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banks, whence it could not be drawn for other than public purposes, without certain detection, and thus exposing it to be plundered by a hundred hands, where one cannot now reach it. “Sed tempora mutautur et nos mutamur in illis."
“Men change with fortune, manners change with climes,
Tenets with books, and principles with times."
W. M. PEYTON.
On the reassembling of the Legislature, Mr. Rives was elected and took his seat in Congress. On the 14th of the following January, he delivered his able speech on the Fiscal arrangements of the Government with the United States Bank, and reviewing the annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury.
YIELDING to numerous and urgent importunities, Colonel Peyton consented to become a candidate, the following Spring of 1838, for the House of Delegates for Roanoke and Botetourt, and was elected without opposition. At this time he did not seek for, nor despise, honours. Shortly after the meeting of the Legislature, the subject of internal improvements came up for consideration. On all sides the question excited the liveliest interest. The delegates for Eastern Virginia were as hostile as formerly to a general tax for what they sophistically termed local improvements, and under the leadership of Messrs. Yerby, Edmunds, Venable, and others, marshalled their forces in a solid phalanx. On the other hand the western delegates were equally determined to carry their point, and were led by the young and eloquent delegates for Roanoke and Botetourt, Augusta, Montgomery, and Kenawah, Peyton, A. H. H. Stuart, W. B. Preston, and George W. Summers.
To understand this question it should be remarked, that the Virginia of 1838 extended from the Atlantic to the Ohio, a length af 425 miles, and north and south from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and Tennessee, a distance of about 210 miles. Its area was 61,352 square miles, being considerably more than that of England. With the exception of Pennsylvania, Virginia was the only State which extended across the great Appalachian chain. The State was traversed from north to south by several other well-defined mountain ranges, among them the Blue-ridge and the North mountain, which is an extension of the Kittatinny mountain of Pennsylvania. These mountains are pierced by numerous rivers, some flowing east to the Atlantic and others west, emptying into the Ohio and Gulf of Mexico. The principal rivers which rise in the great valley between the Blue-ridge and Alleghanies, and find their way to the Atlantic, are the Potomac, the James, and the Staunton; and those which rise east of the Blue-ridge and run in the same general direction, are the Rappahannock, which is navigable 110 miles above its mouth in the Chesapeake bay to Fredericksburg--the York river, formed by the confluence of the Mattapony and Pamunkey, each a hundred miles long, and is navigable about forty miles from its mouth-the Blackwater, Nottoway, and Meherrin, which, like the Staunton, find their way to the ocean through North Carolina. The principal rivers flowing west, and emptying ultimately into the gulf of Mexico, are the Ohio, the great Kenawha, which rises in the valley between the Blue ridge and Alleghanies, the Monongehela, the Guyandot, the little Kenawha, and the Big-Sandy. From this brief description of the direction of the waters, it is seen that the State rises from the Atlantic to the mountains, and there slopes down to the Ohio. Divided into four natural parts, it was also formed into four political divisions. The first of these was the Tide-water district, lying east of the lower falls of the rivers, and consisting for the most part of a flat country nowhere more than sixty feet above the sea. Further west is the Piedmont district, extending as far as the Blue-ridge. This is more elevated and diversified in its surface than the former, as it is traversed by a range of hills parallel to the Blue-ridge, and about 30 miles from it. The Valley district extends from the Blueridge to the most westernly ridge of the Alleghany mountains; and is occupied by various chains of these mountains, and the fertile vallies that lie among them. The extreme west of the State is occupied by the TransAlleghany district, which slopes westward and is occupied by various branches and offsets of the mountains. In a country of such extent, and with such. physical peculiarities and divisions, it is not surprising that different and antagonistic local interests arose. Nature supplied with noble rivers that portion of the State comprised in the Tide-water district, and lying upon the Atlantic and the Chesapeak bay, which is sometimes styled the American Mediterranean. By these the inhabitants enjoyed every facility for sending to the markets of the world the products of their lands. The soil, too, of this district is light and sandy, and after
rain soon becomes firm and dry, hence little labour or money is required to keep the roads in repair. The people of eastern Virginia therefore asked nothing on the score of improvements, nor did they wish to contribute from the common treasury towards the improvement of less favoured districts. In support of this ungenerous and illiberal policy they adduced a variety of arguments, some of them not without considerable plausibility, but all really unsound. The western people, who lived above the falls of the rivers, where the streams were too small for navigation, and where the soil is clayey and the roads in winter impassible, asked, as their means were unequal to the expense, that the State should undertake to lock and dam the principal rivers, cut canals where required, and construct leading roads which were necessary for the development of the country and for its defence. They argued that the increase in population, the augmentation in the wealth, the multiplication in the subjects of taxation which would result from such a system of improvement, would redound in the end to the prosperity of the whole State, thus benefitting the Tide-water population. Thus was the issue made up by the two parties, and on this question delegates were elected from all parts of the State.
In this particular House of Delegates the party of the west was led, as previously mentioned, by (with others) the subject of this biography; and on the 15th and 16th days of February, 1839, he delivered the following speech of great force and eloquence in the