Old Dominion Relegated to "District Number One"
Virginia was the first to emblazon on her standard the emblem of her principle, “Virginia for Constitutional Liberty.” Virginian Patrick Henry first struck the note for independence; a Virginian penned the Declaration of Independence; and of course a Virginian led the victorious patriot army. Eighty-some years later revolutionists invaded Virginia’s soil and renamed her “District Number One.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Old Dominion Relegated to “District Number One”:
“Something more than twenty years ago there fell upon the South a blow for which there is not parallel among the casualties which may happen to an individual, and which has rarely in history befallen nations.
Upon the euphemism of reconstruction an attempt was made after the war to destroy the South. She was dismembered, disenfranchised, denationalized. The States which composed her were turned by her conquerors into military districts, and their governments were subverted into military tribunals. Virginia, that had given Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Nelson, the Lees, Madison, Marshall, and a host of others who had made the nation, become “District No. 1.”
The South was believed to be no more. It was intended that she be no more. But God in his providence had his great purpose for her and called her forth. With the old spirit strong within her she renewed her youth like the eagles, fixed her gaze upon the sun, and once more spreading her strong pinions, lifted herself for another flight. [This “New South”] is, in fact, the Old South with its energies directed into new lines.
The [Old South] civilization flourished for two hundred and fifty years, and until its vitality, after four years of invasion and war, expired in the convulsive throes of reconstruction. Its tendency was towards exclusiveness and conservatism. It tolerated no invasion of its rights. It admitted the jurisdiction of no tribunal than itself. The result was not unnatural. The world, barred out, took revenge, and the Old South stands today charged with sterility, with attempting to perpetuate slavery, and with rebellion. If, when judged by the narrow standard of mere, common materialism, the Southern civilization fell short…[yet] the sudden supremacy of the American people to-day is largely due to the old South, and to its contemned civilization.
The Northern colonies of Great Britain in America were the asylums of religious zealots and revolutionists who at their first coming were bent less on the enlargement of their fortunes than on the freedom to exercise their religious convictions, however much the sudden transition from dependence and restriction to freedom and license may in a brief time have tempered their views of liberty and changed them into proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.
The Southern colonies, on the other hand, were from the first the product of a desire for adventure, for conquest, and for wealth. The Northern settlements were, it is true, founded under the law; but it was well understood that they contained an element which was not friendly to the government and that the latter was well satisfied to have the seas stretch between them.
The Southern, on the other hand, came with the consent of the crown, the blessing of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men of high standing in the kingdom. They came with all the ceremonial of an elaborate civil government – with an executive, a council deputed by authorities at home, and formal and minute instructions and regulations.
The Church, which viewed the independence of the Northern refugees as a schism, if not heresy, gave to this enterprise its benison in the belief that “the adventurers of the plantations of Virginia were the most noble and worthy advancers of the standard of Christ among the Gentiles.”
Under such auspices the Southern colonies necessarily were rooted in the faith of the England from which they came – political, religious, and civil. Thus from the very beginning the spirit of the two sections was absolutely different, and their surrounding conditions were for a long time such as to keep them diverse.”
(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, pp. 4- 8)