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[546]

And, my friends, right around us here is where those Virginians were born and lived. Blessed with ample fortunes, educated in the best schools of the old country, they returned to their estates to pass their lives in contemplating the great possibilities awaiting this country, and devising the modes by which they could be attained. Living like the patriarchs, under their own vine and fig-tree, served by the kindly hands of willing slaves, freed from all impecunious cares, undiverted by newspapers or telegrams, and unknowing of any short cuts to knowledge, with minds stored with the precedents of history, and trained in the great schools of thought, those men wrought out and announced the plan of self-government which stands to-day the envy and admiration of all the peoples of the earth, and the terror of all the tyrants.

Thus, George Mason, of Gunston Hall, made the Bill of Rights of Virginia, and Jefferson, of Monticello, a few years later, framed it into the Declaration of the Independence of these United States.

I need not name these men to you; but they have been aptly grouped in another's words. Just after the close of the war between the States, this Congressional district was represented in Congress by Judge John Critcher, of Westmoreland county. In the course of debate in the House of Representatives, a member from Massachusetts said that ‘slavery was not so much to be deplored because of the cruelty to the slaves as because of the degradation and ignorance it entailed upon the masters.’

Judge Critcher arose and said: ‘I beg to interrupt the gentleman for one moment while I call over the names of a few slave-owners in my parish in Virginia, who were born and bred in slavery, and who for elevation of character, education and surpassing intellect cannot be matched by the whole State of Massachusetts. The plantation adjoining mine on the north is Wakefield, where George Washington was born. Next to me on the south is Stratford, where Richard Henry Lee and Light Horse Harry Lee were born. Next to Stratford comes Chantilly, where Arthur Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Charles Lee and William Lee were born. If the gentleman will ride with me six miles I'll take him to Monroe's Creek, where President Monroe was born; if he will ride with me half an hour longer I will take him to Port Conway, where President Madison was born; if he will then stand with me in my portico I will show him, over the tree-tops, the chimney-stacks of the baronial mansion where Robert E. Lee first saw the light. Can Massachusetts match those men?’

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