Colonial America

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What qualities granted status and power in 17th century Virginia?

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Land and wealth provided most of the status in seventeenth century Virginia. One's ability to successfully produce tobacco every year allowed one to amass enough wealth to buy land and slaves and to afford nicer things, such as private tutors for one's children. Slaves were also part of the social status system; the more slaves one had, the more prestigious one's family name was in the community.

Another thing that symbolized one's status in Virginia was one's family name. Many families dated their lineage back to the original Jamestown settlement—these families were quite proud of their lineage and their role in settling the colony. Many families, such as the Custis family and the Lee family, grew into powerful dynasties that shaped Virginia before the American Revolution and beyond.

Many of these families showed their wealth by giving freely to the Anglican Church. One did not have to be personally religious, but it was considered an outward sign of prosperity to have one's own family pew in a popular church in the community.

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