During colonial times, the Commonwealth of Virginia was an empire within a larger empire, maintaining claims to various portions of the American continent, and populated by a small cadre of powerful landowners who furthered their economic interests through the use of chattel slavery. Gradually, an established aristocracy entrenched itself in the agriculturally rich Tidewater region. This was the Virginia that Thomas Jefferson was born into. As a frontier youth of sorts, Jefferson had a clear sense of the vast American canvas that the several European powers were struggling to control. The British did much to advance their claims in America with a victory in the Seven Years War, but incurred severe debts in the process. With a floundering enterprise in India also depleting
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