Part 1 focused on the birth of colonial Virginia’s first policy system–and the formation of its first, an elite planter, political culture. Part 2 concentrates on (1) the economic development strategies that emanated from that policy system, and (2) the drivers/dynamics of change to which the initial policy system reacted. Part 1 covered the period between 1607 and about 1710 when the first policy system achieved internal coherence. Part 2 reviews the period 1710 to 1763.

There were several change drivers that affected the economic development strategies of the period. The more important dynamics included: (1) settlement of the Piedmont by the planter oligopoly with concomitant extension of the tobacco economy and culture, and the start of a new non-royalist young cohort with its own perspective on the dominant political culture, and how to adapt to change pressures.(2) deterioration in tobacco economics that compelled the planter oligopoly to adjust its “business plan” by diversifying both agricultural commodities and revenue sources; (3) a sustained series of ethnic migrations into Virginia’s Appalachian highlands and Shenandoah Valley, migrations which offered both opportunities and threats; (4) cohort generational change within the planter oligopoly that fractured its internal coherence, and created political-ideological-cultural groupings within the overall planter-oligopoly;

The period begins with the settlement of the Piedmont and the arrival of royal (lieutenant) governor Alexander Spotswood.  In the Piedmont we see the founding of Virginia’s first sizable towns/cities, Richmond for example, and the origin of what proved to be a key division within the planter oligopoly: development of a “Northern Neck” faction, and a domestic/royalist Tidewater faction. Virginia during this period, 1676-1710, was characterized by the “four i’s”: immigration of royalist elites continued; with population increasing dramatically; integration of Royalists with mother England; intermarriage of Royalists with English and domestic elites; and indentured servant transition to black slavery.

the Piedmont Settlement

Virginia-Piedmont Fall Lin2

Governor William Berkeley opened up Virginia’s Piedmont, by securing a tentative peace with resident Indian tribes and setting up a series of forts/settlements into which he placed a number of his royalist recruited elites on brand new plantations secured through Berkeley’s land grants. Chief among them proved to be William Byrd I whom we shall discuss as our case study in the settlement of the Piedmont.

The multi-state Piedmont runs from Pennsylvania’s northern borders (Philadelphia marks its eastern PA border), along the edges of the Appalachians through Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, ending in northern Alabama. Its eastern borders typically begin at the Fall Line of each state. It is beautiful country, wooded, alternating flat terrain with low-rolling hills and lots of valleys, moderately fertile with versatile soils, back-dropped by the Appalachians–the Blue Ridge in Virginia. With elevations higher than the coastal Tidewater, its climate was considerably healthier, not swampy, and more comfortable temperatures. The Piedmont was Indian country even after Berkeley’s peace treaty,. Berkeley personally set up several, notably Fort Henry forts along his Fall Line–forts that sometimes developed into contemporary recognizable cities such as Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg. Fort Henry, for example, is today’s Petersburg. Beyond these cities, heading west until we encounter the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is the Virginia Piedmont plateau.

Its first white settlers were freed or run-away indentured servants/households, who simply squatted on what was the coastal Tidewater’s western periphery. Few in number, they forged a meager subsistence, and dodged Indian raids. Crisscrossed by rivers such as the James, Appomattox, Potomac, and Rappahannock that flowed through the Tidewater to the sea, it was natural that in time, given site conquest from the Native Americans, that the great planter families would simply follow the river’s path from their coastline plantations, over the Fall Line and into the Piedmont. In some cases, however, it worked in reverse, as newly planted royalist recruits set up plantations at the Fall Line and expanded in both directions.

The first of these was William Byrd I, a son of a royalist gentry-goldsmith, (1652-1704), came to Virginia about 1670 invited a relative. He was awarded acreage under Berkeley’s royalist attraction program (about 1,800-3,000 acres) at the falls of the James River. Byrd’s grant was part of Berkeley’s strategy to locate royalist plantations at colony’s edge to set up a barrier to further Indian raiding. Byrd acquired a further 7,500 acres on the condition he recruit 250 settlers (and tax-payers), he also took over Berkeley’s Fort Charles, a frontier fort and major Indian trading post.  In his earliest years in Virginia Byrd I was less a tobacco planter than an Indian fur trader, and despite his use of Berkeley’s attraction program, he took sides against Berkeley in Bacon’s Rebellion. In his written materials, Byrd I referred to himself as a “forester”, which someone more ingracious might translate into a frontiersman. His support for Bacon was prompted by Berkeley’s unwillingness to pacify Indian tribes and stop raiding, both of which were impediments to Byrd I’s budding trading enterprise.

He married into the family of another royalist cavalier, and his children intermarried with other royalist families (Beverley, Bland, and Carters). For more than a third of a century he sent agents, explorers and traders into the Piedmont (and beyond into North and South Carolina), trading rum, guns, ammunition, cloth and kettles, for furs, deerskins, herbs, and whatever made a profit. It is said his pack trains consisted of hundreds of horses to carry the goods. He established a tobacco plantation, built his manor house–and arriving during the transition from indentured servants to black slaves, he took up an active business in importing both. In Byrd I we can see that depending on their location, Berkeley’s royalist elite imports, were also “entrepreneurs” and adventurers. Intermarriage, as much as anything, provided him his identity as a bone-fide Virginia planter/oligarch and his wealth took care of the rest. Combining frontiersman skills and perspective, he also possessed a considerable business acumen, and a Rolodex of family and British contacts.

With Berkeley’s victory over Bacon, Byrd I crossed over to join Berkeley, and turned to politics, entering the Burgesses in 1677. Appointed by the next royal Governor, he entered the Council of State in 1683, later serving as Virginia’s auditor-receiver general, the colony’s chief collector of taxes. In the political chaos that became Virginia’s colony-level government after Berkeley, Byrd 1 served three terms as Virginia’s “president” or acting governor.

Byrd could have perceived himself either as an English landed gentleman … or as a successful colonial merchant. … Byrd underwrote the importation of servants and slaves, both to labor in his own fields and resale … Over a period of three decades he gained title to over 30,000 acres … more than half amassed through the headright system, and a third coming from the importation of slaves… Landing areas along the James River at his plantations … enabled Byrd to operate warehouses and stores that served lesser planters in the interior. In the absence of towns, landing areas functioned as small trading centers… Byrd was an original trustee of  the college of William and Mary…. Byrd founded one of the great families of colonial Virginia, but his family life was not typical for a seventeenth century planter … His first son spent more of his early life in England than Virginia … he died in 1704 [1]

His son, William II, cemented the family’s dominance over the economy, Virginia’s settlement, and its politics. Returning to Virginia upon his father’s death in 1705, he was appointed to the Council of State in 1709–serving on that body to his death in 1744. A surveyor by training, he established the boundaries between Virginia and North Carolina, and founded the town of Richmond at the Fall Line of the James River in 1733. An extensive writer, and historian, Byrd II, unlike his father, lived the stereotypical life of Virginia’s planter class. His “manor” was his personal domain, and literally its residents were in his mind his property, whether they were free, indentured, or slave. He led settlement of Virginia’s “southside region”, and established there a network of families and plantation over which he presided as almost a baron. The region was so remote, however, Byrd II, although he owned in excess of 105,000 acres, could find few buyers–and so he wound up selling and leasing it to a new generation of migrants that were pouring in–the Scots-Irish, who he labeled as “the Goths and Vandals of old”. Byrd II, unwillingly it seems, took advantage of new ethnic migrants that were coming into Virginia from the Great Wagon Road–dispossessing the former indentured servants who squatted there [2].

Settlement of the Piedmont was a gradual affair, as evidenced by one the career of one of its little known but impactful settler, Peter Jackson. Virginia born in 1708 of a ship’s captain, trained as a surveyor Peter was an early settler in the western Piedmont, an original settler in Albermarle County. He married well into the Randolph family, and established his Shadwell plantation in 1741-2. Thomas, his third child and first son was born at Shadwell in 1743. He seemingly had well-deserved local reputation as an Indian fighter, historian Virginius Dabney characterizes him as a powerful and rugged frontiersman … of intellectual breath and curiosity”; Joseph Ellis describes him as a “moderately successful planter, with a local reputation for physical strength and a flair for adventure as an explorer and surveyor of western lands[3]. Jefferson died early in 1757, owning sixty slaves at the time.

In testimony to the rough and tumble that was western Piedmont as late as the 1750’s was Governor Gooch’s hiring of Peter and Joshua Fry to survey the Shenandoah and prepare the first known map of the Great Wagon Road–prompting increased migration into that area. This map-making was related to Jefferson and Fry’s leadership position in the incorporation of the Loyal Land Development Company, a rival of the more famous Ohio Land Development Company, in 1749 (discussed in the next module). Along with its incorporation, the Loyal Land Company was awarded a land grant of 800,000 acres. Jefferson overlapped William Byrd II, and their life’s activities support our assertion that Virginia’s eastern, non-Shenandoah settlement consumed more time than most reader’s are aware. It also evidences the distinctiveness of Piedmont;s planter class from the more traditional Tidewater geographies. The economic and political success of these early Piedmont elites was transferred to the offspring, who were accepted by Tidewater elites and afforded considerable social status. Thomas Jefferson was not a chip off the old block, by any means as it appears in lifestyle was not similar to his father’s at all, testimony also to the impact of post-1730 generational cohorts.

In micro, this was the pattern followed by a number of prominent planter families. The Randolphs followed Byrd along the James as well, as did Jefferson’s great grand-father (Peter’s father)–moving interior into the Piedmont to the Appomattox Rivers. Their descendants moved further west into the edge of the Piedmont, into today’s Albemarle County, home of Monticello. Thus over a series of generations each river network was settled by a planter and gentry households. The process was made possible by the control of these families over the Governor’s Royal Council, which retained the power to make land grants of its choosing. Almost all of this settlement occurred in the aftermath of Berkeley and Bacon’s Rebellion, a period in which Crown control by the Royal Governor was bitterly resisted by the Royal Council, the Burgesses and the planter grants administration and the incremental settlement of the Piedmont fell between the policy cracks and after the Glorious Restoration (1688).

Pushback from the Crown--Only in the mid to late 1690’s did London, through its new Board of Trade, begin to look at Virginia land grants and settlement. Crown policy focused on religious toleration, promoting/regulating colonial trade, securing the defense of its colonial perimeters from hostile Indian and European incursions, establishing a postal system and new institutions such as a reformed Board of Trade (led during much of this period by philosopher John Locke), its Vice-Admiralty. The Crown and the Board of Trade had little sympathy for the headright system, and the virtual monopoly enjoyed by the Council of State over land grants and tobacco export. In 1698, John Locke in the Board of Trade began a formal investigation. The findings of a report, “the Present State of Virginia” “described a fraudulent land system that retarded both tobacco production and the peopling of the colony“–the root cause of which was “fraud was rife in land policy … [causing] land hoarding’. Locke’s efforts to clean this up were too little, too late as “the gentry had already established themselves as a permanent powerful landholding elite capable of obstructing Crown policy. … A hierarchy of place–a patriarchy was … permanent through control over land and tobacco production in the hands of a small elite. Government officials owned 60 percent of all landholdings over 2,000 acres[4]. Simply put, as we discovered with the institutionalization of slavery, by the first decade of the 18th century (1700) the hegemony of a tobacco plantation export economic base, and the ability of Virginia’s domestic elites to counter the authority of the Crown and taking advantage of Virginia distance and isolation from London, and Jamestown lack of access into both Tidewater and the emerging Piedmont develop a decentralized authority of those elites over the Virginia countryside. Heinemann labels the policy system that had developed in the interim between Berkeley and 1710 as the “Planters Patriarchy” [5].

Hardened over the decades that followed Berkeley, until the arrival of Governor Alexander Spotswood and encompassing the Northern Neck land grant, the original areas inhabited during the Jamestown period along the coast and byways of the many small rivers, channels along the Chesapeake, and the territories opened up by Berkeley (Norfolk area, and an entry into the eastern Petersburg Piedmont), the colony was governed formally by its royally appointed governor, but checked by a Royal Council/upper legislature and a lower House of Burgesses–both of which quickly and easily became dominated by the new royalist family elites. The clear preference of the latter two legislative bodies was for decentralized, private initiatives, usually driven almost exclusively by one or another of the royalist family groupings and their allies. “Virginia’s planting elite owned not merely a large proportion of arable farmland in the tidewater, but also much of what little urban real estate was in the colony.  … The great tidewater families also controlled much undeveloped land on the western frontier of Virginia. … [As a consequence] the frontier [in Virginia] never functioned as an engine of equality; its effect on {Virginia] wealth distribution was to reinforce [the tidewater royalist elite] [6].

One downside to the royalist plantation movement into the western Piedmont was that it activated the old and persistent problem of Native American resistance to white incursion. If that were not sufficient, by 1700 fear of the French who were especially active in geographies accessible from the Mississippi River were at fever pitch. The Nine Years War had just ended in 1697, and the War of Spanish Succession was about to erupt in 1702, when the Burgesses passed an act “For Better Strengthening the Frontiers and Discovering the Approaches of the Enemy” in 1701. Little noted, this act changed the character of Virginia’s land development and settlement of its western frontiers. The act thought in terms of organized settlement by land development companies, not individual homesteaders. The act permitted land grants from ten to thirty thousand acres, with twenty year tax abatement, to companies only, provisional they would quickly settle these areas with new residents. The idea was to stock these frontier areas with suitable militia soldiers able to resist incursion “by the enemy” and required construction of a fort in the center of the land grant. As a side-thought, in 1705 it was amended to include fifty free acres to settlement of the “upcountry” (Shenandoah) [7].


Fairfax’s Northern Neck.

Of great impact to settlement of Virginia’s western lands was who “controlled” them. The sword of Damocles that dangled over the head of Virginia land control was a 1649 land grant by Charles II to a number of his royalist supporters in the English Civil War (including Berkeley’s brother). The grant totaled over 5.2 million acres, and was called the Northern Neck; it ran in a band from the Chesapeake Bay to the Allegheny–Blue Ridge-northern Shenandoah to the Potomac River in Maryland. It is a substantial portion of what today is Virginia and West Virginia.

Immense by anyone’s standards, the grant required taxes paid by its landowners/renters (quit-rents) to the recipients of the land grants–talk about tax abatement. The Northern Neck grant’s  and tax policy’s practical effect was that much of Tidewater and northern Shenandoah Virginia was given economic autonomy from the colony’s government. Within its boundaries a group of aristocratic/gentry’ elite ran their fief as if it were a private empire. It was land grants derived from the Northern Neck that paid for Berkeley’s attraction of royalist elite recruitment program and as we have discovered it was this area which Berkeley was able to post a considerable number of his recruits. The huge mass of land created equally huge and powerful land owners–that exerted considerable impact on Burgess and the Council of State.

By the late 1720’s, however, the vagaries of land inheritance caused title of the land to pass into the hands of the Culpeper family, and then to one man, Thomas Lord Fairfax (in 1719). The Northern Neck grant became one of Virginia’s chief political controversy during the 1730’s and 1740’s. With the Northern Neck in the hands of one individual, the previous tolerant consensus regarding its autonomy eroded quickly, amid a fear of an England-resident outsider with sole discretion or both grants and proceeds. It mattered greatly that Fairfax’s grandfather had commanded a Puritan Army that overthrew Charles I. He was not a Royalist, but a Parliamentarian–a skeleton in the family closet that will matter greatly during the American Revolution–which BTW our Thomas Fairfax will live to see.

Byrd II petitioned the English Privy Council challenging Fairfax’s claim which included alerting the Council that the quit-rents from the Northern Neck “is about as much Land as at present pays Quit rents to his Majesty in all the rest of Virginia[8].  That commenced “the war of the maps” in which each party commissioned surveying and map making of the immense, hostile area, and submitted them to the judgment of the Privy Council. In any event, the settlement of Virginia’s western lands became a serious agenda item form policy-makers and private elites during the interlude. The House of Burgesses approved on its own, several land grants involving Fairfax lands as early as 1722. Fairfax (residing in England), fought back in 1929, launching a formal complaint which eventually fell to the British Board of Trade to arbitrate.

The matter was not resolved until 1746, in Fairfax’s favor–although the Burgesses-approved transactions were declared valid as well. Payment of taxes to Fairfax was, however, reconfirmed. Returning from England Fairfax hired his neighbor to formally survey his holdings, sixteen year old George Washington. Fairfax, in fact, was responsible for Washington’s training as a surveyor–and biographers suggest Fairfax became Washington’s surrogate father and certainly mentor-adviser. They would be business associates as well. To help resolve claim settlement and make land sales more secure, Governor Gooch in 1749 hired two surveyors, Joshua Fry and frontiersmen-plantation owner, Peter Jefferson to properly survey the western lands of the Northern Neck.

In any event, Fairfax who had never stepped foot in America, lived off the quitrents, and hired a Virginia plantation owner, Robert Carter to manage affairs in Virginia. When German Shenandoah immigration gathered momentum, Lord Fairfax and his manager, Robert Carter, embraced it, offering (for its place and time) flexible leases that so long as quitrents were paid, left the lessor much autonomy over land use and lacking a term clause conveyed considerable security to the lessor as well, encouraging improvements made at lessor expense. In this way, German homestead, yeoman farming took root (sorry). Fairfax-Carter provided land grants to jump-start settlements, and on occasion land grants for community facilities. By the end of the decade, however, a massive legal struggle had developed among certain of the Royalist Families and the colony of Virginia–led can coordinated by the Byrd family.

Carter did so well, when he died (1732) he was reputed to own 1,000 slaves and was Virginia’s wealthiest man. Fairfax read Carter’s obit (I am not making this up), and realized what a gold mine this property was. He packed his bags, set off for Virginia and settled in between 1735 and 1737. Fairfax was required to revisit London in the mid-1740’s to bring the legal dispute which had lingered for the better part of fifteen years to a resolution. He successfully secured his claim through the Privy Council. On his return in 1745, he constructed his new estate in Clark County, and in 1748 hired young George Washington to survey his Shenandoah holdings. Settling in, in the style to which he had been accustomed, Fairfax set up estates/manors for himself and family members in several areas of his grant. He never married, and today is under attack for his possible relationships with Black slave women.

In the course of his long life [Fairfax]. a circle formed around him. Lord Fairfax’s drawing room became a school of manners for young gentlemen of the Northern Neck–among them many Washingtons, Lees, Marshalls (including John of Supreme Court fame, and his descendant, George of WWII distinction) and others who shared a distinctive set of beliefs. The Northern Neck [gave] the culture of Virginia a special meaning. On this frontier there was little of democracy and none of equality, but a strong tradition of service character, right conduct, and the rule of law. …  A cultural tradition was planted by Lord Fairfax at Greenway Court [his estate. It took root in the fertile soil of the Northern Neck and flowered in the careers of George Washington in the Revolution … the Northern Neck was the cradle of their culture, and Lord Fairfaxs was its founding father [9].

One wonders if George Washington’s and John Marshall’s distinctive and long-lasting affiliation with the post-Revolutionary Federalist Party–and in particular their willingness to embrace a strong national government and a national, not state perspective, may derive from this cultural tradition. Washington’s as a land developer did not disproportionately focus on his home state, but rather extended to its western lands–and lands in other states (Pennsylvania and New York). Washington (and Marshall’s) willingness to also not only embrace but take leadership in the building of developmental transportation infrastructure to access the western trans-Appalachian interior–which separated them from many Virginia Tidewater adherents–may also be traced to Fairfax’s influence? In any case, this arrangement with Fairfax endured unmolested until 1775 and Lord Fairfax, protected by George Washington among others (despite his Loyalist inclinations), retained to title to his land until the Virginia Act of 1779. The 88 year-old Fairfax died in 1781 on one of his estates.


Governor Alexander Spotswood


The upper Rappahannock Valley on the Piedmont central plateau warrants a special treatment. Through it was made the initial entry over the Blue Ridge mountains and into the bountiful Shenandoah Valley. That entry was forged by a hybrid economic development strategy–personal wealth-creating land development by one man, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood Spotswood, arriving in 1710 as (Lieutenant) Governor, deserves two separate discussions: the first outlines his varied economic development initiatives salient to our history and to the colonial policy system; the second will briefly elaborate on his opening up of the Shenandoah, and his private economic development initiatives conducted on his plantation-estate. He conducted the latter because he was ousted from the governorship by the domestic Tidewater royalist families thru the Council of State.

The political context that Spotswood  inherited in 1710 was complex, and it eventually did him in. For the better part of two decades after Berkeley’s ouster, the Royal Council under the leadership pf William Byrd I, and the Burgesses–the oligopoly–continuously feuded with the Governor and Crown over matters and policy of colonial administration.  As indicated previously, the Crown was in a reformist mood and was trying to bring Virginia’s land ownership and land development programs under control. he Council of State simply refused to cooperate. In addition to planter opposition, religious ramifications associated with William and Mary’s Glorious Revolution resulted in the appointment of George Blair as head of Virginia’s Anglican Church. A political powerhouse in London, a close friend of John Locke who directed the Board of Trade, Blair immediately established a controversial college in Virginia (surprise, William and Mary) and gathered a considerable measure of control over the local parishes. A succession of would-be strong governors fussed with Blair, and the Royal Council–and each was tossed out and sent packing. Spotswood was the third, and when he came, in 1710, he faced a twice victorious Blair and a Royal Council determined to resist any further incursions of their power by the Governor.

Who is Alexander Spotswood? A rising, non-aristocratic star, whose occupational vehicle was the military, Spotswood became a  “protégé” of  the famous and powerful Marlborough he fought bravely and well with him at Blenheim, and in turn was awarded the lieutenant governorship. Spotswood’s intention from the start was to acquire wealth, and enter the ranks of the lesser nobility. On his arrival in Virginia he was the first to occupy the new governor’s mansion in the new capital at Williamsburg (established in 1698). He married into a Virginian planter family in 1725, and his great grand-daughter would marry Patrick Henry, by whom she birthed eleven children. Spotswood came to Virginia to make his fortune and establish himself firmly in Britain’s aristocratic order–this and his distinctive leadership style required the establishment of a manor. Spotswood initiated a series of economic development initiatives and strategies, some of which carried the by-product of creating personal wealth.

Upon his arrival in Virginia, Spotswood’s initial assignment was to implement the Board of Trade’s  land development anti-corruption program–a clean up campaign that had contributed to the ouster of the past two governors. The new lieutenant governor, however. soon realized that campaign struck hard against the royalist plantation hegemony that dominated the domestic politics of Virginia. He got nowhere quickly, and early on in regards to land development, Spotswood seemingly decided if you can’t beat them join them. As early as 1713 he led the passage of legislation facilitating and establishing the legal parameters of land development in the Piedmont.

The statute fostered rapid development, and forbade speculators to hold large tracts of undeveloped land for long periods. Settlers in the new counties of the Piedmont were also exempted from taxes for ten years, another spur to swift occupation. They did not favor speculators or absentee landlords, and in 1713 they passed a law requiring property owners to cultivate three acres out of every fifty in their possession on the pain of forfeiture. [10] .

In contravention of existing Crown policy, Spotswood in 1714 surreptitiously acquired acreage (ten square miles) in Piedmont’s Rappahannock river valley, near today’s Culpeper Va (his clerks bought it and then later transferred title to him). His intention was to establish a fort and a settlement to secure the area against Indian attack, but also, it seems, to take advantage of an iron ore mining deposits discovered in 1712. That story will be told in the next paragraphs. Other planter families joined in and Spotswood did what he could to encourage Piedmont settlement–and its settlement by the patriarchy” : By 1727 the line of settlement had nearly reached the Blue Ridge … many of the best lands went to well-connected gentry families in grants of 1,000 to 15,000 acres [8], p.100.  That initial purchase was followed up by his 1720 land grant deal with the patriarchs in the Council and Burgesses in which he acquired the entirety of what is today Spotsylvania County–about 86,000 acres which then overlapped Piedmont, Blue Ridge and land in the Shenandoah Valley.

Spotswood and the grandees of Virginia created a distinctive culture in the Piedmont. .. The [Piedmont] expansion was not merely a replication of tidewater culture. The healthier climate of the Piedmont made for stronger families and tighter kinship nets. … the proportion of slaves in the Piedmont was smaller than in the Tidewater–rising rapidly to 40 and 45 percent, but remaining in that range for many years. … By the mid eighteenth century the Piedmont had become the dominant region of Virginia [replacing] the Tidewater as the leading hearth of Virginia’s hegemonic culture [11].


Spotswood’s had to deal with the ever restive Native Americans, and stop the incessant raiding and terror unleashed by pirates along the North Carolina and Virginia coast. Despite his military background, maybe because of it, he like Alexander Knox in the future Washington administration, approached the Indian question as a matter to be negotiated–not settled by military conquest. The resident Indians had themselves been earlier subjugated by the Iroquois, and Spotswood had the unique opportunity to deal with one set of chiefs, and one tribe. Since the Iroquois did not consider Virginia as its home, they were willing to negotiate a treaty. The apex of his Indian policy was Spotswood’s successful negotiation of a 1722 treaty with the Iroquois in Albany, NY. Sadly, the treaty did by no means resolve conflict with Iroquois, who annually would conduct a Shenandoah raid anyway, and when their control was later broken, meant the subjugated tribes felt free to let loose their pent-up fury. Spotswood’s treaty, however, did yield the benefit of “legally” acquiring much of the Shenandoah Valley. Immediately he set up a series of forts and trading posts, as had Berkeley–more on that below. The Indian-Shenandoah matter was only finally resolved late in the 1730’s by one of Spotswood’s successors, Governor, William Gooch.

It is worth note that during this period Spotswood sent a naval expedition to North Carolina, and among its exploits the expedition defeated and killed Blackbeard the pirate.

Spotswood’s “Western” Settlements–The initial-break-through settlement of the Shenandoah Valley is credited to Governor Alexander Spotswood(1714). Spotswood saw opportunity in “them there hills” and believing a carrot was better than a stick, caused the approval of his Virginia Indian Act. by the Council f State and Burgesses–against their will. The Act set up a state-chartered corporation, the Virginia Indian Company, which was entrusted with a monopoly in the conduct of trade with Native Americans and whose secondary mission was to educate and Christianize Native Americans. According to the Act, trade would be conducted at a post established at Christanna, which Spotswood built personally. Built alongside, was a schoolhouse which quickly was populated by seventy Native Americans taught by an English instructor. In 1717, however, the King, hearing from a very dissatisfied House of Burgesses, brought the latter venture to a screaming halt. Spotswood’s Indian Act was an important element of his vision to open up Virginia to settlement and to develop economically this valuable, fertile and resource-rich geography.

In any event, also in 1714, a second prong of Spotswood’s ED strategy became apparent. Importing from England, forty-two German miners to Germanna VA to work iron mines recently discovered. Spotswood, who constructed his “palatial manor” there, founded the settlement. The Germans involved in Spotswood’s “iron and Germanna” initiatives were German Reformed Church (called Redemptionist), and were purchased (indentured) by Spotswood for an aggregate total of 150 pounds “for the lot”. There were nine families at the start, the first purchase was for 40 workers. They built a five-sided fort, and individual houses for each family, a corresponding sheds for the livestock. They brought a minister with them, and were “deeply religious”. A bit on the miserly side, they lived in near poverty. Dissatisfied with Spotswood, when their indenture expired in 1721 they packed up lock, stock, and hog and settled a new town, Germantown in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Spotswood replaced them with a second purchase, of seventy from the Palatinate.

Between 1716 and 1720 Spotswood oversaw construction of the Tubal Works, a cold-blast charcoal blast furnace that produced pig iron from which a variety of instruments and tools were made for both domestic and export. He also encouraged the startup of gristmills. Calling the settlement, Germanna, a clumsy concoction of Germany and Queen Anna, he made it the capital of the new Spotsylvania County in 1720.  That venture ran into serious resistance from his own Royal Council, chock full of Tidewater royalist land speculators, who likely resented his obvious conflict of interest, and did not look with favor on his non-agricultural initiative and importation of Germans. Spotswood’s initial import of Germans is the first entry of German immigrants, in volume, into Virginia. When Spotswood’s was replaced a year later, he made Germanna his first retirement home. After the contract for the first German miners expired in 1721, at least twelve household left Germanna and moved into  Germantown in Fauquier County–the Shenandoah Valley. Spotswood replaced them with black slaves at the Tubal Works, and then imported a second wave of about eighty Germans from the Wuerttemberg-Baden/Palatine. In retirement he actively managed the mines and forges. His hoped-for goal was to jump-start a new cluster of ironworks that could produce instruments, axes, plows, kettles and the like. In 1732 at Massaponax, Spotswood probably built America’s first foundry.

Finally, it was Spotswood who personally led a small expedition (or a large group on a hunting vacation) across the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah in 1716. While he hunted (carried around on a elaborate ‘chaisse”, he and his gentlemen friends drank fine wind and hunted daily. Still, Spotswood very much intended the expedition as a colonial era economic development project–and a settlement barrier against further French incursions. The trip consumed about 438 miles, took four weeks, and each sixty-two participants at the end received a golden horseshoe from the governor. From that point on the Shenandoah was in play for white settlement. It was the Germans who took the first advantage. That “Golden Horseshoe Expedition” which encouraged “gentlemen to venture backwards” became a founding myth of Virginia, and its participants were regarded as early “pioneers”, changing the nature and character of our convention definition of pioneers, and as the participants aged they were afforded celebrity status in Virginia society.

(As a last mention of Spotswood, it was Spotswood, who in retirement prevailed upon the King to appoint him Deputy Postmaster General of the Colonies. Serving in that post between 1730 and 1741 in his new home in the Shenandoah, Spotswood appointed a certain Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster of Philadelphia)


Spotswood’s Downfall: Clash with the Patriarchy

A major, almost existential, problem given the dominance of tobacco as Virginia’s economic base, Spotswood confronted was the maturation and threatened decline in the critical tobacco market. Global pricing was competitive and new tobacco from other lands was better quality, and its logistics were less costly. Virginia plantation exporting was inefficient, riddled with little corruptions. So Spotswood set up a series of warehouses to centralize tobacco export, and at the warehouses he lodged an “quality” inspection system. Quality meant less tobacco shipped, and only the promise that the higher quality would yield higher prices. Planters resisted intensely, and like his predecessors Spotswood was in trouble with the planter oligopoly. Creatively, he solved the problem, he thought, by appointing a great majority of the Royal Council and Burgesses to positions as tobacco inspectors–where they could, of course, charge a fee for their generous services. That got the legislation through all right, but created a major uproar in the rank and file planter class.

Forced to call an election to the Burgesses, all but one of Spotswood’s inspectors and Burgesses lost the election–and the Council and Burgesses was full of legislators determined to overturn the Tobacco legislation. Further negotiations in the next couple of years, only worsened matters with new elections delivering even stronger opposition. He finally just sent the Burgesses home, determined to replicate Berkeley autocracy. He did by “executive order” seize the right to appoint sheriffs and county clerks–a key bastion of oligopoly’s power over local government, which made matters even worse. Blair was on the move as well, and delegations from each party went off to London determined to end Spotswood’s hated Indian trading posts and the Tobacco inspection. Back in Williamsburg, Spotswood struck a deal with the Burgesses–he would commit to lifetime residence in Virginia–i.e. become one of them–and in the next election he developed a faction allied to him. If you can’t beat them, join them he struck a deal with the Council and Burgesses for a sizable number of land grants–partially because the French were active on the border and he needed a Virginia buffer zone, complete with militia from the settlers–and partially because he was granted 86,000 acres in the Shenandoah/upper Piedmont–the county called Spotsylvania today. All seemed well, and everybody seemed happy, when unexpectedly, a new governor arrived on the scene in 1722. Blair and the Royal Council had their third governor’s scalp. Spotswood retired to his new estate and lands–and began his career as an private economic developer [12].

As a final note, Spotswood was eventually succeeded by another Royal Lieutenant Governor, William Gooch (1727-49) who picked up the loose ends of Spotswood’s various initiatives, including the Tobacco Inspection Act and western land development with considerable success. Gooch also continued Spotswood’s rationale for the latter: as necessary for Virginia’s defense against the French and Indians–it is Gooch who presided over the settlement of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and who dealt with the two great migrations of German and Scots-Irish.




[2] David Hackett Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement (University of Virginia Press, 2000), p. 88ff

[3] Virginius Dabney, Virginia: the New Dominion (University Press of Virginia, p. 1971), p. 93; Joseph Ellis, American Spinx (Vintage, 1998), p.30

[4] James Blair, Henry Hartwell, and Edward Chilton”the Present State of Virginia“, 1697

[5]Ronald j. Heinemann, John G. Kolk, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth (University of Virginia Press, 2007), pp. 60-2

[6]Ronald j. Heinemann, John G. Kolk, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth (University of Virginia Press, 2007), pp. 60-2

[7] Ronald j. Heinemann, John G. Kolk, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth (University of Virginia Press, 2007), pp. 60-2

[8] David Hackett-Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement (University of Virginia Press, 2000), pp. 85-6.

[9] David Hackett-Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement, pp. 86-7

[10] Ronald j. Heinemann, John G. Kolk, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth (University of Virginia Press, 2007), pp. 78-9

[11] David Hackett Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement (University of Virginia Press, 2000), pp. 100-1

[12] Ronald j. Heinemann, John G. Kolk, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and William G. Shade, Old Dominion, New Commonwealth (University of Virginia Press, 2007), pp. 79-80