Author James Thompson trained in Philosophy not History. In The Birth of Virginia’s Aristocracy, he presents a philosophical discussion on how society developed in 17th century Virginia. He begins by noting that the Virginia Company founded its new world colony with the intention of making money. He describes how social visionary Edmund Sandys attempted to save its faltering business by shifting the company’s focus from creating profits to creating a viable marketplace. Sandys undertook to do this, Thompson explains, by establishing a “commonwealth”. Sandys’ idea was to provide a market where private enterprisers could exchange the products of their industry. Sandys attracted industrious people by giving them free land and a community “parliament”. Thompson finds in Sandys experiment this fundamental lesson: unless a society provides it members a profit-generating market, it will fail. Sandys program did not save his company, but it did save its colony by making it a place where private enterprisers could profit. Thompson describes how the process of growing as a profit-generating marketplace snarled the commonwealth’s “civil society” in politics. He finds in this a second principle of society: as the cell grows it divides. In Virginia, growth produced a diversity of opportunities and problems. In 1619, diverging personal and economic interests led to a crossroad. Seeking a better way to manage its colony’s proliferating problems and conflicts, the Virginia Company’s London Council authorized its colonists to establish a local legislature where they could define their common good and make their laws. This caused politics to become an essential aspect of Virginia’s fledgling society. It quickly became a divisive force. An ominous turn occurred in 1660 when Governor Berkeley began packing the colony's legislature. This, says Thompson, produced the privileged, wealthy class remembered today as Virginia’s “aristocracy”.
Birth of Virginia's Aristocracy
Commonwealth Books of Virginia