The Grandees of Government
The Origins and Persistence of Undemocratic Politics in Virginia
Publication Year: 2013
From the formation of the first institutions of representative government and the use of slavery in the seventeenth century through the American Revolution, the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and into the twenty-first century, Virginia’s history has been marked by obstacles to democratic change. In The Grandees of Government, Brent Tarter offers an extended commentary based in primary sources on how these undemocratic institutions and ideas arose, and how they were both perpetuated and challenged.
Although much literature on American republicanism focuses on the writings of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among others, Tarter reveals how their writings were in reality an expression of federalism, not of republican government. Within Virginia, Jefferson, Madison, and others such as John Taylor of Caroline and their contemporaries governed in ways that directly contradicted their statements about representative—and limited— government. Even the democratic rhetoric of the American Revolution worked surprisingly little immediate change in the political practices, institutions, and culture of Virginia. The counterrevolution of the 1880s culminated in the Constitution of 1902 that disfranchised the remainder of African Americans. Virginians who could vote reversed the democratic reforms embodied in the constitutions of 1851, 1864, and 1869, so that the antidemocratic Byrd organization could dominate Virginia’s public life for the first two-thirds of the twentieth century.
Offering a thorough reevaluation of the interrelationship between the words and actions of Virginia’s political leaders, The Grandees of Government provides an entirely new interpretation of Virginia’s political history.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright
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I have lived in Virginia and studied aspects of its history and culture for more than forty years, for approximately one-tenth of its English-language history. During that time I have read all of the leading monographs and biographies of prominent people and discussed Virginia’s history with scores of research-ers who generously shared their insights with me. That pointed me toward ...
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The cartouche from the 1755 edition of the map of Virginia that Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson prepared in 1751 (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) depicts Virginia as its most influential residents and people in Great Britain thought of it. Dressed in the latest English fashions and wearing three-cornered hats, three white gentlemen plant-ers smoke, drink, and do business with a merchant wearing a smock and cloth cap. ...
122For theGlory of Godand theGood of thePlantation
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This late nineteenth-century etching by Margaret M. Taylor (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) for Historic Churches of America: Their Romance and Their History (Philadelphia, ca. 1891–94) depicts the ruin of the church at Jamestown. In a smaller church that once stood near the site of the 1640 tower, the first General Assembly of Virginia met from 30 July through 4 August 1619. Nearly two centuries after James-...
222TrueReligionand aCivil Courseof Life
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St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, New Kent County (Virginia Department of Historic Re -sources), was begun about 1701 and is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Virginia. The tower was added in 1739–41. The substantial brick structure exhibits care in its construction and is typical of the simple design of early colonial churches. This and its fellow churches, most of which no longer survive, stood as testimony to the ...
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Sir William Berkeley (1602–1677) (Trustees of the Berkeley Will Trust) was governor of Virginia from 1642 to 1652 and again from 1660 until 1677. He was undoubtedly the most important white man in seventeenth-century Virginia. His administration and attempts to diversify the colonial economy shaped the evolution of Virginia during the century. His separation of the burgesses and council members into a bicameral legisla-...
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John Robinson Jr. (1705–1766) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) was Speaker of the House of Burgesses and treasurer of Virginia from 1738 until his death and was one of the most talented and formidable political leaders in colonial Virginia. Wealthy and influential, he was also at the center of the largest financial scandal in the history of the colonial government. As such, he personified the political culture of the colony that ...
522All MenAre NotCreatedEqual
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Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) drafted the Decla-ration of Independence that in 1776 stated that all men are created equal and endowed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is unlikely that he antic-ipated the consequences of the language he wrote, and it is also doubtful that he actu-ally believed that all men, women, and enslaved people were inherently equal. Yet the ...
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This portrait of Martha Haines Butt (1833–1871) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly on 14 January 1860 at the time of the publication of her second book, The Leisure Moments of Martha Haines Butt, A.M. Born in Norfolk after nearly all of the Virginians who lived through the American Rev-olution were dead, she imbibed ideas about slavery that became widespread during the ...
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View from Gamble’s Hill, by Edward Beyer (courtesy of the Library of Virginia), depicts part of the city of Richmond in the mid-1850s. The scene is filled with industry, including railroads, a section of the James River and Kanawha Canal, and very large factories and mills on the banks of the James River. The political rhetoric of antebellum Virginia emphasized limited, representative government and grew out of opposition to ...
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Map of Virginia Showing the Distribution of Its Slave Population from the Cen-sus of 1860 (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) was printed in Philadelphia in 1861. Between the presidential election in November 1860 and the outbreak of the Civil War in the spring of 1861, advocates of secession were most numerous in the counties east of the Blue Ridge and south of the Rappahannock River where slavery was of the greatest ...
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The First Vote (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) appeared on the cover of Harper’s Weekly for 16 November 1867, three and a half weeks after the 22 October election for members of a constitutional convention in Virginia. Under orders from Congress and the United States Army, black Virginians voted for the first time that day. The scene set the stage for twenty-five years of contentious politics. Images such as this inspired black ...
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Carter Glass (1858–1946) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) served in the Gen-eral Assembly, in the House of Representatives, as secretary of the Treasury, and in the United States Senate. As a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901–2 he played a leading role in the disfranchisement of the state’s African American men and also of a substantial portion of the state’s white men. Like most white Virgin-...
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Harry Flood Byrd (1887–1966) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) was a member of the Senate of Virginia, governor, and from 1933 to 1965 a member of the United States Senate. As the dominant leader of the small group of white men who directed the Dem-ocratic Party of Virginia, he was the most influential white man in twentieth-century Virginia. His party organization insisted on maintaining white supremacy and pre-...
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Maggie Lena Walker (1867–1934) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) was a nation-ally recognized African American Richmond banker and business leader whose achieve-ments earned praise from white Virginians because she succeeded by the standards that white men valued. They pointed to her success to justify the form of white supremacy that they imposed in Virginia, but she never accepted racial segregation as right. In fact, ...
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Douglas Southall Freeman (1886–1953) and Virginius Dabney (1901–1995) (both cour-tesy of the Library of Virginia) were influential Richmond journalists and historians who publicized a version of Virginia’s history and a definition of its culture that authors of textbooks and popular literature on Virginia repeated in numerous venues through-out the twentieth century. Even though both men were at times privately critical of the ...
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Mills Edwin Godwin Jr. (1914–1999) (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) served as a Democrat in the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia and was elected lieutenant governor in 1961 and governor in 1965. A committed supporter of Massive Resistance to court-ordered desegregation of the public schools in the 1950s, he proposed a large and important program of political and educational reform while governor in ...
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The August 1955 first issue of the newsletter of the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties (courtesy of the Library of Virginia) announced the growth in membership of the year-old organization founded to mobilize public opinion in opposi-tion to the Supreme Court’s orders to desegregate the state’s public schools. The organi-zation’s title drew on the state’s-rights rhetoric and language of individual liberty that ...
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Page Count: 464
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013