VIRGINIA IN THE NEW NATION,
Readmission into the Union.
From 1861 to 1865 two rival
state governments claimed the allegiance of the people of Virginia. The
regular state government with its seat at Richmond supported the
Confederacy. The so-called "Restored Government of Virginia", with its
seat at Wheeling and later at Alexandria, consented to the erection of the
northwest counties of Virginia into the state of West Virginia and
supported the Federal government.
After the evacuation of Richmond by the Confederate forces and the flight
of President Davis and Governor Smith, martial law was declared and
remained in force until May, 1865, when Gov. F. H. Pierpont, of the
"Restored Government," moved from Alexandria to Richmond under
instructions of President Johnson and undertook, to govern the state by
the aid of the Federal military authorities. This recognition of the
Pierpont government gave Virginia a status different from that of most of
the secession states. The state had a government in a measure
representative of the people until it was destroyed by the congressional
reconstruction acts of 1867. A legislature composed of three senators and
nine representatives met in Richmond in June, 1865, enacted several needed
laws, and provided for the election of a legislature really representative
of the white people of the state.
It was felt that Virginia
was now virtually restored to the Union. Speaker Downey, of the House of
Delegates, said: "Virginia is now safe. What ever they may do to
other states, they can not force a provisional government upon her.
Whatever they may do to other states, thank God, they can not saddle negro
suffrage upon us."
The election was held in October, 1865, and only about 40,000 votes were
cast. Of the eight men elected to Congress, not one was a Republican. The
radical vote in the Alexandria district was 1,732, the largest in the
state. Party contests took place in only a few counties. The people,
stunned and dazed by the results of the war, were apathetic and manifested
little interest in politics. Distinctions between Whigs and Democrats had
been largely obliterated by the war. No new party organization had been
created except the Republican party, which was insignificant in numbers
and influence. Governor Pierpont labored to re-establish civil government
and to restore the state to her former status in the Union. The
appointments made by the governor were very generally commended. The press
began to assume an independent tone, for which several papers were, by the
military authorities, ordered to suspend publication. The Federal military
authorities continued to exercise the privilege of declaring elections
null and void and to show in numerous ways that they regarded the Pierpont
government as a mere provisional makeshift.
When the legislature met it elected two United
States Senators. Virginia now had a full state government and had elected
Representatives and Senators in Congress. The slaves were free; no army
hostile to the United States was in the field. The citizens accepted in
good faith the results of the war and sought restoration to the Union.
According to the Lincoln-Johnson plan, Virginia had done all that was
necessary on her part. The acceptance of her Congressional Representatives
at Washington would render her restoration complete. Congress refused to
seat the Representatives from Virginia. The presidential plan of
reconstruction was contemptuously rejected, and Congress undertook the
work of "reconstructing the rebel states."
Early in December, 1865, the legislature
convened in Richmond, repealed the disfranchising clause of the Alexandria
Constitution, as it had been authorized to do by the popular vote in
October, enacted vagrant and contract laws, wiped out of the statute books
all laws relating to slaves and slavery, placed negroes on about the same
footing as whites as regards civil rights, but did not grant them the
privilege of voting and holding office.
The vagrant act in particular was much
criticised by the radicals and a few of the military commanders who
insisted that the ultimate effect of the act was virtually to re-enslave
the freedmen and to hold them in a condition worse than chattel slavery.
General Terry ordered that no officer, civil or military, should enforce
this act. These laws were much milder than in some other Southern states
and in some of the New England states. There was no effort or intention in
Virginia to re-enslave the negroes through vagrant and contract laws.
Although they were economically and socially justifiable, owing to the
state of public opinion in the North, it was not wise to enact them.
Moreover, it would have been prudent to concede to the negroes a few
rights and privileges that were withheld.
The legislature, despite the advice of the
governor, rejected the Fourteenth Amendment by a vote of 27 to 0 in the
Senate, and 74 to 1 in the House. The refusal to ratify the Fourteenth
Amendment, the enactment of the so-called "black codes" of the South, the
doctrine of equality in the North, the desire to punish and humiliate the
South led, in March, 1867, to the passage of the Congressional
reconstruction acts by which the Pierpont government was practically
destroyed and the state made "Military District Number One." Gen. John M.
Schofield was made commander of this district with power "to abolish,
control, modify or supersede" the state government. The negroes were
enfranchised. The most influential and intelligent whites were
disenfranchised. Stevens's "conquered province" theory had been sanctioned
by Congress. Virginia was in reality no longer a state but was merely a
district. For more than two and a half years it remained a mere military
Reconstruction Acts gave the ballot to the negroes and provided for a
convention to amend the constitution. The radicals had hesitated to
enfranchise the freedmen, as it was feared that the traditional control of
the negroes by the whites would enable them to control the votes of their
former slaves. The relation between whites and blacks was quite cordial
for about one year after the close of the war. The whites felt little or
no hostility towards the negroes on account of their changed condition.
Most of the negroes still respected and trusted their old masters.
Radical teachers from the North, demagogues,
and carpetbaggers, soon estranged the negroes and arrayed them against the
whites. The Freedman's Bureau and the Union League were the organized
agencies through which this alienation was accomplished. The Bureau was
established in Virginia in 1865, and rendered some good service in
protecting and feeding the blacks who were, in almost every sense,
unprepared for immediate emancipation. Its officials witnessed and
approved labor contracts between whites and blacks, assisted the negroes
in securing justice in the courts, supplied many of them with the means of
making a crop, and established schools for the freedmen.
The officials were vested with great and
ill-defined powers which were frequently abused. They often ignored the
civil courts, assumed to administer justice, bullied the whites,
ostentatiously exercised their authority and wantonly humiliated the
leading citizens. They generally gave a ready ear to the negroes' stories
of outrages, and encouraged them to prefer charges against the whites.
Their presence encouraged the blacks in idleness and insolence and
destroyed the friendly, confidential relations formerly existing between
whites and blacks.
The Union League was a secret political society which undertook to
instruct the negroes in their duties as citizens and to pledge them to act
and vote with the Republican party. The League accomplished little in
enlightening the late slaves but succeeded in alienating almost all
negroes from their old masters and brought them under the influence of the
radical Republican leaders.
The radicals and negroes had, in the summer of
1867, refused to "co-operate" with the representative white citizens in
restoring political and social order. The election of delegates to the
constitutional convention was held in October, 1867. About 94,000 negroes
voted. Of this number only about 600 negroes voted with the conservative
white element. One hundred and five delegates were elected, thirty-three
conservatives and seventy-two radicals. The radical majority included five
foreign born, twenty-five negroes, twenty-eight Northerners, and fourteen
Virginians. Never before in the history of the state had negroes sat in a
law-making body. The former political leaders were absent. The state had
The convention was turbulent and garrulous. The negro members favored
mixed schools for the races, heavy taxes on land, disfranchising and "test
oath" clauses, and other radical measures; but the convention would not
consent to mixed schools.
The new constitution was very unpopular and
was not submitted to the people for ratification until July 6, 1869. The
disfranchising and "test oath" clauses were submitted to a separate vote
and rejected. The constitution was adopted. The nominee of the radicals
and negroes, H. H. Wells, who had been made provisional governor of
Virginia by General Schofield, commander of "District Number One," was
defeated by Gilbert C. Walker, the nominee of the conservatives and
liberal Republicans. The legislature was conservative by a large majority.
The aim of the reconstructionists had failed; Virginia was not to have a
radical and negro regime such as had plundered and disgraced several
Virginia was fully restored to the Union in January, 1870, by the
admission of her representatives to seats in Congress. No law-making body
had existed in Virginia for almost three years. A provisional governor, in
all respects subservient to the military, had exercised a shadowy
authority. Nearly five years had elapsed since the close of the war; nine
years since her withdrawal from the Union. In that time old Virginia and
the old Nation had passed away. In 1870 she became a new state in a new
Since 1870 the political history of Virginia has been uneventful. No
guerrilla warfare in Virginia had followed the surrender. She probably
suffered less from political misrule of the carpetbaggers and negroes than
any other Southern state.
The constitution, ratified in 1869, had never
been popular. Several amendments had rendered it less objectionable; yet
many felt that it was burdensome and did not meet the needs of the times.
In 1901 a new constitution was formed and proclaimed without submission
for popular approval. Many important changes were made. The time-honored
county court was abolished. A corporation commission with very extensive
powers was created. An educational qualification and the payment of a
small poll tax were prescribed for voters. The suffrage provisions were
ostensibly aimed at ignorant voters regardless of color. The actual result
is the disfranchisement of a few whites and most of the negroes.
The State Debt.
About 1820 Virginia entered upon a policy of
internal improvements. She was a large shareholder in several railroads,
canals, turnpikes and other enterprises. She had also guaranteed bonds for
industrial companies and municipalities. To pay for her shares in the
railroad and canal companies she had issued bonds. The liabilities
contracted in this way amounted to nearly $40,000,000 in 1860. The state
as a partner or surety for the payment of bonds had developed her
resources, but in the end she lost heavily from her shares in these
improvements, as she abandoned, surrendered or released many of her claims
without any remuneration.
At the close of the war most of these bonds
were owned or held in the North or in Europe. Virginia had lost one-third
of her territory, one-fifth of her taxable values, and more than 440,000
of her population by the erection of her northwest counties into the state
of West Virginia in 1863. Her commerce and shipping were completely
destroyed. Her transportation system was badly crippled. Many
manufacturing establishments had closed. A large part of the state had
been devastated by contending armies. Her financial system was ruined, her
banking capital of $11,000,000 had .vanished, slaves worth $100,000,000 in
1860 had been set free, and the interest on the public debt from 1861 was
wasted and depressed condition of the state, repudiation of the debt was
suggested, but this did not appeal to the Virginians' sense of honor. The
last legislature of the old regime met in December, 1865, and voted
unanimously to pay the debt with the accrued interest. It was considered
that one-third of this debt was West Virginia's fair share. She had
obligated herself in her "ordinance" to assume an equitable share of
Virginia's debt. In February, 1866, the legislature made provisions to pay
4 per cent. interest on the entire debt, leaving West Virginia to pay 2
per cent. As West Virginia took no steps to meet her share of the interest
nor to pay any of the debt, Virginia, in 1871, refunded the debt for
two-thirds of its face at 6 per cent. In 1870, Governor Walker, in his
message, had estimated the total debt at about $46,000,000.
The funding bill of 1871 was very
unsatisfactory to a large number, who considered excessive Governor
Walker's estimate, both of the debt justly due and the resources of the
state. This feeling brought into existence the readjuster party under the
leadership of General Mahone. It was composed of negroes, most of the
Republicans, and many white Democrats. Its object was to "readjust" the
debt. This party gained control of the legislature and, in 1881, elected
William E. Cameron governor. After a few years many of the white men
returned to the regular Democratic party, but many remained with the
readjuster party, which for several years disclaimed any sympathy with the
Republican party. In 1881 General Mahone, as a United States senator,
identified himself -with the Republicans. A large number of white men,
especially in the Southwest, followed him.
Since 1886 the Democrats have controlled every
branch of the state government. For more than twenty years the debt
question was the chief issue in Virginia politics and absorbed almost
exclusively the attention of the legislature. The debt was finally
adjusted and bonded in 1892. This controversy is a very unsatisfactory
chapter in Virginia history. In the bondholders' interest Virginia brought
suit to compel West Virginia to meet her share of the debt. The United
States Supreme Court, in 1908, appointed a special master to examine the
claims, and though still undecided, the rulings indicate that West
Virginia will be required to pay her portion.
The reconstruction acts in the spring of 1867
enfranchised the negroes and disfranchised many whites. The carpetbaggers
flocked to Virginia and ingratiated themselves into the favor and
confidence of the negroes. The number of carpetbaggers in Virginia was
never large, but their influence was out of all proportion to their number
for several years succeeding 1867.
Virginia had no state government from 1867 to
1870, but was governed through the military. The army officers usually
strove to be just and moderate. A state government controlled by the
carpetbaggers, scalawags, and radical leaders of the negroes would have
been more burdensome and odious than military government. Fortunately
Virginia was held as a military district until theoretical differences and
factional quarrels had weakened the radicals and the conservatives had an
organization that enabled them in 1869 to purge the constitution of the
proposed "disfranchising" and "test oath" clauses, and to elect a governor
and legislature in a large measure representative of the intelligence and
property of the state.
The negroes of Virginia were superior to those
of any other Southern state, yet they were not prepared for the ballot.
They had been told that the land of the secessionists would be divided
amongst them. To hasten this division of the land and to make sure of
other rights and privileges, they eagerly entered politics.
For several years their unvarying practice was
to find out what measures and candidates the conservative whites favored
and then vote solidly against them. This made it impossible for the
intelligent men of the state to cooperate with them. This refusal of the
blacks to divide on political questions forced the whites to disregard
national issues and stand as a unit for decent local government, which
could be attained only through white supremacy.
In no country have English-speaking white
people tolerated negro supremacy and it was not to be expected that
Virginians would allow their civilization to be imperiled by allowing an
ignorant negro minority, led by unscrupulous white demagogues, to plunder
and betray the state. In the Valley and Southwest the negroes were only
about 15 per cent. of the population. White supremacy was assured in these
sections. East of the Blue Ridge more than 50 per cent. of the population
was colored, In the South Side there were almost 220,000 negroes in 1865.
In many counties the blacks constituted twothirds of the population. In
the parts of the state where they were most numerous they were most
ignorant and unfit to vote. The alien and renegade leaders of the negroes
committed gross frauds in elections. This condition of affairs explains,
if it does not justify, the use by the whites of the "tissue ballot" and
other forms of fraud in elections. Great ingenuity and resourcefulness
were manifested in circumventing the negro voters.
Probably the ballot has done the blacks some
good, but it has also hurt them in many ways. They were debauched by their
leaders and brought into antagonism to the whites. In the late 70's and
80's they exercised a considerable influence in the "readjuster party."
The negro has been gradually losing influence as a political factor in
Virginia and is now practically eliminated by the new constitution.
Virginia, as well as all other Southern
states, has suffered from the subordination of all other issues to white
supremacy, yet it has seemed to her that, in justice to her highest
interest, she could not do otherwise. In the Southwest where the negroes
are only a small part of the population the people have shown a
disposition to ignore the race question and to divide on other issues. The
elimination of the ignorant negro voter by the new constitution will
probably bring about the same result in other sections. Before the war
Virginians divided on national issues; since 1867 the race question has
claimed the larger share of their attention.
The establishment of an efficient system of
public education in Virginia was one of the most important results of the
upheaval attending the war.
Prior to 1860 there was no real public free
school system. The state made an annual appropriation of $45,000 for the
education of the poor white children and empowered the counties to
establish free schools. The law was not compulsory, and free schools did
not become general. In 1850 a capitation tax was levied for the support of
schools. In 1850 there were, in all schools of the state, public and
private, only about 52,000 children. In 1860 there were 67,000, of whom
31,000 were enrolled as paupers. There were no negroes in school. The
conditions under which poor white children, in most places, could receive
the benefit of the state's appropriation for schools, were destructive of
self-respect. In the minds of most of the people a public school was a
pauper school. Consequently it exerted little influence.
The white children of the middle and upper
classes were educated in the "old field" schools. The teachers were often
men of fine scholarship and gave sound instruction in English,
mathematics, the classics, and history. There the sons of the leading
families were prepared for the classical academies. Thence some went to
the university; a large number, to their life's work. The "old field"
schools and classical academies were reopened in 1865. They were
inadequate and unsuited to the novel conditions existing after the war.
Schools of these types are still to be found maintaining the best
traditions of the past, yet their influence has declined, both absolutely
was universally felt at the close of the war that a complete system of
state education should be established and popularized. The aristocratic
framework of society had been destroyed. The state had been democratized.
Social, economic and political life had been revolutionized. More than
one-half million ignorant negroes had been injected into the citizenship.
As long as they were slaves their masters had cared for their manual and
moral training. As freedmen they could no longer receive this industrial
and ethical discipline as formerly. They had been declared freemen and
citizens and could justly claim from the state an education that would fit
them to meet the responsibilities of freedom and to discharge the duties
of citizenship which had been thrust upon them. The state, in
self-defense, had to provide for their education.
The public free schools in existence before
1860 had been distasteful to the indigent whites. The aristocratic
character of society in a large part of Virginia had not been favorable to
free public schools in any form. It was, therefore, necessary, not only to
establish a free system of education, but to overcome the prejudice
against it. The constitution of 1870 provided for a system of public free
schools to be administered impartially between the white and black races.
This was to be supported by state and local taxes, and the income received
from the Literary Fund. In 1870 the legislature passed an act creating a
complete free school system for the entire state. Equal educational
privileges were given white and black children in separate schools. The
greater part of the taxes are paid by the whites; nevertheless the state
school funds are distributed on a per capita basis and not according to
the amount paid by each race. The state has undertaken in good faith to
educate negroes. They have from the beginning manifested great interest in
education. In some respects they have been disappointed. "Book learning"
has not done for them all that they had hoped. Probably the kind of
education they have received in both public and private schools is not the
kind that best fits them for their station and work in life.
In 1870 there were only 59,000 children in
school. Ten thousand of these were negroes in schools established by
Northern societies and the Freedman's Bureau. The act of 1870 creating a
complete free school system went into effect immediately. During the
scholastic year of 1870-71, the number of children in schools rose to
158,00.0. This was an increase of 99,000 over the number in 1870 and more
than twice as many as had ever before been in schools, public and private,
in a single year.
several years many white people stood aloof, but prejudice gradually wore
away. The public schools have constantly grown in efficiency and popular
favor. Practically all people of all classes now patronize them. Probably
in nothing else is the contrast between antebellum and postbellum Virginia
more clearly seen than in the changed estimation of free public education
for all the people of all classes and races.
The institutions of higher learning and
professional work before the war deservedly ranked amongst the first in
the nation. These have been strengthened in their endowment and equipment.
Their courses of study have been enriched and popularized. A very
significant fact in the educational life of a state is the establishment
of schools offering instruction in agriculture, mechanics, industry,
teaching and commerce. Agricultural, mechanical, and normal schools have
been established for the training of both races. The Hampton Normal and
Agricultural Institute for negroes was opened in 1868. This school
annually enrolls more than 1,000 students. It offers instruction in
agriculture and the trades. Many of its graduates become teachers. The
Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute at Petersburg annually trains the
heads and hands of more than five hundred negroes. The Virginia
Polytechnic Institute at Blacksburg, for whites, opened its door in 1872.
It has continually grown in favor and usefulness. The white female
teachers receive training in the Farmville Female Normal established in
1883. Female normal and industrial schools are now being established at
Fredericksburg and Harrisonburg. William and Mary College was opened as a
normal school for white male teachers in 1888. Many other institutions
offer agricultural, industrial, commercial and normal instruction.
New Industries and Wealth of State.
At the close of the war Virginia was more
completely exhausted, economically, than any other southern state. She had
been the chief theatre of the war from 1860 to 1865. More than five
hundred battles and skirmishes had been fought on her fields. The valley
had been completely devastated. Other parts of the state had suffered
almost as much. Owing to the disordered and uncertain condition of
society, industries revived slowly. Probably the state was poorer in 1870
than in 1865. At the close of the war the people returned to agriculture
and stock-raising, which are still the fundamental occupations in
Virginia. Great industries have developed, but their development has not
been attended by a neglect of agriculture as has been the case in New
England. Agriculture has grown each year since about 1870.
In 1907 the Jamestown Exposition,
commemorating the three hundredth anniversary of the settlement of the
state was held on Hampton Roads opposite Old Point, about ten miles from
Norfolk. The variety and quality of the exhibits revealed the progress
made by Virginia in agriculture, mining and manufacturing. The industrial
side of the Southern seaboard states was also well displayed. The
Exposition had the greatest display of American and foreign warships ever
held in American waters. All of the thirteen original states were
represented. A hall of history filled with relics, portraits and rare MSS.
told, in concrete, the history of the development of the United States.
Market gardening in the
tide-water region sprang into importance early after the war. In 1870
$1,048,000 worth of vegetables were shipped from Norfolk. In 1860 the
total value of all market gardens in the state was about $500,000. Peanuts
became popular in the North after the war. Millions of bushels of this
profitable crop are now grown. Extensive orchards have been planted in the
Piedmont and Southwest. Fruit growing is now a profitable business in many
parts of the state. The quality of live stock has been improved. Some of
the finest cattle and sheep farms in the United States are now in
Virginia. The export cattle of the Valley and Southwest are unsurpassed.
Virginia is excelled by no state of equal size
in the abundance and variety of her natural resources, Coal, iron, lead,
zinc, building stones, cement material, and clays abound. She is unequaled
in the variety of her mineral waters. A large part of her surface is
covered with fine forests. The streams of all parts of the state except
the tide-water afford abundant water power. The treasures of the
Chesapeake Bay and the tide-water estuaries are inestimable. The soil and
climate leave little to be desired. All the products of the temperate zone
flourish within her borders.
During the last forty years Virginia has
neglected her canals, most of which have fallen into disuse, She has
always encouraged railroad building. Within the last twenty-five years
railroads have penetrated all parts of the state. A remarkable development
of manufacturing and mining has resulted. The quickening influence of
improved transportation facilities has been felt in every section.
Before the war Richmond was a manufacturing
and commercial centre. In 1870 she had fallen ii the value of her products
to about one-half that of 1860. Her commerce, domestic and foreign, was
almost ruined. The new Richmond now has shipyards, iron works, locomotive
works, the largest cedar works in the world, the largest publishing house
in the South, tobacco factories, and a great variety of manufacturing
industries which employ a large part of her people.
The shipyard at Newport News is one of the
largest in the world. Seventeen railways now have their terminals in
Norfolk. Their piers are amongst the largest on the coast. Twenty-six
steamship lines connect the city with home and foreign ports. Norfolk is
the largest coaling station in the world. Many other cities have developed
great industries. Danville has cotton mills, and is the largest market in
the world for bright, loose tobacco. Roanoke has machine shops; Lynchburg,
tobacco factories and pipe works. Every city in the state has large and
profitable manufacturing establishments.
The state has many rich coal deposits. The
Southwest coalfield, including Tazewell, Russell, Dickenson, Buchanan,
Wise, Scott and Lee counties, is by far the largest and most productive.
The coal-bearing area of that section comprises nearly 2,000 square miles,
of which probably 80 per cent. is now productive. The two principal fields
thus far developed are the Pocahontas and the Big Stone Gap. The
construction of the New River branch of the Norfolk and Western Railroad
through southwest Virginia in 1882, opened up the Pocahontas coal
district. The extension of the same road through the Clinch Valley gave an
outlet to the mines of Tazewell, Russell, Dickenson and Wise counties.
Four railroad systems now penetrate this field. Most of the coal counties
will soon have ample railroad facilities. The Pocahontas is the best steam
coal known. It is used on the ocean steamers of the principal nations. It
produces an excellent coke. Virginia ranks fourth in coke production. The
coal interests are rapidly developing. In 1881 only 50,000 tons were mined
in the state; in 1906, 4,275,815 tons. Almost all this comes from the
mines in the Southwest.
Abundant ores, cheap coal, and ample
transportation facilities have given the iron industry a phenomenal
development in recent years. The output of pig-iron is yearly increasing.
Many rolling mills have been established within the last few years.
Stoves, cast-iron piping, car wheels, farming tools, machinery and general
railway supplies are produced. Lumbering is one of the leading industries
in many parts of the state. The new railroads have made accessible large
tracts of practically virgin timber lands. Large quantities of forest
products are shipped to the North or exported to Europe. Furniture
factories and other wood-working establishments are found in all parts of
the state, and are rapidly increasing in the capital invested and the
value of the output.
Much of the crude negro labor has drifted away from the farm and has been
absorbed in coal and iron mining and grading railroads. Virginia has made
an earnest effort since 1865 to induce European immigrants to come to the
state. In this she has been only partially successful. Very few unskilled
foreigners have come to Virginia. The few that have come have been of the
upper class, or skilled artisans.
Contrast of Old and New Economic and Social
economic and social system passed away with slavery. The old forms of
industry and social life could not be restored in a large part of the
state. East of the Blue Ridge slavery had entered so deeply into the warp
and woof of life that immediate emancipation shattered social and economic
institutions. For nearly two hundred and fifty years the people in the
oldest and most populous sections had been accustomed to slave labor with
all its attendant circumstances and consequences. The strangeness of the
situation at the close of the war bewildered both whites and blacks. The
whites knew little of the dignity and possibilities of free common labor.
The blacks had less appreciation of the responsibilities and duties of
freemen. Under these conditions industry and trade revived slowly. A new
economic and social life slowly emerged from the chaos. Both races in time
adjusted themselves to new conditions. A fairly efficient system of hired
labor was developed. Many of the negroes became small farmers and renters.
The peculiar grace and form of old Virginia's social life passed away.
In the Valley and the Southwest slavery had
exerted comparatively little influence, economically and socially.
Negroes, bond and free, were only about 15 per cent. of the population.
The employers of labor were more accustomed to free labor and its worth
than were the planters east of the Blue Ridge. Society and industry were
not based on slavery as in some parts of the South; therefore little
social or economic disturbance resulted in these sections from the
destruction of slavery.
The Valley and Southwest had each been
plundered and wasted during the war, but the old framework of society
remained virtually intact. The social upheaval had not so radically
unsettled industry and social life as in the other divisions of the state.
Notwithstanding the waste and loss of war the people soon adjusted
themselves to the changed conditions. The adjustment was slow and painful
in the other sections.
The old Virginia plantations were little
industrial communities in which the division of labor system was adopted.
On each large plantation there were blacksmiths, tanners, harness and shoe
makers, carpenters, bricklayers, masons, spinners, weavers and tailors. In
consequence of this there was little incentive to establish shops or
factories to supply the planters with such goods as their own artisans
could produce. There were few white artisans working for wages. Shops or
factories, producing goods for sale, were rare in the planting sections.
The destruction of the old plantation life
scattered the plantation artisans. The household industries decayed both
on the plantation and the small farm. To take their place shops or
factories sprang up and a large number of artisans began to work for
wages. The growth of manufacturing is one of the most striking facts in
Virginia's history in the last twenty-five years. Very few people, white
or black, in Virginia now use furniture, farming tools, harness, iron
goods, clothes, or shoes made by their own households.
In the sections where blacks were once the
chief artisans, whites have taken their place. Few young negroes now
become workmen. Probably there are now fewer black handicraftsmen than in
aristocracy dwelt in the country. Land and birth were the foundations of
social eminence. The rural gentry was, in a large measure, unable to
adjust itself to the changes brought about by the war. The plantation life
was broken up. In many cases the plantation itself came into the
possession of the former overseer or tenant. The rural gentry moved to the
towns and cities and took up professions or went into business. The old
baronial life is at present almost unknown in the country districts where
it once flourished. A part of the refinement of the old days survives in
the towns. West of the Blue Ridge the social framework was less seriously
shattered, and the life of all classes remained about what it had been
unfavorable to small holdings of land, intensive cultivation, and
diversification of crops; and favorable to large holdings of land,
extensive cultivation, and a single crop like tobacco or cotton. The
plantation system with its corps of slaves absorbed the land and rendered
it difficult for a man with small capital to become a landholder. The
destruction of slavery crippled the plantation system. Many of the
plantations were divided and sold to former tenants or overseers. In this
way the number of landowners was increased. Intensive cultivation and
diversification of crops have resulted from the decay of the plantation
system and the division of the land into small farms.
In some sections the war set the poor whites
free. They lost little or nothing by the war and gained in many ways.
Their importance economically, socially and politically was greatly
plantation was a social settlement for the uplift of the negroes. Their
health was carefully guarded. They suffered little from tuberculosis,
typhoid, and venereal diseases. There was no drunkenness. Lunacy was
almost unknown. They were given manual and moral training. Their masters
and white ministers gave them careful religious instruction. Many of them
attended the white churches. Negro meetings, noisy and turbulent, were
held by preachers of their own race. There was virtually no race hatred.
The blacks were considered a race, in every respect, inferior to the
typhoid, and venereal diseases are making terrible inroads upon the
freedmen. Drunkenness and lunacy are common. Few young negroes are
becoming artisans. They now have separate church organizations and fail to
receive the sound moral and spiritual instruction they formerly received
from the whites. There is less cordiality between the races now than there
was fifty years ago. Yet the negroes have made some progress. In 1900 they
owned nearly one million acres of land in Virginia. Illiteracy is being
reduced. The leading schools for negroes are giving more attention to
industrial training than formerly. They are giving less attention to
politics and are striving to become economically independent. The colored
ministers of the Gospel are improving both in character and preparation
for their work.
BIBLIOGRAPRY: - Avary, Myrta L.: Dixie after the War; Boyd, C. R.:
Resources of Southwest Virginia; Bruce, P. A.: The Rise of the New South,
and The Plantation Negro as a Freeman; Dunning, W. A.: The Civil War and
Reconstruction; Eckenrode, H. J.: The Political History of Virginia during
the Reconstruction; Fleming, W. L.: Documents Relating to Reconstruction;
Herbert, H. H.: Why the Solid South; Hotchkiss, Jed: Summary of Virginia
(1876); McConnell, J. P.: Negroes and Their Treatment in Virginia
(1865-67); Page, T. N.: The Old Dominion; Ruffin, F. G.: The Negro as a
Political Factor; Stuart, A. H. H.: The Committee o f Nine; Watson, T. L.:
Mineral Resources of Virginia; Whitehead, Thomas: Virginia Handbook
Professor of History and Political Science, Emory and Henry College.