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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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"Vale of Humility between Two Mountains of Conceit"

by William S. Powell, 2006

"Vale of Humility between Two Mountains of Conceit" is a phrase describing North Carolina that originated from a speech given by Mary Oates Spratt Van Landingham on 6 Mar. 1900. That day, she spoke on the "native literature" of North Carolina before the Mecklenburg Historical Society in Charlotte. Referencing North Carolina's location between South Carolina and Virginia, Van Landingham said, "Where there are mountains of conceit, there are apt to be valleys of humility." The term has remained a source of tongue-in-cheek pride for North Carolinians.

Additional Resources:

Van Landingham, Mrs. John. "A State's Scant Literature: The Native Literature of North Carolina: Influences of the Past; Prospects for the Future." Glowing Embers. Charlotte, N.C.:The Observer Printing House. 1922. p. 30. (accessed August 16, 2012).

Hovis, George. Vale of Humility: Plain Folk in Contemporary North Carolina Fiction. Charleston: University of South Carolina Press. 2007.

Powell, Lew. "Valleys of whatever, mountains of whatever" North Carolina Miscellany (blog). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. October 1, 2010. (accessed August 16, 2012).

Origin - location: 



I had not heard the quote before today, however, I note this:


Your information on the quote, "A vale of humility between two mountains of conceit is very incorrect. The quote has also been attributed to your past Governor Zebulon Baird Vance of the Civil War and postbellum periods and also to Alexander Hamilton of an even earlier U.S history period. I would venture to say that it is a saying that probably has been around since the colonial period of the U.S.A


Hi Gary-Eugene,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing this. I have also seen reference to the possibility that even Benjamin Franklin was the originator.  If you have references and citations to share for this quote appearing in a writing by Alexander Hamilton, we would love to see it and I would be glad to add it to the entry with an update on the curious history of this literary snippet.

Please feel free to post back here.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


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