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The American Farmer in the Eighteenth CenturyA Social and Cultural History$
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Richard Lyman Bushman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300226737

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300226737.001.0001

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Jefferson’s Neighbors

Jefferson’s Neighbors

Economy, Society, and Politics in Post-Revolutionary Virginia

(p.217) 12. Jefferson’s Neighbors
The American Farmer in the Eighteenth Century

Richard Lyman Bushman

Yale University Press

Save for the elite planters at the top of the social hierarchy, Virginia society blended smoothly from top to bottom. There were no sharp wealth divisions between non-slave owners and those who owned two or three slaves. Nor were slaveholders with more than six slaves much distinguishable from one another until one reached the level where planters owned fifty or more. In this ascending society, lower and middling people provided services such as weaving and carpentry for those above them, linking them economically. Large planters like Jefferson were involved in hundreds of exchanges with lesser farmers each year. The top and bottom of society may not have corresponded with each other but they traded constantly. Because they performed services to make a living, small farmers were the integrating agents in Virginia society. This society came under stress during the Revolution. Farm families resisted the draft because the absence of a father or elder son disrupted the family economy. If drafted they often deserted. After the Revolution, the government’s effort to draw in inflated currency made it difficult for people to pay rent and taxes. They were in danger of losing their property for payment of their debts. Throughout the 1780s, they protested to the legislature, but they never resorted to violence, and the House of Burgesses did not enforce the laws. The familiarity achieved through economic integration made those in power sympathetic to the common plight.

Keywords:   Planters, Slaves, Debt, Currency, Draft

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