The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intellectual Qualities of the Early Colonial Ruling Class

The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intellectual Qualities of the Early Colonial Ruling Class

The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intellectual Qualities of the Early Colonial Ruling Class

The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intellectual Qualities of the Early Colonial Ruling Class

Excerpt

The transition from England to America of ideas of aristocracy, with the historical implications of that social development, is a theme for a book much larger than this one. The present discussion attempts an interpretation of only one phase of that problem: the evolution of a ruling class of gentlemen in Virginia. And, even in that limited field, it has been impossible to treat all the aspects of the life of the gentry. It has seemed desirable to concentrate chiefly upon the relatively neglected problem of the intellectual qualities and attributes of the group who became the leaders of the colony in the first two or three generations. The broader fields of social history can be better left to others; indeed, much has already been done to reveal the external life of colonial Virginia. But there is still need for an analysis of the inner life, of the spiritual and intellectual natures, of our ancestors, because an understanding of their development helps to explain the later course of history.

Evidences of the intellectual interests of colonial Virginians are scarce, but not altogether lacking. If there is very little that can be called literature, that dearth is not proof that the men who established their power in Virginia were devoid of mental development and left no mark on intellectual history. They bought and read books; they wrote letters; they talked and made speeches; they practiced the game of politics and at times graduated from politics to statesmanship; and they shaped a cultivated social order. Their record is written in the history of the colony, and sufficient documents have survived to indicate something of the mental life of the leaders in this evolution.

The present discussion is concerned with the earlier colonial period, when the patterns of life were being fixed. The biographical sketches illustrative of the temper of the Virginia . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.