American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia

By Edmund S. Morgan | Go to book overview

14
STATUS QUO

ALL governments rest on the consent, however obtained, of the governed. In 1676 the king of England was not pleased by the failure of his government in Virginia to retain the consent of his subjects there. Governor Berkeley had continually reminded him of the importance of Virginia's big men in keeping the multitude of servants and freedmen in their proper place. And the king certainly was no leveler. He counted on his magnates, whether in England or Virginia, to see that his subjects expressed their consent to his government by paying their taxes, working at their jobs, and obeying their superiors at every level. When the Virginians took to fighting rather than growing tobacco, it meant that the men he entrusted with power had failed; and he was not ready to take at face value their diagnosis that the trouble was only the wickedness of an ambitious young man.

As already noted, the king had a large stake in the good behavior of Virginia's laborers. As long as they kept at their jobs, each of them earned him anywhere from £5 to £I0 sterling a year, regardless of what they earned for themselves or their employers. When they stopped growing tobacco and attacked their superiors, the king suspected that they were being pushed too hard, that the local ruling class was trying to levy too large a toll of their own on Virginia labor. The king accordingly sent a commission to investigate and remedy the grievances of his subjects, regain their consent, and get them growing tobacco again. 1

____________________
1
Washburn, Governor and Rebel, 92-113, presents a different view of the activities of the commission than that offered here.

-271-

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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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