Are We One People?
Burlington Daily Times, May 14, 1861
We are not a homogeneous people. We never have been so. What is distinctively denominated American civilization has streamed across the continent on parallel or nearly parallel lines, from the two centers, Plymouth Rock and Jamestown. Other elements have, from time to time, been worked in, to be sure, but they have been leavened and molded by the controlling and primary power that set the whole movement agoing. A large foreign population is of no material account. If reckoned by the head, they would present a formidable army, but when estimated by the juster and proper standard of the power they exert in shaping our affairs and the destiny of the nation they shrink at once to an inappreciable value.
These two great currents of civilization were radically different on the start. Plymouth Rock had little sympathy with Jamestown. The plain, stern, reverent Puritan could not fraternize with the extravagant, profligate and courtly planter of the "old Dominion." These new and representative settlements were made under different circumstances with totally different aims in the settler. They took their root in entirely different ideas,—which were as widely apart in character as the two localities settled. While the sturdy Puritan braved the bleakness of winter, the fierce enmity of Indians, and starvation, wresting from a sterile soil but a scanty subsistance that he might be free, that he might exercise the prerogatives of manhood; the profligate gentlemen who settled Virginia, colonized that territory only to recruit their exhausted fortunes. They were greedy speculators. They were tyrannical masters; lazy and luxurious themselves, they ground hard the faces of the indentured servants or more luckless Africans who fell under their sway. They came to Virginia not to remain, but to make an estate to maintain them in easy extravagance at home.
Plymouth was always democratic—inside of the Church. Virginia was the theater of a struggle between the aristocrats and the democrats from her early settlement. The genius of Jefferson put the democrats in power for a time, but aristocracy gained the control after a while and has kept it up to to-day. The "first families" rule Virginia now. No man ever has been able to rule the sons of the Mayflower's passengers. They have always remained essentially true to the primary principles that were the beacons of their fathers. "God and Liberty" have been the pillars of fire that have lighted their grand march across the continent. The same sturdy loyalty, the same unswerving fidelity to justice and human right, the same cheerful stout-heartedness and trusting faith in God, characterizes the son of New England who turns the furrow on the prairie of Kansas or Minnesota to-day, as animated the men who trod the snows of Plymouth in the dreary winter of 1620 and 21.—These men can be followed across the States. The church and school-house and town-house mark their course. Freedom and the love of it has gone with them. Thrift has followed them. Wealth and peace and happiness have flowed from the free play of their energy, exercised under the beneficent principles whose glorious promises sustained the faith of their exiled fathers.
Virginians congratulated themselves at an early day on the superiority of their country, over that of the settlers at Plymouth. They promised soon to excel them in all that was desirable in a State. They are farther from the realization of their hopes than they were then. Virginia and Massachusetts were never so far apart as they are to-day, both in resources and in ideas and sympathies. What we say of Virginia is true of the States South of her. They are all alike now as they have been from the outset. South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, of the early colonies and States, were settled by the same class of men. They were all possessed with the same instincts, the same aims and aspirations. They were all of a class—indolent, domineering, bragging, dissolute, poor and vicious. They swindled those whom they could. They wrenched from the soil and the labor of indentured apprentices, servants and slaves, enough to maintain them in their profligate luxuriousness. The feelings of superiority, which they had, have been intensified by the institution of slavery. This vanity, natural to them, has been flattered. Their spirit of arrogance and domination has been fostered. Their reckless contempt for the rights and claims of other men has culminated. The shoots planted early by the bragging and gentlemanly settlers of the Southern States have gone to seed now—and most villainous seed they are too.—As their fathers laughed to scorn the plainness and reverent spirit of the Puritans, they despise the sons of Yankees.—There is no bond of sympathy between us now. As always, we have different aims and different institutions. The principles of the one are not those of the other. What is dear to the former is hateful to the latter. We started off on diverging tracks. Apparently we have kept along side by side as yoke fellows, with only a little crowding now and then, but in truth we are very far apart. There is a gap that only time can breach. One must come to the other. Massachusetts must go down to Virginia, or Virginia come up to Massachusetts. Which shall it be? Which is toughest, most tenacious—has the most vigor and the greater power of resistance? As God reigns Virginia must come to Massachusetts, and there shall be one people.