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From Corporate Communities to County Courts in the Early Stuart Empire

From Corporate Communities to County Courts in the Early Stuart Empire

Chapter:
(p.56) Chapter Two From Corporate Communities to County Courts in the Early Stuart Empire
Source:
Urban Dreams, Rural Commonwealth
Author(s):
Paul Musselwhite
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226585314.003.0003

This chapter argues that counties, which became the fundamental local institution of the mature Chesapeake society, emerged as a direct challenge to urban authority in both Virginia and Maryland. It traces the status of towns and counties in the competing claims of planters, merchants, and colonial officials to control commerce. During the late 1620s, two new officials—Virginia’s royal governor, Sir John Harvey, and the proprietor of the new Maryland colony, Lord Baltimore—both responded to perceived misgovernment in the tobacco economy by pursuing new urban development, at Jamestown and St. Mary’s respectively, which would reinforce their personal oversight of commerce and reduce the influence of powerful unregulated networks of planter-merchants in the market for labor and manufactured goods. However, these measures elicited bitter resentment from the planter leadership. Coups led by elite planters and their merchant allies targeted the two nascent cities, and Harvey and Leonard Calvert (Maryland’s governor) were both forced from office. It was in the immediate context of these revolts that the planters formed themselves into county communities to justify and reinforce their authority over their local economy and society.

Keywords:   counties, Jamestown, Sir John Harvey, Lord Baltimore, Virginia, Maryland, St. Mary's City, tobacco economy, planter-merchants

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