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Patriot Above Profit: A Portrait of Thomas Nelson, Jr. Who Supported the American Revolution with His Purse and Sword

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by Nell Moore Lee
Date Reviewed: April 20, 2004

A biography of Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, third non-royal governor of Virginia, and Brigadier General of the Virginian militia forces. Born in 1738, died in 1789, Nelson fathered thirteen children with his wife Lucy, eleven of which survived into adulthood. Nelson was born a man of wealth, influence, and privilege, all of which he used to support the American revolutionary cause. He put himself directly in harm’s way, commanding troops all over the Virginia countryside, including at the final siege and capitulation at Yorktown. This book is an excellent, in-depth look not only at Nelson’s own life, but at the times and circumstances in which he lived. Though the intermarriages and entangled familial relationships got a little tedious (Nelson was cousin to George Washington, among many, many others), it still made for more interesting reading knowing just what forces were at work. Due to critical shortages of specie, and worthlessness of the credit of the state of Virginia, Nelson time and time again pledged his own funds and property to secure necessary supplies for the Continental forces, and to pay soldiers who often hadn’t seen a dime (or a pence) in over two years. As a result, Nelson died £13,000 pounds in debt. He wasn’t exactly destitute at his passing – he still hand lands, slaves, and other property – but his personal wealth was much depleted, and his family inherited debt rather than wealth. In these ways, he was noble and selfless, and this book serves to illustrate that brilliantly.

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