« הקודםהמשך »
scribes the selection of the youths of geniưs from among the classes of the poor, we hope to avail the state of those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use, if not sought for and cultivated.-But of all the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the fafe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past, will enable them to judge of the future ; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men ; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may affume; and knowing it, to defeat its views. In every government on earth is fome trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover, and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves therefore are its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree. This indeed is not all that is necessary, though it be effentially necessary. An amendment of our constitution must here come in aid of the public education. The influence over government must be shared among all the people. If every individual which composes their mass participates of the ultimate authority, the government will be safe; because the corrupting the whole mass will exceed any private resources of wealth : and public ones cannot be provided but by levies on the people. In this case every man would have to pay his own price. The government of GreatBritain has been corrupted, because but one man in ten has a right to vote for members of parliament. The sellers of the government therefore get nine-tenths of their price clear. It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the right of suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that right to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.'
The excellent measures for the diffusion of useful knowledge, which the fore-mentioned bill proposes, have not yet been carried into effect. And it will be happy if the great inequality in the circumstances of the citizens --the pride, the independence, and the indolence of one class and the poverty and depression of the other, do not prove insuperable difficulties in the way of their universal operation.
Religion.] · The first settlers in this country were emigrants from England, of the English church, just at a point of time when it was fushed with complete victory over the religions of all other persuasions. Poffeffed, as they became, of the powers of making, administering, and executing the laws, they shewed equal intolerance in this country with their Preibyterian brethern, who had emigrated to the northern government. The poor Quakers were flying from persecution in England. They cait their eyes on these new countries as asylums of civil and religious freedom; but they found them free only for the reigning fect. Several acts of the Virginia assembly of 1659, 1662, and 1693. had made it penal in parents to refuse to have their children baptized; had prohibited the unlawful assembling of Quakers; had made it penal for any masters of a ver
fel to bring a Quaker into the state; had ordered those already here, and such as Tould come thereafter, to be imprisoned till they should abjure the country ; provided a milder punishment for their first and fecond return, but death for their third; had inhibited all persons from suffering their meetings in or near their houses, entertaining them individually, or dispofing of books which supported their tenets. If no capital execution took place here, as did in new-England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or spirit of the legislature, as may be inferred from the law itself; but to historical circumstances which have not been handed down to us. The Anglicans retained full possession of the country about a century. Other opinions began then to creep in, and the great care of the government to support their own church, having begotten an equal degree of indolence in its clergy, two-thirds of the people had become dissenters at the commencement of the present revolution. The laws indeed were still opprefsive on them, but the spirit of the one party had Subsided into moderation, and of the other had risen to a degree of determination which commanded respect.'
The present denominations of christians in Virginia are, Presbyterians, who are the most numerous, and inhabit the western parts of the state ; Episcopalians, who are the most antient settlers, and occupy the eastern and first settled parts of the state. Intermingled with those are great numbers of Baptists and Methodists. The proportional numbers of these feveral denominations have not been ascertained. The Episcopalians, or as Mr. Jefferson calls them, the Angelicans,' have, comparatively, but few ministers among them; and these few, when they preach, which is feldom more than once a week, preach to very thin congregations.
-The Presbyterians, in proportion to their numbers, have more ministers, who preach oftener, and to larger audiences. The Baptists and Methodists are generally supplied by itinerant preachers, who have large and promiscuous audiences, and preach almost every day, and often several times in a day.
The bulk of these religious fects are of the poorer sort of people, and many of them are very ignorant, (as is indeed the case with the other denominations) but they are generally a moral, well-meaning set of people. They exhibit much zeal in their worship, which appears to be composed of the mingled effufions of piety, enthuniasm, and, fuperftition.
Character, Manners, and Customs.] Virginia has produced some of the most distinguished and influential man that have been active in effecting the two late grand and important revolutions 'in America. Her political and military character will rank among the first in the page of history. But it is to be observed that this character has been obtained for the Virginians by a few eminent men, who have taken the lead in all their public transactions, and who, in short, govern Virginia ; for the great body of the people do not concern themselves with politics so that their
government, though nominally republican, is, in fact, oligarchal or aristocratical.
The Virginians pride themselves in inheriting the ancient dominion, and think that this does, or ought to, entitle them to the first rank in the union. Age is indeed honourable, and ought to be respected, in proportion to the wisdom which it discovers; but it is often proud and peculant; and, in view of what it has once been, claims a rank and respect which are
riot its due; and this is never more likely to be the cause, than when there is a lack of that wisdom which long experien ought to produce. Whether this is the case with Virginia, I will not pre end to determine. It is certain, however, that her northern filters, thou gh willing to yield to her in point of age, believe, not only that she is not superior, but that she is far from being equal to some of them, in point of literary, mechanical, nautical, agricultural, and manufactural improvements.
A few fingular inftances excepted, the Virginians have made very little progress in the arts and sciences. Of their skill in architecture, Mr. Jefferson gives the following account: • The private buildings are very rarely constructed of stone or brick; much the greatest proportion being of scantling and boards, plastered with lime. It is impoffible to devise things more ugly, uncomfortable, and happily more perishable. There are two or three plans, on one of which, according to its size, most of the houses in the ltate are built. The poorest people build huts of logs, laid horizontally in pens, stopping the interstices with mud. These are warmer in winter, and cooler in summer, than the more expensive constructions of scantling and plank.-The only public buildings worthy mention are the Capitol, the Palace, the College, and the Hospital for Lunatics, all of them in Williamsburg. There are no other public buildings but churches and courthouses, in which no attempts are made at elegance. Indeed it would not be easy to execute fuch an attempt, as a workman could scarcely be found here capable of drawing an order. The genius of architecture seems to have shed its maledi&tions over this land. Buildings are often erected, by individuals, of confiderable expence. To give these symmetry and taste would not increase their coft. It would only change the arrangement of the materials, the form and combination of the members. This would often cost less than the burthen of barbarous ornaments with which these buildings are sometimes charged. But the first principles of the art are unknown, and there exists scarcely a model among us sufficiently chaste to give an idea of them. Architecture being one of the fine arts, and as such within the department of a professor of the college, according to the new arrangement, perhaps a spark may fall on some young subjects of natural tafle, kindle up their genius, and produce a reformation in this elegant and useful art.'
A fenfible gentleman * who travelled through the middle settlements in America, about 30 years ago, has given the Virginians the following character.
• The climate and external appearance of the country conspire to make them indolent, cafy, and good-natured; extremely fond of society, and much given to convivial pleasures. In confequence of this, they feldom show any spirit of enterprize, or expose themselves willingly to fatigue. Their authority over their flaves renders them vain and imperious, and entire strangers to that elegance of sentiment, which is fo peculiarly characteristic of refined and polished nations. Their ignorance of mankind and of learning, exposes them to many errors and prejudices, especially in regard to Indians and Negroes, whom they scarcely confider as of the human species ; so that it is almost impossible, in cases of vio
The Rev. Andrew Burnaby, Vicar of Greenwich.
it is not
lence, or even murder, committed upon those unhapı ?y people by any of the planters, to have the delinquents brought to justico: for either the grand jury refuse to find the bill, or the petit jury bring in their verdift, not guilty
The display of a character thus constituted, will naturally be in acts of extravagance, oftentation, and a disregard of economy ; extraordinary, therefore, that the Virginians out-run their incon es; and that having involved themseves in difficulties, they are frequently tempt. ed to raise money by bills of exchange, which they know will be returned protested, with io per cent. interest.
• The public or political character of the Virginians, corresponds with their private one : They are haughty and jealous of their liberties, impatient of restraint, and can scarcely bear the thought of being controuled by any superior power. There are but few of them that have a turn for business, and even those are by no means adroit at it. I have known them upon a very urgent occafion, vote the relief of a garrison, without once considering whether the thing was practicable, when it was most evidently and demonstrably otherwise *. In matters of commerce they are ignorant of the necessary principles that must prevail between a colony and the mother country; they think it a hardship not to have an unlimited trade to every part of the world. They consider the duties upon their staple as injurous only to themselves; and it is utterly impossible to persuade them that they affect the consumer also. Upon the whole, however, to do them juftice, the fame spirit of generosity prevails here which does in their private character; they never refuse any necessary supplies for the support of government when called upon, and are a generous and loyal people.
• The women are, upon the whole, rather handsome, though not to be compared with our fair country-women in England. They have but few advantages, and confequently are seldom accomplished; this makes them reserved, and unequal to any interesting or refined conversation. They are immoderately fond of dancing, and indeed it is almost the only amusement they partake of: But even in this they discover great want
* The garrison here alluded to, was that of Fort Loudoun, in the Cherokee country, confifting of a lieutenant, and about fifty men. This unfortunate party being besieged by the Cherokee Indians, and reduced to the last extremity, sent off runners to the governors of Virginia and Carolina, imploring immediate fuccour; adding that it was impossible for them to hold out above twenty days longer. The assembly of Virginia, commiferating their unhappy situation, very readily voted a confiderable Jum for their relief. With this, troops were to be levied; were to rendezvous upon the frontiers 200 miles distant from Williamsburg; were afterwards to proceed to the fort 200 miles farther through a wil. derness, where there was no road, no magazines, no posts, either to Jhelter the fick, or cover a retreat in case of any disaster; so that the unfortunate garrison might as effetually have been succoured from the moon. The author taking notice of these dificulties to one of the members, he frankly replied, “ Faith, it is true : Bnt we have had an opportunity at least of showing our loyalty.” In a few days after arrived the melancholy news, that this unfortunate party was entirely cut off
of taste and elegance, and feldom appear with that gracefulness and ease which those movements are so calculated to display. Towards the close of an evening, when the company are pretty well tired with countrydances, it is usual to dance jiggs; a practice originally borrowed, I am informed, from the Negroes. These dances are without any method or regularity: A gentleman and lady stand up, and dance about the room, one of them retiring, the other pursuing, then perhaps meeting, in an irregular fantastical manner. After some time, another lady gets up, and then the first lady must sit down, the being as they term it, cut out: The second lady act the same part which the first did, till somebody cuts
The gentlemen perform in the same manner. The Virginian ladies, excepting their amusements, and now and then a party of pleasure into the woods to partake a barbacue, chiefly spend their time in fewing and taking care of their families : They feldom read, or endeavour to improve their minds; however, they are in general good housewives; and though they have not, I think, quite fo much tenderness and sensibility as the English ladies, yet they make as good wives, and as good mothers, as any in the world. This character was drawn from personal observation, and, in general, appears, to be just.
• The Virginians,' says another discerning traveller, who are rich, are in general sensible, polite and hospitable, and of an independent fpirit. The poor are ignorant and abject and all are of an inquisitive turn, and in many other respects, very much resemble the people in the eastern state. They differ from them, however, in their morals; the former being much addicted to gaming, drinking, swearing, horse-racing, cockfighting, and most kinds of difsipation. There is a much greater difparity between the rich and the poor, in Virginia, than in any of the northern states.'
• The young men, another traveller observes, generally speaking, are gamblers, cock-fighters, and horse-jockies. To hear them converse, you would imagine that the grand point of all science was properly to fix a gaff, and touch, with dexterity, the tail of a cock while in combat. He who won the last match, the last game, or the last horse-race, assumes the airs of a hero or German Potentate. The ingenuity of a Locke, or the discoveries of a Newton, are considered as infinitely inferior to the accomplishments of him, who knows when to shoulder a blind cock, or start a fleet horse. A spirit for literary enquiries, if not altogether confined to a few, is, among the body of the people, evidently subordinate to a spirit of gaming and barbarous sports. At almost every tavern or ordinary, on the public road, there is a billiard-table, a back-gammon table, cards, and other implements for various games. To those public houses, the gambling gentry in the neighbourhood resort to kill time, which hangs heavily upon them; and at this business they are extremely expert, having been accustomed to it from their earliest youth. The passion for cock-fighting, a diversion not only inhumanly barbarous, but infinitely beneath the dignity of a man of sense, is so predominant, that they even advertise their matches in the public news-papers *. This
À traveller through Virginia observes, Three or four matches were ac'vertised in the public prints at Williamsburg ; and I was witness of five in the course of my travels from that to Port Royal.'