History 431. First Midterm Exam answers.  Fall 2008.


Question A.  

In the Chesapeake area/ Virginia people were divided into distinct groups and the groups usually were antagonistic toward each other  What historical facts or what conditions of life divided people in what significant, separate groups?  Explain how and/or why the divisions originated. 

Also, some conditions of life were shared among Virginians and made people more alike.  What were these conditions?


The biggest things that differentiated and divided Chesapeake people are race or color, wealth/poverty and economic class, political power vs political impotence, culture, and these are interwoven and not mutually exclusive.


1. American Indians (and culture too, in their case)

The English settlers quickly identified the Indians as different from themselves, the English. Indians were not Christians, had no "culture," were "uncivilized," barbaric, uneducated, impoverished, and probably most significant, the Indian men were idle and lazy. In Protestant religion, idleness was linked to sin-Adam's curse. Gender roles differentiated the Indians and English. Powhatan women tended the crops and the men hunted (in England, hunting was sport and for the idle aristocracy). Especially the English condescension toward the agricultural methods of the Indians provided the English with the rationale for dispossessing the Indians of their lands. Since they did not adequately use the land they had to relinquish it. From the beginning differences manifested themselves in violence-small clashes often over food, until the 1620s, but major attacks or wars 1622 and 1644, usually over land and the English encroaching on it..

With the passage of time and by the 1670s the distinction between Englishmen and Indians added or heightened the quality of color and/or race. Bacon and especially the poor, landless men who followed him believed that ALL Indians were alike--the peaceful ones, the allies, the weak and poor ones, or the powerful, dangerous, enemies-and all of them had to be killed or driven out of Virginia. They were red and they had to go. In the rebellion of 1676 such racism was obvious, and any denying it, such as Gov. Berkeley did, got one a fierce argument in reply from the racist poor men, or worse. Whether race or culture or both, the division between Indians and English was a constant in Virginia history, maybe the only one.

Another difference before 1640 was that Englishmen died quickly while the Indians thrived (did not starve, did not catch dysentery or typhoid).

Another difference was that the Indians had wives and children (families) and hardly any English did.

2. African-Americans

In this case, the racism must be qualified by time: racism or race prejudice against blacks did not pervade earliest Virginia. It came gradually and maybe as early as the 1660s, but certainly by the 18th century it existed. But even though some black men and women were slaves in earliest Virginia, others were free, others got free, and enjoyed many of the liberties or white free men.

The case of Anthony Johnson and the community of African-Americans in Northampton County in the 1630s-1660s and later especially proves that racism did dictate in the way that made all black men and women unequal, subservient to whites, inferior in most aspects of life. Johnson and others were close to equal to whites of not outright equal-they married, owned land, farmed, had children, bequeathed land to their heirs, and the sons had farms. They sued and won in courts, owned servants (white and black), even slaves. They headed mixed-race household, had adopted white children. Anthony was healthier and longer-lived than almost all whites. So, some blacks were slaves, some were servants, some were free and equal, just like whites were each of these. Racism did not freeze blacks into inferior categories.

Racism, however, arose and grew very powerful. Morgan writes that racism was promoted by the elite in Virginia after they discovered its power and reach in Bacon's Rebellion when the poor, ex-servants and other low-class men displayed their racism against Indians. It was a belief and feeling that clearly united whites one with another and the elite saw its potential to unite all whites (elite and poor) when used against blacks. And so the elite deliberately contrived to create racism among the troublesome, rebellious poorer whites. Laws codified racism. In 1662, laws punished fornication with an African-American more than the same with a white. A 1691 law outlawed interracial marriages in Virginia-don't dilute the white race. 

Slavery became a rigid institution that divided races and slavery is connected with racism, especially because since slaves had no incentive to work or obey, what one does to force them to work and obey is made possible by the racism that believes they are inferior-that is, racism permits you to treat black slaves badly in ways you could not treat white men and women. In 1699 the law required that thereafter any freed black man or woman must leave Virginia, so that eventually all blacks in the colony will be slaves and, as in the past, no whites will be slaves. In 1705, the colony passed a full-fledged slave code that specified all the rights blacks were denied and how their lives were to be subjected and confined. By 1750, forty percent of the population of Virginia was black slaves.


The wealthy planters in Virginia were also the men with public office and power and the poor were without power and offices; this is almost true without exception

Virginians were always distinguished by economic class, the rich and the poor. The rich were always whites. The poor were both white and black (free and slave). Indians were "poor" but by cultural choice; they didn't aspire to be rich. The elite rich planters were in the years from 1617 (discovery of tobacco) to 1705 or later, fearful of the poor, whom they oppressed. First, in the tobacco boom era, 1617-1630, rich men were first distinguished by the number of indentured white servants they owned-but also the cattle and swine. (Notice that land was not a mark of wealth since it was so very abundant and death was so common that few men took titles to land.) Servants died early and masters worked them for all they could get out of them before they died. Servants were traded and sold--unlike servants in England. Their bad treatment could be summarized as the commodification of labor-in the direction of making slaves of them, but not quite. Any resistance or even criticism of the master class got brutally punished-tongues bored, arms broken, and more.

Once the price of tobacco plummeted to 1d per pound in 1630 and even less in the 1660s, and life spans lengthened modestly, oppression of servants took on new or additional forms, like lengthening the terms of service for younger servants, punishing real and alleged crimes with extended service (especially running away). Since servants lived long enough to become free, they were trouble because they would complete in growing tobacco. So, now the elite monopolized the land especially, but not only, to exclude the freemen from becoming farmers. Between 1650 and 1675 the great planters took title to 2.3 million acres of the best land adjacent to the rivers. The options were that the freedmen were forced to be tenants, to reenlist as servants, or to be come armed outlaws, "robin hoods" if you like them. These men were troublesome, feared, and dangerous. In Bacon's rebellion in 1676 they followed Bacon in part to get revenge on the elite, like Berkeley, and to plunder the plantations of the elite. The elite never forgot.

The elite, using their public offices, "fleeced" the poorer men who did not become outlaws and who did grow a little tobacco. The fleecing was in the form of taxes and fees, used by the Burgesses, councilors, governor, sheriffs, and others to fatten their incomes. (The kind too was the worst of these oppressors.) Since the elite ran the courts, there was little or no recourse to submitting to them-unless you followed Bacon.

With the appearance of masses of black slaves after 1680, the oppressed poor changed immensely. They had always been white, now they were black. Forty percent of the population was black and slaves, and as poor as anyone can conceivably be. Slaves owned nothing, not even their children. So the distinction between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless continued but changed color.


1. health, demography, and gender.  Death was omnipresent; rich, poor, mighty and weak all died early. The exception was the Indians, but they too finally caught European diseases. Mortality was worst from 1607 to 1624, when 80 percent died very early and quickly. Then from 1624 to 1640, 8000 of 15000 Virginians died-it was still worse than any plague.

The white Virginians were very largely men. At the beginning women were hardly there at all. In the whole century the ratio of men to women was 3 to 1 (of singles, 8 to 1).

Almost all white men are bachelors before 1640s.

2. tobacco. All the whites and African-Americans grew tobacco (Indians did too, but not for sale and export). Of course, growing tobacco could make them look alike, but as we wrote earlier, it caused deep differences and divisions. In the 18th century, tobacco culture united free, white men and women-against black slaves.

3. agriculture. All Virginians practiced the kind of agricultural methods that the Indians had long followed. In this respect, they were all alike (even though the English criticized the Indians' farming!)

4. housing, furnishings. In the 17th century, Virginians lived much alike-even the richest and poorest. They lived in rudimentary houses, with dirt floors, no windows, daub and wattle fireplaces. They had little furniture and few utensils. Any Englishman who walked onto the scene would have thought they were all poor. And, the Indians lived rather the same way-even though the English called them barbarous.




Question B.

In the case of each of the following, make a case or argument that is favorable to or praises the thing or person.  Then make a case/argument that is unfavorable to or criticizes the same thing or person.

1. Powhatan/Powhatan Confederacy    2. the English government        3. Nathaniel Bacon        4. Thomas Jefferson and republicanism


ANSWERS (mostly in outline form)

1.  Powhatan


            Fed Englishmen at Jamestown when they were starving.

            Tolerated the English when he could have destroyed them all.

            Traded with English.

            Was a strong leader among the Chesapeake Indians; helped consolidate them in defense against other encroaching Indians, like Susquehannas.


Some Indians in the Confederacy regarded him as a tyrant and chaffed under his power and rule (e.g. Patawomecks, who sat on their hands instead of helping Powhatan in the 1622 attack).

 When he fed, tolerated the English, he did so for his own profit and power, not altruistically.  He operated as intermediary between the English and other Indians to the west of himself, and so controlled trade and diplomacy.

2. the English government


Sending thousands of Englishmen to Virginia was necessary to keep it alive and kept many of them from starvation, imprisonment, and hanging in England .

            It protected Virginia"s seaborn trade from attacks by the Dutch especially and other enemies.

 After Bacon's Rebellion it sent 1000 soldiers to keep the peace and more importantly, it initiated an investigation into the causes of the rebellion and the discontents of so many poor Virginians.  The crown supported reforms that would assist poorer Virginians and curb the "fleecing" of them by the elite planters.



The Crown's motives, whatever its actions, were to profit/taxes from Virginia and tobacco.  So, bringing peace to Va in 1676 and later was almost entirely to get people back to planting tobacco and making money for the Crown.

            The Crown opposed the plans of Governor Berkeley to diversity the agriculture and economy of Virginia .  It wanted just tobacco.

            The Crown taxed Virginians mercilessly, 2d. per pound of tobacco, regardless of the market price of tobacco.  Later, after 1676, the tax went up to 5d.

            The royal governors of Virginia got enormous salaries, Culpepper got L2000 per year. 

            The Crown gave its favorites, like Lord Fairfax, enormous grants of land at the cost of Virginians.


3. Bacon

(on this question it is helpful or even critical to take a point of view, speak for some historical person. A fact or facts about Bacon have opposite valuations depending upon the point of view. For example, when Bacon burned down Jamestown, that was horrendous from Gov. Berkeley's point of view, but a welcome punishment of Berkeley and the elite from the poor freedmen's point of view.)


1. (from poor landless freedman's point of view or poorer, small farmer) Bacon is a hero. He has taken up the cause of the oppressed, like me, who are landless or have little, poor, remote lands on the frontier. We are landless or/and pushed out to the frontier by the elite like Governor Berkeley, who in the past 25 years, have taken control of 2.3 million acres of the best land. On the frontier we clash with the Indians and get hurt or killed. We are taxed for the benefit of the elite like Berkeley, the councilors, judges, Burgesses (and King). Justice is a travesty here. Our oppressors are our judges. Bacon promised to oppose these elite plutocrats and great planters-although Bacon himself did not get very specific about the remedies he would provide us. Bacon and we finally burned down the capital in revenge for Berkeley calling Bacon (and us) an outlaw and traitor.

2. (poor freedmen again) Bacon has led us mostly and especially against our Indian enemies. We know how vicious and dangerous the Indians are; we live next to them on the frontier. Bacon promises us to rid us of ALL Indians and we will have all their lands. He alone has the final solution to the Indian problem. Berkeley, on the other hand, wants to distinguish between good and bad Indians, friendly and enemy ones, and to defend us passively against the enemy ones-by building and manning forts, and keeping us separated from the Indians. It's a damn expensive policy and we the poor taxpayers had to bear the cost (certainly the rich do not). So, on with Bacon and away with all Indians. And if Berkeley won't commission Bacon to fight the Indians, Bacon and we will do it anyway, law or no law, outlaw or not.


1. (from Indian point of view). Bacon is the worst enemy we have in the Chesapeake. He says it is his objective to kill us all without distinction, and he is doing it. Or, driving us out of here and taking all our land in any case.

2. (from Berkeley's and elite's point of view) Bacon is traitor, a leader of the proletariat rabble, a defector from his class, an incendiary in relations with the Indians. He defied me personally, when I told him not to wage war against the Indians; he is an outlaw, a traitor. Because of his bigotry and will to kill all Indians, he threatens to create a massive Indian war by allying all the Indians against us. He had led the poorest rabble in the colony, the landless armed freedmen in a rebellion against the government and had burned the capital and pillaged property. It is a civil war. He is a wealthy man and related to my wife! He is a traitor to our class.

3. (from King's point of view) Virginia is a gold mine for the royal treasury, The taxes on tobacco are the largest source of revenue for me from all/ any of the colonies. The rebellion has stopped this flow of money/taxes, and Bacon caused it. It must end.


4. Thomas Jefferson


            He authored the most famous statement of natural rights in history, the Declaration of Independence.

He sympathized with the propertyless poor and wished all (white) men could/would own their own farms and be economically independent, and as such they deserved to be empowered as citizens, to vote and hold office.

He disliked personal debt and understood that it curbed a man's independence.  He urged all men to be frugal and conservative and avoid the problems that came with debt.

He wanted an agrarian nation, of farmers large and small, without manufactures and cities and dependent factory, wage-earning workers (which is good and praiseworthy from a certain agrarian point of view).



He owned hundreds of slaves, and so his proclaimed support for natural rights did not extend to all men in practice (and of course, not to women).  Maybe he was a hypocrite.  If slaves were freed, he urged they be removed from the U.S.

            He was deeply in debt, and was a spendthrift.