Chapter I. — The Valley of the Mississippi. — From New Orleans to Vicksburg. — An unexpected Meeting. — Departure from New Orleans. — The Mississippi. — Its Dimensions. — Part which it will yet play in the Drama of Civilization. — Scenery on its Banks. — A Mississippi Steamer. — Fellow-travellers. — Gamblers again. — An Incident. — The State of Mississippi. — Repudiation Case of Mississippi. — The Insolvent States. — The Solvent States. — The Unindebted States. — Responsibility of the States. — Natches. — Vicksburg. — A summary Trial and Execution. — Lynch Law. — Administration of the Law throughout the Union. — Position of the People of the West and South-west. — Allowances which should be made for them.
ON the day previous to that on which, after more than a week's sojourn, I quitted New Orleans, I was delighted, on taking my seat at the table d'hôte of the St. Charles, in company with about 500 other guests, to find a valued friend, Mr. D— from Baltimore, seated next to me on the right. He was an Englishman in the prime of life, but had been so long resident in
02America, and had made it the scene of such extensive business operations, that he now combined with an ineradicable affection for his native country a very great partiality for that of his adoption, and with the feelings and sentiments of an Englishman, much that is characteristic of the American. He had never been naturalized, but he was now beginning to reconcile himself to the idea of transferring his allegiance, as he was of becoming a Benedict; his object in contemplating the process of naturalization having less reference to himself than to those who might yet surround him in an endearing relationship. My advice to him was to take no step that he was not certain was necessary; but if he was tired of being sole monarch of himself, to marry first, and wait the tide of events. The process of naturalization was a brief and a sure one when entered upon; the necessity for it in his case had not yet become obvious.
After we had interchanged the ordinary salutations to which such unexpected meetings invariably give rise, I learnt from him that he had arrived in New Orleans but the preceding day, and that the next was that fixed for his departure. He had just taken a run to the South, he said, to "do a bit of business," which, by giving his personal attention to it, he could accomplish more satisfactorily in a single day than by the correspondence of a month. By the time he reached home his journey would have considerably exceeded in length two thousand miles; but he thought nothing of it, having thoroughly contracted the American aptitude for locomotion, and the indifference which the Americans manifest to distances. It was his intention to return, as he had come, by the route over which I had just passed; but as we had both decided on the
03same time for departure, I deemed it worth while to try if our routes could not be got to coincide. I therefore proposed to him to ascend the Mississippi and the Ohio with me, a course which would not take him much out of his way, as from the latter stream he could reach home by the Baltimore and Ohio railway. He readily consented to the change, at which I was exceedingly rejoiced, both because he was excellent company, and his knowledge of the country and people would be of great advantage to me.
Next morning at an early hour we left New Orleans for St. Louis. Our journey was confined to the Mississippi, which we were to ascend for upwards of 1,200 miles. We were on board a first-class steamer, and as we receded from the town, and before the first curve of the river had hid it from our view, I thought it, as the morning sun shone brightly upon its spires and cupolas, its massive piles of warehouses, its Levee already swarming with busy thousands, and the spars and rigging and multitudinous funnels which lined its semicircular harbour, one of the finest views of the kind I had ever beheld. In itself the southern capital is in every respect a most interesting town. But it has little that is interesting around it, for it stands, as it were, alone in the wilderness, a city without any immediate environs, to attract the stranger, or to recreate its inhabitants.
The Mississippi! It was with indescribable emotions that I first felt myself afloat upon its waters. How often in my schoolboy dreams, and in my waking visions afterwards, had my imagination pictured to itself the lordly stream, rolling with tumultuous current through the boundless region to which it has
04given its name, and gathering into itself, in its course to the ocean, the tributary waters of almost every latitude in the temperate zone! Here it was then, in its reality, and I, at length, steaming against its tide. I looked upon it with that reverence with which every one must regard a great feature of external nature. The lofty mountain, the illimitable plain, and the seemingly shoreless lake, are all objects which strike the mind with awe. But second to none of them in the sublime emotions which it inspires, is the mighty river; and badly constituted must that mind be, which could contemplate for the first time with a feeling of indifference a stream which, in its resistless flow, passes through so many climes, and traverses so many latitudes, rising amid perpetual snows, and debouching under an almost tropical sun, and draining into itself the surplus waters of about two millions of square miles!
But the grandeur of the Mississippi consists less in the majestic proportions of its physical aspect than in the part which it is yet destined to play in the great drama of civilized life. It was grand, whilst it yet rolled silently and unknown through the unbroken solitudes of the primeval forest — it was grand, when the indomitable but unfortunate Soto first gazed upon its waters, and when they opened to receive at the hands of his disconsolate band, the corpse of its discoverer — and it was grand, when no sound was heard along its course but the scream of the eagle and the war-whoop of the savage — when no smoke curled and wreathed amid the foliage on its banks but such as arose from the wigwam, and when nothing was afloat upon its surface but the canoe and the tree torn from its roots by the flood. But grander
05will it yet be, aye far grander, when civilization has tracked it from its mouths to its sources; when industry has converted its sides into a garden, and speckled them with lively towns and glittering cities; and when busy populations line its shores, and teem along the banks of all its tributaries. Then, and then only, will the Mississippi fulfil its destiny.
Already, with but nine millions of people in the valley, its whole aspect is changed; the wilderness has been successfully invaded; the hum of busy industry is heard along its shores; towns have sprung up, as if by magic, upon its banks; the combined banner of science and art waves over its waters; and hundreds of steamers, with a multitude of other craft, are afloat upon its tide. What scene will it present when the present population of the valley is multiplied by ten, and when, serving as a bond of perpetual union, stronger than treaties, protocols, or the other appliances of diplomacy between more than a dozen sovereign and independent commonwealths, it is the common highway, along which will be borne the accumulated products of their united industry to the ocean! Viewed in the double light of what it is and what it is to be, it is marvellous how some can look upon the Mississippi as nothing more than a "muddy ditch." Muddy it undoubtedly is, but that which renders its current so turgid is but the material torn from distant regions, with which it comes laden to construct new territories in more accessible positions. The opaqueness of its volume is thus but one of the means by which is gradually accomplished a great physical phenomenon. Regarded in connexion with the purposes to which it will yet be applied when civilization has risen to full tide around it, the
06Mississippi must be equally an object of interest to the Englishman as to the American — for what Englishman can look with indifference upon that which is yet destined to be the principal medium of communication between the great world and the region which is rapidly becoming the chief theatre for Anglo-Saxon enterprise, and will yet witness the greatest triumphs of Anglo-Saxon energy and skill? He takes, then, but a vulgar view of it who treats as merely so much muddy water running through an unpicturesque country, a stream which, ere many more heads are grey, will exercise so important an influence upon the commercial and political relations of the world.
Nowhere has the Mississippi the majesty of appearance presented, throughout most of its course, by the St. Lawrence. At New Orleans it is scarcely a mile in width, expanding somewhat a short distance above the city, and continuing of an average width of a little more than a mile as far up as its confluence with the Missouri. For a long way beyond that point its size diminishes but little, although its depth is not nearly so great as after the junction. Its depth increases as its volume is enhanced by the contributions of one tributary after another, which accounts for the absence of any apparent enlargement of its size for the last fifteen hundred miles of its course, during which it receives most of its great tributary streams. The current flows at the average rate of three miles an hour, and its increasing volume is accommodated by its increasing depth as it proceeds through the soft alluvial deposit in which it has its bed. As it approaches its outlet, the current gradually diminishes, and will continue still further to diminish,
07for reasons already explained, until it is forced to seek a new channel through the Delta.
We steamed famously on against the voluminous current, and had not proceeded far ere the country on either side began to look firmer, higher, drier, and richer. The banks were lined with cotton and sugar plantations, the former now rapidly giving way to the latter in Louisiana. For some way above the city, the mansions and villas of wealthy proprietors were visible, embosomed in foliage, and surrounded with luxuriant gardens. Further up, these gave way to the residences of the overseers, and the buildings erected for the accommodation of the slaves. The one frequently looked elegant, the other generally clean, neat, and comfortable, judging from the distance. Gradually the banks began to attain some elevation above the level of the stream. Whether they rose a few feet or many above it, they were almost invariably precipitous, and in many instances impending, the alluvial soil of which they were composed being partially undermined by the current, and ready to drop into the stream with the trees, bushes, grass and flowers with which it was covered. It is thus that the banks of the Mississippi are undergoing perpetual change. Where its course is straight for any length, it is gradually widening its channel, but diminishing it in depth; whereas, where it is winding, which is generally the case, the weight of the current bears upon the outer circumference of the curve, on which it is constantly encroaching, whilst it recedes to an equal extent from the opposite bank. The higher up we proceeded the richer and more varied became the forest on either hand, which came sometimes sweeping down to the margin of the river, and
08had at others receded for miles to make way for the plantation. Occasionally we passed through reaches of the stream, which forced their way through the thick and tangled cane-brake, where the cold, oozy, and sedgy appearance of the soil made me appreciate my dry and firm footing upon the promenade deck.
This reminds me of our steamer, of which I have as yet given no description. As we were to be from six to eight days on board, we took care to scrutinize her well before engaging a passage, and it may not be uninteresting to the reader to know what kind of ark it was that we were to inhabit for that time. As already said, she was a first-class, and high-pressure of course. One might reason himself into the belief that she had a hull, knowing how necessary such things are to steam-boats; but, viewing her from an ordinary position, the eye could detect none; all that was visible for her to rest upon being her paddle-wheels, which were very large. She was of immense width, the enormous protrusion of her lower deck on either side being the cause of the invisibility of her hull. This was so constructed as to accommodate in front the greatest possible quantity of cotton and other merchandise which she could carry without sinking her; whilst above it, resting on very slender pillars, rose the promenade decks, covered abaft the engine with an awning. She was named the "Niobe," and was like Niobe, all tiers. The saloon, which was between decks, occupied nearly the latter half of the vessel, the state rooms lining it, being entered both from within, and by means of a door, with which each was provided, entering from the walk between decks, which completely surrounded the saloon, the latter
09part of which was divided off into a cabin for the ladies. She carried a prodigious quantity of white and black paint upon her; had two enormous funnels, as most American boats have; and consumed a tremendous supply of wood, shooting up flame at night, and leaving a double train of brilliant sparks behind her, which, together with the lights which occasionally gleamed faintly from the shore, contrasted curiously with the bright starlight overhead. The captain had no positive qualities about him, either good or evil, attending to his chief duties, and letting his passengers look after themselves. We found the table exceedingly good the whole way. The weather was very hot, but we were supplied with fresh meat at the different stations.
We had a large company on board, most of whom looked respectable, and were agreeable enough as travelling companions. Having sufficient company, however, in my friend, I did not mingle with them as much as I should otherwise have done. There was one group of very suspicious looking characters, who kept constantly together, for the very good reason that they were shunned by everybody else. I noticed them shortly after coming on board, as they were standing near the engine, examining a couple of seven-barrelled pistols, and another "revolver" of a less formidable description, which a long-haired and long-headed Yankee was offering them for sale. These weapons, together with the bowie knife, et id genus omne, are generally well made and highly finished. The best of them have some motto or other etched upon them. A story was once told of a collision to which a sudden quarrel on board a steamer was about to give rise, having been averted by the singular coincidence of
10the mottos on the weapons about to be employed. The party offended drew his bowie knife, and directed the attention of the other to the motto which it bore upon its broad burnished blade, which was, "Hark, from the tombs!" The other coolly drew a pistol from his breast, on the gleaming barrel of which was etched, "A doleful sound!" — the two weapons thus completing between them the first line of a well-known hymn. So curious a coincidence drew forth a hearty laugh from all parties, and the offence was forgotten. It is a pity that some effective stop could not be put to the carrying of these weapons, as the very possession of them frequently precipitates fatal collisions. The group of gamblers adverted to left us at Natches. They had intended to proceed higher up, and had paid their fare to a greater distance; but there being no prospect of their successfully plying their vocation on board, they went ashore at the place which was once notorious as their chief resort, and is still grievously infested with them.
The fiery blood of the South is easily excited, and a slight incident occurred on board which gave me an opportunity of witnessing the readiness to take offence, which is a marked feature in southern character. Four or five young men were standing together conversing on the promenade deck, when one of them, a Virginian, gave an elaborate description of a young horse which he had lately purchased. After dwelling upon his different excellences, and particularly describing his action, he asked the company in general how much they thought he gave for him.
"Your note, what else?" said one of those addressed, in the driest possible tone.
In a moment the young man's eyes flashed fire — and, had he possessed a weapon, a fatal collision might have been the result, for the other was armed.
"A joke, a joke!" cried the rest of the company, "nothing more; no offence meant." And after some further interposition on their part, the storm was strangled in its cradle.
"A joke that came too near the truth, I fancy," said one over his shoulder, in an under-tone to another, as they immediately afterwards separated.
When about two-thirds of the way to Natches, we passed the line dividing, on the east bank of the river, the State of Louisiana from that of Mississippi; the former continuing upon the west bank for nearly two degrees further to the north. On passing the boundary, and having the State of Mississippi on our right, my mind very naturally reverted to a subject with which the name of that State has for some years been most unfavourably identified. My thoughts at length found vent in expression, and I observed to my companion, that it was a matter of astonishment to me that a State possessed of resources like those of Mississippi, could remain for one hour longer than it could avoid it under the stigma which now rested upon its character.
"The subject with which your mind is now occupied," said he, "is one on which there is much misconception abroad. It is misunderstood both through ignorance and prejudice. Some cannot, and others will not, give it an impartial consideration."
"I have heard the same thing more than once advanced during my peregrinations through the country," I replied, "and am inclined to believe that abroad the case is very much prejudged. I
12should much like to know the sentiments regarding it entertained by one occupying a position in the country so favourable to a proper appreciation of the subject as is yours."
"I have no objections to giving you my views," said Mr. D—, "but I must first stipulate, that you will carefully discriminate between my endeavours to place the subject in its proper light, and any approval on my part of the principle or practice of repudiation. I demand this, not because I think that you would willingly misconstrue my motives, or attribute to me principles which every honourable mind would scorn to entertain; but because our countrymen, full of preconceived opinions upon the subject, are but too ready to denounce every effort at eliciting the real merits of the case, as nothing short of a direct advocacy of repudiation."
I readily promised to comply, assuring him that my object was not to confirm any preconceived notion of my own, but to get at the truth, no matter to what inference or conclusion it might lead.
"As to the villainy of repudiation," said he, "naked, absolute, and unequivocal, there can be no two opinions amongst honourable men."
To such a proposition I could not but assent.
"If any member of this Confederacy," he observed, continuing, "or any other community, no matter where situated, were guilty of such, no man who valued his own reputation could attempt to raise his voice in its defence."
I acknowledged the risk any one would run in doing so.
"Now," continued he, "whilst this is the crime with which some States are directly charged, and in
13which the whole Union is more or less involved, in the opinion of so many abroad; it is a crime of which no member of this Confederacy has as yet been guilty, and of which, I trust, no member of it ever will be guilty."
"For my own part," I observed in reply, "I always discriminated widely between the case of Mississippi and that of the other States, which are either wholly or have been but temporarily insolvent, and have certainly never, even in word or thought, attempted to involve the innocent with the guilty."
"You select," said he, "the case of Mississippi, no doubt, as the worst in the catalogue. So it is; but even Mississippi is not guilty of the enormities with which she stands charged. Repudiation, in its simple acceptation, is the refusal to pay a debt acknowledged to be justly due. Now, as thus construed, even Mississippi has not been guilty of repudiation. The debt which she has refused to pay is a debt which she does not acknowledge to be justly due. If not fraudulently, she insists that it was, at least, illegally contracted, so that she regards it as a debt which she may, but which she is not bound to pay. Whilst this is the real state of the case, she gets credit for cherishing a conviction of the justice of their claims, at the same time that she sets her creditors at defiance. Her language to them is supposed to be this: — ‘I owe you the money, and can have no possible objection to your claim; but you may whistle for it, for not one farthing of what I justly owe you shall you receive from me.’ Whatever community or individual would hold such language to its or his creditors, must have previously sounded the deepest depths of infamy. It is
14consoling to know that even the Mississippians have not done this, for even they have the grace left to seek to shelter themselves behind an excuse for their conduct."
"There is certainly some sense of honour left," I observed, "in those who care for explaining away or extenuating their disgraceful conduct, provided the endeavour to do so be not solely with a view to escape the punishment which might otherwise attach to it. The man who tries to excuse himself for the commission of a wrong, testifies, to some extent, in favour of what is right. If the Mississippians are not the graceless and unblushing repudiators which they are supposed to be, I should like to know the nature of their excuse, for upon that depends altogether the extent to which it can palliate their conduct."
"I by no means wish," replied Mr. D—, "to screen the State of Mississippi from any obloquy which may justly attach to her in what I have already said; my sole object has been to show that even she has not gone the length to which many suppose or wish to believe that several of the States have gone; for even she is, in her own eyes, not without excuse for what she has done. Whether that excuse be valid or not is another question. It may not be of a nature to rescue her from all blame, but the very fact that she tenders one is sufficient to relieve her from the grosser charge which is so very generally hurled against her."
"But her excuse?" said I.
"The entire debt of Mississippi," said he, "has not been repudiated. It is only a portion of it, though certainly the greater portion, that has been thus dealt with. Her excuse for refusing to pay
15that portion rests upon the alleged illegality of the transactions which made her a debtor to that amount. The debt, she asserts, was unconstitutionally contracted; and was, therefore, never binding upon her, so as to give her creditors any legal claim upon her for its repayment."
"But how," I asked, "was the foreign capitalist to know whether the constitutional forms of the State of Mississippi were or were not complied with, in the conduct, by her accredited officers, of the transactions which resulted in their becoming her creditors?"
"They should, for their own sakes," said he, "have seen that they were. The debt was contracted by virtue of a law of the State. The form of the bonds was prescribed. They should have satisfied themselves, before advancing their money, that the law was, in every respect, complied with. It was not in a mere non-essential that the prescribed form of the bonds was departed from. The variation was both as to the place of payment, and the currency in which payment was to be made. Who are more interested in the correctness of such transactions than they who are advancing their money upon them? The means of knowledge were within their reach, had they cared for making use of them. But it is the opinion of some, that whilst many lent their money upon securities which they never suspected of being faulty, there were not a few amongst those who dealt very largely in them, who connived at the flaws which were introduced into them, greedily anxious to invest their money at a rate of interest unattainable at home, and trusting to the honour of the people of the State to stand by their bonds, whether they were faulty or otherwise."
"I confess," said I, "that could such a suspicion be brought home to any of the creditors of the State, if their fate would not be pronounced a just one, few would sympathize with them in their misfortunes. But until the charge be proved, it must be taken as a mere suspicion, and the original holders of the vitiated bonds must stand, without exception, in the category of bona fide creditors. This being so, it behoved the State to adopt as its own the acts of its agents, and to exact satisfaction from these agents for deviating from their powers, instead of visiting its creditors with the penalty of their misconduct. And this the State was more particularly bound to do, seeing that it has had the benefit of the money, and that its securities have long since passed into the hands of bona fide and innocent holders."
"I quite agree with you," observed Mr. D—; "this would have been giving effect to the moral obligation, and waiving the mere legal technicality. But this is the case on which Mississippi grounds what she considers to be her legal exoneration from the payment of her debt. This, in short, is her excuse. I did not undertake to prove it a valid one, nor do I now express any opinion upon that subject. All that I wished to show was, that whether valid or not, the fact that she tenders an excuse redeems her, improper and impolitic though her conduct has been, from the charge so constantly brought against her, of having unblushingly set at defiance every legal as well as every moral obligation. Had Mississippi acted prudently, she would have paid her debt and impeached her agents. The truth is, she is at present unable to pay, and takes shelter behind a legal flaw, as is done every day between man and man, when
17agents deviate from their patent instructions, and a flaw the validity of which the mere legalist may recognise. But by-and-by the moral obligation will triumph over the technical objection."
"Were I convinced," I observed, "that she was merely unable to pay, I should regard her position more as her misfortune than her fault. But I can scarcely admit the suggestion of inability, when I consider her immense and varied resources."
"Her resources are undoubtedly great," continued he, "but they are yet but partly available, the bulk of them being still in a latent state. There is no place where so many warnings are given against extending the pressure of direct taxation as in England. Considering the extent to which her resources have been developed, and are available as subjects of taxation, it seems, for the present, to have been carried to its utmost limit in Mississippi. The annual revenue raised by her is a little upwards of three hundred thousand dollars; and, with the exception of about five thousand, it is all the product of direct taxes."
"If direct taxes have reached their limit in England, it is because of the heavy pressure of the accumulated load of indirect taxation under which she groans and staggers. But in proportion as she is relieved of the one, there is no reason why the other might not safely be extended. It seems that Mississippi has no indirect taxation to add to the pressure of her direct taxes."
"She has no indirect taxation for local purposes," he observed, "but it would be wrong to infer that the sum which she raises by direct taxes is all the burden she is called upon to bear in the way of taxation. The amount which, by her consumption of
18foreign articles, she pays towards the support of the general government, is double what she raises for the maintenance of her local administration. She has thus, as England has, to sustain the combined pressure of the two systems."
"Admitting," said I, "that the State is already taxed to the utmost limits of endurance, the debt under which she labours was, as I understand it, contracted for the construction of public works. Why, with such limited resources, undertake such gigantic works? Why did she go so much beyond her depth?"
"If England cannot undertake a little war, neither can America a little improvement. Public works on the European scale would be of but little value on this continent, where the features of nature are exhibited in such gigantic outline. When art comes in aid of nature, it must conform itself to the scale of nature. The points to be united here are important; and as they are generally far apart, the means of uniting them, whether it be by canal, telegraph, or railway, must be great in proportion. By a canal a few score miles in length, they complete in England a natural and artificial navigation of one or two hundred miles. By a canal a few hundred miles in length in America, they complete a natural and artificial navigation extending for thousands of miles. There, they connect the Humber with the Mersey, the Forth with the Clyde; here the Ohio with the Delaware, the Hudson with the Mississippi. There the important points to be united together are at but trifling distances from each other, and in reaching them, the one from the other, you proceed along the smiling vale which the eye can generally grasp at a single
19vision, cross the rivulet which the schoolboy can leap, and thread a mazy course amongst gentle undulations, some of which it is cheaper to tunnel than to turn; but here, cities, towns, and the great marts of commerce lie far apart, and to unite them you have to traverse in long straight lines the boundless plain, penetrate the mountain ridges, intersect the interminable forest, span or ferry the mightiest rivers, and cross morass after morass, all of them yet undrained, and some of them undrainable. Taking them as far as they go, there are no works more solid or substantial, or that exhibit themselves as greater triumphs of the skill and perseverance of a people, than the public works of England. But they are on a small scale when compared with those already executed and projected here, and such as are to be yet projected and executed. People measure the greatness of their works by the scale of the occasion for them. Improvements here are on a scale which the people are accustomed to, but a scale which in England would be considered prodigious. The reason is, that in the one case it is necessary to conform to it, whereas in the other it would be unnecessary to adopt it. There are several of the unfinished canals of America, any one of which would make the circuit of some kingdoms. The American is, therefore, condemned to the alternative of making no improvement at all, or of conforming himself in making them to the scale of circumstances. For the last fifteen years a mania for internal improvements has overspread the face of the earth; Mississippi participated in it. She was poor, and the works which she undertook were great and expensive; but their prospective fruits seemed to justify both the effort and the outlay. But
20her credit was shaken before they were all completed, and some of them are, for the present, absolutely profitless investments. She went greatly beyond her depth; but so have too many other States, both in the Old World and in the New. If she was too eager to borrow, so were capitalists too eager to lend."
"All this," said I, "may serve as an excuse for her imprudence, but you have not, in my opinion, exonerated her from the substantial charge against her. In pleading an excuse for the repudiation of her debt, she has paid but a lip homage to common decency."
"But even that shows that a sentiment of honesty still remains; and so long as that lingers in her bosom, there is hope of her redemption."
"That I believe," I observed, "for even if honour fail to induce her to do so, policy and self-interest will yet prompt her to redeem herself; and I have little doubt but that the day will soon come when she will thoroughly repent of her waywardness, and again hold up her head amongst the nations of the world."
Mr. D— here interrupted our conversation to point out to me the mouth of the Red River, which entered the Mississippi from the west. What we saw was more where the confluence took place than the confluence itself, an island which had been thrown up by the combined action of the two rivers hiding the junction from our view. This great stream, rising amongst the more easterly ridges of the Rocky Mountains, and within what was once the territory of Mexico, and forming, for part of its course, the dividing line between the two republics, flows for about 1,500 miles before it enters the Mississippi, within
21the territory of Louisiana. Its navigation was formerly completely interrupted by what was known as the Red River Raft. All the rivers in the valley when in flood bring down with them enormous quantities of timber, the spoils of the territories which they periodically inundate. Such was the amount brought down by the Red River, that at a point not far from its mouth its channel was at length almost choked up, the timber having lodged in such quantity that the stream could not displace it; each successive flood added to the obstruction, until at length this raft came to exceed thirty miles in length. In some places soil was being rapidly deposited upon it, and vegetation making its appearance upon its surface, and there was every reason to believe that the raft would soon have become an island, around which the river would have flowed in two new channels to the Mississippi. To prevent the stream from being diverted, and to open up the navigation at once, the raft has been removed, or partially so, at immense cost, by the general government, a broad canal or channel having been cut completely through it. There is, therefore, every probability that it will by-and-by entirely disappear.
On our right, bluffs of considerable height now overhung the river, and the country on either hand, which was exceedingly rich, began to assume a more undulating, and consequently a more interesting appearance.
"Not only," said my friend, resuming the conversation, which had been interrupted for a few minutes, "has the precise position of Mississippi with regard to her debt been misunderstood, but other States, either still or formerly insolvent, have
22been confounded with her in the charge of absolute and unequivocal repudiation. Whether the excuse preferred by Mississippi be a valid one, or a mere quibble, there is no doubt that for the present she refuses to acknowledge a portion of her debt; in other words, she refuses to pay it, either principal or interest. It is undoubtedly true that there are other States, such as Pennsylvania and Maryland, which have been in the same category so far as the mere non-payment of their debts is concerned; but in no other particular can their position be regarded as identical with that of Mississippi. They have never repudiated their debts. Mississippi alone has refused either to pay or to recognise the legality of the claims against her; the others have, admitting their obligations, been simply unable to meet them."
"I acknowledge the difference," said I, "between a downright refusal to pay, and an inability, either temporary or permanent, to pay. But inability, to excuse, must be proved. The debt of Pennsylvania is a little upwards of forty millions of dollars. The annual interest payable thereon is a little above two millions of dollars. Now the property of the State in canals, railroads, &c., is computed at upwards of thirty millions. The real and personal property of the State, irrespective of this public property, is estimated at upwards of 2,000,000,000 of dollars. Is it possible that with such resources Pennsylvania can plead inability to pay?"
"There is no doubt," said he, "but that the resources of Pennsylvania are more than sufficient to cover a much greater debt than that under which she now labours. The works in which the money borrowed has been invested having failed for the present
23to be as productive as it was expected they would be, the State had to look to other sources for the means of meeting her obligations. The only feasible mode of procuring these means appeared to be to lay an assessed tax upon real and personal property. This course was resorted to, but for a few years the produce of this tax was much less than was anticipated, resistance being made to its payment, chiefly by the German population of the State. The treasury was thus temporarily bankrupt; and not only was the debt not diminished, but the interest upon it was not paid. But this did not last long, the State, which had never repudiated her debt, at length finding the assessed taxes sufficiently productive to enable her not only to pay the interest, but to redeem this year a portion of the principal. Pennsylvania fell behind in a moment of bitter disappointment, on finding her public works, notwithstanding all the promises that had been held out to her, insufficient for the time being to meet the interest of the sums which had been expended upon them. She now thoroughly understands her position, which is to make up the deficit by extraordinary exertions. This she is now doing by means of her assessed taxes, and will continue to do until her whole debt is paid off, or until her public works become sufficiently productive to meet through their means alone the obligations contracted for their construction."
"I am truly rejoiced," I replied, "to see Pennsylvania once more in her proper position as a solvent State. For one I never regarded her in the light of a repudiating one. But when a State like Pennsylvania, plethoric with resources, omitted to pay the interest upon a debt, insignificant in amount as
24compared with these resources, it is not so much to be wondered at, perhaps, that those who suffered by such omission should have risen into exaggeration in their charges against her, or that those who sympathised with them, but were not otherwise interested, should, without examining for themselves, have been influenced by the sufferers in their judgments."
"Precisely so," observed Mr. D—; "but it is too much the fashion in England to stigmatise all the insolvent, as repudiating, States. Insolvency is a misfortune, repudiation a crime. Some of the insolvent States have given up their public works at a valuation to their creditors, and are making every possible struggle to relieve themselves from their embarrassments. They are in a position similar to that occupied by Spain in regard to her public debt at this moment. She does not pay, but no one thinks of charging her with repudiation. The insolvent States are in the same category, with the single exception of Mississippi, who in absolutely refusing to pay, thinks, or affects to think, that she has good reason for so doing."
"It is difficult," I observed, "to say why it is, but so it is, that Englishmen are too prone to mingle severity with their judgments whenever the Republic is concerned. It is the interest of aristocracy to exhibit republicanism, wherever it is found, in the worst possible light, and the mass of the people have too long, by pandering to their prejudice, aided them in their object. They recognise America as the stronghold of republicanism. If they can bring it into disrepute here, they know that they inflict upon it the deadliest blow in Europe. Spain is yet a
25monarchy, and consequently in fashion. Were she a republic, her present financial state would be imputed to her as the greatest of her crimes. This is the reason why many, who could have done so, have not discriminated between the case of one State and another in the American Union. They eagerly catch at the perversities of one, which they exhibit as a sample of all the rest. It is thus that the public mind in Europe has been misled; and I am sorry to say that literature has, in too many cases, by self-perversion, lent its powerful aid to the deception."
"But this want of discrimination," observed Mr. D—, "is not confined to the case of the insolvent States alone. It is also too much the fashion in England to speak of all the States as if they had, without exception, repudiated their obligations. They forget, or rather will not remember, that, whilst some of the States are free from debt altogether, the majority of them, being more or less in debt, are solvent, like Great Britain herself, and quite as likely to continue so. But they are all flippantly spoken of, as if, in the first place, they were one and all insolvent; and, in the next, had one and all repudiated their debts."
"There is much truth," said I, "in what you urge, and I must confess that nothing can be more unfair."
"But the most extraordinary thing connected with this whole matter," said he, "is the call which is made by some who are ignorant of the relationship in which the different States stand towards each other, and by others who thoroughly understand it, upon the solvent States, to pay, or to aid in paying, the debts of such as are in default. What encouragement would a man have to pay his own way in the
26world, if he were liable to be called upon to clear the scores of his neighbours? Of what avail would it be to New York to keep herself out of debt, or, in contracting obligations, to respect the limits of her solvency, if she were liable to be involved in the extravagances which might be committed by any or by all of the neighbouring communities?"
"But this call," I observed, interrupting him, "upon the solvent States to assume, in part, the debts of their confederates, is based upon the supposition that they are each but a component part of one great country."
"And so they are," replied he, "for certain purposes, but not for all. A, B and C unite in copartnership, for the avowed purpose of manufacturing certain kinds of goods, but for none other. If the objects of the copartnership are published to the world, it would be unreasonable to hold that they were bound together for purposes not specified amongst these objects. In any transaction connected with the business of the firm, any one of the partners can bind all the rest. But in transactions notoriously alien to the business of the firm, it is not competent for any one partner to bind his fellows; and any one giving him credit in such transactions, does so upon his own sole responsibility. Should the security of the individual fail in such a case, the creditor would be laughed at who would call upon the firm to liquidate the debt. And so it is with the Federal Union. The States of which it is composed are bound together in a political relationship, for certain specified objects, and for none but such as are specified. To carry these out, certain powers are conferred upon them in their federal and partnership capacity. The power to
27borrow money for local purposes is not one of these; and as one State has no power to borrow money for another, nor all the States together for one State, there is but little justice in calling upon one State to pay the debts of another, or on all the States to pay the debts of any one or more which may be in default. There is this difference, too, between the Union and a common partnership, that whereas in the latter one member of the firm can bind all, provided the transaction be within the objects of the partnership; in the former, it is competent to no one State to bind the rest, even in matters common to all the States, and within the purview of the objects for which they are united. In such case it is the general government alone that can be dealt with, as the sole agent and representative of the Union. If any one gives credit to it, the Union, that is to say all the States, are responsible; but when credit is extended to a particular State, it is to that State alone that the creditor can justly look for his reimbursement."
"I am aware," said I, "that the objects for the accomplishment of which the money was borrowed, were matters within the exclusive control of the indebted States themselves; and that, therefore, the credit could only have been given exclusively to them. But you must admit that the line of demarcation between local and federal powers, and local and federal responsibility, is not very generally understood in Europe."
"But," replied he, "there is no reason why the inhabitants of Delaware, which owes nothing, or of New York, which pays what it owes, should pay the penalty of the ignorance, real or assumed, of the money-lenders in Europe, who chose to deal, without
28their knowledge, or without getting their security, with the State of Mississippi. The terms and conditions of the federal compact are no secret. They have been patent to the world for the last sixty years. What more could be done to give them publicity than has been done? When a State goes into the money-market to borrow, she does not do so under the shelter of a secret or ambiguous deed of copartnership, by which the money-lender may be deceived, but as a member of a confederacy, bound together by a well-known instrument, which notoriously confers no power upon her in borrowing money to pledge the credit of any of her confederates. The States of Germany are knit together in one federal union for certain purposes, but their common responsibilities terminate when the limits of these purposes are reached. The borrowing of money for local purposes is not one of the objects of the German Confederation. Would it be competent, then, for an English capitalist who had lent money to Saxony, which she omitted to return him, to call upon Austria or Bavaria to make good his loss? And the same with the American Union. The powers and responsibilities of the States are, or should be, as well known to the capitalist as those of the States of the German Confederation. And in truth, there is reason to believe that they were well known when the money was advanced, and that the plea of ignorance is a sham plea, preferred more to move the sympathies than to appeal to the justice of the other States. He who lent, then, to Mississippi or Illinois, on the sole responsibility of Mississippi or Illinois, has obviously no claim in law, or in equity, against any State but Mississippi or Illinois. If he lent on
29what he considered at the time a doubtful security, in the hope that, should that security fail him, the other States, which had no knowledge of, or benefit from, the transaction, would either be moved by compassion to save him harmless, or shamed by a false cry into so doing, his conduct was not such as would bear the test of a rigid scrutiny. Such a course is as questionable as lending to a man of doubtful credit, on the speculative security of his numerous friends."
"On this point," I observed, "I can find no flaw in the argument which you advance. It is obvious that, when a man lends money upon a particular security, he cannot afterwards look for its repayment to parties whom he could not have legally or morally contemplated as involved in the benefits or responsibilities of the transaction at the time of its occurrence. Besides, if one State was liable for the debts of another, it should have some control over the expenditure of the other. And when we consider that one State borrows money for the construction of works, which, when in operation, will injuriously affect similar works in another, it would be especially hard were that other to be held answerable for its default. And so with the general government. It has no control over local expenditure; and it would be monstrous, therefore, to make it responsible for local liabilities. But if I mistake not, the project of the general Government assuming the State debts has found much favour even in this country."
"It has," replied he, "though not as a matter of right, but simply as one of expediency. The general credit was affected by the misconduct of a few of the members of the Union, and to rescue all from an odium that justly attached but to the few, the proposition
30you allude to was made. But the proposition was, not so much in its principle, as in its incidents, one to which the solvent and unindebted States could not agree; the consideration for which the assumption was to be made being one in which they were as much interested as the insolvent States themselves. They could not, therefore, consent to a proposal which would have virtually taxed them to pay a portion of the debt of the delinquents. It thus, for the present, been abandoned, and it is to be hoped that ere it is again mooted, the defaulting States will be restored to solvency."
Our conversation, which embraced the whole subject, and of which this is but an epitome, was here interrupted by our approach to Natches. My mind continued for some time to dwell upon the subject, which the more I learnt regarding it, I was the more convinced was misunderstood. To involve the whole Confederacy in the crimes or misfortunes of a few of its members is obviously unjust. It is but fair that a wide discrimination should be made between the guilty and the innocent. This can only be done by taking the States separately, and dealing out our judgments in regard to each, according to the position in which we find it. And, in applying this rule, let us bear in mind that they are divisible into four classes. In the first, Mississippi is alone comprehended; for she alone has repudiated, although she has not been so graceless as to do so without all excuse. The second comprehends the few States whose treasuries have been bankrupt, but none of which have ever repudiated their obligations. Some of these have resumed payment, and are once more in a state of perfect solvency. In the third class are embraced the majority of the States, and
31such as have ever been solvent, neither repudiating the claims against them, nor omitting to pay them. The fourth class comprises the few States which are so fortunate as to be entirely free from public debt. And when the European talks of the American people doing justice to the public creditor — meaning thereby that the whole Union should saddle itself with the debts of a few of its members, contracted with the knowledge of their creditors, upon their own sole responsibility — he should remember that there is justice also on the other side, and that the people of Delaware and North Carolina, who owe nothing, and those of New York and other States who are paying what they do owe, cannot, with any degree of propriety, be called upon to bear the burden of transactions entered into by others for their sole benefit, and to which they alone were parties. There is but little either of morality or justice in seeking to involve parties in the responsibility of transactions with which they have had nothing whatever to do.
And in dispensing blame to the parties really deserving it, it is not always to the inculpated States that we are to confine our censure. What injured them was precipitate speculation. This is promoted as much by the capitalist as by the borrower, and in many cases more so. The time was when nothing but a foreign investment would satisfy the English capitalist. A home or a colonial speculation stunk in his nostrils; nothing but that which was foreign would satisfy him. The foreigner seeing an open hand with a full purse in it extended to him, was tempted to grasp at it, and his appetite for speculation was quickened by the ease with which he obtained
32the means of pandering to it. At this very time our magnificent colonies in North America were demanding accommodation, but could not procure it. The six per cent. which they modestly offered, was refused for the seven, eight, and ten per cent. offered by the neighbouring States, which by the very favouritism thus shown them were encouraged to endeavour to outrun each other in their mad career. They are truly to be pitied who, having had no hand in the original transactions, are now the innocent holders of the bonds which have been repudiated, or which remain unpaid. But they can only justly look for their indemnity to the security on which they were contented to rely, without seeking to involve others in their misfortunes who are as innocent as themselves.
Credit has been described as a plant of tender growth, which the slightest breath may shrivel. There is no doubt but that the conduct of some of its members occasioned a severe shock to the credit of the whole Union. For a time all the States were treated as if, without exception, they had been involved in a common delinquency. But this injustice did not last long, and the solvent States are being gradually reinstated in their former credit and position. And even now, as permanent investments, many, and not without reason, regard American securities as preferable to all others. The credit of the general Government is at present much more in vogue than that of any of the States; but as permanent investments, the securities of the States are to be preferred to those of the general Government. Should the Union fall to pieces, the general Government will be extinguished in the crash, but the States will preserve their identity whatever may become of the Confederation.
33And notwithstanding the stigma which for some time has unfortunately attached to her name, there is no State in the Union which can offer greater inducements to permanent investment than Pennsylvania. Her resources are greater and more varied than those of any of her confederates, and her future wealth will depend upon their development. What these resources are in their extent and their variety, and how far her position is such as will necessarily call them into speedy and active requisition, will be inquired into in a subsequent chapter.
At Natches, which is one of the largest and most prosperous towns in the State, and situated mainly on a high bluff overlooking the river, we remained but a sufficient time to land and to receive passengers, and to take in a fresh supply of fuel and provisions. We had already stopped at several road-side stations, as they might be called, for the purpose of replenishing our stock of wood, the quantity consumed by the furnaces being enormous. From Natches we proceeded towards Vicksburg, also in the State of Mississippi, and about 106 miles higher up the river.
The name of this place suggested at once to my mind a terrible incident, of which some years ago it was the scene, and which strongly illustrates a very unfavourable feature of American life in the Southwest. The gamblers and blacklegs, who had made Natches too hot to hold them, made the town of Vicksburg their head quarters, and as they increased in numbers, so increased in boldness, and carried matters with so high a hand as for a time to terrify and overawe the more honestly disposed of their fellow-citizens. The evil at length attained a
34magnitude which determined the better portion of the inhabitants at all hazards to put it down; and as the law was too weak to reach the ruffians, it being as difficult to obtain a conviction against them as it is to get one against a repealer in Ireland, a summary process of dealing with them was resolved upon. A number of them were accordingly surprised when engaged in their nefarious practices, some of whom escaped in the confusion, leaving about half a dozen in custody. These were conveyed a short distance out of the town, and, after a summary trial and conviction by Lynch law, were hanged upon the adjacent trees. Lawless and horrible as this act undoubtedly was, the terrible vengeance which it inflicted upon a set of blackguards, who harassed and systematically annoyed the community, had a salutary effect for a time; the survivors, if they did not abandon their practices, paying a little more respect to public opinion in their mode of pursuing them. The effects of the lesson then administered, however, have by this time pretty well worn off, if one may judge from the numbers in which the southern portion of the Mississippi and its tributaries are yet infested by the vagabonds in question, and the openness with which they are beginning again to prosecute their iniquitous vocation.
The excesses thus occasionally committed by the populace in the South under the designation of Lynch law, are much to be deplored, although they are almost necessarily incident to a state of society in which public opinion is yet weak and but equivocally pronounced — in which the law is feebly administered, and which exists in the midst of circumstances less favourable than those by which we are surrounded
35for the enforcement of public morality, and the due administration of justice. To those conversant with the real condition of society in the South-west, the wonder is not so much that Lynch law has been so frequently resorted to, as that the ordinary law has not been more frequently departed from. The population of the immense areas which bound the Southern Mississippi on either side is but yet scanty, people in general living far apart from each other. Add to this that the war which they are carrying on, each in his comparatively isolated position, against nature, has a tendency more or less to bring the civilized man in his habits, tastes, and impulses, nearer to the savage, and to impart asperities to the character which are rubbed off by an every day contact with society. No position that is not actually one of barbarism, could be more favourable than that of the western pioneer to the inculcation of the law of might, his life being not only a constant warfare with the wilderness, but his safety, from the nature of the dangers with which he is surrounded, chiefly depending upon his own vigilance and presence of mind. He is thus daily taught the habit of self-reliance, instead of looking to society for his security. It is scarcely to be wondered at that men so circumstanced, and, as it were, so educated, should occasionally take the law into their own hands, instead of resorting for justice to tribunals far apart from them, to reach and attend which would be accompanied by great loss of time and money, and which might after all fail in rendering them justice.
In the Northern and Eastern States the law is as regularly administered as it is in England, and life and property are as safe under its protection as they
36are in any country within the pale of civilisation. But most of these States have been long settled, the wilderness in them has been reduced, society has become dense, and exists in the midst of all the appliances of civilisation; its members can rely upon each other for support in carrying out the law, and they prefer the security of society to any that they could attain for themselves; and, which is very important, their tribunals are numerous, respectable, and near at hand. From a people so situated we are quite right in exacting a strict conformity to the practices of civilised life. But when we go further, and exact the same of the people in the extreme West and Southwest, we either forget that they are differently circumstanced, or deny that circumstances have any influence on social and individual life. Transplant to the regions beyond the Mississippi a colony of the most polished people, either from Old or New England, and let them be circumstanced precisely as the western pioneers are, and how long would they retain their polish, or be characterised by those amenities, or exercise that mutual reliance upon each other, which marked their life and habits in their former abode? Bring the polished man in contact with savage nature, which he is called upon daily to subdue, that he may obtain his daily bread, and the one must succumb to the other, or both will undergo a change. As man civilises the wilderness, the wilderness more or less brutalizes him. In thus elevating nature he degrades himself. And thus it is with the pioneers of civilisation in the American wilds, Generally speaking, they have not had the advantage of a previous polish. Born and brought up in the midst of the wilderness, they fly rather than court
37the approach of civilisation. They care little for the open fields which their own labour has redeemed; they love the recesses of the forest, and regularly retire before it as population advances upon them. This hardy belt of pioneers is like the rough bark which covers and protects the wood, and serves as a shield under shelter of which the less hardy and adventurous portions of the community encroach upon the wilderness. To expect them rigidly to conform to all the maxims of civilised life would be but to expect civilisation to flourish in the lap of barbarism. Even yet, along the bordres of conterminous countries which we call civilised, how often do we find lawlessness and violence prevailing to a deplorable extent! And is our sense of propriety to be so greatly shocked when we find them occasionally manifesting themselves upon the American border, where the domain of civilisation is conterminous with that of the savage, the buffalo, and the bear? Every excess committed in these remote, wild, and thinly peopled regions is to be discountenanced and deplored; but we should not visit them with that severity of judgment which such conduct amongst ourselves would entail upon those who were guilty of it. As the wilderness disappears, and the country becomes cultivated, the civilisation of nature will react beneficially upon those, or the descendants of those, who were instrumental in rescuing her from the barbarism in which she was shrouded; population will become denser and more refined, and man will rely more upon his social than his individual resources. When this occurs, and the portion of the country now considered is thus brought within the pale of civilisation, we may exact, and exact with justice, from its people a
38strict amenability to all the requirements of civilised life. But before it occurs, we should not overlook their circumstances in dealing with their conduct. Even in the most civilised communities departures are sometimes deemed necessary from the ordinary principles by which society is regulated, and from the ordinary safeguards by which it is secured. We need not be surprised if exceptions to general principles occur where society is as yet but in a state of formation; and it may be that, in the semi-civilised regions of America, the dread tribunal of Judge Lynch may sometimes be as necessary, as, in civilised life, are states of siege, and the supersession of the ordinary tribunals of justice by martial law.
A better order of things is now making its appearance along the banks of the lower Mississippi, where public opinion is fast gaining ground upon the lawless disturbers of the public peace. In some cases the carrying of arms is now forbidden — a most prudent measure, as it frequently happens that to be prepared for war is the very worst guarantee for peace. Society is gradually feeling its strength, and once convinced of it, will know how to take measures for its own security. The first and worst epoch in its history is past. It has survived a perilous infancy, and is now advancing to maturity; and the moral aberrations of which, in its youth, it may have been guilty, may yet be to it as the complicated diseases of childhood are to the boy, in preparing him for becoming the healthy man.
Chapter II. — The Valley of the Mississippi. — Agriculture and Interest of the United States. — Vicksburg. — The Walnut Hills. — The Arkansas and the Tennessee. — Variety of Craft met with upon the River. — Difference between the two banks. — Memphis. — Posthumous Adventures of Picayune Walker. — Conversations on Slavery. — A Race. — Days and Nights on the River. — The Mouth of the Ohio. — Change of scene. — St. Louis. — Who are the Yankees? — Description of St. Louis. — Its Commercial Advantages and Prospects. — The American Prairie. — Agriculture and Agricultural Interest of America. — Five great Classes of Productions. — Five great Regions corresponding to them. — The Pasturing Region. — The Wheat and Tobacco growing Regions. — The Cotton and Sugar Regions. — Cost at which Wheat can be raised on Prairie land. — The surplus Agricultural Products of America.
ON leaving Vicksburg, which is charmingly situated on a high sloping bank, formed by the bluffs into what appears to be a series of natural terraces, which render it much more accessible than Natches, we steamed rapidly up the river, having as yet, although about four hundred miles from New Orleans, accomplished but one-third of our journey. The Walnut hills, which come rolling down to the water's edge immediately above Vicksburg, are exceedingly picturesque, mantled as they are to the top in a rich covering of grass and foliage. Beyond them the right bank sinks again, and presents to the eye, for
40many miles, an unbroken succession of extensive and flourishing cotton plantations.
We soon left the State of Mississippi behind us, and had that of Tennessee on our right, and for some distance Arkansas on our left. Both these States are named from the chief rivers flowing through them to swell the volume of the Mississippi, the Arkansas directly, the Tennessee indirectly, by uniting with the Ohio. Both streams are upwards of 1,200 miles long, and navigable to steamers for hundreds of miles. The Arkansas, like the Red River, rises in the Rocky Mountains, and after flowing in a south-easterly direction through the State to which it gives its name, enters the Mississippi on its west bank. We had already passed the junction on our left, as we had also the mouths of several other rivers entering on the same side, which in Europe would be considered first-class streams.
It is almost impossible to describe the variety of craft which we met upon the river. We passed and saluted steamers innumerable, generally crowded with passengers. Others were so overloaded with cotton-bales, as to present more the appearance and proportions of a long hayrick than of any other known terrestrial object. There were flat boats innumerable, precipitous at the sides, and quite square at either end, sometimes with an apology for a sail hoisted upon them and sometimes with an oar out on either side to help them to drop down with the strong heavy current. It is not many years since this was the only craft known on the Mississippi, being constructed with sufficient strength to bear the voyage down, for they never attempt the re-ascent of the stream. When they have served their purpose, on
41reaching their destination they are broken up, and the materials disposed of to the best advantage. Before the introduction of steamers, travellers had to ascend into the interior by land. Then again we would meet a family emigrating from one part of the valley to another, by dropping down in a rudely constructed barge, which would yet be broken up and converted into a hut or "shanty" on shore. There were floating cabins too, which would only have to be dragged ashore on reaching their destination. And then came floating "stores," containing calicos, cloths, pots, pans, groceries and household wares of all descriptions, — the pedlars of these regions very wisely conforming themselves to the nature of their great highways. And instead of caravans, as with us, upon wheels, there were shows and exhibitions of all kinds afloat, in some of which Macbeth was performed, Duncan being got rid of by throwing him into the river instead of stabbing him. Here and there too, a solitary canoe and small boat would cross our track, as would also occasionally a raft, some of the timber constituting which may have been purchased, but all of which the raftsmen undoubtedly intended to sell. In short, it was a source of amusement to us to watch the varied and generally unshapely contrivances in the way of craft, many of them laden with live stock, which the "Father of waters" bore upon his bosom.
All the way from Baton Rouge, in Louisiana, the scenery on our right was more or less varied by gentle undulations, sometimes attaining the dignity of hills; whilst the river, with occasional gaps, some of which extended for many miles, was lined by a succession of bluffs, whose different heights and forms gave constant
42novelty to the scene. In some places they rose over the water for several hundreds of feet, a low ledge of land generally intervening, where they were highest, between them and the river. It is on these ledges that the lower portions of the chief towns on this bank are built. The cliffs, when the water is in direct contact with them, are soon worn away beneath, when the superincumbent mass gives way, forming the ledges in question. These again are in time washed away by the river, when the cliffs are again attacked, and with the same result. The cliffs continue, with more or less interruption, nearly the whole of the way up to the Ohio. Being generally formed of clay or sand, they are in some places washed by the rains and moulded by the winds into the most fantastic forms, sometimes resembling feudal castles pitched upon inaccessible rocks, and at others being as irregular and grotesque as a splintered iceberg. Very different is the character of the other bank. The whole way from New Orleans up to the mouth of the Ohio, it is, with a few trifling exceptions, one unbroken, unmitigated and monotonous flat. On both sides the land is extremely rich, the cane brake and cypress swamp, however, being frequent features on the west. There are many "Edens" on this side of the river; but the general character of the soil upon it, from the delta to its sources, is of the most fertile description, the spots unfit for human habitation being rare exceptions to the rule. At regular distances are wood stations, on projecting points of land, the wood being obtained from the forest behind, cut upon the spot by negroes, and corded and ready to be taken on board as fuel by the steamers as they pass. The river on this side being
43in contact with the very soil, which is soft and alluvial, its greatest encroachments are made upon this bank. You sometimes pass groves of trees which a few years ago had stood inland, with their roots now half exposed, and themselves ready to fall into the water, some to drift out to sea, and others to become snags, and render perilous the navigation of the river. Now and then, too, you make up with groups of cypresses and palmettos, festooned with Spanish moss; and sometimes with clumps of the Pride of China, with wild vines clinging to their trunks and branches. Here and there also you see, overhanging the stream, the wreck of what was once a noble forest tree, now leafless and barkless, holding out its stiff and naked arms ghastlily in the sun, telling a mournful tale to the passer by — the blanched and repulsive skeleton of that which was once a graceful form of life. Were the east bank similar to the west, the Mississippi would, in a scenic point of view, be to the traveller dreary enough.
As you ascend it you still find the river pursuing the same serpentine course as below. The bends are not so great, but quite as consecutive, it being seldom that the stream is found pursuing a straight course for many miles together. We could discern on either side, as we proceeded, many traces of deserted channels; and some of these are to be seen in parts from thirty to forty miles from the present course of the stream.
As we approached the town of Memphis in the State of Tennessee, the bluffs on the right became more consecutive, loftier, and more imposing in their effect. Near the town they are in parts almost as continuous as, though higher and of a darker colour
44than, the cliffs in the neighbourhood of Ramsgate; whilst roads are here and there cut through them down to the water's edge, like the deep artificial gullies which are so numerous along the Foreland. Memphis is situated on the top of a very high bluff, so that part of the town only can be seen from the river. There is a small group of houses below the cliff at the landing-place, where several steamers were lying as we approached. In addition to this Memphis in Tennessee, and that which is or was in Egypt, there is another Memphis in Mississippi, Å propos to which I overheard in New Orleans the following story told by one negro to another: —
"You come from Miss'sippi, don't you, Ginger?" said the narrator, who was a fine negro and had been in the North.
"To be sure I do, Sam," said Ginger.
"I tell you what it is then, you have no chance no how comin' from that State."
"What are you drivin' at?" asked Ginger.
"Isn't that the repoodiatin' State?" demanded Sam.
"To be sure," said Ginger, "but it wasn't the coloured folks, it was the white men did it."
"Well, you may have a chance if you die in Loosiany, but don't die in Miss'sippi if you can help it," said Sam in a confidential tone.
"I won't die no where if I can help it," was Ginger's response.
"Did you know Picayune Walker, who lived to Memphis?" asked Sam.
"Know'd him well," said Ginger, "but him dead now."
"Well," said Sam, "I was to Cincinnati when he died. De Sunday after I went to meetin': De
45color'd gemman who was preachin' tell us that Picayune Walker, when he die, went up to heaben and ask Peter to let him in. ‘Who's dat knockin' at de door?’ said Peter. ‘It's me, to be sure; don't you know a gemman when you see him?’ said Picky. ‘How should I know you?’ said Peter, ‘what's your name?’ ‘Picayune Walker,’ he said. ‘Well Massa Walker, what you want?’ Peter then ask. ‘I want to get in, to be sure,’ said Picky. ‘Where you from, Massa Walker?’ den ask Peter. ‘From Memphis,’ said Picky. ‘In Tennessee?’ ask Peter, ‘No, Memphis Miss'sippi,’ said Massa Walker, ‘O, den you may come in,’ said Peter, a openin' o' de dore; ‘you'll be somethin' new for 'em to look at, it's so long since any one's been here from Miss'sippi.’"
"Him bery lucky for a white man from dat 'ere State," was Ginger's only remark.
On leaving Memphis, I had a long conversation with a southerner on board, on the subject of slavery. Nothing can be more erroneous than the opinion entertained and promulgated by many, that this is a forbidden topic of conversation in the South. I never had the least hesitation in expressing myself freely on the subject in any of the Southern States, whenever an opportunity offered of adverting to it; nor did I find the southerners generally anxious to elude it. Much depends upon the mode in which it is introduced and treated. There are some so garrulous that they must constantly be referring to it, and in a manner offensive to the feelings of those to whom it is introduced. It cannot be denied but that the suicidal and over-zealous conduct of the abolitionists has made the Southerners somewhat sensitive upon the subject; and they are not very likely to listen
46with complacency to one who, in discussing it, manifests the spirit and intentions of a propagandist. But if calmly and temperately dealt with, there are few in the South who will shrink from the discussion of it; and you find, when it is the topic of discourse, that the only point at issue between you is as to the means of its eradication.
Having strolled with Mr. D— towards the prow of the boat, I found myself close to where some negroes were busily at work attending to the furnaces. Having replenished them, they set themselves down upon the huge blocks of wood which constituted their fuel, and rubbed the perspiration off their faces, which were shining with it as if they had been steeped in oil.
"See de preacher dat come aboard when we were a woodin' up at Memphis?" asked one named Jim of another who answered to the imperial name of Caesar.
Caesar replied in the affirmative, pouting his huge lips, and demanding of Jim to know if he thought that he Caesar was blind.
"He just marry a rich wife to Memphis, de lady wid him," said Jim disregarding the interrogatory.
"Dey all do de same," observed Caesar. "Dey keep a preachin' to oders not to mind de flesh pots, but it's only to grab de easier at dem demselves."
"Pile on de wood, Jim," continued Caesar, noticing that the furnaces were once more getting low. In a few seconds their ponderous iron doors were again closed, and they blazed and roared and crackled over the fresh fuel with which they were supplied.
"What you sayin' about Massa Franklin few minutes ago?" asked Jim as soon as they were again seated.
"Dat he took fire from heaben," replied Caesar.
"From de oder place more like," said Jim in a tone of ignorant incredulity.
Caesar thereupon rolled his eyes about for a few seconds, and looked the caricature of offended dignity. "Will you never larn nothin'?" said he at last, regarding his companion with contemptuous pity.
"Well, how did he do it?" asked Jim.
"Wid a kite to be sure," said Caesar, getting very unnecessarily into a passion. Jim still looked provokingly incredulous. "I tell you, wid a kite," continued Caesar, hoping to make himself more intelligible by repetition.
"But how wid a kite?" asked Jim, making bold to put the query.
"Don't you see yet?" said Caesar; "he tied a locofoco match to it afore he sent it up, to be sure."
"Ah!" ejaculated Jim, getting new light upon the subject, "and lighted it at de sun, didn't he?"
"He couldn't get at de sun, for I told you afore it was cloudy, didn't I?" observed Caesar.
"Well den, how light de match?" asked Jim, fairly puzzled.
"De cloud rub agin it," said Caesar, with the air of one conscious of imparting to another a great secret. But his equanimity was again disturbed by the painful thought of his companion's obtusity, and when he called upon him once more to "pile on de wood," it was in connexion with a friendly intimation to him that he was "only fit to be a brack man."
At this moment an ejaculation of "Mind your fires there!" proceeded from the captain, who had approached, and was now standing on the promenade deck between the funnels, and looking anxiously
48forward at some object in advance of us. On turning to ascertain what it was, I perceived a steamer which had left Memphis on its way up to Louisville about ten minutes before we did. She was going at half speed when I first observed her, but immediately put all steam on. I at once divined what was to take place. The firemen seemed instinctively to understand it, as they immediately redoubled their efforts to cram the furnaces with fuel. By the time we were abreast of the "Lafayette," for that was our rival's name, she had regained her full headway, and the race commenced with as fair a start as could well be obtained. Notwithstanding the known dangers of such rivalry, the passengers on both boats crowded eagerly to the quarter-deck to witness the progress of the race, each group cheering as its own boat seemed to be leading the other by ever so little. By this time the negroes became almost frantic in their efforts to generate the steam; so much so that at one time I thought that from throwing wood into the furnaces, they would have taken to throwing in one another. But a short time before upwards of two hundred human beings had been hurried into eternity by the explosion of a boiler; but the fearful incident seemed for the moment to be forgotten, or its warnings to be disregarded, in the eagerness with which passengers and crew pressed forward to witness the race. I must confess I yielded to the infection, and was as anxious a spectator of the contest as any on board. There were a few timid elderly gentlemen and ladies who kept aloof; but with this exception, the captain of each boat had the moral strength of his cargo with him. For many minutes the two vessels kept neck and neck, and so close to each
49other, that an explosion on board either would have calamitously affected the other. At length, and when there still appeared to be no probability of a speedy decision, I perceived a reaction commencing amongst those around me, and on the name of the "Helen McGregor" and the "Moselle," two ill-fated boats, being whispered amongst them, many retired to the stern, as far from the boilers as they could, whilst others began to remonstrate, and even to menace.
"How can I give in?" asked the captain, in a tone of vexation.
"Run him on that 'ere snag, and be d—d to him," suggested the mate, who was standing by.
The snag was about two hundred yards ahead, just showing his black crest above the water. It was the trunk of a huge tree, the roots of which had sunk and taken hold of the soil at the bottom; about eight inches of the trunk, which lay in a direction slanting with the current, projecting above the surface. From the position which they thus assume snags are more dangerous to steamers ascending than to those descending the current. In the latter case, they may press them under and glide safely over them; but in the former, the chances are, if they strike, that they will be perforated by them, and sunk. They are the chief sources of danger in navigating the Mississippi. The captain immediately took the hint, and so shaped his course as to oblige the rival boat to sheer off a little to the right. This brought her in a direct line with the snag, to avoid which she had to make a sharp, though a short detour. It sufficed, however, to decide the race, the "Niobe" immediately gaining on the "Lafayette" by more than a length. The latter, thus fairly jockeyed out of her object, gave up the
50contest and dropped astern. There are certainly laws against this species of racing; but the Mississippi runs through so many jurisdictions that it is not easy to put them in force. Besides, it was evident to me, from what I then saw, that, in most cases, passengers and crew are equally participes criminis.
We had now been upwards of three days and three nights upon the river, which had varied but little in width, apparent volume, or general appearance, since we first made the bluffs at Baton Rouge. It was curious to awake every morning upon a scene resembling in everything but a few of its minute details that on which you had closed your eyes the previous night, and with a consciousness that you were still afloat upon the same stream; and that, whilst asleep, you had not been at rest, but steaming the entire night against the current, at the rate of from eight to ten miles per hour.
Towards the close of the fifth day we were coasting the low shore of Kentucky on our right, with the State of Missouri on our left; and early on the morning of the sixth, were off the mouth of the Ohio. As we crossed the spacious embouchure, there was one steamer from St. Louis, turning into the Ohio, to ascend it to Pittsburg, 900 miles up; and another, which had descended it from Cincinnati, just leaving it, and heading down the Mississippi for New Orleans, one thousand miles below. No incident could have occurred better fitted to impress the mind with the vastness of these great natural highways, and their utility to the enormous region which they fertilize and irrigate. The Ohio enters the Mississippi on its east bank, between the States of Kentucky and Illinois, and about 1,100 miles from its mouth.
51St. Louis is 200 miles further up the Mississippi, on the opposite or Missouri bank. In passing the Ohio, we were for a few minutes in clear and limpid water; quite a contrast, in this respect, to the turgid and muddy volume with which it mingled. Several buckets were let down by the crew, and many passengers took the opportunity of regaling themselves with a draft of pure water. The Mississippi water, turgid though it be, is not considered unwholesome, and those long accustomed to it prefer it to any other. Opposite the northern bank of the Ohio, the line where the two currents mingle is distinctly traceable for some distance into the Mississippi. The scenery at the confluence is characteristic, and the country on all hands surpassingly rich.
Immediately above the Ohio, the scene underwent a considerable change. The Illinois shore on the right was not without its share of bluffs; but the greatest number for the rest of the way to St. Louis, as also the loftiest and most imposing on the river, were now on the west bank. Not far from St. Louis they exhibit themselves in a curious succession of architectural resemblances.
Early on the morning of the seventh day, having escaped snags, explosions, alligators, and all the other perils, real and fabulous, of the Mississippi, we reached the city of St. Louis, having thus accomplished an inland journey upon one and the same stream of 1,200 miles.
"Take care of him; he's a Yankee, and hasn't come here from New York for nothin';" was a piece of advice, in reference to some unknown entity, which I overheard one passenger give to another, as we were stepping ashore.
"In England," I observed to Mr. D—, "we are accustomed to apply the term Yankee to Americans generally; and it seems rather odd to me to hear one American apply the epithet to another, in a tone which seemed to imply that he did not come under the designation himself."
"Here," said Mr. D—, in explanation, "they call all Yankees who come from the North. But if you ask a New Yorker who are the Yankees, he will refer you to New England. In many parts of New England, again, you will be referred to Boston, as their locus in quo, but the Bostonians decline the honour of harbouring them, and refer you to the rural districts of New Hampshire. And without entering into nice distinctions as to what constitutes a Yankee, there is no doubt that it is in the last-mentioned localities that the most genuine specimens are to be found."
St. Louis is a most striking town as seen from the river. The ground on which it is built slopes gently up from the water, its flatter portion being occupied by the business part of the town which adjoins the quays. For some distance the river is lined with piles of lofty and massive store warehouses, indicating the existence of an extensive "heavy business." The wharves are thronged with craft of different kinds, but from the inland position of the town the steamers greatly predominate. The city is handsomely built, chiefly of brick; and for comfort, elegance, and general accommodation, few establishments in the United States can compare with the Planter's Hotel, in which we took up our quarters. The principal streets run parallel with the river, being rectangularly intersected by others which run
53back from it. The country behind it is rich and picturesque, whilst its river prospect is imposing, both from the character of the foreground, and the bold sweeping lines of the Illinois bank opposite. Within its precincts, particularly about the quays, and in Front and First streets, it presents a picture of bustle, enterprise, and activity; whilst on every hand the indications of rapid progress are as numerous as they are striking.
The site occupied by St. Louis is on the west bank of the Mississippi, and about twenty miles below the entrance of the Missouri into it. Twenty miles above that again, the Illinois, after pursuing a course of many hundred miles, enters the Mississippi on its east bank. The junction of the Ohio, opening up a pathway eastward to the Allegany mountains, is, as we have already seen, but 200 miles below; and the Mississippi itself, before passing the city, has pursued a southerly course of about 1,700 miles from the neighbourhood of the Great Lakes. A still further run in the same direction of 1,300 miles brings it to the Gulf.
The advantageous nature of its position, as thus indicated, renders St. Louis a place of very great commercial importance. It occupies as it were the central point, from which the great natural highways of the Union diverge in different directions. The different radii which spring from it bring it in contact with a vast circumference. The Missouri connects it with the Rocky Mountains, the Ohio with the Alleganies, the upper Mississippi with the Great Lakes, the lower with the ocean. It is destined soon to become the greatest internal entrepôt of trade in the country. From their different positions, they
54never can become rivals, but St. Louis will always be the greatest auxiliary to New Orleans. Except this latter city, there is but one other (Cincinnati) in advance of it in the valley, and but few years will elapse ere, with the same exception, it becomes the greatest city west of the Alleganies. In 1830 its population did not much exceed 5,000 souls. In 1845 it numbered 34,000, being an increase of nearly sevenfold in fifteen years! Said I not that, on every hand, it was replete with the indications of rapid development?
Should the seat of the general government ever be transferred from Washington, St. Louis has long been looked to as its successor in metropolitan honours. But Washington is now so accessible from most parts of the Union, and will soon be so from all, by means of railways and steamers, that the transfer is not likely to be made. Should, however, the improbable event occur, of the separation of the valley, with all the States which it includes, from the sea-board, St. Louis would infallibly become the capital of the Western confederacy. The number of steamboat arrivals at it in the course of a year, from the Missouri, the Illinois, the Ohio, and the different portions of the Mississippi, already exceeds fifteen hundred!
In the neighbourhood of St. Louis are some of the finest specimens of the American prairie. It would be erroneous to suppose that it is only in this quarter that one meets with these singular manifestations of nature in one of her wildest moods. The prairie is to be seen in Alabama and Mississippi, in parts of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. It is, however,
55on the west bank of the Mississippi that prairies most abound, particularly in the States of Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa. North of the Ohio they are also to be met with in great numbers and of vast extent, the prairies of Illinois being equal in grandeur and extent to any on the opposite side, with the exception, perhaps, of some of those on the Missouri River, some hundreds of miles above its junction with the Mississippi. Those in the neighbourhood of St. Louis, although not remarkable for their extent, give a good idea of them all. In some cases they seem boundless as the ocean, nothing being visible to break the monotonous surface of long waging grass with which they are covered to the very horizon. They are generally interspersed, however, with woodland or solitary clumps of trees, which, particularly where the surface is broken and undulating, as is the case in the country directly north of the Missouri, give them a very picturesque aspect. When the wind sweeps over them the effect is magnificent, the grass bending beneath its tread and undulating like the waves of the green sea. Though not in all cases, they are frequently covered during the summer with wild flowers, successive generations of which, for several months, enamel their surface; some of these flowers being small and modest, and others, the great majority, large, flaunting, and arrayed in the most gorgeous tints. But like the brilliantly plumaged birds of America, which have no song in them, these gaudy prairie flowers have seldom any perfume. I can conceive no greater treat to the florist than to find himself by the margin of an American prairie when thus attired in the gayest robes of summer. They are cleared by burning the
56grass upon them when it becomes withered and dry. When the fire thus created spreads over a large surface, the effect at night is grand in the extreme. When the wind is high the flames spread with fearful rapidity, rather against than with it, fuel being most plentifully provided for them in this direction by the long grass being bent over the fire. These fires are frequently accidental, and sometimes do great damage to settlers. Instances have occurred in which trapping parties have had the utmost difficulty in saving themselves from the hot pursuit; the plan now resorted to for safety by those who find themselves in the midst of a burning prairie being to take up a position at any spot and cut the grass for some distance around them, the fire when it makes up with them taking the circuit of the cleared spot, and thus leaving them scatheless, but uniting again after it passes them into one long zigzag belt of flame, licking up everything that is combustible in its course.
Before leaving the Mississippi valley, it may be as well to take a rapid glance at the agriculture and agricultural interest of America. In doing so I have no intention of entering into a disquisition upon practical farming; my sole object being to give the reader, from this the capital of the chief agricultural region of the country, a bird's-eye view of this all-important branch of American industry.
In the broadest sense of the term, the agricultural products of America comprise wheat, Indian corn, rice, barley, rye, oats, cotton, tobacco, potatoes, turnips, flax, hemp, sugar, indigo, fruit, and grasses of all kinds. To these may be added live stock, which are, to all intents and purposes, an agricultural product. The different products here enumerated are
57by no means indiscriminately indigenous to the whole country. They may be grouped into five great classes — pasturage, wheat and other bread stuffs, tobacco, rice and cotton, and sugar; and the country divided into five great regions corresponding to this classification, each region being more particularly adapted than the others for a particular class of productions. We have thus the pasturage region, the wheat region, and the tobacco, cotton, and sugar regions.
It is in the New England States that we find pasturage carried on to the greatest extent in America. Not but that there are other districts in the United States, particularly west of the Mississippi, eminently adapted for it; but that the greater part of New England is, in an agricultural point of view, adapted for little else. The soil is generally light and rocky; and although wheat is raised to a considerable extent along the borders of the stream, and in some of the valleys, such as that of the Connecticut, on the whole the growth of bread stuffs is but scanty in New England. Live stock, however, is raised in great abundance, the horses and horned cattle of New England being reckoned the best in the country. Numerous flocks of sheep also find pasture on the hills; and swine are bred to a very great extent, although not so much so as in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. It was the presence of capital, and good water power, together with the absence of any very great demand for agricultural labour in New England, that constituted it the chief seat of American manufacture.
The region peculiarly adapted for the produce of wheat and other bread stuffs is by far the largest of the five, comprehending fully one half of the entire area of the Union. Within it are included the States of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware,
58Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The wheat-growing region is thus comprehended within about ten degrees of latitude; the line beyond which it will not grow, to the north, being as low down as latitude forty-five degrees, whilst south of latitude thirty-five degrees it is not profitable to raise it. But between these two parallels it can be raised with little labour and in abundance, from the Atlantic to the eastern limit of the desert, which separates the broad belt of fertile land which lies immediately west of the Mississippi from the Rocky Mountains. But although wheat may be profitably raised, with a few trivial exceptions, throughout the whole of this vast area, it does not follow that it is the product best adapted in all cases for its soil and climate. In almost every portion of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, throughout most of Iowa, in Northern Missouri, and in a part of Maryland and Virginia, it may be cultivated with more profit than any other species of produce; but in portions of Missouri, Iowa, and Virginia, and throughout almost the whole of Kentucky and Tennessee, except where tobacco is raised, Indian corn is the product cultivated to most advantage. In the two last-mentioned States particularly, as well as in Ohio to a very great extent, this grain is raised, not only for human food, but to feed swine upon, which are slaughtered in myriads at particular seasons of the year, salted, and exported, either to the distant markets of the Union, or the still more distant marts of the foreign world. Barley and rye flourish well throughout most of this region; but oats, although pretty extensively produced, very rapidly degenerate; the seed in most parts requiring
59to be renewed after a few crops have been got from American soil. If the demand, both at home and abroad, for wheat were much greater than it is, it would be much more exclusively produced than it now is throughout the wheat-growing region par excellence. But as it is, even in the best wheat-growing States, immense quantities of Indian corn and other grains are produced, and live-stock consequently reared in considerable abundance.
In regard to quantity produced, the wheat-growing States range as follows — Ohio coming first, as raising the largest amount; Pennsylvania next, New York third, and Virginia fourth. Tennessee bears the palm for the quantity of Indian corn produced. Nor must it be forgotten that this important grain is produced in large quantities far to the south of the line within which wheat is raised to any extent. The two Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, produce it at least in sufficient quantity to supply the negro population with food, as well as the white with a product which figures largely in their cereal consumption. The best American wheat is raised in Virginia, in the Genesee Valley, in Western New York, and in Ohio. Great quantities of it are ground into flour before being exported, the chief manufacture of flour in the United States for this purpose being carried on at Rochester, near the mouth of the Genesee, and at Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia flour is chiefly exported to the Brazilian markets, being better calculated for a tropical voyage than that of either Ohio or New York.
There is not a State of the United States in which tobacco may not be, and has not been, produced. It can be, and has also been, produced in Western
60Canada. But the tract in which the bulk of this product is raised, stretches from the 34th northward to the 40th parallel of latitude; five-sixths of it thus lying within the limits already assigned to the grain-growing region. The far greater proportion of the tobacco raised within this tract is cultivated south of the 37th parallel, the culture of this plant being thus chiefly confined to three degrees of latitude, two of which are also within the grain-growing region. Virginia produces the greatest quantity, her capital, Richmond, being the principal tobacco mart of the country. The State has taken every possible precaution, by means of legislative enactment, to prevent inferior articles from being palmed off upon the community. I have already alluded to the means devised to protect merchants from fraud on the part of the producers, at the sales which periodically take place in the public warehouses at Richmond. Kentucky follows Virginia in point of quantity; after which come Tennessee, Maryland, South Carolina, Missouri, and even Ohio.
The great bulk of the cotton-growing region lies to the south of the 34th parallel, stretching from the Atlantic to beyond the Mississippi, with an average width of about four degrees of latitude, the tract being comprehended between the line last mentioned and the Gulf of Mexico. To the north, however, its growth is not confined within this line, a good deal of cotton being raised in Virginia, and in the portions of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, which are north of it. But the chief cotton-growing States are to the south of it, and range as follows, according to the quantity produced: — Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Tennessee comes next; Louisiana, Arkansas, and Virginia following in the
61order in which they are named. In none of these States is cotton the exclusive, but, in the four principal cotton-growing States, it is the staple product. To these Florida may be added, although its annual yield is not yet large. In the Carolinas and Georgia rice is produced to a great extent from the low marshy grounds of the coast, as also in the coast districts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Rice has now become a leading article of export from the South. The extent to which Indian corn is cultivated in these States has already been hinted at; nor is wheat altogether neglected, small quantities of it being raised in the upland districts of the interior in most of them. We have also already seen how far in Virginia, wheat, and in both Virginia and Tennessee, Indian corn and tobacco, compete with cotton in the annual produce of these States.
The cultivation of the sugar-cane and the manufacture of sugar in the United States is chiefly, if not exclusively, confined to the State of Louisiana. The entire yield of this article in 1844 was computed at upwards of 126 millions of pounds, of which upwards of ninety-seven millions were produced by Louisiana alone. The remainder was chiefly raised and manufactured in Georgia and Florida, there being now every indication that sugar will yet be the great staple product of the latter. The sugar-growers, as a class, differ in this important particular from their fellow agriculturists, that they join the manufacturers of the North in the cry for protection. In this they cannot avail themselves of the flimsy pretext, so prominently put forward by our colonial interests and their parliamentary abettors, that one of their objects in seeking to limit the use, if not entirely to prohibit the introduction, of slave-grown sugar, is to
62discountenance slavery and the slave-trade. Louisiana cannot allege that one of her objects is to discountenance slavery, for her own sugar is produced by slaves as much as is that of Cuba or Brazil. And so long as the internal slave-trade continues in the United States, enabling Louisiana to increase her number of slaves by importations from the neighbouring States instead of from the coast of Africa, she cannot, with any very high degree of consistency, aver that her cry for protection is partly based upon a desire to put down the slave-trade. Her object in taking the part which she does take on the commercial question, is identical with that of those with whom she is in league, to secure by legislative enactment a higher profit to capital invested in a particular pursuit than it would otherwise realise, or than capital otherwise invested would produce; and this at the expense of the whole body of consumers.
What an almost inexhaustible source of wealth is there to the Republic in this variety of climate, and this vast extent of fertile surface! With a few exceptions, such as the rocky tracts of New England, and the light sandy plains of New Jersey, the whole area of the country, from the Lakes to the Gulf, and from the Atlantic to far beyond the Mississippi, is highly productive. Even the salt marshes on the seashore are capable of being turned to the most profitable account. In many districts of an upland character, the soil, after having been used for some time, requires to be manured, as it does in Europe, to renovate it. But in others, particularly in the case of the bottom lands on the great rivers, and of valleys well irrigated, and where the soil is rich and deep, no manure is required. In innumerable instances has it been worked for years in the valley of the Mississippi
63and on both sides of the lakes, producing every year more abundant crops, as the soil was more thoroughly worked, without the aid of manure.
There is no question that the richest soil in the United States is to be found in the Mississippi valley. There it is not, as in so many other cases, a thin covering over the clay, the sand, the gravel, the chalk, or the rock; but the deposit of ages, effected by the constant operation of mighty agencies. In some cases the rich black mould is found as much as a hundred feet deep, and when turned up, is as light and free as the driven snow. The pedestrian, as he walks over it, can, in most cases, sink his cane to the very head in it. Nor is it any wonder that it should be found so deep, when we consider that the vast desert which intervenes between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains has been gradually despoiled, that this rich deposit should be made in the lower portions of the valley. The great tract which, commencing some hundreds of miles to the west of the river, slopes gently up towards the mountains, has been gradually denuded of its soil; nothing being now left upon it but the dry sand, through which the rocks project, as the bones sometimes protrude through the skin, the whole looking like the cadavre of what was once a fertile region.
Nothing can better serve to convey to the reader's mind an adequate idea of the exuberance of the Mississippi valley, than the case with which, the little expense at which, and the abundance in which, wheat can be produced in its upper and grain-growing section. Throughout its entire length and breadth, Indian corn seems to be almost a spontaneous production; the difficulty seemingly being, not to produce it, but to prevent it from glowing in too great abundance.
64The farmer in the valley is remunerated if he gets ten cents, or about sixpence sterling, a bushel for it on his farm. For want of a greater domestic and foreign demand, a great portion of the enormous quantity annually raised of it rots upon the ground. Wheat, of course, requires more attention to be bestowed upon it, and more outlay to produce it. But it is astonishing how little labour and cost it requires to draw exuberant crops from the rich prairie lands. The following estimate of the cost of raising wheat, for the first time, from prairie land, I procured from a gentleman in Washington, himself a practical farmer in the West, and, at the time, a member of Congress for a western constituency.
|For ploughing an acre of sod||doll. 2.0|
|Total Expense||doll. 7.0|
Here then we have seven dollars, or about 29s. 2d. sterling, covering the whole expense of producing an acre of wheat in portions of the valley. And this is the cost at which the prairie can be cultivated for the first time. In subsequent years it is diminished; as, after the sod is once turned up, the land can be ploughed for one dollar an acre. This reduces the aggregate cost to 25s. per acre. But it may be supposed that, as the husbandry is rude, the yield will not be very abundant. The average yield of good prairie land, when properly tilled, is above thirty-five bushels per acre; but as it is generally farmed, it yields an average of thirty bushels. This gives the cost of production at very nearly 1s. the
65first year, and at 10d. in subsequent years. The American is somewhat smaller than the English bushel; but, making ample allowance for this difference, 10s. sterling may be assumed as the cost of producing a quarter of wheat in most portions of the Mississippi valley, where the land is prairie land. Of courses when it is forest land the cost of clearing will enhance that of production. It therefore follows, that all that the prairie farmer can get over 10s. sterling per quarter for his wheat on his farm, is clear profit to him. Compare this with 84s., 63s., and 56s., as the successively assumed remunerating prices in this country: I say upon his farm, — for before the wheat, from these remote districts in America, reaches an available market, its value is so enhanced by commissions and transportation dues, as to give the Mississippi farmer but little advantage on the sea-board over his competitors on the American and Canadian sides of the lakes, or of the grain-growing regions east of the Alleganies. My chief object in here alluding to the ease and little cost at which wheat can on prairie land be simply produced, without calculating its constantly augmenting value as it is borne for hundreds and perhaps thousands of miles to market, is to show the poor and industrious man in this country at how little cost of either labour or money he could secure a competence in these exuberant though distant regions. Settled upon prairie land, he is an independent man from the moment that the first year's crop is gathered in; as he is, when settled upon wheat land, in any part of America; although, in other parts, greater labour and a greater outlay are required to produce a crop. Prairie land is obtainable for a variety of prices, from the government price of 1 dollar 25 cents, or 5s. 2 Ë d.
66per acre, to 30 dollars, or 6l. 5s., in the very best locations.
Doubts have been thrown, in some quarters in this country, upon the ability of America to supply our deficiencies in case of scarcity; and these doubts have been grounded upon the comparatively small surplus of wheat which, for two or three years back, when there was such a foreign demand for it, America had to spare. But were there a large and steady foreign demand, America, without adding to her present number of agriculturists, could produce double the quantity of wheat which she now produces. Make it more profitable to the American farmer to raise wheat than Indian corn, and much of the surface which is now devoted to the produce of the one, would be applied to that of the other grain. There is not, at present, a sufficient demand, either home or foreign, to tax all the energies of the agriculturists; and this, to a great extent, accounts for the yet backward state, in most instances, of American husbandry. To produce all that is needed for home consumption, and surplus sufficient to meet but a limited foreign demand, has never called for a careful and scientific treatment of the surface actually under cultivation. But, notwithstanding the want of stimulus in this respect, agriculture has, in some places, reached a high degree of perfection in America. This is not generally obvious to the mere traveller by railway and steamer. The districts first settled were such as adjoined the old highways; and no one has seen American husbandry in its more perfect development, who has not travelled along the great national road in Maryland, through the valley of Virginia, through the centre of Pennsylvania, and along the old highway between Albany and Buffalo in New York.