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[21] fifteen and sixty years of age was a hunter. The larger and smaller rivers, as yet unobstructed by the dams and wheels of the cotton-spinner and power-loom weaver, abounded in excellent fish, and at seasons fairly swarmed with them. The potato, usually planted in the vegetable mold left by recently exterminated forests, yielded its edible tubers with a bounteous profusion unknown to the husbandry of our day. Hills the most granitic and apparently sterile, from which the wood was burned one season, would, the next year, produce any grain in ample measure, and at a moderate cost of labor and care. Almost every farmer's house was a hive, wherein the “great wheel” and the “little wheel” --the former kept in motion by the hands and feet of all the daughters ten years old and upward, the latter plied by their not less industrious mother — hummed and whirled from morning till night. In the back room, or some convenient appendage, the loom responded day by day to the movements of the busy shuttle, whereby the fleeces of the farmer's flock and the flax of his field were slowly but steadily converted into substantial though homely cloth, sufficient for the annual wear of the family, and often with something over to exchange at the neighboring merchant's for his groceries and wares. A few bushels of corn, a few sheep, a fattened steer, with, perhaps, a few saw-logs, or loads of hoop-poles, made up the annual surplus of the husbandman's products, helping to square accounts with the blacksmith, the wheelwright, the minister, and the lawyer, if the farmer were so unfortunate as to have any dealings with the latter personage. His life, during peace, was passed in a narrower round than ours, and may well seem to us tame, limited, monotonous; but the sun which warmed him was identical with ours; the breezes which refreshed him were like those we gladly welcome; and, while his road to mill and to meeting was longer and rougher than those we daily traverse, he doubtless passed them unvexed by apprehensions of a snorting locomotive, at least as contented as we, and with small suspicion of his ill-fortune in having been born in the Eighteenth instead of the Nineteenth Century.1

The illusion that the times that were are better than those that are, has probably pervaded all ages. Yet a passionately earnest assertion, which many of us have heard from the lips of the old men of thirty to fifty years ago, that the days of their youth were sweeter and happier than those we have known, will doubtless justify

1 “Vagabonds, without visible property or vocation, are placed in workhouses, where they are well clothed, fed, lodged, and made to labor. Nearly the same method of providing for the poor prevails through all the States; and, from Savannah to Portsmouth, you will seldom meet a beggar. In the larger towns, indeed, they sometimes present themselves. These are usually foreigners who have never obtained a settlement in any parish. I never saw a native American begging in the streets or highways. A subsistence is easily gained here: and if, by misfortunes, they are thrown on the charities of the world, those provided by their own country are so comfortable and so certain, that they never think of relinquishing them to become strolling beggars. Their situation, too, when sick, in the family of a good farmer, where every member is anxious to do them kind offices, where they are visited by all the neighbors, who bring them little rarities which their sickly appetites may crave, and who take by rotation the nightly watch over them, when their condition requires it, is, without comparison, better than in a general hospital, where the sick, the dying and the dead, are crammed together in the same rooms, and often in the same beds.” --Jefferson's Notes on Virginia, p. 196.

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