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The Virginian Revolution Essay

1484 words - 6 pages

Virginia's way to the American Revolution

Woody Holton. Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

In his book Forced Founders – Indians, Debtors, Slaves and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia Woody Holton tries to give a "… study of some (not all) of the causes (not the effects) of Virginia's Revolution." He argues that the Virginia elite were important as leaders of the Independence movement, but were also powerfully influenced by other forces such as British merchants, Indians, farmers and slaves. Woody Holton argues that the Virginia gentry was influenced by those four groups, and that the gentry was even forced by the groups to react in certain ways at times. His most powerful argument is that the elites feared social disorder and losing
their position in the elite. This book represents an interesting view on the gentry of Virginia and his arguments are easy to follow. He provides the reader with a large amount of examples which makes it very easy to relate the broader historic discussion to singular events. Holton also tries to give a profile of the diverse society in Virginia during the pre-revolution years. Since the average inhabitant of Virginia was not able to write diaries or letters, Holton had to use the manuscripts of the elite; but he "… did not find using gentry sources to study nongentleman as difficult as he [I] had feared." He was able to form a solid picture of both gentry and non gentry Americans of this time and their political positions.
The first chapter of Forced Founders is focused on the Indians in the Ohio Valley, the other Southern tribes, and the land speculators. Some tribes formed alliances and agreed not to sell anymore land. Since the British feared an Indian uprising, the Indians were able to negotiate with the British, and therefore convinced them to stop the settlement of the Ohio Valley. The gentry of Virginia was not pleased with this decision, since they invested in the land and were now legally hindered to sell it. Other settlers, like squatters, just settled there, but the gentry had to respect the resolution of their own Privy Council. So they started to petition the Council, but without success. Holton argues that the Indians were able to influence the British government to a certain point not to allow American settlers to settle in the Ohio Valley, because the British simply did not want to spend money for British troops that would eventually have to protect the settlers from Indian assaults. They hoped to prevent a new costly war in America. The problem for the gentry was that …"the Virginia Executive Council had no choice but to void the hundreds of surveys that had been done for Virginia speculators and to put a halt to further surveying. This setback only intensified the speculators' effort to persuade the government to let them have Kentucky and the adjacent...

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