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Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia / Edition 1

Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia / Edition 1

by Woody Holton
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In this provocative reinterpretation of one of the best-known events in American history, Woody Holton shows that when Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other elite Virginians joined their peers from other colonies in declaring independence from Britain, they acted partly in response to grassroots rebellions against their own rule.

The Virginia gentry's efforts to shape London's imperial policy were thwarted by British merchants and by a coalition of Indian nations. In 1774, elite Virginians suspended trade with Britain in order to pressure Parliament and, at the same time, to save restive Virginia debtors from a terrible recession. The boycott and the growing imperial conflict led to rebellions by enslaved Virginians, Indians, and tobacco farmers. By the spring of 1776 the gentry believed the only way to regain control of the common people was to take Virginia out of the British Empire.

Forced Founders uses the new social history to shed light on a classic political question: why did the owners of vast plantations, viewed by many of their contemporaries as aristocrats, start a revolution? As Holton's fast-paced narrative unfolds, the old story of patriot versus loyalist becomes decidedly more complex.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807847848
Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 09/01/1999
Series: Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press
Edition description: 1
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 441,988
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Woody Holton is assistant professor of American history at the University of Richmond.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Part I. Grievances, 1763-1774
1. Land Speculators versus Indians and the Privy Council
2. Tobacco Growers versus Merchants and Parliament

Part II. Boycotts, 1769-1774
3. Nonimportation
4. Nonexportation

Part III. Unintended Consequences, 1775-1776
5. Free Virginians versus Slaves and Governor Dunmore
6. Gentlemen versus Farmers

Part IV. Independence, 1776
7. Spirit of the People
8. Epilogue


Figure 1. Conflicting Indian Boundaries of 1768
Figure 2. Sir William Johnson's Testamonial
Figure 3. Drawing of a Pipe; A Belt and Strings of Wampum
Figure 4. Virginia and Its Neighbors, 1776
Figure 5. John Robinson
Figure 6. Crime Scene Detail
Figure 7. Arthur Lee
Figure 8. The Alternative of Williams-Burg
Figure 9. Article 4, Continental Association
Figure 10. Attack on Hampton
Figure 11. Rumors of Slave Plots in the James River Watershed
Figure 12. Williamsburg Gunpowder Magazine
Figure 13. John Murray, Fourth Earl of Dunmore
Figure 14. "A List of Negroes That Went Off to Dunmore"
Figure 15. Landon Carter

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

[Holton's] insights into the interplay among class, race, and ideology produce a complex and persuasive account of Virginia's path to revolution. The strength of Holton's book lies in its careful delineation of the regional issues propelling the Chesapeake into revolution and in his insistence that Indians, slaves, and small farmers played roles as significant as the planter elite and British policy-makers in making that revolution. . . . A really well-written book, with vivid descriptive details and clearly presented analysis.—Carol Berkin, Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

In a detailed, painstakingly researched book that examines the forces that fomented revolution in Colonial Virginia, Holton reveals a new view of Virginia history and a lesser-known side of himself.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

The main strength of Holton's book is his effort to place the actions of the Virginia gentry within a more detailed local context and to see them as actors who were responding to the material concerns that governed their everyday lives.—Law and History Review

The Revolution in Virginia is at last explained. The great menaces that threatened the Virginia gentry and that gave force to their revolutionary rhetoric have been effectively documented for the first time. Woody Holton shows most persuasively that armed Indians, rebellious enslaved workers, and democratically active smallholders were just as much active agents of the Revolution as Lord North and Patrick Henry.—Rhys Isaac, La Trobe University

This book gives us a brisk and convincing analysis of a region—and revolutionary leaders—we thought we already knew. Given the threats they faced, we can only marvel that those uneasy leaders ever succeeded in such a desperate feat as making a revolution in such a dangerous and divided region. As Holton shows us, they were forced to.—Journal of American History

In this tour de force, Woody Holton takes on a powerful image: (white) Virginians moving together into independence, united behind a patriot leader class. He shows instead how Virginians of all sorts confronted a shared crisis from their own points of view, how all of them influenced the outcome, and how living through that crisis changed them all.—Edward Countryman, Southern Methodist University

A fascinating reinterpretation of the coming of the Revolution in Virginia. . . . Each vividly detailed and keenly argued section of the book demonstrates how a diverse collection of ordinary men and women pushed Virginia's leaders to declare independence. . . . Holton's powerful and innovative book should influence the study of the American Revolution for years to come.—Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

[A] fine new book. . . . Where Holton moves beyond his predecessors is the large and colorful cast of characters that he includes in this story.—James H. Merrell, H-Net

An important revisionist appraisal of the factors from 1763 to 1776 that propelled Virginians to support the Revolutionary movement and independence.—Choice

Holton does more than transfer a familiar neo-progressive narrative of the coming of the Revolution to Virginia. . . . [He] portrays the coming of the Revolution in Virginia as deeply bound up with competing social groups—planters, farmers, Indians, slaves, and British merchants—all of whom pursued their own interests. His social history of a revolution emerging out of these struggles rather than out of civic humanism or disputes surrounding the imperial constitution complements Rhys Isaac's interpretation of cultural conflict in revolutionary Virginia.—American Historical Review



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Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
FARIEQUEENE More than 1 year ago
Why did the American Revolution occur, was it really a bunch of brow beaten colonists tired of the tyranny of an oppressive government? Holton's look at the subject is easy to read, factual, bursting with references and gives the reader an interesting look at a subject we all learn about since grade school. His three main focuses... land and Indians, Slavery, and the spiraling Colonial economic system really changes the perspective on why the revolution was fought.
noblechicken on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dry, but very informative perspective of the politics of the Revolutionary War era from the common peoples point of view in Virginia. Holton has managed to create an important and previously unrepresented piece of history. The most interesting section to me was about Lord Dunmore and his emancipation of the slaves if they fought for Britain and the "coincidental" stealing of the gunpowder from the magazine in Williamsburg. Holton provides alternative motive, more of a symbolic (and threatening) gesture to the colonists than what general history has taught us. Interesting.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting analysis of pre-Revolutionary Virginia; Holton argues that many of the "elites" who we now consider leaders of the Revolutionary movement were in fact pushed there through the actions of slaves, smallholders, and Indians. Not entirely convincing, and I didn't think Holton gave enough credit to ideological and other factors. But a very good book nonetheless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago