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Patrician and Plebeian Or The Origin and Development of the Social Classes of the Old Dominion   By: (1879-1966)

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Transcriber's Note: Research has indicated the copyright on this book was not renewed. Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. This e book contains archaic spelling. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document.

Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia

Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia

OR THE ORIGIN AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE SOCIAL CLASSES OF THE OLD DOMINION

By THOMAS J. WERTENBAKER

New York RUSSELL & RUSSELL

COPYRIGHT 1910, 1958, 1959 BY THOMAS J. WERTENBAKER

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NUMBER 59 11227

PRINTED IN U.S.A.

Dedicated to H.R.W.

PREFACE

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 the leading planters to distinguished lineage. "This generation know too well from whence they come," he wrote in a letter to the Lords of Trade, in March 1703, "and the ordinary sort of planters that have land of their own, though not much, look upon themselves to be as good as the best of them, for he knows, at least has heard, from whence these mighty Dons derive their originals ... and that he or his ancestors were their equals if not superiors."

On the other side of the Potomac Henry Callister was frank in refuting the similar claims of wealthy Marylanders. "Some of the proudest families here vaunt themselves of a pedigree, at the same time they know not their grandfather's name. I never knew a good honest Marylander that was not got by a merchant."

That many prominent families in Virginia also were founded by merchants is attested by the fact that they continued to be traders after they came to the colony... Continue reading book >>




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