Dominion of memories: Jefferson, Madison, and the decline of Virginia New York: Basic Books, c 2007 Susan Dunn Virginia Politics and government 1775-1865 Book. ix, 310 p.; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG
For decades, the Commonwealth of Virginia led the nation. The premier state in population, size, and wealth, it produced a galaxy of leaders: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Mason, Marshall. Four of the first five presidents were Virginians. And yet by the middle of the nineteenth century, Virginia had become a byword for provincialism, and poverty. What happened?
In Dominion of Memories historian Susan Dunn offers her explanation of the little known story of the decline of the Old Dominion. While the North rapidly industrialized, Virginia’s leaders waged an impossible battle against progress and time itself. In their last years, two of Virginia’s greatest sons, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, grappled vigorously with the Old Dominion’s plight. But bound to the traditions of their native soil, they found themselves grievously torn by the competing claims of state and nation, the agrarian vision versus the promises of industrialized economic development and get-rich-quick prosperity of the free soil, free labor movements that bubbled up in the wake of immigration and westward expansion.
This examination of Virginia’s struggle to defend its sovereignty, traditions, and unique identity encapsulates, in the history of a single state, the struggle of an entire nation drifting inexorably toward Civil War.
While Dunn comes down on the side of the north – after all THEY were the party of freedom – she can not reconcile herself to the consequences of their actions [ultimately globalization] nor can she equivocate around the fact that Virginia, and the South, were not only the heirs to the Revolution but also the keepers of its flame. Vascilating between confused and confusing this book reminds of the old criticism that a work may be good and original with the good parts being original or the original parts being good.