Cyril G. Hopkins.

The Story of the Soil; from the Basis of Absolute Science and Real Life, online

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"The southern people have no regrets for the freeing of the slaves.
Probably it was the best thing that ever happened to us; and the
South would have less regret for the war itself, except that our
recovery from it was greatly delayed by the reconstruction policy
which was followed after the war. The immediate enfranchisement of
the negro, especially in those sections where this resulted in
placing all the power of the local government in the hands of the
negro, was a worse blow to the South than the war itself.

"It is believed that this would not have been done if Lincoln had
lived. Lincoln was always the President of all the people of the
United States, and his death was a far greater loss to the South
than to the North. To place the power to govern the intelligent
white of the South absolutely in the hands of their former ignorant
slaves was undoubtedly the most abominable political blunder
recorded in history; and even this was intensified by the
unprincipled white-skinned vultures who came among us to fatten upon
our dead or dying conditions. Those years of so-called
reconstruction, constitute the blackest page in the history of
modern civilization."

"I quite agree with you," said Percy, "and so far as I know them the
soldiers of the northern armies also agree with you. Several of my
own relatives fought to free the negro slave; but none of them
fought to enslave their white brothers of the South by putting them
absolutely under negro government. And yet there is one possible
justification for that abominable reconstruction policy. It may have
averted a subsequent war which might have lasted not for four years,
but for forty years. Even if this be true, perhaps there is no
credit in the policy for any man who helped to enforce it, but you
will grant that there were two important results from those bitter
years of reconstruction:

"First, the negro learned with certainty at once and forever that he
was a free man.

"Second, he at once acquired a degree of independence effectually
preventing the development of a situation throughout the South, in
which the negro, though nominally free, would have remained
virtually a slave, a situation which, if once established, might
have required a subsequent war of many years for its complete
eradication. Even under the conditions which have prevailed, there
have been isolated instances of peonage in the southern states since
the war; and if the education and gradual enfranchisement of the
negro had been left wholly in the hands of their former masters,
from the immediate close of the war, I can conceive of conditions
under which slavery would essentially have been continued."

"Such a possibility is, of course, conceivable," said Mr. West, "and
we must all admit that there were some slave holders who would have
taken advantage of any such opportunity; but had Lincoln lived the
terms made would probably have been such that the South would have
felt in honor bound to enforce them. Probably the enfranchisement
would have been based upon some sort of qualification such as the
southern states have very generally adopted in subsequent years; but
the idea of social equality of slave and master was so repulsive to
the white people of the South that it could not be tolerated under
any sort of government."

"This question of social equality," remarked Percy, "has probably
been the cause of more misunderstanding between the North and the
South than all other questions relating to the negro problem. I have
rarely, if ever, talked with a southern man who did not have it
firmly fixed in his mind that the common idea of the northern people
is that the negro race should be made the social equal of the white
race. This I have heard from southern lecturers; I have read it in
southern newspapers; and I have found it in books written by
southern authors; but, Mr. West, I have never yet heard that idea
advanced by a man or woman of the North.

"Of course there have been visionary theorists or 'cranks' in all
ages, and there must have been some basis for this almost universal
erroneous opinion in the South that the people of the North
advocated social equality or social intercourse between the white
and colored races; and yet nothing could be farther from the truth.
In all my life in the North, I think I have never seen a colored
person dining with a white man. This does not prove that there are
no such occurrences, but it certainly shows that they are extremely
rare. On the other hand, in traveling through the South I have seen
a white woman bring her colored maid or nurse, to the dining car and
sit at the same table with herself and husband. Of course there is
no suggestion of social equality or social intercourse in this, but
there is a much closer relationship than is common or would be
allowed in the North."

"That may be true," said Mr. West, "and there was in slave times a
very intimate relationship between the negro nurses and the white
children of the South. Some of our people are ready to take offense
at the suggestion that we talk negro dialect, and perhaps we would
all prefer to say that the negroes have learned to talk as we talk;
but the truth is that the negroes were brought to America chiefly as
adults; and, as is usually the case when adult people learn a new
language, they modified ours because their own African language did
not contain all of the sounds of the English tongue. Similarly we
hear and recognize the other nationalities when they learn to speak
English. Thus we have the Irish brogue, the German brogue, and the
French brogue, or dialect.

"The negro children learned to speak the dialect as spoken by their
own parents; and as a very general rule the white children learned
to talk as their negro nurses talked. So far as there is a southern
dialect it is due to the modification of our language by the negro."

"You have mentioned several things," said Percy, "that are much to
the credit of the negro who has had a fair chance to be trained
along right lines; and I think the modficaton of our language which
his presence has brought about in the South is not without some
credit. It is generally agreed that the most pleasing English we
hear is that of the Southern orator.

"Referring to social conditions, the most marked difference which I
have noticed between the North and South, and really, it seems to
me, the only difference of importance, is that the South has
separate schools for white and colored, whereas in the North the
school is not looked upon as a social institution.

"As a rule no more objection is raised to white and colored children
sitting on separate seats in the same school room than to their
sitting on separate seats in the same street car. The school is
regarded as a place for work, where each has his own work to do,
much the same as in the shop or factory where both white and colored
are employed. The expense of the single school system is, of course,
much less than where separate schools are maintained; and perhaps an
equally important point is that in the single system the same moral
standards are held up by the teachers for both white and colored

"That point is worthy of consideration," said Mr. West. "It is very
certain that a class of negroes has grown up in these more recent
years that was practically unknown in slave times when white men
were more largely responsible for their moral training. The vile
wretches who made the attack this evening probably never received
any moral training. It is conceivable that the moral influence of
the white children over the negroes in the same school might exert a
lasting benefit, even aside from the influence of the teacher; and
the relationship of the school room could not be any real
disadvantage to the white child. But this could only be brought
about where white teachers were employed. Some such arrangement
would doubtless have been made had the mind of Lincoln directed the
general policy of reconstruction; but it is doubtful now if the
negro teacher will ever be wholly replaced, although time has
wrought greater changes in political lines since the black years of
the reconstruction."

"Yes," said Percy, "and those changes which have been brought about
in the South have the full sympathy and approval of the great
majority of the Northern people. Indeed, it is extremely doubtful if
the North will be able to completely banish such a source of vice
and corruption as the open saloon until limitation is placed upon
the franchise by an educational qualification."



THE goddess of sleep seemed to have deserted Westover. Adelaide lay
in her mother's arms, either awake and restless or in fitful sleep
from which she frequently awoke with a muffled scream or a physical
contortion. Once, as she nestled closer, her mother heard her
murmur: "You must pardon me."

Percy, from the southwest room, was sure he heard horses feet at the
side gate. The murmur of low voices reached his ear, and then he
recognized that horsemen were riding away.

The house was astir at early dawn; and as soon as breakfast was over
Mr. West had the colts hitched to the "buckboard" and he drove with
Percy to Montplain.

"I think your testimony will not be needed this morning," said Mr.
West, "but it may be needed later, and it is well that you should
report to the officers at any rate, since you promised to be there
this morning."

Percy pointed out the place where the attack had been made, and he
looked for a stump of a small tree or for any other object upon
which the negro could have fallen with such force as to mash his
eye; but he saw nothing.

As soon as they reached the village, Mr. West drove directly to the
town house; and there two black bodies were seen hanging from the
limb of an old tree in the courthouse yard. Percy noted that his
companion showed no sign of surprise; and, after the first shock of
his complete realization of the work of the night, he looked calmly
upon the scene. They had stopped almost under the tree.

"Are these the brutes who made the attack and whom you captured and
delivered to the officer?" asked Mr. West.

"They are," he replied.

"In your opinion have they received justice?"

"Yes, Sir," Percy replied, "but I fear without due process of law."

"Let me tell you, Sir, there is no law on the statutes under which
justice could be meted out to these devils for the nameless crime
which ends in death by murder or by suicide of the helpless victim,
a crime which these wretches committed only in their black
hearts - thanks to you, Sir."

As he spoke, the town marshall approached followed by the negro
pastor of the local church and a few of his followers. Silently they
lowered the bodies to the ground, placed them upon improvised
stretchers, and carried them to the potters field outside the
village, where rough coffins and graves were ready to receive them.

As Mr. West and Percy returned to Westover they discussed the lands
which in the main were lying abandoned on either side of the road.

"Here," said Mr. West, as he paused on the brow of a sloping
hillside, "was as near to Westover as the Union army came. The
position of the breastworks may still be seen. The Southern army lay
across the valley yonder. These two trees are sprouts from an old
stump of a tree that was shot away. About seventeen hundred
confederate dead were buried in trenches in the valley, but they
were later removed. The federal dead were carried away as the Union
army retreated. We never learned their number. For three days
Westover was made headquarters of the confederate officers, and my
mother worked day and night to prepare food for them."

They stopped at Westover for a few moments, Percy remaining in the
"buckboard" while Mr. West reported to his family what they had seen
in Montplain.

"Our report," said Mr. West, "hideous and horrible as it is, will
help to restore the child to calm and quiet. To speak frankly, Sir,
occurrences of this sort, sometimes with the worst results, are
sufficiently frequent in the South so that we constantly feel the
added weight or burden whenever the sister, wife, or daughter is
left without adequate protection."

The remaining hours of the morning were devoted to a drive over the
country surrounding Westover; and Mr. West consented to Adelaide's
request that she be allowed to drive Percy to the station at
Montplain, where he was to take the afternoon train for Richmond.
She chose the "buckboard" but insisted upon driving.

They talked of their school and college days, of the books they had
read, of anything in fact except of the experiences of the past
twenty-four hours. Even when they entered the valley no shadow
crossed Adelaide's face; but as they neared the station her voice
changed, and as Percy looked into her winsome, frankly upturned
face, she said:

"Have I truly been pardoned for my cruel words last evening? I am
sure you were as manly and noble as any man could have been."

"And I am sure you were the bravest little woman I have ever known,"
replied Percy, "and I admire you the more for calling me a coward
when you thought I was running away; so there is nothing to pardon I
am sure."

She gave him her hand as a child at parting, but he thought as he
looked into her eyes that he saw the soul of a woman.



PERCY carried with him a most interesting and attractive circular of
information concerning the rapid restoration of the farm lands of the
South. It also stated that further information could be secured from a
certain real estate agent in Richmond, who was found to be still in his
office when Percy arrived in the city late in the afternoon.

The agent was delighted to receive a call from the Western man, and
assured him that he would gladly show him several plantations not far
from the city which could be purchased at very reasonable prices. Indeed
he could have his choice of these old southern homesteads for the very
low price of forty dollars an acre. A map of an adjoining county showed
the exact location of several such farms, some of which were of great
historical interest. At what time in the morning could he be ready to be
shown one of these rare bargains?

"What treatment do these lands require to restore their productiveness?"
asked Percy.

"No treatment at all, Sir, except the adoption of your western methods
of farming and your system of crop rotation. I tell you the results are
marvelous when western farmers get hold of these famous old plantations.
Just good farming and a change of crops, that's all they need."

"Does clover grow well?" asked Percy. "We grow that a good deal in the

"Oh, yes, clover will grow very well, indeed, but cowpeas is a much
better crop than clover. Our best farmers prefer the cowpea; and after a
crop of cowpeas, you can raise large crops of any kind."

"Of course you know of those who have been successful in restoring some
of these old farms," Percy suggested.

"Oh, yes, Sir, many of them, and they are making money hand over fist,
and their lands are increasing in value, and no doubt will continue to
increase just as your western lands have done. Yes, Sir, the greatest
opportunity for investment in land is right here and now, and these old
plantations are being snapped up very rapidly."

"I shall be glad to know of some of these successful farmers who are
using the improved methods. Will you name one, just as an example, and
tell me about what he has done to restore his land?"

"Well," said the agent, "There's T. O. Thornton, for example. Mr.
Thornton bought an old plantation of a thousand acres only six years ago
at a cost of six dollars an acre. He has been growing cowpeas in
rotation with other crops; and, as I say, he is making money hand over
fist. A few months ago he refused to consider fifty dollars an acre for
his land, but still there are some of these old plantations left that
can be bought for forty dollars, because the people don't really know
what they are worth. However, our lands are all much higher than they
were a few years ago."

"Where does Mr. Thornton live?" asked Percy.

"Oh, he lives at Blairville, nearly a hundred miles from Richmond. Yes,
he lives on his farm near Blairville. I tell you he's making good all
right, but I don't know of any land for sale in that section."

"I think I will go out to Blairville to see Mr. Thornton's farm," said
Percy. "Do you know when the trains run?"

"Well, I'm sorry to say that the train service is very poor to
Blairvile. There is only one train a day that reaches Blairville in
daylight, and that leaves Richmond very early in the morning."

"That is all right," said Percy, "it will probably get me there in time
so that I shall be sure to find Mr. Thornton at home. I thank you very
much, Sir. Perhaps I shall be able to see you again when I return from

"When you return from Blairville is about the most uncertain thing in
the world. As I said, the train service is mighty poor to Blairville,
and it's still poorer, you'll find, when you want to leave Blairville.
Why, a traveling man told me he had been on the road for fifteen years,
and he swore he had spent seven of 'em at Blairville waiting for trains.
Better take my advice and look over some of the fine old plantations
right here in the next county and then you can take all the rest of the
month if you wish getting in and out of Blairville."

About eight o'clock the following morning Percy might have been seen
walking along the railroad which ran through Mr. Thornton's farm about
two miles from Blairvile. He saw a well beaten path which led from the
railroad to a nearby cottage and a knock brought to the door a negro
woman followed by several children.

"Can you tell me where Mr. Thornton's farm is?" he inquired.

"Yes, Suh," she replied. "This is Mistah Tho'nton's place, right heah,
Suh. Leastways, it was his place; but we done bought twenty acahs of it
heah, wheah we live, 'cept tain all paid fo' yit. Mistah Tho'nton lives
in the big house over theah 'bout half a mile."

"May I ask what you have to pay for land here?"

"Oh, we have to pay ten dollahs an acah, cause we can't pay cash. My ol'
man he wo'ks on the railroad section and we just pay Mistah Tho'nton foh
dollahs every month. My chil'n wo'k in the ga'den and tend that acah
patch o' co'n."

"Do you fertilize the corn?"

"Yes, Suh. We can't grow nothin' heah without fe'tilizah. We got two
hundred pounds fo' three dollahs last spring and planted it with the

As Percy turned in at Mr. Thornton's gate he saw a white man and two
negroes working at the barn. "Pardon me, but is this Mr. Thornton?"
asked Percy as he approached.

"That is my name."

"Well, my name is Johnston. I am especially interested in learning all I
can about the farm lands in this section and the best methods of
farming. I live in Illinois, and have thought some of selling our little
farm out there and buying a larger one here in the East where the land
is much cheaper than with us. A real estate agent in Richmond has told
me something of the progress you are making in the improvement of your
large farm. I hope you will not let me interfere with your work, Sir."

"Oh, this work is not much. I've had a little lumber sawed at a mill
which is running just now over beyond my farm, and I am trying to put a
shed up here over part of the barn yard so we can save more of the
manure. I shall be very glad to give you any information I can either
about my own farming or about the farm lands in this section."

"You have about a thousand acres in your farm I was told."

"Yes, we still have some over nine hundred acres in the place, but we
are farming only about two hundred acres, including the meadow and
pasture land. The other seven hundred acres are not fenced, and, as you
will see, the land is mostly grown up to scrub trees."

"Your corn appears to be a very good crop. About how many acres of corn
do you have this year?"

"I have only fourteen acres. That is all I could cover with manure, and
it is hardly worth trying to raise corn without manure."

"Do you use any commercial fertilizer?"

"Well, I've been using some bone meal. I've no use for the ordinary
complete commercial fertilizer. It sometimes helps a little for one
year; but it seems to leave the land poorer than ever. Bone meal lasts
longer and doesn't seem to hurt the land. I see from the agricultural
papers that some of the experiment stations report good results from the
use of fine-ground raw rock phosphate; but they advise using it in
connection with organic matter, such as manure or clover plowed under. I
am planning to get some and mix it with the manure here under this shed.
Do you use commercial fertilizers in Illinois?"

"Not to speak of, but some of our farmers are beginning to use the raw
phosphate. Our experiment station has found that our most extensive soil
types are not rich in phosphorus, and has republished for our benefit
the reports from the Maryland and Ohio experiment stations showing that
the fine-ground natural rock phosphate appears to be the most economical
form to be used and that it is likely to prove much more profitable in
the long run, although it may not give very marked results the first
year or two. May I ask what products you sell from your farm, Mr.

"I sell cream. I have a special trade in Richmond, and I ship my cream
direct to the city. I also sell a few hogs and some wheat. I usually put
wheat after corn, and have fourteen acres of wheat seeded between the
corn shocks over there. Sometimes I don't get the wheat seeded, and then
I put the land in cowpeas. I usually raise about twenty-five acres of
cowpeas, and the rest of the cleared land I use for meadow and pasture.
I usually sow timothy after cowpeas, and I like to break up as much old
pasture land for corn as I can put manure on."

"I was told that you had been offered fifty dollars an acre for your
farm, Mr. Thornton, but that you would not consider the offer."

Mr. Thornton laughed heartily at this remark.

"That must have come from the Richmond land agent," he said. "Someone
else was telling me that story a short time ago. The fact is one of
those real estate agents was out here last spring and he asked me if I
would consider an offer of fifty dollars an acre for our land. I told
him that I didn't think that I would as long as any one who wishes to
buy can get all the land he wants in this section for five or ten
dollars an acre. That's as near as I came to having an offer of fifty
dollars an acre for this land. The land adjoining me on the south is is
for sale, and I am sure you could buy that farm of about seven hundred
acres for four dollars an acre after they get the timber off. Some of
the land has not been cropped for a hundred years, I guess; and there
are a few trees on it that are big enough for light saw-stuff. A man has
bought the timber that is worth cutting, and he is running a saw over
there now; but he'll get out all that's good for anything in a few

"May I ask how long you have been farming here, Mr. Thornton?"

"Twelve years on this farm," he replied. "You see this estate was left
to my wife and her sister who still lives with us. We were married
twelve years ago and I have been working ever since to make a living for
us on this old worn-out farm. Of course I have made some little
improvements about the barns, but we've sold a little land too. The
railroad company wanted about an acre down where that little stream
crosses, for a water supply, and I got twelve hundred dollars for that."

"Now, I've already taken too much of your time," said Percy. "I thank
you for your kindness in giving me so much information. If there is no
objection I shall be glad to take a walk about over your farm and the
adjoining land, and perhaps I can see you again for a few moments when I

"Certainly," Mr. Thornton replied. "There is no objection whatsoever. We
are going to Blairville this morning, but we shall be back before noon
and I shall be glad to see you then. I fear you have been given some
misinformation by the real estate agents. Some of them, by the way, are
Northern men who came down here and bought land and when they found they
could not make a living on it, they sold it to other land hunters, and I
suppose that they made so much in the deal that they stayed right here
as real estate agents. They are great advertisers; but I reckon our
Southern real estate men can just about keep even. The agent who was out

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Online LibraryCyril G. HopkinsThe Story of the Soil; from the Basis of Absolute Science and Real Life, → online text (page 4 of 23)