Faulkner, for instance, writes: 56Next Page
Although Virginia was particularly unfortunate in its immigrants, it was not alone. North Carolina and Maryland received a considerable addition to their population from indentured servants who had served their time in Virginia and pushed on to the frontiers to take up land, or from runaway servants and criminals from that colony. William Byrd . . . in 1728 speaks of the North Carolinians as irreligious, immoral, dirty, and incurably lazy . . . . It is almost needless to say that the "poor whites of the South today are to no small extent descended from the servile class of Europe.
Calhoun similarly reports: 57
Chastellux, a French traveler, frequently remarks on the masses of poverty-stricken people he saw in Virginia, some dressed in rags and living in miserable huts. They were indolent and hopeless, a product of the slave system, which degraded useful effort. From them sprang many of the "poor whites" of later days.
In many writings one finds affirmation of the thesis of considerable social class rigidity. The explanation of the existence of poor whites in the South in terms of their social class backgrounds is probably much more nearly adequate than an explanation based upon geographic and economic conditions.
Low social backgrounds alone can account for the following references to the poor whites of Virginia and the neighboring colonies during the period of settlement. Property systems, climate, and topography could not possibly have produced these results in so short a time after the arrival of the settlers. The following words and phrases have been culled from several writers: 58 "nest of the most notorious profligates on earth," "loose and lascivious," "vile and corrupt," "debauched, dissolute, and corrupt," "outcasts," runaway servants, insolvent debtors, and fugitives from justice," "naturally loose and wicked, obstinate and rebellious, crafty and deceitful," "miserable huts inhabited by whites whose wan faces and ragged garments gave testimony to their poverty," "children run around naked and a chair was not in the house and never will be," "sand-hillers -- every house having half a dozen children, the entire family in one room," and in the year 1842 it was written: "We saw boys and girls . . . of six and seven . . . some using small axes, others carrying wood . . . . In general, they were very dirty . . . the mother being too weary to wash them . . . . "
Nor has the picture changed in still another century. The present researcher has traveled through the Ozarks, the pine barrens of Louisiana, the lowlands and mountains of Tennessee, the mining sections of Kentucky, all the counties of the Piedmont and mountains of North Carolina and Virginia, and among the clay-eaters of Georgia by foot, on a bicycle, by car with camping outfit, and as a hitch-hiker. Intimate tours through twenty thousand miles of mountain and lowland country, sometimes on the backmost roads, showed that most of the poor whites are now just where their ancestors were in 1700: low in status, prolific, wan, lean, and miserable. In Pineville, Kentucky, and Franklin, North Carolina, they gather on Saturdays in the filthy courthouses to get their relief -- an almost inhuman assemblage. They are a sickly, weak, sullen, and helpless crowd, the worst assortment of the human species that the researcher has seen in any of eleven countries, toured by bicycle.
In 1700 they "showed no ambition to improve their agricultural methods or to engage in industry or trade," 59 and these same words describe their descendants today.
To argue that every man had a good chance in colonial America is to fail to realize that most of the immigrants who came to Virginia, specifically, were not "economic men." They were persons to whom household, career, and farm management were as strange as were the rules of international law to the peons of Mexico. Now were they to know what to do, how to do it, when to act, and when to rest? No one had drilled them in these habits and skills. Nor can the weather be blamed, for the climate of the southern hills and mountains is exhilarating and stimulating, if a person knows enough to stay in out of the rain or to dress for it.
56. Harold U. Faulkner, "Colonial History Debunked," Harper's Magazine, vol. 152 (December, 1925) p. 86.
57. Calhoun, op. cit., pp. 328 - 329.
58. These words and phrases were taken from the following sources, some of which were themselves quoting earlier writers: Ibid., pp. 320 - 321; 348 - 349; 350. C. M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, vol. III (New Haven, 1937) pp. 248 - 250. Wertenbaker, op. cit. (28), p. 152.
59. Andrews, op. cit., p. 259.