By Edmund S. Morgan. ISBN 0-393-31288-7. Copyright 1975. Softcover with 454 pages including notes, appendix, and index.
In the American Revolution, Virginians were the most eloquent spokesmen for freedom and equality. George Washington, a Virginian, led Americans in battle against British oppression. Thomas Jefferson, another Virginian, led them in declaring independence. Virginians drafted not only the Declaration, but also the Constitution and its first ten amendments; they were elected to the presidency of the United States under that Constitution for thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of its existence. They were all slaveholders.
“If it is possible to understand the American paradox, the marriage of slavery and freedom, Virginia is surely the place to begin,” writes the author in his searching study of the tragic contradiction at the core of America. Morgan finds the key to this central paradox in the people and politics of the state that was both the birthplace of the Revolution and the largest slaveholding state in the country.