Virginia Must Have Great Cities
February 25, 1868
If Virginia can build great cities she will be able to restore herself even faster than ever imagined. Virginia certainly has enough natural resources to return to her prosperous state, all she needs now is a solid work force.
Virginia must have Great Cities. By every consideration of natural resources-access to ship-bearing waters easy routes to the region of greatest production, of most rapid growth, and of future empire: the West-and that just mean of temperature which favors industry in the greatest degree-Virginia should have upon her tide-waters and seaboard very great cities engaged in a mighty commerce with the world. It is only by establishing such cities within her own borders that she can attain the highest degree of power. If she maintains upon her own territory the men engaged in the forwarding of her commerce, and in supplying in return her citizens with what they want of foreign production, she will have just as many more of population as the numbers so engaged amount to. She will have the advantage of the capital thus employed its effect upon the value of property-the further influence upon the value of property from the wants of the commercial population and yet again, the invaluable benefits to the agricultural community of bringing the consumption of their products nearer to their own doors, increasing the variety of their crops, and affording ready sale and quick returns for all they produce. So with that other great means of introducing and maintaining large communal ties to swell the power and revenues of the State, and increase the demand at home for agricultural products: manufacturing. But this branch of industry does better even than commerce. It requires more people, creates a greater demand upon agriculture, does more towards enhancing the strength of the State, and secures to the State the large profits growing out of converting the raw material into manufactured fabrics. All of the large aggregate which represents the value added to the raw material by its manufacture remains in the State and becomes a part of the general wealth. Thus we see what we gain by fostering our own cities. In proportion as they grow will their benefits be diffused through every part of the whole State, whereas, if they are allowed to stand still or decline, the industry of the State will be tributary to the support of the commercial and manufacturing communities of other States. Improvements will be slow and meagre; trade dull and unprofitable, conducted by hucksters and drummers for opulent outside communities; land will be low; enterprise torpid; the State apathetic; its revenues poor; and its entire condition and prospects discouraging and desperate when compared with neighboring States. She would, indeed, be like a conquered princess dragged by the car of triumph of the conquerors of the commercial world, and, worse than their's, her public humiliation would be daily repeated and con. tinuous for enduring time! These are considerations that should arouse any people to a sense of their solemn obligations to themselves and their State. Virginia has been cursed by a sectionalism engendered and cherished by the system of improvements heretofore pursued by the State. It was vulgarly known as a system of " log-rolling." Votes of counties and towns were exchanged for consideration. Hamlets and villages and cross-road drinking shops became high-contracting parties, and to carry any great measure, they had to be satisfied with a turnpike or a railroad appropriation. These communities became extravagantly puffed up in proportion to their insignificance, and dealt with great schemes as though each had been a New York city. It would have been amazing if, in a policy such as this, the great interests of the State had not been dwarfed and lost sight of in the rage to make a magnificent city of every cross-road. We are experiencing now the sad effects of this -woful system. The best interests of the State have been disregarded by a public sentiment demoralized by a vain, conceited, and ridiculous individualism; and the vital resources of the Commonwealth have been bartered to foreign communities for the deceptive benefits of a railway whose trains drop a little of their dust as they pass, while the villagers daily stare at them with open mouths until they are out of sight! Is it not possible to arouse onr people to the real interests of Virginia? Can they not be made to feel that Virginia, to be great, most have a commerce and manufacturing interest as well as an agricultural? and that without those the people as well as the State must continue poor and tributary?
About this article
“Virginia Must Have Great Cities,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed November 28, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/873.