The making of Montpelier : Col. James Madison and the development of a Piedmont plantation, 1741 to 1774

Chambers, Douglas B., Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Williams, D. Alan, Corcoran Department of History
Stagg, J.C.A., Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

James Madison succeeded in making Montpelier a diversified piedmont plantation by utilizing family connections, land, slaves, and capital resources in the pursuit of profit. Madison was an opportunist, with one eye always cocked to the possibility of turning a profitable deal. He took the main chance when he could, as did his father and grandfather before him. He could be ruthless, especially in allocating the labor of his slaves to meet his production plans. Madison could also be prudent and invest some of his profits back into building up the physical environment of his plantation. Most of all, Madison was ambitious. He spent thirty years scrambling to create a diversified set of operations, from cereal and tobacco cultivation to brandy distilling and grain milling, that would finance a drive to the top of Orange County's planting society. Once there, Madison staked a claim to leadership that few could contest.

The boom years of the decades before the 1770s were not without their tragic ironies. Madison's prosperity rested on the direct and, at times, brutal exploitation of his Afro-Virginian slaves, and yet, it financed an education steeped in natural rights philosophy for his eldest son. Madison's market-oriented approach to agriculture on Montpelier, his planter capitalism, tied him to the cash nexus of agrarian commodity production and exchange, and yet left him vulnerable to the vicissitudes of an emerging world capitalist system that, in the nineteenth century, would challenge the underpinnings of plantation slavery.

MA (Master of Arts)
Plantations -- Virginia -- Orange County

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-17 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:36:19.

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