The Tidewater Virginian Gentry Of The Nineteenth Century Essay

The Tidewater Virginian Gentry Of The Nineteenth Century Essay

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The Tidewater Virginian gentry in the eighteenth century up until the revolution was, in some respects, more English than not—especially in the Tidewater region, where the immigrants coming were mostly of English descent (Dr. Whittenburg, lecture). The gentry tried to mimic English ways, such as dress, furniture and homes, and the wealth portrayed by following the English, perhaps to solidify their own hold at home—a “peasantry” was more likely to follow the system they were used to, with an obvious elite. However, the gentry, in their attempts to emulate the English nobility, actually created a distinct, American lifestyle.
Clothing was one key way in which the gentry of Virginia tried to establish themselves as English. Throughout the colonial time period (founding of Jamestown to the Revolution), the American styles matched the English ones (Amy Stallings, lecture). Indeed, the Americans and the English shared a common goal with the clothing they wore—“they announced wealth, status, and a leisurely lifestyle” (Baumgarten, 64).
While clothing had these similarities, however, there were stark differences. The climate in Tidewater Virginia, for example, affected clothing in the colony—It was hotter there than in England, and so clothing had to differ somewhat in style and material in order for the colonists to be able to adapt. The significance of this? The creation of “a cultural rift between the colony and its parent society (England), ” and a noticeable difference to English travellers to Virginia (Baumgarten, 54).
Clothing was not just changed by any sort of gentry either—George Washington recognized the need to change the regimental uniforms (Baumgarten, 68), basing styles off of the Indians’ clothing for a “far from for...

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... were the source of power, and while the Americans attempted to emulate this, they created a whole new culture of their own. Part of this emerged from the fact that the geography, climate, and economy of the colonies were so much different, and so certain things like the material of furniture or clothing had to change. But part of it was also the psychological hold on the gentry—Their position was insecure, and their “conspicuous consumption” (Plantation visits, Dr. Whittenburg) and over confidence (class discussion) was proof of this. The huge materialism of the eighteenth century “helped the gentry to maintain group cohesion” (Breen, 256) on the eve of revolution, and it was this “cohesion” and new culture that finally pushed the gentry to declare themselves as “American” and begin to not only address their grievances to the king, but declare their independence.

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