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VARIOUS COUNTRY DISTRICTS.
TRAVELLERS who pass through Virginia and Maryland tell of broken fences, unproductive fields, crumbling mills and dwellings, and the most unsightly and melancholy of all ruins—those of wooden houses. It is not easy to describe or to account for the very disagreeable impression produced by frame-house ruins. In an ancient stone wall, the fallen part makes an irregular mound on which vines and mosses grow, while that which stands has a degree of picturesque beauty in its decay. But if the ruin be that of an edifice of wood, though it were but recently smart, with its correct angles and bright paint, it is ugly in decay, having none of the dignity of agedness about it. You may find one long line of planks prone on the ground, another warped and bending here out, there in, with ragged and broken boards projecting, while the roof, with its forked rafters, is hanging to the standing wall, and seems to long to drag it down to that which is already prostrate. Mosses, lichens, mould, nettles, toad-stools—all horrid things which a witch might cull to seethe in her cauldron, are springing up around. The desolate appearance of the place is painful, as you feel a persuasion that the quondam inhabitants also are in a state of decay. On those estates where human ingenuity lies prostrate at the feet of cupidity, where, man does the work of the ox and the ass, and where, generation after generation, the spade and the hoe have, without variation, worked the same earth, the fertile land is turned into barrenness. It becomes so unproductive as not to pay the labour, and is gradually left to fall out of cultivation, and its buildings to drop to decay.
“What a mouldy appearance all the country we traversed this week has !" I heard a lady say, inquiringly, after her return from the south. A free thinker could have explained the cause of the mould, but it would not have been well taken to act the part of a free speaker. For, to confess truth, brother Jonathan is not so free as he would like to think himself. It is marvellous to see him at the north, smother his aspirations, and whisper his thoughts in subjection to the south. It is marvellous to see men who have rid themselves of dishonest gains and dishonouring institutions, submit to be made manhunters and slave-catchers in their own free homes. It is marvellous to hear a man say he would suffer the penalty of the law, rather than obey the summons that the magistrate is entitled to give him to join in the human chase; but yet he will not dare to lift his voice against that law. He places himself in the attitude of the sufferer, and will bear fine and imprisonment rather than obey a law which oppresses his conscience. Is he in truth, and honestly, a martyr to conscience here? Would he be encroaching on the freedom of a neighbour state were he to lift up his voice against wrong? Or, would be not rather be obeying the Scripture rule ?—“ Thou shalt in anywise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him;" or, “ That thou bear no sin for him.”
Let us turn from this desolate landscape, and gladly survey a new scene which begins to open in a corner of Virginia. Here are some repaired houses, and fields again fertile, but with other crops than those they formerly bore. These are the smiling fruits of labour, stimulated by proprietorship. Look at that hearty New England farmer and his cheerful family, recently settled there. See the soil turned with the plough instead of the hoe, its furrows reaching to a depth untried at least for a century. Look at its luxurious productions of fruits, vegetables, and grain. Observe that field covered with clover, which will be ploughed in presently, and left to manure the ground where it grew. Watch the waving crops, and inspect the early vegetables, which, borne by steam to northern markets, will bring a rich return to the labourer. He has, by favour of climate, produced them six weeks sooner than they can be grown at New York, and two months earlier than at Boston. Will not such proof of the capabilities of a soil in the hand of free labour enlighten the minds of those who have worn it out and forsaken it, under the cultivation of the slave? Will not Virginia look to her mountain districts, held by free men, and compare or contrast them with her lowlands ? Surely the time is hastening when the children of the free shall hail another and another state freed from that yokea yoke that hangs on the neck of the slaveholder, and keeps his mind and conscience, like his fields, in bondage. Nay, it induces him to lay bonds on the necks of his free neighbours. When all things are fairly weighed, it appears that the slaveholder is as little really a freeman as is the slave. His system violates the eternal principles of justice, and, consequently, he dare not suffer the vicinity of the free negro, however just his claim to be there, or however it might advantage himself. Such an exhibition of liberty might spoil his gang. He dare not admit the instructor, lest the aurora of knowledge, dawning afar, should infuse into his gang some idea of a life above that of the passive brute. He dare not indulge even one favourite and promising coloured man with education, lest his skill and knowledge should make the others discontented. The freedom of the press cannot exist where he is. Rome is not more exact in her expurgated lists of books and newspapers, than is the legislature in a slave state. Nay, he must lord it over free states, that he may the more easily keep his own in bondage. Is he, then, a freeman, or is he not rather the slave of a most evil and unhappy system ?
Should a young lady from a free state, without sufficient knowledge of how matters stand, become the wife of a southerner, she, poor inexperienced child ! if she carry conscience and humanity with her, may be alarmed to find herself called upon to exercise the offices and wisdom of age, being looked up to by a band of people utterly unused to confide in themselves and each other. Though a coloured nurse watch by the bed of the sick domestic slave, the lady must drop the medicine. She must look upon the timepiece for the moment to administer it. She, though at midnight, or early morning hours, may be awakened to give the potion. She must not only provide clothes for her numerous family, which has no provident habit because it is untrusted, but she may find it necessary to shape them, and fix the seams for the overgrown children who can with needle and thread be taught to fasten them together. Is she free? I speak not of her moral, but of her mere physical condition. Does she not discover that she has married into bondage ? Some of the most elegant, refined, intelligent, princess-like women that I have met with in the United States were such. They have learnt to be waited upon, to have their slightest wish attended to, and, withal, because they, with woman's nature, are pitiful to the sick and feeble, they have exercised much benevolence.