October 31, 1877
Governor Kemper, Ladies and Gentlemen – I am admonished by the leaden sky and the thickening mist that my remarks in reply to the welcome we have just listened to must be very brief. I would gladly give expression to the satisfaction and gratification it gives me to have this truly Virginia welcome. I understand very well the general purposes of the Society whose annual meeting brought together this large assembly – the growing interest of Virginia, the leading interest, has been promoted by the works of this Society, and in trying to do something to further this great interest we shall attempt a suitable return for the hospitality and kindness with which we have been so cordially received. I am glad to contribute something to the work the Agricultural Society of Virginia is endeavoring to do.
The State of Virginia has wisely undertaken to make known to the world her advantages - to make them known to the intelligent and enterprising and good people who desire to better their condition by a change of home. The Virginia Board of Immigration has been very fortunate in securing an officer who reports to that Board an interesting and satisfactory description of the attractions which Virginia possesses for emigrants. A few days ago one of the Senators from Virginia furnished me with Hotoukiss’ description of Virginia.
Now, my friends, in undertaking to contribute a little to the work your society is doing, I shall not be gully of dealing with facts and statistics. It would be indeed “carrying coals to Newcastle” to tell Virginians what Virginia is. Thanks to these gentlemen of the press who are reporting these proceedings, I may be able to reach a large number of people in other States that can not conveniently be represented here and witness what we behold. I do not intend to enter into and elaborate description of any of the advantages of Virginia. I merely wish to invite and to put intelligent people in other States on the track of an investigation about Virginia; I merely wish to read a sort of catalogue of the various attractions and claims of Virginia upon the consideration of those who, anywhere in the United States, desire to improve their condition by seeking new and better homes. Virginia possesses about as man acres of land, possesses an area of territory about equal to Pennsylvania, and it is one-eighth larger than Ohio, but its population is only one-third of that of Pennsylvania and does not reach one-half of that of Ohio. There is then, in the first place, in Virginia, too great spaces of unoccupied land. Under your former system it was the way of your men to have large estates. Your State, therefore, must be divided into a greater number of smaller farms. Thus it will be fifty years hence the population will increase by people coming in, and thus general prosperity will be promoted.
If I am expanding a little, the sky, you notice, is brightening; and I happily find them brightening [illegible].
As there is abundant territory for emigrants to possess – what, then, is the character of that territory? As some is worn out, I hear our agricultural friends are doubting whether there is skill to restore that land. Your plan was that it was easier to clear new land than to restore the old. That has been done in Virginia. Now comes the time when the soil has to be brought up again with capital, skill and appropriate applications. What is not fertile can be made so. Along your valley of the south side and in the mountain regions the emigrant can see it. He can get it cheap. It is cheap land. The emigrant wishes it. Land in Virginia is probably about twenty-five dollars an acre. For good land that is cheap, for in my own country land ranges from twenty-five to one hundred dollars per acre.
In addition to cheap land the next thing is a market easily reached. How does Virginia stand in this respect? In this State the most perishable vegetables can reach a market before they are worthless.
Next, build up your own growing cities. You have enough cheap land; but says some one, they are dreadfully taxed in Virginia. They are now divided over there about the debt. I am not here to discuss before you local questions. I do not mean to drop words to tell on which side I may be. I will say this that you are not as heavily taxed as where I live, in Ohio. I will say this also – that take your State debt and add to it all the other popular cities and counties of the State, and I think upon the whole that Virginia is not heavily in debt. And here again I might point to a State in the North – the fair State of new York, or smaller ones – which have cities to pile their taxes upon. Cities pay the taxes. Farmers do not live in cities, and the wise emigrant knows, if taxes are upon cities, who pays for goods. The farmer must bear his share. If the cities are heavily in debt, the farmer feels it. I say that taxation in Virginia is light. I say then Virginia is the State the worthy emigrant is inquiring for. The climate of Virginia is excellent. The large, muscular men I see before me demand praise, and the ladies, too, for the ladies I admire. It is a good climate. If I am not mistaken, muscular men of every race will find in Virginia and excellent working climate. Neither the severity of its winters nor exhaustive heat in summer is unfavorable to work. Perhaps nowhere do we find the original type, the ruddy face, muscles well covered, nerves well protected – that type of Englishman – better preserved than in Virginia.
It is, then, a good climate; therefore intelligent, good people will emigrate here. And besides these advantages, I might allude to that which will give a home market to the farmer. The growth of manufacturers makes populous cities, and these consume the product of agriculture. These material advantages are supplemented by others, which to the intelligent immigrant are very strong and attractive. Take the educational advantages. I think few States have done so much as Virginia to improve their educational systems for both races. It is very good, and it is increasing. It is not yet what Governor Kemper and you would be glad to have it everywhere, but the sentiment of popular education is gradually growing. This gathers from sources to which I have referred. I have been in the habit of saying that among the attractions to the best class of emigrants in other States, there are none greater to them than the advantages to be found here in Virginia. Why shall not the emigrant come here so near the market? The great lines completed connect the interior with the harbors. Does some one say there is prejudice against the newcomers? Descending myself from one of the earliest settlers of Ohio, I know how the old settlers felt toward new men. At the same time I do not desire to repel the coming of good citizens from every other quarter. Is there danger of that in Virginia? I have made some inquiry about Virginia upon that question, and she stands where she should be. I believe a good citizen, desiring to improve his condition, who comes to make his home in Virginia, to be the home of himself and his children after him, will find here all privileges, rights, benefits, hospitalities and friendship of the beset regulated American society; and wherever in Maine or Minnesota there are families with a favorite son or daughter threatened with any diseases, here your mild climate restores them, and here your hospitality is ready to receive them. I close with the wish: May it be among the decrees of Providence to bless Virginia as well as our whole beloved country. “Bless her with riches, honor, length of days, and may her ways be ways of pleasantness and all her paths be paths of peace.”