Virginia, history

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The History of Virginia began with the settlement of the geographic region now known as the Commonwealth of Virginia in the U.S. thousands of years ago by Native Americans. Permanent European settlement began with English settlers at Jamestown in 1607. Tobacco emerged as a profitable export crop, and the Virginia Colony became the richest and largest British colonies in North America.

As one of the original 13 United States which won their independence from Great Britain during the American Revolution, Virginia produced more national leaders than any state, including four of the first five presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe). The new state gave up its western lands to form Kentucky and Ohio. After many decades of sectional hostility in 1861 West Virginia broke away as a separate state.

During the first half of the 19th century, Virginia grew less rapidly than industrial states to the north, or cotton states to the south. The state exported young people and slaves to form plantations and farms to the west and south.

Virginia was a slave state but refused to join the cotton states in the new Confederacy until Lincoln called for troops to invade the Confederacy. Then it seceded and Richmond became the new Confederate capital. With the Yankees intent on capturing Richmond, Virginia became the main battlefield of the war, which it lost in 1865 as its greatest general, Robert E. Lee, surrendered.

Reconstruction brought the liberation of the state's slaves, and proved less contentious than elsewhere in the South. Virginia was poor after 1865, though the new popularity of cigarettes boosted its tobacco industry. After 1940, prosperity returned. World War II gave the state a major naval and industrial economic base. Desegregation of schools and the integration of African Americans in many other aspects of the society were major issues from the 1950s to the 1970s and the changes did not come without considerable efforts. However, in 1989 Douglas Wilder became the first elected black governor anywhere in the country. By the 1980s the suburban fringes of Washington D.C. known as Northern Virginia saw the greatest growth and prosperity, a trend which was also seen in the Hampton Roads region.

Politically, the state was a stronghold of conservative Democrats for most of the 20th century, with a new strength shown by conservative Republicans in the final decade. In the early 21st century, funding for transportation needs emerged as the most controversial single issue. As of 2007, Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat, interacts with a General Assembly with a Republican majority in both houses. In the U.S. Congress, each party has one Senate seat, and the Representatives come from both parties as well.

The year 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown. An 18 month-long celebration called Jamestown 2007 began in 2006, and events were planned including a state visit from Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and her consort, Prince Phillip, reprising the honor they paid Virginia in 1957 for the 350th anniversary.

Native Americans

The portion of the New World designated Virginia in honor of the "Virgin Queen" (Elizabeth I) in the late 16th century had been inhabited by many groups of Native Americans for at least 3,000 years, based upon ongoing archaeological and historical research by archaeologist Helen Rountree and others.

At the end of the 16th century, among Native American people living in what now is Virginia were the Cherokee, Chesepian, Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Meherrin, Monacan, Nansemond, Nottoway, Pamunkey, Pohick, Powhatan, Rappahannock, Saponi, and Tuscarora. The natives are often divided into three groups, based to a large extent upon language differences. The largest group are known as the Algonquian who numbered over 10,000. The other groups are the Iroquoian (numbering 2,500) and the Siouan. [1]

When the first English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, Algonquian tribes controlled most of eastern Virginia and were united in the Powhatan Confederacy. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Chief Wahunsunacock created this powerful empire by conquering or affiliating by agreement with approximately 30 tribes covering much of eastern Virginia, which he called "Tenakomakah" ("densely-inhabited Land")[1], and he himself was known as Chief Powhatan. This was advantageous to some tribes, who were periodically threatened by other hostile Indians, such as the Monacans.

In the years after 1612, the colonists cleared land to farm export tobacco, their crucial cash crop. As the land became fallow after only a few seasons of growing the nutrient hungry tobacco crops, replacement farming land was continuously needed. This reduced wooded land which could be used for hunting to supplement the natives' food crops. More and more colonists arrived and they wanted more and more land.

The tribes made some efforts to fight this trend, massacring the settlers whenever possible, as in 1622 and 1644, both under the leadership of the late Chief Powhatan's younger brother, Chief Opechancanough. However, by the mid 17th century, the Powhatans largely disappeared except at the frontier.

Most surviving Indians assimilated into the general population of the colony, although a few retained their identity and heritage.[2]

For more information, see: Powhatan Confederacy.


Colonial Period

After their discovery of the New World in the 15th century, European states began trying to establish New World colonies. Among these were notably England, the Dutch Republic, France, Portugal, and Spain.

When England began to colonize North America, "Virginia" was the name Queen Elizabeth I of England (who was known as the "Virgin Queen" because she never married) gave to the whole area explored by the 1584 expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh along the coast of North America, eventually applying to the whole coast from South Carolina to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

In the much smaller area now known as Virginia, the Spanish were the first to attempt to establish a colony, although they failed. The first permanent settlement in the same area was established nearby over 36 years later at a swampy mosquito-infested island which the new colonists named "Jamestown" in honor of their King, James I of England.

For more information, see: Jamestown, Virginia.

Roanoke Island: The Lost Colony

The Roanoke Colony was the first English colony in the New World. It was founded at Roanoke Island in what was then Virginia, and is now part of Dare County in the state of North Carolina.

Between 1584 and 1587, there were two major groups of settlers sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh who attempted to establish a permanent settlement at Roanoke Island, and each failed. The final group disappeared completely after supplies from England were delayed three years by a war with Spain. Their disappearance and the fact that their fate has never been authoritatively ascertained is the source of the continuing mystery of what came to be called "The Lost Colony".

For more information, see: Roanoke Colony.


Virginia Company: Plymouth and London Branches

After the death of Queen Elizabeth I, in 1603 King James I assumed the throne of England. After years of war, England was strapped for funds, so he granted responsibility for England's New World colonization to the Virginia Company, which became incorporated as a joint stock company by a proprietary charter drawn up on April 10, 1606. There were two competing branches of the Virginia Company and each hoped to establish a colony in Virginia in order to exploit gold (which the region did not actually have), to establish a base of support for English privateering against Spanish ships, and to spread Protestantism to the New World in competition with Spain's spread of Catholicism.[3]

Within the Virginia Company, the Plymouth Company branch was assigned a northern portion of the area known as Virginia, and the London Company area to the south. An overlapping portion in between was part of the competition.

In the late summer of 1607, the Plymouth Company established their Popham Colony in what is now the U.S. state of Maine. However, it only lasted a year, and was abandoned in 1608.

For more information, see: Popham Colony.

By the time a successor to the Plymouth Company sent Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower to establish a permanent settlement in what became Massachusetts in 1620, the area was no longer considered part of Virginia, but had been renamed New England. However, 12 years before then, the competing London Company branch of the Virginia Company was more successful in establishing a permanent settlement at Jamestown.

Jamestown and surrounding area

For more information, see: Jamestown, Virginia.

First landing: April 1607

In December, 1606, the London Company dispatched a group of 104 colonists in three ships: the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, under the command of Captain Christopher Newport. The voyage was a rough and lengthy one. After 144 days, the colonists finally arrived in Virginia on April 26, 1607 at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. They named the Virginia capes after the sons of their king, Cape Henry for Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Cape Charles for his younger brother, Charles, Duke of York. At Cape Henry, they went ashore, erected a cross, and did a small amount of exploring, an event which came to be called the "First Landing."

Under orders from London to seek a more inland and ostensibly safer location ( primarily from ships of other Europeans, such as the Spanish), they explored the Hampton Roads area and sailed up the newly christened James River to the fall line at what would later became the cities of Richmond and Manchester.

Jamestown and Captain John Smith: 1607-1609

After weeks of exploration, the colonists selected a location and founded Jamestown on May 14, 1607. It was named in honor of King James I (as was the river). However, while the location at Jamestown Island was favorable for defense against foreign ships, the low and marshy terrain was harsh and inhospitable for a settlement. It lacked drinking water, access to game for hunting, or much space for farming. While it seemed favorable that it was not inhabited by the Native Americans, within a short time, the colonists were attacked by members of the local Paspahegh tribe.

The colonists arrived ill-prepared to become self-sufficient. They had planned on trading with the Native Americans for food, were dependent upon periodic supplies from England, and had planned to spend some of their time seeking gold. Leaving the Discovery behind for their use, Captain Newport returned to England with the Susan Constant and the Godspeed, and came back twice during 1608 with the First Supply and Second Supply missions. Trading and relations with the Native Americans was tenuous at best, and many of the colonists died from disease, starvation, and conflicts with the Natives. After several failed leaders, Captain John Smith took charge of the settlement, and many credit him with sustaining the colony during its first years, as he had some success in trading for food and leading the discouraged colonists.

However, in August 1609, Smith was injured in an accident and forced to return to England a few months later for medical treatment. In one of history's ironies, he left just as a drought was creating a shortage of food for the Native Americans and the English colonists, and as a weather disaster had disrupted the supply missions from England.

1609-1610: the "Starving Time"

After Smith's departure, there was an interruption in the scheduled arrival of supplies due to the shipwreck on Bermuda of the Sea Venture, the new flagship of the Third Supply mission from England as a result of a massive 3-day hurricane. The Sea Venture had became separated from the other ships of the Third Supply mission, 7 of which had arrived at Jamestown with hundreds of additional colonists, but little in the way of food and supplies, which had been aboard the flagship.

During the winter of 1609-10 and continuing into the spring and early summer, no more ships arrived. The colonists faced what became known as the "starving time". The leader who had replaced John Smith, Captain John Ratcliffe of the Discovery, was captured and killed by the Powhatans, who were much more aggressive after Smith's departure. Only a small amount of food was traded, and at very high prices, as the colonists gave up valuable tools and equipment. The colonists had no way of knowing if help would ever come. However, they had not been forgotten, and separate events were underway at Bermuda and in England to re-supply them.

Shipwrecked on the uninhabited archipelago of Bermuda, over a period of 10 months, the leaders of the Third Supply and the survivors of the Sea Venture constructed two smaller ships, using many parts from their destroyed flagship. Leaving a few men on Bermuda to retain possession, they set sail again for Jamestown. (The Virginia Company remained in physical possession of Bermuda from the time of the Sea Venture wreck, and its Third Charter, in 1612, extended the boundaries of Virginia far enough out to sea to include Bermuda, also known as the Somers Isles. A separate company, the Somers Isles Company, was formed by the same shareholders in 1615, administering Bermuda until 1684).

When Captain Newport, his Admiral, Sir George Somers, and the new governor, Sir Thomas Gates, finally arrived at Jamestown on May 23, 1610, they anticipated finding a thriving colony. Instead, they discovered something much different. Over 80% of the 500 colonists had perished, and many remaining alive were sick. On their two small ships, the Sea Venture survivors had brought few supplies from Bermuda. The stark reality was that the situation was only slightly improved at Jamestown with their arrival. It appeared that using the two ships to leave the hostile environment was the only viable option, one which the leaders were reluctant to embrace. Finally, they began to sail down the James River.

Meanwhile, back in England, the Virginia Company had been reorganized under its Second Charter, ratified on May 23, 1609, which gave most leadership authority of the colony to the governor, the newly-appointed Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (known in modern times as "Lord Delaware"). Word had reached England through Samuel Argall, captain of one of the other ships of the Third Supply, that the Sea Venture (with most of the supplies of that mission) had not arrived at Jamestown, and that food and supplies there were quite low, despite an increased number of colonists.

Saving Jamestown: Lord Delaware and John Rolfe

On April 1, 1610, De La Warr left for Jamestown with 150 men and additional food and supplies to rescue to colonists and assume leadership over the colony. Upon his arrival in June, as he sailed up the James River, he was met by two ships sailing downriver near Mulberry Island. There is little doubt that he was as surprised to learn of the fate of the Sea Venture and that its survivors had made it to Jamestown as they were to see English ships arriving.

Lord Delaware was likely less surprised to find them all preparing to abandon the colony. Instead, he required them to stay in Virginia and work with his fresh colonists and supplies to continue the settlement. The timing of Lord Delaware's arrival must have been a disappointment to those who hoped to leave Jamestown forever. However, neither they, nor Lord Delaware, could have known that the man who help the key to Virginia's economic future was also returning to Jamestown with them.

One of the Sea Venture survivors was a businessman named John Rolfe. Despite leaving England with great expectations aboard the beautiful new Sea Venture, his trip thus far with Captain Newport had not gone well at all. His wife and son had died on the voyage since leaving London. He himself had finally made it to Jamestown, only to discover the result of the "Starving Time." Although he had some marketing ideas and some new seeds for sweeter strains of tobacco with him, both were as yet untried. That was about to change.

As he became established, De La Warr began a violent campaign, First Anglo-Powhatan War, against the natives. Under his leadership, Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas, daughter of the Powhatan chief, and hold her at Henricus. Attempts at ransom failed, however.

The economy of the Colony was another problem. Gold had never been found, and efforts to introduce profitable industries in the colony had all failed until Rolfe introduced his two foreign types of tobacco: Orinoco and Sweet Scented. These produced a better crop than the local variety and with the first shipment to England in 1612, the customers found the flavor to be favorable. This identification of a cash crop to export marked the beginning of Virginia's economic viability.

While ransoming the chief's daughter had not worked, the First Anglo-Powhatan War ended when John Rolfe married Pocahontas in 1614. The union seemed to create good feelings between the vastly different cultures. If only for a few years, a comparative peace was established. Their son, Thomas Rolfe, was born in 1615.

The Virginia Colony began to prosper with a thriving tobacco industry, but required more and more of the land the natives considered their own. Especially after the death of Pocahontas in 1617 during a trip to England and her father, Chief Powhatan in 1618, conflicts with the Powhatans escalated again. There were also conflicts among the colonists. De La Warr's deputy, Samuel Argall, who had been left in charge of the colony, ran Jamestown as an autocrat. Responding to accusations of Argall's abuses, De La Warr left to return to the colony in 1618 but died en route.

1619: a watershed year

1619 was a watershed year for the Virginia Company. George Yeardley took over as Governor of Virginia in 1619. In the long view, the most important development was that he reformed the old autocratic system and created a more democratic one. He established the House of Burgesses, the first elected legislative assembly in the New World, which first met on July 30, 1619 in the Jamestown church (the current House of Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly traces its routes to the Burgesses).

Also in 1619, the Virginia Company sent 90 single women as potential wives for the male colonists to help populate the settlement. Prior to that time, the only females to arrive had been wives and children.

That same year the colony acquired a group of "twenty and odd" Angolans, brought by two English privateers. They were probably the first Africans in the colony. They, along with many European indentured servants helped to expand the growing tobacco industry which was already the colony's primary product. Although these black men were treated as indentured servants, this marked the beginning of America's history of slavery, although major introduction of African slaves by both African and Europeans profiteers did not take place until much later in the century.

Also in 1619, all of the plantations and developments were divided into four "incorporations" or "citties" (sic), as they were called. These were Charles Cittie, Elizabeth Cittie, Henrico Cittie, and James Cittie, which included the relatively small seat of government for the colony at Jamestown Island. Each of the four "citties" (sic) extended across the James River, the main conduit of transportation of the era. Elizabeth Cittie, know initially as Kecoughtan (a Native word with many variations in spelling by the English), also included the areas now known as South Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.

In some areas, individual rather than communal land ownership or leaseholds were established, providing families individual motivation to increase production, improved standards of living, and gain wealth. Perhaps nowhere was this more progressive at than Sir Thomas Dale's ill-fated Henricus, a westerly-lying development located along the south bank of the James River, where natives where also to be provided an education at the Colony's first college.

About 6 miles south of the falls at present-day Richmond, in Henrico Cittie the Falling Creek Ironworks was established near the confluence of Falling Creek, using local ore deposits to make iron. It was the first in North America. Extant records indicate the production of iron had begun, but the events of March, 1622 interrupted continued operations.

1622-1646: Fundamental conflict grows: colonists vs. natives

While the developments of 1619 and continued growth in the several following years were seen as favorable by the English, many aspects, especially the continued need for more and more land to grow tobacco were the source of increasing concern to the Native Americans most affected, the Powhatans.

The central issue was who would be in charge. The Powhatans formally and ritually admitted Virginia into their political system in 1607 and 1608, and for years under the rule of Chief Powhatan, and even later, they fought to enforce the control they felt was rightfully theirs. The colonists, however, never recognized Powhatan authority, and they also acted to take control.

By this time, the remaining Powhatan Empire was led by Chief Opechancanough, chief of the Pamunkeys, and brother of Chief Powhatan. He had earned a reputation as a fierce warrior under his brother's chiefdom. Soon, he gave up on hopes of diplomacy, and resolved to eradicate the English colonists.

On March 22, 1622, a Good Friday, about 400 colonists were killed in an event which came to be called the Indian Massacre of 1622. Coordinated attacks struck almost all the English settlements along the James River, on both shores, from Newport News Point on the east at Hampton Roads all the way west upriver to Falling Creek, a few miles above Henricus and John Rolfe's plantation, Varina Farms.

At Jamestown itself, the death and destruction would have been worse had an Indian boy named Chanco not defied orders to kill his employer, Richard Pace, and instead warned him of the attack the night before. Pace secured his plantation, and rowed across the river during the night to alert Jamestown, allowing for some preparation. However, there had been no time to spread the warning to other English outposts. There were deaths and some colonists were captured at almost every outpost. Several entire communities were essentially wiped out, including Henricus and Wolstenholme Towne at Martin's Hundred. At the Falling Creek Ironworks, which had been seen as so promising for the Colony, two women and three children were among the 27 killed, leaving only two colonists alive. The facilities were destroyed.

However, despite the losses, two thirds of the colonists survived that fateful day. After initially withdrawing to Jamestown, many of them returned to the outlying plantations, although some were abandoned. There were reprisals against the Powhatans by the English as well. The colonists and natives fought for about a year until a truce was struck.

Meeting at Jamestown, a toast of liquor was proposed. However, Dr. John Potts and some of the Jamestown leadership had poisoned the natives' share of the liquor, which killed about 200 of them. Another 50 Indians were killed by hand.

The period between the coups of 1622 and another in 1644 marked a turning point in the relations between the Powhatans and the English, from a situation where both sides felt that they not only could dictate, but were dictating, the terms of the relationship, to the period after 1646, where the colony was clearly in control.

The colonists defined the 1644 coup as an "uprising", but even at that late date, Chief Opechancanough expected the outcome would reflect what he considered the morally correct position that the colonists were violating their pledges to the Powhatans. During the 1644 event, Chief Opechancanough was captured. While imprisoned, he was murdered by one of his guards.

After the death of Opechancanough, and following the repeated colonial attacks in 1644 and 1645, the remaining Powhatan tribes had little alternative but to accede to the demands of the settlers. [4]

Virginia as a royal colony

In 1624, the Virginia Company's charter was revoked and the colony transferred to royal authority as a crown colony, but the elected representatives in Jamestown continued to exercise a fair amount of power. Under royal authority, the colony began to expand to the North and West with additional settlements. In 1630, under the governorship of John Harvey, the first settlement on the York River was founded. In 1632, the Virginia legislature voted to build a fort to link Jamestown and the York River settlement of Chiskiack and protect the colony from Indian attacks. This fort would become Middle Plantation and later Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1634, a palisade was built near Middle Plantation. This wall stretched across the peninsula between the York and James rivers and protected the settlements on the eastern side of the lower Peninsula from Indians. The wall also served to contain cattle.

Also in 1634, a new system of local government was created in the Virginia Colony by order of the King of England. Eight shires were designated, each with its own local officers. These shires were renamed as counties only a few years later. They were:

Of these, as of 2007, five of the eight original shires of Virginia are considered still extant in essentially their same political form (county), although some boundaries have changed in almost 400 years. Also, including the earlier names of the citties (sic) in their names resulted in the source of some confusion, as that resulted in such seemingly contradictory names as "James City County" and "Charles City County". (Citizens of the now-extinct "Elizabeth City County" voted to be consolidated with the independent city of Hampton in 1952, and also voted to assume the better-known and less cumbersome name).

The first significant attempts at exploring the Trans-Allegheny region occurred under the administration of Governor William Berkeley. Efforts to explore farther into Virginia were hampered in 1644 when about 500 colonists were killed in another Indian massacre led, once again, by Opechancanough. Berkeley is credited with efforts to develop others sources of income for the colony besides tobacco such as cultivation of mulberry trees for silkworms and other crops at his large Green Spring Plantation, now a largely unexplored archaeological site maintained by the National Park Service near Jamestown and Williamsburg.

Most of Virginian colonists were loyal to the English monarchy during the English Civil War, but, in 1652 Oliver Cromwell sent a force to remove and replace Gov. Berkeley with governors loyal to the Commonwealth of England. These governors were moderate Puritans who allowed the local legislature to exercise most controlling authority.

Many royalists fled to Virginia after their defeat in the English Civil War. Many of them established would become the most important families in Virginia. After the Restoration, in recognition of Virginia's loyalty to the crown, King Charles II of England bestowed Virginia with the nickname "The Old Dominion", which it still bears today.

Berkeley, who remained popular after his first administration, returned to the governorship at the end of Commonwealth rule. However, Berkeley's second administration was characterized with many problems. Disease, hurricanes, Indian hostilities, and economic difficulties all plagued Virginia at this time. Berkeley established autocratic authority over the colony. To protect this power, he refused to have new legislative elections for 14 years in order to protect a House of Burgesses that supported him. He only agreed to new elections when rebellion became a serious threat.

Berkeley finally did face a rebellion in 1676. Indians had begun attacking encroaching settlers as they expanded to the north and west. Serious fighting broke out when settlers responded to violence with a counter-attack against the wrong tribe, which further extended the violence. Berkeley did not assist the settlers in their fight. Many settlers and historians believe Berkeley's refusal to fight the Indians stemmed from his investments in the fur trade. Large scale fighting would have cut off the Indian suppliers Berkeley's investment relied on. Nathaniel Bacon of Henrico organized his own militia of settlers who retaliated against the Indians. Bacon became very popular as the primary opponent of Berkeley, not only on the issue of Indians, but on other issues as well. Berkeley condemned Bacon as a rebel, but pardoned him after Bacon won a seat in the House of Burgesses and accepted it peacefully. After a lack of reform, Bacon rebelled outright, captured Jamestown, and took control of the colony for several months. The incident became known as Bacon's Rebellion. Berkeley returned himself to power with the help of the English militia. Bacon burned Jamestown before abandoning it and continued his rebellion, but died of disease. Berkeley severely crushed the remaining rebels. In response to Berkeley's harsh repression of the rebels, the English government removed him from office. After the burning of Jamestown, the capital was temporarily moved to Middle Plantation, located on the high ground of the Virginia Peninsula equidistant from the James and York Rivers.

Following a failure at Henricus earlier in the century, under Governor Francis Nicholson, Virginia's first permanent institute of higher learning was founded. In 1691, with urging and support of the House of Burgesses, Reverend Dr. James Blair, the colony's top religious leader, went back to England and in 1693, obtained a charter from King William and Queen Mary II of England. The college was named the College of William and Mary in honor of the two monarchs.

The rebuilt statehouse in Jamestown burned again in 1698. After that fire, upon suggestion of students of the College of William and Mary, the colonial capital was permanently moved to nearby Middle Plantation again, and the town was renamed Williamsburg, in honor of William of Orange, King William III.

Border dispute

The colony of Maryland and Virginia had a long series of border disputes of which one continues to this day. The dispute revolved around the boundary that King Charles I granted the charter to George Calvert the baron of Maryland in 1632. It granted him feudal rights of the region between lat. 40°N and the Potomac River which Virginia claimed. The disputes over the area were mostly resolved in 1930. However Maryland and Virginia still dispute the usage of the Potomac and water rights.

Exploration; Shenandoah Valley

Alexander Spotswood became acting royal governor of Virginia in 1710, and in 1716 he led an expedition of westward exploration, It reached the top ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap (elevation 2,365 feet). This was known as the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition.

Social Order

Historian Douglas Southall Freeman has explained the social structure of the 1740s:

West of the fall line ... the settlements fringed toward the frontier of the Blue Ridge and the Valley of the Shenandoah. Democracy was real where life was raw. In Tidewater, the flat country East of the fall line, there were no less than eight strata of society. The uppermost and the lowliest, the great proprietors and the Negro slaves, were supposed to be of immutable station. The others were small farmers, merchants, sailors, frontier folk, servants and convicts. Each of these constituted a distinct class at a given time, but individuals and families often shifted materially in station during a single generation. Titles hedged the ranks of the notables. Members of the Council of State were termed both "Colonel" and "Esquire." Large planters who did not bear arms almost always were given the courtesy title of "Gentlemen." So were Church Wardens, Vestrymen, Sheriffs and Trustees of towns. The full honors of a man of station were those of Vestryman [of the Church], Justice [lifetime member of the County Court, appointed by the legislature] and Burgess [elected member of the legislature]. Such an individual normally looked to England and especially to London and sought to live by the social standards of the mother country.[Freeman, Washington 1:79]

Established Church

In the 1740s, the established Anglican church had about 70 parish priests around the colony. There was no bishop, and indeed, there was fierce political opposition to having a bishop in the colony. The Anglican priests were supervised directly by the Bishop of London. Each county court gave tax money to the local vestry, comprised of prominent layman. The vestry provided the priest a glebe of 200 or 300 acres, a house, and perhaps some livestock. The vestry paid him an annual salary of 16,000 lbs. of tobacco, plus 20 shillings for every wedding and funeral. While not poor, the priests' living were modest and their opportunities for improvement were slim. Some ethnic groups, especially the German Lutherans and Scottish Presbyterian funded their own ministers. A majority of families had no religious affiliation whatsoever. By the 1760s, Baptist missionaries were drawing Virginians, especially farmers, into a new, much more democratic religion. Many slaves attended Baptist services. Historians have debated the implications of the religious rivalries for the American Revolution. The Baptist farmers did introduce a new egalitarian ethic that largely displaced the semi-aristocratic ethic of the Anglican planters. However, both groups supported the Revolution. George Washington, for example, was active in his vestry.

Revolution: Virginia Declares Independence

Antecedents

Revolutionary sentiments first began appearing in Virginia shortly after the French and Indian War ended in 1763. The very same year, the British and Virginian governments clashed in the case of Parson's Cause. The Virginia legislature had passed the Two-Penny Act to stop clerical salaries from inflating. King George III vetoed the measure, and clergy sued for back salaries. Patrick Henry first came to prominence by arguing in the case against the veto, which he declared tyrannical.

The British government had accumulated a great deal of debt through spending on its wars. To help payoff this debt, Parliament passed the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765. The General Assembly opposed the passage of the Sugar Act on the grounds of no taxation without representation. Patrick Henry opposed the Stamp Act in the Burgesses with a famous speech advising George III that "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell.." and the king "may profit by their example." The legislature passed the "Virginia Resolves" opposing the tax. Governor Francis Fauquier responded by dismissing the Assembly.

Opposition continued after the resolves. The Northampton County court overturned the Stamp Act February 8, 1766. Various political groups, including the Sons of Liberty met and issued protests against the act. Most notably, Richard Bland published a pamphlet entitled An Enquiry into the Rights of Ike British Colonies. This document would set one of the basic political principles of the Revolution by stating that Virginia was a part of the British Empire, not the Kingdom of England, so it only owed allegiance to the Crown, not Parliament.

The Stamp Act was repealed, but additional taxation from the Revenue Act and the 1769 attempt to transport Bostonian rioters to London for trial incited more protest from Virginia. The Assembly met to consider resolutions condemning on the transport of the rioters, but Governor Botetourt, while sympathetic, dissolved the legislature. The Burgesses reconvened in Raleigh Tavern and made an agreement to ban British imports. Britain gave up the attempt to extradite the prisoners and lifted all taxes except the tax on tea in 1770.

In 1773, because of a renewed attempt to extradite Americans to Britain, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and others created a committee of correspondence to deal with problems with Britain. Unlike other such committees of correspondence, this one was an official part of the legislature.

Following the closure of the port in Boston and several other offenses, the Burgesses approved June 1, 1774 as a day of "Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer" in a show of solidarity with Massachusetts. The Governor, Lord Dunmore, dismissed the legislature. The first Virginia Convention was held August 1-6 to respond to the growing crisis. The convention approved a boycott of British goods, expressed solidarity with Massachusetts, and elected delegates to the Continental Congress where Virginian Peyton Randolph was selected as president of the Congress. On November 7, the Yorktown Tea Party threw two half-chests of British tea into the river to enforce the boycott.

On April 20, 1775, a day after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Dunmore ordered royal marines to remove the gunpowder from the Williamsburg Magazine to a British ship. Patrick Henry led a group of Virginia militia from Hanover in response to Dunmore's order. Carter Braxton negotiated a resolution to the Gunpowder Incident by transferring royal funds as payment for the powder. The incident exacerbated Dunmore's declining popularity. He fled the Governor's Palace to the British ship Fowey at Yorktown. On November 7, Dunmore issued a proclamation declaring Virginia was in a state of rebellion and that any slave fighting for the British would be freed. By this time, George Washington had been appointed head of the American forces by the Continental Congress and Virginia was under the political leadership of a Committee of Safety formed by the Third Virginia Convention in the governor's absence.

On December 9, 1775, Virginia militia moved on the governor's forces at the Battle of Great Bridge. The British had held a fort that guarded the land route to Norfolk. The British feared the militia, who had no cannon to for a siege, would receive reinforcements, so they abandoned the fort and attacked. The militia won the 30 minute battle. Dunmore responded by bombarding Norfolk with his ships on January 1, 1776.

The Fifth Virginia Convention met on May 6 and declared Virginia a free and independent state on May 15, 1776. The convention instructed its delegates to introduce a resolution for independence at the Continental Congress. Richard Henry Lee introduced the measure on June 7. While the Congress debated, the Virginia Convention adopted George Mason's Bill of Rights (June 12) and a constitution (June 29) which established an independent commonwealth. Congress approved Lee's proposal on July 2 and approved Jefferson's Declaration of Independence on July 4.

Independence

The constitution of the Fifth Virginia Convention created a system of government for the state that would last for 54 years. The constitution provided for a chief magistrate, a bicameral legislature with both the House of Delegates and the Senate. The legislature elected a governor each year (picking Patrick Henry to be the first) and a council of eight for executive functions. In October, the legislature appointed Jefferson, Edmund Pendleton, and George Wythe to adopt the existing body of Virginia law to the new constitution. After the Battle of Great Bridge, little military conflict took place on Virginia soil for the first part of the American Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, Virginia sent forces to help in the fighting to the North and South, including Daniel Morgan and his company of marksmen who fought in early battles in the north. Charlottesville served as a prison camp for the Convention Army, Hessian and British soldiers captured at Saratoga. Virginia also sent forces to the frontier in the Northwest, George Rogers Clark led forces in this area and captured the fort at Kaskaskia and won the Battle of Vincennes, capturing the royal governor, Henry Hamilton. Clark maintained control of the Northwest territories throughout the war.

The British brought the war back to Virginia in May, 1779 when George Collier landed troops at Hampton Roads and used Portsmouth (after destroying the naval yard) as a base of attack. The move was part of an attempted blockade of trade with the West Indies. The British abandoned the plan when reinforcements from General Henry Clinton failed to arrive to support Collier.

Fearing the vulnerability of Williamsburg, then-Governor Thomas Jefferson moved the capital farther inland to Richmond in 1780. That October, the British made another attempt at invading Virginia. British General Alexander Leslie entered the Chesapeake with 3,000 troops and used Portsmouth as a base; however, after the British defeat at the Battle of King's Mountain, Leslie moved to join Cornwallis farther south. In December, Benedict Arnold, who had betrayed the Revolution and become a general for the British, attacked Richmond with 1,000 soldiers and burned part of the city. Arnold moved his base of operations to Portsmouth and joined with General William Phillips.

George Washington sent the French General Lafayette to lead the defense of Virginia. Lafayette marched south to Petersburg. Cornwallis, frustrated in the Carolinas, responded by attacking Virginia in pursuit of Lafayette. Lafayette only had 3,200 troops to face Cornwallis's 7,200. The outnumbered Lafayette avoided direct confrontation and harried Cornwallis in a series of skirmishes. Lafayette retreated to Fredericksburg, met up with General Anthony Wayne, and then marched into the southwest. Cornwallis dispatched two smaller missions: 500 soldiers under Colonel John Graves Simcoe to take the arsenal at Point of Fork and 250 under Colonel Banastre Tarleton to march on Charlottesville and capture Gov. Jefferson and the legislature. The expedition to Point of Fork defeated General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben while Tarleton's mission captured only seven legislators and some officers thanks to Jack Jouett's all night ride to warn Jefferson and the legislators of Tarleton's coming.[2] Cornwallis reunited his army in Elk Hill and marched to the Tidewater region. Lafayette, uniting with von Steuben, now had 5,000 troops and followed Cornwallis.

Under orders from Gen. Henry Clinton, Cornwallis moved down the Virginia Peninsula towards the Chesapeake Bay were Clinton planned to extract part of the army for a siege of New York City. Cornwallis passed through Williamsburg and near Jamestown. 800 of Lafayette's troops under Gen. Wayne were caught by the much larger, 5,000 soldier, main body of Cornwallis's forces and the two fought at the minor Battle of Green Spring on July 6, 1781. Wayne ordered a charge against Cornwallis in order to feign greater strength and stop the British advance. Causalities were light with the Americans losing 140 and the British 75, but the ploy allowed the Americans to escape.

Cornwallis moved his troops across the James to Portsmouth to await Clinton's orders. Clinton decided that a position on the peninsula must be held and that Yorktown would be a valuable naval base. Cornwallis received orders to move his troops to Yorktown and begin construction of fortifications and a naval yard. The Americans had initially expected Cornwallis to move either to New York or the Carolinas and started to make arrangements to move from Virginia. Once they discovered the fortifications at Yorktown, the Americans began to place themselves around the city. Gen. Washington saw the opportunity for a major victory. He moved a portion of his troops, along with Rochambeau's French troops, from New York to Virginia. The plan hinged on French reinforcements of 3,200 troops and a large naval force under the Admiral de Grasse. On September 5, Admiral de Grasse defeated British navy at the Battle of the Virginia Capes. The defeat ensured French dominance of the water around Yorktown, thereby preventing Cornwallis from receiving troops or supplies and removing the possibility of evacuation. Between October 6 and 17 the American forces laid siege to Yorktown. Out gunned and completely trapped, Cornwallis decided to surrender. Papers for surrender were officially signed on October 19. As a result of the defeat, the British Prime Minister, Lord North, resigned and the British government offered peace in April, 1782. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 officially ended the war.

Statehood

Making the Constitution

By the end of the Revolutionary War, the new American states had joined together under the Articles of Confederation. The Confederation granted very little power to the federal government. Virginia helped begin the move to stronger union by meeting with representatives from Maryland to discuss trade and navigation issues in 1785. The two states invited other to the Annapolis Convention, held in September 1786, to discuss these issues. Washington, Madison, and Alexander Hamilton all saw the talks as an opportunity for stronger union. The Annapolis Convention agreed to meet again in Philadelphia for a Constitutional Convention. At the Convention, Edmund Randolph promoted the Virginia Plan designed by Madison. This plan called for a strong national government with a bicameral legislature, where representatives were allocated proportionally based on population. Some of the ideas of the plan were adopted, but smaller states did not like having proportional representation, so compromise was struck and each state received two Senators in the upper house. The Virginia delegates also pushed for a bill of rights. Most agreed to sign the United States Constitution on the promise that a bill of rights would be quickly adopted, but George Mason and Randolph refused to sign. Madison wrote several of the Federalist papers and took other measures to push for ratification of the Constitution. Mason and Patrick Henry led the political opposition. Many in the Piedmont region and southwest Virginia opposed ratification because of fears over tariffs and since importation of slaves were still allowed. Virginia narrowly ratified the Constitution on June 25, 1788, and became the tenth state to enter the Union.

Changing borders

After declaring independence, Virginia's borders shifted a great deal. In 1779, Virginia extended its southern border with North Carolina westward. In 1784 and 1785, Virginia negotiated its northern border with Pennsylvania. Virginia and Pennsylvania also had disputes along the Virginia-Pennsylvania border areas throughout the colonial period. After the areas in dispute became part of the newly-formed United States, the new states of Virginia and Pennsylvania (each one of the first thirteen states which formed the union) soon reached an agreement, and most of Yohogania County, claimed by both, became part of Pennsylvania in the 1780s under terms agreed of the state legislatures of both Virginia and Pennsylvania. A small remaining portion left in Virginia was too small to form a county, and was annexed to another Virginia county, Ohio County.

Most significantly, Virginia relinquished its claims to the Northwest Territory in 1784. This vast area, consisting of much of the modern Midwest and Great Lakes region, was frontier land at the time. Several of the states claimed the territory, but all eventually agreed to let the federal government take control under the Northwest Ordinance. Virginia did not relinquish all land, it preserved the Virginia Military District, an area of land set aside to reward veterans of the Revolutionary War. In 1790, both Virginia and Maryland ceded territory to form the new District of Columbia, but in an Act of the U.S. Congress dated July 9, 1846, the area south of the Potomac that had been ceded by Virginia was retroceded to Virginia effective 1847, and is now Arlington County and part of the City of Alexandria.

Virginia: 1789-1848

See also: History of the United States (1789–1849)

As the new nation of the United States of America experienced growing pains and began to speak of Manifest Destiny, Virginia, too, found its role in the young republic to be changing and challenging. Beginning with the Louisiana Purchase, many of the Virginians whose grandparents had created the Virginia Establishment began to expand westward.

Famous Virginian-born Americans affected not only the destiny of the state of Virginia, but the rapidly developing American Old West.

Beginning in the 1750s, the Ohio Company of Virginia was created to survey and settle its new lands. Following the French and Indian War, westward settlement by Virginians was limited to more southern portions of the American Old West.

Virginians Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were influential in their famous expedition to explore the Missouri River and possible connections to the Pacific Ocean.

Notable names such as Stephen F. Austin, Edwin Waller, Haden Harrison Edwards were famous Texan pioneers from Virginia. Even eventual Civil War general Robert E. Lee distinguished himself as a military leader in Texas during the 1846-1848 Mexican-American War.

Regional differences, secession 1818-1861

As the western reaches of Virginia were developed in the first half of the 19th century, the vast differences in the agricultural basis, cultural, and transportation needs became a major issue for the Virginia General Assembly. In the older, eastern portion, large tracts of land were farmed with tobacco and cotton as major crops, each requiring a great deal of manual labor. Slavery had become an economic institution upon which the farmers depended. Watersheds on most of this area eventually drained to the Atlantic Ocean. In the western reaches, smaller homesteads were mostly farmed without non-family labor, and mining of minerals and harvesting of timber were expanding activities. The land drained to the Ohio River Valley, and trade tended to also center in that direction.

Representation in the state legislature was heavily skewed in favor of the more populous eastern areas. This was compounded by the partial allowance for slaves when counting population, despite the fact that these individuals (and all women and children) had no vote. Efforts to mediate the disparities several times including a state constitutional convention ended without meaningful resolution. Thus, at the outset of the American Civil War, Virginia was caught not only in national crisis, but a long-standing factional one within its own boundaries. While other "border states" had similar regional differences, Virginia had more than any other Northern or Southern state, and probably as a result, was the only state to actually become subdivided into two separate states during the War.

Civil War 1861-65

For more information, see: American Civil War.

Virginia began a convention about secession on February 13, 1861 after six states seceded to form the Confederate States of America on February 4. The convention deliberated for several months, but, on April 15 Lincoln called for troops from all states still in the Union in response to the firing on Fort Sumter. On April 17, 1861 the convention voted to secede. With the entry of Virginia into the Confederacy, the decision to move the Confederate capital from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond was made on May 6 and enacted on May 29. Virginians ratified the articles of secession on May 23.[3] The following day, the Union army moved into northern Virginia and captured Alexandria without a fight.

The first major battle of the Civil War occurred on July 21, 1861. Union forces attempted to take control of the railroad junction at Manassas for use as a supply line, but the Confederate Army had moved its forces by train to meet the Union. The Confederates won the First Battle of Manassas (known as "Bull Run"in Northern naming convention) and the year went on without a major fight.

The first and last significant battles were held in Virginia. The first being the Battle of Manassas and the last being Battle of Appomattox Courthouse. During the American Civil War, Richmond was the capital of the Confederate States of America. The White House of the Confederacy, located a few blocks north of the State Capital, was home to the family of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

In April 1865, Richmond was burned by a retreating Confederate Army and was returned to Northern control. Virginia was administered as the "First Military District" during the Reconstruction period (1865-1870) under General John Schofield. The state formally rejoined the Union on January 26, 1870.

Industrialization

Various textile production was present prior to 1861 but nothing of great significance. A center of iron production during the civil war was located in Richmond at Tredegar Iron Works. Tredegar was run partially by slave labor, and it produced most of the artillery for the war, making Richmond an important point to defend.

West Virginia split

Virginia was one of the last states to join the Confederacy largely because the lack of support in the North-Western region due to the lack of slavery in this region. After it did join, an upheaval in that region soon followed. After a successful revolt, the area consisting of 48 counties became known as the State of Kanawha and later West Virginia. The act was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1870.

Berkeley County and Jefferson County (in the extreme northern edge of the state) remained in the Confederacy and Virginia throughout the Civil War, and were not part of the formation of the State of Kanawha, renamed West Virginia, when it was admitted to the Union with 48 former Virginia counties on January 1, 1863. Rather, after the War, during Reconstruction, in 1866, these two counties decided in local referendums that they also wanted to be part of the new state of West Virginia, bringing the total to 50.

With the formation of West Virginia, Virginia no longer shared a border with Pennsylvania. However, even the Virginia-West Virginia border was subject to some fluctuation, with two Virginia counties electing to join West Virginia in 1866. Even in the 20th century, there were still some disputes about the precise location of the border in some of the northern mountain reaches of Virginia between Loudoun County and Jefferson County, West Virginia. In 1991, both state legislatures appropriated money for a boundary commission to look into 15 miles of the border area. [4]

See also: History of West Virginia

Reconstruction: 1865-1877

Virginia remained under military control until 1869, since the Union commander, General John M. Schofield, refused to authorize a vote on the constitution drafted by a Radical convention. President Grant called for a vote in 1869 that included a vote on the Constitution, a separate one on its disfranchisement clause that would have stripped the vote from most former rebels, and a separate vote for state officials. The Radicals nominated Henry H. Wells, a former general and provisional governor who was close to Schofield. The leader of the Democrats was William Mahone, a Democrat who said it was time for a New Departure. That is, Democrats had to accept the results of the war, including civil rights and the vote for Freedmen. He denounced the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad railroad as too powerful, and called for new Virginia-based railroads that would lead the state to prosperity. He won over many moderate pro-business Republicans.

Mahone's candidate for governor Gilbert C. Walker was elected and the disfranchisement clause defeated. The new Underwood Constitution was approved by a vote of 210,585 to 9,136, while the disfranchisement clauses were rejected by votes of 124,715 to 83,458 and 124,360 to 84,410 respectively. The state did not experience the corruption and race conflict that characterized the Reconstruction period in other southern states, yet white Virginians generally came to share the bitterness so typical of the southern attitudes.

Virginia was thus the only southern state not to have a civilian Radical government.

New South 1877-1913

The Readjuster Party was a political faction formed in Virginia in the late 1870s during the turbulent period following Reconstruction. The so-called Readjusters aspired "to break the power of wealth and established privilege" and to promote public education. The Readjusters were led by Harrison H. Riddleberger and William Mahone, a former Confederate general who was president of several railroads. Mahone was a controlling force in Virginia politics from around 1870 until 1883, when the Readjusters lost control to the "Conservative Democrats."

A division among Virginia politicians occurred in the 1870s, when those who supported a reduction of Virginia's pre-war debt ("Readjusters") opposed those who felt Virginia should repay its entire debt plus interest ("Funders"). Virginia's pre-war debt was primarily for infrastructure improvements overseen by the Virginia Board of Public Works, largely in canals, roads, and railroads. Prior to 1861, the State had purchased a total of $48,000,000 worth of stock in turnpike, toll bridge, canal, and water and rail transportation enterprises. Many these improvements were heavily damaged or destroyed during the Civil War by Union forces. Much of those remaining were located in the portion of the state which became West Virginia and much of the debt was held by "northerners", making the issue of debt repayment complex.

After his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1877, Mahone became the leader of the "Readjusters", forming a coalition of conservative Bourbon Democrats with some support from black Republicans.

The Readjuster Party promised to "readjust" the state debt, repeal the poll tax and increase funding for schools and other public facilities. The Readjuster Party was successful in electing its candidate, William E. Cameron as governor, and he served from 1882-1886. Mahone served as a Senator in the U.S. Congress from 1881 to 1887. However, in Congress, he became primarily aligned with the Republican Party, as did fellow Readjuster Harrison H. Riddleberger, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1883-1889. Both Mahone and Riddleberger were replaced in the U.S. Senate by Democrats.

Readjusters effective control of Virginia politics lasted until 1883, when they lost majority control in the state legislature, followed by the election of Democrat Fitzhugh Lee as governor in 1885. Mahone stayed active in politics, but lost his bid for reelection as U.S. Senator, and as well as another bid for Governor (as a Republican). Riddleberger died in 1890, Mahone in 1895.

After the Readjuster Party disappeared, Virginia's Democratic Party was to rule the state's politics for the next 80 years.

War, Depression and War, 1913-1950

The Pentagon was finished in 1943.

Massive Resistance and Modernization, 1950-1975

See Massive resistance.

Postmodern State, 1975-2007

The recent expansion of government programs in the areas near Washington has profoundly affected the economy of Northern Virginia, and the subsequent growth of defense projects has also generated a local information technology industry. The Hampton Roads region has also experienced much growth.

In 1990, Douglas Wilder became the first African American to be elected as Governor of a US state since Reconstruction when he was elected Governor of Virginia.

Local, regional political structure, cooperation issues

The independent cities in Virginia enabled by an 1871 change in the state constitution are unusual in the United States. Combined with the annexation laws, the situation provided both the motivation and methods for almost all the communities in the extreme southeastern section of Hampton Roads region of Virginia to become independent cities. In this status, they were equal to each other and this immune from annexation by adjacent localities, an action much-feared by those in many communities.

Although incorporated towns are located within counties, and independent cities are separate, both the towns and the cities long held a powerful tool for growth through Virginia's annexation laws, which basically provided for seizure of unincorporated territory from the counties. However, the annexation laws also have long been felt by many leaders to be a barrier to regional cooperation among localities, causing wounds which took many years to heal, and with some individuals negatively impacted, never did.

Notes

  1. http://www.wm.edu/niahd/journals/index.php?browse=entry&id=4965 c.f. Anishinaabe language: danakamigaa: "activity-grounds", i.e. "land of much events [for the People]"
  2. In the 21st century, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi maintain reservations in King William County, and there are active groups of other tribes which have preserved portions of the heritage and have been seeking recognition, with interest increased by the 400th anniversary of Jamestown in 2007.
  3. In 1570, the Spanish tried to establish Ajacan Mission a Jesuit mission. It was destroyed by Indians in February 1571.
  4. [Gleach p. 199]