American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia

By Edmund S. Morgan | Go to book overview

17
TOWARD POPULISM

As Virginians nourished an increasing contempt for blacks and Indians, they began to raise the status of lower-class whites. The two movements were complementary. The status of poor whites rose not merely in relation to blacks but also in relation to their white superiors. Virginia had always been advertised as a place where the poor would be redeemed from poverty. And during the I630s, I640s, and I650s it may actually have served that purpose, though more met death than success. With the decline in mortality and rise in population the numbers of poor freemen grew too large, and the scruff and scum of England became the rabble of Virginia. But as Indians and Africans began to man the large plantations and the annual increment of freedmen fell off, the economic prospects of the paleface poor began to improve.

This is not to say that poverty disappeared from white Virginia with the introduction of slavery. A class of homeless men continued to drift about the colony, cheating the tax collectors and worrying the authorities. They crop up from time to time in petitions against them from the proper people of different counties. Accomack, which had complained earlier, joined with Lancaster and Gloucester in I699 to request "that a law may be made to punish Vagrant Vagabond and Idle Persons and to assess the Wages of Common Labourers." 1 In 1710 Henrico County proposed a workhouse for them. 2 But the assembly apparently did not consider the problem worth acting on

____________________
1
Journals of the House of Burgesses, 1695-1702, 158.
2
H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1702/3-1705, 1705-1706, 1710-1712 (Richmond, 1912), 270.

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American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • American Slavery American Freedom - The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Book I - The Promised Land *
  • 1 - Dreams of Liberation 3
  • 2 - The Lost Colony 25
  • 3 - Idle Indian and Lazy Englishman 44
  • 4 - The Jamestown Fiasco 71
  • 5 - The Persistent Vision 92
  • 6 - Boom 108
  • Book II - A New Deal *
  • 7 - Settling Down 133
  • 8 - Living with Death 158
  • 9 - The Trouble with Tobacco 180
  • 10 - A Golden Fleecing 196
  • Book III - The Volatile Society *
  • 11 - The Losers 215
  • 12 - Discontent 235
  • 13 - Rebellion 250
  • 14 - Status Quo 271
  • Book IV - Slavery and Freedom *
  • 15 - Toward Slavery 295
  • 16 - Toward Racism 316
  • 17 - Toward Populism 338
  • 18 - Toward the Republic 363
  • Footnote Abbreviations 389
  • Appendix - Population Growth in Seventeenth-Century Virginia 395
  • A Note on the Sources 433
  • Index 443
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