The Cotton Question.
The Illinois Central Railroad Company with their usual enterprise and energy has taken hold of the cotton question, and have gathered a mass of testimony in regard to its culture in the southern part of this state, which we republish in another part of this paper. The fact that cotton can be grown in southern Illinois is well known to every resident of that portion of the state, and also to those who have traveled there to any great extent. But, where one hundred planted cotton twenty-five years ago, probably not more than one did last year, and he [did not] because of the profit of it, but rather from "force of habit." The almost universal testimony seems to be, that its culture was given up because its culture was unprofitable — because other crops could be raised at a cheaper rate, and sold at a better price. The cotton that was grown in the early days was for home consumption, and worked by such means as were at hand in the families of the early settlers. Of course, goods thus manufactured couldn't compete with products of the eastern manufactories, and when the latter was introduced, the culture of cotton here was abandoned. So far as the testimony now gathered is concerned, there is little to discourage a revival of cotton culture here, either in soil or climate. What counter testimony might be gathered, we know not — what we publish is certainly worthy of grave consideration.
Of the advantages of free labor over slave labor in its cultivation, there is no question; but is there sufficient to compensate for the increased risk from the shortness of the season, it's compared with the old cotton growing states? In Texas the estimated amount grown per head is about eight bales of say 450 pounds each. This, we believe, is considerable greater [than] done throughout the southern states. Mr. [unknown]rry, a reliable Mississippi planter, estimates the amount per hand in the state to be about five [bales], or five acres of tillage.
From the testimony furnished in any of these letters it would seem that the yield per acre here was as much, or more, than the average yield of the cotton states. If 400 pounds per acre can be grown with anything like certainty, with the improved machinery of the present day, this staple may take rank among our farm products.
The railroad company have assurance from secretary Seward and others at Washington that every necessary effort will be made to prepare a sufficient supply of seed, which will probably be distributed free through the patent office [unknown] by the railroad company.
Cotton is an exhausting crop, and we cannot expect to grow it continuously upon the same ground. The best cotton planters of the south do not recommend the planting of it often than every fourth year upon the same field; the following two years to be in corn, and the third year — the year preceding the cotton crop — to be fallowed, after which a heavy dressing of manure is applied.
For a long time we have earnestly advocated the culture of a greater variety of crops the west — something besides wheat and corn — in order to secure a reasonable profit to the producer. That cotton may become one such crop, (grown to the extent that the usual labor employed upon the farm would be sufficient in the picking season,) so far as our southern counties go, is not an unlikely result of the effort [unknown] being made. If the railroad company will [unknown] the people facilities to have their cotton grained and baled at a reasonable cost, when growing, we believe another year will more fully settle the question of cotton growing in Illinois. We [unknown] see it done. At the same time we do not [unknown] to see all Egypt go wild upon the subject, [unknown] sea people from abroad invest their monetary inland in southern Illinois, feeling certain of [unknown] a fortune out of cotton. Disappointment may lie lurking behind. The question is worry of further discussion. Our columns are not closed to it.