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For God, King, and PeopleForging Commonwealth Bonds in Renaissance Virginia$
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Alexander B. Haskell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469618029

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469618029.001.0001

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Framing a New Public

Framing a New Public

Virginia’s Commonwealth and the Moral Case for the Planter

(p.199) [4] Framing a New Public
For God, King, and People

Alexander B. Haskell

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter relates the politics of commonwealth formation in Virginia as James's reign came to an end and his successor, Charles I, made clear that he, too, preferred for Virginia to function as a commercial outpost and generator of royal revenues rather than an integral kingdom. Against the backdrop of the political tensions and religious divisions of the Thirty Years War, the colony's supporters in both England and Virginia adopted a new justificatory approach that centered on the providential importance of the planter. Defining Virginia as a polity that rested on the reciprocal bond between king and planters, writers like Captain John Smith, Samuel Purchas, and Captain John Bargrave treated the mutual obligations of planters and king as forming a public, or shared body of resources and institutions, that should be seen as sacred and inviolable. When, in 1635, Charles and his treasurers' persistent efforts to impose a tobacco contract on the colony reached a crisis point, local politicians like the councillor Samuel Mathews led an uprising against Governor Sir John Harvey that symbolized the idea of Virginia as a commonwealth that sat rightly under God only insofar as the wills of king and planters were conjoined.

Keywords:   Charles I, planters, Thirty Years War, Captain John Smith, Samuel Purchas, Captain John Bargrave, the public, tobacco contracts, Samuel Mathews, Sir John Harvey

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