Chesapeake Politics, 1781-1800

By Norman K. Risjord | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Landscape and the People, from the Susquehanna to the Rappahannock

CHESAPEAKE BAY is the dominant feature of the region. It shaped the economy, the society, and much of the history of Maryland, Virginia, and even North Carolina. It quite literally divided Maryland? in two, and its many estuaries knifed into the heart of Virginia. Settlement followed the water ways, and each great river valley draining into the bay -- the Susquehanna, Patuxent, Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James -- had a distinctive style of life and agriculture. The Eastern Shore, though in many respects indistinguishable from other parts of Maryland and Virginia, considered itself a separate entity.

Ready access to water conditioned the bay economy from the earliest settlements. Planters often maintained direct contact with merchant houses in London or Glasgow, sending their tobacco on consignment and receiving in return goods or bills of exchange. The wealthiest owned their own ships; others used the many vessels that poked along the rivers looking for consignments. The most

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