Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/199

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otu-n a time that tried men's souls, and only the pure gold survived the crucible.

EARLY ENVIRONMENTS.

Mr. Hunter was born in this little county on the 2ist April, 1809. It is a country neighborhood, without a city or a large town, sparsely settled in his time and ours. I am aware, and probably you are, that there is a modern school of thought which assumes that for an intellectual growth a man should be born and reared in a city or a closely settled neighborhood a hothouse, so to speak, in which his brain and energies are to be stimulated to the highest degree. But history gives little warrant for such an assumption. The great men of this country certainly were nearly all of them country bred. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Calhoun, Patrick Henry, John Marshall, George Mason, John Randolph, Henry Clay, Henry A. Wise, Abel P. Upshur, William C. Rives, Silas Wright, Thomas H. Benton, Andrew Jackson, Francis P. Blair, Abraham Lincoln, William J. Bryan, and many more I could adduce were the product of country life of plantation life and almost without exception had not only the plantation manners, in which dignity and good breeding were happily blended, but possessed also the genius and force in affairs which plantation life and duties and contact with Nature rather than with the mob tended to develop. You do not find the best trees among those which are crowded close together. Individuality, self-reliance, decision, thoughtfulness, study, gentleness, charity, truth, purity of morals all these noblest adjuncts to mental growth and distinction flourish on the farm far better than in the heat and dust and turmoil of the great city, with its wealthy few and unfortu- nate multitude. Born on the plantation, loving Nature and honest country folk, our great statesman was, through his entire public career, always happy and eager to return to his home and native air in Essex. He did not linger in Washington or even Richmond longer than his public functions absolutely required.

So, if I were called on to specify the formative influences of Mr. Hunter's character, I should certainly include country life, planta- tion life and influences, association and sympathy with the country people of Virginia, the fireside and historical traditions of the old Commonwealth, the study of history, and especially of Virginia his- tory, and of the character and teachings of her great men. He was proud of them all in his own modest, gentle way, and to the last, very proud of the Commonwealth which had called him so often to