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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Virtuous Virginians

By John Hammond (d. 1707)

[Born in England. A Virginian Colonist, 1634–54; afterward resident in Maryland. Leah and Rachel, or the Two Fruitfull Sisters, Virginia and Mary-land. 1656.]

YET are the Inhabitants generally affable, courteous and very assistant to strangers (for what but plenty makes hospitality and good neighborhood) and no sooner are they settled, but they will be visiting, presenting and advising the stranger how to improve what they have, how to better their way of livelihood.

Justice is there duly and daily administered; hardly can any travel two miles together, but they will find a Justice, which hath power of himself to hear and determine mean differences, to secure and bind over notorious offenders, of which very few are in the country.

In every county are Courts kept, every two months, and oftener if occasion require, in which Courts all things are determined without exceptions; and if any dislike the proceedings of those Courts, they have liberty to appeal to the Quarter Court, which is four times a year; and from thence to the Assembly, which is once or oftener every year. So that I am confident, more speedy justice and with smaller charge is not in any place to be found.

Theft is seldom punished, as being seldom or never committed; for as the Proverb is, “where there are no receivers, there are no thieves;” and although doors are nightly left open (especially in the summer time), hedges hanging full of clothes; plate frequently used amongst all comers and goers (and there is good store of plate in many houses), yet I never heard of any loss ever received either in plate, linen, or any thing else out of their houses all the time I inhabited there.

Indeed I have known some suffer for stealing of hogs (but not since they have been plentiful), and whereas hog-stealing was once punished with death, it is now made penal, and restitution given very amply to the owner thereof.

Cases of Murder are punished as in England, and juries allowed, as well in criminal causes, as in all other differences between party and party, if they desire it.

Servants’ complaints are freely hearkened to, and (if not causelessly made) their Masters are compelled either speedily to amend, or they are removed upon second complaint to another service; and oftentimes not only set free (if the abuse merit it), but ordered to give reparation and damage to their servant.

The country is very full of sober, modest persons, both men and women, and many that truly fear God and follow that perfect rule of our blessed Saviour, to do as they would be done by; and of such a happy inclination is the country, that many who in England have been lewd and idle, there in emulation or imitation (for example moves more than precept) of the industry of those they find there, not only grow ashamed of their former courses, but abhor to hear of them, and in small time wipe off those stains they have formerly been tainted with; yet I cannot but confess, there are people wicked enough (as what country is free) for we know some natures will never be reformed, but these must follow the Friar’s rule, Si non caste, tamen cante;… there are for each of these, severe and wholesome laws and remedies made, provided and duly put in execution: I can confidently affirm, that since my being in England, which is not yet four months, I have been an eye and ear witness of more deceits and villainies (and such as modesty forbids me to utter) than I either ever saw or heard mention made of in Virginia, in my one and twenty years abode in those parts.

And therefore those that shall blemish Virginia any more, do but like the Dog bark against the Moon, until they be blind and weary; and Virginia is now in that secure growing condition, that like the Moon so barked at, she will pass on her course, maugre all detractors, and a few years will bring it to that glorious happiness, that many of her calumniators will intercede to procure admittance thither, when it will be hard to be attained to; for in small time, little land will be to be taken up; and after awhile none at all; and as the mulberry trees grows up, which are by every one planted, tobacco will be laid by, and we shall wholly fall to making of silk (a Sample of 400 lbs. hath already been sent for England, and approved of), which will require little labor; and therefore shall have little use of servants; besides, children increase and thrive so well there, that they themselves will sufficiently supply the defect of servants, and in small time become a Nation of themselves sufficient to people the country. And this good policy is there used: As the children there born grow to maturity, and capable (as they are generally very capable and apt) they are still preferred and put into authority, and carry themselves therein civilly and discreetly; and few there are but are able to give some portions with their daughters, more or less, according to their abilities; so that many coming out of England have raised themselves good fortunes there merely by matching with Maidens born in the country….

The country is not only plentiful but pleasant and profitable, pleasant in regard of the brightness of the weather, the many delightful rivers, on which the inhabitants are settled (every man almost living in sight of a lovely river), the abundance of game, the extraordinary good neighborhood and loving conversation they have one with the other.

Pleasant in their building, which although for most part they are but one story besides the loft, and built of wood, yet contrived so delightful that your ordinary houses in England are not so handsome, for usually the rooms are large, daubed and white-limed, glazed and flowered, and if not glazed windows, shutters which are made very pretty and convenient.

Pleasant in observing their stocks and flocks of Cattle, Hogs, and Poultry, grazing, whisking and skipping in their sights, pleasant in having all things of their own, growing or breeding without drawing the penny to send for this and that, without which, in England they cannot be supplied.

The manner of living and trading there is thus, each man almost lives a freeholder, nothing but the value of 12 d. a year to be paid as rent, for every fifty Acres of land; firing costs nothing; every man plants his own corn and need take no care for bread: if any thing be bought, it is for commodity, exchanged presently, or for a day, payment is usually made but once a year, and for that Bill taken (for accounts are not pleadable).

In summer when fresh meat will not keep (seeing every man kills of his own, and quantities are inconvenient), they lend from one to another, such portions of flesh as they can spare, which is repaid again when the borrower kills his.

If any fall sick, and cannot compass to follow his crop which if not followed, will soon be lost, the adjoining neighbors will either voluntarily or upon a request join together, and work in it by spells, until the honor recovers, and that gratis, so that no man by sickness lose any part of his year’s work. Let any travel, it is without charge, and at every house is entertainment as in a hostry, and with hearty welcome are strangers entertained.

In a word, Virginia wants not good victual, wants not good dispositions, and as God hath freely bestowed it, they as freely impart with it, yet are there as well bad natures as good.

The profit of the country is either by their labor, their stocks, or their trades.

By their labors is produced corn and tobacco, and all other growing provisions, and this tobacco however now low-rated, yet a good maintenance may be had out of it (for they have nothing of necessity but clothing to purchase), nor can this mean price of tobacco long hold, for these reasons, first that in England it is prohibited, next that they have attained of late those sorts equal with the best Spanish, thirdly that the sickness in Holland is decreasing, which hath been a great obstruction to the sale of tobacco.

And lastly, that as the mulberry tree grows up, tobacco will be neglected and silk, flax, two staple commodities generally fallen upon.

Of the increase of cattle and hogs, much advantage is made, by selling beef, pork, and bacon, and butter, etc., either to shipping, or to send to the Barbadoes, and other Islands, and he is a very poor man that hath not sometimes provision to put off.

By trading with Indians for Skin, Beaver, Furs and other commodities oftentimes good profits are raised. The Indians are in absolute subjection to the English, so that they both pay tribute to them and receive all their several kings from them, and as one dies they repair to the English for a successor, so that none need doubt it a place of security.

Several ways of advancement there are and employments both for the learned and laborer, recreation for the gentry, traffic for the adventurer, congregations for the ministry (and oh that God would stir up the hearts of more to go over, such as would teach good doctrine, and not paddle in faction, or state matters; they could not want maintenance, they would find an assisting, an embracing, a conforming people).

It is known (such preferment hath this country rewarded the industrious with) that some from being wool-hoppers and of as mean and meaner employment in England have there grown great merchants, and attained to the most eminent advancements the country afforded….

Now having briefly set down the present state of Virginia not in fiction, but in reality, I wish the judicious reader to consider what dislike can be had of the country, or upon what grounds it is so infamously injured, I only therein covet to stop those black-mouthed babblers, that not only have and do abuse so noble a plantation, but abuse God’s great blessing in adding to England so flourishing a branch, in persuading many souls, rather to follow desperate and miserable courses in England, than to engage in so honorable an undertaking as to travel and inhabit there; but to those I shall (if admonition will not work on their recreant spirits) only say: Let him that is filthy be filthy still.