The Shaping of Colonial Virginia

The Shaping of Colonial Virginia

The Shaping of Colonial Virginia

The Shaping of Colonial Virginia

Excerpt

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 respect."

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 qualifications. . . ."

Governor Francis Nicholson ridiculed the pretensions of . . .

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