August 29, 2008
Virginia And The Westward Movement
David Hackett Fischer and James C. Kelly
Review by R.E. Prindle
Grant, Madison, Conquest Of A Continent, Liberty Bell Publications, 2004, reprint 1933 original.
Fischer, David Hackett and Kelly, James C., Bound Away: Virginia And The Westward Movement, U. Virginia Press, 2000
For the student of settlement patterns in the US David Hackett Fischer is indispensable. Of the many books he’s written his 1992 Albion’s Seed is absolutely necessary. In that book he involves himself in the settlement patterns of all four strains from Great Britain. In this volume he interests himself only in the colony of Virginia. He considers immigration into Virginia, migration within Virginia and emigration from Virginia.
As Madison Grant points out in his work Virginia was the mother of States. Fischer points out the whys and hows. His work might be considered and extension of Grant’s.
The founding of Virginia was much more different and tumultuous than our school books relate. The Indians came close to expelling the Virginia colonists while the English had a very difficult time adapting to the climate. The death rate was worse than on the slave ships.
Black slavery was slow to develop in Virginia as the Aristocracy preferred White slaves, politely known as
indentured servants. It was only when the White supply dried up that the Aristocracy turned to Africans. More than in the States of the Deep South slavery defeated the Commonwealth.
Where Whites had a difficult time surviving in the rich soils of the Tidal area Africans prospered soon significantly outnumbering the Whites.
The characteristic Virginia polity of an upper cast White Aristocracy, a small middle class, and the White and Black impoverished proletariats came into existence under Governor Berkeley in 1650 being perpetuated until the Civil War.
Between the strong White caste system and slavery the White proletariat was driven to escape by emigration. Virginia gradually became depopulated over the two hundred years before the Civil War. At that time East and West Virginia were one. A look at the map, of which the book has several, will show Virginia abutting both Kentucky and Ohio. Thus the Western exodus to those two States formed the character of one and shaped the character of the other. From Kentucky and Ohio the Virginians carried through southern Indiana and Illinois while populating several counties in Missouri that were known as Little Dixie.
With the opening of Alabama and Mississippi many Virginians chose to take their slaves and migrate in that direction.
The net effect of the migrations was that Virginia lost several representatives in Congress while losing intellectual vitality. The issue of slavery caused groups like the Quakers to leave the State and it became correspondingly hazardous to one’s health to criticize slavery.
Of course after th Civil War the descendants of the Virginians continued West into California and Oregon. Thus Virginian customs and styles found their way across country.
After the War national immigration began in earnest with Southern and Eastern Europeans forming the bulk of it. Grant laments the diminishing of the Nordic cultural influence while Fischer wisely makes no comment even ignoring the issue concerning himself only with the movement of Virginians.
Even then there is an honesty in his work that makes one wonder how he survives in the anti-truth Liberal university system. I suppose it’s a matter of not what you say but how you say it. Knowing what to leave in and what to leave out.
At any rate for those interested in US settlement patterns I heartily recommend Madison Grant’s Conquest Of A Continent and both David Hackett Fischer’s Albions’ Seed and Outward Bound. If one then overlaps something like Carl Wittke’s We Who Built America that gives some idea of how post-1871 immigration patterns shaped twentieth century America one has a pretty fair idea of how the US developed up to the 1965 revision of the Immigration Act. After that revision a whole new pattern develops.