Divide our Lands

April 19, 1867


The South is realizing that the North is very successful in the use of their land. The South wants to set aside past differences and invite the North and South to collaborate and create a better industry for the both.


Let us turn our eyes to those States North where people dwell on nice little farms, and see how they prosper. They toil and spin in contentment with what appears small to us, but yet they become rich and independent. They neither own nor covet principalities such as we have, because they cannot manage than. Formerly, in the South, on immense tobacco or cotton estates, our position was different from theirs, or at least we thought so, but now we must see things in their true light. It is better for a neighborhood to have a good many small thrifty planters than one plethoric landowner. He may be wealthy, and have the good will of his neighbors, but his lands arc almost a dead weight to the body politic. They remain idle for want of labor; and that is wrong. It is bad economy, and retards progress. Every one who has travelled through the North sees a wide difference in the improved cultivation there, under the system of small farms. It is manifest to the eye, and the reason is evident. People do not undertake more than they can accomplish, and everything is turned to account. They have time for it, and what they do they do well. In Pennsylvania, for instance ,no farmer wants more. than one or two hundred acres of land, because he considers it enough to engage all his personal attention, and he acts on the sound maxim of attending to his own business, and doing himself what requires to be well done on the place. And how beautifully clean those Dutch farms are kept. See the snug stone barns crowded to overflowing with the product of honest industry well applied. Behold their fat and saucy cattle, their sheep and swine, all perfect of their kind, and their Conestoga horses, unexcelled for farm purposes. They are cared for from the foal and the litter, and are reared almost as members of the family. It is the farmer's business sand his interest, and we must follow their example. They are practical people, and just the kind we want. That they can be induced to come among us there is not a shadow of doubt, if we only show them the advantages we can offer. They have no better lands at the North than we have, and we will sell ours cheaper than they can buy in their: own States. Surely there is no better place in the world to live than in dear Old Virginia. Nature has done all for her that heart could wish. Society, lands, climate, minerals, and water power, all are ours, and all are unsurpassed on the face of the earth. What we want is a little more enterprise, and to labor with judgment and economy. Bring people among us who understand laboring for profit better than we do, and learn their ways. If we do not, we shall regret when perhaps it is too late, for the day may come when we may be compelled to sell our lands, whether by wholesale or retail, because of our want of enterprise. We must improve our advantages, or shrewder people will do it, not for us, but for themselves. Virginia is not going to remain undeveloped. She is too contiguous to great markets for that. We cannot stand still, but we must go forward vigorously, with a full sense of the times we live in and the change we have undergone, in respect to labor particularly. Our people do not realize this fully yet, but they will find out that if there is to be any work done, any crops to be made, every man must put his hand to the plow. We have had enough of politics and States rights, for the present at least, to convince us that that does not pay ; but the inalienable right is left us to go to work. Let there be no impression that we do not want good thrifty settlers from the North. We do want them, and we should encourage them to come. We can assure them that they will be well received, and be met with respect and courtesy, This every one is prepared to do, and we should make it our daily business to do away with all prejudice and notions to the contrary; do all that we can to induce good people from every land to come, and studiously avoid even the appearance, by word or deed, of doing anything to prevent it.
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Walker Black




“Divide our Lands,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed February 1, 2023, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/578.