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Valley of the Shadow

Staunton Spectator: August 02, 1870

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For the Spectator
(Column 04)
Summary: "Augusta" made another attack on the proposed subscription to the Valley Railroad. Argued that the citizens of the county were already heavily taxed on their property and so did not deserve the extra burden. Also accused the Railroad's supporters of using Staunton's votes to pass a measure the people of the county had already rejected. Closed by urging all voters to go to the polls and vote down the subscription a second time.
Full Text of Article:

Voters of Augusta:

We used the word "Sharper" as it is used every day, as, "he is a sharp editor," "he is a sharp lawyer," "he is a sharp trade," &c.; but in no offensive sense, meaning to be harsh. We said in answer to "Progress," not to the Central Committee, (for when our article was written the committee had not been appointed", "there was something like a conspiracy among the Railroad sharpers against the best interests of the country." If you will read an article published in the Spectator, July 5th, you will find something from a pretty "sharp" gentleman, who sometimes signs himself "Progress," making a proposition to take the quote of stock allotted to Augusta county, upon the express condition "that there shall NEVER be any Depot, Switch, Station or shopping place within the bounds of Augusta county, except Staunton." Don't you think this looks something like a conspiracy against the best interests of the county?

The address issued by twenty gentlemen of Staunton -- "men in whom the whole county has been wont to confide" -- urging the county to vote on the 6th of August, for the subscription of $300,000 to the Valley Railroad, has a degree of plausibility about it; but we are struck with the fact that not one countyman is to be found on the committee urging this subscription. We have honored most of these gentlemen in the past with our trust and confidence -- we have listened attentively to all their arguments, and they have had their weight upon the various questions agitating the county minds, and we are keenly sensitive that you should now use the 900 votes of Staunton to force the county (not induce) into this subscription of $300,000. We consider this proposition as going to sap the very foundations of our dearest rights -- the right of property -- and we do not think it a "proper means" to use in carrying this subscription, for under an order of the Council, the census of Staunton was taken and 5,000 population reported, upon which the Legislature declared Staunton to be a city under the new Constitution; elected her a Judge, and all the city officials have been elected as such and qualified. -- This being a fact, what right has the city of Staunton to vote in the county of Augusta. -- She is a close corporation, and has no more right to vote in the county than Richmond has to vote in Henrico county, or the county to vote in the city of Staunton. -- His honour, the Judge of the county, has no jurisdiction in the city of Staunton, not even power to protect the Revenue laws of the State; hence, the revenue laws are violated in open day with impunity by irresponsible parties, and as the city Judge failed to qualify there is no redress. You can not so much as present one of these violators of the law before the county grand jury.

And if the Judge of the county has no jurisdiction in the city of Staunton, as it must appear from the facts, how, we ask, can he consider a poll to open in the city on a question so vital to both city and county. We would most respectfully call His Honor's attention to the fact, for we know that justice and fair dealing are his object and arm, and should the city vote of Staunton carry the subscription in the county, we hold it would be good ground for a bill of injunction to prevent the bonds being issued. It won't do, gentlemen, to use the new Constitution when it suits your purposes, and when it does not, to take up the old one and use it. Old things have passed away. -- And just here we would say, that a majority vote, instead of three-fifths was in the bill, fixing the election as prepared in Staunton, but was changed by the Legislature and made three-fifths -- so says one of our Delegates.

Now when we consider that the city of Staunton has already voted $100,000 to the Valley Rail Road, which will make a Rail Road tax of 60 cents on the hundred dollars worth of property, and taking the basis of 1856 she will pay Rail Road tax 60 cents, city tax 40 cents, State tax 50 cents, making $1.50 on the hundred dollars' worth of property, so that if a man is worth in Staunton $1,000 he will pay $15 tax, if he is worth $10,000 he will pay $150 tax, if he is worth $20,000 he will pay $300 tax; if he is worth $50,000 he will pay $750 tax, no less, and you yet want to add twenty cents more to the Railroad tax. One might suppose this tax to be enough even for the enterprising City of Staunton.

We allude to these facts in order to show that the vote of Staunton is used solely and purposely to carry the subscription of $300,000 in the county. As one of the Central Committee said; "If the county doesn't know her own interest, the town will reach her, and force her into it." You may call this a trick or by what name you please, but we submit this looks like there was a "sharper" working the wires.

Gentlemen of the Central Committee, we confess we feel humbled and wounded in our reputation as Augusta county men, to see your names signed to such an address. Why suffer such wholesale dictation to those who have trusted you as the Conscript Fathers of Augusta. It was meet and right you should present this vital question to the county upon its merits; but when the intelligent land owners of the county said No, you should have submitted and said amen, and not have countenanced any trick to trick the county into this subscription, the second time.

This old county of Augusta is our county; it belongs to the people who inhabit it. We are a laboring, not a speculating people, and must labor to gain our subsistence. We are also a happy and independent people. We have no debt on the county, thank God, to be voted away as the State stocks are being parcelled out. We have a ready market for all our supplies, and you city gentlemen now grumble at the price we ask you for butter and eggs. One of our Conscript Fathers said, in a speech at the Court House on Court day, that we should vote the $300,000 subscription, and the old ladies of the county could sell their beans and cabbage while the Rail Road was being built. We say we don't want our wives and mothers and sisters to peddle beans and cabbage along the line of a Rail Road to Penitentiary convicts and Chinese laborers, in order to pay our taxes. The same gentlemen urged you to vote this subscription in order to break down the gigantic monopoly of the Chesa. & O. R. R., and the same gentleman asked you but a short time since to vote $300,000 to this (C. & O. R. R.) monopoly as the grandest improvement of the age, and you said no. Now, does not this contradiction look strangely?

This Conscript Father, speaking of the Shenandoah Valley R. R. , said he did not know anything about the purposes of that Road, but rather made sport of that improvement. -- Ought he not to inform himself upon the merits of that Road, before he undertakes to urge the county to vote the subscription of $300,000 to the Valley Rail Road? -- The Shenandoah Valley Rail Road asks nothing at the hands of the county, and it is an important improvement to the East side of the country and the whole county, as it will pass through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the city of New York. The President says: "The Shenandoah Valley Railroad will be built regardless of any other road and there is no contingency in which it will be abandoned in favor of the Valley R. R." The survey has been completed, and is of the most satisfactory character. We think this fact accounts for the hurry in getting the county's subscription to the Valley Railroad. Now or never!

You tell us there will only be 15c tax on the $100 worth of property. Add this to the other taxes and see how it stands: State tax, 50cts; county tax, not less than 20c -- making 85 cents on the $100 worth of property. So that if a man is worth $1000 he will pay $8.50; if he is worth $10,000 he will pay $85; if he is worth $20,000 he will pay $170 tax or $105,465 to be paid out of the labor of the county annually -- to say nothing of the United States tax -- and these gentlemen living in the city will not touch it with one of their fingers. We would advise you, gentlemen, to read the 45th and 46th verses of the 11th chapter of St. Luke.

All we ask, gentlemen, is to be let alone. -- We don't want our houses, farms, stock, bonds, money, and property, both personal and real, to be placed in trust to the B. & O. R. R. for 30 long years, which will be troublesome, as well as expensive. We have not asked for this road, and we have told you once by our votes that we would not have you to rule over us, and we will on the 6th day of August, render the same verdict. Voters of the county, we leave this important question with you to decide on the 6th day of August, and we say to you, do that only which you believe will promote your interest, and not vote from mere impulse, expecting something to turn up, for we well know if the road is built our resources will increase so slowly as to be unobserved.

"'Tis better to bear the ills we have,

Than fly to those we know not of.


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Voters of Augusta
(Column 02)
Summary: "Augusta" called on all voters to turn out and vote down the Valley Railroad subscription. Warned that if it passed, everyone's property would be at risk in the hands of Railroad men.
Full Text of Article:

The Railroad men have changed their policy. Now the $300,000 is to be carried by storm. -- Be on your guard. There will be Railroad men from Staunton at every voting place in the county, to influence a certain class of voters to vote your property away. It is vital, therefore, to close up our ranks, and prepare for the contest. Stop your plows on the 6th day of August, and go to work, and as there is no opposing element of interest between you and your hands, white or colored, your will is their will, therefore go with them to the polls and keep them out of the hands of these Railroad men, who will feed and drink them for their vote. If but one vote is lost, it may carry the $300,000, and the county is lost, and the tax is upon you. Get voting tickets against the subscription; they are ready for distribution. We call upon the widow, the orphan, the mother, the wives and sisters of Augusta, to go to work. We tremble for your safety, and our devout prayer is that our God will bless our united efforts and save our homes from the clutches of a heartless organization that would send you to the Poor House, when your protectors are laid in the cold grave, to collect the last mite of taxes. AUGUSTA.

Letters from Distinguished Gentlemen in Reply to Invitations to Attend the Valley R. R. Mass Meeting
(Column 03)
Summary: Robert E. Lee and John W. Garrett wrote to a committee of Augusta citizens to decline an invitation to a planned mass-meeting in Staunton. They did, however, express their support for the Valley Railroad.
(Names in announcement: M. G. Harman, Alexander H. H. Stuart, Joseph A. Waddell, Thomas J. Michie, Hugh W. Sheffey, James H. Skinner, George Baylor, William A. Burke, S. Travers Phillips, John Echols, John B. Baldwin, John M. Hardy, N. K. Trout, David Fultz, H. M. Bell, William H. Gorman, C. R. Harris, Thomas C. Elder, P. B. Hoge)
Reply of the Central Committee to P. B. Borst, Esq, Pres. S. V. R. R.
(Column 04)
Summary: P. B. Borst, President of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, wrote to J. D. Craig of Augusta with cost estimates. He showed that without the proposed county subscriptions, the bonded debt of the company will remain very high.
(Names in announcement: J. D. Craig)

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[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: George M. Harrison of Staunton has been appointed Notary Public.
(Names in announcement: George M. Harrison)
[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper praised the "Home school for girls" run by Mrs. Hanson and Miss Sheffey.
(Names in announcement: Mrs. Hanson, Miss Sheffey)
[No Title]
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper reported a large number of visitors at Stribling Springs. "We know of no place where families could spend a few months more pleasantly than at this pleasant Summer resort. The scenery is beautiful, the accommodations good, and the water highly medicinal--the Springs being Sulphur, Alum, and Chalybeate."
(Column 01)
Summary: Important editors from Winchester, Charlottesville, Rockingham, and Richmond attended the mass-meeting and barbecue held in support of the Valley Railroad.
Mass Meeting and Barbecue
(Column 01)
Summary: The paper printed an account of the mass-meeting and barbecue held in support of the Valley Railroad. An estimated "several thousand" attended--many more than expected. There were also more white men in proportion to black than expected. Supporters of the road, including ex-Governor John Letcher, delivered a number of speeches. The "Stonewall Band" provided musical entertainment.
(Names in announcement: Col. M. G. Harman, Gen. John Echols, C. G. Kerr, Judge H. W. Sheffey)
[No Title]
(Column 02)
Summary: Judge John T. Harris will address the people of Augusta on the Valley Railroad at a series of speaking engagements in Staunton, Mt. Sidney, and Burke's Mill.
(Names in announcement: Judge John T. Harris)
Appointments for Speaking on V. R. R.
(Column 02)
Summary: The paper listed a series of speaking engagements to be delivered in Augusta on behalf of the Valley Railroad.
(Names in announcement: Judge Fultz, M. G. Harman, Gen. Echols, Judge Sheffey, S. Travers Phillips, George Baylor, H. M. Bell, James W. Massie, Maj. Elder, Gen. R. D. Lilley, H. B. Michie, Bolivar Christian, Jacob Baylor, Thomas D. Ransom, Gen. Echols, R. H. Catlett, Stuart, Col. Baldwin)
To the Tax-Payers of Augusta
(Column 02)
Summary: "A TAXPAYER" wrote a scathing attack against the proposed Valley Railroad subscription. Wanted to convince Augusta county residents that the subscription would ultimately cost far more than planned and siphon money out of voter's pockets in the long run. Also called all railroads soulless corporations who never have a county's interest at heart.
Full Text of Article:

A short time since, quite a number of hand-bills in advocacy of the Railroad tax were distributed over the county, which the President of the Valley Rail Road, so-called, took the trouble, and with a flourish of trumpets to inform the tax-payers of Augusta emanated from the Hon. A. H. H. Stuart. I hope Col. Harman will not feel disgruntled if the said tax payers of the county refuse to sneeze whenever Mr. Stuart's taste or inclination may lead him to take snuff. The intelligent tax-payers of this county cannot afford to let any one do their thinking or in the slightest degree indicate to them what is or is not in their interest pecuniarily or financially. Mr. Stuart is entitled to his opinion (and the right to change it) as I and every other tax-payer, but that Mr. Stuart and others have erred in some of their facts and figures is what I now intend to try to prove. It is urged that the whole amount necessary to be subscribed before commencing the road is $3,200,000, and $2,900,000 have been taken and Augusta is asked to take the remaining $300,000 to insure the commencement of the work in a few months. I would like very much to know where the remaining three millions and upwards is to come from to complete the work, for it is asserted the estimated cost of the Road from Harrisonburg to Salem is $6,598,963; again, I ask, where is the deficiency of 3 millions and upwards to come from to complete the road. I can tell you; the counties and towns along the line and through which the road passes, will be called upon for an additional subscription. Yes, Augusta will be asked to vote another $300,000, and you will be told the $300,000 already voted, will be valueless, will be thrown away, unless you vote an additional $300,000. And suppose you refuse, what then. The Company must issues its bonds and sell them at whatever they will bring in the market. What then -- the Company must mortgage the Road -- what plain farmers call giving a deed of trust, to secure the payment of the bonds when the bonds fall due. What then, will they be paid? I am inclined to think the company will say we lack the spondolix, in other words the money -- what then? the Road must be sold -- who is the purchaser? Baltimore & O. R. R. Company; your Road now in the hands of a foreign corporation to do as they please with you -- your $300,000 gone, sold for a mere song; for the Balt. & O. R. R. Company would have no competition in the sale and purchase of the Valley R. R., they owning the Road from Harrisonburg to Baltimore. Now, fellow tax-payers, are you prepared for this? -- look before you leap. Again, you are told the City of Baltimore has agreed to subscribe $1,000,000 and the Baltimore & O. R. R. Company has agreed to subscribe another million; how is this? We were told by Mr. Stuart and others that Baltimore City, and the Balt. & O. R. R. Company had subscribed one million each, now we are told they have agreed to subscribe another million; how is this? We were told by Mr. Stuart and others that Baltimore City and the Balt. & O. R. R. Company had subscribed one million each, now we are told they have agreed to subscribe one million each. I speak by the card, for I quote verbatim -- from the address of the Central Committee to the voters of Augusta county. In one breath we are told they have subscribed and in the next breath they have agreed to subscribe, a very marked difference between having done a thing and agreeing to do a thing. I will tell you fellow-tax payers it looks a little queer to a man up a tree. Again, admit that for argument sake that Mr. Stuart and others are right, that Baltimore city has subscribed. What are the conditions? here they are: that there shall be enough subscribed to construct the entire Road by those solvent and able to pay. Now is such the fact? I assert there is not enough subscribed to build the Road, and I do it without the fear of contradiction, for the fact is notorious; then is Baltimore City bound for her million, even admitting she has subscribed.

It is urged by some, that we will obtain Richmond prices for our produce. Was such the fact when the Chesa. & Ohio Road was building? I think not; the idea of contractors paying more than market price for produce, to say the least of it, it is simply absurd; any contractor buying above the market I think highly probable never intends paying. This is not the first Rail Road built through Augusta county and again I ask, did we obtain Richmond prices then? if not then, why should we obtain them now. It is estimated the cost of making the Road through Augusta will be $1,350,000, and therefore that amount will be spent in the county; just as well argue that the cost of running the Chesa. & Ohio Road through the county is spent here; wherever the contractors can buy the cheapest they will buy, and even grant that they bought all their supplies of us, what does that prove only, that we have sold to them instead of some other party. Does any one undertake to say, if they had not bought our produce it would have rotted on our hands? have we not a market for all we raise? are these contractors shut out from the rest of the world, that they are compelled to bid against each other for Augusta county's produce. Mr. Stuart informs us that the matter in issue is wealth or poverty. I think Mr. Stuart risked a great deal on that assertion, but I have charity enough to suppose he did not mean what he said. To talk about poverty in connection with the old county of Augusta, "the Empire County of Virginia" (another quotation from the Central Committee), and I think one of the speakers on Monday characterized her as the Empire or Greatest county of the South, and so she is Rail Road or no Rail Road, God bless her, and for that reason I do not want to see her sold out to Shylocks and sharpers foreign in feeling and without love and affection for her. It is said the building of the Valley Rail Road is dependent upon Augusta's subscription. I beg to take issue with those who make the assertion. If such were the fact the Balt. & Ohio Company would not have filled up the gap from Winchester to Strasburg at a cost of 3/4 of a million, for it is as clear as the noon-day sun, that a Road can never pay until a connection is formed with the Chesa. & O. Road; therefore it is to their interest to make the connection upon the completion of the Chesa. & O. R. R. and no sooner.

Mr. Stuart says the people of Augusta are now the victims of oppressive monopoly. I and friend Sandy agree for once, but I will go a step further and say all Rail Roads are monopolies. After speaking of the almost unlimited power wielded by the Chesapeake & Ohio Company in its rates of charges, he says: "people are obliged to submit to these exactions because they cannot help themselves."

Again, Mr. Stuart says, corporations are proverbially without souls, and we might add without hearts; they look to their own interests exclusively. What do you think of that? Mr. Stuart's own language. And Mr. Stuart would advise you, the tax payers of this county, to place yourselves at the mercy of one of these soulless, heartless corporations, that look to their own interests exclusively.

I confess I am somewhat surprised at Mr. Stuart giving such advice to his fellow-citizens. He certainly does not expect them to heed it. But perhaps he thinks this new found bantling of his has a soul; well perhaps it has, may be about the size of a mustard seed. Again, another strong reason urged is, that it gives us competition. I think they use the wrong word -- it should be combination. What was charged upon flour from Staunton to Richmond before the Rail Road to Harrisonburg was rebuilt? 56 cents. What is now charged? 64 cents. Which does that look most like, competition or combination. But says one of the tax party, they are 25 miles apart, so they are, and so much more the reason for competition for the 25 miles of most superior productive land that lies between them. This thing of competition between Rail Roads is the greatest humbug of the day; "soulless and heartless corporations, looking to their own interest exclusively," would scarcely be expected to do any thing for the public advantage when prejudiced to their own interest. Mr. Stuart says that the tax will be a very small affair, 6 cents on the hundred dollars' worth of property, or 60 cents on the thousand, which would be six dollars on ten thousand. The Central Committee says it will be $15 on ten thousand, and I do not suppose the Committee would likely over estimate it. I confidently believe, including collecting and disbursing, it will be $2.00 on the thousand, or $20 on the ten thousand to pay the interest, which runs for thirty years. Then a man worth ten thousand dollars would, in thirty years, pay six hundred dollars interest, and at the end of the thirty years the principal would fall due and his part of that would be $333.33 1/3, which added to $600 would make $933.33 1/3, the man's share or part of principal and interest who is worth $10,000, and in proportion for larger or small amounts. The man worth $20,000 would pay double that amount, that is $1,866.66 2/3. -- I would refer the tax-payers of this county to our sister county of Rockingham. They taxed themselves $150,000 and are now pressed down with taxation, and what have they to show for their $150,000 in the shape of stock? nothing, or next thing to it, and so I fear it may be with us. I would say to the tax payers, look out! beware how you vote this tax upon yourselves, for when you cast your vote there is no recalling it -- the Rubicon is crossed -- the die is cast. The 1st Saturday in August, the 6th of the month, the vote will be taken. Don't fail to come to the polls. Come one, come all.


Reply to "Augusta"
(Column 03)
Summary: "PROGRESS" wrote to warn Augusta residents that only by subscribing to the railroad will they benefit from it. Told them not to listen to other anonymous writers urging to vote against the railroad because they were only looking out for their own interests instead of those of the county.
Full Text of Article:

"Augusta" takes the liberty to refer to us personally, in a circular just out. One word in reply: He terms the proposition made by us in the Spectator, July 5th, a conspiracy against the best interests of the county. That proposal was only on condition that the County refused to subscribe by that proposition. I simply said to the people of Augusta, look now to your own interest -- there is a set of sharpers among you who think that the Road will be built anyhow at the expense of other people. If you trust to them, you will find if the Road is built without your aid it will be built in such a way as to keep those who refuse to aid the construction, from reaping the full benefit of it. "Augusta" and the other sharpers of the opposition thought they had a nice pealed egg to eat that others pealed for them; by that proposition I struck their elbow and knocked the egg out of their hand, hence the yell of disappointment from them. I helped to peal that egg gentlemen and I assure you there is a conspiracy, if you chose to call it so, among those who helped peal it, that they shall not steal it nor get the pleasure of eating it unless they help peal it.

I have no interest in Staunton -- the exception was made in favor of Staunton, because she had done her duty and subscribed $100,000. Do yours at the election, August 6th, and you have all the benefits of the exception, if not I promise you the Road shall never benefit those who vote against it, if anything in my power can prevent. I believe this to be justice and will stand responsible for it. "Augusta" is a Staunton man, and if you will look at his remarks on the taxes of Staunton in this last article, you will learn the secret of his opposition. It is not love for the County, but his love for himself that actuates him.


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