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Old Dominion, New Commonwealth

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607–2007

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Old Dominion, New Commonwealth
    Book Description:

    "On the morning of 26 April 1607, three small ships carrying 143 Englishmen arrived off the Virginia coast of North America, having spent four months at sea.... All hoped for financial success and perhaps a little adventure; as it turned out, their tiny settlement eventually would evolve from colony into a prominent state in an entirely new nation." So beginsOld Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007and the remarkable story behind the founding not only of the state of Virginia but of our nation. With this book, the historians Ronald L. Heinemann, John G. Kolp, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade collaborate to provide a comprehensive, accessible, one-volume history of Virginia, the first of its kind since the 1970s.

    In seventeen narrative chapters, the authors tackle the four centuries of Virginia's history from Jamestown through the present, emphasizing the major themes that play throughout Virginia history-change and continuity, a conservative political order, race and slavery, economic development, and social divisions-and how they relate to national events. Including helpful bibliographical listings at the end of each chapter as well as a general listing of useful sources and Websites, the book is truly a treasure trove for any student, scholar, or general-interest reader looking to find out more about the history of Virginia and our nation. Timed to coincide with the 2007 quadricentennial,Old Dominion, New Commonwealthwill stand as a classic for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3048-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-17)

    On the morning of 26 April 1607, three small ships carrying 143 Englishmen arrived off the Virginia coast of North America, having spent four months at sea. The men had come to advance the interests of England in its quest for New World wealth against other European competitors. They intended to build a colonial outpost—a military fort and a commercial trading post—like those that Spain and France had tried to establish along the southeastern coast of North America. These Englishmen had heard tales of the ill-fated Roanoke settlement two decades earlier and knew they would encounter native peoples,...

  6. 2 ATLANTIC OUTPOST: 1607–1650
    (pp. 18-40)

    The founding of Jamestown in 1607 was no sure thing. The Roanoke failures, competition with other Atlantic powers, opposition from native peoples, a lack of available funds, and problems of enticing prospective settlers to risk their lives in a questionable venture challenged the most enthusiastic promoters. And throughout the early settlement these problems bedeviled this Atlantic outpost, risking its success. In time, luck, leadership, perseverance, and tobacco won the day.

    Despite the debacle of the Lost Colony, Richard Hakluyt, who had been a direct link to the Roanoke experiment, kept the dream of Virginia alive. His persistent agitation and promotion...

  7. 3 IMPERIAL OUTPOST: 1650–1690
    (pp. 41-62)

    The second half of the seventeenth century witnessed a radical transformation in the Virginia colony. Patterns of political behavior and land tenure, labor and gender relations, and racial and class distinctions were established that endured for another three centuries. Power was becoming concentrated in the hands of large landholders, and enslaved Africans would replace indentured Europeans as the primary source of labor. Social stratification was increasing. Events in the mother country—the civil war, the Cromwellian Interregnum, the Restoration, and finally the “Glorious Revolution”—would complicate the relationship of the outpost to the metropolis. Several rebellions, notably Nathaniel Bacon’s in...

  8. 4 A PLANTER’S PATRIARCHY: 1690–1775
    (pp. 63-91)

    On 5 July 1726 William Byrd II wrote to the earl of Orrery, “Like one of the Patriarchs, I have my Flocks and my Herds, my Bond-men and Bond-women, and every Sort of trade amongst my own Servants, so that I live in a kind of independence [of] everyone but Providence.” As he reflected on his life at his Westover plantation along the James River, Byrd seemed much like an Old Testament patriarch who was master of all he surveyed: the vast acres, fields, woods, streams, and all the people who lived therein literally belonged to him. Whether white or...

  9. 5 AN EMPIRE IN CRISIS: 1750–1775
    (pp. 92-115)

    Until the late 1740s warfare in Virginia was either localized action against Native Americans or at the most a distant sidelight to the major wars of Europe. Colonists, including Virginians, fought and died in these earlier wars as part of a number of grand European struggles to determine who sat on the throne of Spain or Austria or the principality of Hanover. But now the struggle had little to do with which dynasties ruled Europe but rather focused on who controlled North America. It would take two wars to determine the fate of the continent: in the first Virginians and...

    (pp. 116-149)

    The exchange of gunfire between British regulars and Massachusetts minutemen at Lexington on 19 April 1775 appeared to signal the end of reconciliation, yet the colonies continued to debate the issue of independence for another fourteen months before finally deciding to sever their relationship with Great Britain in July 1776. As the revolution developed, Virginians played a leading role in directing the war, writing the Declaration of Independence that gave purpose and inspiration to the rebellion, waging a local struggle against British and Indian forces, and forging a new state government grounded on rights and privileges. After the war, when...

  11. 7 THE VIRGINIA DYNASTY: 1789–1825
    (pp. 150-170)

    Most Americans assume that the ratification of the Constitution guaranteed immediate success and longevity to the United States. In truth, the United States in 1789 was a relatively small emerging nation in the midst of a revolution in the Atlantic world that required the forceful and dignified leadership of George Washington. No state played a greater role in the development of the new republic than Virginia. During the country’s first thirty-six years, the Old Dominion provided four of the first five presidents—the Virginia Dynasty—and even when John Adams was president, Thomas Jefferson was vice president. The cabinet and...

    (pp. 171-192)

    The old order lasted in Virginia longer than anywhere else, except perhaps South Carolina. Given the limitations of its leadership, the Old Dominion lumbered into the nineteenth century, practicing politics and governance much as it had in the eighteenth century. By midcentury, however, economic, demographic, and social forces and a new two-party system of Democrats and Whigs would challenge the political order of the commonwealth, democratizing the Old Dominion.

    In the wake of the Panic of 1819 and the Missouri debate, the conservative tendencies inherent in Virginia’s political culture reasserted themselves in a vigorous defense of states’ rights, strict construction,...

  13. 9 VIRGINIA AT MIDCENTURY: 1840–1860
    (pp. 193-210)

    At the time of the Revolution, the commonwealth was dominated by a homogeneous planter elite of landowners, slaveholders, and Anglicans descended from English families who had migrated years earlier and were related by bonds of marriage and kinship. Upper-class white Virginians still refer to them as the First Families of Virginia. In the course of the next three-quarters of a century, this traditional order became a more pluralistic society. The politics of republican consensus gave way to a politics of liberal conflict. Slaveholders were a minority and planters a tiny elite; sectarianism dominated a vibrant religious life. The distribution of...

    (pp. 211-239)

    From the perspective of economic development, Virginians had every reason to be optimistic about the future in 1860. Their economy was thriving in the fields and in the factories. Transportation links were connecting them to new markets. Diversity challenged the traditional power structure: fewer than half of the state’s white men were farmers, and the power of the planters among the social elite had declined dramatically. But the issue of slavery and a decadelong debate about its future cast a shadow over this prospect. At its end, Virginians chose secession over the Union and involved themselves in a great civil...

  15. 11 THE RECONSTRUCTION ERA: 1865–1885
    (pp. 240-260)

    In the closing days of the war, Judith McGuire, who was tending the wounded in a Richmond hospital, made several entries in her diary: “They say General Lee has surrendered. We cannot believe it, but my heart became dull and heavy. . . . An order came out in this morning’s papers that prayers for the President of the United States must be used. How could we do it? . . . General Johnston surrendered on the 26th of April. My native land good-night.”

    The mood of freed slave Fannie Berry of Pamplin was less melancholy: “Never was no time...

    (pp. 261-288)

    The defeat of the Readjusters coincided with the emergence in the late nineteenth century of a Confederate cult or “Lost Cause” myth that denied that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and blamed the defeat solely on Northern numbers. The myth allowed Southerners to escape responsibility for the war and defeat while basking in the glow of heroic behavior and smug superiority. They raised wartime defenders to the level of stainless perfection and turned Richmond into a shrine with its Confederate White House and a Monument Avenue lined with the statues of the great Confederates. In a more...

    (pp. 289-310)

    While the issues of progressive reform and prohibition were redefining political loyalties in state and nation from 1914 to 1916, abroad the European powers were slaughtering men and sinking ships in a way that threatened to drag America into the conflict. In Virginia the Martin machine had come to an accommodation with the Reverend James Cannon and his prohibition forces, but the subsequent debates over enforcement legislation, woman suffrage, better roads, and more efficient government splintered Organization unity. Wartime diversions furthered weakened Senator Martin’s leadership, and with his death in 1919, a struggle ensued for control of the Old Dominion’s...

  18. 14 DEPRESSION AND WAR: 1930–1945
    (pp. 311-329)

    From 1930 to 1945 the Old Dominion was shaken by two events over which it had no control, but which had a greater impact on the state than any other sequence of events in the twentieth century. The Great Depression brought the American economy to a standstill and produced untold misery for Virginians, reminding them of the dark days of the Civil War. World War II, on the other hand, revitalized the national and state economies, and although it demanded great sacrifices of the people, it restored public confidence in America’s future and prepared the way for new opportunities.


  19. 15 THE POLITICS OF RACE: 1945–1960
    (pp. 330-349)

    As transforming events in the nation’s history, the Great Depression and World War II had no equals in the twentieth century, but in the Old Dominion social and political conservatism mitigated their effects. Nonetheless, they stimulated challenges to the status quo that precipitated the Organization’s last effort to preserve the “Virginia Way” through a policy of massive resistance to the racial desegregation of schools.

    Politically the war years were quiet in Virginia. As in the nation, a call for bipartisanship and unity precluded much political infighting. Having neutralized Governor Price, the Organization had secured ascendancy once again, but the selection...

  20. 16 A NEW COMMONWEALTH: 1960–2007
    (pp. 350-370)

    America in the 1960s was in the grip of social revolution. The election of more liberal presidents, who pushed for comprehensive social welfare legislation; the new activism of the civil rights movement, which in turn inspired other minority groups and women to pursue equal treatment; and a youthful cultural rebellion spurred by the complacency of the Eisenhower years combined to produce an environment uncongenial to Virginia conservatives but fertile for new directions that would transform the Old Dominion into a new commonwealth.

    Harry Byrd’s final years in public service were not happy ones. Not only was he being outflanked by...

    (pp. 371-378)

    Virginia’s history has been marked by conflict between progress and preservation, between the forces of change and the inertia of continuity—a contest that was frequently sharpened by the issue of race and that invariably was won by white political elites. In the later years of each of Virginia’s four centuries events unfolded that challenged the old order: Bacon’s Rebellion, the American Revolution, the Readjusters, and the political and social transformations of the post-1960s. On each occasion until the present, the Old Dominion drew back from the opportunities for a more egalitarian experience to preserve the status quo.

    This pattern...

    (pp. 379-380)
    (pp. 381-382)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 383-396)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 397-398)