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Virginia’s Plantation Masters Had It Wrong—All Rivers Flow Into The Same Sea

I recently read the following about the State of Virginia in Vernon Parrington’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Romantic Revolution In America 1820-1860—” The navigable rivers of the tidewater region were favorable to the development of a decentralized economics, and despite royal commands to create adequate seaports and heavy taxes….trading towns did not prosper. For two hundred years Virginia refused to create a native middleman group to handle its staples….Each planter insisted on putting hogsheads of tobacco aboard ship at his own wharf, and receiving his merchandise direct from London.”

You can look at the above image of Virginia and see the many rivers on the right hand side of the map. They flow into Chesapeake Bay. Each of those rivers had many inlets and tributaries and this allowed people to set up farms and plantations on navigable waterways. So located, plantation masters could bypass cities and do business for themselves.

However, when I look at the many rivers of Eastern Virginia, what I see is that these rivers flow into the same place. Right into Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond that, the fact is that the distinctions between oceans are man-made, and that all the world’s salt water is connected. Look at this map and you’ll see what I mean.

When folks wanted to protect ill-gotten profits and defend slavery, they saw the world as disconnected. When we are looking for brotherhood and sisterhood, we see that all rivers flow into the same sea.

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Books, History, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment