British taxation—introduced to pay for a British military presence in America—was unexpected by the Virginia gentry and resented. Those Americans began to view British policy as a plot against their liberty. They played leading roles in the Continental Congresses that debated independence, in the fighting of the American Revolution, and in the conception and implementation of a new government. Virginia also provided four of the new nation’s first five presidents. Virginia leaders advocated equality for all but they never considered extending it to women and African Americans.