Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy

By Boynton Merrill Jr. | Go to book overview

4
PROSPERITY

DURING THE Revolution there had been chaos in the American economy. One of the most distressing problems was the severe inflation in paper money, which became acute as the war dragged on. Scarcity of goods was one factor and the over-printing, of nearly forty million pounds worth, of continental dollars was another. Equally important was the huge counterfeiting operation run by the British. The bogus bills were given away gratis in immense sums at New York to anyone who was greedy enough to run the risk.1

At that time in Virginia the exchange rate was five hundred paper dollars for one gold guinea, an inflation factor of at least one hundred times.2

The farm economy in Albemarle was also in a state of upheaval during the Revolution. The English market for tobacco had disappeared, and Virginia's primary source of income had gone with it. General shortages of food and fiber dictated that farm production be shifted away from tobacco in favor of food and cloth, even though this change involved the loss of a certain prestige to “planters,” who grew tobacco, as opposed to “farmers,” who raised food products.3 At the very time when wheat was most needed, for three successive years, from 1777 to 1779, the Albemarle crop was nearly destroyed by weevils.4

The people of Albemarle, who at first had objected to the arrival of the four thousand British prisoners at the Barracks because they feared a local famine, realized before long that the prisoners were an economic asset to the area. During 1779 a supply system was set up for the prisoners and guards and, even though shortages appeared during the next year, there is little doubt that Albemarle was comparatively prosperous during the two years that the prisoners were there. Farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and, in fact, anyone who had anything to sell to the prisoners or the guard regiments, profited from this sizable nearby market. The prisoners could testify to this, for they felt unanimously that the prices charged for food were outrageously high.5 The people of Albemarle were quite willing to supply the troops and guards with provisions on credit. Although in some

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Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Constructing Jefferson's Nephews ix
  • Preface xxv
  • Preface to First Edition xxix
  • Acknowledgments xxx
  • 1: Colonial Days 3
  • 2: The Fight for Freedom 12
  • 3: A Colonel in the Militia 20
  • 4: Prosperity 29
  • 5: The Virginia Planter 38
  • 6: The Shipwreck of the Fortunes 44
  • 7: Craven Peyton, Thomas Jefferson, and the Hendersons 55
  • 8: Jefferson and the Lewises 71
  • 9: The Plan to Emigrate 84
  • 10: The Trip to Kentucky 97
  • 11: The Land and Towns 111
  • 12: Houses and Crops 123
  • 13: The Smithland Neighbors 134
  • 14: Issues in West Kentucky, 1808 143
  • 15: The County Court 151
  • 16: The Year of Trouble, 1809 163
  • 17: Lilburne Enters Public Life 175
  • 18: The Church in West Kentucky 189
  • 19: The Presbyterian Lewises 203
  • 20: Insecurity 215
  • 21: Community Affairs, 1810 226
  • 22: Slavery in Livingston 234
  • 23: Tremors in the Dynasty 240
  • 24: Annus Mirabilis 248
  • 25: The Murder 256
  • 26: After the Murder 266
  • 27: The First Grand Jury 274
  • 28: The True Bill 285
  • 29: The Graveyard 293
  • 30: The Orphans 303
  • 31: During the War 312
  • 32: The Aftereffects 322
  • 33: The Epilogue 329
  • Appendix 1 - Notes on Lewis Genealogy 339
  • Appendix 2 - The Colle Sale 348
  • Appendix 3 - The Interview with Matilda 351
  • Appendix 4 - Medical Notes 353
  • Appendix 5 - Lilburne Lewis's Estate 359
  • Index 441
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