Why Do Virginians Brag So Much?
Dec 1, 2010 at 5:56 AM
Amy Ridenour in History, Humor, Israel

ALT TAGIn 2007, Virginia claimed America started with the settlement of Jamestown in 1607, but the first European settlement of what is now the U.S. was in Florida, and the first English settlement, in North Carolina

After decades of wondering, I'm finally going to ask: Why are Virginians so insecure about their state (excuse me, "commonwealth")?

Is there any other state whose residents are even remotely as likely to irrelevantly toss out some centuries-old factlet just to boast?

ALT TAGThis is an actual tweet

The constant braggadocio makes even residents of South Carolina (not a commonwealth) and Texas (used to be a nation) look modest in comparison.

The trigger for my question after years of endurance is a November 29 email circulated by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli containing the following:

Of course, it goes without saying that you all know that the first Thanksgiving was held in Charles City County, Virginia in 1619 [link added], and the second Thanksgiving was held in Massachusetts in 1621. Just thought I should point that out for those readers not blessed enough to be Virginians.
The email's purpose is to discuss a conflict between two health care laws. I'm sure you can tell.

ALT TAGThe shot heard 'round the world was heard especially keenly in Virginia.

Incidentally, the first Thanksgiving may have been in Florida. Or Canada. Or in Ancient Israel (of which, my husband says, "The Jews wandered a great distance in the desert, but I don't think they got as far afield as Charles City, Virginia."). Heck, for all we now know, the Lost Colony may have gone off to eat putrid poultry with the Croatoans. But the Pilgrims, settling here for religious reasons, get the best press of the U.S. contestants, and if the early Virginians didn't want that, they probably shouldn't have exported tobacco. (No, I'm not forgetting slavery in Virginia; I'm remembering that it existed in New England.)

ALT TAGIndependence Hall. I assume it's in Virginia.

Don't get me wrong. This is not a personal complaint about the work of the Honorable Ken Cuccinelli. I love his health care lawsuit. I love that he stood firm against possible academic fraud at the taxpayer-funded University of Virginia (otherwise known as the Sainted-University-of-Virginia-founded-by-His-Excellency-Thomas Jefferson). And in the past I've pointed out some outlandish bragging by liberal Virginian politicians, too. But really. We have 50 states. Morally, they're equal. ALL of them have contributed to our history.

In other words, relax, Virginians. Even though you haven't done much lately, and Ohio claims the most U.S. presidents, you have a nice little state there.

Truly, you have nothing to be insecure about.

Update on Dec 1, 2010 at 9:45 PM by Registered CommenterAmy Ridenour

A Virginian writes with a different view:

Just read today’s blog on “Why Do Virginians Brag So Much?”  In the article, it was mentioned that Ohio claims to be the birthplace of the most presidents.  May I correct that misinformation?

Actually, that claim belongs to Virginia (surprise!), because eight (8) presidents were born here, while seven (7) were born in Ohio (according to Google).  In fact, Virginia has two nicknames: (a) The Old Dominion, and (b) The Mother of Presidents.

Just for accuracy’s sake, the eight presidents born in Virginia were  Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, (William Henry) Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson.  The seven presidents born in Ohio were Grant, Hayes, Garfield, (Benjamin) Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Harding.

Why do we Virginians brag so much?  Because we can, that’s why!

Michele Hensley

My response:

You certainly can brag, but on the presidency point, it’s less clear that you should.  I associate the presidents with the states with which they associated themselves, and never referred to birthplace.  With that in mind, let’s take a fresh look at your list.

Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Tyler were indisputably Virginians throughout their lives.  Of your remaining three “Virginia” presidents, two, Taylor and Wilson, left by the time they could walk.  Taylor was raised on the Kentucky frontier and later made his home in Louisiana, from which he ran for president.  Wilson was born in Virginia to two Ohio-born parents who lived in Virginia only about seven years; they moved to Georgia around the time of Wilson’s first birthday and he was raised there.  As an adult Wilson is associated with New Jersey, where he lived during his academic career at Princeton, and because he was elected governor of New Jersey.  Wilson did obtain a law degree at UVA, but his undergraduate degree and doctorate were earned in New Jersey and Maryland, respectively.

That leaves William Henry Harrison.  He was born and raised in Virginia, then left that state to serve in the military and as governor of the Indiana territory.  He settled on a farm near Cincinnati and, until he moved to and died in the White House, lived in Ohio for the rest of his life, including service in the U.S. House Representatives and U.S. Senate representing Ohio.  Perhaps the most pro-Virginia source possible, the University of Virginia, has said of Harrison: “As both soldier and statesman, Harrison spent virtually his entire adult life championing [the Northwest Territory].”

I contend that neither Taylor, Wilson, nor Harrison can be considered Virginia presidents, leaving Virginia with five — an august five, to be sure, but five nonetheless.

Now a quick look at your list of seven for Ohio: Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Harding.  I agree with all (Grant did live in three states other than Ohio - MO, IL and NY - during his civilian years, but never for long) except for Benjamin Harrison, who was born and raised in Ohio, but who then permanently settled in Indiana.  So I’d credit Indiana with him.  That leaves Ohio with six presidents, which still beats Virginia, but for the reasons mentioned above I’d add William Henry Harrison to Ohio.

Final score: Ohio 7, Virginia 5.

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