Now and Then.

February 1, 1868


Current life in the South is illustrated as drear with unimaginable famine. The decay of Virginia is terrible with the crop at an all time low. Previously happy "negroes" are now starving and unable to find jobs.


Now and Then. We copy the following brief and graphic paragraph from the New Orleans Times of the 26th ultimo. This true and painful picture is but a sample of hundreds of scenes in the southern land-scenes once blooming, plentiful, and happy, now drear, squalid, and wretched. They are too numerous to be portrayed, and when the artist takes up his pencil and looks about him, he drops it in despair. What demons have worked this revolution! This change from peace, loveliness, content, and virtue, to discontent, idleness, general decay, vice, wretchedness,and famine! The Times says: "Very distressing accounts reach us of the destitution in the parish of West Feliciana. In this parish, which before the war was one of the richest and best cultivated in the State, there is a very large excess of negro population. The ratio of blacks to whites is about five to one. The product of this year has been exceedingly small. Hardly a planter in the parish has made cotton enough to pay his hands and leave anything to buy provisions with. A very respectable planter told as there were not ten barrels of pork in tbe parish. Nearly all the stock have been killed, including the milk cows. "The planters, unable to meet the advances of last year, cannot buy provisions. The corn crop was very short, and but a small amount is left-not enough in the whole parish to feed the people for two months. The poor negroes are half naked and starved, and, though willing to work, can get no employment even on the terms of simple rations, without money or clothing. "Before the war this parish was the seat of great wealth, comfort, abundance, and unbounded hospitality. The twelve thousand negroes who cultivated the fields were the happiest and best cared-for laborers in any country. The planters all lived in princely style, in elegant country seats, surrounded with every comfort and luxury which the most cultivated taste could desire. They took the best care of their laborers, and the colored population increased with wonderful rapidity. "What a change has swept over this beautiful country! The poor negroes, wandering through the magnolia forest, half naked and starving, without a cent, an ear of corn, or an ounce of meat, still bear their certificates of registration, as voters, and of membership of some Loyal League! They ask for bread and receive a stone; for fish, and obtain a serpent." We add to the above the following letter received by one of our citizens from a Virginian now in Mississippi-a gentleman of reputation and of great worth, who, having sought occupation and support in that unfortunate State, now announces that he is forced to return to Virginia. All such sons Virginia will heartily welcome home, while she mourns the sad necessity which turns their steps towards her territory. She is grieved that she can now do so little for them; but is cheered by the devotion of her people, and knows with their constancy, energy, and fortitude, prosperity will soon cheer their homes and make all within her borders again to blossom as the rose: "JANUARY 4, 1868. "My Dear Friend: Yours of the 12th ult. reached me only a few days ago. In reply I have to say that whilst it would be a great pleasure for me to aid you in any possible way, I deem it the part of friendship to advise you against coming South at this time. I have this day sent up my resignation of the position I hold here, and will return to Virginia as soon as possible. This country is utterly ruined for some years to come. The people are bankrupt and cannot pay teachers or anybody else, Schools are closing everywhere simply because the teachers cannot live from the small pittances which they realize for their work. The negroes are starving in some places, and really I don't see how the whites are to be saved from the same fate. You can form no adequate idea of the real condition of things here.
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Mallory Haskins




“Now and Then.,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed November 28, 2022,