Crop Masters

Daniel Aaron

  • Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of the Revolution by T.H. Breen
    Princeton, 216 pp, $9.95, February 1988, ISBN 0 691 04729 4

Some thirty years ago, as he ploughed through hundreds of pamphlets on the Anglo-American conflict published in the colonies before 1776, Bernard Bailyn was struck by the excitement with which their authors spoke about what were for him ‘the common-places of liberal thought of their time’. How to explain their apparently inexhaustible appetite for the ideas and rhetoric of late 17th and 18th-century British political oppositionists? The mélange of dissident opinion now subsumed under the rubric of ‘radical Country ideology’ stigmatised the Walpole Government as a corrupt power-grabbing conspiracy against popular liberties. This pessimistic Country vision of a commercial England’s political and moral decline between 1675 and 1725 evoked small concern in the general population, but it provided American revolutionists with a schema.

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