Besides, he said, the free schools would not only be cheaper than others, but would be better. The teachers would be more highly trained, better paid, there would be a judicious classification of pupils, suitable apparatus such as black boards, globes, maps, prints, models, etc., to aid the teacher to explain and the scholar to understand. These schools, too, would be under a vigilant supervision, which would encourage the teachers and stimulate the pupils. He concluded his remarks by suggesting a plan of the proposed system, which it is not necessary to give.

Most readers will be ready to concede, I imagine, that the man who held such enlightened views with regard to education was fully worthy of his age, if not in advance of it.





Few readers, save those who are intimately acquainted with the practical working of popular elections in America, will be prepared for some of the details of this chapter. At the next election the young and gallant delegate for Roanoke and Botetourt was opposed by the radical party, which put in nomination an illiterate person by the name of Prichard. Colonel Peyton did not wish to come forward at this time. He he had already seen more than enough of political life, with its noisy ambition and its mean passions; a life so poor and base was unsuited to him. Of this he frankly informed his friends. These, however, urged him to serve another term with such pertinacity, upon the ground that he owed it to the country, that his disinclination was overcome. It was in a patriotic spirit alone that he yielded to their importunities--the spirit of Brutus which is thus expressed in the play of Julius Cæsar,

What is it you would impart to me ?
If it be ought towards the general good,


Set honour in one eye and death i' the other,
And I will look on both indifferently:
For, let the gods so speed me, as I love
The name of honour more than I fear death.

It was not upon the cards, however, that this irreproachable gentleman—this modern Chevalier Bayard sans peur et sans reproche-should be allowed to walk over the course. During his absence from home in the discharge of his public duties, the metropolitan and provincial leaders of the party of Martin Van Buren, called in the parlance of the day the Locofoco or ultrademocratic party, had been in incubation, and hatched a plot. The manner in which this formidable plot was concocted, who beside Thomas Ritchie and Bowyer Miller were its chiefs, what class beyond demagogues took part in it, at what precise time and upon what signals it was to break out, need not be recounted. For our purpose it is sufficient to premise, that fearing the influence exerted against their party in the Assembly by Colonel Peyton, and the greater power he was destined to wield, if he continued in public life, it was determined by the Magi, in Richmond, acting in concert with the local ringleaders, to bring, if possible, his political career to an end. The party organ in Richmond, the Enquirer newspaper, edited by Thomas Ritchie, struck the first note, and the provincials lost no time in taking up the tune and raising the hue and cry in Roanoke. Ritchie was a veteran at this sort of thing. He had long enjoyed pre-eminence as the most wily of Southern editors, had so unremittingly and successfuly pulled the wires and directed the machinery of Virginia Locofocoism that he was a pronounced Seer enjoying the soubriquet of "Father Ritchie.” When he took snuff every Locofoco in the State was supposed to sneeze. This paternal bell-wether figured in the Richmond conclaves of the party and pointed out the road to success, and rarely was he mistaken as to the direction. In many respects he was an admirable guide and leader. He united in a remarkable manner the fortiter in re with the suaviter in modo. When he wished to carry a point he manœuvred with consummatie skill. In his first essays he was as mild as last year's, honey, spoke in dulcet strains. If his policy failed, this tune was quickly changed. He now uttered the harsh and authoritative language of a master, tried what virtue there was in stones. Success generally attended his strategy. If not, sad was the fate of his victim. If an honest and independant opponent yclosed his ears to his soft whispers, he was mercilesslye" put upon and hunted down. If an inexperienced member of his party ventured to think for himsel if, there was no greater crime at head-quarters, he soon learned what it was to run the gauntlet. He was warned by the Enquirer that an open enemy is better than a false friend, had a lecture upon a Judas, kiss, an essay upon sealing one's infamy, all the changes indeed, were rung upon his perfidy, his presumption, and rebellion. The whippers in-baited him in the legislative halls, denounced him in the streets, dogged him at his hotel-in a word, persecuted the miserable


wretch until, broken down in health and spirits, the contumacious bungler was only too glad to secure peace by an unconditional surrender, by a quiet return to his duty and allegiance. From such a contest with Father Ritchie the inexperienced member always retired a wiser and a sadder man. Indeed, he was generally wise enough to appear to relish his humble pie. He certainly always afterwards voted for his party, right or wrong, through thick and thin. When he had sufficiently expiated his offence the Enquirer gave him a cheerful pat upon the back, and, thus kept in countenance with his constituents the inexperienced member stood a chance of re-election, of becoming an experienced member.

Father Ritchie's watchful eye took in the entire State; he seemed universal in his knowledge of provincial affairs; his spirit pervaded, permeated, overspread our home politics far and wide. Whenever he saw a new star in the political firmament, a promising man rising up in the opposition his minions were set to work—first to win him over to the Locofoco party, if successful all was well—if not war was declared. Hostilities having thus commenced, nothing was neglected to make the war short, sharp, and decisive. Father Ritchie silenced the consciences of some of his tools, he had some understrappers not altogether devoid of moral sense, by the assurance that all is fair in politics as in love and war. With the prescience of an old leader, he saw danger to ultra democracy in the rise of Col. Peyton. Could the young man be won over ? Were his convictions strong ?:

« ElőzőTovább »