Reviving Virginia

BEAUTIFUL Virginia, it seems, is to become at last what nature meant it for, — a Northern State, one of the empire States of the Union. There was a time when the whole coast, from Florida to Canada, was called Virginia. The men who afterward named the northern half of it New England had not the prophetic gift; for New England never was a new England. The true new England of North America was Old Virginia, with its landed aristocracy, its ignorant and helpless laboring class, its established, intolerant church.

Our pride in belonging to the lordly human race is apt to be taken down a little when we discover how powerfully and how long the destinies of even the most advanced nations have been influenced by individuals strikingly inferior. There was a man living in London, two hundred and sixty years ago, who was, in his person, a lumpish clown, with a rolling eye, a slobbery mouth, and a shambling gait; who had the air and demeanor of a conceited, ill-grown boy ; who was sensual, profuse, mean, and cruel; who was credulous, whimsical, and prejudiced ; whom almost any impudent knave could govern, and no worthy man influence. He was not a native of England. If he had been cast upon the streets of London, poor and friendless, he would have passed his days, perhaps, as clerk of a poorhouse or beadle to a charity school. The boys would have laughed at him as he aped the dignity of the schoolmaster, or the paupers would have pitied him as a Scotch body who was weak in his upper story, poor man.

But it would be hard to name a person who has lived in the British empire for the last three centuries whose residence there has had consequences so important and so enduring as that of James Stuart of Scotland. What struggles it cost all that was noblest in England to keep him in check, and get rid of his mean posterity ! We feel him here in America to this day. One of our most beautiful rivers bears his name, and the two capes that invite the commerce of the world, open-armed, to enter Chesapeake Bay are called by the names of his sons. No one can study the map of the United States without perceiving that Chesapeake Bay is naturally the chief highway into the heart of the continent on the Atlantic side, and that somewhere on its shores, or on the banks of one of its tributary streams, would naturally have grown the chief commercial city of the New World. A navigable bay nearly two hundred miles long, from three to twenty miles wide, and deep enough almost everywhere to float the Great Eastern ; with such rivers emptying into it as the Potomac, the James, the Rappahannock, and the Susquehanna, from the head-waters of which is the shortest cut to the Ohio and the great river system of the interior ; with not merely a harbor, or a dozen harbors, but with hundreds of square miles of harbor ; and with a country behind these waters of unequalled fertility and convenience, —who would not point to this portion of the map and say, “There is the natural seat of empire ! There should be the London of America ! ” And so perhaps it might have been, but for this poor man, James Stuart, and another poor man, a garrulous, credulous Spanish doctor, named Nicholas Menardes.

As to Stuart, he cut off one of the best heads in his dominions, — that of the father of Virginia, its proprietor and colonizer, who first of all men made the remark just quoted with regard to the seat of empire. It was Ralegh who kept telling his captains not to flounder about among the sands of the Carolina coast, and not to go so far north as to encounter ice and cold, but to fix his projected city of Ralegh on the safe, deep waters of the Chesapeake. Those who look into Ralegh’s generous attempts to colonize Virginia will observe that he was a man who could be taught by his own mistakes. He, if any man, would have learned how to plant a colony ; but James Stuart locked him in the Tower, and caused him to spend the best years of his life in writing a book instead of founding (to use his own words) “ a new England in America.” When, at length, after twenty-nine years of failure, a little band of men were lodged in Virginia who stayed there, it was the despotic charter and unwise rules drawn up, in part, by the king himself, that rendered the first years of the Colony’s history a catalogue of disasters and mistakes. But that was not the worst. There was a time in the early day of the Colony (Captain Newport coming home every summer to England, bringing pretty good news, and some cedar and sassafras, worth then £312 per ton in London) when the great body of Puritans, oppressed by King James and Archbishop Bancroft, cast their eyes toward Virginia as a place of refuge. If the king had merely winked at their departure and permitted the free exercise of their religion, a thousand Puritan families would have been settled upon the James while the timbers of the Mayflower were still growing in the forest. The emigration was prevented, the Church of England was established, and Virginia remained a penal settlement until the timbers of the Mayflower were rotten,1 — much more than a penal settlement, it is true ; for the ancestors of Washington settled there when the Colony was only fifty years old ; but still a penal settlement.

The Puritans are not altogether lovely in modern eyes ; but they had in them the stuff of which empires are made. They would have sent those eighty women packing. They might have saved beautiful Virginia from the pollution of tobacco. They might have rendered the Chesapeake region the seat of empire in America, and kept it such forever.

Tobacco, however, might have proved too much even for the Puritans ; and tobacco involved slavery. A colony must have something to send abroad which can be converted into money. New England, from the beginning, had codfish, mackerel, and whales ; and soon had staves, boats, schooners, and rum. But Virginia, after a weak attempt at silk-worms, having exhausted the sassafras, could hit upon nothing so convenient for bringing in a little money as tobacco ; which gave her a hundred and fifty years of wealth and pride, paid for by a hundred years of decline, decay, and humiliation, now nearly spent. What other choice had she ? Wheat was out of the question, from the scarcity of labor and the length of the voyage. Indian-corn is not relished in Europe to this day. The good fishinggrounds are far to the north. The indomitable Puritans might have found or made something that would have answered the purpose, in the absence of the rage for tobacco ; but the Puritans were not there, and all Europe was beginning to smoke its pipe.

Civilized man escaped the despotism of tobacco for nearly a century after Columbus first saw the Bahama Indians twisting up brown leaves into a roll, putting one end into their mouths and lighting the other. Tobacco-seed was soon taken to Spain ; and it was a fashionable thing, about 1550, to have a few of the dark green, luxuriant tobacco-plants in the gardens of grandees and princes. The weed was not much used in Europe, before one Doctor Menardes of Seville came home from America, about 1564, and wrote his once famous book entitled “Joyful News from the New-found World.” Curious readers may find in some of our old libraries John Frampton’s English translation of the same, published in London, in 1578, the very year in which Ralegh began to work toward planting a colony in America. In those days men still believed in “taking physic,” with childlike faith; and the joyful news which the worthy Doctor Menardes brought from the newfound world was, that it produced a marvellous variety of precious drugs, odorous gums, medicinal oils, roots, and herbs, seventy of which he describes. Upon sarsaparilla, liquid amber, “ Benjamin,” radix China, and, indeed, upon most of his seventy topics, he discourses with brevity and moderation; but when he comes to speak of “ tabaco and his virtues,” and of sassafras, — that fragrant root just discovered by “ our Spaniards ” in Florida, — he expands and grows extravagant. It was evidently Menardes’s eulogium upon sassafras which, for many years, made it so popular a medicine in Europe that it paid the cost of several important voyages. This harmless root really plays a part in the history of the colonization of North America.

But it was his discourse upon tobacco that gave to Doctor Menardes’s work its chief historical importance, its immense and lasting influence. Virginia was forty years, counting from Ralegh’s first attempt to colonize, in getting ready to raise tobacco ; and during the whole of that period Menardes’s book was circulating in Spain, France, and England, exciting curiosity and wonder respecting the plant, and spreading abroad the most absurd notions of its value and power. The Indians, he says, used tobacco in healing the wounds received in battle, and took a decoction of it as a medicine for the diseases to which they were subject. “ The hearbe tabaco,” as we learn from Frampton’s translation, “hath particular vertue to heale griefes of the head,” when the leaves are “layde hotte to the griefe.” “ In griefes of the brest,” too, “it worketh a marvellous effect,” and “ in griefes of windes,” also. “ In one thing, the women that dwel in the Indias doe celebrate this hearbe, that is, in the euill breathing at y° mouth of children, when they are ouerfilled with meate, and also of olde people, anoynting their bellies with lampe oyl, and laying some of those leaues, in ashes hotte to their bellies, & also to theyr shoulders, for it doeth take away the naughty breathing.” Toothache, chilblains, rheumatism, “ griefe of the jointes,” the bites of venomous snakes, carbuncles, old sores, new cuts, all were cured by this wonder-working plant.

But even its healing virtues were not so remarkable as its mysterious effects upon the soul. “ The Indians, for their pastime, doe take the smoke of the Tabaco, to make themselves drunke withall, and to see the visions, and thinges that represent ynto them that wherein they doe delight: and other times they take it to knowe their businesse, and successe, because conformable to that, which they have seene beyng drunke therewith, euen so they iudge of their businesse. And as the Deuil is a deceauer, & hath the knowledge of the vertue of hearbes, so he did shew the vertue of this Hearb, that by the meanes thereof, they might see their imaginations, and visions, that he hath represented to them, and by that meanes deceiue them.” It served them, also, for drink, for food, and for rest, when they travelled in desert places. “ They take a little ball of leaves, and put it betweene the lower lippe and the teeth, and goe chewing it all the time that they trauell, and that which they chewe, they swallowe downe, and in this sort they iourney, three or foure dayes, without hauing neede of meate, or drinke, for they feele no hunger, drieth, nor weakenesse, nor their trauell doth trouble them.”

Nor was it Indians alone who had experienced the healing power and soothing charm of “the tabaco.” A great lady in Portugal had been cured of a cancer by applications of the leaves; and one of “the cookes” of Lord Nicot, French ambassador in Portugal, who had “almost cutte off his thombe with a greate chopping knyfe,” was speedily healed by the same means. “ Lord Nicot” made known the virtues of tobacco in France, which was the cause of the French naming the plant nicotine.

Who could believe such extravagance ? Who? Everybody in 1580! Sir Walter Ralegh read this book of Menardes’s before Ralph Lane brought him home from Virginia the pipes and tobacco with which he amused Queen Elizabeth, and set the fashion of smoking at court. Ralegh, doubtless, believed the substance of Menardes’s statements, and attached something of that virtue to the healing herbs employed by savages which people now do who run after an “ Indian doctor.” The common pill-advertisements of the present hour are believed by half of the human race, because half the human race is as ignorant of the human system as the whole race was in 1580. The volume ran through edition after edition in England, and was the immediate cause of luring Virginia into the culture of tobacco and the employment of slaves.

As long as the virgin soil lasted near the navigable waters, Virginia throve, kept her coach and six, gave royal banquets, had “ a hundred and twenty ” servants about the house and stables, and sent her sons to Eton and Oxford. But it was a baseless prosperity: no towns, no manufactures, no accumulations, no middle class ; nothing to fall back upon when the soil was worn out and negroes rose in price. And then, when the tide of emigration set in, Virginia repelled the new brain and blood that would have re-created her. Emigrants could find no room between those vast, encumbered estates ; and if they could have found room, they would have shrunk from contact and competition with slaves. The reviving tide swept by, and sought the dense wildernesses and treeless plains of the West. To this hour there are in Virginia, for every cultivated acre of land, two acres and a half that have never been ploughed. Nearly twenty-eight millions of acres wholly unimproved !

Readers who went to the war from homes in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and marched, weeks at a time, through the inviting valleys of Virginia, must often have felt how unnaturally the population of the country has been distributed. Human beings coming to a new continent would not, except for some strong, overruling reason, avoid a fertile region and agreeable climate near at hand, and deliberately plant themselves in districts remote and difficult of access, where the winters are long, tempestuous, and severe, and the summers short and uncertain. An American family going to live in Europe would not naturally choose Norway, if they could just as well have a villa in the south of France ; but they might, naturally enough, hesitate to place themselves in the power of a perjured usurper, and so prefer honest Norway after all. Virginia, with its Mediterranean Chesapeake, is the France of our map; and yet for many a year the arriving multitude and the migrating Yankee passed it by.

But all that is over. Primogeniture and the Established Church were abolished by Jefferson and his friends ninety years ago; the war set free the slaves ; the peace put the great estates into the market, “ in quantities to suit purchasers ” ; and tobacco is an unpopular crop. Half of Virginia is for sale. All round the Chesapeake the land is coming into garden tillage, and the Northern cities, as we all know, are daily supplied with vegetables and fruit from the garden farms of the Old Dominion. Formerly, landlords used to engage to supply their tables with everything “the season affords”; but now fruits and vegetables have all seasons for their own, and no man can tell what month of the year he is living in by what he sees on his table. We learn from a late report of Mr. Horace Capron, Commissioner of Agriculture, that so trifling an article as peanuts has much importance in the reviving Virginia of to-day. “ The greater part of Eastern Virginia,” he tells us, “ was by turns occupied by both of the contending armies ; and, as every farmer raised peanuts enough for his family and some to spare, their merits became extensively known among the soldiers ; so that when the armies were disbanded a knowledge of them was carried to every part of the country. So rapid has been its extension that the crop of each successive year has been threefold greater than that of the year preceding, and at prices fully maintained. The crop of 1868 in Virginia is estimated to have aggregated about three hundred thousand bushels, the average price of which was about $2.75 per bushel.” It was probably twice as great in 1869 ; for when farmers find they can get a hundred and twentyfive dollars’ worth of peanuts, — by no means such an unfamiliar luxury in any part of the country as Mr. Capron seems to think,—with easy work, from an acre of land, and only sixty dollars’ worth of tobacco, by very hard work, they are likely to try a few more acres of peanuts the next year. This sudden extension of the peanut culture is a curious illustration of the incidental benefits that come sometimes from so desolating an evil as civil war.

Virginia, then, ceases to repel. It becomes an interesting question, whether the population of the country, hitherto unnaturally distributed, hitherto repelled from the regions most inviting, will redistribute itself in a natural manner, now that the repulsive system has ceased to exist. In a word, will Virginia resume that rank among the States of the Union, and keep it, which tobacco and cheap negroes gave her a hundred years ago ? She was first in 1770. She is sixth in 1870. What will she be in 1970? We need not venture a prediction. It suffices now to know that Virginia revives, progresses, and looks with growing confidence to the future. Whether first, or second, or tenth, in a hundred years, there are solid reasons for the conviction that Virginia will then be a far more flourishing, happy, and powerful Commonwealth than she was in what some of her citizens still regard as the day of her glory, the good old time of mismanagement and profusion, when such a farmer as General Washington could put down in his Diary that he possessed one hundred and one cows, and yet had to buy butter for his table, and when a planter of good habits, working three thousand acres and five hundred slaves, could hardly make both ends meet.

The cheering sign at present is, that new men are seeking homes, and new capital is seeking investment, in Virginia. Without an infusion of new blood and money, the progress of the State would, for a long time, be slow; because it is not merely by better farming and more various crops that a State can rise to imperial rank. As the Erie Canal made New York the Empire State, so we find that every one of the leading States of the Union received the impulse toward greatness from some one scheme of what we style “internal improvement.” Some postroad, some canal, some railroad, the improved navigation of some river, or an improved mode of navigating all rivers, gave the impulse of every State noted for the rapidity of its rise. Indeed, the whole history of human progress is summed up in the one word, Intercommunication. Isolation is poverty, barbaric pride, lethargy, and death. The supreme effort of the race now is to put every man on earth within easy reach of every other man.

If Virginia is the last of the great Northern States to create a highway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Western waters, it has not been from want of desire and effort. From the head of ship navigation on the James River— namely, Richmond — to the nearest navigable point of the nearest navigable branch of the Ohio, it is only three hundred and forty-three miles. It is the shortest cut of all, — twelve miles shorter than from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, —and yet it terminates at a point on the Ohio two hundred and fifty two miles nearer Cincinnati than Pittsburg, and far below the worst shallows and sand-bars of the Ohio River. The mere shortness of the distance early called attention to this as the natural and proper pathway to the Western country. The desirableness of avoiding the precarious, tortuous navigation of the Upper Ohio was another strong point in its favor ; and it was afterwards ascertained that the curves and grades along this short cut averaged more favorably for a highway than any other line that can be drawn between the waters of the ocean and those of the river system of the West. These three facts — shortest cut, easiest grades, and the two hundred and fifty worst miles of the Ohio avoided — have had their due effect upon the more enterprising minds of Virginia. We need not tell any one acquainted with the Richmond of other days, that the object most fervently desired there, and most frequently the topic of conversation among men of business, was the construction of a public work that should render those three great facts available for the advancement of Virginia. If warm desire and eloquent talk could tunnel mountains and buy T rails, Virginia would long ago have had both a canal and a railroad from the James to the Ohio.

The father of our American system of internal improvement was George Washington, planter, of Virginia. The splendor of his fame as patriot, warrior, and statesman obscures in some degree the homelier merits of the citizen and the pioneer. His public life, however, was only incidental; it was forced upon him, not sought ; endured, not enjoyed. At the head-quarters of the army, and still more at the seat of government, he led a glorious life, it is true, but a constrained, unnatural one, ever anxious, to use his own admirable and touching words, “to collect his duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected.” This noble solicitude made him seem, to the slighter men around him, slow and over-cautious. He who would know the man aright, the true George Washington, must see him on one of his own excellent horses, following up, with a party of hunters and half-breeds, the head-waters of the James or the Potomac, piercing the Alleghanies, and roaming the wilderness beyond in search of branches of the Ohio, by which the commerce of the Western rivers and lakes could find its way to the rivers of Virginia. Here he was at home. Here his glance was bold and free. Here he appeared, what he really was, a leader of his generation, and showed that his pre-eminence in Virginia was not due merely to the accident of his possessing a great fortune, but to the cast and breadth of his mind, which was truly continental. He, first of all men, was fully possessed of that American spirit which has just brought the two oceans within a hundred and fifty hours of one another. He was the forerunner of De Witt Clinton, as of the men who have since created Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Francisco.

The broad Potomac which swept by his own front door he had personallytraced to its sources in the Alleghanies, examined its falls and obstructions, and sought out the branch of the Ohio nearest Lake Erie ; musing, meanwhile, upon the best modes of creating, out of these materials, the great national highway between the ocean and the waters of the West. How intent he was upon this scheme, how clearly he saw its advantages, we discover in the length and particularity of his correspondence on the subject with Jefferson and other Virginia friends. For that day, however, it was too much for Virginia to attempt, and Washington fixed upon the improvement of the navigation of the James as the nearest approach to a realization of his plan then possible. A canal seven miles long round the falls at Richmond adds two hundred and twenty miles to the barge navigation of the river, and makes a water highway to the mountains. Companies were formed at Richmond for the improvement of both rivers, and a grateful legislature presented to General Washington, as the originator of both schemes, fifty hundred - pound shares in the Potomac Company, and a hundred hundreddollar shares in the James River Company. He declined both gifts, of course; but in his will he distinctly claims to have “suggested the vast advantages which would derive from the extension of its inland navigation up der legislative patronage.”

He not only suggested the scheme, but he felt for it the warm affection which men cherish for the children of their brain. To bring the commerce of the Western country to the ocean by the shortest cut and easiest grades, — namely, across Virginia to the waters of the Chesapeake, — this was Washington’s conception; and it was the first American scheme of the kind of which we have any knowledge. On various errands in furtherance of the general plan Washington crossed the mountains as many as five times.

There are readers of this magazine who have heard the late venerable Albert Gallatin describe the interview which, when a young man, he chanced to witness in the heart of the Alleghanies. General Washington and a number of trappers and pioneers had met with the purpose of ascertaining the best practicable gap in the mountains for the road between the two water systems. The idea of tunnelling the mountains, and lifting a canal-boat two thousand feet into the air, and letting it softly down on the Ohio slope, had not yet entered the most daring mind. Washington took for granted the necessity of a “carrying place,” and he desired to discover the happy medium between the shortest and the easiest. Old woodsman as he was, he knew that the deer and the buffalo are the first explorers of the wilderness, and that it is the hunter who first becomes acquainted with the Reports of those fourfooted engineers. So he invited the hunters and settlers to meet him at a log - hut in the mountains, a “ landoffice” consisting of one room fourteen feet square, containing a bed, a small pine table, and a wooden bench. The General, upon his arrival with his nephew, took his seat at the table, and the hunters crowded into the cabin and stood around the table, a few finding an advantageous place upon the land agent’s bed. Young Gallatin was in the front of the leather - stockinged group, near the central figure. Pen in hand, the Father of his Country questioned each pioneer in turn, and recorded the substance of his replies. When all had spoken, the young gentleman from Switzerland fancied he saw the path of which the General was in search. Washington still hesitating, Gallatin broke in with rash and reckless words: “ O, it is plain enough; that is evidently the most practicable place.” All the company stared, astonished at so gross a breach of politeness in a youth toward the most illustrious of living men. The General laid down his pen, and cast a reproachful look at the culprit; but, resuming his inquiries, he soon made up his mind, and turning to the intruder said, as he again put down his pen, “ You are right, sir.” Thus was established the road through the Alleghanies, which has been used ever since as a highway, and will be used forever. “It was always so,” Mr. Gallatin would say, “ with General Washington: he was slow in forming an opinion, and never decided till he knew he was right.” That night the General slept upon the bed ; while his nephew, the agent, and Gallatin lay upon the floor wrapped in buffaloskins.

General Washington did not live to see his project executed; nor has it yet been executed. Not a bushel of corn from the Western country reaches the ocean by way of Virginia ; and if a ton of coal from the head-waters of the Kanawha occasionally gets to Richmond, it is carried down the Kanawha to the Ohio ninety miles, down the Ohio and Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, and so round by the ocean to the James River, — a circuit of four thousand miles. All this swoop of travel, because Washington’s scheme wants the finishing touch, the last hundred miles or so of easy road-making !

And yet, from the day when the General had his conference with the hunters to the present hour, Virginia has been trying to accomplish it,— trying hard, too, and spending money more freely than could have been expected. The old James River Company, founded by Washington, made that seven-mile canal round the falls near Richmond, and cleared the river of obstructions as far back as Buchanan, in Botecourt County, where the Blue Ridge interposes a barrier. It was a long stride toward the Kanawha (the nearest navigable branch of the Ohio), and it was a priceless good to Virginia. Then, in 1823, a second James River Company, succeeding to the rights of the first, improved all that the first had done, and added several important works of its own. First, it constructed a canal through the mountains, seven miles and a half long, which enabled boats to get as far west as Covington, which is two hundred and five miles from Richmond. Next, it made a pretty good turnpike road from Covington to the Ohio, at the point where the Big Sandy enters it, a distance of two hundred and eighty miles. Lastly, it improved the navigation of the Kanawha by dams and sluices, so that steamboats could more easily ascend it, and bring passengers sixty miles nearer Covington before taking to the road. This was more than a boon to Virginia; it was a national good; it was an approximation to Washington’s idea. Henry Clay, when he was getting into the vale of years, found this way of travelling to Washington much more agreeable than a six weeks’ horseback ride, with the chance of drowning at the swollen fords of so many mountain streams. They still point out, along the line of the Covington Turnpike, the houses where he and his merry party used to halt for the night, and spend a long evening at whist.

But the age of turnpikes passed. In 1835, when the Erie Canal was pouring the wealth of the great West into New York, Virginia, always believing that she possessed the true pathway, prepared for a supreme effort. The James River and Kanawha Company was chartered, — the State being the chief stockholder, — and Virginia set about constructing a canal between the two rivers, the plan of which included a nine-mile tunnel through the Alleghanies at an elevation of seventeen hundred feet. Upon this work Virginia has been fitfully toiling ever since. Eleven millions of dollars have been spent upon it, and it will cost forty millions more to complete it. It could be finished in four years, if the forty millions were forthcoming; but there is no immediate prospect of Virginia’s having such a sum at her disposal.

Did the State overestimate her resources, then ? Probably the means could have been found for the execution of the project, if, in its infancy, a new mode of transportation had not been introduced, which proved more attractive to capital. Within a year after the formation of the Canal Company the State began to push a railroad westward, — that is to say, a railroad company was formed, and the State, according to its ancient custom, subscribed for three fifths of the stock. Forty-four years having elapsed, we find that it is the railroad, not the canal, that will realize Washington’s dream ; for the railroad has overcome its worst obstacles, and is going on to speedy completion. By various companies, under different charters, the State had constructed a railroad from Richmond to the mountains, nearly two hundred miles, and expended three millions and a quarter in preparing for the laying of the rails beyond the mountains, when the war broke out, compelling us all to devote our energies and our means to the work of destruction. The Alleghanies had been tunnelled at eight places. One tunnel a mile long, and seven shorter tunnels, had been finished, or nearly finished. The heavy embankments and deep excavations requisite in the mountain region were either done or were in an advanced stage of forwardness, and trains were running to a station within ten miles of Covington. Then all constructive works were brought to a stand-still, while we fought to undo the mistakes of men who died two hundred years before any of us were born.

When the war ended, Virginia was so torn, impoverished, and desolate, that if this road could have been finished by waving a wand over the incomplete parts, she could scarcely have lifted an arm for the purpose. In 1866 the two companies which had executed the work so far — one the part east of the mountains, and the other the part west — were consolidated into the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company. But three fifths of the stock of these companies had been the property of Virginia, and the Virginia which had subscribed so liberally had ceased to exist. There were two Virginias in 1866, each having rights in these works, but neither able to complete them. Both legislatures, however, comprehended the situation. Both knew that, unassisted, they could not finish the road, and that its prompt completion was the supreme interest of both. Hence, they agreed to surrender their rights to the new company, on condition that it should go forward and perform the work. In other words, they said to Wall Street: “Here you see two hundred miles of war-worn, battered railroad-track ; likewise, a dozen tunnels, finished and unfinished ; also, a great many miles of embankment and excavation. unharmed by war and weather ; and a large number of bridges, more or less sound : take all this property, on the simple condition of converting and completing it into a substantial railroad, that shall connect the James with the Ohio, and open a new highway between the ocean and the great West.”

It was a difficult task to undertake in the second year of peace, with a Pacific Railroad clamoring for money in every county, and the debt system still in debate. Nevertheless, Wall Street, after due hesitation, accepted the offer. The Empire State of the nineteenth century joined hands with the Empire State of the eighteenth. It is really a pleasure to read over the list of officers of this Chesapeake and Ohio Company, and observe how the two States are blended in its counsels : President, C. P. Huntington of New York; Vice - President, Williams C. Wickham of Virginia; Treasurer and Secretary, James J. Tracy of New York; Counsellors, John B. Baldwin of Virginia, and James H. Storrs of New York; Chief Engineer, H. D. Whitcomb of the Universe. Then, in the board of directors we find such New-Yorkers as William H. Aspinwall, David Stewart, William B. Hatch, A. A. Low, and Jonas G. Clark; and such representative Virginians as John Echols of Staunton, Joseph R. Anderson of Richmond, and H. Chester Parsons of West Virginia. Philadelphia is represented by Pliny Fisk. This is as it should be, each State contributing of its best; the Old Dominion giving to the work ancient lineage, hereditary character, and a proportion of capital, while the New Dominion offers giltedged names, business experience, and millions.

During the four years which have passed since the formation of the company the old track has been placed and kept in good order ; the road has been carried through the mountains to Covington, and, recently, to the White Sulphur Springs. There is now a good railroad from Richmond to the boundary line between Virginia and West Virginia, a distance of two hundred and twenty-seven miles. Between that point and the head of navigation on the Kanawha the distance is one hundred and seventeen miles. The company intend, however, to fix their principal terminus on the Ohio itself, at or near its junction with the Big Sandy, which is two hundred miles west of the White Sulphur Springs. Upon this last and easiest stretch much expensive work has been done ; all the surveys have been made; and it is designed to push on the work more rapidly than has been possible during the last four years. There is less pressure upon capital now than there has lately been, and the hour is favorable for inviting its co-operation. Ten millions of dollars will carry out the scheme of Washington, and the work can be executed in time for his birthday in February, 1872.

We feel more than a sentimental interest in the completion of this road. It would be a gratification, of course, merely to see the dream of Washington and the hope of Virginia realized, after eighty-seven years of effort, expenditure, and disappointment. It is reassuring, also, to see New York and Virginia uniting in a public work after a period of estrangement and contention. It would gratify every well-constituted person to know that the best portions of the two Virginias, made accessible by this road, were filling up with a virtuous and energetic population. But the reasons which justify our calling attention to the project are of a more general and more national character.

The country wants the power which nature has deposited in the wonderful valley of the Kanawha. This branch of the Ohio resembles the Monongahela, and is a tranquil stream, nearly a hundred miles long, flowing between lofty banks. Half-way up these lofty banks there are seams of coal, from three to fifteen feet in thickness. The Kanawha coal is of three kinds, bituminous, cannel, and splint ; and of all three the deposits are immense. In. speaking of coal, we always feel the need of a national survey of the mineral products of the country ; for when a man finds a piece of something black lying about his farm, he is in danger of being seized with a mania that causes him to regard his farm as the centre of the finest coal deposit in the world. The Kanawha really appears to merit that description ; for it not only contains more coal than the Monongahela, but it furnishes some exceedingly valuable kinds which the Monongahela does not. The cannel or candle coal (so called because it will give a steady, candle-like flame) is brought round by sea to the Atlantic cities, where it is sold at fifteen and twenty dollars a ton. It costs at the Kanawha mines two dollars a ton. When the Chesapeake and Ohio Road is opened it can be sold in New York for eleven dollars, and we can all have a blazing lump of it in our grates, and do without the three hundred thousand tons of similar coal now brought from England and Nova Scotia. Our gas can be cheaper, and our workers in iron will have a new and apparently inexhaustible source of coal supply. The splint coal of the Kanawha has a particular value for the smelters of iron, since it is free from sulphur. Of this kind of coal the quantity is very great; “ fifty thousand tons of coal to the acre, in a belt of country ten miles wide.” The same authority — a respectable engineer — adds the following: " The coal of the Kanawha is regularly stratified, the strata nearly horizontal, and situated above the water-level with from four to seven seams, one above the other, ranging in thickness from five to twelve feet of the best cannel, splint, and bituminous coals.”

The country must have this coal. The river cities of the West want a source of supply less precarious than that of the Monongahela, communication with which is sometimes suspended by ice or by drouth when the need of coal is most pressing. The Atlantic cities want it, that one of the necessaries of life may be cheaper, and that one of the elements of power may be surer.

As in the region of Monongahela, so also in the valley of the Kanawha, nature has so placed iron and coal that they can be easily brought together; and, consequently, we may see rising somewhere in that valley another Wheeling, another Pittsburg, the iron landed at the front door and the coal coming in at the back. Nature having repeated herself in the creation of these two most remarkable streams, man may follow her example. If so, the swarthy inhabitants of the town will not lack food, for this is one of those regions of the Ohio valley where men point to fields and say, “ They have yielded fifty, sixty, eighty successive crops of corn without manure.” The three States of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia meet at the angle formed by the junction of the Ohio with the Big Sandy; and that point is the centre of a region which for natural fertility, as well as for the value of its mineral products, is probably unequalled in North America.

There is a weightier reason for the opening of this road. Any one who, after moving about a few weeks in New England, comes upon one of the great lines that connect the East with the West, must have been struck with the contrast between the quiet, small, toy-like trains of the local roads and the thundering immensity of those going West. In travelling southward, too, we are surprised to find the trains dwindling from a dozen cars to three, and even to one, before we have gone much past Richmond, and the speed diminishing from thirty miles an hour sure to fifteen miles uncertain. The vital currents of the human body do not more necessarily flow up and down than the tide of travel and transportation in the United States moves east and west. Away up in Northern Vermont near the Canada line we have seen twelve steaming car-loads of miserable Mormons on their way through Canada toward Utah ; and on such roads as the Erie, New York Central, Pennsylvania Central, and Baltimore and Ohio, the number and length of the trains are a constant wonder.

To be able to get and send across the continent easily, swiftly, cheaply, safely, at any point from the Isthmus of Darien to Quebec, is now, and will ever be, the fundamental condition of American development and prosperity. Roads running north and south are branches and feeders. Roads running east and west are trunk.

Of late years the West has been constructing railroads faster than the East, on such easy terms do those prairies lend themselves to the transit of the iron horse. We stick at our five highways between the ocean and the Western roads, — Grand Trunk, New York Central, Erie, Pennsylvania Central, and Baltimore and Ohio, — and these are not enough. If they were all managed in the best manner, by honest men intelligent enough to know that the public interest and their own interest are one and the same, still they would be insufficient. At present, a traveller does not have to go west of the Mississippi before he reaches regions where it pays a farmer better to thrust his magnificent long yellow ears of corn into his stove and burn them for fuel than sell them at the nearest station for transportation East. As fast as his capital allows he converts his corn into pork, and in that shape it pays him to send it to us. But go a few hundred miles farther west, and you find yourself beyond the line from which even a barrel of pork can be sent to the ocean at a profit to the farmer. Wheat is more compact than corn, but the line is soon reached where the farmer finds it better to let the rats devour it and the rust destroy it than sell it at the railroad station. What is the question of to-day in Western minds ? It is this : “ How shall those three lines — the corn line, the wheat line, the pork line — be moved back a thousand miles ?”

It can be done only by cheaper transportation. Reducing the cost of transporting a bushel of corn one cent per hundred miles adds many millions of acres of corn-land to our sources of supply. For many years the favorite scheme in the West for cheapening transportation was a system of shipcanals so connected that a steamship could enter the continent by the Hudson River and leave it by the Mississippi, steaming all the way. Of late years the canal project has apparently declined in public favor, and a grand railroad scheme seems taking its place, — a four-track railroad, as straight as it can be made, from New York to the Mississippi River, for freight only, upon which trains shall start every fifteen minutes, and run ten miles an hour. The friends of both these schemes rely upon Congress to furnish capital or credit, which Congress will be slow to grant. In due time, however, both these plans may be executed ; because within a century we shall require not merely additional highways across the continent, but every one which nature favors and man can execute. What has hitherto been done in the way of making the continent accessible is the merest nothing to what will be done ; for freedom, ease, safety, and cheapness of intercommunication is, we repeat, the first necessity of this republic.

We have in the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad one more outlet to the productions of the West, and one more inlet to the productions of the East. It supersedes nothing, is the rival of nothing ; it merely adds to our present means of communication that highway which nature most plainly suggests to the intelligence of man, and which nature did suggest to the intelligence of man before one of the existing lines had been thought of.

We need on the Atlantic coast another great seaport, deep enough for all vessels, and accessible at all seasons. If New York must remain our London, — which is far from certain,— there may rise at a terminus of this road, where there is as yet no more than a landing-place, the Liverpool of the New World. Liverpool was of small account in the year 1800. It is one of the numerous offspring of the cotton-gin. An advantage that seems trifling — a few miles of distance the less, fifty cents on a bale of cotton or ten cents on a barrel of flour saved, three feet deeper water — suffices to turn a great current of trade into a new channel, and change a seaside village into a commercial mart. What has occurred before may occur again. The West is associated in all minds with rapid growth and startling changes; but perhaps the East may take its turn and give the world something of the kind to wonder at.

If the city of New York had a government strong, intelligent, and pure, which could comprehend and improve the city’s opportunity, — a government which could raise a hundred millions of dollars within the next ten years, and invest it wisely in making the island cheaply and swiftly traversable in every direction, in widening it by half a dozen bridges or tunnels, in lengthening it by taking in Governor’s Island and filling up the Harlem River, — if New York had such a government, or a reasonable hope of it, then we should say it would remain forever the chief seaport town of the Western continent. But it has no such government or reasonable hope of one. It seems the helpless prey of the spoiler, who plunders and blunders on, regardless of the avenging lamp-post. The city is crammed and packed and heaped with people, because a belt of fever and ague twenty miles wide hems the city in, and it takes two hours to get on the healthy side of that belt. So crowded and obstructed are the wharves, so bad are the pavements, that it costs as much to get a bale of cotton across the city from river to river as it does to bring it a thousand miles by sea or five hundred miles by land. What must be the condition of the town when its native citizens, whose estates and homes are there, are heard to express the fervent wish that it may sink into the mere landing-place and dumping-ground of the continent, while some inland city, like great Chicago or fair St. Louis, may expand into the metropolitan city of the Republic !

All this favors the growth of another seaport town, provided Nature has done her part toward the creation of one, by protecting and rendering always accessible a sufficient harbor. On the James and near its mouth there are half a dozen places better adapted by nature for a great commercial city than the ground on which London stands.

  1. “ 1692, November 17th, Thursday, — A ship lay at Leith going for Virginia, on board which the magistrates had ordered fifty lewd women out of the houses of prostitution, and 30 other who walked the streets after to at night.”-LUTTRELL’S Brief Historical Relation, Vol. II. p. 617.