On this date in 1774, a doctor returning from a public meeting in the Northern Neck of Virginia had this report for his friend, Landon Carter. While the question of class consciousness, or even awareness, in revolutionary America has been vastly overstated by some historians, this snippet of political life suggests the divided interests between “the vulgar” and “depraved” on the one hand and “the Gentlemen” on the other, and makes clear that the revolutionary experience was far from a common one.
“The meeting at Farnham last Saturday, I believe, was a very usefull one—Many People who came there with an opinion, too comon among the vulgar, that the Law affecting Tea alone, did not concern them, because they used none of it—had yr prejudices removed—indeed many of the more depraved have said, let the Gentlemen look to it.”
[Source: Landon Carter Papers, University of Virginia]
One thought on ““Let the Gentlemen Look To It”: The Tea Act and “the Vulgar” in Virginia”
Of course, much depends on the perspective of the author–one Dr. Walter Jones (1745-1815)–and his ideas of what made one a gentleman or among the lower sorts. He was a native Virginian, born in Williamsburg, who attended the University of Edinburgh before the Revolution.