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PUBLISHED MONTHLY AT FIVE DOLLARS PER ANNUM-JNO. R. THOMPSON, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR.
RICHMOND, FEBRUARY, 1848.
proach as this attaches to our colonial history. THE SOCIAL SYSTEM OF VIRGINIA. Upon the contrary, we venture to affirm that the
annals of no people whatever, ancient or modern,
more abound in interesting incident. The mere fact The following article was designed as a review of the
that the early annals of Virginia present to as two First Volume of Mr. Howison's History of Virginia, and may
distinct states of civilization and two distinct races be thought perhaps somewhat late in the day, in view of the fact tbat this work appeared more ihan twelve months ago and thai, too, under the most novel circumstances,
of men placed in direct juxtaposition to each other, As the writer, however, makes Mr. Howison's book
must invest them with an interest which attaches to but the rehicle of his thoughts on ihe true spirit of philo
the history of few countries. They present to us sophical history and the “Social System of Virginia," and
barbarism and civilization-the red man of the as his treatment of these subjects is distinguished by en.
American forest and the cultivated European, larged and original views, we take great pleasure in laying thrown face to face upon the shores of the Westhis article before the public. The chaste and inwing style, in which the writer's reflections are conveyed, will not fail to
ern world, there to wage a war of extermination
the one in defence of his country and his homecommend itself to every reader. He discovers a mind well trained in the best schools of reasoning and a com
the other to make conquests, seuile colonies and mand of language, that is rarely met with. We trust he amass wealth. The history of such a struggle,
and of a society compounded of such stranige elwill ere long resume his pen in behalf of our magazine. The Second Volume of Mr. Howison's History will be relations to each other, could not, in the nature of
ements, and in which men occupied such novel published, perhaps, even before our present number is is. sued from the press. We are happy in being able to prom- ive. And we accordingly find that new phases of
things, be otherwise than entertaining and instructise a review of it, from a gentleman of high and well-de.
human life-novel and striking developments of the served literary reputation.—[Ed. Mess.
individual man-romantic adventure, bold achieve
ment, and thrilling incident, meet us at every step It has long been a matter of surprise and regret, of colonial progress. The simple story of Smith that the people of Virginia have manisested so lit- and Pocahontas, if there was nothing else, would tle interest in regard to the early history of their redeem the annals of any people from the reproach State. The amount of ignorance which prevails of dulness. in the communwealth upon this subject is abso- But it is the importance, rather than the romance lutely astonishing. It is by no means confined to of our colonial history, which claims for it the atthe illiterate. Onr educated men-men of intel- tention of every educated man-particularly of ligence and general information—are equally amen- every educated Virginian. It was upon the banks able to the charge. Young gentlemen, who have of our favorite river, not many miles from the presbeen to college, and who are reasonably well-read ent capital of the State, that the Anglo-Saxon race in general history, are yet, (with some few honor- first took root in the soil of the Western world. We able exceptions,) profoundly ignorant of the State do not hesitate to pronounce this one of the most whose soil they tread and whose air they breathe. memorable epochs in modern history. In our judgThey have been carefully instructed in the annals ment, the landing of Smith at Jamestown, followed, of Greece and Rome-every phase of French and as it was, by the subsequent occupation of the counEnglish history is familiar to them—they know by try by men of Anglo-Saxon origin, has exercised, heart the whole line of Plantagenets, Tudors, and is destined to exercise, in its remote conseStuarts, Guelphs and Capets, and yet can tell you quences, a greater influence over the destinies of nothing of that race of men from whose loins they the human race than any event which has occurhave sprung, and if they bave heard, by accident, red since the Reformation. It would not be diffithat such men as Smith and Bacon have lived and cult to make good this proposition, but it would lead died, this is the extent of their information in res us too far from our present purpose. We believe, pect to these colonial heroes.
however, that it will be generally conceded, and, This neglect of their early history by the Vir- if so, how recreant has Virginia heretofore been to ginians is altogether unpardonable. Even were her early history. the subject uninviting, ils dignity and importance It is gratifying, however, to find that there has would entitle it to their consideration. But noth- been some improvement in this matter. A dispoing could be further from the truth. No such re-sition has recently manifested itself in several
quarters to wipe away this reproach from the so intimately acquainted with her colonial history Ancient Dominion, and rescue, as far as is now as Mr. Campbell, and we believe that his industry practicable, her early annals from oblivion. The has led to the discovery of matter which has never Virginia Historical Society has been recently re- before been published and which will enable him to organized under new auspices, and with failer- present some portion of Virginia annals in a new ing prospects of success. This Society, if it can point of view. once be established on a permanent basis, will no We have read Mr. Howison's volume, and can, doubt prove a useful institution. It deserves the with pleasure, bear testimony to its merits in many patronage of the State, and we should be pleased respects. It is a clear and interesting narrative of to see an appropriation made for it during the pres the most prominent facts connected with the coloent winter by the Legislature, if such appropria- ny of Virginia from its first settlement in 1607 to tion be fairly within the scope of its legitimate the peace of Paris in 1763. And, so far as oor powers. Virginia, even yet, abounds in rich his- limited information enables us to judge, it is a cortorical fragments, which must soon be lost, unless rect narrative. We know of no book which we they be collected and arranged with some regard would sooner place in the hands of one who desito order and system. New York, Massachusetts, red to make himself acquainted with the general and, we believe, several of the other States, have outline of Virginia history in the shortest possible similar societies, which are in a prosperous con- time and with the least possible trouble. Matter dition. Their collections are already large and which is elsewhere spread over a large surface interestiug, and have been found valuable in illus- and dispersed in books, some of wbich are out of trating the colonial history of the country. There print and others not readily accessible to all, is here is no good reason why the Virginia Historical So-compressed into a single volume of moderate size, ciety should not also prosper, and we feel confi- arranged in chronological order and the whole wodent that, wiih equal industry and enterprise, it will ven into a narrative, conducted with no inconsidmeet with equal success. We believe that the erable skill. As a mere record of important pubJoose material yet floating about in the common- lic events—the settlement of Jamestown-the wealth is quile as valuable as that either of New early adventures of the colonists—their bloody batYork or Massachusetts, and if diligently collected tles with the savages-their "moving accidents by and arranged, will be found no inconsiderable con- flood and field"—the laws which were at various tribution to our historical literature. Let our peo- limes enacted—the revolutions through which the ple then, for once, at least, lay aside their repug- colonial government passed, and the relations which nance to combined action-let them come to the subsisted at different times between the colony and aid of this public and patriotic enterprise-let them the mother country—as a record, we say, of these send in their interesting historical manuscripts and and such like external matters, Mr. Howison's book other documents to the Society, where they will leaves us not much to be desired. But at this be preserved ; let them do this and the Virginia point we must stop. Having pointed out what we Historical Society will be placed upon an enduring believe to be the merits of Mr. Howison's history, basis, and its labors will redound to the honor of the laws of independent criticism demand that we the State.
should next point out what we conceive to be its Valuable contributions to Virginia history have defects. And, in the first place, the style in which also been made from other quarters. Within the his book is written is open to many objections. It last year or two, we have been favored with a vol- is upon a key altogether too high for historical wriume from R. R. Howison, Esq., upon the colonial ting. Mr. H. will, by no means, consent to tell history of Virginia, and a history by Charles Camp- us what he has to say in plain English. But whatbell, Esq., covering very mnch the same ground. ever he is narrating, however trivial and unimpor
We have only had it in our power to read the tant it may be, must be set down in the swelling first two or three chapters of Mr. Campbell's his periods of Johnson or Gibbon, and the consequence tory. With the part which we have read, how- is, that Mr. H. is frequently eloquent opon occaever, we are much pleased. Indeed, we shall be sions when it would have been much better to have greatly disappointed if Mr. Campbell's book does been merely natural. This is, however, in our not prove to be the most valuable history of Vir- eyes, a very venial offence ; for style, after all, is ginia which has yet been given to the public. We not the body, but the mere outward vestment, and have the pleasure of a personal acquaintance with we care not much for the setting, if the diamond that gentleman, and know that the best energies of itself be genuine. In our judgment, a bold, manly his life have, up to this time, been devoted to its utterance of the honest convictions of one's own preparation. It has been with him, for many years, intellect, is the best style in which a man can a labor of love-every faculty of mind and body write, and, dismissing this whole matter of style, has been enlisted in the undertaking; and, in the we proceed immediately to what we esteem to be collection of material, he has been indefatigable. the great defect of Mr. H's history: and in order We are persuaded that there is no man in Virginia'that we may be distinctly understood, it will be
necessary to premise a word or two in respect to every where moving in company, acting and rethe revolution which has taken place in historical acting upon each other--modifying each other-literature within the last half century.
fact controlling the excesses of theory, and theory He who has observed, with any degree of at- expounding and interpreting fact. Guizot, in his tention, the progress of modern civilization, must History of Civilization, (whence we have borrowed have noted the rise of a new spirit which pre- it,) has developed so fully and forcibly the idea sides over the investigation of truth in all the de- which we have been endeavoring to express, that partments of human life. It is a spirit of strict we will take the liberty of quoting the passage. reserve, rigid analysis and cautious deduction-a spirit which observes facts carefully, and admits generalization slowly. This spirit has, for some
“ We are now compelled to consider-science time, prevailed in the conduct of those sciences and make them move side by side.
and reality-Theory and practice-right and fact
Down to the which employ themselves in the material world, present time these two powers have lived apart. Natural philosophy, chemistry, geology and as- The world has been accustomed to see theory and tronomy. It explains their progress and has been practice following two different routes, unknown the source of their glory. And it is a spirit which to each other, or at least never meeting. When is now extending itself to all those sciences which termeddle in affairs, to influence the world, it has
doctrines, when general ideas, have wished to inhave for their object, the investigation of facts and only been able to effect this under the appearance the ascertainment of truth, as it exists in the world and by the aid of fanaticism. Up to the present around us. But where the object is not so much time ihe government of human societies, the directhe investigation of facts and the establishment of tion of their affairs, has been divided between two pre-existing truth, as the improvement of the so- sorts of influences; on the one side theorists, men cial relations, there a very different tendency pre- Enthusiasts ; on the other, men ignorant of all ra
who would rule all according to abstract notionsvails. In political economy, government and the tional principle-Experimentalists, whose only administration of public affairs, for instance, we gojde is expediency. This stale of things is now no longer observe that servile subjection to facts, over. The world will no longer agilate for the as they were called, which was once manifested. sake of some abstract principle, some fanciful theoThese general ideas, reason, principles--what are ry, some Utopian government, which can only ex
ist in the imagination of an enthusiast; nor will it called theories, are introducing themselves and caus
put up with practical abuses and oppressions, howing themselves to be respected. The movement of ever formed by prescription and expediency, when which we speak is, therefore, a double movement. they are opposed to just principles and the legitiFacts are intruding themselves into the intellectual mate end of government. To ensure respect, to order, and ideas are intruding themselves into the obtain confidence, governing powers must social order. The outer world is governed more
unite theory and practice ; they must know and ac
knowledge the influence of both. They must reaccording to reason and the intellectual world more gard as well principles as facts; must respect both according to reality. Thus, in our times, are fact iruth and necessity-must shon, on the one hand, and theory brought together and made to move in the blind pride of the fanatic theorist, and, on the company. This is the last and greatest intellec- other, the no less blind pride of the libertine prac
lician.” tual achievement of the age--the glory of modern civilization. It was not so a hundred years ago. This scientific method of investigating truth is Theo, in the intellectual order--in abstract science extending itself in every direction. It has, as we and philosophy-little respect was paid to reality, have seen, taken possession of science and philosand the imagination of men, refusing to be con- ophy, it prevails in political economy, governinent trolled by facts as they existed in the world around and the administration of public affairs generally, them, ran into the wildest excesses of theory and and is now reaching into the domaio of history. hypothesis. On the other hand, in the social order, Indeed, the revolution which it has wrought in general ideas found no place at all, and he who at- historical literature, within the last half century, is tempted to assert for them any influence in politi- unprecedented. The historian of the nineteenth cal economy or the administration of public affairs, century is no longer, a mere Gazetteer, and his hiswas forth with branded as a visionary and a dream.tory a dry record of battles, treaties and public er. The provinces of facts and general ideas were acts of government. He feels that he has a higher then entirely distinct and independent-each was province than that of merely collecting public facts supreme in its own dominion and would tolerate and setting them down in chronological order. Beno intrusion by the other. The consequence was, sides these outward and material facts, open to the as has just been stated, that speculation ran into inspection of all, there are other moral and hidden the wildest excesses and the intellectual world was facts, which, although we cannot attach to them filled with fantasies and chimeras ; while the social any precise name or date, it yet concerns us quite world remained a dead chaotic mass. The pro- as much to know as those battles, treaties and pubgress of modern civilization has, at last, corrected lic acts of government, of which we have spoken. this state of things. We now find fact and theory' To bring these hidden facts to light, to evolve those
now to note.
general principles which lie buried under the chaos, the works, not of Dracos and Hampdens, but of of innumerable isolated facts—to elucidate those Phænician mariners, of Italian masons, and Saxon great moral problems which connect themselves metallurgists, of philosophers, alchemists, prophets with the social progress of every people—this is from the first, have been jointly teaching us how
and all the long train of artists and artisans ; who, the mission of modern history. And it is this re- to think and how to act, how to role our spiritual cent alliance between philosophy and history which and our physical nature." precisely measures and characterises that revolu
It is these “ Phænician mariners, Italian matiun in historical literature, which it is our purpose sons, and Saxoni metallurgists, philosophers, alche
The results of that revolution have been mists, prophets, and all the long train of artists immense. It has, indeed, changed the whole course and artisans ; who, from the first, have been teachof history, and given a new direction to the labors ing us how to think and how to act,” who have of the historian. Heretofore, history has been oc- been the real benefactors of mankind. It is this copied almost exclusively about courts, camps and hitherto neglected and despised class, who only battle-fields, forgetting that it is not in courts or appear on the pages of history, when they are camps, nor yet or battle-fields that the life of a gathered together on some balile-field to be slaughpeople is spent, or their true history discovered ; iered for the glory of their masters, who have given but far away from scenes like these, in the field, to the world those arts and sciences which have the work-shop, and the factory—on the highway redeemed the world from barbarism, and preserved and in the retired valleys of the world, causes civilization as a trust for their children and future which few eyes see and which are chronicled in
generations. Honor and glory are attached to no records, are silently, but steadily and irresistibly their names ; but we know nothing of them; for moulding the destinies of the human race. To de history, which should have recorded their praises, tect these latent causes, and record them for the was in the service of those who lived by their toil, instruction of the present and future generations, and rewarded them with oppression. Their very is the province of history, and, hereafter, he who names lie buried in the dark untenanted places of does this will alone be esteemed an historian; the past, while every school-boy knows by heart while he who writes to us about courts and camps the genealogy of a whole line of barbarian kings. and battle-fields--who collects and sets down in Truly has the world been slow to recognize its chronological order, under their appropriate heads, benefactors ! These men have a history-it is the so as to be of easy reference, the remarkable events history of art, science, discovery, invention, philosof the past, such as the birth of princes, the death ophy, and literature--in a word, the history of civ. of kings, the dates of battles, the change of dynas-ilization itself. Though long neglected, it is yet ties, political revolutions, general laws, and public destined to be written. The honor of doing so has acts of government, may be regarded as a more been reserved for our times. We have histories or less instructive Gazetteer ; but nothing more. in abundance of kings, rulers and statesmen. We Mankind, if they could only be induced to think are now, at last, to have a bistory of the People. so, have a much deeper interest in those arts, sci- We return from this long digression. Our obences, discoveries and inventions, by which the ject has been to point out the revolution which has comforts of human life have been extended and taken place in historical literature within the last civilization advanced, than in those wars, revolu- half century. We have done so, though in the tions and public acts of government by which the most crude and imperfect manner, and found that world has been so often scourged and whole nations revolution to consist essentially in an alliance, which devastated.
has never before existed, between philosophy and With much force and beauty does Carlyle ask--history, and in the new direction which has been
thereby given to the labors of the historian. We “ Which was the greater innovator, which was the more important personage in man's history, he are now prepared to state in a very few words who first led armies over the Alps, and gained the what we regard as the great defect of Mr. Howivictories of Cannæ and Thrasymene ; or the nanie
sons book. It is not written in the spirit of modless boor who first hammered out for himself an ern history. There is none of that blending of iron spade ? When the oak tree is felled, the whole philosophy and history which, as we have seen, forest echoes with it; but a hundred acorns are constitutes the characteristic feature of modern planted silently by some unnoticed breeze. Batiles and war-tumults, which for the time din every
historical literature. The volume before us is, as ear, and with joy or terror intoxicate every heari, we have stated, a clear, consecutive narrative of pass away like lavern brawls ; and, except some the prominent public events connected with the few Maraihons and Mogartens, are remembered by colonization of Virginia, and it pretends to nothing accident, not by desert. Laws themselves, poliii. It nowhere attempts a solution of those cal constitutions, are not our life, but ouly the house wherein our life led:
many interesting social problems which are indis.
: nay, they are but the bare walls of the house; all whose essential solubly interwoven with our early progress, nor furniture, the inventions, and traditions and daily does it seek to evolve those important general prinhabits that regulate and support our existence, are ciples which lie buried under the rubbish of colonial
civilization. We regret this very much ; for those don Company, Governor, Council, and House of problems and general principles lie directly across Burgesses are his dramatis persone. The people the path of the Virginia historian, and if, instead rarely appear upon the stage. This is a great of evading them, Mr. H. had taken them boldly omission. We have heard much of those old-time in hand and treated them with success, as he might Virginians, and have long desired, above all things, have done, he would have entitled himself to the to make their acquaintance. It is certain that they gratitude of the people of Virginia, and have se- were, in many respects, a remarkable race of men. cured for his book a position in the historical lit. They are illustrious in colonial annals, and were, erature of the country, which, we fear, it is not now beyond question, the master spirits of the age in destined to attain. For all must admit that the which they lived. We sometimes imagine that we Social System of Virginia is, in many respects, a can see them standing in the twilight of those early peculiar system—uplike most of the social sys- times, a head taller than their cotemporaries. tems by which it is surrounded—a sort of anomaly These men were our fathers, and what we, their in our times. It has no parallel except in the other lineal descendants, desire is to know something of slave-holding states of the onion, and, when closely them—to be placed face to face with them-to visit inspected, looks very much like the remnant of an them at their homes in the country and set with older civilization—a fragment of the feudal sys-them around their fire-sides and at the social board. tem floating about here on the bosom of the nine. We desire to see what manner of men they really teenth century. As we have just stated, many novel were—what they did, thought and felt, and how and interesting problems necessarily connect them- they spent their daily being. A race from whose selves with such a system problems the solution loins have sprung a line of warriors and statesof which will, we believe, throw much light upon men—such men as Washington, Henry, Marshall, our past history and future career as an indepen-Jefferson, Madison, and a hundred others—all dent people. If Virginia has always been poor-names, if she has accomplished but little for the improvement of man's social and material well-being-if
"Worthy on fame's eternal bead-roll to be filed," she has fallen behind her sister states in the accu-deserves to be studied and remembered. We do mulation of wealth; if, upon the other hand, she not think that Mr. H. has paid attention enough to bas done much for the melioration of man's moral this branch of his subject. He might well have and intellectual nature, if she has been eminently devoted a whole chapter to the people of Virginia, fruitful in great men and general principles, if she and it would have been the most interesting chapter has given to the nation those warriors whose valor in his book. has led its armies to victory, those statesmen whose We have now, in the discharge of that duty wisdom bas guided its councils in peace, and those which is due to the public, and in the spirit of inprinciples of civil and religious liberty upon which dependent criticism, pointed out the defects of Mr. our iostitutions are founded-if all this be true, an H.'s History of Virginia as they have appeared to explanation of it and of every other problem con-us. Of its merits we have already spoken, and nected with the past history or present condition they are such as are not likely to be overlooked. of the commonwealth, will be found in the peculiar They are of a character which will commend the elements which prevailed in her social organization book to the public, and cause it to be generally during the colonial period. We repeat, therefore, read. And while we think that Mr. H. leaves that it is a source of regret to us that Mr. H. has much yet to be accomplished, we cannot withhold not entered somewhat into this interesting subject. from him the credit of having made a valuable conIt would. in our judgment, have greatly increased tribution to our historical literature. Although his the value of his history. Bancroft is the only book does not go all the way, yet it is certainly a writer who has undertaken any thing like an analy- step in advance, and will do much to clear the way sis of the Social System of Virginia, and the con- for those who may come after him. And we here seqnence is that, although he has performed his dismiss Mr. H.'s history, with the remark already task but imperfectly, and has fallen into some errors made that it is, so far as we are able 10 judge, a of fact, yet, every thing considered, he has given correct and interesting narrative of the important us the best History of Virginia which we have yet public events connected with the colonization of come across.
He does not tell us as much as Virginia, and, as such, we take pleasure in recomsome others, but he tells us more that we want to mending it to all who desire to acquaint themselves know.
with the general outline of colonial history with We have one other objection to allege against the least possible expenditure of time and trouble. Mr. H.'s book. He tells us nothing about the We have said that there were many interesting people of Virginia ; gives us no new insight into questions connected with the Social System of Virtheir character, habits, and mode of life. He has ginia. We propose, briefly, to call public attention written a hiştory of the Government of Virginia, to one or two of these questions. We can only and not much more. The King, Parliament, Lon-'do so in a very imperfect manner; for although