AFFAIRS IN VIRGINIA
Charlotte Court-house – The Grave of Patrick Henry – Reminiscences of John Randolph of Roanoke – The Financial Crisis in the Country – The Richmond “South” and the Senatorial Contest – How the Paper stands with the People, &c, &c,
FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT
Charlotte Court-House, Va.,
Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1857.
This is a small country village with a population of about four or five hundred, situated in a neat, healthy locality, about one hundred and fifty miles south of James’ River. Like most country villages in Virginia, it has its churches and its “taverns,” the latter in its model and neglected appearance betraying manifest indications of its antiquity. About twenty-five miles from here lies the grave of the illustrious PATRICK HENRY. It is situated about five hundred yards from the house in which he died, and which is now occupied by his son, JOHN HENRY. The chair on which he died is still in his possession, and is carefully preserved with a few other relics of revolutionary times. The grave, strange to say, is much neglected, and not a little surprise is expressed that the State has thus far failed to raise some suitable monument over his grave, as has been done in the case of MADISON. Mr. JOHN HENRY, the son of that illustrious patriot, is said to exhibit the greatest concern about that scared spot, and to have done all that his means would justify in beautifying it. But whatever has been done amounts to nothing comparatively. There is no substantial memorial such as should adorn the grave of so great a man – nothing save what a few years will obliterate. It is probable that, had it not been for the solicitude manifested by his son, a trace of his resting place would hardly be now visible. He makes his first visit to that scared spot each morning, and seating himself beside the simple mound which marks the grave, communes as it were, with the spirit of his illustrious sire. I understand he has still an old negro servant who belonged to his father, and that he, too, betimes makes is way to the grave and seats himself for hours besides it. The son, Mr. JOHN HENRY, is now over sixty years of age, probably seventy, but is still strong and healthy. In his conversations regarding the father, whom he invariably styles “my illustrious father,” he evinces a degree of attachment to his memory which few, at such an age, would be supposed to entertain. He is said to be absorbed almost entirely in the contemplation of his noble career, and to have by heart all the great oratorical efforts which distinguished him. A grandson of his, a young gentleman of fine promise, as I understand, is engaged in the practice of law in this village, but judging by the appearance of things here, I should suppose the field for successful progress in that profession to be too contracted.
The people here – the older class particular – tell many interesting reminiscences of the late JOHN RANDOLPH. It was at this place he did most of his court business, stopping generally at the tavern above referred to during the term of the court. It was kept in those days by a Mr. CARDWELL, a gentle man much esteemed by Mr. RANDOLPH, and one of the administrators if not the sole administrator of his estate after his death. While at supper one evening, he asked the waiter for some fresh butter. The waiter answered, “That is fresh, Sir; it has just been made.” “I want some fresh butter, sir,” added Mr. RANDOLPH, in his usual shrill tone of voice. The waiter hurried out and informed Mrs. CARDWELL, who was churning at the time, what Mr. R. wanted. She expressed her surprise at his not being pleased with the butter on the table, it being taken almost direct from the churn to the table. However, she prepared a little more and sent it in by the waiter, but it proved to be no more acceptable than what was first supplied. No sooner had he tasted it than he remarked, “I asked you for fresh butter, and you brought me butter with salt in it.” The waiter immediately hastened to Mrs. CARDWELL and communicated to her Mr. RANDOLPH’S objection to the butter, whereupon she instantly provided him with butter without salt, and from that time not a word of dissatisfaction was heard.
He was presented to the Grant Jury of that County at one time for permitting his negroes to pick corn on the Sabbath. While the Jury had the presentment under consideration, he entered the Court-house in a rage, with a large whip in his hand and inquiring particularly where they were in session, threatened to whip the whole crowd should they dare to find a bill against him. Being informed that they were in an upper story room he made his way towards it, but the Jury overhearing his threats, dispersed very unceremoniously, non being willing to encounter his fury. The presentment was thus peremptorily quashed, and not a word more said upon the subject. There are many old papers of his in the possession of parties in this neighborhood, which, if published, would prove exceedingly interesting. His diary, which he is said to have kept principally upon the alternate blank pages of the Almanacs of the day, is said to betray faithfully the peculiar eccentricities of its author. It is said to include every little incident in his domestic life down to the whipping of his negro and the cause for so doing. He is buried upon his own estate about nine or ten miles from here, with nothing to mark his grave save a large rock placed at its foot by his own request. The house in which he lived is now occupied by a lawyer named BOULDIN, who became its purchaser after his death, with a large portion of the surrounding estate.
The farmers seem in no wise affected by the prevailing financial crisis, except so far as it may lead to a depression in the price of produce: and this they looked for as a result of the superabundant yield with which the country is blessed. They seem to think that the necessity for an enlarged specie basis, which must be looked for in an excess of exportation, will cause an increase in the price of agricultural produce beyond what was anticipated before the crisis set in. And under the impulse of prevailing anxiety to import specie, the probability of a reduction of the present large supplies below the standard of home consumption, is seriously discussed, whence it is inferred that an increased demand must follow to meet domestic requirements. It is with reference to its bearings in these aspects that the present financial crisis is discussed by the farming interests, and not as to its effects in mere financial operations.
While on my way to this place I happened to get hold of a number of the Richmond South, containing an editorial commenting upon an allusion which I made in my last letter to the Senatorial contest in Virginia. He attributes to partisanship the unfavorable notice which I made of Senator HUNTER’S prospects, when, in fact, it was based upon the prevailing public sentiment throughout the range of my travels. He seizes upon a remark which I made as to the distrust which was likely to survive any avowal of Senator HUNTER, made, as it would be, under coercion, to justify persistence in his non-committal policy. This is truly a shallow pretext upon which to found a justification for his obstinate refusal to accede the call of his constituents. I repeat now, as the result of more minute inquiry, that the suspicion of hostility to the Administration, which before attached to him by reason of his identity with the South, amounts now to conviction, superinduced very naturally by his obstinate silence under repeated charges of this character. A feeling of distrust does prevail against him, and will survive any avowal of friendship which he may make, for who can doubt that it would be actuated by a sense of danger to his political prospects. Whatever may be the result of the Senatorial contest, I am satisfied he is doomed, so far as his Presidential aspirations are concerned. Should he be reelected to the Senate, believe me it will be under a stifled protest, and because of an unwillingness on the part of the people of Virginia to consign him so peremptorily to the shades; but that the distrust which is now felt will operate to his defeat in the Presidential race, there is not a shadow of doubt. He is esteemed an ally of the Southern fire-eaters, and therefore too section to be chosen for the Presidency. The great governing principle of “expediency” would not be faithfully reflected in him, judging by the general convictions of his position with reference to an Administration that is regarded as essentially national and conservative. As a criterion of the feeling entertained towards him in this region, I would refer to the fact, that in a country in this neighborhood, called Lunenburg, the South, which is said to reflect his sentiments and opinions is not tolerated. I was informed that the people there, and elsewhere, despise it as being the author of all the bickering and divisions which now threaten the Democratic Party in Virginia. I ascertained this upon good authority.
The farmers complain a great deal for want of rain. There has been some moisture, but not enough to facilitate wheat cultivation.