Money  /  Origin Story

William & Mary's Nottoway Quarter: The Political Economy of Institutional Slavery and Settler Colonialism

The school was funded by colonial taxation of tobacco grown by forced labor on colonized Indian lands.

This essay examines the sources of two historical funding streams used to establish and support the College of William & Mary in Virginia, an institution founded in 1693 to educate elite English colonials and “Western Indians” in North America. Initially, the College was funded, in part, by taxation of colonized Indian lands, Virginia and Maryland colony tobacco exports, and the lucrative trade in hides and furs obtained from Native Americans. Expropriated labor from enslaved persons on tobacco plantations, and their profits, made substantive contributions to the maintenance and support of the college. With new research on William & Mary as a direct financial beneficiary of institutional slavery and the colonization of indigenous territory by non-Native settlers, we examine the intersection of slave labor and Indian treaty land through the documentary evidence about the College’s historical plantation, known as Nottoway Quarter.

In 1718, the College of William & Mary acquired the 2,119-acre plantation in what is today the “Southside” of the Virginia Tidewater region. Over a dozen years earlier, the landscape was first surveyed for English occupation as a result of the House of Burgesses’ removal of the political barrier called the Blackwater Line—a territorial division that separated the Virginia colony from Indian lands south of the Blackwater River. As an outcome of Bacon’s Rebellion and the subsequent 1677 Articles of Peace between the English King and Native leaders of the region, Indian settlements in proximity to the colony were to be surveyed and include a three-mile buffer around each town. The former “Crowns and Lands” of those indigenous polities would thereafter be held in trust by “the Great King of England.” Native signatories to the 1677 treaty included the Nansemond, Nottoway and Weyanoak—all indigenous communities residing below the Blackwater River. The other signatory was the “Queen of Pamunkey,” on behalf of her people and “several scattered Nations [who] do now again own their ancient Subjection.” The agreement, also known as the Treaty of Middle Plantation, was amended in 1680 to include seven additional tribal signatories and was further extended to all Native communities in Maryland. The treaty stipulated that the allied tribes were subservient but semi-sovereign as “tributaries” to the English king. Annually, tribal leaders demonstrated their fealty by presenting the Crown’s governor a tribute of twenty beaver furs and delivering three arrows in lieu of quitrents for their lands.