Chesapeake Politics, 1781-1800

By Norman K. Risjord | Go to book overview
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Tories, Anglicans, and Slaves

ALTHOUGH Chesapeake legislatures were largely preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues through the 1780s, they also grappled with a number of other matters, social problems of varying import. Some resulted directly from the war and independence, unfinished by-products of revolutionary idealism. Such issues as church disestablishment, publicly financed higher education, and Negro slavery were hotly contested, but they were resolved in a nonpartisan manner -- that is to say, the lines which formed on these legislative items bore no relationship to the debtor-creditor contests. The divisions instead were regional; they stemmed from ethnic and religious differences, rather than wealth or occupation. Some social problems, such as the question of returning Loyalists, had economic implications, but reactions were local and personal. The Loyalist question aroused strong passions, but reactions were governed by the head and heart, not the hand and the purse.

During the war the states had confiscated the property of Loyalists who fled and imposed penalties on those who stayed.


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