The great Tidewater planters of mid-eighteenth-century Virginia were fathers of the American Revolution. Perhaps first and foremost, they were also anxious tobacco farmers, harried by a demanding planting cycle, trans-Atlantic shipping risks, and their uneasy relations with English agents. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and their contemporaries lived in a world that was dominated by questions of debt from across an ocean but also one that stressed personal autonomy.
T. H. Breen's study of this tobacco culture focuses on how elite planters gave meaning to existence. He examines the value-laden relationships--found in both the fields and marketplaces--that led from tobacco to politics, from agrarian experience to political protest, and finally to a break with the political and economic system that they believed threatened both personal independence and honor.
"Breen writes clearly and argues well. . . . Tobacco Culture is enjoyable."--Allen Boyer, New York Times
"T. H. Breen's important new book attempts to explain why the great Virginia Planters embraced the Revolutionary cause with so much enthusiasm. He argues that growing indebtedness to British merchants after 1750 jeopardized the planters' traditional dominance, finally precipitating `a major cultural crisis' in the years immediately preceding Independence. Breen's major contribution is to delineate the `mentality' of the great planters of the period when private and public distress converged. . . . It is a superb contribution to the literature of the American Revolution."--Peter S. Onuf, William and Mary Quarterly
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
Preface to the Second Paperback Edition xi
I. An Agrarin Context for Radical Ideas 3
II. Tobacco Mentality 40
II. Planters and Merchants: A Kind of Friendship 84
IV. Loss of Independence 124
V. Politicizing the Discourse: Tobacco, Debt and the Coming of Revolution 160
Epilogue: A New Beginning 204
Hardcover published in 1985