The Hon. Mr. Kelley and the South

June 25, 1867


The Hon. Mr. Kelley visited the southern states and gave a speech upon returning to his home in Philadelphia.He claims that the South is a beautiful place and Northerners would get along well there.He says there is an abundance of resources and going to the South would help it get out of its poverty.White Virginians welcome Northerners by stating that the combination of the Northern industry with the Southern sociability would create prosperity.


The Hon. Mr. Kelley and the South. The Hon. Mr. Kelley, missionary to the southern States, has reached his home in Philadelphia, and on Friday night was serenaded by his fellow-citizens. In response, he made them a speech about the South, which is sufficiently remarkable to be worthy of notice. Mr. Kelley appears to have been forcibly impressed with the vast natural resources and advantages of the South, the poverty of its people, and the quiet and order that prevailed. His speech has many truths in it, blended here and there with extravagant assertions, suggested by his prejudices. We are ready to concur with Mr. Kelley in his statement that the cultivation of the loading staples to the neglect of the other products, and the cultivation of those staples with a pertinacity and zeal that was reckless, has seriously impaired southern lands in some sections, There is more truth than poetry in the remark attributed by Mr. Kelley to a southern cotton planter - viz.: "We bought niggers and mules to raise cotton, and raised cotton to buy niggers and mules." Nor can we assert that Mr. Kelley ventures the reverse of truth when he said in reply: "Yes, and your continuous culture of cotton having eaten up your land, your negroes and mules were about to eat you when the war begun." Mr. Kelley dwells with much emphasis upon the poverty - the extreme and squalid poverty - which he met with in the South. He seems to have had his sympathies worked upon. In telling his sad story he was rudely interrupted by one of the Philadelphia mob, who exclaimed that "the people were too lazy to work." The earnest response of the speaker was: "No, my friend, they are not too lazy to work." That was true. But he need not have taxed his ingenuity to ascribe this poverty to the systems of cultivation and slavery. No country in the world was over more bountifully supplied with the necessaries of life before the war than the South, and no laborers anywhere in the world were ever supplied so liberally with food as were the slaves of the South. But a devastating war and the annihilation of four billions of southern property, involving the disorganization of southern labor, were quite enough without the intervention of a bad season and failing crops to produce a famine. "Come with me, my friends," said Mr. K., "to South Carolina, and behold a mother who, having 'roped' herself to a plough, is striving to drag it through the earth, while her son, apparently about eleven years old, endeavors to guide it, that they may open a furrow in which to deposit the few seeds northern charity has sent them." It is not wonderful that Radical orators, who came, like Mr. Kelley, to diffuse Radical views and advance the cause of radicalism, should have their sensibilities aroused by the scenes of desolation which have been left by the war. Did it not often occur to them that their political declamation, with such scenes before them, was like mockery? Here was the cry for bread, and these orators were offering a stone; for a fish, and they tendered the gift of a serpent! But Mr. Kelley, despite his prejudices, was quite captivated by the natural resources of the South - mineral, agricultural, and manufacturing. He spoke of the water-power of the southern rivers as greatly exceeding that of those in the manufacturing districts of New England. He advised his fellow-citizens, in seeking new homes, not to put a thousand or fifteen hundred miles between themselves and the old homes of their families by going to the distant West and Northwest. "There is," said he, "a more genial climate and a country (the South) as rich and beautiful within a few hundred miles of your home, where you can buy agricultural and mineral lands at from two to five dollars an acre; in which you can buy land almost contiguous to towns destined, under the influence of freedom, soon to be large cities, whose railroad connections are already established, at from five to fifteen dollars an acre." He uses this glowing language: "I saw during my trip a country upon which the Almighty has with most lavish hand bestowed his richest material gifts. It is gorged with every mineral. I have scarcely been in a State that does not abound in coal, iron, copper, and lead, and have travelled for days over a region of country as richly underlaid with gold-bearing quartz as the mountains of Colorado or California." We conclude this notice with the following description of North Carolina, which, with a few exceptions, will apply with equal force to Virginia: "My friends, North Carolina is the most beautiful and richest portion of God's earth upon which my vision or feet have ever rested. You know that she produces cotton, rice, indigo, tar, pitch, turpentine, and superior timber. You know that her soil and climate are adapted to the cereals - wheat, corn, rye, buckwheat, and oats. "But you probably do not know that that State, long known as the Rip Van Winkle of the Union, is the land of wine and honey, the apple and peach, of the fig and pomegranate; all of which I saw prospering in open field, and under the most artless culture. Its native vines made the fortune of Longworth, who carried cuttings thence. The wine-producing vineyards of western Pennsylvania, around the base and on the islands of Lake Erie, and spattered through Missouri, are from the cuttings taken from the native vines of North Carolina. "The Catawba, the Lincoln, the Isabella, and richer than all the, Scuppernong. of which, as it has not been yet successfully transplanted, eastern North Carolina has the monopoly. There it grows spontaneously as a weed. "There is not a vegetable we produce that will not thrive in North Carolina, and under these abounding stores of agricultural wealth, a belt, ranging from forty to one hundred miles wide across the entire State, is so richly underlaid with gold that a person with a common frying-pan may wash the sands of many of the rivulets, and make from one to three dollars per day." He wisely advises emigrants in coming to the South to come in parties of ten or twenty families, and to bring with them their "northern habits." That is right. We do not fear them. The northern industry and probity will soon bo combined with southern frankness and sociability, and we shall get on very well together, each population being improved by swapping "notions."
About this article

Contributed By

Stacey Dec




“The Hon. Mr. Kelley and the South,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023,