Code of the 17th Century Gentleman

During the 17th century, there were several wealthy and prominent business men in the colony, viz: Lawrence Evans, John Chew, Thomas Stegg, George Ludlow and Thomas Burbage. A number of law suits arose in consequence of their defalcations. In the cases of Lawrence and Evans, a Board of Arbitration were appointed by the General Court in 1638. Business in the colony was transacted on a basis of credit (whether the residence was Virginia or England), but much of this debt was impossible to collect. The planter then, after having nurtured and picked his crop, was always subject to the danger of a law suit. In those days, a gentleman could be trusted and his word was his bond and it would appear that those who had left England to find prosperity in the American colonies, maintained class distinctions for very sound reasons. In England, one identified himself by his dress and titles. This practice also became a tradition in the colonies. As for those planters who shirked paying their debts, they sought refuge from their creditors in Maryland.

Source: British State Papers, Colonial, vol. X, Nos. 15, I, II, III; Records of General Court, p. 61.

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