Chesapeake Politics, 1781-1800

By Norman K. Risjord | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
The Landscape and the People, from the Rappahannock to Cape Fear

SOUTH OF THE RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER was tobacco country. Northern Virginia had virtually abandoned tobacco by the end of the Revolution. The Piedmont would give it up in the 1790s. But in the valley of the James River, and southward from there into the Carolina Piedmont, tobacco remained the cash crop. Tobacco from the region had long commanded a higher price than that grown in northern Virginia or Maryland. As a result, it competed successfully with wheat. That region is still the nation's "tobacco belt" today.

Table 2.1 is derived from export statistics kept by the governor's office after the Revolution. They show the overwhelming importance of tobacco in Virginia's trade, even when its price was declining. The price decline was due less to depression (which apparently did not affect commodity prices before 1786) than to the fact that tobacco was overpriced at the end of the war. 1 North Carolina products, shipped out through Petersburg and Norfolk,

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