Ideology, behavior, and necessity in seventeenth-century England and Virginia


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Ideology, behavior, and necessity in seventeenth-century England and Virginia
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Baird, Bruce Chandler, 1956-
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1995.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 482-589).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Bruce Chandler Baird, Jr.
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Copyright 1995


Bruce Chandler Baird, Jr.


In the seven years since that fateful day when I

decided I would like to be an historian, I have accumulated

many debts. First and foremost I must acknowledge my mentor,

Darrett B. Rutman, who more than anyone made me realize what

being a member of a discipline is all about. Although he

might have wished that I had pursued my original proposal to

study migration in the early American South, he does not

realize how much his constant challenging of my ideas pushed

me to tackle the colonial Chesapeake.

At the same time, I can not acknowledge Darrett without

giving due credit to his better half, Anita H. Rutman, who

was always available for long phone conversations about some

writing problem I was having when Darrett had his head

buried deep in their own research. Although they have two

different personalities, I came to think that they shared

the same mind. I can still recall my amazement on first

meeting them--in the midst of a major household renovation

that kept both of them running in and out of the room--at

their ability to pick up a conversation that the other one

had left dangling. I really had two mentors and editors for

the price of one.


I also must thank the members of my committee who each

in his own way has done much to shape this dissertation. To

Bertram Wyatt-Brown, I owe as clear a statement as any of

the "traditionalist" approach to seventeenth-century Vir-

ginia that along with the Rutmans' "modernist" approach gave

me my basic framework. Ronald P. Formisano, although he has

always been critical of my tendency to "lump" historians,

has always been one of the staunchest supporters of my

efforts to pursue history as social science. C. John

Sommerville introduced me to the literature of early modern

England, although he might wish to eschew any responsibility

for my attempt to merge American and English history.

Anthony Oliver-Smith, besides stimulating my interest in the

history of political economy, also kept me from abandoning

history for anthropology when he convinced me that I would

have as much trouble with my overly historical approach to

anthropology as I was having with my overly anthropological

approach to history.

Although I have already thanked them in my earlier M.A.

thesis, I should rightly acknowledge again my debt to Kevin

P. Kelly and Lorena S. Walsh of the Colonial Williamsburg

Foundation, and John E. Selby, Eric R. Jensen, Bruce A.

McConnachie, and especially my thesis adviser William J.

Hausman, of the College of William & Mary, for without their

help in getting started I doubt whether I would have made it

this far. Although I never intended to continue working on

the colonial Chesapeake, I could never escape the fertile

questions raised by my thesis that continued to nag me every

time I tried to settle on an approach to migration in the

early American South.

I would also like to acknowledge the staff of the

History Department, especially Betty Corwine, who made the

academic bureaucracy tolerable. To all the librarians at

Library West to whom I am well known for holding all of the

major records for most number of books checked out and

requested through Interlibrary Loan (as might be suggested

by my bibliography), I thank them most kindly. I know that

if I ever give up being an historian, I am well qualified to

become a Nepalese sherpa as long as my backpack continues to

hold up.

This research would not have been possible without the

financial support of the University of Florida, including a

Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship for 1989-92, a

Graduate School Humanities Fellowship for 1992-93, and a

teaching assistantship for 1993-94. I also would like to

thank the U.S. Department of Education for granting me a

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship for 1994-95 which allowed me to

complete the dissertation.

But above all I would like to thank my family whose

love makes the whole idea of spending seven years of

research and writing worthwhile even though they do not have

the foggiest idea of what I have been doing. My parents

instilled in me a love of problem-solving and provided me

with the skills to tackle those problems. That I turned to

trying to understand people rather than atoms is not their

fault. To my sons Evan and Graham, who remind me regularly

where my true priorities lie, I thank them for not messing

up my books and papers (too much). To my wife Lisa, who is

not really sure whether that faraway look in my eyes is a

result of attending graduate school or having children since

that phase of our lives has perfectly coincided, I give my

love for putting up with me and doing such a fine job

raising our two sons while I was rather preoccupied.


During the 1970s and 1980s the literature on the colo-

nial Chesapeake stood on the cutting edge of American histo-

riography, the premier example in American history of the

"new social history." At the Hall of Records in Annapolis,

the St. Marys City historians performed miracles in generat-

ing quantifiable data from stingy surviving records. At the

University of New Hampshire, the Rutmans set extremely high

standards for both evidence and argument.

Yet by the 1990s historians would generally conclude

that colonial Chesapeake historiography had failed to live

up to its earlier promise. In part the rise and fall of

Chesapeake historiography reflects simply another full cycle

in the discipline's perennial oscillation between "objectiv-

ist" and "relativist" phases.' More fundamentally, the his-

torians of the colonial Chesapeake proved unable to deliver

a much-anticipated synthesis as a result of a failure to

address the themes of concern to more traditional intellec-

tual and cultural historians. Specifically, while the chal-

lenge of the new social history was pushing traditional

intellectual historians to move from the study of formal

ideas divorced from behavior, Chesapeake scholars themselves


avoided tackling the problem of relating expressed ideas to

observed behavior.2

Indeed, one can fairly say that because these social

historians never bothered to test rigorously their presump-

tions about mind and behavior, their analysis of the first

Anglo-Americans remained firmly stuck in the framework

fashioned more than eighty years ago by Philip Alexander

Bruce and Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, a framework of which

all but a handful of historians seem blissfully ignorant. In

this debate, each side has charged the other so often with

propagating "myths" that we would do well to heed their

charges. But the problem hardly reflects a lack of creativi-

ty or objectivity among historians. Rather, at a deeper

level, the historiographical stagnation reflects a general

malaise in the social sciences in general, mired in turn-

of-the-century debates over what has been variously called

the rise of liberalism, modernization, and the transition to

capitalism, and over the relative influences of environ-

mental, institutional, and cultural factors.

Historians have ambiguously maintained two general

views toward myths. Some have favored an objectivistt" ap-

proach, treating myths as false ideas to be debunked in the

pursuit of truth and pushing the discipline toward a more

scientific history. Others, rejecting scientific preten-

sions, have favored a "relativist" approach, treating myths

simply as ideas which historians and non-historians alike


seek to create and shape to help advance certain social

agendas, in the process pushing the discipline toward

"history as present politics."3

Relativists quite correctly point out that what is one

person's truth is another's myth and that under intense

cross-examination all knowledge can be reduced to myths. But

they go beyond this to argue that history has no objective

standards to determine "truth." Since myths shape our

"actual categories of perception," no historian can escape

them. Myths provide the framework by which we as humans make

"the chaos of experience" we call life intelligible to

ourselves. At a more pragmatic level, myths and stereotypes

serve a useful function, allowing historians to write with

authority on subjects beyond their expertise and to fill

gaping holes in narratives for which no historian could

possibly gather enough empirical evidence. Stereotypes,

moreover, provide a useful tool for both historians and

readers, freeing the mind from an overwhelming amount of

contradictory and complex information. And myths have such a

life of their own and become so infused with affective

meaning that they persist oblivious to the mass of empirical

evidence brought against them in historiographical battles.

Thus myth-busting becomes a thankless task unless combined

with the positive task of fashioning an alternative myth.4

All well and good, but the discipline of history is

also vested with scientific standards toward which, as John

Higham notes, "the great community of historians--a communi-

ty that remains unswervingly engaged in defending a boundary

between histories and fictions"--strives.5 Relativism turns

the discipline of history into "the game of debunking

myths," the fruitless activity of using myths to denounce

other myths as false and vice versa ad nauseum with no hope

of actually ameliorating our understanding, and inevitably

making us slaves to our own myths.6 A belief in the possi-

bility of scientific progress in understanding undoubtedly

itself reflects a bias in Western thought. But this belief

also reflects a pragmatic approach to solving real problems

for people who believe that, regardless of differences among

people, disinterested scholars can reach some standards of

comparison to judge the merits of alternative solutions with

the hope of actually improving rather than aggravating the

problems. Even the most nihilistic of scholars recognize

some standards, knowing full well that human life would

otherwise be impossible. In practice, establishing "objec-

tive" standards becomes a political rather than epistemolog-

ical problem.7

On a more positive note, myths provide a point of

takeoff for the scientific historian, "useful generaliza-

tions by which data may be tested."8 The purpose of "seri-

ous history," argues C. Vann Woodward, is not to destroy or

create myths, but to critique myths.9 This presumes the

ability to step outside of myths, at least temporarily, so

that the historian can analyze them objectively. Such an

ability cannot be taken for granted. The roots of many myths

lie deep in Western thought, especially the dichotomous

conventions forcing thought into terms of black and white

instead of that vast foreboding gray which comprises reali-

ty. With changing generations, myth readily turns into

counter-myth only to return to the earlier myth; but above

all the Janus-faced myths persist as historians maintain

"the old yearning for a sharp, clear-cut antithesis."'1

Sophisticated historians realize that debates in history, as

in all the social sciences, do not reduce to black and white

but revolve around how to make sense of the gray--or, as

David Hackett Fischer puts it, "how the terms of mediation

are to be resolved."" Yet the recognition does not neces-

sarily enable them or other historians to escape these

ubiquitous myths.

This dissertation attempts to explore possible "terms

of mediation." I do not consider this an easy task, but I do

believe it possible. The exploration will take us deeper

than might be expected into historiography, classical

thought, social science theory, and ideas and behavior in

England as well as Virginia. But such a journey is necessary

on the one hand to an understanding of the immediate subject

matter (the seventeenth-century Chesapeake) and, on the

other, to show how the modern debates with their varying

assumptions about Virginian, Southern, English, American,

and human natures have prevented historians from realizing

some important truths about those natures.


1. Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Ques-
tion' and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1988); John Higham, History: Professional
Scholarship in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989)

2. On the response of intellectual historians, see John
Higham and Paul K. Conkin, eds., New Directions in American
Intellectual History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1979). On
the failure and need of Chesapeake historians to address
ideas, see Anita H. Rutman, "Still Planting the Seeds of
Hope: The Recent Literature of the Early Chesapeake Region,"
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 95 (1987): 20;
Lois Green Carr, Philip D. Morgan, and Jean B. Russo, "In-
troduction," Colonial Chesapeake Society, eds. Lois Green
Carr et al. (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1988) 37-
8; Darrett B. Rutman, Small Worlds, Large Questions: Explo-
rations in Early American Social History, 1600-1850 (Char-
lottesville: UP of Virginia, 1994) xii-xiii.

3. C. Vann Woodward, The Future of the Past (New York: Ox-
ford UP, 1989) 278; Thomas A. Bailey, "The Mythmakers of
American History," Journal of American History 55 (1968): 5-
21; Patrick Gerster and Nicholas Cords, eds., Myth and
Southern History (Chicago: Rand, 1974) xiv. For an overview
of various myths of the South, see the essays in Gerster and
Cords; George B. Tindall, ed., "Mythic South," Encyclopedia
of Southern Culture, eds. Charles Reagan Wilson and William
Ferris (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1989) 1093-

4. Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as
Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1950) v, 279n2;
Mark Schorer, "The Necessity of Myth," Myth and Mythmaking,
ed. Henry A. Murray (New York: Braziller, 1960) 355; Wood-
ward, Future 278; Bailey, "Mythmakers" 5; Richard Hofstad-
ter, The Progressive Historians: Turner, Beard, Parrington
(New York: Knopf, 1968) 3-4; George B. Tindall, "Mythology:
A New Frontier in Southern History," Myth and Southern
History, eds. Patrick Gerster and Nicholas Cords (Chicago:
Rand, 1974) 2; Gerster and Cords xiv; Richard Slotkin, The
Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of


Industrialization 1800-1890 (New York: Atheneum, 1985) 13-
32; Novick 3-6.

5. Higham, History 271.

6. Hofstadter, Progressive 4; Tindall, "Mythology" 2. For a
similar attitude on "the power of megatheories to blind and
confuse us all," see D. Rutman, Small Worlds 275-86.

7. J.H. Hexter, "The Rhetoric of History," History and
Theory 6 (1967): 3-13; Robert Allen Skotheim, "Introduc-
tion," The Historian and the Climate of Opinion, ed. Robert
Allen Skotheim (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1969) 1-5;
Georg G. Iggers, New Directions in European Historiography
(Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1975) 4-9; David A. Hollinger,
In the American Province: Studies in the History and Histo-
riography of Ideas (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985) 105-29;
Thomas Haskell, "The Curious Persistence of Rights Talk in
the 'Age of Interpretation," Journal of American History 74
(1987): 984-1012; Gertrude Himmelfarb, On Looking into the
Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society (New York:
Knopf, 1994) 131-61.

8. Tindall, "Mythology" 2.

9. Woodward, Future 278; J. H. Hexter, Reappraisals in
History (Chicago: Northwestern UP, 1962) 72.

10. David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance
and the American Character (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1954)
72-3; Clarence L. Ver Steeg, "Historians and the Southern
Colonies," The Reinterpretation of Early American History,
ed. Ray Allen Billington (San Marino, CA: Huntington Li-
brary, 1966) 82-3; C. Vann Woodward, "The Southern Ethic in
a Puritan World," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 25
(1968): 343; Clifford Dowdey, The Virginia Dynasties: The
Emergence of "King" Carter and the Golden Age (Boston:
Little, 1969) 8; Tindall, "Mythology" 3-11; Daniel T.
Rodgers, Contested Truths: Keywords in American Politics
Since Independence (New York: Basic, 1987) 8-9.

11. David Hackett Fischer, "Albion and the Critics: Further
Evidence and Reflection," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd
ser. 48 (1991): 304.





Notes . .


. iii

. vii
. xii

. xvii



Modernist Approach . .
Traditionalist Approach .
Behavioral Consensus .
Myth of Origins . .
Origins of an Ethos: Cavalier versus
Defunct Historians and Economists
Notes . .

. .
. .


Transition to Capitalism . .
Economic versus Political Liberalism .
Liberty and the Common Good in Traditional
Thought . . .
Necessity and Competency . .
The Case for Political Liberalism .
Notes . . .


Common Good and Public Necessity .
Covetousness, Competency, and Poverty .
Liberties and the Common Good . .
The Limits of the Normative Ideal .
Notes . . .


The Scylla of Avarice, the Charybdis of Indolence






. 1

. .

Origins of Political Economy and the "Labor
Question" . .
Classical Necessity . .
Necessity, the Mother of Invention .
The Adam Smith Paradox . .
What Ever Happened to the Necessity Consensus?
Notes . . .


Trouble in Paradise .
The Rhetoric of Poverty .
Responses to Poverty .
The Rhetoric of Indolence .
The Rhetoric of Gentility .
Beyond the Operative .
Notes . .


Modeling and Testing Necessity .
Tobacco Productivity, 1669-1703.
Demand for Labor, 1662-1679 .
Demand for Land, 1664-1706 .
Conclusion . .
Notes . .


Half-Hearted Necessity .
A Curious Blindspot . .
Beyond the Chesapeake .
Notes . .


A Universal Backward-Sloping Supply of Labor?
The Trouble with Marx . .
A Humean Corrective . .
Notes . . .



Notes . . .

Notes . . .


. 436
. 440

. 447
S. 454






. 289
. 292
. 314
. 332
. 344
. 347








Notes .................. ..... 475




Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Bruce Chandler Baird, Jr.

August 1995

Chairperson: Darrett B. Rutman
Major Department: History

My dissertation challenges current views of early

American political economy by examining the contemporary

ideas and actions of seventeenth-century Virginians. Its

findings indicate that attempts to define these transplanted

Englishmen in terms of "traditional" and "modern" ideal

types distort our understanding of their mind and behavior.

While Englishmen on both sides of the Atlantic believed

that people should behave in a manner consistent with the

common good, in no way did they believe that people actually

would so behave. They accepted that almost everyone was

motivated primarily by egoistic interests that often worked

contrary to the common good.

In no way, however, did they conceive that people would

respond to market forces like economic maximizers. To them,

the greatest potential problem preventing England and Vir-


ginia alike from achieving their true potential was not ava-

rice in the marketplace but indolence. While they accepted

the importance of hope and opportunity as motivators, they

believed that only "necessity," or relative poverty, could

overcome the natural laziness of Englishmen or mankind in


The available evidence suggests that this "necessity"

model of economic behavior can explain the actual behavior

of these Englishmen. Examination of planter behavior in the

seventeenth-century Chesapeake, as revealed through multiple

regression analysis of tobacco productivity, demand for

labor, and demand for land in the period 1660-1706, demon-

strates all the "perverse" characteristics typically associ-

ated with traditional peasants and a backward-sloping supply

of labor: far from escalating productive forces, rising

tobacco prices actually resulted in a reduced demand for

additional labor and a decrease in productivity.

Indeed, rather than serving to verify the "traditional"

nature of seventeenth-century Englishmen, the discovery of

such behavior in the Chesapeake challenges simplistic divi-

sions of people both past and present into traditional and

modern categories, an idea rooted more in nineteenth-century

American and Western exceptionalism than in objective analy-

sis. Evidence from Western and Third World countries is

ready to hand to demonstrate that the necessity model of

economic behavior is as applicable today as it was in their


time and helps to explain historical and cross-cultural

behavior better than competing theories.



In the great American narrative, the settlers of seven-

teenth-century Virginia have never achieved full rank. They

exist merely as foils to more important actors: seventeenth-

century New England Puritans, who, it is argued, shaped the

future American mind; eighteenth-century Virginians, who led

America to independence; and nineteenth-century Southern

planters, who drove the nation into civil war. Yet these

Englishmen profoundly shaped the course of American history.

They developed an extensive staple economy built around

forced labor out of which emerged both heroes and villains.

The posterity of the seventeenth-century Chesapeake, each

succeeding generation pushing further and further to the

south and west, played as great a role in shaping the Ameri-

can character as the sons of Massachusetts Bay. Surely to

understand the history of the United States, one must under-

stand these first Anglo-Americans.

It is a difficult task, however. From the earliest

promotional literature to the latest historiographical

debates, no matter where one turns in a quest to come to

grips with these Virginian Englishmen, one cannot escape the

myths of the past. As Carl Van Doren remarked on reading Jay


B. Hubbell's dissertation in 1919, "the remote Virginia past

was buried under as many layers of legend as the numerous

strata which Heinrich Schliemann found overlying Homer's

Troy."1 In part this reflects, as Richard Hofstadter well

noted, the loss to the American imagination of the entire

pre-Revolutionary era, leaving only "an episodic mytho-

logy."2 But the colonial era does not suffer alone. The

ghosts of the English and American civil wars continue to

haunt all interpretations of the American past. The very

categories commonly used to conceptualize the mind and

behavior of these earliest Americans--Puritans and Yankees,

Rogues and Cavaliers, Yeomen and Po' White Trash--reflect

the polemical war of words waged by seventeenth-century

Englishmen on the one hand and antebellum Americans on the


The problem in conceptualization, however, goes deeper

than stereotypical labels for modern historians are mired in

their own polemical war of words. When discussing colonial

Virginia, historians do not pit one hypothesis against

another, but one historian's truth against another's myth.

Furthermore, oblivious to their own historiography, these

historians do not even realize they have been mired in the

same debate since the 1910s and have gotten no closer to

agreement. But, as later chapters will show, the sterility

of modern historiography reflects a problem far deeper than

the simple lack of historiographical perspective.

Modernist Approach

All historians acknowledge that New World cultures

arose out of the combined influence of cultural inheritance,

the selective nature of migration, the selective transfer-

ence of Old World institutions, particular New World geogra-

phy and climate, contact with other cultures, and continuing

contact with the mother country. Yet studies have varied

greatly in the weight given to each factor, ignoring some

completely, giving lip service to others, all the while

highlighting one or the other as "the central theme" of

American development.3

For the most part, differing interpretations of the

mindset of the seventeenth-century Virginian and hence the

nature of early Virginia society have stressed cultural

baggage, selective migration, and physical environment to

the exclusion of all other factors. Historians generally

assume all white Virginians were Anglo-Saxon, ignoring the

small groups of Welsh, Scots, Irish, and Hugenots.4 Simi-

larly, they ignore cultural contact with these minor immi-

grant streams, as well as the larger numbers of African and

West Indian slaves and native Americans (apart from the

exceptional and isolated work of Mechal Sobel and a handful

of ethnohistorians).5 While earlier studies of seventeenth-

century Virginia usually recognized the civilizing effect of

continued commercial contact with England in the first

years, modern studies all but ignore such contact.6 Fur-

thermore, almost all historians of early Virginia, whether

they emphasize continuity or change, treat institutional

transfer as a dependent rather than an independent vari-


Yet historians differ fundamentally and vociferously on

whether cultural baggage, selective migration, or the physi-

cal environment proved the dominant factor in shaping colo-

nial Virginia, divisions following closely intradisciplinary

boundaries. In general, "cultural" and "intellectual" histo-

rians have worked within a "traditionalist" framework

emphasizing the transfer of traditional English culture

dominated by the gentry ethic to the New World and only

slightly modified by the New World environment.8 On the

other hand, "social" historians have developed a "modernist"

approach stressing alternatively the selective transference

of English culture dominated by a bourgeois ethic and the

special nature of the New World environment that transformed

traditional Englishmen into modern Americans.9

Most modernist interpretations of early America do not

argue any intent on the part of the immigrants to create a

modern world, but rather the divergence from traditional

ideals as a result of the different physical environment.10

Although historians have emphasized various environmental

factors that significantly impacted seventeenth-century

Virginia society (such as warm climate, abundant land,

Indian clearings, Tidewater riverine system, isolation from

England), the general emphasis in most environmentalist

interpretations of seventeenth-century Virginia can be

summed up by one word: frontier. All of the great "frontier"

historians of nineteenth-century America from Turner to Ray

Allen Billington have recognized (at least implicitly)

seventeenth-century Virginia as the earliest frontier,

although usually downplaying its significance to the great

American narrative by labeling the Tidewater a "European"

frontier or "a frontier without frontiersmen."'1 Historians

and historical archaeologists of the colonial Chesapeake

have regularly highlighted the frontier concept.12

This emphasis on the frontier obviously reflects the

dominance of Frederick Jackson Turner in twentieth-century

American historiography.13 Unfortunately, just what one

means by frontier remains as ambiguous with regard to seven-

teenth-century Virginia as to the nineteenth-century West.

Turner, in his various writings on the frontier, presented

various definitions. Indeed, the power of his thesis rests

fundamentally on that very ambiguity of definition, drawing

as much on myth and metaphor as on late nineteenth-century

evolutionary science.14 In the Judeo-Christian tradition,

the frontier has both a dark and a bright side, alternately

a howling wilderness ruled by demons and wild beasts and a

"Lockean" state of nature ruled by the hand of God that

God's chosen people transform into the Promised Land. In

America, via its links with Puritanism and Jeffersonianism,

this Judeo-Christian tradition came to play a central role

in American mythology.15 Other more pagan Western tradi-

tions equate the frontier with the original state of nature:

a "Hobbesian" war of man against man in a struggle for

survival, status, power, and wealth; a peaceful and non-

materialistic communitarian utopia; or an idle and carefree

Lubberland existence.16 The power and longevity of the

Turner thesis lies in the combination of the Manifest Desti-

ny of the Judeo-Christian and Jeffersonian traditions with

the Hobbesian-cum-Darwinian scientific tradition.17 But

attempts to extend the Judeo-Christian part of the myth to

seventeenth-century Virginia, for whatever reason, have

never really captured the historical imagination, leaving

the field ripe for a Hobbesian interpretation."8

The Hobbesian frontier acts on humans in three ways.

First, the abundance of resources and free land on the

frontier creates infinite opportunity for material acquisi-

tion and spurs hope of social and economic mobility.19

Second, the removal of traditional constraints frees indi-

viduals to compete with each other for those resources

without regard for the consequences to others in the present

or future. Third, the ruggedness of the frontier makes

actual survival and the survival of one's offspring ulti-

mately dependent on success in that competition. In the

language of Social Darwinism, following Charles Darwin

himself, the whole westward movement, beginning with the

trans-Atlantic voyage, becomes "a 'process' wherein the

survival value of men and institutions was tested," an arena

in which heredity and environment, "eugenics and euthenics,"

worked in harmony within "the framework prescribed by

race."20 Scholars recognize that all these effects do not

occur on every frontier and the effects occur in non-fron-

tier contexts as well (such as in the opportunity and hope

generated in times of prosperity, and the removal of con-

straints and threat to survival in times of societal break-

down). Furthermore, there is no consensus on the exact

outcome of any individual effect or combination of effects

on a particular society. But in the context of the seven-

teenth-century Virginia frontier, modernists like Carl L.

Becker, Wilbur J. Cash, Perry Miller, Sigmund Diamond, David

Bertelson, Edmund S. Morgan, T. H. Breen, Richard D. Brown,

Darrett B. Rutman, and Jack P. Greene agree that the three

effects converged to unleash a "buccaneering capitalism" as

all men fiercely competed for the factors of production in

pursuit of the "main chance," which in seventeenth-century

Virginia generally meant maximizing tobacco production.21

Many of these modernists implicitly or explicitly

presume the traditional nature of the cultural baggage

imported by the English, thus highlighting the nature of the

Turnerian transformation. However, with the increasing

disfavor of strict economic and geographic determinism in

the other social sciences, complexities in extending the

Turnerian thesis to non-American frontiers and non-English

immigrants, and critiques of American isolationism, histori-

ans after World War II began emphasizing the bourgeois

nature of the English immigrants.22 Scholars like Carl

Bridenbaugh, Stanley M. Elkins, Robert F. Berkhofer, and

Rutman highlighted the "pre-selective" nature of migration,

with America attracting only the most ambitious, individual-

istic, and acquisitive men and women, all the while continu-

ing to accent the greater free play of the New World envi-

ronment.2 In the latest development, historians like

Rutman, Brown, and Greene have begun to stress even more the

transitional nature of English society, undergoing its own

(albeit more gradual) modernization as the commercial revo-

lution of the late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-

century affected all classes.24

These modernists, although they disagree vehemently

amongst themselves over things like planter attitudes toward

risk and the nature of opportunities and constraints, regu-

larly assume that planters, great and small, were to all

intents and purposes modern American farmers who sought

nothing more than to maximize capital accumulation.25

Indeed, John J. McCusker and Russell R. Menard and several

other historians have gone so far over to an "economic man"

interpretation as to blur any distinction between historians

and neo-classical economists, equating the planters of the


seventeenth-century Chesapeake with twentieth-century indus-

trial firms.26

Traditionalist Approach

The modernist approach did not go unchallenged. After

World War II, intellectual and cultural historians led by

Louis B. Wright, Merle Curti, Peter Laslett, Daniel Boor-

stin, Carl N. Degler, Richard Beale Davis, and most recently

Bertram Wyatt-Brown and David Hackett Fischer, have coun-

tered that continuity, the transplantation of the rural

gentry ideal--or what Fischer calls the "Cavalier ethic"--

played the greatest role in shaping colonial Virginia soci-

ety. "As social-climbing citizens at home [in England]

sought to imitate the landed gentry," wrote Wright, "so

Virginia colonists who had the opportunity of acquiring land

and accumulating wealth" sought to become "country gentlemen

in the English manner, and country gentlemen, for better or

worse, they became."27 Moreover, continuing in the tradi-

tion of nineteenth-century New England historians, tradi-

tionalists tend to set off the Southern experience from

mainstream American experience, tracing the American charac-

ter and institutions to Northern roots and the Southern

character to English gentry roots. When Degler wrote in 1959

that "Capitalism Came in the First Ships" to America, he did

not mean the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.28

In contrast to the materialist objectives stressed by

the modernist approach, traditionalists emphasize the ideal-

ist pursuit of gentility, the "honor of a gentleman" which

comprised "that quality which was the very mainspring of his

actions."29 "The pattern of life which the ruling class of

Virginia planters sought to follow was an ancient heritage

dependent upon the possession of land, with sufficient

income to maintain one's position with dignity and honor."30

Even acquisitiveness and luxury reflected the desire for the

appropriate accoutrements of one's station.31 In addition,

the ideal comprised such elements as the Renaissance spirit

of adventure, religiosity, hedonism, a desire for material

security, and an overall emphasis on the Aristotelian golden

mean--a balance or equilibrium among all these diverse

elements not allowing any single aspect to obliterate other

aspects of a genteel life.32

Like the modernists, traditionalists recognize both

that the character of the immigrants did not change simply

in the course of making a trans-Atlantic voyage and that the

end product of Virginia society resulted from the evolution-

ary interaction of the intended goal with the environ-

ment.33 Indeed, while modernists note that the frontier

engendered the Yankee spirit, traditionalists typically find

that the mild climate and fertile soil allowed the Cavalier

ethic to flourish in Virginia.34

Traditionalists like Wright, Boorstin, and Davis be-

lieve that the realities of colonial life forced all plan-

ters, great and small, to engage in a wide range of economic

activities to attain a desired standard of living. And,

indeed, the planter worked hard and engaged in almost any

activity or investment for his capital that might yield a

profit, from tobacco production to land speculation to

commercial trade to political office.35 But traditionalists

emphasized that, despite the reality of environmental con-

straints, the ultimate goal was not the maximization of

wealth. "Honor," Wyatt-Brown notes, "had always required

wealth but only as a means to an end. It was not the end

itself...possessions for the mere sake of having and enjoy-

ing them was secular accumulation, amoral and self-indul-

gent, as churchmen as well as men of honor never tired of

stressing."36 Despite their labors, planters always found

time for a cultured life. To these would-be gentlemen, the

wilderness represented a temporary obstacle in the path to

gentility and civilization.37

Behavioral Consensus

Despite the vast gulf between traditionalists and

modernists at the level of cultural analysis highlighted

above, at the behavioral level that gulf shrinks to almost

nothing. Cultural and intellectual historians following

Wright have acceded to almost the entire modernist argument


below the level of the "ultimate" goal or psychology of the

seventeenth-century Virginia planter. The two approaches

differ little on short-term goals, actual behavior, or the

behavioral transformation of colonial Virginia society from

the seventeenth to the eighteenth century, the only question

being whether these are manifestations of human nature,

traditional English values constrained by insufficient

wealth and the frontier environment, or bourgeois behavior

of a modern kind. Both sides agree that the difference

between pursuits of gentility, status, wealth, or capital

might matter in the eighteenth century but not in the

seventeenth century when wealth was the basis for achieving

every goal. Acknowledging that wealth was essential to the

pursuit of honor and gentility on the seventeenth-century

Chesapeake frontier, traditionalists conclude that the

immediate goal was to maximize capital accumulation in order

to buy servants and land with the hope and expectation of

achieving a future gentility.38 But traditionalists and

modernists agree, regardless of the ultimate goal of the

Virginians, that gentility was an unrealistic goal on the

seventeenth-century frontier.3

Reflecting the consensus on immigrant origins, both

approaches apply the same motivational model to all seven-

teenth-century immigrants. Regardless of origins, all

Englishmen, like immigrants in any age, sought to better

their condition, to acquire a freehold, and to accumulate

wealth in the land of opportunity. Thus they flocked to

Virginia, pulled to it by abundant land, high wages, and the

spirit of adventure, and pushed from England by declining

real wages, civil war, social upheaval, and bad harvests.40

Similarly, both schools stress a model of transforma-

tion rather than continuity for colonial Virginia, where

seventeenth-century frontiersmen changed themselves into an

eighteenth-century aristocracy with the development of their

own hedonistic "Tuckahoe" culture built around leisure,

luxury, sport, horses, sociability, and chivalry, while

retaining their earlier commercially-oriented, hard-working

spirit. Martin H. Quitt aptly characterizes this "transfor-

mation" as the shift from seventeenth-century "merchant-

planters" to eighteenth-century "planter-merchants." Richard

D. Brown labels the process "traditionalization," from a

modern buccaneering to a more traditional capitalism.41

Although traditionalists stress far greater continuity

in ultimate goals and accent much more the role of cultural

baggage, both approaches acknowledge the major shift in

short-term goals and behavior as the frontier stage ended.

As Virginia society stabilized at the end of the seventeenth

century by virtue of the growth of a native population, a

more equal sex ratio, and possibly a general decline in

mortality, social conditions made possible for the first

time the development of patriarchal, nuclear households. But

both traditionalists and modernists emphasize above all the


transition to slavery after 1680 with its detrimental impact

on the buccaneering, capitalistic behavior of rich and poor

whites alike.42 With the shift to slavery, great planters

finally accumulated sufficient wealth to permit themselves

the material symbols of their status and the leisure to

pursue the genteel life. Conspicuous consumption and

aversion to manual labor spread across all classes.43

Furthermore, both approaches acknowledge the influence of

eighteenth-century cultural contacts with England in the

refinement of the new creole elite. Increasingly sensitive

to criticism and ridicule over their provincialism, Virginia

planters turned to the English gentry for guidance in mat-

ters of status and gentility and emulated the changing

European fashions.44 The two processes of creolization and

Anglicization intertwined in a complex manner, giving rise

to the complex society of eighteenth-century Virginia.45

This consensus periodizes the history of colonial

Virginia into two phases, with some historians inserting a

period of transition. Each phase had its representative

planter: Samuel Mathews in the frontier phase of the first

half of the seventeenth century, a period dominated by

"tough, unsentimental, quick-tempered, crudely ambitious men

concerned with profits and increased landholdings, not the

grace of life";46 either William Byrd I or William Fitz-

hugh, merchant-planters in the transitional second half of

the seventeenth century; and William Byrd II in the aris-

tocratic phase of the first half of the eighteenth cen-

tury.47 The Great American narrative, however, seeking a

neat clean periodization, ignores any transitional phase and

simply marks the transformation around 1700 from a seven-

teenth-century colonial society to an eighteenth-century

provincial society.48

Myth of Origins

Amazingly, historians in the 1990s have engaged in this

rather weak debate and extensive consensus almost oblivious

to its remarkable similarity to the 1920s when Thomas Jef-

ferson Wertenbaker, slayer of "the Cavalier myth," ruled the

historiography of seventeenth-century Virginia. A review of

this poorly understood historiographical triumph provides

ample fuel for those who believe that in slaying one myth,

historians do not move closer to objectivity but simply

impose a countermyth. For in truth, what Wyatt-Brown calls

the "Myth of the Bourgeois Planter" and Fischer disparaging-

ly calls "the Wertenbaker thesis," has dominated modern

interpretations of seventeenth-century Virginia, although

perhaps not for the reasons that Wyatt-Brown and Fischer


The Cavalier myth undoubtedly had deep roots in atti-

tudes developed during the colonial and revolutionary eras,

but achieved the status of popular mythology only in the

years leading up to the Civil War, aided by the popularity

of the romantic fiction of Sir Walter Scott. As sectional

tensions increased, Southerners and Northerners alike began

to draw separate portraits of national origins for two

distinct civilizations: a Puritan-Yankee North and a Cava-

lier South. Antebellum Americans, by mutual consent, be-

lieved Northerners and Southerners were not just possessed

of different cultures in the modern sense, but were distinct

races. Northerners traced their roots to original Anglo-

Saxon blood surging through Puritan Roundheads while South-

erners believed themselves the progeny of the Norman con-

querors of medieval England through their descendants, the

Royalist defenders of Charles I. With such different heri-

tages, both sections set about creating distinct societies,

each dominated by a different spirit: capitalistic in the

North and aristocratic in the South.50

In the aftermath of Civil War and Reconstruction, the

political war of words faded and custody of the myths of

origin passed to historians as history fell increasingly

under the domination of "professional" academics. Two

trends, with obvious roots in the racism of the antebellum

era, marked late nineteenth-century historiography: a back-

ward-looking, localistic filiopietism and a forward-looking,

nationalistic Social Darwinism. Although "amateur" histor-

ians inclined toward the former and "professional" histor-

ians toward the latter, both groups shared a desire to heal

old sectional wounds by deemphasizing the antebellum empha-

sis on racial and class divisions between North and South.51

In the historiography of colonial Virginia, these

trends revealed themselves most sharply in the work of John

Esten Cooke and John Fiske, the key modern progenitors of

the myth of the Cavalier exodus. Both stressed a great

migration of Royalist supporters from England to Virginia

after the execution of Charles I as the only feasible expla-

nation for the significant rise in population in the colony

between 1649 and 1671. Undoubtedly, for Cooke and his fellow

Southerners, filiopietism played an important role in their

promotion of the Cavalier myth as a reaction to New England

dominance of national history.52 Nevertheless, Cooke and

Fiske primarily turned to the Cavalier myth within the

spirit of a postbellum reconciliation espoused by many

members of the literary community North and South. This

compromise on American origins substituted a common Anglo-

Saxon inheritance for the antebellum emphasis on North-

South class and racial divisions. In turn, terms like

Cavalier and Puritan reverted to their earlier connotation

of strictly religious and political differences during the

great exodus of political and religious refugees from

seventeenth-century England that originally peopled


The antebellum and Cooke-Fiske versions of the Cavalier

exodus started unraveling as more critical genealogists and

historians began to examine the historical record. By the

late nineteenth century, genealogists had revealed that few

noblemen or even near relations of noblemen had immigrated

to early Virginia, and leading journals like the Virginia

Magazine of History and Biography and the William and Mary

Quarterly had grown increasingly hostile to the aristocratic

myth.54 Even Fiske would write that most planters descended

from "either country squires or prosperous yeomen, or

craftsmen from the numerous urban guilds."55 The detailed

work of Philip Alexander Bruce finally put to rest both the

literal antebellum and Cooke-Fiske myths. Although Bruce

traced the origins of some of the higher planter class to

English peers, knights, esquires, and "gentlemen," he found

that these immigrants were not concentrated in one great

exodus but arrived throughout the seventeenth century; more

to the point, Bruce found that the planters for the most

part descended from the English squirearchy, professionals,

military officers, and, especially, the merchant class.

Further Bruce showed conclusively that servants comprised

the great bulk of immigrants over the course of the seven-

teenth century.56

A genuine consensus quickly grew around Bruce's more

balanced presentation emphasizing the mercantile background

of most of the planter elite.7 In the twentieth century,

lingering references to the antebellum and Cooke-Fiske myths

of a great Cavalier exodus can only be labelled straw-man

arguments.58 Indeed, historians go to great lengths to

eschew any association with the old myths.59 Even Fischer,

whose latest effort on occasion implies a reversion to the

racial Cavalier myth of the antebellum era, when directly

challenged claims nothing more than what Bruce claimed at

the turn of the century.60

Origins of an Ethos: Cavalier versus Yankee

Consensus on the social origins of seventeenth-century

Virginians has, however, led only to more intensified dis-

agreements among historians over the nature of early Vir-

ginia society. The modern debate shifted from social origins

to questions of the mindset of the immigrants and the rela-

tive weight of the competing influences of environment and

culture. Far more than any other historians, Bruce and

Wertenbaker set the groundwork for this debate.

Although Bruce did not accept the old Cavalier myth, he

evinced such a nostalgia for the "spacious days of the old

landed aristocracy," that his portrait of seventeenth-cen-

tury Virginia "could have jarred no one who remained dedi-

cated to the idea that Virginia owed much of its essential

character to its Cavalier settlers."61 Although few aristo-

crats-in-blood immigrated, sufficient numbers of Cavaliers

imbued with the "spirit" of the English landed gentry came

to stamp a dominant Cavalier ethos on seventeenth-century

Virginia society that would later shape an eighteenth-


century Virginian aristocracy. While historians such as John

Spencer Bassett would continue to emphasize the central role

of an exodus of royalists during the Interregnum, most

followed Bruce, either sidestepping the issue of timing or

emphasizing a steady flow of aristocrats throughout the

seventeenth century and thus accentuating the theme of

historical continuity in Virginia's first century.62

For Bruce, the leading immigrants, whether from town or

country, brought with them the ideals and customs of the

English landed gentry: "In essentials the life which the

Virginian led on his estate was the same as the life which

the English gentleman led on his own." In particular, Bruce

stressed that the Virginia gentry carried over the very best

of the English entrepreneurial spirit, reflected in their

willingness to emigrate to America. Further, Bruce empha-

sized the historical continuity of Virginia society in every

important detail from Jamestown to the eve of the Civil War,

with refinements in outward appearances merely a function of

the steady accumulation of wealth.63

Wertenbaker differed little from Bruce on the myths of

origin and many other details of seventeenth-century Vir-

ginia; indeed, he frequently cited Bruce as his sole autho-

rity. But Wertenbaker challenged the whole notion of a

transplanted Cavalier ethos. Such remote lineages tracing to

"distinguished families" as Bruce sought to establish meant

little to the merchants' sons intent on coming to Virginia.

Wertenbaker regarded these earliest merchant-planters as a

full-blown bourgeoisie that the New World environment

transformed into Yankees: voracious devourers of labor,

importing ever-increasing numbers of indentured servants at

first and then slaves in a limitless search for ever greater

profits from tobacco rather than the leisure of an English

landed estate. In contrast to Bruce's continuity model,

Wertenbaker believed that a planter aristocracy did not

arise until the eighteenth century, a home-grown product

evolved out of local environmental conditions that trans-

formed these merchant-planters from "practical business men"

dominated by "the mercantile instinct" into "idealistic and

chivalrous aristocrats."64 In particular, Wertenbaker high-

lighted the role of tobacco culture, the entrenchment of

African slavery, the subsequent demise of the Virginia

yeomanry, the overseer system, the accumulation of wealth,

and the rise of isolated plantations.65 Reflecting the

strong influence of Social Darwinism, Wertenbaker also

emphasized the transmuting impact of the New World environ-

ment on the Virginia middle class. Both the abundance and

harshness of life on the seventeenth-century Virginia fron-

tier--ruled, as it was, by "the law of the survival of the

fittest"--established that success for early Virginians owed

more to "rough qualities of manhood that fitted them for the

life in the forests of the New World, than to education or

culture. ,66


Twentieth-century commentators seeking to justify their

own interpretation of seventeenth-century Virginia have

frequently insinuated that the differing interpretations of

Bruce and Wertenbaker reflected not ambiguity in the histor-

ical evidence but personal qualities: the difference between

an amateur and a professional historian, an Old South roman-

tic and a myth-busting scientific historian, an heir of a

"First Family" and an anti-aristocratic "Teuton.""67 None of

these opinions goes very far toward explaining the differ-

ences, let alone the commonalities. The difference between

these two equally proud native Virginians with strong ties

to Mr. Jefferson's University reflected more a generational

shift, the difference in perspective between those who had

experienced the Civil War directly and those who experienced

it in absentia, from a late nineteenth-century Bourbon to an

early twentieth-century Progressive.68 But as numerous

historians of the New South have noted, the Bourbon and

Progressive remained strictly that--a generational shift--

with similarities far outweighing differences.

Historians have generally followed Rutman's interpreta-

tion of Bruce as "a perfect example" of what C. Vann Wood-

ward called "the divided mind" of the South, the Bourbon

caught between conflicting beliefs in the "New South Creed"

and "the myth of the Old South."69 But no Southern histo-

rian, and certainly neither Bruce nor Wertenbaker, escaped

the pervasive turn-of-the-century Southern climate of opin-


ion combining in varying degrees paradoxical elements of Old

South filopietism, New South nationalism, Jeffersonian

democracy, and Anglo-Saxon racism.70 Fundamentally, both

scholars accepted the Old South myth so gloriously sketched

by Bruce's brother-in-law, Thomas Nelson Page, the romantic

novelist and historical essayist. Indeed Bruce's and

Wertenbaker's interpretations in many respects reflect

simply opposing running commentaries on how they believed

the seventeenth-century Virginia gentry and society (as

revealed in the historical evidence) measured up to this

ideal type of antebellum Southern society.71 For Bruce, all

the evidence suggested that the seventeenth-century

Tidewater gentry were nothing less than the antebellum

planter society in embryo, while Wertenbaker found the

seventeenth-century planter oligarchy sadly lacking in all

the antebellum graces. Indeed, Wertenbaker found the seven-

teenth-century merchant-planters, whom Bruce had already

shown to have a strong mercantile inheritance and back-

ground, acting for all the world like unscrupulous


Wertenbaker and Bruce differed in the same way that the

early twentieth-century Progressive historians in general

differed from their immediate predecessors.73 While their

predecessors stressed class consensus, the Progressives

stressed class conflict. Wertenbaker in his first work,

Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia (1910), which he sub-

titled The Origin and Development of the Social Classes of

the Old Dominion, emphasized the rise of a two-class society

of aristocrats and middle-class yeomen in late seventeenth-

century Virginia; Bruce, in his Social Life of Virginia in

the Seventeenth Century (1907), which he subtitled An Inqui-

ry into the Origin of the Higher Planter Class, viewed the

Old South as well as contemporary England as a "one-class

society" a la Peter Laslett.74 Both Wertenbaker and Bruce

celebrated Nathaniel Bacon as a key player in the rise of

American democracy. Indeed, in 1958, Wertenbaker would draw

on Bruce, writing in 1893, to state in a nutshell the for-

mer's whole "torchbearer of the revolution" thesis.7s But

while Bruce followed the conservative emphasis on Bacon's

traditional defense of the Englishman's rights against the

intrusion of Berkeley and the Crown, Wertenbaker highlighted

the yeoman's democratic challenge to the entrenched planter


Where Bruce and pre-Progressive historians saw continu-

ity, whether between England and America or between seven-

teenth-century and nineteenth-century Virginia, Wertenbaker

and Progressive historians saw discontinuity.7 Direct links

are unclear, but Wertenbaker fits well within the pattern of

certain other Southern Progressives like Walter Hines Page

and William E. Dodd who harped back in turn to a preslavery,

democratic South in the tradition of antebellum Jefferson-

ians like Hugh Blair Grigsby.78 In the end, both Werten-

baker's and Bruce's antebellum Southern gentlemen shared

strong similarities with their ideal of an early modern

English gentry, but while Bruce saw this as a simple process

of cultural inheritance with only slight environmental

impact, Wertenbaker envisioned a complex double-trans-

formation process of evolution combining Herbert Baxter

Adam's "germ" theory, Frederick Jackson Turner's frontier

thesis, and Edward Eggleston's multi-factor "transit of

civilization" all rolled into one.79

While both Bruce and Wertenbaker were interested in

developing a more scientific history and both truly pio-

neered in the development of modern social historiography,

Bruce reflected the late nineteenth-century ideal of a

plodding Rankeian "inductive" history while Wertenbaker

exuded the "New History's" confidence in a rapier-like

"deductive" history.80 At the evidentiary level, the main

point of contention between the two rested on whether any of

their findings of divergence from an antebellum aristocratic

society made seventeenth-century Virginia sufficiently

different to fall outside the range of characteristics of

seventeenth-century English society (of which neither Bruce

nor Wertenbaker knew much beyond a cursory reading). Thus

the resolution of their differences reduced to a problem in

historical sociology beyond the scope of either historian,

both in theory and evidence.81


Both Bruce and Wertenbaker recognized the influence of

cultural and environmental factors in seventeenth-century

Virginia society. However, on the exact balance between

those cultural and environmental forces and the specific

nature of those forces, the two diverged. Where Bruce

emphasized cultural continuity and the triumph of culture

over environment, Wertenbaker stressed cultural transforma-

tion and the triumph of environment over culture.82

Overall, one must conclude that, through their conver-

gences and divergences, Bruce and Wertenbaker fundamentally

framed the twentieth-century approach to the history of

seventeenth-century Virginia. They converged on the Anglo-

Saxon nature of immigration, drawn primarily from the mid-

dling and mercantile classes who sought to better their

condition, acquire a freehold, and accumulate wealth in the

land of opportunity. They agreed early Virginians were a

hard-working, entrepreneurial, commercially-oriented lot.

Both emphasized the importance of the settlement process,

the slow accumulation of wealth, population growth, and the

introduction of slavery as the fundamental forces in the

economic evolution of Virginian society, rather than the

changed character of immigrants or a mass Cavalier exodus.

All of these ideas form the heart of the historical consen-

sus on seventeenth-century Virginia.83

In their divergent opinions on the relative importance

of historical continuity versus change, culture versus

environment in their explication of the nature of colonial

Virginia, Bruce and Wertenbaker tapped into basic conserva-

tive-liberal and idealist-materialist debates that continue

to divide traditionalists and modernists. However, one

should not make too much of such divergences since both

early and late twentieth-century historians recognized it

was not a question of either-or. Indeed, the difference

between the two approaches "boils down," as Hofstadter noted

for most historical debates, "to questions of emphasis, to

arguments about how much stress we want to put on this fac-

tor rather than that, when we all admit that both were at

work. "84

More fundamentally, though, Bruce and Wertenbaker took

quite rigid stands on contrasting the dominance of two anti-

thetical spirits--Cavalier and Yankee--that did not come

down to "questions of emphasis." Either one was a Yankee in

spirit or one was a Cavalier in spirit, there was no in-

between. More than anything else, this strict dichotomiza-

tion gave Bruce and Wertenbaker a lasting presence in

shaping the two major approaches to seventeenth-century

Virginia historiography: the modernist approach following

Wertenbaker and the traditionalist approach following Bruce.

However, despite the extensive work of the traditional-

ists, there really was no question which interpretation of

seventeenth-century Virginia would win its place in the

great American synthesis. Although Bruce's books on the


economic, institutional, and social history of seventeenth-

century Virginia would continue to occupy a prominent place

on the bookshelves of historians of colonial Chesapeake, by

the 1920s Northern and Southern historians alike proclaimed

Wertenbaker "the great revisionist of the day...exploding

the myths perpetrated by Philip Alexander Bruce."85 Werten-

baker's class conflict and his transformational framework

melded with the developing Progressive synthesis that domi-

nated American historiography for most of the twentieth

century. His interpretation hardly dented the traditional

interpretations of the antebellum era, simply requiring the

substitution of Southern agrarianism versus Northern indus-

trialism for the traditional Cavalier versus Yankee antithe-

sis.86 And while counter-Progressive historians, beginning

in the 1950s, fundamentally challenged the traditional

dichotomization of antebellum Southern planters and Northern

capitalists, they had little to do in this regard in the

colonial Chesapeake.87 Traditionalists following Louis B.

Wright would indeed fully accept Wertenbaker's frontier as a

description of the environmental reality with its concomi-

tant dismissal of gentility as a realistic goal in the

seventeenth century.88 Similarly, the weakness of the

counter-Progressive movement when it dealt with seventeenth-

century Virginia historiography, despite the influence of

Boorstin, Degler, and other "consensus historians" on

American historiography in general, left little for neo-

Progressives to challenge.89 Against this consensus, the

countermythical charges of Wyatt-Brown and Fischer have had

little impact.

Defunct Historians and Economists

In public, historians have sometimes noted the continu-

ing influence of Bruce and Wertenbaker, although usually

without making clear exactly what that influence was. In a

review published in 1975, on the eve of the colonial Chesa-

peake renaissance, Warren M. Billings compared the impact of

the work of these two on later research on the seventeenth-

century Chesapeake to that of Charles A. Beard and Frederick

Jackson Turner on American history in general, all part of

an irrepressible Progressive synthesis of American his-

tory.90 In private, historians will even acknowledge that

the dominant interpretation today shares an uncanny resem-

blance to Wertenbaker's work, sans his blatant racism.91 But

few actually cite Bruce and Wertenbaker for factual evidence

and fewer still, if any, read them for their historical


John Maynard Keynes once warned his fellow economists

that those "practical economists, who believe themselves to

be quite exempt from past intellectual influences, are

usually the slaves of some defunct economist.""92 Billings in

1975 echoed Keynes in his hope that the burgeoning new

research on the Chesapeake would once and for all free the

seventeenth-century from the dead weight of past polem-

ics.93 Of all the social sciences, however, history seems to

be least concerned with its own past. Billings's hopes were

dashed. For even if seldom read and cited, Bruce and

Wertenbaker--defunct historians--still set the terms of

modern Chesapeake scholarship. What has been described in

opening as a division between modernists and traditionalists

turns out to be simply a recasting of Wertenbaker versus

Bruce. And mired in this old debate we regularly add rich

detail to our pool of knowledge about the region (A Place in

Time and Robert Cole's World come to mind) but knowledge

cast in terms of old understandings. What follows attempts

to sketch something new.


1. Jay B. Hubbell, Southern Life in Fiction (Athens: U of
Georgia P, 1960) 37.

2. Richard Hofstadter, The Progressive Historians: Turner,
Beard, Parrington (New York: Knopf, 1968) 5.

3. Walker D. Wyman and Clifton B. Kroeber, eds., The
Frontier in Perspective (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1957)

4. See, e.g., Philip Alexander Bruce, Institutional History
of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, 2 vols. (1910;
Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1964) 2: 606; Thomas J. Werten-
baker, The Planters of Colonial Virginia, The Shaping of
Colonial Virginia (1922; New York: Russell, 1958) 34, 36;
Philip Alexander Bruce, Social Life of Virginia in the
Seventeenth Century, 2nd ed. (Lynchburg, VA: Bell, 1927)
255-6; Wesley Frank Craven, White, Red, and Black: The
Seventeenth-Century Virginian (Charlottesville: UP of
Virginia, 1971) 1; Gloria L. Main, Tobacco Colony: Life in
Early Maryland, 1650-1720 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1982)

256, 260. For a minority viewpoint stressing a Celtic
descent, see John E. Manahan, "The Cavalier Remounted: A
Study of the Origin's of Virginia's Population, 1607-1700,"
diss., U of Virginia, 1946.

5. Mechal Sobel, The World They Made Together: Black and
White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia (Princeton:
Princeton UP, 1987). On native American influence, see
Chapter 5, n. 108.

6. See, e.g., Hugh Blair Grigsby, The Virginia Convention of
1776 (Richmond, 1855) 5-6; Thomas Nelson Page, The Old
South: Essays Social and Political (New York, 1892) 102-3;
John Fiske, Old Virginia and her Neighbours, 2 vols.
(Boston: Houghton, 1902) 2: 315-6, 388-9; Frederick Jackson
Turner, The Frontier in American History (1920; New York:
Holt, 1962) 65, 68, 205-6, 210; Thomas J. Wertenbaker,
Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia, The Shaping of Colonial
Virginia (1910; New York: Russell, 1958) iii-vi, 107-8, 141-
2; Thomas Perkins Abernethy, "The Southern Frontier, an
Interpretation," The Frontier in Perspective, ed. Walker D.
Wyman and Clifton B. Kroeber (Madison: U of Wisconsin P,
1957): 131.

7. However, some historians in contrasting colonial New
England and Virginia do seem to give a fairly independent
role to institutional transfer, stressing the lack of some
New England institution (e.g., corporate community, Puritan
ministers) that gave much freer play to environmental forces
in Virginia. See, e.g., Turner, Frontier 65, 73-4, 125, 347;
Darrett B. Rutman, Winthrop's Boston: Portrait of a Puritan
Town 1630-1649 (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1965)
22, 279; Page Smith, As A City Upon A Hill: The Town in
American History (Cambridge: MIT P, 1966) 12-3; Darrett B.
Rutman, American Puritanism: Faith and Practice
(Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1970) 47-51.

8. Here, as elsewhere, I plead guilty to the charge of
"lumping" with all its inherent flaws. In this case, while
increased splitting might be fairer to individual histor-
ians, I do not believe it would change my basic conclusions.
See J. H. Hexter, On Historians: Reappraisals of Some of the
Makers of Modern History (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1979) 241-

9. The modernist camp does include some intellectual histo-
rians like David Bertelson who have followed the dominant
social historical interpretation. See David Bertelson, The
Lazy South (New York: Oxford UP, 1967).

10. See, e.g., Wertenbaker, Patrician 107; Wertenbaker,
Planters 28; Arthur Meier Schlesinger, New Viewpoints in
American History (New York: Macmillan, 1922) 33; Carl Bri-
denbaugh, Myths and Realities: Societies of the Colonial
South (1952; New York: Atheneum, 1966) 5; Rutman, American
Puritanism 48-9; Darrett B. Rutman, The Morning of America,
1603-1789 (Boston: Houghton, 1971) 42; Main, Tobacco Colony
256, 260.

11. See, e.g., Turner, Frontier 4, 9, 67, 70, 206; Schlesin-
ger, New Viewpoints 33-4; Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Life and
Labor in the Old South (1929; Boston: Little, 1946) 27;
Thomas Perkins Abernethy, Three Virginia Frontiers (Univer-
sity, LA: Louisiana State UP, 1940) 1-28; W. J. Cash, The
Mind of the South (New York: Vintage, 1941) 4; Fulmer Mood,
"Studies in the History of American Settled Areas and
Frontier Lines: Settled Areas and Frontier Lines, 1625-
1790," Agricultural History 26 (1952): 16-24; Abernethy,
"Southern Frontier" 129-32; Arthur K. Moore, The Frontier
Mind: A Cultural Analysis of the Kentucky Frontiersmen
(Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1957) 50; Ray Allen Billington,
Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier, 4th
ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1974) 50-64. John Fiske, one of
the earliest supporters of Turner, emphasized the role of
the frontier in the development of North Carolina, but
completely neglected any role for seventeenth-century Vir-
ginia due to continuous contact with "the currents of Euro-
pean thought." See Fiske 2: 315-6, 388-9. Fiske in turn may
have influenced Turner's view of the earliest seaboard
frontier. See Ray Allen Billington, The Genesis of the
Frontier Thesis: A Study in Historical Creativity (San
Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1971) 173, 208.

12. For historical archaeologists, see Kenneth E. Lewis,
Jr., "An Archaeological Perspective on Social Change--The
Virginia Frontier," The Frontier: Comparative Studies, eds.
David Harry Miller and Jerome O. Steffen (Norman: U of
Oklahoma P, 1977) 139-59; Robert Winston Keeler, "The Home-
lot on the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake Tidewater Fron-
tier," diss., U of Oregon, 1978, 3-10; John Solomon Otto,
The Southern Frontier, 1607-1860: The Agricultural Evolution
of the Colonial and Antebellum South (New York: Greenwood,
1989) 9-26; Ann B. Markell, "Manufacturing Identity:
Material Culture and Social Change in Seventeenth Century
Virginia," diss., U of California at Berkeley, 1990.

13. Although Turner recognized many other influences on
national character besides the frontier, critics and defen-
ders alike would not deny that the physical environment
stands out as his central theme. See Avery Craven, "Freder-
ick Jackson Turner," The Marcus W. Jernegan Essays in Ameri-
can Historiography, ed. William T. Hutchinson (Chicago:

Chicago UP, 1937) 259-61; George Wilson Pierson, "The Fron-
tier and American Institutions: A Criticism of the Turner
Theory," New England Quarterly 15 (1942): 226-7; Edward N.
Saveth, American Historians and European Immigrants 1875-
1925 (1948; New York: Russell, 1965) 122-37; Richard White,
"Frederick Jackson Turner," Historians of the American
Frontier: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, ed. John R.
Winder (New York: Greenwood, 1988) 663-73.

14. A. Craven, "Turner" 255-6; George Wilson Pierson, "The
Frontier and Frontiersmen of Turner's Essays: A Scrutiny of
the Foundations of the Middle Western Tradition," Pennsyl-
vania Magazine of History and Biography 64 (1940): 449-78;
Pierson, "Frontier and American Institutions" 227-30;
Hofstadter, Progressive Historians 84-6. On Turner's blend
of evolutionary science and myth, see Richard Hofstadter,
"Turner and the Frontier Myth," American Scholar 18 (1949):
433-43; Hofstadter, Progressive Historians 73-6; Lee Benson,
"The Historian as Mythmaker: Turner and the Closed Fron-
tier," The Frontier in American Development: Essays in Honor
of Paul Wallance Gates, ed. David M. Ellis (Ithaca: Cornell
UP, 1969) 3-19. Reginald Horsman analyzes earlier nine-
teenth-century efforts at interweaving religious and scien-
tific traditions to mythologize the American frontier. See
Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of
American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge: Harvard UP,
1981). On connections between scientific racism, Teutonism,
and the frontier myth, see also Bronwen J. Cohen, "Nativism
and Western Myth: The Influence of Nativist Ideas on the
American Self-Image," Journal of American Studies 8 (1974):

15. Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents in American
Thought: An Interpretation of American Literature from the
Beginnings to 1920, 3 vols. (1927; Norman: U of Oklahoma P,
1987) 1: 140-7; Arthur Alphonse Ekirch, Jr., The Idea of
Progress in American, 1815-1860 (1944; New York: AMS, 1969)
36; Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as
Symbol and Myth (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1950); Reinhold
Niebuhr, The Irony of American History (New York: Scrib-
ner's, 1952) 24; Alan Heimert, "Puritanism, the Wilderness,
and the Frontier," New England Quarterly 26 (1953): 361-82;
Louis B. Wright, Culture on the Moving Frontier (Bloom-
ington: Indiana UP, 1955) 11-45; Perry Miller, Errand into
the Wilderness (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1956) 1-15; Harvey
Wish, The American Historian: A Social-Intellectual History
of the Writing of the American Past (New York: Oxford UP,
1960) 3-6, 71, 85; Rush Welter, "The Frontier West as Image
of American Society: Conservative Attitudes before the Civil
War," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 46 (1960): 593-
614; Charles L. Sanford, The Quest for Paradise: Europe and
the American Moral Imagination (Urbana: U of Illinois P,

1961); George H. Williams, Wilderness and Paradise in
Christian Thought: The Biblical Experience of the Desert in
the History of Christianity and the Paradise Theme in the
Theological Idea of the University (New York: Harper, 1962);
Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American
History: A Reinterpretation (New York: Knopf, 1963); Robert
F. Berkhofer, Jr., "Space, Time, Culture and the New Fron-
tier," Agricultural History 38 (1964): 21-30; Leo Marx, The
Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in
America (New York: Oxford UP, 1964); Howard Mumford Jones, 0
Strange New World: American Culture: The Formative Years
(New York: Viking, 1964) 1-70; David W. Noble, Historians
against History: The Frontier Thesis and the National
Covenant in American Historical Writing since 1830 (Minnea-
polis: U of Minnesota P, 1965); William Appleman Williams,
The Contours of American History (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1966)
182-5, 270, 364; Mircea Eliade, "Paradise and Utopia:
Mythical Geography and Eschatology," Utopias and Utopian
Thought, ed. Frank E. Manuel (Boston: Beacon, 1967) 260-80;
Ernest Lee Tuveson, Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America's
Millenial Role (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1968); Peter N.
Carroll, Puritanism and the Wilderness: The Intellectual
Significance of the New England Frontier 1629-1700 (New
York: Columbia UP, 1969) 1-16, 50-86; Hofstadter, Progres-
sive Historians 147-8; Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the
American Mind, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale UP, 1973) 1-43;
Sacvan Berkovitch, The American Jeremiad (Madison: U of
Wisconsin P, 1978); Oscar Handlin, Truth in History
(Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1979) 43-58; Merle Curti, Human
Nature in American Thought: A History (Madison: U of
Wisconsin P, 1980) 409; Ray Allen Billington, Land of
Savagery, Land of Promise: The European Image of the
American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century (New York:
Norton, 1981) 1-10; Lyman Tower Sargent, "Utopianism in
Colonial American," History of Political Thought 4 (1983):
483-522; Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of
the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization 1800-1890 (New
York: Atheneum, 1985) 33-47.

16. On the Hobbesian emphasis in the twentieth-century
frontier myth, see Turner, Frontier 30, 32, 37, 77-8, 107,
153-5, 203, 209-13, 258-65, 270-3, 279-81, 302-9, 318-21,
348-9; Schlesinger, New Viewpoints 33-4; Henry A. Wallace,
New Frontiers (New York: Reynal, 1934) 269-87; J. A.
Burkhart, "The Turner Thesis: A Historian's Controversy,"
Wisconsin Magazine of History 31 (1947): 79-80; Warren I.
Susman, "The Useless Past: American Intellectuals and the
Frontier Thesis: 1910-1930," Bucknell Review 11 (1963): 1-
20; Steven Kesselman, "The Frontier Thesis and the Great
Depression," Journal of the History of Ideas 29 (1968): 253-
68; Hofstadter, Progressive Historians 87-9, 141-2, 144,
473; Billington, Land of Savagery 10; David M. Wrobel, The

End of American Exceptionalism: Frontier Anxiety from the
Old West to the New Deal (Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 1993) 78-
85, 98-111, 127-42. On Hobbes's own description of the state
of nature, see Milton L. Myers, The Soul of Modern Economic
Man: Ideas of Self-Interest Thomas Hobbes to Adam Smith
(Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983) 31-2; Roger Trigg, Ideas of
Human Nature: An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell,
1988) 60-1. The communitarian version goes back at least to
Aristotle's espousal of the social nature of man in rejec-
tion of the atomistic theories of the pre-Socratics and in
more recent times has flourished among Reform Darwinists,
New Deal advocates, substantivist anthropologists, and
Thompsonian Marxist historians. See, e.g., Wallace 274-6;
Charles A. Beard, "Turner's 'The Frontier in American
History,'" The Books That Changed Our Minds, eds. Malcolm
Cowley and Bernard Smith (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries,
1970) 69-70; Mody C. Boatright, "The Myth of Frontier
Individualism," Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 22
(1941): 14-32; Clement Eaton, The Growth of Southern Civili-
zation 1790-1860 (New York: Harper, 1963) 159-60; Karl
Polanyi, Primitive, Archaic, and Modern Economies: Essays of
Karl Polanyi, ed. George Dalton (Garden City, NY: Anchor,
1968) 59-77; James A. Henretta, "Families and Farms: Mental-
it' in Pre-Industrial America," William and Mary Quarterly
3rd ser. 35 (1978): 3-32; Sargent 483-4,500-22; William A.
Galston, "Liberal Virtue," American Political Science Review
82 (1988): 1277-90; Darrett B. Rutman, Small Worlds, Large
Questions: Explorations in Early American Social History,
1600-1850 (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1994) 34-40,
287-304. That Turner himself recognized the importance of
frontier cooperation (although never fully reconciling with
his overall Hobbesian-Darwinian framework), see Turner,
Frontier 257-8, 277, 342-4, 358. On Lubberland and popular
utopias from the classical era to the present, see Parring-
ton 1: 137-40; Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas, Primiti-
vism and Related Ideas in Antiquity (1935; New York: Octa-
gon, 1965) 290-303; George Boas, Essays on Primitivism and
Related Ideas in the Middle Ages (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
UP, 1948) 154-74; A. L. Morton, The English Utopia (London:
Lawrence, 1952); A. Moore, Frontier Mind 25-43; Richard M.
Gummere, The American Colonial Mind and the Classical
Tradition: Essays in Comparative Culture (Cambridge: Harvard
UP, 1963) 20-36; Bertelson 14; Nash 9; Eliade 260-80; Martin
Roth, Comedy and America: The Lost World of Washington
Irving (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1976) 129-43; Sargent
484-6; Hal Rammel, Nowhere in America: The Big Rock Candy
Mountain and Other Comic Utopias (Urbana: U of Illinois P,
1990). On the blurring of pagan and Judeo-Christian frontier
concepts, see Loren Baritz, "The Idea of the West," American
Historical Review 66 (1961): 618-40. For a suggestive link
between Judeo-Christian and Social Darwinist ideologies, see

Irvin G. Wyllie, The Self-Made Man in America: The Myth of
Rags to Riches (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1954) 83-7.

17. See, e.g., Gene M. Gressley, "The Turner Thesis--a
Problem in Historiography," Agricultural History 32 (1958):
230; William Coleman, "Science and Symbol in the Turner
Frontier Hypothesis," American Historical Review 72 (1966):
47. Four years previous to Turner's address, Henry Adams
even more clearly outlined this powerful synthesis of Dar-
winian science and the Judeo-Christian tradition to capture
the essence of democratic progress in America by simply
synthesizing the polemical views of Europeans, Federalists,
and Jeffersonians on the American or Western character. See
Henry Adams, History of the United States of America during
the First Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 2 vols. (New
York, 1891) 1: 156-84; Henry Adams, History of the United
States of America during the Second Administration of James
Madison, 3 vols. (New York, 1891) 3: 221-5. Turner equally
depended on these polemical views and their power to per-
suade continues to the present in Turner's latter-day
disciple Ray Allen Billington. See Billington, America's
Frontier Heritage vi-vii, 63-6, 163-8, 200-1, 249n56;
Billington, Land of Savagery 195-225.

18. Historians have traditionally emphasized the individual-
istic nature of Southern migration and settlement in con-
trast to the group migration and covenanted community of the
North. See, e.g., Turner, Frontier 125; P. Smith, City 12-
3. Attempts by Darrett Rutman and other Chesapeake
historians to salvage the notion of "community" in early
Virginia by expunging the popular communitarian myth from
early American historiography bespeaks further the failure
to fit seventeenth-century Virginia into the "American"
frontier tradition and does not immunize these historians
from the Hobbesian label. Cf. Lois Green Carr, Philip D.
Morgan, and Jean B. Russo, "Introduction," Colonial Chesa-
peake Society, eds. Lois Green Carr et al. (Chapel Hill: U
of North Carolina P, 1988) 1-6, esp. 5n4.

19. David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance
and the American Character (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1954);
Jerome O. Steffen, The Tragedy of Abundance (Niwot, CO: UP
of Colorado, 1993). Some modernists differentiate the pur-
suit of status and the pursuit of wealth but in the context
of seventeenth-century Virginia, where historians equate
wealth and status, such moot distinctions become too subtle
to consider here. See, e.g., Billington, American Frontier
Thesis 42.

20. Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species...and The
Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York:
Modern Library, n.d.) 501-11; Saveth 90-7. The inherent

racism in the frontier thesis becomes obvious from the com-
plete dismissal of the humans on the other side of the
frontier who simply become part of the environment. See
Pierson, "Frontier and Frontiersmen," 461; David A. Nichols,
"Civilization over Savage: Frederick Jackson Turner and the
Indian," South Dakota History 2 (1972): 383-405; R. White,
"Turner" 665. Although Turner's environmentalism was perhaps
less racist than earlier Teutonic "germ" theories of history
by at least making room for the other Northern European
peoples, he no more than his fellow late nineteenth-century
historians could escape the influence of Anglo-Saxon racism.
See Gilman M. Ostrander, "Turner and the Germ Theory,"
Agricultural History 32 (1958): 258-61; Wish 183-7. Of
course, even liberal historians who criticize late nine-
teenth-century racism, often are guilty themselves of a
milder form in continuing to equate United States history
with English colonization. Cf. Hofstadter, Progressive
Historians 5, 73-4. For a more complex frontier approach
recognizing both the environmental and cultural impact of
the Indians on Anglo-American society, see Robert F.
Berkhofer, Jr., "The North American Frontier as Process and
Context," The Frontier in History: North America and
Southern Africa Compared, eds. Howard Lamar and Leonard
Thompson (New Haven: Yale UP, 1981) 43-75.

21. Carl Lotus Becker, Beginnings of the American People
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1915) 70, 79, 166-7; Cash 8; P.
Miller, Errand 4-9, 127-8, 139-40; Bertelson, Lazy South;
Sigmund Diamond, "Values as Obstacles to Economic Growth:
The American Colonies," Journal of Economic History 27
(1967): 561-75; Edmund S. Morgan, "The First American Boom:
Virginia 1618 to 1630," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser.
28 (1971): 169-98; Morgan, "The Labor Problem at Jamestown,
1607-18," American Historical Review 76 (1971): 595-611;
Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of
Colonial Virginia (New York: Norton, 1975); Edgar T.
Thompson, Plantation Societies, Race Relations, and the
South: The Regimentation of Populations (Durham, NC: Duke
UP, 1975) 223-5, 276; Richard D. Brown, Modernization: The
Transformation of American Life 1600-1865 (New York: Hill,
1976) 40-4; T. H. Breen, Puritans and Adventurers: Change
and Persistance in Early America (New York: Oxford UP,
1980); Jack P. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness: The Social
Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the
Formation of American Culture (Chapel Hill: U of North
Carolina P, 1988) 10-5; Martin H. Quitt, "Immigrant Origins
of the Virginia Gentry: A Study of Cultural Transmission and
Innovation," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 45 (1988)
638-9; D. Rutman, Small Worlds xiii. For similar interpreta-
tions of New England, see Parrington 1: 3-7; Charles S.
Grant, Democracy in the Connecticut Frontier Town of Kent
(New York: Columbia UP, 1961); Rutman, Winthrop's Boston 21-

40, 90-7, 143; John Frederick Martin, Profits in the Wilder-
ness: Entrepreneurship and the Founding of New England Towns
in the Seventeenth Century (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina
P, 1991) 3-4. Louis Hartz at one point conceives all of
American history in terms of a struggle for "survival" in
"the capitalist race." See Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradi-
tion in America: An Interpretation of American Political
Thought since the Revolution (New York: Harcourt, 1955) 52.
For a critique of this view for early America including
seventeenth-century Virginia, see J. E. Crowley, This Sheba,
Self: The Conceptualization of Economic Life in Eighteenth-
Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974) 1-2.

22. On non-American frontiers, see the essays in Wyman and
Kroeber. On non-English immigrants, see Richard H. Shryock,
"British versus German Traditions in Colonial Agriculture,"
Mississippi Valley Historical Review 26 (1939): 39-54;
Richard Beale Davis, Intellectual Life in the Colonial South
1585-1763, 3 vols. (Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1978) 2:
938-4. That Turner recognized the peculiar German influence,
even if he never developed the theme, see Turner, Frontier
110. On isolationism, see James C. Malin, "Space and His-
tory: Reflections on the Closed-Space Doctrines of Turner
and Mackinder and the Challenge of Those Ideas by the Air
Age," Agricultural History 18 (1944): 67; Carlton J. H.
Hayes, "The American Frontier--Frontier of What?," American
Historical Review 51 (1946): 199-216; H. Smith, Virgin Land
260; Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to
F.D.R. (New York: Vintage, 1955) 50; David W. Noble, The End
of American History: Democracy, Capitalism, and the Metaphor
of Two Worlds in Anglo-American Historical Writing, 1880-
1980 (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1985).

23. Schlesinger, New Viewpoints 33, 37; Bridenbaugh 12-13;
Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institu-
tional and Intellectual Life, 3rd ed. (Chicago: U of Chicago
P, 1976) 43-4; Berkhofer, "Space" 26-7, 29-30; Rutman, Win-
throp's Boston 43, 47, 52, 248-9; Clement Eaton, A History
of the Old South, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1966) 53-4;
Rutman, Morning 42; Carole Shammas, "English-Born and Creole
Elites in Turn-of-the-Century Virginia," The Chesapeake in
the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society,
eds. Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman (Chapel Hill: U of
North Carolina P, 1979) 278-80; Ritchie Devon Watson, Jr,
The Cavalier in Virginia Fiction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State UP, 1985) 33-58; Quitt 630-1, 642-5. Cf. Hartz 52.
Abernethy, while acknowledging this thesis as the norm for
most frontiers, rejects its applicability to the Tidewater
Virginia frontier due to the involuntary migration of inden-
tured servants that prevented the development of a true
class of frontiersmen for over a century. See Abernethy,

"Southern Frontier" 130. See also A. Moore, Frontier Mind

24. Morris Talpalar, The Sociology of Colonial Virginia (New
York: Philosophical Library, 1960) 60; Rutman, Morning 2-8;
R. Brown, Modernization 26-36; Paul G. E. Clemens, The
Atlantic Economy and Colonial Maryland's Eastern Shore: From
Tobacco to Grain (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1980) 40-3, 51;
Greene, Pursuits 34-6. Both Rutman and Brown flip-flop on
the presumed degree of English modernization, stressing
sometimes traditional, sometimes modern, but usually ambigu-
ously transitional characteristics. Perhaps this ambiguity
reflects simply the inherent problem of American historians
trying to reach conclusions about early American society
based on an incomplete understanding of contemporary English
society as a field outside of their expertise and subject to
substantial revision in the rapidly changing field of early
modern English historiography. On the other hand, following
the two most thorough searches of the secondary English
literature by scholars of early America, Jack P. Greene and
David Hackett Fischer present starkly opposing interpreta-
tions suggesting each focused on different halves of the
many "half-truths" of early modern English history. See
Keith Wrightson, English Society 1580-1680 (New Brunswick,
NJ: Rutgers UP, 1982) 41; Greene, Pursuits; David Hackett
Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America
(New York: Oxford UP, 1989).

25. Clemens, Atlantic Economy 222; Main, Tobacco Colony 7-
8, 71, 253; Charles Wetherell, "'Boom and Bust' in the
Colonial Chesapeake," Journal of Interdisciplinary History
15 (1984): 209; Darrett B. Rutman and Anita H. Rutman, A
Place in Time: Middlesex County, Virginia, 1650-1750 (New
York: Norton, 1984) 42-3, 75, 183-4; Anita H. Rutman, "Still
Planting the Seeds of Hope: The Recent Literature of the
Early Chesapeake Region," Virginia Magazine of History and
Biography 95 (1987): 3-24. See, however, Rutman and Rutman,
Middlesex 237. As will be shown in Chapter 7, the "St.
Mary's school" and "Rutman school" differ not so much on
immediate goals as differences in strategies to achieve the
common goal of capital maximization.

26. Lewis Cecil Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern
United States to 1860, 2 vols. (1933; New York: Peter Smith,
1958); Aubrey C. Land, "Economic Behavior in a Planting
Society: The Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake," Journal of
Southern History 33 (1967): 469-85; Irene W.D. Hecht, "The
Virginia Colony, 1607-1640: A Study in Frontier Growth,"
diss., U of Washington, 1969, 183-5; David Klingaman, "The
Significance of Grain in the Development of the Tobacco
Colonies," Journal of Economic History 29 (1969): 276; Terry
L. Anderson and Robert Paul Thomas, "Economic Growth in the

Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake," Explorations in Economic
History 15 (1978): 374; Allan Kulikoff, "The Colonial Chesa-
peake: Seedbed of Antebellum Southern Culture?," Journal of
Southern History 45 (1979): 525; David W. Galenson and
Russell R. Menard, "Approaches to the Analysis of Economic
Growth in Colonial British America," Historical Methods 13
(1980): 6-10; John J. McCusker and Russell R. Menard, The
Economy of British America, 1607-1789 (Chapel Hill: U of
North Carolina P, 1985).

27. Louis B. Wright, The First Gentlemen of Virginia: Intel-
lectual Qualities of the Early Colonial Ruling Class (San
Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1940) 37, 2. See Wright,
First Gentlemen 2-5, 37, 63; Peter Laslett, "The Gentry of
Kent in 1640," Cambridge Historical Journal 9 (1948): 160-
3; Peter Laslett, "Sir Robert Filmer: The Man versus the
Whig Myth," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 5 (1948):
531; Merle Curti, The Growth of American Thought, 2nd ed.
(New York: Harper, 1951) 28-32; Louis B. Wright, The British
Tradition in America (Birmingham: Trustees of the Rushton
Lectures, 1954) 9-10; Wright, Culture 21-2; Talpalar 208-9;
Hubbell, Southern Life 41, 44-5; Pierre Marambaud, William
Byrd of Westover 1674-1744 (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia,
1971) 5; Virginia Bernhard, "Poverty and the Social Order in
Seventeenth-Century Virginia," Virginia Magazine of History
and Biography 85 (1977): 141-55; R. Davis, Intellectual Life
1: xxix; 2: 937-9; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor:
Ethics and Behavior in the Old South (Oxford: Oxford UP,
1982) vii-viii, 65-6, 74-5; Richard Gray, Writing the South:
Ideas of an American Region (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986)
11, 14-5, 292n50; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, "The Real and
Mythical Souths," Southern Review 24 (1988): 230-1; David
Hackett Fischer, "Albion and the Critics: Further Evidence
and Reflection," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 48
(1991): 287-8. More recently, Laslett has swung over to the
modernist position. While still maintaining that "the
plantation-owners of Virginia looked upon themselves from
the very beginning as the overseas branches of English
county families," Laslett, following the work of C. B.
Macpherson, now believes that the English gentry had become
"imbued with bourgeois values" by the mid-seventeenth
century. See Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost, 2nd ed.
(New York: Scribner's, 1973) 35-9, 63, 268n32. Chapters 2
and 3 examine the basis for Laslett's belief in greater

28. Bruce, Social Life 24-5; James Truslow Adams, Provincial
Society 1690-1763 (New York: Macmillan, 1927) 210; Wright,
First Gentlemen 7, 46; Wright, Culture 15-34; Daniel J.
Boorstin, The Americans: The Colonial Experience (New York:
Random, 1958) 99, 103, 105, 108, 140; Carl N. Degler, Out of

Our Past: The Forces That Shaped Modern America, 2nd ed.
(New York: Harper, 1970) 1, 6, 15n.

29. Wright, First Gentlemen 9. See also Wright, First
Gentlemen 4-5, 35, 77, 92, 130, 178; Abernethy, Three
Virginia Frontiers 17-8; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor xiii,
32-3. Bernard Bailyn proves difficult to classify in either
modernist or traditionalist camp. In his classic 1959 essay,
"Politics and Social Structure in Virginia," similar to some
traditionalists, he highlights the influx of more genteel
immigrants during and immediately after the Commonwealth
period. But whereas traditionalists emphasizing an exodus
tend to downplay the pre-exodus years in their interpreta-
tion of seventeenth-century Virginia, Bailyn gives equal
weight to the early and later periods dichotomizing the
colonists into "old immigrants"--"crudely ambitious men
concerned with profits and increased landholdings, not the
grace of life" who "succeeded not because of, but despite,
whatever gentility they may have had"--and "new immigrants"-
-"ambitious younger sons of middle-class families who knew
well enough what gentility was and sought it as a specific
objective." See Bernard Bailyn, "Politics and Social Struc-
ture in Virginia," Seventeenth-Century America: Essays in
Colonial History, ed. James Morton Smith (Chapel Hill: U of
North Carolina P, 1959) 95, 100. This synthetic approach
perhaps explains the continuing popularity of this essay
among historians on both sides of the debate although few,
if any, follow his interpretation to explain economic (in
contrast to political) developments in late seventeenth-
century Virginia. For a less successful effort at a modern-
ist-traditionalist synthesis splitting immigrants into
earlier Puritans and later Cavaliers, see Talpalar, Socio-

30. Wright, First Gentlemen 4-5.

31. Bruce, Social Life 160; Wright, First Gentlemen 4-7.

32. Philip Alexander Bruce, Economic History of Virginia in
the Seventeenth Century, 2 vols. (1895; New York: Peter
Smith, 1935) 2: 131-241; Institutional History 1: 3-289;
Social Life 12-6, 255-8; Mary N. Stanard, Colonial Virginia:
Its People and Customs (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1917);
Wright, First Gentlemen 9, 35, 60, 66-9, 72-81, 92, 176;
Clifford Dowdey, The Virginia Dynasties: The Emergence of
"King" Carter and the Golden Age (Boston: Little, 1969) 14;
Richard Beale Davis, Literature and Society in Early Vir-
ginia, 1608-1840 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1973)
xiii-xxiv; Davis, Intellectual Life 1: xxix-xxi, xxxi; 2:
13, 3: 1313, 1576; Fischer, Albion's Seed 232-6, 332-40.

33. Louis B. Wright, The Atlantic Frontier: Colonial Ameri-
can Civilization [1607-1763] (New York: Knopf, 1947) 6;
Abernethy, Three Virginia Frontiers 1-28; Clifford Dowdey,
The Great Plantation: A Profile of Berkeley Hundred and
Plantation Virginia from Jamestown to Appomattox (New York:
Bonanza, 1957) 8-10; Dowdey, Virginia Dynasties 9; Fischer,
Albion's Seed 252.

34. Maud Wilder Goodwin, The Colonial Cavalier or Southern
Life Before the Revolution (New York, 1894) 7, 39-41; J.
Clarence Stonebraker, The Puritan and the Cavalier (Hagers-
town, MD: privately printed, 1915) 7-9; Frederick Jackson
Turner, The Early Writings of Frederick Jackson Turner
(Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1938) 78-9; Davis, Intellectual
Life 2: 962. While traditionalists have used climate and
soil fertility to explain the persistence and distinctive-
ness of traditional Southern habits, both factors have
played negligible roles in modernist interpretations. On the
role of climate in Southern exceptionalism, see Thomas J.
Wertenbaker, The First Americans 1607-1690 (New York:
Macmillan, 1927) 75-6; Phillips, Life and Labor 3-5, 29-33;
Clarence Cason, 90 in the Shade (Chapel Hill: U of North
Carolina P, 1935); Shields Mcllwaine, The Southern Poor-
White: From Lubberland to Tobacco Road (Norman: U of
Oklahoma P, 1939) xxi, 13; Cash 46-51; Wright, Culture 29;
William A. Foran, "Southern Legend: Climate or Climate of
Opinion?," The Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical
Association 1956, ed. Daniel W. Hollis (Columbia: South
Carolina Historical Association, 1957) 6-22; James C.
Bonner, "Plantation and Farm: The Agricultural South,"
Writing Southern History: Essays in Historiography in Honor
of Fletcher M. Green, eds. Arthur S. Link and Rembert W.
Patrick (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1965) 150-2; David
L. Smiley, "The Quest for the Central Theme in Southern
History," South Atlantic Quarterly 71 (1972): 309-13; Julius
Rubin, "The Limits of Agricultural Progress in the Nine-
teenth-Century South," Agricultural History 49 (1975): 362-
73; Thompson 78-9; A. Cash Koeniger, "Climate and Southern
Distinctiveness," Journal of Southern History 54 (1988): 21-
44; Fischer, Albion's Seed 252.

35. Bruce, Social Life 120n; Wright, First Gentlemen 51-2;
Dowdey, Great Plantation 8; Dowdey, Virginia Dynasties 9,
13, 15; Boorstin 99, 103, 105-9; Marambaud 7, 147, 155-7;
Davis, Intellectual Life 1: 102; 3: 1586.

36. Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor 21.

37. J. Adams, Provincial Society 210; Wright, First Gentle-
men 59, 160, 185; Wright, Culture 11-30. Most traditional-
ists restrict this emphasis on "honor" to the Virginia
elite, but recently Bertram Wyatt-Brown and his confrere

David Hackett Fischer have extended the concept to all the
early settlers of Virginia. They identify two different
types of honor in early America: "primal honor" with Indo-
European roots and "gentility" evolving out of "the Stoic-
Christian system" cultivated by the 16th-century English
humanists. Immigrants of all classes carried both of these
ethics to seventeenth-century Virginia, although gentility
required high social position to effect. See Wyatt-Brown,
Southern Honor vii, 26-34, 74, 78-90; Fischer, Albion's Seed
396; Fischer, "Albion and the Critics" 288. See further
Chapter 5.

38. Louis B. Wright, Middle-Class Culture in Elizabethan
England (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1935) 185;
Wright, First Gentlemen 43-7, 51, 63-4, 71, 95; Wright,
Culture 43; Dowdey, Great Plantation 75; Bailyn, "Politics"
94-5; Bernhard 141-55; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor 73-4.

39. Wertenbaker, Patrician 91-106; J. Adams, Provincial
Society 210; Bridenbaugh 5; Bailyn, "Politics" 95; Eaton,
History 52-3, 69; Shammas, "English-Born" 278-80; Quitt 642-

40. Bruce, Economic History 1:576-84; Wertenbaker, Patrician
150, 161-3; Schlesinger, New Viewpoints 3; Wertenbaker,
Planters 34-6; Bruce, Social Life 12-6, 102-3, 255-8; J.
Adams, Provincial Society 198-9; Phillips, Life and Labor
22; Wright, First Gentlemen 4, 43-4; Wright, Culture 21;
Morton, Colonial Virginia 1: 195; Dowdey, Virginia Dynasties
13-4; Rutman, Morning 75-6; W. Craven, White 1; Main,
Tobacco Colony 10-11; Clemens, Atlantic Economy 48.

41. On Tuckahoe culture, see William E. Dodd, Statesmen of
the Old South, or From Radicalism to Conservative Revolt
(1911; New York: Book League of America, 1929) 15-6; Ulrich
Bonnell Phillips, American Negro Slavery (1918; New York: D.
Appleton, 1928): 324-7, 359-401; Phillips, Life and Labor
35, 40-1, 354-7, 365; Thomas J. Wertenbaker, The Old South:
The Founding of American Civilization (1942; New York:
Cooper Square, 1963) 164-219; Eaton, History 48-9; Cash 4-
8; Thompson 225. On the commercial orientation and
industriousness of the Virginia aristocracy, see Werten-
baker, First Americans 259-60; Wright, First Gentlemen 57-
9,156n2,157; Hartz 52; Bridenbaugh 13-7; Wright, Atlantic
Frontier 70, 93; Wright, Culture 20; Jacob M. Price, "The
French Farmers-General in the Chesapeake: The Mackercher-
Huber Mission of 1737-1738," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd
ser. 14 (1957): 152; Bailyn, "Politics" 107; Fishwick 32;
Stuart Bruchey, The Roots of American Economic Growth
1607-1861 (New York: Harper, 1965) 40-1; Aubrey C. Land,
"Economic Behavior in a Planting Society: The Eighteenth-
Century Chesapeake," Journal of Southern History 33 (1967):

469-85; Edmund S. Morgan, "The Puritan Ethic and the
American Revolution," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 24
(1967): 3-43; Marambaud 7; R. Brown, Modernization 8-9; D.
D. Bruce, Jr., "Play, Work, and Ethics in the Old South,"
Southern Folklore Quarterly 40 (1977): 34, 46; Michael
Greenberg, "William Byrd II and the World of the Market,"
Southern Studies 16 (1977): 429-56; Joyce Appleby,
"Commercial Farming and the 'Agrarian Myth' in the Early
Republic," Journal of American History 68 (1982): 833-49;
Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia 1740-1790 (Chapel
Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1982) 22-30; Main, Tobacco
Colony 79; Michael Zuckerman, "Fate, Flux, and Good
Fellowship: An Early Virginia Design for the Dilemma of
American Business," Business and Its Environment: Essays for
Thomas C. Cochran, ed. Harold Issadore Sharlin (Westport,
CT: Greenwood, 1983) 161-84; R. Gray 12-3; R. Watson,
Cavalier 46; Greene, Pursuits 98-9; Quitt 631, 648-55.

42. D. R. Hundley, Social Relations in Our Southern States
(1860; New York: Arno, 1973) 91-100, 109-303; Fiske 219;
Phillips, American Negro Slavery 397-8; Wertenbaker, Plant-
ers 154-5; Wright, First Gentlemen 45-6; Robert E. Brown and
B. Katherine Brown, Virginia 1705-1786: Democracy or Aris-
tocracy? (East Lansing: Michigan State UP, 1964) 43-4, 64;
C. Vann Woodward, "The Southern Ethic in a Puritan World,"
William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 25 (1968): 360; R. Gray,
Writing 12; A. Rutman, "Still Planting" 15-6. On demographic
changes, see Allan Kulikoff, Tobacco and Slaves: The Deve-
lopment of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800
(Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1986) 37-63, 165-204.

43. Wright, First Gentlemen 51, 63, 71; Wright, Atlantic
Frontier 70, 93; J. Adams, Provincial Society 210-2; Main,
Tobacco Colony 78-9; Stuart Bruchey, "Economy and Society in
an Earlier America," Journal of Economic History 47 (1987):
304-5; Greene, Pursuits 93, 97; Quitt 631, 648-55. Other
less popular explanations of the transformation include that
of Bailyn, Talpalar, Wyatt-Brown, and Fischer which stresses
a shift in the type of immigrant and Kenneth A. Lockridge's
emphasis on a reaction to the domestic challenge of Bacon's
Rebellion. See Kenneth Lockridge The Diary, and Life, of
William Byrd II of Virginia, 1674-1744 (Chapel Hill: U of
North Carolina P, 1987) 13-4.

44. J. Adams, Provincial Society 211-2; Cash 8; Hartz 52;
Wright, Culture 43; Kenneth S. Lynn, Mark Twain and South-
western Humor (Boston: Little, 1959) 3-22; Hugh F. Rankin,
"The Colonial South," Writing Southern History: Essays in
Historiography in Honor of Fletcher M. Green, eds. Arthur S.
Link and Rembert W. Patrick (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State
UP, 1965) 6; Bruchey, Roots 38-9; Eaton, Growth 1-3; Ronald
L. Davis, "Culture on the Frontier," Southwest Review 53

(1968): 387-91; Jack P. Greene, "Search for Identity: An
Interpretation of the Meaning of Selected Patterns of Social
Response in Eighteenth-Century America," Journal of Social
History 3 (1970): 189-224; Greene, "Society, Ideology, and
Politics: An Analysis of the Political Culture of Mid-
Eighteenth-Century Virginia," Society, Freedom, and Con-
science: The American Revolution in Virginia, Massachu-
setts, and New York, ed. Richard M. Jellison (New York:
Norton, 1976): 42; Shammas, "English-Born" 285-9; A. G.
Roeber, Faithful Magistrates and Republican Lawyers:
Creators of Virginia Legal Culture, 1680-1810 (Chapel Hill:
U of North Carolina P, 1981) 24-34; Daniel Joseph Singal,
The War Within: From Victorian to Modernist Thought in the
South, 1919-1945 (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1982)
17-21; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor 88; R. Gray, Writing 11-
7; T. H. Breen, "An Empire of Goods: The Anglicization of
Colonial America, 1690-1776," Journal of British Studies 25
(1986) 496-9; Greene, Pursuits 85; Quitt 643; Fischer,
Albion's Seed 359-60.

45. Rutman, Morning 82, 92-3; R. Brown, Modernization 62-5,
70, 142-8; Greene, Pursuits; Quitt 631, 648-55.

46. Bailyn, "Politics" 95.

47. Wertenbaker, Patrician 44-6, 137-41; Becker 72-4; J.
Adams, Provincial Society 210-2; Phillips, Life and Labor
27; Wright, First Gentlemen 39-43, 51, 63, 71, 185; Wright,
Atlantic Frontier 70-1; Wright, Culture 22-6; Bailyn, "Poli-
tics" 90-115; Eaton, History 63; Quitt 650. Dowdey traces a
similar periodization through the history of the successive
Benjamin Harrisons. See Dowdey, Great Plantation.

48. J. Adams, Provincial Society 210; Clarence L. Ver Steeg,
The Formative Years 1607-1763 (New York: Hill and Wang,
1964) 53; Greene, Pursuits 8-18, 81-100. Alternatively,
historians emphasizing a periodization based on political
events have marked the end the frontier phase with Bacon's
Rebellion and the intensification of Anglo-American interac-
tion. See Turner, Frontier 70; Alison Olson, Anglo-American
Politics, 1660-1775 (London: Oxford UP, 1973); Stephen Saun-
ders Webb, The Governors-General: The English Army and the
Definition of the Empire, 1569-1681 (Chapel Hill: U of North
Carolina P, 1979); John H. Murrin, "Political Development,"
Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the
Early Modern Era, ed. Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole (Balti-
more: Johns Hopkins UP, 1984) 413. Jon Kukla pushes the
Bailyn political transformation back in time, identifying
the end of the Hobbesian frontier phase in the 1630s. See
Jon Kukla, "Order and Chaos in Early America: Political and
Social Stability in Pre-Restoration Virginia," American

Historical Review 90 (1985): 275-98; Kukla, Political
Institutions xviii-xx, 30-5. See also Chapter 3.

49. Wyatt-Brown, "Real and Mythical Souths" 231-2; Fischer,
Albion's Seed 225, 225n30; Bertram Wyatt-Brown, "Comments on
David Fischer's Albion's Seed," unpublished essay, 1989;
Fischer, "Albion and the Critics" 286. Abernethy offers a
much milder criticism of historians living in "a world grown
bourgeois and proletarian." See Abernethy, Three Virginia
Frontiers 17.

50. Fiske 2: 11; Francis P. Gaines, The Southern Plantation:
A Study in the Development and the Accuracy of a Tradition
(1924; Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1962) 23-4; Parrington
2: 28; Jay B. Hubbell, "Cavalier and Indentured Servant in
Virginia Fiction," South Atlantic Quarterly 26 (1927) 25-7,
34-7; Cash ix; Rollin G. Osterweis, Romanticism and Nation-
alism in the Old South (New Haven: Yale UP, 1949); H. Smith,
Virgin Land 123-54; Wright, First Gentlemen 43; Wesley Frank
Craven, The Legend of the Founding Fathers (New York: New
York UP, 1956) 109-13, 129-30; Marshall W. Fishwick, Virgin-
ia: A New Look at the Old Dominion (New York: Harper, 1959)
110-1; Wish 238-9; William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee:
The Old South and American National Character (New York:
Harper, 1961) 15-6; Eaton, Growth 2, 150; Jay B. Hubbell,
South and Southwest: Literary Essays and Reminiscences
(Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1965) 228-39; Eaton, History 52;
Bertelson 177-92; R. Brown, Modernization 146-8; Jan C.
Dawson, "The Puritan and the Cavalier: The South's Percep-
tion of Contrasting Traditions," Journal of Southern History
44 (1978): 597-614; Singal, War Within 12-4; Jan C. Dawson,
The Unusable Past: America's Puritan Tradition, 1830 to 1930
(Chico, CA: Scholars, 1984) 61-75; R. Watson, Cavalier 7;
James Tice Moore, "Of Cavaliers and Yankees: Frederick W. M.
Halliday and the Sectional Crisis, 1845-1861," Virginia
Magazine of History and Biography 99 (1991): 351-2. Wesley
Frank Craven traces the role that certain antebellum Virgin-
ian historians like John Burk played in formulating the
Cavalier legend. However, noting that many others like
William W. Hening, Conway Robinson, Charles Campbell, George
Tucker, Joseph Martin, and Hugh Blair Grigsby either opposed
or were indifferent to the Cavaliers, Craven concludes that
these historians played little role in shaping the popular
tradition. See W. Craven, Legend 48, 70-1, 110-2.

51. Saveth 15-42, 90-7, 201-2; Lee Benson, Turner and Beard:
American Historical Writing Reconsidered (New York: Free,
1960) 41-91; Wish 238; G. Edward White, "The Social Values
of the Progressives: Some New Perspectives," South Atlantic
Quarterly 70 (1971): 62-76; Raymond H. Pulley, Old Virginia
Restored: An Interpretation of the Progressive Impulse 1870-
1930 (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1968) 60; Dewey W.

Grantham, Southern Progressivism: The Reconciliation of
Progress and Tradition (Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1983)
34n101; Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity
Question' and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1988) 74-82; Randall M. Miller, "The Birth
(and Life) of A Journal: A 100-Year Retrospective of the
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography," Virginia
Magazine of History and Biography 100 (1992): 154. Saveth's
book remains the only thorough analysis of the influence of
the currents of scientific racism (e.g., Teutonism) and
Social Darwinism on American historians in the late nine-
teenth and early twentieth century.

52. See, e.g., Thomas Nelson Page, The Old Dominion: Her
Making and Her Manners, The Novels, Stories, Sketches and
Poems of Thomas Nelson Page, Vol, XIII (New York: Scrib-
ner's, 1909) 372-3; Jay Broadus Hubbell, Virginia Life in
Fiction (n.p, n.d) 26; Wish 236-7; Rankin 8-9; Novick 73; R.
Miller, "Birth" 157-8. For contrasting views of the New
England bias in national historiography, cf. Stonebraker 7;
Parrington 1: 3; Davis, Intellectual Life 1: xxiii, xxvi.

53. John Esten Cooke, Virginia: A History of the People
(1883; Boston: Houghton, 1903) 159-62, 182; Fiske 2: 13-7,
34-5, 216-8. Cf. Page, Old South 8-9; William Garrott Brown,
The Lower South in American History (1902; New York: Green-
wood, 1969) 5-6. See also Hubbell, Virginia Life 26-8;
Harriet R. Holman, "The Literary Career of Thomas Nelson
Page, 1884-1910," diss., Duke U, 1947, 66-7; W. Craven,
Legend 130, 149-50; Jay B. Hubbell, The South in American
Literature 1607-1900 (Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1954) 695-709;
Wish 109-15; 238; Joyce Appleby, "Reconciliation and the
Northern Novelist," Civil War History 10 (1964): 117-29;
Paul M. Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern
Mythmaking (New York: Knopf, 1970) 92, 170-81; Novick 74-8;
R. Miller, "Birth" 155-6.

54. [William G. Stanard], rev. of Barons of the Potomac and
Rappahannock, by Moncure D. Conway, Virginia Magazine of
History and Biography 1 (1893): 215-9; W. Brown, Lower South
6-7; W. Craven, Legend 129n.

55. Fiske 2: 216-8.

56. Bruce, Social Life 27-97. See also Wertenbaker, Patri-
cian 20-2, 155; Wertenbaker, Planters 77-80.

57. See, e.g., Frederick Jackson Turner, rev. of Social Life
of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, by Philip Alexander
Bruce, American Historical Review 13 (1907): 610; William E.
Dodd, rev. of Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia, by Thomas
J. Wertenbaker, American Historical Review 16 (1910): 168-

9; [Lyon G. Tyler], "Colonial History Debunked," Tyler's
Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 8 (1926): 2-
5; Parrington 2: 6-7; Wright, First Gentlemen 39-43; Cash 3-
4; Wright, British Tradition 9; Wright, Culture 21; Richard
L. Morton, ed., The Present State of Virginia, by Hugh Jones
(Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1956) 180-2n60; Dowdey,
Great Plantation 9-10; Boorstin 105-9; Bailyn, "Politics"
98; Richard L. Morton, Colonial Virginia, 2 vols. (Chapel
Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1960) 1: 166-8; Darrett B.
Rutman, "Philip Alexander Bruce: A Divided Mind of the
South," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 68
(1960): 402-3; Rankin 15; Hubbell, South and Southwest 229;
Eaton, History 52; Dowdey, Virginia Dynasties 13; Marambaud
259-61; Davis, Intellectual Life 3: 1519. Wertenbaker, well
noting that serious scholars had long rejected the antebel-
lum Cavalier myth of aristocratic origins, notoriously
harped on this straw man argument playing on the ubiquitous
confusion in the terminology (e.g., "Cavaliers" as a broad-
based political party versus "cavaliers" as seventeenth-
century English aristocrats) for the purposes of defending a
thesis that revolved more around the dominant spirit of
seventeenth-century Virginia society. See Wertenbaker,
Patrician i, 1-3, 18-30, 166-7.

58. The exception that proves the rule is Manahan's unpub-
lished dissertation, with its emphasis on Celtic racial and
political origins of a great Cavalier exodus, a thesis that
has attracted little attention from scholars. See n. 4

59. See, e.g., Wright, First Gentlemen 38-40; R. Gray,

60. Fischer, Albion's Seed 207-25; James Horn, "Cavalier
Culture?: The Social Development of Colonial Virginia,"
William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 48 (1991): 239-41;
Fischer, "Albion and the Critics" 286-7.

61. Michael Kraus, The Writing of American History (Norman:
U of Oklahoma P, 1953) 304; W. Craven, Legend 129-30; Fish-
wick 274-5; Rutman, "Bruce" 387-407; Rankin 9; L. Moody
Simms, "Philip Alexander Bruce: His Life and Works," diss.,
U of Virginia, 1966, 192-4.

62. Page, Old South 5-10, 100-8; Page, Old Dominion 137;
Goodwin 7-8; Bassett ix-xii; Robert M. Hughes, "Genesis of
the F.F.V.," William and Mary Quarterly 2nd ser. 6 (1926):
230-2, 240; Tyler, "Colonial" 1-4; Bruce, Social Life 160;
Wright, Atlantic Frontier 70-1; Morton, Present State
181n60; Morton, Colonial Virginia 1: 166-8; Hubbell, South-
ern Life 37; Rankin 15; Dowdey, Virginia Dynasties 16-8.
Bishop Meade, based on the best genealogical data of his

age, had developed a similar view before the Civil War. See
Bishop Meade, Old Churches, Ministers and Families of
Virginia, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, n.d.) 1: 188-

63. Philip A. Bruce, The Social History of Virginia. An
Address Delivered at the Final Commencement, 1881, of the
Onancock Academy, Virginia (n.p.: Miller School Print,
1881); Bruce, Institutional History 2: 605-36; Bruce, Social
Life 23, 109, 143, 160, 163; Bruce, rev. of The Planters of
Colonial Virginia, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker, American His-
torical Review 28 (1923): 553. Cf. Page, Old South 5-8, 103-
22, 138-9; Page, Old Dominion 137-40, 151-2.

64. Wertenbaker, Patrician 33.

65. Wertenbaker, Patrician 2-3, 9-10, 16-8, 28-34, 39-60,
65-81, 90-1, 105, 132-5, 220; Wertenbaker, Old South 19-21;
W. Craven, Legend 129; Fishwick 275; ver Steeg 83; Rankin
14-5; Fischer, Albion's Seed 225n30, 256n12; Fischer,
"Albion and the Critics" 286, 286n47. Note, however, that
Wertenbaker also acknowledged the role of cultural inheri-
tance when he claimed that these earliest Virginians con-
tinued to look upon "the life of the country squire as the
ideal existence" and that local "economic and climatic
conditions" never entirely effaced imported English customs,
especially "the elegance and refinement of his [the Virginia
gentleman's] social life, the culture and depths of his
mind." See Wertenbaker, Patrician 25, 106-7, 141-2. But
apparently this ideal became activated only by accumulation
of sufficient wealth and the gradual loss of the mercantile
instinct. Cf., e.g., Wertenbaker, Patrician 99-106, on the
growth of a sense of honor and rejection of "the commercial
spirit" in eighteenth-century Virginia. Furthermore, his
overwhelming emphasis on environmental factors left little
room for a true synthesis of cultural and environmental
factors. In the preface to the reissue of Patrician and
Plebeian, he seemed to move even farther toward a compromise
with Bruce in giving equal weight to inheritance, continued
contact with England, and local conditions, but the nature
of the balance remained ambiguous. See Wertenbaker, Patri-
cian iii-vi.

66. Wertenbaker, Patrician 143, 155-6, 167; Wertenbaker, Old
South 167. Although Wertenbaker heavily criticized the
unscrupulous ways of the earliest merchant-planters, he
downplayed the view of many Englishmen that Virginia was
settled by the dregs of England, emphasizing rather the
superior genetic stock of this imported bourgeoisie compared
to a degraded English aristocracy. See Wertenbaker, Patri-
cian 8n6, 9-15, 32-3n37, 60, 220; Wertenbaker, Planters 32-
4. Perhaps Wertenbaker was influenced by Ulrich Bonnell

Phillips's sectional-frontier process, the history of the
"competition of industrial units" pitting the superior slave
plantation against the inferior non-slaveholding yeoman
farms. Cf. Ulrich B. Phillips, "The Origin and Growth of the
Southern Black Belts," American Historical Review 11 (1906):
799-800; Wertenbaker, Patrician 144-6, 210-1; Wertenbaker,
Planters iii.

67. See, e.g., R. Miller, "Birth" 158. Novick 84-5, down-
plays the amateur-professional dichotomy. Several historians
have suggested that Wertenbaker had "an axe to grind"
against the aristocratic pretensions of the "First Families
of Virginia." See Manahan 22; Fischer, Albion's Seed 225n30;
Fischer, "Albion and the Critics" 286n47. However, Werten-
baker's approach differed little from Turner's employment of
the frontier as a means to take New England historians down
a notch as well as to emphasize the greater influence of
American environmental over European cultural influences on
the formation of the American character. Unfortunately, as
Fischer has recently pointed out, despite the tremendous
impact of Wertenbaker in American and especially colonial
Virginia historiography, his work has amazingly failed to
receive any scholarly treatment. For this reason, and since
Wertenbaker leaves few explicit clues in his published
writing to his intellectual sources, all insights into
Wertenbaker's motivation presented herein remain conjec-

68. Wertenbaker, Patrician 238-9; Bruce, Virginia 5: 495-8;
Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion (Princeton: Prince-
ton UP, 1978) 500-1; John M. Murrin, "Thomas Jefferson
Wertenbaker," DAB, Supplement 8, eds. John A. Garraty and
Mark C. Carnes (New York: Scribner's, 1988) 691-3. Novick
74, suggests a similar generational shift in the historio-
graphical orientation toward the Civil War and Reconstruc-

69. Rutman, "Bruce" 388, 404; Simms 1-2, 139; R. Miller,
"Birth" 151-8. Bruce, along with being a foremost historian
of seventeenth-century Virginia, was "the first major repre-
sentative" of "the New South school of historians." In his
The Rise of the New South (1905), which Paul M. Gaston calls
"the capstone of the New South crusade," Bruce labeled the
Bourbon era the "most honorable period" in the history of
the South and condemned or ignored the challenges of the
Readjustor and Populist movements, views that would dominate
the historiography of the South until the liberal Southern
reaction of the New Deal era. See Paul M. Gaston, "The 'New
South,'" Writing Southern History: Essays in Historiography
in Honor of Fletcher M. Green, eds. Arthur S. Link and
Rembert W. Patrick (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State UP, 1965)
319, 321-2, 324-5; Allen J. Going, "The Agrarian Revolt,"

Writing Southern History: Essays in Historiography in Honor
of Fletcher M. Green, eds. Arthur S. Link and Rembert W.
Patrick (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State UP, 1965) 363; Pulley
40, 58-61; George Brown Tindall, The Persistent Tradition in
New South Politics (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1975)
7-9, 15-6, 31, 50-1.

70. Gaston's New South Creed remains the best overview of
the central themes and divided mind of "New South" ideology.
However, Gaston, who takes a Woodwardian view of functional
"Old South" elements in a "New South Creed," should be read
in conjunction with Pulley viii-ix, 1-5, 24, 58-61; James
Tice Moore, Two Paths to the New South: The Virginia Debt
Controversy, 1870-1883 (Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1974) 6-
7, 37-45; and Tindall, Persistent Tradition 10-2, 20-3, who
reverse the formula stressing functional "New South" ele-
ments in a fundamentally "Old South Creed." See also C. Vann
Woodward, Origins of the New South 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State UP, 1951) 154-8, 167; Gaston, "'New South'"
316-36; Rollin G. Osterweis, The Myth of the Lost Cause
1865-1900 (Hamden, CT: Archon, 1973) 130-4; James Tice
Moore, "Redeemers Reconsidered: Change and Continuity in the
Deomcratic South, 1870-1900," Journal of Southern History 44
(1978): 357-78; Singal, War Within 9-11, 21-5; Robert J.
Rusnak, Walter Hines Page and The World's Work 1900-1913
(Washington: UP of America, 1982) 75-99; Numan V. Bartley,
"In Search of the New South: Southern Politics after Recon-
struction," The Promise of American History: Progress and
Prospects, eds. Stanley I. Kutler and Stanley N. Katz
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1982) 150-63; C. Vann Wood-
ward, Thinking Back: The Perils of Writing History (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1986) 59-79; John Herbert Roper,
C. Vann Woodward, Southerner (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1987)
148-9; Richard L. Watson, Jr., "From Populism Through the
New Deal: Southern Political History," Interpreting Southern
History: Historiographical Essays in Honor of Sanford W.
Higginbotham, eds. John B. Boles and Evelyn Thomas Nolen
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1987) 308-89. That the
"New South Creed" touched even such Old South romantics as
John Esten Cooke and Thomas Nelson Page, see Thomas Nelson
Page, "The Old Dominion," Harper's Magazine 88 (1893): 24;
Theodore L. Gross, Thomas Nelson Page (New York: Twayne,
1967) 7-8; Gaston, New South Creed 251n42. On the the
"divided mind" of other Southern historians and their role
in the "New South" movement, see Wood Gray, "Ulrich Bonnell
Phillips," The Marcus W. Jernegan Essays in American Histo-
riography, ed. William T. Hutchinson (Chicago: U of Chicago
P, 1937) 362; Eugene D. Genovese, "Race and Class in South-
ern History: An Appraisal of the Work of Ulrich B. Phil-
lips," Agricultural History 41 (1967): 355-8; William L. Van
Deburg, "Ulrich B. Phillips: Progress and the Conservative
Historian," Georgia Historical Quarterly 55 (1971): 406-16;

John Herbert Roper, "A Case of Forgotten Identity: Ulrich B.
Phillips as a Young Progressive," Georgia Historical Quar-
terly 60 (1976): 165-75; Daniel Joseph Singal, "Ulrich B.
Phillips: The Old South as the New," Journal of American
History 63 (1977): 871-91; Daniel Joseph Singal, "Broadus
Mitchell and the Persistence of New South Thought," Journal
of Southern History 45 (1979): 353-80; Merton L. Dillon,
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips: Historian of the Old South (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1985) 26-43. The excessive
attention given Phillips in recent work, reflected in the
above citations, while other key Southern historians like
Wertenbaker have received absolutely no attention, both
highlights Genovese's influence and provides a sad commen-
tary on American historiography. On the continuity between
Bourbons and Progressives in Virginia and the South, see
Pulley 17-21, 23, 62-3, 80, 118, 122-5; Tindall, Persistent
Tradition 22-3, 54, 61-2; Grantham xvi-xviii, 25-34, 65-74.

71. Wertenbaker, Patrician 57-9, 67-105, 231. Let no one
doubt that Wertenbaker, known to his students and peers at
Princeton as "the Colonel" because of his refined southern
manners, believed himself to be a Southern gentleman. While
proud of their Hugenot and German roots, the Wertenbakers
exuded as much as the Bruces (if not more so) the spirit of
the Old South. See George W. Pierson, "The Shaping of a
People: The United States of America," Cultures 3 (1976):
15-6; Murrin 693. See also the thinly disguised fictional
account of his "Uncle Phil" and the Wertenbaker family by
Wertenbaker's nephew, Charles Wertenbaker, To My Father (New
York: Farrar, 1936) 23-6, 30, 32, 54-7, 116-7. On the other
hand, although studies of Bruce's extensive papers by Rutman
and Simms--and Page's by Holman--note no mention of any
influence or correspondence and they never cite each other,
Bruce's and Page's narratives shared so much in common that
they could easily have been written by the same author. See,
in particular, Page, Old South 3-54, 93-139 and Old Domin-
ion. Bruce's brother, William Cabell Bruce, notes the close
relations between the Bruce family and Page, who idolized
his father-in-law Charles Bruce as the epitome of the Vir-
ginia planter. See William Cabell Bruce, Recollections
(Baltimore: King, 1936) 27-8. Both Bruce and Wertenbaker
took a similarly ambiguous position with respect to slavery,
celebrated as the foundation for all that was good in
antebellum Southern society but condemned for its long-term
detrimental effect. On Bruce, see Rutman, "Bruce" 390; John
David Smith, An Old Creed for the New South: Proslavery
Ideology and Historiography, 1865-1918 (Westport, CT:
Greenwood, 1985) 173-7, 269; R. Miller, "Birth" 152. Cf.
Page, Old South 10, 25, 33-4, 103-4. Wertenbaker in his
first work celebrated the role of slavery in the formation
of the eighteenth-century aristocracy and middle class,
while in his later work he ranted about how slavery had

killed off his beloved yeomanry, seemingly two sides of the
same coin. Cf. Wertenbaker, Patrician 207-15; Planters iii,
38, 137-9, 154-61.

72. Wertenbaker, Patrician 31-2, 36. Wertenbaker in his
social categorization seems to follow closely Daniel R.
Hundley's 1860 stereotypes of Southern Gentleman, Middle
Classes, Southern Yankee, and Southern Yeoman, and Poor
White Trash, although Wertenbaker rejected Hundley's histo-
rical analysis which emphasized the continuity of Virginia
and English social classes. Although there is no evidence
that Hundley directly influenced Wertenbaker, perhaps he was
indirectly influenced by historians like Phillips, who
acknowledges that reading Hundley stimulated his interest in
Southern history. See Wendell Holmes Stephenson, The South
Lives in History: Southern Historians and Their Legacy
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1955) 59. Bruce and Wer-
tenbaker, like Hundley before them, took a similarly ambigu-
ous position on Yankee business values, both condemning yet
recognizing their central role in economic development. See
Hundley 129-62; R. Miller, "Birth" 154-5. Some historians
like Bertram Wyatt-Brown have suggested that Wertenbaker's
emphasis on the bourgeois background of the first merchant-
planters might imply some scheme to create an alternative
Weberian bourgeois myth for the New South. See, e.g., Ber-
tram Wyatt-Brown, "W. J. Cash and Southern Culture," From
the Old South to the New: Essays on the Traditional South,
eds. Walter J. Fraser, Jr. and Winfred B. Moore, Jr. (West-
port, CT: Greenwood, 1981) 203-4. But nothing could be
farther from the truth. Wertenbaker, along with Hundley,
Bruce, Phillips, and every other turn-of-the-century Sou-
therner would certainly have rejected Max Weber's bourgeois
ideal as the model for the New South. For a similar view,
see Singal, War Within 22. However, while Wertenbaker stead-
fastly condemned Yankee traits, he did heartily praise, like
Hundley, the Southern Middle Classes who ideally shared the
same gentility as the Southern Gentleman along with the
bourgeois values of industry and thrift. Furthermore, in
emphasizing the dynamic role of the Southern Middle Classes
in economic development and stressing the genetic superior-
ity of the English bourgeoisie over a degraded English
aristocracy, Wertenbaker does differ from Bruce who empha-
sized English aristocratic entrepreneurial values. Recently,
William Swatos has attempted to incorporate such aristo-
cratic values within a Weberian framework. See William H.
Swatos, Jr., Mediating Capitalism and Slavery: A Neo-
Weberian Interpretation of Religion and Honor in the Old
South (Tampa, FL: Dept. of Religious Studies, U of South
Florida, 1987).

73. For a general background, see John Higham, History:
Professional Scholarship in America (1965; Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins UP, 1989); Hofstadter, Progressive Historians.

74. Laslett, World 23-54.

75. [Philip Alexander Bruce], "Proclamations of Nathaniel
Bacon," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 1 (1893):
55; Thomas J. Wertenbaker, Virginia Under the Stuarts 1607-
1688, The Shaping of Colonial Virginia (1914; New York:
Russell, 1958) iv-vi; Simms 199-203.

76. On Bacon's Rebellion, which Bruce regularly referred to
as the "Insurrection of 1676," see Bruce, Institutional
History 2: 357, 494; Wertenbaker, Patrician 61-3, 203-4. Cf.
Page, Old South 17-9, 158; Page, Old Dominion 136, 145-7;
Turner, Frontier 69-70, 247, 250-1, 301-2. A similar divi-
sion on the rise of American democracy occurs in varying
emphases on Thomas Jefferson's patrician or plebeian roots.
Whereas Bruce emphasized Jefferson's aristocratic Randolph
kin, Progressive historians like Dodd and Turner stressed
his frontier yeoman roots. Cf. Dodd, Statesmen 1-23; Turner,
Frontier 93-4, 206, 250-1; Philip Alexander Bruce, The
Virginia Plutarch, 2 vols. (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina
P, 1929) 195-7. On the long history of the dual image of
Jefferson as a synthesis of patrician and plebeian inheri-
tance, see Merrill Peterson, The Jefferson Image in the
American Mind (New York: Oxford UP, 1962) 247-50, 491.

77. Novick 92-3; R. Miller, "Birth" 154.

78. Wertenbaker, Patrician 59-64; Dodd, Statesmen 1-23;
Wertenbaker, Planters 38-9; Burton J. Hendrick, The Training
of an American: The Earlier Life and Letters of Walter H.
Page 1855-1913 (Boston: Houghton, 1928) 109-18; Charles
Grier Sellers, "Walter Hines Page and the Spirit of the New
South," North Carolina Historical Review 29 (1952): 481-99;
Stephenson, South Lives 39, 45-6; Lowry Price Ware, "The
Academic Career of William E. Dodd," diss., U of South Caro-
lina, 1956; Wish 257; Malcolm C. McMillan, "Jeffersonian
Democracy and the Origins of Sectionalism," Writing Southern
History: Essays in Historiography in Honor of Fletcher M.
Green. eds. Arthur S. Link and Rembert W. Patrick (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1965) 98-100; Higham 177; Bruce
L. Clayton, "Southern Critics of the New South 1890-1914,"
diss., Duke U, 1966; Frederick Henry Weaver, "Walter H. Page
and the Progressive Mood," diss., Duke U, 1968, 2-3; Robert
Dallek, Democrat and Diplomat: The Life of William E. Dodd
(New York: Oxford UP, 1968) 39-41, 58-74; Gaston, New South
Creed 165-7; Osterweis, Myth 114; Tindall, Persistent Tradi-
tion 50-3; John Milton Cooper, Jr., Walter Hines Page: The
Southerner as American 1855-1918 (Chapel Hill: U of North

Carolina P, 1977) xx-xxii, 149-50; Grantham 27-33. Moore
makes a good case for the Virginia Readjustors of the 1870s
and 1880s as forerunners of the Progressives, accepting at
face value their self-description as "'liberals' who sought
a middle ground between 'radicalism' and 'Bourbonism.'" See
Moore, Two Paths 48-53, 84-92. Tindall and Pulley, along
with Woodward, tend to see the balance more on the "radical"
side. See Tindall 15-6; Pulley 21, 35-43. For an interpreta-
tion of Wertenbaker as a Progressive historian, albeit in
the context of his Puritan Oligarchy, see Gene Wise, "Impli-
cit Irony in Perry Miller's New England Mind," Journal of
the History of Ideas 29 (1968): 579-600. On antebellum
roots, see Grigsby 36-45, 168-87; W. Craven, Legend 111,
129; Bernard Mayo, Myths and Men: Patrick Henry, George
Washington, Thomas Jefferson (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1959)
49-62; Peterson 166, 229, 239-44, 250-76, 279-80, 343-4.
Bishop Meade interestingly suggested that numerous antebel-
lum Virginia families were afraid or ashamed to admit any
noble blood in "this republican age." See Meade 1: 189. A
more traditional interpretation in line with the Cavalier
myth suggests that, by the eve of the Civil War, Southern-
ers, in reaction to abolitionism, had fairly completed the
shift from the ideal of Jeffersonian to Calhounian democra-
cy. See, e.g., Dodd, Statesmen; Hubbell, "Cavalier" 25-6; W.
G. Bean, "Anti-Jeffersonianism in the Ante-Bellum South,"
North Carolina Historical Review 12 (1935): 103-24; Peterson
164-89, 472; McMillan 93-5; Dallek 59-61.

79. Page, Old South 5-6; Bruce Institutional History 2: 605-
6, 614-6, 633-4; Wertenbaker, Patrician 65-7. Cf. Pierson
15-7. Actually, by the time he wrote The Old Dominion, Page
seems to have drunk up the Turnerian spirit, emphasizing far
more than Bruce the positive impact of the New World envi-
ronment in shaping this new man, the Virginian, although
Page continued to emphasize a dominant Cavalier ethic. Cf.
Page, Old Dominion 140-1. Turner, in reviewing Bruce's
Social Life in 1907, actually called for the type of correc-
tive that Wertenbaker provided three years later, with
greater attention to the yeomen and emphasis on the trans-
forming nature of New World environment. See Turner, rev. of
Social Life, by Philip A. Bruce, 610. However, although he
certainly fit squarely within the Turnerian frontier tradi-
tion, Wertenbaker so consistently put into practice Turner's
"multiple hypothesis" stressing non-environmental factors
that subsequent scholars have included him within the Eggle-
ston school. See, e.g., Thomas J. Wertenbaker, "The Molding
of the Middle West," American Historical Review 53 (1948):
223-34; Saveth 219-20; Pierson, "Shaping" 13-29. On
Wertenbaker as a Turnerian, see Higham 176-7. On Turner's
"multiple hypothesis," see Frederick Jackson Turner, The
Significance of Sections in American History (New York:
Holt, 1932) 192; R. White, "Turner" 667.

80. The two historians themselves used the terms "inductive"
and "deductive" to characterize the other's work. See Wer-
tenbaker, Patrician 220; Bruce, rev. of Planters 552-3. See
also Novick 90-2; R. Miller, "Birth" 155. On the other hand,
Jon Kukla, Political Institutions xii-xiii, with good cause
believes Wertenbaker "carried on into the middle of the
twentieth century the romantic notion of history (and of
historical research) that gave life to the work of Macaulay
(whom Wertenbaker greatly admired), Bancroft, Parkman,
Prescott, and Motley."

81. Cf. Wertenbaker, Patrician vii; Bruce, rev. of Planters
552. On Bruce's lack of knowledge of English history, see
Rev. of Institutional History, by Philip Alexander Bruce,
Nation 91 (1910): 263-4; [Anon.], rev. of Institutional
History, by Philip Alexander Bruce, North American Review
192 (1910): 710. On the lack of sufficient evidence to
substantiate Wertenbaker's claims, see [William G. Stan-
ard], rev. of Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia, by Thomas
J. Wertenbaker, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
18 (1910): 339-48; Hughes 231.

82. Bruce, Social Life 255; Institutional History 605-6;
Wertenbaker, vi, 33.

83. Besides the later discussion of Bruce and Wertenbaker,
see citations to their work in the earlier discussion of
traditionalists and modernists, esp. nn. 4, 39, and 40

84. Hofstadter, Progressive Historians xv-xvi.

85. Wendell Holmes Stephenson, Southern History in the
Making: Pioneer Historians of the South (Baton Rouge: Lou-
isiana State UP, 1964) 223; Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honor vii-
viii. That this outcome was not inevitable can be seen in
that old Progressive William E. Dodd's 1910 reviews of both
Bruce's Institutional History and Wertenbaker's Patrician in
which, despite the general positive review of Wertenbaker,
Dodd cannot help but praise Bruce as "the foremost authority
on Virginia's history" with "a book that surpasses all
others that have appeared" since his own Economic History,
"without bias of any kind," all the while failing to note
any inconsistency between the two books. Cf. William E.
Dodd, rev. of Patrician and Plebeian in Virginia, by Thomas
J. Wertenbaker, American Historical Review 16 (1910): 168-
9; William E. Dodd, rev. of The Institutional History of
Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, by Philip Alexander
Bruce, American Journal of Sociology 16 (1911): 837-8. That
Dodd was not always so generous, see William E. Dodd, rev.
of The Old Dominion, by Thomas Nelson Page, American
Historical Review 14 (1908): 182-3.

86. Rev. of The Planters of Colonial Virginia, by Thomas J.
Wertenbaker, William and Mary Quarterly 2nd ser. 3 (1923):
131-2; Harold Underwood Faulkner, "Colonial History De-
bunked: It's a Wise Child that Knows its Own Forefathers,"
Harper's Magazine 152 (1925): 84-5; E. M. Coulter, rev. of
The Planters of Colonial Virginia, by Thomas J. Wertenbaker,
Georgia Historical Quarterly 11 (1927): 106; Hubbell, "Cava-
lier" 22-3; Parrington 2: 3-8; Charles A. Beard and Mary R.
Beard, The Rise of American Civilization (New York: Macmil-
lan, 1930) 1: 127-8; 2: 54; Benjamin B. Kendrick and Alex M.
Arnett, The South Looks at its Past (Chapel Hill: U of North
Carolina P, 1935) 13-22; Max Savelle, Seeds of Liberty: The
Genesis of the American Mind (New York: Knopf, 1948) 233-
7; W. Craven, Legend 129-30; Wertenbaker, Patrician i-ii;
Wish 113; W. Taylor, Cavalier 15-6; Bonner, "Plantation"
155; Eaton, Growth 150-1; David M. Potter, "The Historian's
Use of Nationalism and Vice Versa," The South and the
Sectional Conflict, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1968)
72-3; Hofstadter, Progressive Historians 5; Thomas A.
Bailey, Probing America's Past: A Critical Examination of
Major Myths and Misconceptions, 2 vols. (Lexington, MA:
Heath, 1973) 1: 20-1; Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole,
"Reconstructing British-American Colonial History: An Intro-
duction," Colonial British America: Essays in the New His-
tory of the Early Modern Era, ed. Jack P. Greene and J. R.
Pole (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1984) 3; Fischer,
Albion's Seed 225n30; Rowland Berthoff, rev. of Albion's
Seed, by David Hackett Fischer, Journal of Southern History
57 (1991): 479-81; Fischer, "Albion and the Critics" 286.

87. On challenges to the myth of the antebellum Southern
planter, see Thomas P. Govan, "Was the Old South Differ-
ent?," Journal of Southern History 21 (1955): 447-55; Grady
McWhiney, Southerners and Other Americans (New York: Basic,
1973) 3-25; Robert William Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman,
Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery,
2 vols. (Boston: Little, 1974) 1: 70-3, 129, 200, 232;
Edward Pessen, "How Different from Each Other Were the
Antebellum North and South?," American Historical Review 85
(1980): 1119-49; James Oakes, The Ruling Race: A History of
American Slaveholders (New York: Vintage, 1983).

88. See n. 38 above.

89. For a similar dominance of the Progressive school in
antebellum Southern historiography, see Bruce C. Baird, "The
Party-in-the-Electorate in the Jacksonian South: An Histori-
ographical Review," History Graduate Research Conference, U
of Florida, Gainesville, 13 Oct. 1990.

90. Warren M. Billings, "Towards the Rewriting of Seven-
teenth-Century Virginia History: A Review Article," Virginia
Magazine of History and Biography 83 (1975): 184. See also
Wesley Frank Craven, The Southern Colonies in the Seven-
teenth Century 1607-1689 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP,
1949) 427; Rutman, "Bruce" 402-3; Simms 204; Thad W. Tate,
"The Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake and Its Modern Histor-
ians," The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on
Anglo-American Society, eds. Thad W. Tate and David L.
Ammerman (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1979) 6-13;
Allan Kulikoff, "The Colonial Chesapeake: Seedbed of Ante-
bellum Southern Culture?," Journal of Southern History 45
(1979): 514; Kukla, Political Institutions xii-xiii.

91. However, Wertenbaker's more traditional "democratic
myth" of Bacon's Rebellion did not fare as well. See Ste-
phenson, Southern History 223; W. Craven, Legend 71; Wish
239-40; Bailey, Probing America's Past 21-2; Kukla, Politi-
cal Institutions xv. The rejection of these democratic myths
of seventeenth-century Virginia, most recently exemplified
in the resistance to Stephen Saunders Webb's 1676, reflects
the continued failure of seventeenth-century Virginia to fit
the Judeo-Christian mold which left the field ripe for
Hobbesians as well as traditionalists. See Stephen Saunders
Webb, 1676: The End of American Independence (New York:
Knopf, 1984).

92. John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment,
Interest, and Money (1936; New York: Harcourt, 1964) 383.

93. Billings, "Towards the Rewriting" 184.


At the same time that historians of colonial Virginia

like Bruce and Wertenbaker were searching for the origins of

the Southern gentleman, European scholars following in the

footsteps of Karl Marx were searching for the origins of the

modern capitalist. If the Bruce-Wertenbaker framework would

come to dominate Virginia historiography, the "transition to

capitalism" framework of Marx, Werner Sombart, and Max Weber

would come to dominate the twentieth-century social sciences

in general.

The two searches parallel each other in several ways.

Both share a nexus in developments in sixteenth- and seven-

teenth-century England. Both pose the central question of

the relative importance of culture versus environment in

societal evolution. More importantly, both frame the analy-

sis in terms of similar dichotomous ideal types: Yankee

versus Cavalier, precapitalist versus capitalist, tradition-

al versus modern. This antithetical framework, the direct

descendant of Aristotelian economic ethics, has long shaped

and continues to shape Western thinking. Yet the two litera-

tures--that in the Chesapeake and that in Western social

evolution--have rarely cross paths.

Despite the consensus among historians about the domi-

nance of modern economic behavior in seventeenth-century

Virginia, few have looked seriously at Virginia for insights

into the transition to capitalism. In part this lack of

attention reflects the difficulty of fitting Virginia into

any of the traditional frameworks developed for contempora-

neous England or New England. The dubious religiosity of

early Virginia, the forced-labor plantation system, the lack

of towns and manufactures, and the rise of gentility as the

dominant ethic in the eighteenth century all give Virginia a

problematic location in any "transition-to-capitalism"

narrative. For their part, the historians of Virginia have

failed to address adequately the issues of central concern

in the transition to capitalism debate: the relationship

between economic ideals and behavior. Social historians,

focusing solely on revealed behavior, have for the most part

ignored expressed ideals. Cultural and intellectual histor-

ians have noted a discrepancy between expressed ideals and

revealed behavior but have summarily dismissed the diver-

gence as a function of short-term environmental constraints.

Any attempt to bridge the gap between the particular

historical and the general social science literatures re-

veals inherent problems which rest fundamentally on the

dichotomous thinking central to both. By avoiding dichoto-

mies and coming to grips with the actual economic ethics of

seventeenth-century Virginia, we can begin to move beyond

the limitations of both debates.

Transition to Capitalism

Scholars have identified a major shift in Western

attitudes toward the pursuit of wealth at some point between

the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century, a shift at the

heart of "the transition to capitalism." Whether Marx's

transition from "use values" inherently limited by needs to

infinitely expansive "exchange values," or Sombart's and

Weber's shift from Bedarfsdeckungsprinzip ("the principle of

satisfaction of relatively fixed needs") to Erwerbsprinzip

("the principle of unlimited acquisition"), this shift rests

ultimately on Aristotle's contrast between two economic

ethics: oikonomik6 ("the art of household management," or

domestic economy) and chrematistike ("the art of wealth-

getting," or chrematistics).1 In what Karl Polanyi labelled

"probably the most prophetic pointer ever made in the realm

of social science," Aristotle contrasted the two as radi-

cally different approaches to acquisition. Whereas domestic

economy limits acquisition to "the amount of property which

is needed for a good life" and "the satisfaction of men's

natural wants"--"the elements of true riches"--under chrema-

tistics "riches and property have no limit." Domestic

economy seeks to maximize leisure within the context of a

good life, while chrematistics seeks to maximize wealth

without limit. Aristotle, like his contemporaries and many

later writers influenced directly or indirectly by classical

thought, condemned chrematistics as unnatural and illegiti-


Marx, Sombart, and Weber simply historicized this

dichotomy, showing when and how Aristotelian aversion to

chrematistics was transformed into the capitalistic cham-

pioning of profit maximization. Thus, in the transition to

capitalism framework, domestic economy and chrematistics

represent the dominant ethic and behavior of the pre-capi-

talist and capitalist eras respectively.3 Weber and Sombart

differed from Marx in stressing the dominance of ideological

over material forces in this transition, but they and their

followers eschewed any ideological determinism.4

Although endless numbers of critics and supporters of

Marx, Weber, and Sombart followed with their own particular

combinations of ideological, institutional, and material

forces in their solutions to the transition question, a

broad region of unchallenged consensus gradually arose to

dominate twentieth-century social science.5 Despite differ-

ent emphases, present-day scholars agree on certain key

points: the present dominance of a modern "spirit" of capi-

talism, the antithesis of the traditional "spirit" which

ruled in the Middle Ages; the chrematistic ethic at the

heart of this modern spirit; that regardless of the role of

religion in the origins of capitalist spirit, secularization

played an even greater role in removing traditional con-

straints on the full exercise of the ethic; and, finally,

that regardless of the origins of this ethic, once adopted

the ethic took on a life of its own, forcing others to

conform or perish in Darwinian fashion.6

Most of the traditional explanations of the timing of

the transition to capitalism have focused directly on Eng-

land as the first major industrial power. The three dominant

interpretations stress alternately: a sixteenth-century

commercial agrarian revolution coming with the Age of Dis-

covery, a shift of the commercial center of Europe from the

Mediterranean to Northwest Europe, and the enclosure move-

ment in England; a seventeenth-century intellectual revolu-

tion, usually linked to Puritanism, secularization, and the

rise of economic and political liberalism; an eighteenth-

century Industrial Revolution.7 Although followers of Marx

have traditionally stressed the sixteenth- and eighteenth-

century revolutions, much of the modern debate on the ethi-

cal aspects of capitalism naturally highlights--as a conse-

quence of Weber's work and the debate over his Protestant

ethic thesis--the seventeenth-century intellectual revolu-


The Weberian debate has necessarily involved students

of both colonial America and England, since Puritanism

strongly shaped both intellectual environments and Weber's

case rested equally on evidence from both sides of the


Atlantic. While Weber emphasized the direct impact of Puri-

tanism, his followers and critics alike have tended to

emphasize even more the role of secularization, the evidence

of the spirit of capitalism before Puritanism, and the

differences between early and late Puritanism. Supporters

equate the spirit with a secularized Puritanism and critics

emphasize the triumph of a secular spirit with the demise of

Puritanism. Weber's critics also find the religious and

capitalist spirits adamantly opposed and Puritans practi-

cally indistinguishable from Anglicans and Catholics on

economic ethics. Both sides of this debate agree that re-

gardless of the factors involved, the spirit of capitalism

dominated England by the late seventeenth century, coming

directly upon the demise of institutional Puritanism at the

Restoration.9 In New England, historians have variously

dated the declensionn" from Puritan to Yankee at any time

from 1630 when John Winthrop stepped off the Arbella to the

American Revolution and beyond.'1

With the current emphasis on secularization, the search

for evidence of the spirit of capitalism has naturally

turned to the non-religious literature, particularly politi-

cal and economic tracts. Just as Weber and Sombart earlier

highlighted Benjamin Franklin as the ideal Yankee capital-

ist, C. B. Macpherson has set the later agenda with his

analysis of seventeenth-century writers like Hobbes, Har-

rington, and Locke for the origins of a dominant "possessive


individualism" (Macpherson's modern equivalent of chrematis-

tics).1 Following Macpherson, other historians of politi-

cal economy have addressed the writings of various seven-

teenth-century political economists and eighteenth-century

writers like Bernard Mandeville, David Hume, James Steuart,

and Adam Smith for incipient positive statements of modern


However, despite the overwhelming acceptance of the

dominance of the spirit of capitalism in late seventeenth-

century England, the research in the secular literature has

proved conclusively that whatever the ambiguities and para-

doxes in individual tracts or authors, chrematistics never

achieved a positive normative status in seventeenth- and

eighteenth-century England or America.13 Even Joyce Appleby,

who supports Macpherson's interpretation of seventeenth-

century English society, acknowledges that his possessive

individualism was "strangely neglected, perhaps even

suppressed" in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Eng-

land.14 The early English thinkers actually rejected any

such ethic, arguing simply for the removal of some particu-

lar constraints on the pursuit of wealth well in line with a

traditional English defense of liberties and always for the

benefit of the common good, hardly a reversal of the Aristo-

telian aversion to chrematistics.

Economic versus Political Liberalism

If a modern consensus stresses the dominance of the

capitalist spirit in early modern England and America, while

neither religious nor secular literature reveals any unequi-

vocal statement of ethical support, what are we to make of

the entire transition to capitalism debate? Basically, the

debate exists because the two sides are arguing at cross

purposes. Followers of Weber and Macpherson look backward

from the present for incipient statements of a presumed

modern ethic while their critics, more concerned with find-

ing alternatives to the modern ethic, find much more discon-

tinuity with the present.

Much of the problem arises from the confusion engen-

dered by equating the triumph of the chrematistic ethic with

the rise of economic and political liberalism, with their

common locus in the English revolution of the seventeenth

century and the writings of Hobbes and Locke. If research

has sufficiently undermined the case for chrematistics, the

case is by no means clear for liberalism. Although scholars

differ widely on the exact timing, almost all accept that

modern liberalism came to dominate the West by the nine-

teenth century and some have made a good case for its domi-

nance in England by the late seventeenth century.

Almost all students of early modern Europe accept the

dominance before the mid-seventeenth century of the tradi-

tional idea of a "common good" which framed all the statutes


and acts of the realm and to which all individual or parti-

cular goods and liberties were subservient--"a good proper

to, and attainable only by, the community, yet individually

shared by its members," thus "at once communal and indivi-

dual."15 Individual good was an essential element of the

common good but, however defined, the common good clearly

represented much more than any function of individual goods,

including such concepts as justice and liberty.16

The relationship between liberty and the common good

was similarly ambiguous. By the Middle Ages, the concept of

liberty combined two elements: one evolved from the Roman

libertas, essentially a "negative" image of liberty as

"freedom against" or the opposite of slavery and captivity;

and a "positive" image of liberty as "freedom to" or terri-

torial immunity and political participation.17 In the pre-

Hobbesian, pre-Lockean era both positive and negative

liberty constituted essential elements of the common good.

Consistent with the common good, all citizens shared equally

in positive liberty. But the common good demanded strict

limits on negative liberty, if for no other reason than the

paradoxical but universal belief that sacrifice of one's

liberty was essential to preserve one's liberty.18

In this context, chrematistics was proscribed in

ancient times and the Middle Ages, and even into the modern

era, as "the lowest sort of avarice," one of the seven

deadly sins.19 The degree of proper constraint was deter-


mined by laws consistent with the common good, with too much

or too little constraint clearly contrary to the common

good. Although the thirteenth-century English jurist Henry

de Bracton noted that in Roman law, to which all medieval

jurists likened English law, libertas was defined as "the

natural power of every man to do what he pleases, unless

forbidden by law or force," clearly by the early modern (if

not the earlier) period this only applied to "good" laws,

"just" force, and all within the context of the common


In making a case for an intellectual revolution, histo-

rians of political thought have depicted this traditional

world view as coming to an end in the English Civil War, a

war that shattered the entire concept of "community" upon

which the common good rested and gave rise to modern liber-

alism. Following the work of Hobbes and Locke, the idea of

the common good was challenged by two distinct sets of

ideas--political liberalism and economic liberalism--which

we may define thusly:

(1) Political liberalism: The Hobbesian triumph of the

utilitarian concept of "interest" and the disappearance of

both positive and negative liberty, with the common good

replaced by the concept of the "public interest," ultimately

equal to no more than the sum of private interests, and with

the community reduced to a bourgeois "community of inter-

ests" that had no greater function than to protect those

private interests;21

(2) Economic liberalism: The Lockean triumph of negative

liberty, beginning with claims for natural rights supersed-

ing the common good, concluding with the disappearance of

ideas of positive liberty and the common good, and con-

straints on one's liberty reduced to the avoidance of that

which would impinge on others' liberty.22

Economic liberalism and chrematistics share much the

same foundation and thus their critiques parallel each

other, which means that the triumph of either chrematistics

or economic liberalism can be similarly dismissed for seven-

teenth- and eighteenth-century England.23 If Appleby finds

possessive individualism "strangely neglected, perhaps even

supressed," she says the same for economic liberalism.2 The

case for the rise of political liberalism, however, has a

much more solid foundation and requires a full explication

in order to understand the complexities of the prevailing

political beliefs in England over the course of the first

century of Virginia's settlement--beliefs against which we

might measure divergence in Virginia thought.

Liberty and the Common Good in Traditional Thought25

Anyone who has examined closely the political language

that Englishmen employed during the centuries preceding the

English Civil War would acknowledge the fairly unanimous

consensus proclaiming the common good as the cornerstone of

all policy and action--what Clive Holmes calls the "the

commonwealth ideology" which through constant employment

"filtered down to become part of a general stock of ideas

widely dispersed through [sixteenth- and seventeenth-century

English] society."26 The exact English terminology used

varied among a host of interchangeable terms like "common-

weal", "commonwealth," or "public weal."27 The idea and

language reflected influences from both Roman and medieval

law as well as the medieval rejuvenation of the works of

Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine, and other classical

and patristic thinkers.28

What anyone meant by the common good was less clear,

however, apart from the universal opinion that particular

interests were subordinated to it. General statements ne-

glected to define "who" was included in the common and

"what" was good--let alone "why."29 More specific, if equal-

ly ambiguous, definitions historically included doing the

will of God, being virtuous, following the Aristotelian

mean, and applying justice.30

Yet the ambiguity did not make the ideal any less real

to Englishmen. To supplement such words they drew on numer-

ous real-life analogies to capture the essence of the com-

monweal: the family, the biological organism, the human

body, and societies of social insects such as ants and

bees.31 The most prominent historical analogy was the clas-

sical model of Sparta--of all the Hellenic communities the

closest in giving absolute primacy to the common good.3

In essence, the individual, community, and state were

united in an organic harmony "in which there was only one

relationship: that of all to all, and of everything to one

divine truth."33 In this moral community, particular rights

and interests were clearly subordinate to the common good,

yet there was no confrontation between the good of the

individual and the good of the whole, since individual good

derived from and depended on the common good.3

The ideal of a single good applicable to the entire

community was subject, of course, to ethical challenges and

Englishmen had a realistic awareness of the inherent ten-

sions between the individual and the community. However, as

is so often the case, such challenges and tensions led not

to the abandonment of the ideal, but to its more forceful

articulation. Contests for power were dismissed as mere

temporary imbalances in the body politic. Thus, in mid-

seventeenth-century England, few dissenters were willing to

separate from the church and abandon "the idea of one indi-

visible truth and religious community" and Parliamentarians

in open rebellion claimed to be defending the Crown.3

Englishmen, at least as far back in myth as the reign

of the "liberty-loving" Goths and the pre-Norman Anglo-

Saxons, also cherished their "liberties."36 But, whether

under the code of honor or the code of law, regardless of

how defined, how safeguarded, and how fiercely defended,

wherever the community or state was concerned, liberties

fundamentally and always served the common good and not vice

versa.37 English mercantilists up to and including Adam

Smith accepted as the general guiding principle that the

state should not interfere with individual or household

liberties--except where interference would best serve the

common good.38 Even Sir Edward Coke, the great champion of

the common law and defender of English liberties, stressed

that "the common law will rather suffer a private injury

than a public inconvenience."39 Thus, contrary to theories

propounded by Roscoe Pound and others, there is little

evidence for the rise of economic liberalism and "ultra-

individualism" in seventeenth- or eighteenth-century


Necessity and Competency

If the commonweal was inconsistent with the uncon-

strained pursuit of individual interests, the state was

concerned with the well-being of its citizens, in particular

providing a safety net for preservation in times of "neces-

sity" or "poverty"--in the sense of the Latin term necessi-

tas. Indeed, many of the harshest criticisms of avarice--

reflected most strongly in the condemnation of enclosures--

highlighted impoverishment as the key detrimental effect of

avarice on the commonweal.42 This concern reflected a Judeo-

Christian/classical consensus combining both the Christian

duty of charity and natural law that justified private

property based on the proviso that all things existed in

common in times of necessity and all men had the right to a

livelihood and self-preservation.43

Indeed, so important was the preservation of the indi-

vidual that although normally the state demanded that indi-

viduals comply with the law as the definitive statement of

the common good, in case of necessity the state allowed the

individual to cast the law aside. Rooted firmly in the

natural law tradition, this idea was well captured by the

classical axiom of private law: "Necessitas non habet legem"

or "Necessity knows no law.""44 Numerous observers, from Sir

Thomas More in the early sixteenth century to John Cook and

Thomas Hobbes in the mid-seventeenth century, drawing on

classical and scriptural precedents, held up this maxim to

defend the right of poor men to steal food when needed to

preserve themselves and their families.45 Religious writers

like Hugh Latimer and William Perkins extended the idea to

their understanding of the calling, following the apostolic

injunction against changing one's calling or practicing two

trades except for "the common good" or out of "private

necessity."46 More generally, scholars and statesmen alike

had long recognized that works of necessity absolved indi-

viduals from religious and civic duties such as attending

court or church.4

Although natural law rhetoric might imply that by

necessity Western thinkers meant absolute poverty verging on

starvation, in actual usage the normative idea of necessity

was extended to all levels of society, not just the poorest.

Neither classical nor patristic--let alone later--writers

ever envisioned an egalitarian society where necessities

were defined in the same terms for every individual. If

society was a harmonious organism, it was also a hierarchi-

cal organism, well captured by the analogies of the "the

body politic" and the divinely-ordained Great Chain of

Being.4 Thus, what might represent a conveniency or even a

luxury for a member of the working classes could be a neces-

sity for a member of the elite. Some medieval writers even

recognized that some luxuries became necessaries over


This relativistic understanding of necessity had solid

roots in classical and patristic thought, but it took on a

greater sociological precision in medieval times as canon-

ists and theologians attempted to define superfluities as

that level of property which an individual would be forced

to give up in time of necessity, without depriving anyone of

their own necessities.50 In Thomas Aquinas's most influen-

tial argument, he stressed the bare minimum that had to be

done as a matter of precept (while to do more was always a

meritorious act of charity) and the duty to give up super-

fluities only in time of "extreme necessity," that is, "when

a man lacked even the bare essentials necessary to sustain

life"; in such a time even a man without superfluities was

"bound to give up the comforts and amenities proper to his

station in life (which were not technically 'superfluities')

to save another from actual starvation."51

By the seventeenth century, attempts to define neces-

sities and superfluities had not progressed much beyond

Aquinas. John Cook in 1648 could speak of "a light neces-

sity, a great necessity, and an extreme necessity" and how

the rich mans superfluities gave place to another
convenience, his conveniences to another mans
necessaries, his Necessities to another mans
extremities, one mans less Extremities to his
Neighbours greater Extremities, and to Mecanicall poore
must releece Mendicant poore, rather then they should

In the second half of the seventeenth century, religious

leaders like Richard Cumberland and Richard Baxter believed

that "each man had a right to those things which he needed

to use in order to live," which Baxter interpreted to

include conveniences:

For natural individuation maketh it necessary that
every man have his own food, and his own clothing, at
least for the time; and, therefore, it is usually
needful to the good of the whole and the parts that
each one have also their provisional proprieties; and
the difference of men in wit and folly, industry and
sloth, virtue and vice, good or ill deserts, will also

cause a difference of propriety and rights, though
these may be in part subjected to the common good.

If in the medieval and early modern era, the general

consensus meant nothing more than that a man with superflui-

ties should give alms and a man lacking necessaries should

receive alms, there was obviously much room for negotiation.

The boundaries between superfluity and conveniency, and

coveniency and necessity, both of which depended heavily on

one's station, remained inherently ambiguous.54

The boundaries were even more complicated by the ten-

dency to speak of anyone as "poor" who lacked a "competen-

cy," by which was meant the sum of necessaries plus conven-

iencies required to allow one to live up to his station, or

the income, wealth, or property necessary to produce such

necessaries and conveniences.55 The idea of a competency, as

reflected in writings from Aquinas to Baxter, far transcen-

ded the charity issue. For this was an era, as J.G.A. Pocock

notes, when "'property'--that which you owned--and 'propri-

ety'--that which pertained or was proper to a person or

situation--were interchangeable terms."56 Although no one

ever suggested that anyone simply lacking a competency

deserved alms, yet in many ways ensuring a competency for

citizens proved as central a goal in any definition of the

common good as ensuring necessities. The importance of

competency rested on many of the same natural laws and

political reasons as necessity, but combined further a

strong classical tradition of positive liberty that empha-


sized the possession of a competency as essential to provid-

ing sufficient independence and leisure to participate in

community affairs and undertake community responsibili-


At the heart of the conception of the individual and

common good of every seventeenth-century Englishman, whether

at home or abroad, peasant or lord, rested the notion of the

right of each household to a competency. However, as with

necessity, one should not presume that for these Englishmen

competency implied a fixed level of wealth for every indi-

vidual."8 Firstly, inherent in the concept were differences

according to station which changed over time, space, life-

cycle, and individual circumstances.59 Secondly, to what-

ever degree the Schoolmen earlier specified a "static"

hierarchical image of society, by the sixteenth century a

definite "progressive" notion of competency had arisen.60

Individuals and households should not remain satisfied with

a minimum level of well-being but should aspire to take

advantage of opportunities for greater wealth and consump-

tion within the traditional economic framework. Indeed,

satisfaction was condemned as indolence.61 These beliefs

reflected the early modern fear of idleness, a labor theory

of wealth centered on the guarantee of the freedom of the

fruits of one's labor, and the idea that wealth acquired by

greater industry not only was acceptable but should be

positively encouraged. But this "progressive competency"


evolved out of the tradition of Aristotelian domestic econo-

my and remained estranged from chrematistics.62

Drawing upon private law tradition, classical political

theory, and Roman public law, medieval legists and canonists

employed the strong link between necessity and the common

good to develop the early modern theory of public law and

the state, a development continued by later natural law

theorists like Grotius, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Pufendorf.

If the individual had a right to survive and defend himself

against aggressors, then so too did the state as a key

component of the common good. Indeed, while seventeenth-

century Englishmen recognized that private necessity was a

matter of justice and charity, their concern with the con-

cept reflected perhaps an even greater fear of the mob

driven by poverty into rebellion.3 Similarly, the maxim

that "Necessity knows no law" was extended to give the

government "a certain prerogative that made it superior, in

an emergency or necessity, to the private law and private

rights.""64 Machiavelli differed from others only in consid-

ering the state as in a permanent state of necessity that

justified any action taken by it as the price to be paid to

preserve the republic.65

The Case for Political Liberalism

That parliamentary debates in early seventeenth-century

England drew explicitly on medieval ideas of public neces-


sity and the common good reflects their continuing relevance

in the years before the Civil War.66 Yet traditional ideas

like common good, necessity, and competency proved very

flexible in practice, and in the seventeenth century the

traditional antithesis between private interest and the

common good began to weaken as the Crown and Parliament

promoted two starkly different images of the common good:

the Stuarts' claim of Crown prerogative and necessity of

state to justify extraordinary taxation to preserve national

power; and Parliament's condemnation of Crown abuse of

private rights, drawing on the ancient maxim, "salus populi

supreme lex esto."67

The battle between these views echoed numerous similar

battles in the Middle Ages over perpetua necessitas, all

reflecting the historical tendency of the state to reduce

"reason of state" to a mere instrument of statecraft as it

moved in the Machiavellian direction of claiming a permanent

necessity to justify all acts of state, most particularly

the shift from extraordinary to permanent annual taxa-

tion.68 Thomas More in his Utopia elaborated numerous

creative types of abuse of the idea of public necessity,

including carrying on "a make-believe war.""69 During the

turbulent years of the mid-seventeenth-century, a plethora

of similar complaints were well captured in Milton's lines

in Paradise Lost: "So spake the fiend, and with necessity,/

The tyrant's plea, excused his devilish deeds." And they

were captured again in Oliver Cromwell's speech to Parlia-

ment in 1654: "Necessity hath no law. Feigned necessities,

imaginary necessities, are the greatest cozenage men can put

upon the Providence of God, and make pretences to break

known rules by."70

At the heart of the case for political liberalism lies

the argument that cynicism over the divergence between

rhetoric and reality during the Civil War years and a search

for pragmatic solutions paved the way for the increasing

acceptance of "interest" as an ineradicable part of poli-

tics.71 Whereas in traditional political rhetoric, inter-

ests had always been associated with the "particular" and

"individual" which were condemned as contrary to the common

good, increasingly in the seventeenth-century the idea of

interest was accepted into normative discourse. Under the

influence of continental ideas captured by the French

proverb "interest will not lie," the new public notion of

interest evolved rapidly from a political guide for princes

and statesmen into a rule applicable to all human affairs.72

Francisco Suarez, writing for a continental audience

rife with religious and political divisions, had laid out in

1613 the idea that the common good could be conceived in two

different ways: "the general state of the commonwealth, and

benefit of the community" and the "common good which results

from every man's good." During the English Civil War, when

similar religious and political divisions broke out across

England, several Parliamentarians (some drawing explicitly

on Suarez) began focusing on the popular approach to the

common good to justify their actions. Hobbes pushed the same

logic to promote the absolutist cause, but many of his fol-

lowers, like Harrington and Locke, used the same logic to

support anti-absolutism.73 At certain points when polemics

got especially hot, such as the years 1647-9 and 1659-60,

discussion of the commonweal gave way to acceptance of a

"union of interests."74

The term "public interest" began appearing more and

more frequently in the years during and after the Civil War.

This new term obviously drew on the heritage of the common-

wealth ideology but challenged traditional notions of the

common good as an entity in any way independent of the

individual good.7 Such an individualist understanding of

public interest proved quite successful in challenging

competing definitions of the common good in terms of nation-

al power and state necessity.76

There are, however, many problems with the case for

political liberalism in late seventeenth- or eighteenth-

century England.77 Regardless of the influence of Hobbes and

Locke on modern thought, one should not hold up their views

as typical of their times or overexaggerate their impact on

seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century English (let alone

Virginian) thought.78 Scholars well acknowledge that the

older language of goods continued to appear ubiquitously,

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