The Garden


Ceres in the Garden of the World The image of America as Garden dates back to the earliest settlements. Two distinct perceptions of this New World Garden developed. The Puritan image was of a garden to be hewn out of the savage wilderness. Early settlers of Virginia viewed the new continent as a prelapsarian garden, which the colonizer need not change but from which he should profit, both spiritually and materially. From these two points of view came very different ideas concerning the role of the inhabitants of this garden. Whereas the New England farmer found his vocation in tilling the soil, the southern planter saw his in the education of the mind.

The struggle between the two ideals carried the greatest weight in the newly settle territories just east of the frontier. Ultimately, the outcome of the clash of the two myths and the models they put forth would become the conflict between the free and slave states. The failure of the Southern system to prevail can be traced to the failure of its hold on the states forming in the Midwest. While literature and public papers of the time offer examples of both Jeffersonian agrarianism and apologism for slavery, Smith blames the weakness of the plantation myth for the decline of the institution. He writes "pro-slavery advocates of annexation failed entirely to create symbols comparable to the free-soil symbol of the yoeman. They were prepared to defend slavery as such with the standard doctrines, and to state of familiar propositions of manifest destiny, but they were not able to endow the westward expansion of the slave system with imaginative color"(VL,152.)


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