Journal of Dr GFW
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Halifax County, Virginia
We were on our way this morning at an early hour. The roads were not as good as for the last days. The morning was remarkably foggy, damp, and cool. The dew fell in immense quantities last night. The dew here seems to be much more abundant than in the North. It would drop from the trees as we passed along as after a shower of rain. it appears there is much more attention to the cultivation of tobacco along the road traveled this morning than we had before observed. Large quantities of newly cleared land probably may have been the cause. The land in the Valley of the Staunton River is of the best quality. The soil here luxuriant and productive. We saw many large fields of wheat in the valley or at least its growth was good. No better looking grain can be found than we observed in the bottom land, and we also saw many good pieces of upland wheat.
It is here, as before stated, people build at a distance from the road and turn their chimneys out of doors. We are now in Halifax County and have just passed the County Seat. The public buildings in this county are not elegant or convenient and are principally constructed of wood. Taverns are not furnished with proper houses for ordinary travelers, as you have no convenience of sheds under which you may drive during a storm of rain or to shelter you a few moments from the heat of the sun. If you wish for shelter you must have your horses put in the stable. It may be a lucrative convenience for the Landlord as they cannot permit a slave to unhitch your horses for less than nine pence, or a quarter of a dollar. Even if you stay but ten minutes and your horses eat not one morsel. This I consider a great disadvantage in traveling in this part of the United States. In New York there is none of this and if you wish a few moments rest fr yourself and horses, you may have a shade from the sun or a shelter from the rain under which also your horses may stand. Another more great inconvenience is the great expense of traveling. You can travel in the State of New York one hundred miles with less expense than you can here fifty. It is at least this much difference.
There is much less energy exhibited here than in any other State in which I have traveled. Take it in any way you please, in work, wit, or humour. Among the white people you will see but very little. No animation, liveliness existing, no humour or wit can be seen or heard. Call at a tavern and all is mute except their looks, and from the close survey of your person, appearance, and equipage, the Bill is in mind and the probably amount of your purse is estimated. You hear no argument, no conversation, except it be respecting some horse race or fox hunt, or something equally trivial and uninteresting. However, you may sometimes hear a fellow say he purchased a likely Negro fellow the other day and sold him immediately to a negro trader or speculator and he "done first-rate business by doing so." Made fifty Dollars advance, etc., etc. The ladies in Virginia in general are delicate in form with good features and pleasant countenances, easy in manners and much more animating in conversation than the men. They, however, do no domestic labour that is not easily performed or at least very few of them. Servants are in the kitchen and Parlor Maids. Men and women are employed in the fields or in the house as circumstances indicate. It does appear that the mind can become accustomed to any species of hardness. It has been truly said that custom is a second nature, etc. A thing that is specifically just once is always just, may have been controverted. Yet that which has received the sanction of the Holy Scriptures and also one of the most important requisitions of Jesus Christ, "do unto others as you would they should do unto you," must be as obligatory in acting toward a slave as in or in intercourse with those who are our equals. But it seems to me that such an idea is never once acted on here.
Stayed all night in Halifax County at Shelton's private entertainment. Nothing of consequence observed.
My health is gradually failing. I feel despondent. For the last three days I have been incapable of participation in the enjoyment of my companions. Too feeble to observe te passing scenes, I have had no interest in them, or tey do not interest me. How close is the intimacy of mind and matter, and how sympathizing for each other. It is absolutely necessary for a healthy play of mind for it to be connected with a healthy play of the system. If any considerable derangement takes place in the digestive functions, the digestion of the mind becomes impaired, its healthy action clogged, and nothing will produce a pleasant sensation while the system is thus enfeebled.