A Pure and Dignified Society

Illustration of the Old Market at Lynchburg, by James Wells Champney, from Edward King’s The Great South, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

Something of the old Scotch and English manners are still perceptible among the people in this part of Virginia; and there are bits of dialect and phrase which show how little the communities have been affected during the last century by the influences which have so transformed the populations of other sections of America. While England has gone on from change to change, and has even been capable of complete revolution in certain matters, Virginia has altered but little. Until now immigration has had no inducements to come and unlock the treasure-house of the grand mountains of the South-west, and so the people have lived under pretty much the same laws and customs that prevailed in England two centuries ago. Yet the absence of the rushing, turbulent current of immigration has had its compensating advantages in allowing the growth of families in which the hereditary love of culture and refinement, and the strictest attention to those graces and courtesies which always distinguish a pure and dignified society, are preeminently conspicuous.

Edward King, The Great South; A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

A Remarkable Body of Men

View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville & Monticello, taken from Lewis Mountain, by Casimir Bohn, 1856.
View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville & Monticello, taken from Lewis Mountain, by Casimir Bohn, 1856.

The Southern leaders occupied a commanding position. Those leaders constituted a remarkable body of men. Having before them the example of Jefferson, of Madison, of George Mason in Virginia, and of Nathaniel Macon in North Carolina, they gave deep study to the science of government. They were admirably trained as debaters, and they became highly skilled in the management of parliamentary bodies. As a rule they were highly educated, some of them graduates of Northern colleges, a still larger number taking their degrees at Transylvania, in Kentucky, at Chapel Hill, in North Carolina, and at Mr. Jefferson’s peculiar but admirable institution in Virginia. Their secluded modes of life on the plantation gave them leisure for reading and reflection. They took pride in their libraries, pursued the law so far as it increased their equipment for a public career, and devoted themselves to political affairs with an absorbing ambition. Their domestic relations imparted manners that were haughty and sometimes offensive; they were quick to take affront, and they not infrequently brought personal disputation into the discussion of public questions; but they were, almost without exception, men of high integrity, and they were especially and jealously careful of the public money. Too often ruinously lavish in their personal expenditures, they believed in an economical government; and throughout the long period of their domination they guarded the treasury with rigid and unceasing vigilance against every attempt at extravagance and against every form of corruption. James G. Blaine, Twenty Years of Congress.