Synopses & Reviews
For a Time the Commonwealth of Virginia led the nation. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Marshall--each came from the state. For thirty-two of the first thirty-six years of the existence of the American republic, a Virginian held the office of President. And yet by the middle of the nineteenth century, Virginia was little more than a byword for slavery, provincialism, and poverty. What happened? In Dominion of Memories, historian Susan Dunn chronicles the precipitous decline of the nation's most promising state. While the North rapidly industrialized and democratized, Virginia lay captive to a firmly entrenched political elite that turned its back on the accelerating modern world. Two of Virginia's greatest sons, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both observed and exemplified this divergence. Towards the end of his life, Jefferson became first and foremost a Virginian as he retreated from his earlier cosmopolitism in favor of an agrarian ideal. Madison, on the other hand, rejected this vision and warned Virginians that their burgeoning parochialism would lead ultimately to disunion. This enthralling examination of the competing claims of country and homeland encapsulates in the history of a single state the struggle of an entire nation drifting inexorably towards Civil War.
During the Revolutionary Period, and in the early days of the Union, Virginia was the nations most promising state. It produced a galaxy of Americas most important founders and statesmen: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Marshall, and many others. And yet, by the middle of the nineteenth century, Virginia had become little more than a byword for poverty, slavery, and economic stagnation. The decline was dramatic and startling. What happened? In Dominion of Memories, Susan Dunn chronicles the precipitous decline of Americas most promising state. A gloriously written tale of the Founding Fathers and their beloved state, Dominion of Memories offers in microcosm the story of how a nation founded with great hope in the Age of Revolution found itself marching inexorably towards civil war half a century later.
The rise and fall of the Old Dominion--the decline of Virginia and the splintering of the new republic
About the Author
Susan Dunn is Professor of Humanities at Williams College. She is the author or editor of numerous books, including Something That Will Surprise the World: The Essential Writings of the Founding Fathers; and Jeffersons Second Revolution: The Election Crisis of 1800 and the Triumph of Republicanism. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.