During the 19th century eastern Virginia suffered an economic decline. The planters tried to rejuvenate their depleted soil by switching from tobacco to general farming. Many farmers abandoned their fields, and the population of the state declined between 1800 and 1840. Because of its surplus of slaves, one of Virginia’s most profitable enterprises was selling them to slaveholders in the Deep South (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida), where there was a cotton boom. Cotton plantations used a great many black slaves. Slave insurrections, such as the one by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 and the one by Nat Turner in 1831, crystallized feelings over slavery and intensified differences with the western part of Virginia, where antislavery sentiment was strong.
Small farmers in western Virginia grew increasingly resentful of Tidewater domination. Their demands for proportional representation, not satisfied by a new constitution in 1829, were finally met in 1851, when another constitution granted voting rights to all adult white males, reapportioned representation in the legislature, and called for the popular election of the governor, who had previously been selected by the legislature. By then, however, economic differences had split the two sections. In eastern Virginia, agricultural production had increased as a result of scientific improvements, the growing of wheat on a large scale, and state-financed construction of railroads, canals, and turnpikes that reduced transportation costs. Meanwhile, northwestern Virginia remained, for the most part, a land of small, semi-isolated farms, with an emerging commercial and industrial center on the Ohio River at Wheeling.
The lack of railroad links with the east forced the westerners to depend on the Northern states for transportation of their products. When Virginia followed other Southern agricultural states in seceding from the Union in 1861, the western counties took advantage of a long-awaited opportunity to detach themselves from Virginia, forming the state of West Virginia. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
Photos of European countries to visit
Photos of Asian countries to visit
Photos of America