Some General and Hopeful News
December 9, 1869
The National Board of Trade taking place in Richmond was a "fortunate event for this city." The manner of Virginians was surprising to many of the visiting Northernors as The Dispatch claims Sourthernors presented their true selves.
The meeting of the National Board of Trade here in the past week was a fortunate event for this city, and, we may add, for Virginia. It led to the dissemination of a truthful and just impression not only of the temper and disposition of our people, but of the topographical and climatic peculiarities of this locality and the State. On the part of our own people we may say with entire truth there was no studied effort to appear in any other light than that which was natural and sincere. Any body of respectable gentlemen coming to Richmond on a special object which looked to the welfare of society would be received in precisely the same manner. But the unconstrained and unaffected conduct of the people was assuredly a surprise to the stranger visitors, and they were very warm in describing their previous impressions and their great surprise at finding things so different from what they had anticipated. We may well feel astonishment at the extravagant ideas set afloat about the people of Virginia, their temper, and their inhospitably to northern people; but certainly it is gratifying that an opportunity such as that of the intercourse with the members of this Board has occurred to modify the false ideas and impressions that have so far prevailed to our disadvantage. An intelligent member from Portland, at the extreme North, playfully described his own apprehensions by remarking that he had feared that he would hardly be allowed to cross the borders of the city, or that at least he would be denied the commonest civility unless he came "with a very large amount of baggage!" He expressed his agreeable surprise at finding that there was no earthly ground for this apprehension, in the most emphatic manner. Thus, then, a load of prejudice has been removed from the breasts of lending northern men, while the temper displayed by them has very much mollified our own sentiment--. That they will disseminate the kindest and most catholic opinions and feelings amongst their people we cannot doubt. This will aid extensively in restoring harmony to the Union. This much for the social and the political phase of the intercourse with the Board of Trade. That Richmond will profit physically from this event we are satisfied. The weather of the week was brilliant and genial. The telegrams informed the gentlemen from the North that it was snowing at their homes, that the whole country was inundated with snow, and the railroad trains stopped on the way; and they wept forth into the streets of Richmond under clear skies and warmed by a bright sun. They were inspired by the scene, and were prodigal of their exclamations of surprise. They found here a delightful aud invigorating clime, cheering man in his industry, while at their homes business was impeded and labor chilled. They well understood that while this contrast did not always appear, generally the difference between the weather and its effects on human industry at their homes and in this city was fairly represented by the comparative difference while they here sojourned. Now, then, these intelligent gentlemen had in this a striking illustration of the fact often asserted that in the latitude of Virginia, owing to its genial clime, man can accomplish more within the year than he can elsewhere : that he is not obstructed in his labor by the winter's frost, and not, on the other hand, exhausted by the heats of summer. This fact they observed closely and treasured up, and it is important that such gentlemen coming from the northern border, should have such a forcible and practical impression of it. There was another point observed by them. It was the adaptability of this locality to manufacturing purposes--its waterpower, its salubrity, its convenient and cheap access to fuel and to the ores which are in such abundance in Virginia. Mr. Torrence, one of the very intelligent and gentlemanly delegation from Cincinnati, observed it, and in his very excellent speech at the dinner-table he called particular attention to this point, and remarked that in a few years Richmond would take the lead of Philadelphia in manufacturing. He warned the estimable president of the Convention (Mr. Fraley, of Philadelphia,) to look to his laurels. He confessed his very great amazement at the advantages of this city, and declared that he had never had the remotest conception of them until this his first visit to the place. Now, these are things that should be in the highest degree encouraging to our people. The declarations of strangers assure them of the grand future that is before them. "We have the most unmistakable signs of the tendency of trade towards the middle latitude--that which is safest and most propitious to commerce--that which is most agreeable to man. From the Northwest and the Southwest the lines are forming that will converge just here in Virginia upon the middle line of latitude; and the Chesapeake bay must be the inevitable receiver of all the commerce that will follow them. Here in this city we see the conditions most favorable to manufacturing industry. We find that in Pennsylvania, the great centre of manufactures in iron, the supply of ores and of coal is so diminished that the prospect of its exhaustion is so near as already seriously to affect injuriously the manufacturer. Where will the Pennsylvania interest and enterprise look for supply and for occupation? To Virginia, and to Richmond as the future centre of iron manufactures. So that the future is full of hope for this community and Virginia. People wonder how a locality blessed with such advantages had not risen to grout prosperity long ago. The institution of slavery explains the mystery. That was not favorable either to commerce or manufactures, and both were transferred to the North. But slavery is dead, and we shall have a new direction of both enterprise and industry--or, rather, a division of both between the pursuits of agriculture and of art--a division of labor which will increase the power and wealth of the State. Now, all these facts with reference to Virginia and Richmond have presented themselves promptly to the practised eye and intelligent minds of our recent guests, and we trust that their frank and emphatic declarations may not only direct public attention more than ever to this State, but inspire our own citizens with additional hope and energy. They can do anything they determine to do, and we pray that they will determine to do things worthy of themselves and tho God-favored land they dwell in.
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“Some General and Hopeful News,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed March 21, 2018, http://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/1544.