Colonial Revivals: The Nineteenth-Century Lives of Early American Books

By Lindsay Dicuirci | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The South in Fragments
Printing Anachronisms in the Old Dominion

Shall Virginians surrender the palm to their brethren of the N.
England states, who have instituted the feast of Pilgrims? Shall they
celebrate the landing of their forefather at Plymouth; and shall the
landing at Jamestown be completely neglected?

—A Richmond resident, 1807

In his “Jubilee Oration” delivered on June 13, 1807, in Jamestown, Virginia, Bishop James Madison invited Virginians to recall the “glorious epoch, when their forefathers here first planted the tree of liberty and independence, whose branches shall not only cast their friendly shade over this new world, but shall extend their broad shelter to all the nations of the earth.”1 Emphasizing Virginia’s importance as the “first” colony, Madison calls to mind the first planters who encountered the “gloomy, impenetrable forest, the recess of the lawless savage” and with “daring and enterprising spirit” made “rapid progress in agriculture, commerce and the polite arts”—an enterprise that would extend “from one extreme of the continent to the other.”2 The Jamestown Jubilee celebration (held four times between 1800 and 1860) invited anachronistic affiliations between an ancient past and near past, between a colonial story and a state one, between the history and the future. The future, as Madison proclaims, is one of extension, expansion, and enterprise not only because of present ingenuity, but because of a past rife with its examples. The irony of the Jamestown Jubilee, as David Kiracofe has shown, is its celebratory situation within a ruined landscape. Nothing about Jamestown Island shouted “pro-

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