Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/284

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France, dueling is habitual. And so, at the very height of the Yorktown celebration, one of Virginia's "captains," who had got a national reputation as a candidate for an office in the United States Senate, was principal in two duels in a single day; and when he returned to Richmond the same evening, instead of being "publicly flogged by a nigger," as he ought to have been, he received an "enthusiastic reception." Will the honor of its "chivalry" save the State from the disgrace of repudiation?

Militant ideas being opposed to business ideas, Virginia presents a case of arrested development. The world's beneficent work is mainly done by private enterprise; Virginia ideas have not favored this, and so she has been left behind in the race of State development. Legislation has been invoked to bring out her splendid resources, but there has still been wanting that vigor of private effort which can alone give effect to legislative measures. This is well shown in the history of one of her great public works. The project of opening commercial communication with the West was early entertained by sagacious Virginians. The distance of the Atlantic from the Ohio River through the valleys of the James and the Kanawha, which almost connect at their head-waters in the Alleghanies, is shorter than by any other route. It was a favorite idea of Washington to open this communication, and he strongly advocated a hill, passed by the Virginia Legislature in 1784, for the improvement of the James River, with a view to developing a Western water-communication. This project was worked at in an ineffectual way for a number of years, and in 1832 the James River and Kanawha Company was chartered to construct a canal up the James Valley, and this was opened between Richmond and Lynchburg in 1840. It was further extended to Buchanan, a distance of one hundred and ninety-seven miles from Richmond, in 1851. Some further work was begun beyond this point, to secure an avenue for through Western trade, but the sections beyond were not completed. The work as far as constructed was inadequate, only very small canal-boats being available; and 60, in 1873, Congress was urged to assume, enlarge, and extend the work, which, in this era of developing railroads, it wisely declined to do. And then, after a hundred years of State efforts and the expenditure of ten million dollars, the undertaking completely broke down, and the dilapidated and useless canal property was offered to anybody gratuitously who would take it and pay its debts.

A couple of years ago a private company of Northern capitalists came forward and took the concern off the hands of the State, and proposed to see what could be done toward carrying out the original plan. They organized the Richmond and Alleghany Railroad Company, and, under the stimulus of intelligent business enterprise, and without a dollar of State aid, two hundred and fifty miles of solid road-bed, laid on the old tow-path as far as it went, with heavy steel rails and numerous iron bridges, were constructed through the valley of the James River to its head-waters in the Alleghanies in eighteen months. Seventy miles more will soon be built, connecting the new line with the Ohio Central, which terminates at Toledo—and the aspiration of Washington will be fulfilled.

While the military doings at Yorktown were at their height, absorbing the attention of Virginians, the formal opening of this railroad, replete with all modern improvements and appointments, took place. It was not so striking as the war-show, but it was of far greater moment to the prosperity of the Commonwealth. It was a foreign enterprise, made possible by free commerce, and inspired solely by the mercenary purpose of making money out of poor old Virginia; yet it was an ele-