poverty. There were none whose condition was
at all comparable for misery and want to the vast body of paupers that
crowded the English cities and eked out an existence as laborers upon
the farms. Robert Beverley, who wrote in 1705, called Virginia the
best poor man's country in the world. He declared that the real poor
class was very small, and even these were not servile.[215] As early
as 1664 Lord Baltimore had written that it was evident and known that
such as were industrious were not destitute. Although this was
certainly an exaggeration, when applied to the period succeeding the
Restoration, it became strictly true after Bacon's Rebellion, when the
people were no longer oppressed with burdensome taxation. Hugh Jones,
writing during Governor Spotswood's administration, stated that the
common planters lived in "pretty timber houses, neater than the farm
houses are generally in England."[216] "They are such lovers of
riding," he adds, "that almost every ordinary person keeps a horse."
So favorable were the conditions in which the small farmers found
themselves that a fair degree of prosperity was often obtained by them
even though they were lacking in industry. Hugh Jones says, "The
common planters leading easy lives don't much admire labour, except
horse-racing, nor diversion except cock-fighting, in which some
greatly delight. This easy way of living, and the heat of the summer
makes some very lazy, who are said to be climate-struck."

The fourth period in the development of the middle class extends from
1700 to the Revolution. It is marked by a split in the class, some of
the small planters becoming wealthy, others failing to advance in
prosperity, while still others degenerated, falling into abject
poverty. This was almost entirely the result of the substitution of
slave labor for the labor of the indentured servant. The importation
of negroes had begun early in the 17th century, but for many years
their numbers were so few that the vast bulk of the work in the fields
had been performed by white men. In 1625 there were about 465 white
servants in Virginia and only 22 negroes.[217] In 1649, when the
population of the colony was 15,000, there were but 300 slaves.[218]
In 1671, Governor Berkeley stated that there were only 2,000 slaves in
Virginia, although the population was at that date about 40,000.[219]
Near the end of the century, the number of negroes brought to the
colony increased very much. The Royal African Company, which had
obtained the exclusive right to trade in slaves with the English
possessions, stimulated this human traffic to such an extent that
negroes were soon found in every part of Virginia. By the year 1700
the number of slaves was about 6,000.[220] The negroes proved more
suited to the needs of the planters than the white servants, for they
served for life, were docile and easy to manage, stood well the
unhealthful conditions in the tobacco fields, and, most important of
all, they cheapened vastly the cost of production. The wealthy
planters who had for so many years been limited in the amount of land
they could place under cultivation by the number of servants they
could procure, now found it possible to extend the scope of their
operations. Before the end of the century such men as Byrd and Carter
and Fitzhugh owned scores of slaves. It was this circumstance more
than any thing else that accounts for the increased prosperity of the
colony which is so noticeable during the first quarter of the 18th

The more prosperous and capable members of the middle class shared to
some extent the benefits resulting from negro labor. Many that had
been unable to secure servants now bought slaves and thus were able to
increase very much the output of their plantations. The shortness of
the time that the servants served, the great cost of transporting them
to the colony and the risk of losing them by death or by flight, had
made it impossible for the small farmers to use them in cultivating
their fields. Since negro labor was not attended with these
objections, many planters of humble means bought slaves and at one
step placed themselves above the class of those that trusted to their
own exertions in the tilling of their fields. When once a start had
been made, the advance of their prosperity was limited only by the
extent of their ability and industry. Some became quite wealthy.
Smythe, writing in 1773, stated that many of them formed fortunes
superior to some of the first rank, despite the fact that their
families were not ancient or so respectable.

Those members of the middle class who were unable, through poverty or
incapacity, to share the prosperity of the early years of the 18th
century were injured by the general use of slave labor in the colony.
Since they could not purchase negroes, they were in a sense thrown
into competition with them. The enormous increase in the production of
tobacco brought down the price and made their single exertions less
and less profitable. They were deprived of the privilege of working
for wages, for no freeman could toil side by side with negroes, and
retain anything of self-respect. Thus after the year 1700, the class
of very poor whites became larger, and their depravity more
pronounced.[222] A Frenchman, travelling in Virginia at the time of
the Revolution, testified that the condition of many white families
was pitiful. "It is there," he said, "that I saw poor people for the
first time since crossing the ocean. In truth, among these rich
plantations, where the negro alone is unhappy, are often found
miserable huts, inhabited by whites, whose wan faces and ragged
clothes give testimony of their poverty."[223] It is certain that this
class was never large, however, for those that were possessed of the
least trace of energy or ambition could move to the frontier and start
life again on more equal terms. Smythe says that the real poor class
in Virginia was less than anywhere else in the world.

The introduction of slavery into the colony affected far more
profoundly the character of the middle class farmer than it did that
of the aristocrat. The indentured servants, upon whose labor the
wealthy planters had relied for so many years, were practically
slaves, being bound to the soil and forced to obey implicitly those
whom they served. The influence that their possession exerted in
moulding the character of the aristocracy was practically the same as
that of the negro slave. Both tended to instil into the master pride
and the power of command. Since, however, but few members of the small
farmer class at any time made use of servant labor, their character
was not thus affected by them. Moreover, the fact that so many
servants, after the expiration of their term of indenture, entered
this class, tended to humble the poor planters, for they realized
always the existence of a bond of fellowship between themselves and
the field laborers. When the negro slave had supplanted the indentured
servant upon the plantations of the colony a vast change took place in
the pride of the middle class. Every white man, no matter how poor he
was, no matter how degraded, could now feel a pride in his race.
Around him on all sides were those whom he felt to be beneath him, and
this alone instilled into him a certain self-respect. Moreover, the
immediate control of the negroes fell almost entirely into the hands
of white men of humble means, for it was they, acting as overseers
upon the large plantations, that directed their labors in the tobacco
fields. This also tended to give to them an arrogance that was
entirely foreign to their nature in the 17th century. All
contemporaneous writers, in describing the character of the middle
class in the 18th century, agree that their pride and independence
were extraordinary. Smythe says, "They are generous, friendly, and
hospitable in the extreme; but mixed with such an appearance of
rudeness, ferocity and haughtiness, which is, in fact, only a want of
polish, occasioned by their deficiencies in education and in knowledge
of mankind, as well as their general intercourse with slaves."
Beverley spoke of them as being haughty and jealous of their
liberties, and so impatient of restraint that they could hardly bear
the thought of being controlled by any superior power. Hugh Jones,
John Davis and Anbury also describe at length the pride of the middle
class in this century.

Thus was the middle class, throughout the entire colonial period,
forming and developing. From out the host of humble settlers, the
overflow of England, there emerged that body of small planters in
Virginia, that formed the real strength of the colony. The poor
laborer, the hunted debtor, the captive rebel, the criminal had now
thrown aside their old characters and become well-to-do and respected
citizens. They had been made over--had been created anew by the
economic conditions in which they found themselves, as filthy rags are
purified and changed into white paper in the hands of the
manufacturer. The relentless law of the survival of the fittest worked
upon them with telling force and thousands that could not stand the
severe test imposed upon them by conditions in the New World succumbed
to the fever of the tobacco fields, or quitted the colony, leaving to
stronger and better hands the upbuilding of the middle class. On the
other hand, the fertility of the soil, the cheapness of land, the
ready sale of tobacco combined to make possible for all that survived,
a degree of prosperity unknown to them in England. And if for one
short period, the selfishness of the English government, the ambition
of the governor of the colony and the greed of the controlling class
checked the progress of the commons, the people soon asserted their
rights in open rebellion, and insured for themselves a share in the
government and a chance to work out their own destiny, untrammelled by
injustice and oppression. At the outbreak of the Revolution, the
middle class was a numerous, intelligent and prosperous body, far
superior to the mass of lowly immigrants from which it sprang.


[139] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. II, p.

[140] Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 17 and 18; Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol.
I, p. 597.

[141] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. I, pp.
26 and 34; Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, pp. 599-600.

[142] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. I, pp.

[143] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va. Vol. I, p. 51.

[144] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. I, pp.
130 and 138.

[145] Force, Vol. III.

[146] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. I, p.

[147] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 286.

[148] Bruce, Soc. Life of Va., p. 17; Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. IX, p.

[149] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, pp. 576-584.

[150] Force, Vol. III, Orders and Constitutions, p. 22.

[151] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VII, p. 191.

[152] Ibid., Vol. VIII, p. 75.

[153] Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 251.

[154] Ibid., Vol. VI, p. 251.

[155] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, pp. 378, 477 and 480.

[156] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VI, p. 251.

[157] Ibid., Vol. VII, p. 441.

[158] Sainsbury Abstracts, year 1638, p. 8.

[159] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. VI.

[160] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. I, p.

[161] Neill, Virginia Carolorum.

[162] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II.

[163] Virginia Hist. Register, Vol. I, p. 63.

[164] Neill, Virginia Carolorum; Hening's Statutes, Vol. II, p. 510.

[165] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II, p. 510.

[166] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, pp. 576-584.

[167] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 573.

[168] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 574.

[169] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 574.

[170] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 608.

[171] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 609.

[172] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 610.

[173] Beverley, Hist. of Va., p. 57.

[174] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 611.

[175] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II, p. 510.

[176] Strachey's Historie of Travaile into Va., p. 63.

[177] Percy's Discourse, p. lxxii.

[178] Narratives of Early Va., pp. 21 and 22.

[179] Ibid., p. 200.

[180] Ibid., p. 220.

[181] Abstracts of Proceedings of Va. Company of London, Vol. II, p.

[182] Neill, Va. Carolorum.

[183] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II.

[184] Force, Historical Tracts, Vol. II, New Albion.

[185] Ibid., p. 5.

[186] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 7.

[187] Ibid., Vol. II, pp. 41 and 42; Jones' Va.

[188] Bassett, Writings of Wm. Byrd, p. 47.

[189] Ibid., pp. 75 and 76.

[190] It is not to be supposed that these people are the ancestors of
the eastern North Carolians of today. As they were cast off by society
in Virginia, so were they crowded west by the influx of more
industrious settlers in their new home and their descendants are at
present to be found in the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies.

[191] Neill, Va. Carolorum.

[192] Neill, Va. Carolorum; Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va. Vol. II, p. 45.

[193] Neill, Va. Carolorum; Force, Historical Tracts, Vol. III; Bruce,
Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, p. 45.

[194] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, p. 47.

[195] Ibid., p. 118.

[196] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va. Vol. I, p. 349.

[197] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 75.

[198] Wm. & Mary Quar.

[199] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 356.

[200] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 141.

[201] Sainsbury Abstracts, for 1662, pp. 17 and 19; Bruce, Econ. Hist.
of Va., Vol. I, pp. 389-390-391-392.

[202] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 393.

[203] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II, p. 238.

[204] Ibid.

[205] Ibid., Vol. II, p. 509.

[206] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II.

[207] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. I, p. 59; Vol. III, p. 134.

[208] The commons of Charles City county said: "Sir William Berkeley,
mindeing and aspiring to a sole and absolute power and command over us
... did take upon him the sole nameing and appointing of other
persons, such as himself best liked and thought fittest for his

[209] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. III, p. 141.

[210] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. III, p. 136.

[211] Ibid., Vol. I, p. 60.

[212] Ibid., Vol. III, p. 134.

[213] Ibid., Vol. III, p. 136.

[214] Va. Maga. of Hist. and Biog., Vol. III, p. 38; p. 136.

[215] Beverley's Virginia; Wm. & Mary Quar., Vol. VI, p. 9.

[216] Jones' Virginia.

[217] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. I, p. 572.

[218] Force, Hist. Tracts.

[219] Hening's Statutes, Vol. II, p. 515.

[220] Bruce, Econ. Hist. of Va., Vol. II, p. 108.

[221] Jones' Virginia.

[222] Fiske, Old Va. and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, p. 189.

[223] Voyages dans l'Amérique Septentrionale, Vol. II, p. 142;
"C'est-là que, depuis que j'ai passé les mers, j'ai vu pour la
premiere fois des pauvres. En effet, parmi ces riches plantations où
le negre seul est malhereux, on trouve souvent de misérables cabanes
hibitées par des blancs, dont la figure have & l'habillement
déguenillé annoncent la pauvreté."


  Anbury, Major Thomas.--Travels Through the Interior Parts of
    America in a series of Letters. Two Volumes. Printed for
    William Lane, Leadenhall Street, London, 1791. Major Anbury was
    a British officer who was captured at Saratoga and was brought
    south with the Convention Prisoners. He was paroled and had an
    opportunity to see much of Virginia. His observations upon the
    social life of the state are interesting, although tinged with
    prejudice. Viewing life in the New World with the eyes of one
    accustomed to the conventional ideas of England his writings
    throw light upon conditions in the Old Dominion that cannot be
    found in the works of native authors.

  Bagby, George W.--Selections from the Writings of. Whittet and
    Shepperson, Richmond, Va., 1884. Two volumes. The articles in
    this work touching on Virginia life are well worth the attention
    of the historian. Dr. Bagby traveled through many parts of the
    state and had an unsurpassed opportunity of becoming acquainted
    with this life. The style is pleasing and the stories

  Barton, R.T.--Virginia Colonial Decisions. The Reports by Sir John
    Randolph and by Edward Barradall of the Decisions of the General
    Court of Virginia, 1728-1741. Two volumes. The Boston Book
    Company, Boston. Accompanying the decisions is a prospective
    sketch of the contemporaneous conditions during the period
    covered and of the lawyers who practiced at the bar of the
    General Court in that day. In addition, the first volume
    contains an interesting account of the settling of Virginia and
    its history in the seventeenth century. Chapters are devoted to
    a description of the land, of the people, of the government, of
    the church, of the lack of cities, and of education. The chief
    value of the work, however, lies in the light that is thrown
    upon the history of Virginia during the years between 1728 and
    1741, by the publication of the decisions which were before in
    manuscript form and practically inaccessible to the

  Bernard, John.--Retrospections of America, 1797-1811. Harper and
    Brothers, New York, 1887. One volume. Bernard was famous in his
    time as a comedian and one of the earliest American managers of
    theatrical companies. He visited Virginia in 1799 and made many
    excursions to the homes of the wealthy planters. He thus had an
    opportunity to see the inner life of the most refined class of
    the state. His descriptions of their manners and morals, their
    tastes, their hospitality and their love of out-of-door sports
    are interesting and usually accurate.

  Beverley, Robert.--The History and Present State of Virginia, in
    Four Parts. Printed for R. Parker, at the Unicorn, under the
    Piazza's of the Royal-Exchange, 1705. One volume. The work
    consists of an outline of the history of the colony from 1607 to
    1705; of a statement of the natural productions of Virginia; its
    industries and its facilities for trade; of an account of the
    Indians and a brief summary of the government at the time of
    publication. The work is of value chiefly as a description of
    Virginia at the beginning of the 18th century. In the account
    given of the history of the colony in the earlier days there are
    many errors.

  Brown, Alexander.--The Genesis of the United States. Two volumes.
    Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York. This work
    consists of an account of the movement which resulted in the
    founding of Virginia, presented in the form of a series of
    documents not before printed, and of rare contemporaneous tracts
    reissued for the first time. The author, in a later work,
    criticises The Genesis of the United States in the following
    words, "I did not fully understand the case myself. I had failed
    (as every one else had previously done) to give due
    consideration to the influence of imperial politics on the
    history of this popular movement. I had also failed to consider
    properly the absolute control over the evidences, in print and
    in manuscript, possessed by the crown." The chief value of the
    work lies in the fact that it presents to the public numerous
    historical evidences which were for so many years inaccessible.

  The First Republic in America. One volume. Houghton, Mifflin and
    Company, Boston and New York. This work gives an account of the
    origin of the nation, written from the records long concealed in
    England. It not only is not based on the printed histories of
    the day, but expressly repudiates them as false and unjust, and
    as written in the interest of the Court Party. Much discredit is
    thrown upon the narratives of Capt. John Smith. The author says;
    "He never returned there (Virginia) and--if every one else had
    done exactly as he did, there would have remained no colonists
    in Virginia, but mountains of books in England, conveying
    incorrect ideas, and filled with a mass of vanity, 'excellent
    criticism' and 'good advice,' amounting really to nothing." In a
    later work Mr. Brown says of The First Republic in America; "I
    wrote from the point of the Patriot Party. It was the first
    effort to restore to our foundation as a nation the inspiring
    political features of which it was robbed by those who
    controlled the evidences and histories under the crown."

  English Politics in Early Virginia History. One volume. Houghton,
    Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York. The book is divided
    into five parts. The First Part gives an outline of the efforts
    of the "Patriot Party" in England to plant popular government in
    America and of the Court Party to prevent. Part Two recites the
    effort of the Court to obliterate the true history of the origin
    of Virginia. In Part Three the author shows the influence of
    politics on the historic record while the crown retained control
    of the evidences. Part Four shows what has been done both
    towards correcting and to perpetuating the error. In the Fifth
    Part is given a review of some of the features of the struggle
    of the "Patriot Party" and the Court Party.

  Bruce, Philip Alexander.--Economic History of Virginia in the
    Seventeenth Century. Two volumes. Printed by the Macmillan
    Company, New York. This work treats of aboriginal Virginia, of
    the agricultural development after the coming of the English,
    the acquisition of title to land, the system of labor, the
    domestic economy of the planters, the part played by
    manufactures in the colony, the inconvenience occasioned by the
    scarcity of coin. The author has expended much labor in
    accumulating a mass of interesting and valuable detail, and the
    work is a veritable store house of information which is
    invaluable to the historian. There is no attempt made to point
    out the relation of the economic history of the time with the
    political, religious or social developments that were taking
    place in the 17th century. The work is valuable chiefly as a
    source book.

  Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century. One volume.
    Printed for the author by Whittet and Shepperson, Richmond, Va.
    In the first portion of this book the author attempts to explain
    in some detail the origin of the higher planters in the colony.
    A startling array of individual cases are cited to prove the
    connection of at least a portion of this class with English
    families of education and rank. As usual with the author little
    attention is paid to generalizations and he arrives at his
    conclusions by induction rather than by deduction. Interesting
    chapters are devoted to social distinctions, social spirit,
    popular diversions, public and private occasions and duelling.

  Burke, John.--The History of Virginia from its First Settlement to
    the Present Day. Four volumes. Published in 1804. The chief
    value of this work lies in the fact that it contains a number of
    documents of great interest to the historian. Chief among these
    is a series of papers relating to the dispute over the
    Arlington, Culpeper grant. As a general history of Virginia the
    work is antiquated. At the time Burke wrote a large part of the
    documents and pamphlets relating to the colony were
    inaccessible, and as a result he is compelled to pass over very
    important periods with the most cursory mention.

  Burnaby, Andrew.--Travels through the Middle Settlements in North
    America in the Years 1759 and 1760; with Observations upon the
    State of the Colonies. Printed for T. Payne, at the Mews-Gate,
    London, 1798. One volume. Burnaby's criticisms of Virginia
    society are less accurate than those of others who have written
    on the same subject because his stay in the colony was so brief.
    He is by no means sympathetic with the life of the colony,
    chiefly because he does not understand it.

  Byrd, William.--The Writings of "Col. William Byrd of Westover in
    Virginia Esq." Edited by John Spencer Bassett. One volume.
    Doubleday, Page and Company, New York, 1901. Col. Byrd gives an
    interesting picture in this work of the life upon the frontier
    of the colony in the first quarter of the 18th century. The
    style is flowing and easy, and the author shows a literary
    talent unusual in colonial writers. The Introduction by the
    editor consists of a sketch of the Byrd family. This is ably
    written, and the observations made upon Virginia politics and
    life show keen insight into the unique conditions that were
    moulding the character of the colony. It is, perhaps, a more
    valuable contribution to Virginia history than the writings
    which it introduces.

  Campbell, Charles.--History of the Colony and Ancient Dominion of
    Virginia. One volume. J.B. Lippincott and Company,
    Philadelphia, 1860. In his preface the author says: "Her
    (Virginia's) documentary history, lying, much of it, scattered
    and fragmentary, in part slumbering in the dusty oblivion of
    Trans-Atlantic archives, ought to be collected with pious care,
    and embalmed in the perpetuity of print." The partial
    accomplishment of this task, so urgently advocated by the
    author, has rendered his work incomplete and insufficient for
    the present day. Upon numerous periods of Virginia history
    barely touched by him, a great light has since been thrown by
    the unearthing of manuscripts and pamphlets.

  Chastellux, E.J.--Voyages dans l'Amérique Septentrionale. Chez
    Prault, Imprimeur du Roi, Paris, 1786. Two volumes. Chastellux
    was a Frenchman who visited various parts of America at the time
    of the Revolution. His observations upon social life in Virginia
    are less prejudiced than those of many of the foreign visitors
    to the colony at this period. The work is valuable in that it
    gives the impressions made by the higher class in Virginia upon
    one used to the refined life of France in the second half of the
    18th century.

  Cooke, John Esten.--Virginia, a History of the People. Houghton,
    Mifflin and Company, Boston, 1884. One volume. So many valuable
    documents and pamphlets treating of Virginia history have been
    made accessible since this work was published, that it is quite
    antiquated. In addition, the author has failed to make the best
    use of the material at his hands, and there are numberless
    errors for which there can be no excuse. One wonders, when
    reading the book, whether the author has ever taken the trouble
    to glance at Hening's Statutes, for he repeats old mistakes that
    were pointed out by Hening one hundred years ago. The style is
    entertaining and has given to the work a popularity out of
    proportion to its historical worth.

  Dinwiddie, Robert.--The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie.
    Introduction and notes by R.A. Brock. Virginia Historical
    Society, Richmond, Va., 1883. Two volumes. A large number of
    manuscripts of various kinds relating to the administration of
    Dinwiddie have been printed for the first time in this work.
    Great light is thrown upon Braddock's disasterous expedition and
    other important events of the French and Indian War. Dinwiddie's
    account of the obstinacy and unreasonable conduct of the
    burgesses should be studied in conjunction with the journals of
    the House which have recently been published.

  Fiske, John.--Old Virginia and her Neighbors. Two volumes.
    Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York, 1897. This
    work is written in the delightful and entertaining style so
    characteristic of the author, and like Macaulay's History of
    England holds the interest of the reader from beginning to end.
    Only a portion of the colonial period is covered, and this in a
    general and hap-hazard way. The narrative is not equally
    sustained throughout, some periods being dwelt upon in much
    detail, and others, equally important, passed over with but
    cursory mention. Fiske did not have access to many of the
    sources of Virginia history, and this led him into repeating
    some old errors.

  Fithian, Philip Vickers.--Journal and Letters, 1767-1774. Edited
    for the Princeton Historical Association, by John Rogers
    Williams. One volume. Fithian was tutor at Nomini Hall, the home
    of Col. Robert Carter, during the years 1773 and 1774. His
    observations upon the life in the midst of which he was thrown,
    the life of the highest class of Virginians, are intensely
    interesting and very instructive. The author was a young
    theologian, who had received his education at Princeton, and who
    seemed strangely out of place in the gay society of aristocratic
    Westmoreland. For this very reason, however, his journal and
    letters are interesting, for he dwells with especial emphasis
    upon what was new or strange to him and has thus unconsciously
    given an excellent account of all that was unique or distinctive
    in the Virginia aristocracy.

  Force, Peter.--Tracts and other Papers, Relating Principally to
    the Origin, Settlement and Progress of the Colonies in North
    America. Printed in 1836. Four volumes. By the preservation of
    these valuable documents Mr. Force has done a great service to
    the history of the colony of Virginia. The papers relating to
    Bacon's Rebellion are of especial interest, while Virginia's
    Cure, A Description of New Albion and Leah and Rachel are hardly
    less important.

  Goodwin, Maud Wilder.--The Colonial Cavalier or Southern Life
    before the Revolution. Lowell, Coryell and Company, New York,
    1894. One volume. This little work is well written and is in the
    main accurate. It offers an interesting picture of the Southern
    planter and the unique life that he led in the second half of
    the 18th century.

  Hening, W.W.--The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of all the
    Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in
    the Year 1619. In thirteen volumes covering the period up to
    October, 1792. In 1836 Samuel Shepherd published three more
    volumes, covering the period from 1792 to 1806. In addition to
    the collection of laws the work contains many historical
    documents of great value. The Statutes at Large are invaluable
    to the student of Virginia history and they throw much light
    upon periods otherwise obscured in gloom. It is to Hening
    chiefly that the historian is indebted for his knowledge of the
    years covered by the first administration of Sir William
    Berkeley, while his information of what occurred during the
    Commonwealth Period would be slight indeed without The Statutes
    at Large. Since the Journals of the House of Burgesses have been
    copied, and thus made available to the investigator, the work is
    not so indispensable for some periods, but it constitutes a
    valuable adjunct to these papers and no historian can afford to
    neglect them. The work shows throughout the greatest care even
    in the minutest details and will remain a monument to the
    indefatigable energy and patience of Mr. Hening.

  Howe, Henry.--Historical Collections of Virginia; containing a
    collection of the most interesting facts, traditions,
    biographical sketches, anecdotes, etc., relating to its history
    and antiquaries, etc. One volume. Published by Babcock and
    Company, 1845. In his preface the author says: "The primary
    object of the following pages is to narrate the most prominent
    events in the history of Virginia, and to give a geographical
    and statistical view of her present condition." In accomplishing
    the latter of these tasks Mr. Howe has done a real and lasting
    service to the history of the state. His description of the
    various counties in 1843 and the life of their people was the
    fruit of personal observation and as a consequence is usually
    accurate and trustworthy.

  Howison, Robert R.--A History of Virginia, from its Discovery and
    Settlement by Europeans to the Present Time. Two Volumes. Carey
    and Hart, Philadelphia, 1846. The preface of the work has the
    following: "In writing the Colonial History, the author has
    endeavored to draw from the purest fountains of light the rays
    which he has sought to shed upon his subject." And throughout
    the book there is abundant evidence to show that Mr. Howison had
    studied the sources of Virginia history then available and had
    picked out as best he could the truth whenever his authorities
    differed. So much has been learned of the events he treats since
    1846, however, that his work is today of little value.

  Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political
    Science. The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore. A number of these
    studies touch upon colonial Virginia history and they have done
    much in bringing order out of the mass of facts to be found in
    old books, in documents and in journals. Some of the papers are:
    Justice in Colonial Virginia, O.P. Chitwood; History of Suffrage
    in Virginia, J.A.C. Chandler; Representation in Virginia, J.A.C.
    Chandler; White Servitude in the Colony of Virginia, H.R.
    McIlwaine, and Virginia Local Institutions, Edward Ingle.

  Jones, Hugh.--The Present State of Virginia. Printed for J. Clark,
    at the Bible under the Royal-Exchange, 1724. Reprinted for
    Joseph Sabin, New York. This work gives an entertaining and
    valuable picture of Virginia during the administration of
    Governor Spotswood. Those chapters are most useful which treat
    of the pursuits, the religion, the manners and the government
    of the colonists. The descriptions given are drawn largely from
    the personal observations of the author. This, together with the
    sincere and straightforward manner in which the book is written,
    leaves the impression of accuracy and trustworthiness.

  Journals of the Council of Virginia as Upper House. Manuscript
    copies made of incomplete records in the State Library at
    Richmond, in the Library of the Virginia Historical Society.
    Arranged in three volumes as follows: I, 1685-1720; II,
    1722-1747; III, 1748-1767. These journals are by no means so
    important as those of the House of Burgesses. They are devoted
    quite largely to routine matters and reflect but little of the
    political life of the colony. The historian, if he gives careful
    study to their pages, will be rewarded by passages here and
    there which draw aside the veil, and give fleeting pictures of
    the strife between the Council and the Burgesses.

  Journals of the House of Burgesses.--In the State Library. Session
    of 1619; manuscript copies of sessions from 1680 to 1718, and
    from 1748 to 1772. These journals, so many of which have been
    buried for centuries in English archives, throw a flood of light
    upon the political life of the colony. They constitute by far
    the most important source of information upon the long and
    tireless struggle of the middle class in Virginia for a share in
    the conducting of the government. Something of this, of course,
    may be gleaned from the official correspondence of the
    governors, but this evidence is partisan in spirit and does
    injustice to the commons of Virginia. Hening gives in the main
    only bare statutes, and the discussions, the quarrels and the
    passions of the sessions are omitted. The journals are to
    Hening's work what the living person is to the stone image. It
    is a matter of the deepest regret that the journals from 1619 to
    1680 are missing, for they leave a gap in Virginia history that
    it is impossible to fill.

  Keith, Sir William.--The History of the British Plantations in
    America. Part One contains the History of Virginia. Printed by
    S. Richardson, London, 1738. The work is devoted almost entirely
    to the colony under the London Company. It contains little of
    value, following John Smith's account throughout and presenting
    nothing new either of documentary evidence or of criticism.

  Long, Charles M.--Virginia County Names, Two Hundred and Seventy
    Years of Virginia History. The Neale Publishing Co., New York.
    This little volume throws much light upon the history of
    Virginia through the record left in the names of the counties.
    The work contains several valuable tables. One of these gives
    the governors of Virginia from 1607 to 1908.

  McDonald Papers.--Copies of Papers in Brit. Rec. Office. Virginia
    State Library, Richmond. There were seven volumes of these
    documents, but two of them have been missing for many years.
    Vol. I covers the years from 1619 to 1626; Vol. II from 1627 to
    1640; Vols. III and IV are missing; Vol. V from 1675 to 1681;
    Vol. VI from 1681 to 1685; Vol. VII from 1683 to 1695. This
    collection contains many papers that are to be found in
    Sainsbury, but they are usually more full, being often exact
    copies of the originals. In addition there are many papers in
    the McDonald collection not to be found elsewhere.

  Maury, Richard L.--The Huguenots in Virginia. Col. Maury in this
    work has rendered an important service to Virginia history. On
    every page are evidences of the utmost care for truth and the
    greatest diligence in reaching it. Col. Maury made, before
    writing this book, a thorough study of the sources of Virginia
    history and the accuracy of his work reflects this labor.

  Maxwell, William.--The Virginia Historical Register. Printed by
    Macfarlane and Ferguson, Richmond. In six volumes. This work is
    one of the fruits of the revival of interest in Virginia history
    which took place in the two decades preceding the Civil War. It
    contains many papers and documents printed for the first time,
    and no student of colonial history can afford to neglect it.

  Meade, William.--Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia.
    J.B. Lippincott and Co., Philadelphia. Two volumes. The title
    does not indicate all, nor the most valuable part, of the
    contents of this work. In addition to giving numerous facts in
    regard to the old churches and their ministers and
    congregations, the author has presented an ecclesiastical
    history of Virginia. The contest of the vestries with the
    governors to obtain and to keep control of the church, is
    carefully and ably set forth. Also, the relation of this
    struggle to the political life of the colony is kept constantly
    in sight. The appendix contains several papers relating to
    church affairs that are invaluable to the historian.

  Miller, Elmer I.--The Legislature of the Province of Virginia. One
    volume. The Columbia University Press. The Macmillan Co.,
    Agents. This work is but the assembling and arranging of
    numerous facts in regard to the General Assembly. It presents no
    new thoughts, it teaches no lessons in Virginia history, it
    settles none of the old problems, it presents no new ones.
    Unfortunately, also, the author did not have access to a large
    number of the journals of the House of Burgesses, which, it need
    hardly be added, are indispensable for an exhaustive study of
    the Assembly.

  Neill, Edward D.--Virginia Vetusta, during the Reign of James I.
    Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, 1885. The value of this work lies
    in the printing of numerous documents throwing light on the
    affairs of the colony under the London Company. Mr. Neill takes
    the ground that John Smith's narratives are not to be trusted,
    and he has made a long step towards correcting the errors
    contained in the works of that writer.

    Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles the
    First and Second A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685, based upon manuscripts
    and documents of the period. Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, 1886.
    Mr. Neill has been, with some justice, called the scavenger of
    Virginia history. In Virginia Carolorum he has gathered many
    papers and documents which are bitterly hostile to the colony,
    and represent it in a light far from attractive. As, however,
    it is the duty of the historian to present truth, no matter
    whether pleasant or disagreeable, this volume is of undoubted
    value. Its chief fault lies in the author's failure to point
    out the prejudices of some of those writers that are quoted,
    thus leaving the reader to give to their statements more weight
    than they can justly claim.

  Page, Thomas Nelson.--The Old Dominion her Making and her Manners.
    Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1908. This work consists of a
    series of essays, in part addresses delivered before various
    societies at different times. It is written in the delightful
    style for which Dr. Page is so well known and is as entertaining
    as Fiske's The Old Dominion and her Neighbors. Perhaps the most
    valuable chapter is that devoted to Colonial Life.

    The Old South, Essays Social and Political. Charles Scribner's
    Sons, New York, 1892. This work consists of a series of well
    written articles upon anti-bellum Virginia. Among these are
    Glimpses of Life in Colonial Virginia, The Old Virginia Lawyer,
    and the Negro Question. Dr. Page's intimate knowledge of the
    life upon the plantation makes him peculiarly well qualified to
    write a book of this nature.

  Perry, William Stevens.--Papers Relating to the History of the
    Church in Virginia, 1650-1776. Printed in 1870. One volume. This
    collection of manuscripts is invaluable to the historian. Some
    of the papers have been preserved in other works, but many are
    to be had here only. The documents relating to the controversy
    between the vestries and the governors for control of the
    appointing of ministers are of great importance. Not only do
    these papers give much information upon the ecclesiastical
    history of the colony, but they throw light that cannot be
    gotten elsewhere upon political conditions.

  Sainsbury, Noel W.--Papers. Twenty manuscript volumes in the
    Virginia State Library. These papers are chiefly copies in
    abstract of the official correspondence of the home government,
    and the governors and secretaries of Virginia. They cover the
    long period from the founding of the colony until the year 1730.
    The letters of the governors to the Lords of Trade and
    Plantations are often quite frank and give the student an
    insight into their purposes and their methods that can be gained
    from no other source. They should be studied in connection with
    the Journals of the House of Burgesses, for they will make clear
    many points that are purposely left obscure in the transactions
    of the Assembly. It is a matter for regret that the papers are
    but abstracts and the State of Virginia should have exact copies
    made of the originals.

  Sale, Edith Tunis.--Manors of Virginia in Colonial Times. One
    volume. J.B. Lippincott Co., 1909. This work contains accounts
    of no less than twenty-four manors, including in the list
    Shirley, Westover, Brandon, Rosewell, Monticello, Gunston Hall,
    etc. The descriptions of the houses are made more vivid and
    entertaining by sketches of the families that occupied them. The
    volume is rich in illustrations.

  Smith, Capt. John.--Works of, edited by Edward Arber. On Montague
    Road, Birmingham, England, 1884. Capt. Smith's account of the
    settling of Jamestown and the struggle of the colonists there
    was for many years accepted without cavil by historians. His
    story of his own heroism and of the wickedness of his colleagues
    has been embodied in almost every American school history. Mr.
    Charles Dean, in 1860, was the first to question Smith's
    veracity, and since that date many historians have taken the
    ground that his works are quite unreliable. Alexander Brown has
    contended that his account of Virginia was purposely falsified
    to further the designs of the Court Party during the reign of
    James I. The discovery of numerous documents relating to the
    years covered by Smith's histories, and the application of
    historical criticism to his work, cannot but incline the student
    to distrust much that he has written.

  Spotswood, Alexander.--The Official Letters of. Edited by R.A.
    Brock. Virginia Historical Society. Two volumes. These letters
    are of great value, for they touch upon the most important
    events of Spotwood's administration. They present, of course,
    the governor's views upon public matters, and must be studied in
    conjunction with other evidence for a just understanding of the
    times. This, fortunately, is to be had in various manuscripts,
    in the Journals of the House of Burgesses, the Journals of the
    Council and in scattered papers, some of which have been

  Stanard, Mary Newton.--The Story of Bacon's Rebellion. The Neale
    Publishing Co., 1907. One volume. The authoress has had before
    her in this work the general interest that attaches to the
    picturesque subject and has written in a light and pleasing
    style, No deep analysis of the causes and results of the
    Rebellion are given, but the reader has the feeling throughout
    that the facts presented have been gathered with great care and
    that the narrative is as accurate as labor and research can make

  Stanard, William G. and Mary Newton.--The Colonial Virginia
    Register. Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, 1902. This work contains
    the names of the Governors of Virginia in the Colonial Period,
    the Secretaries of State, the Auditors General, the Receivers
    General, the Treasurers, the Attorneys General, the Surveyors
    General, the Council members, the members of the House of
    Burgesses and the members of the Conventions of 1775 and 1776.

  Stith, William.--The History of the First Discovery and Settlement
    of Virginia. William Parks, Williamsburg, 1747. Stith had in the
    preparation of this work access to some manuscripts which are
    not now in existence. For this reason the work will retain a
    certain value as a source book of Virginia history. In the main,
    however, he follows Smith's story with servility, for it did not
    occur to him that much of the latter was not trustworthy. Stith
    takes his history no further than the year 1624.

  The Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary. Press of the
    Friedenwald Co., Baltimore. Five volumes. This magazine has
    rendered a true service to Virginia history by publishing many
    valuable documents hitherto hidden or inaccessible. These papers
    touch Virginia life in the Colonial Period in many phases and
    throw light on points hitherto obscure or misunderstood.

  The Southern Literary Messenger.--In 1845 and in the years
    immediately following, this magazine, stimulated by the great
    interest that was being shown in Virginia history at that time,
    published a number of documents and articles relating to
    colonial times. Among these is a reproduction of John Smith's
    True Relation; papers relating to Sir William Berkeley,
    contributed by Peter Force; and an account of the General
    Assembly of 1715.

  The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.--Published by the
    Virginia Historical Society. Seventeen volumes. The wealth of
    material contained in these volumes can hardly be estimated.
    Countless papers, formerly scattered abroad, or hidden in the
    musty archives of libraries, have been published and rendered
    accessible to the historian. So vastly important are they that
    no account of colonial Virginia, no matter of what period, can
    afford to neglect them. They touch every phase of the life of
    the colony, political, social, economic and religious. Much
    space has been given to biography. From the standpoint of the
    constructive historian it is to be regretted that the magazine
    has devoted so little of its space to short articles culling and
    arranging and rendering more serviceable the facts published in
    documentary form. But the magazine has done and is still doing a
    work of vast importance in collecting and preserving historical

  Tyler, Lyon G.--Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606-1625. Charles
    Scribner's Sons. One volume. This work includes many important
    and interesting papers of the period of the London Company.
    Selections are made from Capt. John Smith's works. Among the
    papers given are Observations by Master Geo. Percy; The Relation
    of the Lord De-La-Ware; Letter of Don Diego de Molina; Letter of
    Father Pierre Biard; Letter of John Rolfe; and The Virginia
    Planters' Answer to Capt. Butler.

    Williamsburg, the Old Colonial Capital. Whittet and
    Shepperson, Richmond. An account is given of the settlement
    and history of the town. This is followed by a brief
    description of Bruton church and its ministers and by a long
    chapter on the college. Other chapters are devoted to the
    capitol, the governors' house, the State prison, the powder
    magazine, the theatre, the Raleigh Tavern, the printing
    office, the jail, the courthouses, the hospital for the
    insane, etc.

    The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and James River. Whittet
    and Shepperson, Richmond. The author has described carefully
    and minutely the village, locating, when possible, public
    buildings and the homes of the inhabitants. The last chapter
    is devoted to the places along the river and interesting
    accounts are given of their origin and their history.

  Virginia Historical Society.--Abstract of the Proceedings of the
    Virginia Company of London, 1619-1624, prepared from the
    records in the Library of Congress by Conway Robinson and
    edited by R.A. Brock. Two volumes. Since the infant colony at
    Jamestown was so intimately connected with the great company
    which gave it life that the one cannot be understood without a
    knowledge of the other, this publication of the proceedings of
    the company is of great importance to a correct understanding
    of early Virginia history.

    Miscellaneous Papers. Edited by R.A. Brock, 1887. On volume.
    This collection contains the Charter of the Royal African
    Company; A Report on the Huguenot Settlement, 1700; Papers of
    Geo. Gilmer, of Pen Park; and other valuable papers.

    Proceedings of the Society at the Annual Meeting Held in 1891,
    with Historical Papers Read on the Occasion, and Others. Edited
    by R.A. Brock. One Volume.

  William and Mary Quarterly.--Edited by Dr. Lyon G. Tyler.
    Williamsburg, Va. Seventeen volumes. This magazine is devoted to
    the history of Virginia and has published numerous papers
    relating to that subject. Great space has been devoted to
    biography and much light has been thrown upon the ancestry of
    scores of families. Of great value are a number of articles
    giving in condensed and clear form the results of study of the
    new material brought forth. Thus there is a paper upon Education
    in Colonial Virginia, another on Colonial Libraries, etc. The
    magazine, like the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography,
    has rendered an invaluable service to Virginia history.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Thomas J. Wertenbaker was born at Charlottesville, Va., Feb.
    6, 1879. After receiving his primary education at private
    schools he entered Jones' University School. Later he attended
    the Charlottesville Public High School. In the fall of 1896 he
    entered the Academic Department of the University of Virginia,
    where he remained as a student until 1900. During the session
    of 1900-1901, he taught at St. Matthew's School, of Dobbs
    Ferry, N.Y. In September, 1901, he re-entered the University
    of Virginia and in 1902 received the degrees of Bachelor of
    Arts and Master of Arts. For some years after this he was
    engaged in newspaper work, being editor of the Charlottesville
    Morning News and editor on the Baltimore News. In the fall of
    1906 he re-entered the University of Virginia as a graduate
    student. In 1907 he was elected Associate Professor of History
    and Economics at the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College
    and filled that position for two sessions. In 1909 he was made
    Instructor of History at the University of Virginia and once
    more matriculated in the Graduate Department of that
    institution. He is a member of the American Historical
    Association and the Virginia Historical Society and is the
    author of several historical articles and essays.

       *       *       *       *       *

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