The gentry were a small class of men who dominated the economic, social, and political life ofthrough much of the mid- to late eighteenth century. Of landed but not noble lineage, the gentry established themselves in Virginia as planters relying heavily on the labor first of and then enslaved Africans. As the richest men in Virginia, they dominated colonial government, sitting on the and in the and running Anglican . They constructed large homes, especially in the Tidewater, that dominated the landscape and symbolized their great power. Another symbol of the gentry’s prestige was the inordinate amount of time the planters spent on leisure activities such as gambling and . Over time, however, the gentry’s power began to decline. Already overwhelmed by debt, they had trouble negotiating changes that came with a diversifying economy, religious dissent, and the social shifts that accompanied the American Revolution (1775–1783) and its emphasis on the rights of the common man. Many of the nongentry, drafted into the Continental Army, resented the planters’ ability to avoid the fighting. Nevertheless, the gentry weathered these storms and remained in power well into the nineteenth century.