Britain's crisis of empire by R. Palme Dutt

By R. Palme Dutt

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45 The only possessions that separated those among the middling ranks (those with estate valuations between £40 and £75) from unfortunates like Simmons were a few horses of higher value, an axe, a spade, a few cattle, some simple carpenter's tools, a bed (but probably not a feather bed or a bedstead), and a few more plates and pots for the kitchen. Taken together, all the quantitative measures of economic endeavor and attainment suggest that the manner of economic life experienced by virtually everyone in the county, save a lew nonres- 40 The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry idents like William Byrd or the exceptional Clement Read, was not markedly different from the upper to the lower end of the economic spectrum.

And because the nearest tobacco inspection stations were located east of the Fall Line (some fifty or seventy-five miles away), the effects of poor transportation were felt even more severely. Virtually all the rivers in the area were unnavigable by ordinary craft, and few of the roads were wide enough or smooth enough to accommodate wagons, so tobacco planters had to devise alternative means to get their crops to market. The most common means of transport was the simple rolling of hogsheads. As William Tatham, eighteenthcentury expert on tobacco cultivation, described it, Southside planters added extra hickory hoops to their hogsheads for reinforcement, turned them on their sides, "drove pegs into the headings, and attached hickory limbs as shafts, and the horse or oxen FIGURE 1.

10 If the church, the county court, and the plantation house served as the three principal centers of social activity in the settled communities of Virginia, then the state of community life in the Southside wilderness represented nearly the antithesis of that traditional order. Yet if a half-century before one had been traveling through Hanover County, seventy miles to the northeast of Lunenburg, or, a full century before, through Surry County, eighty miles to the east, the economic, political, and religious institutions of those societies would have appeared equally tenuous.

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