Chapter IX. — From Macon to Mobile and New Orleans. — Macon. — The Stage again. — My Fellow-passengers. — The Judge. — An Upset. — Columbus. — Cross into Alabama. — Route from the Frontier to Montgomery. — The Town of Montgomery. — Sail down the Alabama. — Scenery on its Banks. — High-pressure Steamer. — Accommodations. — Gamblers on Board. — An Irish Fellow-traveller. — A Conversation. — Juleps and Strawberries. — Emigration. — An Apparition. — Lonely Scene. — The Banks lower down. — Fort Claiborne. — Change in the Conformation of the Country. — Sea-coast Region on the Gulph. — Change in the Vegetation. — Monotony of the Scenery. — Fertility of Alabama. — Health and Climate of the Sea-Coast Region. — The Mobile. — City of Mobile. — Its Plan and Appearance. — Its Commercial Importance. — Exports and Imports. — Its Means of Connexion with the Interior. — Route by Sea to New Orleans. — Ports of Mobile. — The Bay. — The Shores of Alabama and Mississippi. — Lake Ponchartrain. — Morass. — Arrival at New Orleans.
I WAS still engaged conversing and reflecting upon the topics which form the subject-matter of the foregoing chapter; when at length, after a protracted and wearisome journey, we arrived at Macon. For the last half of the way the road seemed to lead through a clayey tract, well wooded, but not over fertile; the clay, which was of a reddish hue, being so heavy and tenacious as sometimes to threaten to hold fast the lumbering vehicle, as the unwary bird is secured by the birdlime.
Macon is a pleasant little town, occupying an advantageous position at the head of the navigation of the Ocmulgee river, a tributary of the Alatamaha, which is the most southerly of the rivers flowing through the body of the continent, which empty
259themselves into the Atlantic. Near its mouth is the port of Darien, which largely shares with Savannah the export trade of Georgia. The plan of Macon is the counterpart of that of most of the southern towns, being open, airy, and scrupulously regular; and the streets being wide and shaded, as usual, with an abundance of trees. Its population cannot much exceed 5,000; but it is entirely the growth of the last twenty years. But this is by no means equal to the specimens which the North affords of the rapidity with which even large communities are conjured into existence, it being no uncommon sight in that section of the Union to find a spot which, twenty years previously, was covered by the forest, the site of a thriving and wealthy town of 20,000 souls.
As Mr. — was to stay for a few days at Macon, I parted with him next morning on leaving for Columbus. The seat which he had occupied on the preceding night was now in possession of three travellers who joined us here, the rest of the passengers being the same, and similarly situated as on the day before. On my extreme left sat, as formerly, the commissioner, with the judge between us. The temper of this latter functionary was by no means improved by a night's rest, for he seemed to have a lively recollection of the persecution with which he had been visited overnight by the musquitos, whose number was legion, and whose size was "onaccountable." They appeared to him to have met for the purpose of making a night of it at his expense; and he described them as setting at him with knife and fork, and as having eaten his beef and drank his claret to their hearts' content. He was convinced that he must have been "sweet eatin'," for he "didn't get no sleep."
As we receded from Macon, the surface of the country began to improve a little, but not the condition of the roads. An additional quantity of rain had fallen during the night, with which the heavy clay was so churned up, that sometimes it was a marvel to me how we made any progress at all. On, however, we went at a painfully slow rate, sometimes stuck fast for a minute or two, then released by the horses, after they had been accorded a little breathing time; sometimes kept dancing between seat and roof, and at others reeling for minutes at a time from side to side. One of the frightful jolts which we every now and then experienced, caused me to receive a severe blow in the cheek from the side of the coach, which left its ugly mark upon me for some days afterwards. We were so often threatened with an upset, that I at last came almost to wish for one, that, on this score at least, we might be relieved from our anxiety. It was not long ere I was gratified. Giving a tremendous lurch to the side at which I was seated, the coach seemed for a moment to poise itself upon the two side wheels, as if deliberating whether to lie down at once or restore itself to its equilibrium. I looked at the judge, and shuddered at the idea of the "fourteen stun';" so, pressing towards the left, I called upon the rest to lean to the weather side. This they did but too effectually, for, on the coach righting, the opposite wheels plunged into another hole, or "rut," with such violence as to carry over the whole concern. It went gently enough, and I felt an inward satisfaction, as we were falling, that my weight was to come on the judge. I regretted it afterwards, on account of the rather severe contusions which together we occasioned to the commissioner.
For a moment after the vehicle was fairly on its side there was neither motion nor sound within, every one seeming to be collecting his thoughts, and assuring himself precisely where and how he was. At length, the lady in the back seat found courage to scream, which seemed to bring it to the recollection of the rest that there was something to be done as well for themselves as for others. There was accordingly a general movement of arms and legs; at least, of as many as were in a position to move; an operation which, unless checked, might have led to rather serious results, as heads and heels were in awkward juxtaposition. At one time, the iron nails in the shoe of one of those who, but a little before, had been occupying the front seat, gleamed ominously before my eyes, causing me to remove my head without delay as far as I could from the awkward apparition.
"Lie still all 'cept them as are at the top," said the judge, in a muffled voice, as if he were speaking with his arm in his mouth, "and let the topmost git out at oncet, so that the rest can foller."
As I had the good luck to be one of the upper stratum, I prepared at once to follow this injunction. In doing so, my first care was to ascertain how a release could be effected. On looking upwards, I observed a square hole directly above me, which resembled the hatchway of a ship as seen from the hold; but which, after a little scrutiny, I discovered to be neither more nor less than the window of the coach. In the first moments of such a bouleversement one cannot at once collect his thoughts; and I can now recall a variety of fancies which passed rapidly through my brain, before the window, at which I had
262been seated, and which was now in the position of a skylight, was recognised by me. The illusion, whilst it lasted, was heightened by my observing a face peering down at us, which would have been valuable in an artist's studio, as the model of the head of the impenitent thief. I thought of a pirate and a hold full of captives, and might have called out for mercy, had I not been aroused to a true sense of my situation by the husky voice of the driver, who told us, in an impatient tone, to "make ourselves scarce where we were, and let things be got to rights agin."
"Well I'm blowed!" said the judge; but why or wherefore he was so I did not hear, as I was making my way out whilst he was vouchsafing the explanation. On getting out, I found myself perched on the side of the coach which was uppermost, the vehicle lying flat in the mud on its other side, like a ship on her beam ends, with her cargo shifted. The driver, who was by this time perched on the opposite side of the hatchway, immediately put down the handle of his whip amongst those below, shouting out at the same time, "Come, be stirrin' there, will you!" The judge thereupon began to exhibit some signs of life. First raising his head, and turning it slowly round, he took the exact measure of his position, after which he brought his arms into play, and then, one after the other, recovered his legs. Having at length raised himself to a kneeling position, the driver and I got him by the collar of the coat, by means of which, with some aid from himself, we managed to elevate the "fourteen stun'" into air and sunshine. The commissioner was the next dragged out. His face, poor fellow, was somewhat scratched,
263and one side of it besmeared with dirt, the judge having pressed it into a soft pillow of mud, which had squeezed itself in through the window. Next came my friend with the nails in his shoes, who turned out to be a farmer from the banks of the Miami in Ohio. From his position we could only render him aid by dragging him out heels foremost, which we did. Then came the lady, of whom for a time we had lost sight altogether. She came up much crushed and disordered, and on being let down in the mud, frantically grasped the judge, who was still engaged in adjusting himself, and asked if there was any chance whatever of our getting safely to our journey's end. After pausing for a time to consider, he replied, gravely but kindly, that there "was a chance, but that it was not mighty promisin'." He bade her calm herself, however, as she would get used to such incidents in time, as he had done.
The rest of the passengers having been extricated, the coach, but not without some trouble, was, if I may use the expression, got upon its legs again. We had a long ride after this ere we reached Columbus, but it was fortunately accomplished without the recurrence of an upset.
As we approached Columbus, the surface of the country became much more broken and picturesque than I had seen it at any point since leaving the coast. The northern and western portion of the State of Georgia, which is traversed by a spur of the Alleganies, is generally of an undulating character, and in many places not only hilly but mountainous. In its rolling surface, in its rich and varied vegetation, amongst which the magnolia, the jessamine, and the wild vine, were conspicuous — in its pleasant prospects,
264its genial airs, and its pure and lively streams, it is quite a contrast to the dreary region extending in such monotonous succession between it and Charleston.
Columbus is but a small town, and is prettily situated on the east bank of the Chatahouchee, a navigable tributary of the Apalachichola, which empties itself into the Gulf of Mexico, close to the peninsula of Florida. Like Macon, though far inland, it has thus a navigable channel to the sea. It is the frontier town of Georgia, on the west, the Chatahouchee here separating that State from Alabama. There are some pretty falls and cataracts in the neighbourhood of the town, which well repay the trouble of a visit.
I left Columbus, after a brief stay, for Montgomery. Between these two places, the country is wild but not uninteresting. On crossing the Chatahouchee into Alabama, it seemed as if I had passed from an old country into a new. And such, indeed, was the case, the western part of Georgia having been much earlier settled and much longer cultivated than the more easterly belt of the conterminous State. For some time after entering Alabama my road led through a portion of the territory which had once been the domain of the Cherokees and the Creeks, but of which they had been divested by means which the American casuist may fancy himself able to justify. Well aware that the better regions of Alabama were before me, I was not disappointed with the sample of it presented along the road between the frontier and Montgomery. The land was not of the most fertile description, neither could it be called poor. For two-thirds of the way, it was only at long intervals that anything like clearances were to be seen, and it was only in the neighbourhood of Montgomery that I
265came to what might be termed regular plantations, with anything like decent or comfortable habitations upon them. On these I could see the slaves at work, on either side of the road; their condition betokening, at a glance, the character of their owner, some being well clad, apparently well fed, and hilarious in their dispositions; and others in rags, with their physical frames but poorly supported, and their spirits seemingly much depressed. For the whole way the road was excessively bad, and had it not been for a couple of days' dry weather, I do not know how we could have overcome them.
As a town, Montgomery is not calculated to leave so pleasing an impression upon the mind of the stranger as either Macon or Columbus. I stayed in it but an hour or two, during which I ascertained that it could offer very excellent accommodation to the traveller. After arriving I took the first steamer for Mobile, and found myself, in a little more than two hours after quitting the detestable stage-coach, steaming at the rate of eleven miles an hour down the winding channel of the Alabama.
Every step that we proceeded on our course to the Gulf served to develope more and more to the eye the inexhaustible resources of this noble State. Both sides of the river abounded with the evident signs of great fertility, and plantations on a scale equal to any in Georgia were passed in rapid succession. The country had not yet lost the picturesque and undulating aspect which it had assumed in western Georgia; whilst the vegetation with which the face of nature was clothed, and which was equally varied with, was, if anything, still richer than, that immediately to the east of the Chatahouchee. Montgomery
266is not at the head of steamboat navigation, the river being navigable for about forty miles further up to Wetumpka, where it is interrupted by falls, and between which and Montgomery the country is so broken and varied as almost to deserve to have applied to it the epithet of rugged.
It was on the Alabama that I first found myself on board one of those high-pressure steamboats, which so often prove fatal to their passengers, and which have so ominous a name to European ears. It was some time ere I could reconcile myself to my position, and for most of the voyage I kept at a respectable distance from the boilers. We had but little cotton on board, although the boats on this river are sometimes very heavily laden with that commodity, on its way to Mobile for exportation, the quantity on board increasing at almost every station at which they call between Montgomery and that city.
As the voyage from Montgomery to the coast consumes at least the greater part of two days, the steamers on the Alabama are, of course, well provided with sleeping accommodations. The saloon, which extended almost from one end of the boat to the other, was lined on either side by a double row of excellent berths, in which the passenger could do anything except sleep. For this the berths were not to blame, the cause of it being the perpetual jarring of the boat, the powerful engines with which it was provided making it vibrate at every stroke, like a harp-string on being touched. There was a crowd of passengers on board, most of whom were, to judge from appearances, highly respectable; but there were a few whose look, conduct, and demeanour, but too plainly told to what class of desperadoes they belonged.
267They were most respectably dressed, but kept almost constantly together, there being too many people on board to allow of their carrying matters with the high hand with which they conduct their operations on the Mississippi and some of its tributaries. They belonged to the class of professional gamblers, who form so large an ingredient in the population of the South; and, taking them altogether, they had the most sinister look about them that I had ever witnessed. It seemed to be generally understood who and what they were; and although a few conversed and played a little with them, they were prudently shunned by the great bulk of the passengers. Their gambling habits are not the only bad feature about them, it being sometimes their delight, and at other times their object, for reasons best known to themselves, to create disturbances amongst the passengers, which, in these fiery latitudes, are so often fatal to those who are implicated. When the voyage is long, and there are but few respectable people on board who can protect themselves by their numbers, a gang of these fellows are not only troublesome, but dangerous as fellow-passengers. Public opinion, however, is now, even in the South, so decidedly against them, that this great drawback to travelling in the South and West is fast diminishing.
Amongst my fellow-passengers was a young Irishman, whose ready wit, active fancy, and lively rattling conversation, went far to beguile the tedium of a long and rather monotonous sail. He had been "caught young," as he said himself, having emigrated with his parents at a very tender age to America. He was, when I met him, the travelling agent of a large mercantile establishment in New York, his occupation
268keeping him in almost constant locomotion, and frequently leading him to the South, with every portion of which he appeared to be well acquainted.
"You'll be going to New Orleens?" said he to me, as we were conversing together the first night in the saloon over a sherry-cobbler, previously to retiring for the night.
"That, for the present, is my destination," I replied.
"And a mighty fine place you'll find New Orleens to be," continued he; "indeed, I prefer it to all the other towns in the Union."
"That's strange," said I, "for in more than one respect its character is none of the best."
"Is it character you're speakin' off?" he rejoined; "sure there's no other town in the whole country where you'll find green peas in the month of January."
I could not but confess that in this at least there was nothing unfavourable to the town.
"And as for mint-juleps," he continued, "they begin to drink them there before winter has thought of going off for the season in the north. What think you of that?"
"That the sooner they begin they're the sooner over," said I; "besides, they have the satisfaction of beginning them in the north when you're tired of them at New Orleans."
"Yes, but you see you can enjoy that satisfaction with them, by going north with the juleps," he observed. "Nothing can be nicer than keeping on the track of the warm weather, and for weeks finding yourself only in the beginning of summer, drinking bumpers to it morning, noon, and night. Many's the
269time I have thus juleped it from New Orleans to Portland."
I could not but confess to the excellences of mint-juleps in hot weather, although I could not see the pleasure of being drenched with them. On observing this to him, he assured me that he was no slave to them, as he alternated pretty frequently between the julep, the cobbler, the phlegm-cutter, and the ginsling.
"Besides," said he, "I like, when I can manage it, to take the strawberries along with them."
"What," said I, "then you have also travelled north with the strawberries?"
"That I have," he replied, "and nice companions they are, to be sure. They seemed to grow under my feet as I went along, and I have sometimes almost lived on them for days together. Yes," he continued, depositing his quid into the spittoon at his feet, "I have dined on strawberries, and taken my baccy for a dessert."
"Which could you most easily dispense with," I asked, "the strawberries or the tobacco?"
"That's as much as to say," said he, "which could you most easily give up, a luxury or a necessity?"
"Do you place either in the category of necessaries?" inquired I.
"I look on one of them as both a luxury and a necessity," he replied; "strawberries are a luxury, but tobacco is as necessary to me as it is agreeable; I have chewed since I was knee high to a goose, and will go on chewing until I'm a gone goose."
"I wish all your countrymen," I observed, "had as ample means of appeasing their appetites as you have."
"The more fools they if they hav'n't," said he. "Why don't they come here, where they can not only appease, but also pamper their appetites? Instead of living here in plenty and quiet, they starve at home on nothing and agitation. The more fools they."
"But the majority of Irishmen who do emigrate, do not seem to improve their condition much," said I.
"Ah sure, but they do!" said he quickly. "Isn't anything an improvement upon Ireland? Besides, you'd hardly know them in the second generation. My father hadn't a shoe to his foot till he was seventeen; nor I till I was seven. He's dead and gone, and here I am. 'Faith, he would hardly know me now if he saw me. How many generations would it take to make the change in Ireland! Why, here, a gentleman can be made out of the coarsest stuff in half a lifetime."
"Then you think," said I, "that your fellow-countrymen should emigrate more with a view to the advantage of their descendants than that of themselves?"
"I mean," he replied, "that they should come here for their own, as well as for their children's benefit. If they do not much improve their own condition, that of their immediate descendants will be vastly bettered. But no Irishman need come here without finding it to his advantage. In this country the poorest man need not be for any length of time without plenty to eat, a coat to his back, shoes to his feet, and a good hat on his head; for, republican though it be, this is the only country in the world in which every man wears a crown. Fools they are, say I again, to stay at home eating one
271another up, when there are not mouths enough in this country to consume all that it produces."
"But," said I, "your countrymen are not so universally insensible to the advantages of emigration as you seem to suppose, as witness the shoals in which they yearly land in Canada and the United States. Thousands more would follow them if they had the means of doing so."
"Why don't the landlords help them?" he inquired. "I am sure it would be a good bargain on both sides. To the landlords, the people's room would be more agreeable than their company, whilst the parting with their landlords would not be a matter of much regret to the people."
"There would be but little love lost on either side" I replied. "Some of the landlords, however, have liberally aided in this way; but the majority have done, are doing, and will do, nothing. Irish landlordism is an enigma which nobody can solve; a gigantic abortion, based on fallacy, and floundering between difficulty and apprehension."
"But can the government do nothing?"
"Yes," I observed, "it can and does; for it occupies its time, taxes its ingenuity, and exhausts its energies, first in devising paupers, and then in devising laws for their relief. But it takes no steps towards the eradication of the evil by a judicious and well-sustained system of emigration. It shrinks from the subject as you would from an alligator. Talk to it of emigration, and it shrugs its shoulders, hems and haws, says much, that means nothing, of difficulties in the way, interference with private enterprise, and ends by saying that it can do nothing. Not only is there a noble field in this country for our
272pent-up surplus population, but within a month's easy sail of our poor-houses, we have, in Canada, a rich, fertile dominion of our own, the greater portion by far of which is yet but a preserve for rabbits, deer, bears, and wolves. Yes, strange as it may appear, we have under the same flag, and at no great distance from each other, infinite poverty and inexhaustible resources, and yet the one cannot be brought to bear upon the other with a view to its relief. Here the wilderness waits for cultivation — there the multitudes pine to be fed. Yet the poor-houses are being constantly filled, whilst the wolf and the bear are left undisturbed. At the bottom of all this there is but little foresight, and much false economy."
"But why don't the country force the subject upon the government?" inquired my companion.
"Simply because, inexplicable though it may seem, the country is not yet sufficiently of one way of thinking upon it. There is a set of men with no little influence who set their faces against emigration, calling it transportation, and insisting upon it that England is large enough to subsist not only all her present population, but many more. They forget that the question of subsistence is one of pressing urgency, and that the starving multitude cannot afford to wait until all their schemes are in operation for the better development of the country's resources. The question to decide is, not how many England could support with all her resources in full play, or with a different distribution than now prevails of the means of subsistence which she actually possesses; but has she, or has she not, for the time being, a surplus population? If so, she should, in the most
273advantageous way for all parties, rid herself of a present evil, whilst schemes are in preparation which, at the best, can only be productive of a future good. Besides, there are grave considerations connected with her commercial prospects which should induce England to raise up for herself markets in all her colonies. Not only in Ireland, but also in England and Scotland, there are multitudes of drones in the busy hive, who would become active honey-makers abroad. But the subject is endless, and we cannot well longer pursue it, for I see we are disturbing the sleepers around us."
This last remark was elicited by the sudden apparition of a head in a blue nightcap with a red tassel, which projected from between the curtains of one of the berths opposite me. It had two very large bright blue eyes in it, which were steadily fixed upon me whilst I made the observation, and remained so for a few seconds afterwards, making the whole scene both fascinating and ludicrous. "Young man," said it at last, opening its mouth, which was surrounded by a sandy beard, in good state for the razor, "it's mighty fine that there discoorse, and mayhap it isn't, by gum; but I'll tell you what it is, you had better adjourn the meetin', and give us the concloodin' part of the subject at breakfast, you had." It then, after spitting twice upon the floor by way of emphasis, suddenly disappeared, when the curtains resumed their former position.
"I fear," said I, speaking at the place which had just been vacated by the apparition, "we have not only to beg your pardon, but that of many others around, for any disturbance that we may have caused them; but — "
Here I was interrupted by my fellow-delinquent, who was not disposed to be quite so complaisant in his reply; for, after sundry ejaculations, calling for direct injury to his own eyes, he asked the head where it had got "so much night-cap" — where, after certain contingencies, it "expected to go to" if it was "ill off for goose-grease;" and a variety of other questions to which it was not every head that would have quietly submitted. How long the particular head in question would have done so was problematical; but seeing the curtains of a number of other berths in motion, I drew the Irishman's attention to the circumstance, and he had good sense and good feeling enough at once to take the hint. Swallowing the remainder of his sherry-cobbler at a draught, he expressed a desire to have "another drain," but the bar having been closed half an hour previously, he was obliged to go to bed without it. In a few minutes I observed him tumbling into one of the fore berths, with everything on but his coat, after placing a spittoon in a convenient position for any purposes for which it might be required.
I remained seated for some time after he had left me, musing upon the singularity of my position. I appeared to be the only occupant of the saloon, for no other human form was visible to me. And yet I was surrounded by about a hundred people, all of whom were then packed, as it were, upon a double row of shelves, with red damask curtains in front, to conceal them from view and keep them from the dust. Most of them were asleep, as was evident from their heavy regular breathing; and this concord of respiration proceeding from so many points, made the scene all the more lonely and impressive. The machinery was
275busily at work under my feet, the water was gurgling past me on either side, and at each stroke of the engine the frail craft shook through her whole length, as if she were a floating earthquake. But one solitary lamp gleamed in the cabin, casting a faint yellow light about the centre, where I was seated, but leaving its distant extremities shrouded in gloom, so much so that I sometimes fancied myself a lonely watcher in a huge vault, in which the dead had been long deposited, and in which some were just awaking from trances which had closely resembled death. And all this at midnight on the devious current of the Alabama, so far from home and friends, and everything that was familiar to me! I was then in the very depths of those interminable forests, with the romantic tales of whose former occupants my youthful imagination had been so often fired; afloat on one of those streams whose marvellous extent and capabilities had so frequently excited my astonishment; and traversing the very regions in which Raleigh had sought for an El Dorado, and Soto and his followers had vainly searched for gold.
It was not long ere I yielded to the somnolent influences of the scene; and, having retired to my berth, I slept as well as could be expected of one lying, as it were, in the hopper of a mill.
Next morning I rejoined my Irish friend at breakfast, when we resumed, in a low voice, the conversation of the previous evening. Whether the head with the night-cap was or was not within hearing distance of us, was more than we could tell; for, on looking for it, we found it impossible to distinguish it, divested of its nocturnal appendage.
I remained on deck most of the day, although the
276sky was clear and the sun of a broiling heat. The level of the country was still elevated, and its surface undulating and picturesque, the forest, amongst other woods, containing an immense variety of laurel, having a most refreshing look to the eye. The river, as at Montgomery, was not of very great width, being no broader than the Thames at high water in Battersea-reach; and so free from obstruction was its channel, and so uniform was its depth, that although it runs at the average rate of three miles an hour, its current was scarcely discernible. Now it passed through an open country, where its banks were low and chequered by alternations of forest and plantation; then it would wind through bold and precipitous bluffs, varying from 100 to 200 feet high; after which it would again take a serpentine course through an open tract, again to pass through bluffs as before. The different settlements which were visible on its banks were generally situated on these bluffs, the inhabitants building their houses, as much as possible, in upper air, to escape the malaria of the lower levels. In the afternoon we reached Fort Claiborne, a sort of military station on a small scale, with a little town contiguous to it; and here I was separated from my Irish fellow-traveller, who was to remain for a couple of days in the town, having some business to transact in it. He advised me, on parting, to be careful of myself in New Orleans; and, as the sickly season was approaching, by all means to "make myself scarce" before catching the "fivver." He was a singular mixture of levity and soberness, folly and good sense, and possessed great knowledge of the country, from which I should have profited more had we been longer together.
A little below Fort Claiborne, a great change becomes perceptible in the conformation and aspect of the country. On descending the river from that point the bluffs are found to be less frequent and elevated, until, at length, they entirely disappear, where the stream debouches upon the coast region resting upon the Gulf of Mexico. The elevated and rolling country from which the traveller then emerges, is the scene of the last appearance of the Alleganies, in their prolonged course towards the south-west. In the northern part of the State, the mountainous range, as in Georgia, is still bold and lofty, but rapidly subsides into detached hills, covered with wood to the top, in pursuing its way to the centre of the State, after which it declines into mere undulations of the surface; and at last, after extending in one unbroken chain from the western part of Pennsylvania, in the neighbourhood of Lake Erie, disappears altogether within a hundred miles of the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the coast region, the eye is no longer charmed with the rich variety of vegetation which characterised the upper country, or with its waving outlines and picturesque effects. All is flat, wearisome, and monotonous, as in the corresponding region on the Atlantic coast. But the soil in the low parts of Alabama is, on the whole, far richer than that of a large proportion of the great belt of land extending from the Potomac to the Alatamaha. Taking it all in all, Alabama is not surpassed, in point of fertility, by any of the sister States of the Confederation. The rolling country constituting its northern and north-eastern sections, produces cotton and Indian corn in abundance, cotton being the staple chiefly cultivated in the rich level
278flats of the west and south, as it is indeed the chief staple of the whole State. Both in this State and in Mississippi, immediately to the west of it, the cultivation of the cotton plant is carried to an extent which has already rendered them most formidable rivals to the Atlantic States of the south, which so long possessed a virtual monopoly of this staple.
In the gradual subsidence of the country from the upper to the lower level, the vegetation with which it is covered undergoes a perceptible change. The live oak, the laurel, the mulberry, the chestnut, and the hickory, become less frequent in their appearance; the pine, the cedar, and the cypress gradually taking their places, and prevailing more and more as you approach the coast. The spectral outline of the one, the lank and leaning trunk of the other, and the dark sombre colour of the third, impart gloom to a scene otherwise sufficiently dreary and monotonous. Rich bottom lands, swamps, pine barrens, and small prairies, follow each other in dull succession, the only things which exist to enliven the journey being the company on board, and the activity which is sometimes visible on the plantations on either side, where hordes of negroes are at their daily task under a hot sun and a generally merciless overseer. Like all the western and southern rivers, pursuing their respective courses through the extensive flat regions, which, by their combined action for untold ages they have themselves conjured into existence, the Alabama here pursues a most serpentine course, winding and zigzagging through the level open country, as if it were loath to quit it, and bent upon irrigating it in the most efficient manner. The current, in this part of its progress, diminishes its strength, and the banks are
279frequently lined with long rank grass and rushes, amid which the timid alligator may be sometimes seen basking in the sun. The river was low and peaceful when I descended it, but when in flood, the Alabama is sometimes a rolling devastating torrent.
Rich and fertile as, on the whole, this region is, although interspersed with many unproductive tracts, it is not very desirable as a place of residence, inasmuch as, for several months in the year, it is visited with the same heavy curse which, from July till October, annually descends upon the tide-water region on the Atlantic. A hot sun, blazing for days, weeks, and months upon stagnant pools and putrid swamps, and a reeking fermenting earth, rich with vegetable decomposition, cannot fail to produce the noxious malaria, which prevails at all seasons of the year, to a greater or less extent, but which about the close of summer attains a virulence which renders it incumbent on all, who can, to fly from its poisonous influences. For the greaterpart of the year, the coast region cannot be called absolutely unhealthy; but it is much inferior, in point of salubrity, to the middle and more elevated section of the State. Even there the people, in building their towns, find it prudent to occupy the bluffs instead of the low lands, that they may be as much as possible out of the reach of the malaria during the sickly months. In the northern and hilly portions of the State, the climate is mild, and the air comparatively pure and salubrious.
About fifty miles from the coast the Alabama unites with another river called the Tombeckbee, after which the confluent streams pursue their peaceable course to the Gulf, under the designation of the Mobile. Along the banks of this stream the pine-barrens are more frequent than along the Alabama;
280and although fertile tracts are not wanting, they are neither so numerous nor so well cultivated as on the banks of the latter river. On the forenoon of the second day after leaving Montgomery, we came in sight of the city of Mobile, and much rejoiced was I, after my long overland journey, once more to approach the coast, as it was evident that we were doing, from the many steamers which were clustered about the wharves, and the square-rigged vessels which were seen at anchor beyond.
The city of Mobile, the commercial emporium, though not the political capital of the State of Alabama, (the city of Tuscaloosa in the interior enjoying the latter dignity,) is a tolerably large and very handsome town, occupying a most advantageous situation on the right bank of the Mobile River, at its entrance into the fine, spacious, and open Bay of Mobile. The portion of the town immediately contiguous to the quays is about as unattractive as the corresponding parts of most seaport towns are found to be, the streets being, for the most part, narrow, ill-ventilated, and not over clean. Behind them, however, the town developes itself in a very different aspect, the portion of it which lies back from the river being situated on a gentle acclivity, commanding, from many points, a good view of the harbour, and affording every opportunity for the regularity of plan with which this part of it is characterised. The main streets are long and broad, well shaded by trees, and admirably paved. Nothing can be conceived cleaner and more comfortable than this section of the town, attention to cleanliness having been rendered indispensable from the fatality with which the yellow fever used to visit Mobile. A great many of its private, as well as most of its public edifices, are
281constructed of brick, but the bulk of the town is built of wood. Some years ago a destructive fire laid one-third of it in ashes; but it has since recovered from the effects of this terrible visitation. It would be difficult to find anywhere a more hospitable set of people than the better portion of the population of Mobile, although a large proportion of the lower orders are prone to a dissoluteness of manners equal to that characteristic of the corresponding classes of the more immoral of European capitals. The situation of the town is, on the whole, very favourable to health, from the nature of the site which it occupies, and the open, airy bay at the head of which it stands. The attention which has recently been paid to cleanliness has very much diminished the amount of disease and mortality which formerly prevailed in it. The country around is, in most directions, sandy and dry, covered with pine, and cedar, and oak, the tract immediately contiguous to the town being dotted with the villas and country residences of the wealthier class of its inhabitants.
The hotels in Mobile are on a most extensive and sumptuous scale, scarcely surpassed by any of those in New York, Boston, or Philadelphia. The population of the town may now be taken at about 30,000, of which number not more than one-half are whites, the remainder being slaves; for the free coloured population of the town is too insignificant in point of number to be taken into the account. In the character of a portion of the population, as well as in other circumstances, the stranger can see proofs of the comparatively recent annexation of this portion of the country to the Republican
282confederacy. It was only as late as 1813 that it was transferred by Spain to the Union, about ten years after the purchase of Louisiana from the French. The existence of a Royal-street in Mobile, and of a Rue Royale in New Orleans, is of itself indicative of these two places having remained more or less under monarchical rule until the furor of the American revolution was over, during the prevalence of which every King-street, King-alley, King-court, and King-lane within the then limits of the Union received names more in accordance with the dominant ideas of the time.
Mobile is a place of great commercial activity, being, after New Orleans, the most important American seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. Cotton is, of course, the staple article of its export; its import trade being large, but much below that which it transacts in the way of exportation. It now ships more cotton for the North, and for Europe, than either Charleston or Savannah, and bids fair soon immeasurably to out-distance as a commercial emporium both of these places. The cotton shipped from Mobile is chiefly the growth of South Alabama, that is to say, about two-thirds the entire crop of the State. It also ships a great deal that is grown in the south-eastern section of Mississippi, a small portion of that State abutting, contiguous to Alabama, upon the Gulf, but possessing no seaport town of any importance of its own. The produce of Western and Northern Mississippi, however, as well as that of Northern Alabama, finds its way to the ocean through New Orleans, that city being more accessible to these portions of the two States than Mobile. Though far from possessing those advantages of
283position which New Orleans commands to so extraordinary an extent, Mobile is most favourably situated as an entrepôt for both an export and import trade. I have already shown the capabilities of the Alabama, in a navigable point of view, from Montgomery to Mobile, a distance of between 300 and 400 miles. The Coossa, again, is navigable from Montgomery to Wetumpka, about forty miles further north; so that the line of internal navigation from Wetumpka to Mobile, taking Montgomery in the way, may be stated as exceeding 400 miles. The richness and capabilities of the different regions through which it flows have already been described. The other chief river of Alabama is the Tombeckbee, which is navigable for steamers of but small draught to Columbus in the State of Mississippi. Tuscaloosa, the capital of Alabama, is situated upon a tributary of this river, called the Black Warrior, which is navigable up to the city for small steamers. The district through which the Tombeckbee flows, with its branches, is if possible more fertile and better cultivated than that drained by the Alabama. Thus both these streams, rising either by themselves or some of their tributaries in the north-eastern and north-western extremities of the State, after pursuing the one a south-westerly and the other a south-easterly course, unite, as already stated, about fifty miles from the coast, into one broad deep river, at the entrance of which into the bay stands the city of Mobile. It will thus be seen how the greater portion of the exports of the State must necessarily converge upon this seaport, and how admirably it is situated for the distribution of its imports to different quarters in the interior.
The bay is shallow in the immediate neighbourhood
284of the town, so that the wharves are approached by vessels of but comparatively small draught. Those of larger draught can get to the town, if they take a circuitous route for the purpose of doing so; for they can ascend a channel, called Spanish River, separated from it by a low sedgy island, into the Mobile River, on which they can then drop down to the town. Few vessels of any size, however, approach nearer than six miles to the city, their cargoes being conveyed to it in barges, and the cotton with which they are laden being carried down to them in the same manner. There are sometimes from thirty to sixty vessels lying at anchor in the bay, at this distance from the town, all busily loading or disgorging their cargoes — a sight which is well calculated to impress the tourist with the commercial importance of the place. On leaving Mobile, which I did after a stay of four days in the town, I passed this anchorage in sailing down the bay, and great was my surprise, some distance further down, on finding myself at another anchorage, with an equal number of vessels in occupation of it. Only some of them, however, were either loading or unloading, the remainder, having cleared the custom-house, being ready to put to sea. If on passing the upper anchorage I was impressed with the commercial importance of Mobile, I was doubly so on witnessing this unexpected sight lower down the bay.
From Mobile at the head of the bay to the open gulf the distance is about thirty miles. The shores on either side as you descend are low, but the scene taken as a whole is not wanting in effect. The chief military defence of Mobile is Fort Morgan, situated like Hurst Castle upon a long low sandy point, separating the bay from the open sea.
There are two routes by sea from Mobile to New Orleans, one being by the Mississippi, which has to be ascended to the city; the other, by Lake Ponchartrain, which is the shorter and the safer of the two. The latter is of course the usual route for passengers. On emerging from Mobile Bay we stood out to sea for some time before altering our course, compelled as we were to do so by the shallowness of the water close to the shore. The shores of the Gulf of Mexico, almost the whole way round from Key west to Yucatan, are sandy, and the water shallow, sometimes for miles from the coast. The screen of low sandy islands which intervene between the ocean and the coast, with but little intermission, from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay to the peninsula of Florida, is prolonged along the shores of the Gulf, stretching in an almost uninterrupted chain from Pensacola to the Mississippi, from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande, and from the Rio Grande to beyond Vera Cruz. These islands seem to have been engendered by the recoil of the water, on being violently thrown by storms upon the sandy coast.
On directing our course westward for New Orleans, which is about 160 miles distant from Mobile, we kept for some miles out to sea, running a parallel course with the low shore in the distance. We soon left the coast of Alabama behind us, and approached the swampy shores of Mississippi, our course then being chiefly between them and the islands. Shortly after passing St. Catharine's Sound we entered Lake Borgue, an arm of the Gulf, on ascending which we approached a narrow passage called the Rigolet, through which we entered Lake Ponchartrain. To the tourist this lake appears merely an extensive sheet of water, with nothing to interest him on its banks, which are
286low, sedgy, and unvarying, like most of the coast between it and the Bay of Mobile. From the strait by which we entered it to its opposite side in the direction of New Orleans, the distance is about twenty miles, which we soon made, the steamer on board of which we were being of a very superior description. The day was excessively hot, and the lake, which was unruffled, blazed like a huge mirror in the sunshine. It was so calm that, on approaching the landing-place, we could trace the wake of the steamboat almost to the strait by which we had entered.
We landed upon one of several wooden jetties, projecting far into the lake on high wooden piles. We were then but five miles distant from New Orleans, and a train being in readiness for us, we started for the city without delay.
I was at length, then, fairly in the delta of the Mississippi, and its aspect was as gloomy and repulsive as I had been prepared to find it. The tract, through which the railway led, was as flat as a bowling-green, but seemingly saturated with water. The road led straight through a dense growth of timber, such as is found in most of the American swamps, the cypress and cedar abounding on either side, with here and there some clumps of palmettos interspersed amongst them. As we proceeded at the rate of about twenty miles an hour, the tremulous ground seemed to quiver beneath our feet. The railway is short, but its construction through such a morass must have been a work of no little difficulty. It was dusk ere we came in sight of the city, and seen from a little distance through the uncertain twilight, it looked like a dark and ponderous exhalation surging slowly from the swamps around it.
Chapter X. — New Orleans. — Position of the City. — Windings of the Mississippi. — Appearance of New Orleans from the River. — The Harbour. — The Levee. — Peculiarities of the Interior of New Orleans. — The French quarter. — Connexion of France with the American Continent. — Her evanescent dominion. — The Contrast. — The American quarter. — The St. Charles. — Environs of New Orleans. — The Swamp. — Extent and object of the Levee. — Gradual elevation of the bed of the River. — How far the Levee influences this. — Probable Consequences to New Orleans. — Population of New Orleans. — Its different Races. — The Creoles. — Quadroons. — Its Resident and Peripatetic Populations. — Health of New Orleans. — Exaggerated notions respecting its Unhealthiness. — Addiction of its Inhabitants to Pleasure. — Commercial position of New Orleans. — The Great Valley behind it. — Extent and capabilities of the Valley. — Its magnificent River System. — Political importance of the position of New Orleans. — Its future Greatness. — Direct Communication between Europe and the South. — Southern Life.
THE Crescent City, as New Orleans is not unpoetically called, not from the little reverence which is there paid to the Cross, but from the semicircular sweep which it takes along the curving shore of the river, is situated on the left bank of the Mississippi, about one hundred miles above its junction with the Gulf of Mexico. Before adverting to the nature of its position in a commercial or political point of view, or to the advantages which may be incident to it in either of these respects, it may be as well first to give a brief description of the city itself, in its physical and moral aspects.
The general course of the Mississippi being due north and south, the stranger would expect to find
288it, New Orleans being situated upon its left bank, on the western side of the town. On entering the town, however, and making for the quays, his first impression would be that his notions of geography had been all astray; for he finds the river lying almost to the east of the town, and its current flowing nearly due north. The fact is, that the Mississippi, whose course has been exceedingly devious since the junction of the Ohio with it, here makes a bend to the left, flowing eastward and then northward a little, after which it again deflects to the right to regain its southward course. New Orleans is thus both east and west of the stream, having one reach of it to the east and one to the west.
In bending to the right, the river forms a species of bay, in the recess of which New Orleans is nestled. Nothing can be more imposing than its position, as you approach it by the stream. Almost the entire length of the noble amphitheatric front which it presents to you is in view; the rows of warehouses and other commercial establishments, which follow each other in rapid succession, extending for nearly three miles along the margin of the river. In front of these, and close to the quays, or to the Levee, as the spacious promenade dividing the city from the river is here called, are numerous vessels of all kinds, and bearing the flags of almost all nations. Opposite the upper portion of the town, the river is chiefly occupied by the barges and keel-boats which ascend and descend the river for short distances for and with produce, and which are also extensively used for the purpose of loading and unloading the vessels in the harbour. A little below, you discern a multitude of square-rigged vessels of almost every variety of tonnage, lying moored abreast of each other, like those
289which occupy the Pool between London-bridge and Deptford. Below them again are scores of steamers, built in the most fantastic manner, and painted of the most gaudy colours, most of them river boats, but some plying between New Orleans and Texas. There are also tug-boats and ferry-boats to communicate with Algiers, a small town directly opposite New Orleans, to give still greater variety to this motley group of wood, paint, paddle-boxes and funnels. Still further down, and near the lower end of the harbour, are brigs, schooners, and sloops, and other craft of a smaller size, designed for, and used chiefly in, the coasting trade of the Gulf. Many of the square-rigged vessels in the upper part are coasters, trading between the Mississippi and the northern ports, their voyage partaking more of the character of the "long voyage" than the coasting one, and their size and style of building corresponding with those of the finest vessels afloat for any purpose. Mid-stream is crowded as well as the quays, some vessels dropping down with the current, and others being tugged up against it — some steamers arriving from above and some from below, and others departing upwards and downwards — ferry-boats crossing and recrossing at short intervals — small boats shooting in different directions; and barges, some full, some empty, floating lazily on the current. On a fine morning, with the sun shining brightly on town and river, the scene is one of the most lively description.
But the bustle and activity which characterise it are not confined to the stream alone. The Levee is, if possible, more lively than the river. In front of the city, along its whole line, from the upper to the lower harbour, all seem busy and in motion. The
290quays are piled from one end to the other with goods and produce. Here you have pyramids of Cotton bales, some ready pressed for shipping, others newly landed from above, and awaiting the process of pressure. There you have rows of sugar hogsheads, filled with the produce of Louisiana. There, again, you have bags of rice piled in huge heaps together, and barrels of pork without number, which have been transmitted from the far north-west. On this side you have flour ready for exportation to South America, and coffee just imported from Rio. Here are a variety of the products of the country designed for the European markets, and bales of manufactured goods just received from foreign ports, and now ready for distribution through the great valley. Look which way you will along this noble promenade, and the eye is met by articles of commerce, either imported or ready for export, indicating by their variety the many markets with which New Orleans is connected, and the extent of the business which it transacts. The busy throng of people well accords with the vast accumulation of merchandise. There they are, from morning till night, all active, bustling, and anxious; merchants, clerks, ship captains, supercargoes, custom-house officers, sailors, boatmen, porters and draymen. The last-mentioned are busy with their carts, removing from point to point the different articles on the quays, the piles of which are being constantly increased or diminished in size. Great is the number of these carts, and rapidly do they proceed, as if they had all been loitering and were now making up for lost time. Their constant succession in every direction, and the rattling noise which they occasion, the perpetual movement,
291from and to every quarter, of human beings, and the incessant hum of human voices, the ringing of steamboat bells, and the hissing of steam-pipes, the song of the sailor, and the clank of the busy crane, all combine to render the whole scene, taking river and shore together, one of intense interest and indescribable animation.
So far, however, New Orleans presents to the stranger features which are, more or less, common to all the great seaports of the country. It is only when he enters the town that he perceives the many points in which it differs from all the rest. There are in it a mixture of the new and the old, and a variety of speech, manners, and costume, which forcibly strike him ere he penetrates to any great distance into the streets. The length of the city is parallel to the river — its width, which averages about a mile, being in the direction back from the stream. The city proper, or the old portion of New Orleans, occupies the centre of its position upon the river, and extends back to the outskirts of the town, upon the swamps behind it. Here the streets are both narrow and dirty, but straight and otherwise regularly planned. The houses on either side combine to some extent the more prominent features of modern French and Spanish architecture, and are almost all covered with stucco, and painted of some lively colour, generally white, yellow, or ochre. This quarter, which is now a municipality, with a council of its own (the portions of the city on either side of it being also separate municipalities, having also their respective councils), is chiefly peopled by the descendants of the original French and Spanish colonists, who occupied it before the cession of Louisiana
292to America. With very few exceptions, the names of all the streets are French, the two principal thoroughfares being the Rue Royale and the Rue de Chartres. As you walk the streets, the Anglo-American countenance is the exception in the stream of faces which you meet, whilst French is the language chiefly spoken around you. Indeed everything in this quarter remains but little changed since the cession, New Orleans strongly reminding one, in its mixed population, and its diversity of dialect, manners and architecture, of the Anglo-French cities of Montreal and Quebec. Strange indeed has been the destiny of France on the American continent. From the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes, from them again to the mouth of the Mississippi, we find memorials of her power and traces of her recent dominion. From point to point stretched regions of immense extent and boundless fertility, hemming in the British colonies between them and the Atlantic. Along the whole of this vast and concave boundary of "New France" the French had their forts and strong places, and their busy trading communities. They commanded the St. Lawrence, the Lakes, the Ohio, the Missouri, and the Mississippi, and sometimes threatened to crush the English colonists into the sea. But where now is New France? Over what portion of the North American territory does the French flag now wave? The first serious blow to this magnificent colonial dominion was the conquest of Canada, confining New France to the undefined province of Louisiana, west of the Mississippi. This she retained till the beginning of the present century, when she ceded to the United States, for a pecuniary consideration, a territory not only large enough to
293enable empires to be carved out of it, but possessing, at some points, commercial and political advantages of a most important nature. She then finally retreated from the continent, since which time her colonial possessions in this quarter have been confined to a few islands in the West India seas. But at Quebec, Montreal, St. Louis and New Orleans, in Canada, Missouri and Louisiana, she has left behind her traces which still survive of her former sway. But they are being fast obliterated, particularly within the limits of the Union, where everything that is French, as well as everything that is Spanish, is being rapidly submerged by the great Anglo-Saxon inundation,
No one can enter Edinburgh for the first time without being at once struck by the decided contrast presented between the old town and the new. Standing on opposite ridges, in close and full view of each other, how different are the epochs which they indicate in the progress of humanity! The one is hoary with age, the other lightsome from youth — the one antique in its form and fashion, the other modern in its garb and aspect. Standing side by side, they make the middle age and the nineteenth century as it were to confront each other; the narrow valley between them being all that separates the thing of yesterday from the creation of a bygone time. A contrast resembling this, but neither so striking nor complete, the tourist may witness in New Orleans. This contrast is between the old town and the American quarter. The dividing line between them is Canal-street, a broad and spacious thoroughfare, lined throughout with trees, dividing the two quarters from each other, as Tottenham-court-road separates the east from the west in London. On one side of this line the aspect of the
294town is totally different from its aspect on the other. It is true that Canal-street does not bring, on either side of it, such distant things near, as does the valley between the old town and the new in Edinburgh; for the old town of Edinburgh was old ere any part of New Orleans was yet new. But still the contrast is very great, as not only exhibiting a marked difference in architecture, but also a difference of race. You not only, in crossing Canal-street, seem to bound from one century into another, but you might also fancy that you had crossed the boundary line between two conterminous nations. On the American side the streets are wider, better paved, better lighted, and better cleaned; the architecture is of the most modern style; the shops are large, showy, and elegant; the names over the doors and the names of the streets are familiar to the Anglo-Saxon; the English language is generally spoken, the French being the exception; and the costume of the residents bears a close resemblance to that of all American southern towns. From what has already been said of the old town, the reader may easily infer how much it contrasts, in everything, with the new.
New Orleans does not present much that is striking in the way of public buildings. Being the capital of the State,
295of the great bulk of commendable resolutions. Some of the municipal buildings, though not very extensive, are not without merit, and the same may be said of a few of those dedicated to commerce and its exigencies. Decidedly one of the finest structures in New Orleans is the St. Charles Hotel, situated in the American quarter, and surpassing in extent and good management, though not in exterior elegance, the famous Astor House in New York. It was erected by a company incorporated for the purpose, and is conducted on a scale of magnificence unequalled even in America, where the hotel system is carried to such an extent. It may consequently be said to be without its equal anywhere else. With us hotels are regarded as purely private property, and it is seldom that, in their appearance, they stand out from the mass of private houses around them. In America they are looked upon much more in the light of public concerns, and generally assume in their exterior the character of public buildings. Thus it is with the St. Charles, with its large and elegant Corinthian portico, and the lofty swelling dome which surmounts it. There are many other hotels in the city with "marble halls," and conducted on an extensive scale; but the St. Charles is, in true Yankee phrase, the "cap sheaf" of the whole.
It may seem to be a contradiction in terms, but in New Orleans the cellars are all above-ground. In other words, the basement story of the houses is elevated several feet above the surface, a flight of steps generally leading to the hall-door. This contrivance is evidently the result of necessity, for if they dug into the swampy ground, they would have wells and water-pools instead of cellars.
There are some very elegant and attractive looking residences in the immediate vicinity of the town. They are surrounded, for the most part, by gardens, rich with the perfume of the magnolia, and shaded with orange groves and a great variety of other trees. These houses are generally inhabited by the permanent residents of the place, either those who have been born in Louisiana, or immigrants into the State, who have been long enough within the sedgy limits of the Delta to be thoroughly acclimated. They are almost all wealthy, and for the most part take a run with their families more or less to the north, not so much to avoid the sickly season as in pursuit of pleasure.
Immediately behind the city the swamp extends, in one dismal, unvarying level, to Lake Ponchartrain. Everything attractive about New Orleans is, therefore, confined to itself. In its vicinity there are no "pretty spots" to tempt to a day's excursion. Seek its environs on either side, and you find yourself still in the swamp, still treading a spongy tremulous soil, still amongst cane brakes and thick tangled woods, from which, if you enter them for shelter from the blazing sun, you are unceremoniously driven by legions of musquitos. It is easy to trace, at the back of the town, the lines which new streets are intended to pursue; the rubbish, which is elsewhere collected, being shot in straight lines, of a regular width, into the swamp, to secure, by-and-by, as good a foundation as possible; these lines, as they radiate in different directions, reminding one of the incipient embankments of a railway.
One of the most remarkable objects in the tout ensemble of New Orleans is the Levee — which is an
297embankment extending, on both sides of the river, for about a hundred miles above and about fifty below the city. Its design is to confine the Mississippi to its channel, that stream having, when in flood, rather a wayward turn about it, frequently overflowing its banks and inundating whole counties, and sometimes, tired of its former courses, cutting new channels for itself, for which it occasionally entirely forsakes the old ones. This it is enabled to do from the soft and free character of the alluvial soil through which it flows, when the current is not sufficiently rapid and unimpeded to carry off its accumulated waters. It has more than once happened, that a planter has thus been transferred over-night, with his family and property, from the left to the right bank of the river, or vice versâ; lying down at night, say in Mississippi, and awaking to find himself, in the morning, in Arkansas. Some might think the change not undesirable. On other occasions he has not been so lucky, the new channel not being sufficiently large to drain the old, when he has found himself suddenly isolated, and cut off from all communication with the world; an awkward position, particularly if he had not formerly been addicted to boat-building. The new channels are generally deserted when the waters subside to their usual level, but they are sometimes permanently retained.
In passing through the Delta, — an enormous triangular formation, with an area of upwards of 15,000 square miles, and which is the result of the combined action of the river and its tributaries, which are constantly carrying down from the vast alluvial regions, through which they flow, material which they deposit for the formation of new territories on the Gulf, — irruptions
298by the river into the circumjacent country are prevented by its being confined to its channel by the Levee. It is all the more necessary thus to confine it, as in its course through the Delta the bed of the river is being gradually raised above the level of the country on either side. It has more than once broken through this embankment, submerging and devastating large sections of the country; the volume of water in the channel being so great, that the Levee, though strong and compact, could not, at the points to which it gave away, resist the pressure.
The process by which the bed of the river is being thus gradually elevated is a very obvious one. The fine silt, which, from the junction of the Missouri with it, so largely impregnates its waters, and gives to it the turgid, muddy appearance which it presents, is being gradually deposited at the bottom. This process, however, would but very slowly elevate the channel, were it not for the annual aid which it receives from the floods of the river; for the material brought down by the stream, when at its ordinary level, is almost all by degrees forced by the current to its mouths, where it is finally applied to the extension of the Delta. But when the river is in flood, it is more than usually turgid, carrying with it an extra quantity of material, a portion of which it leaves on the open country which it invades, but the greater part of which is deposited upon and between its banks. When the river returns to its ordinary size, a portion of the extra quantity of soil thus deposited is carried down by it to the Gulf, but a portion of it still remains, when the floods again appear to leave new deposits behind them. Thus both the banks and the channel are being gradually raised above the surrounding level.
It follows, of course, that everything which tends to confine the river to its own bed, aids the process by which the channel is raised, inasmuch as the material is thus deposited in the channel which, otherwise, would be left upon the surrounding surface inundated by the stream. Thus the process by which it periodically elevates its banks, contributes greatly to the elevation of the bottom of the channel. And this suggests a very serious reflection in connexion with the Levee; for this result of the elevation of the river's banks will take place, whether they are naturally or artificially raised. Except when their pressure is sufficiently great to break through it, the floods for about 100 miles above and 50 below New Orleans are confined to the bed of the river, by which the process of elevating it is quickened, and more particularly as in its approach to the Gulf the strength of the current sensibly diminishes. It would seem, then, that that to which the city now looks for its protection is only a means of aggravating the evil. The Levee is now kept in repair by dues which are exclusively appropriated to it; but it must not only be kept in repair, but gradually elevated, as the bed of the river rises. The level of the city is already several feet below the surface of the river at high water, so that every year would seem to increase the disadvantages of its position. Already it is difficult, if not impossible, to drain the town into the river; but the time will yet come when it will be clearly impossible to do so. Its only resource then will be to be drained into Lake Ponchartrain. But New Orleans runs another very serious risk from this constant elevation of the channel of the river, and that is, that, some day or other, the Mississippi will desert it altogether. The higher the channel
300rises, the more will the current diminish in strength, and the more, consequently, in flood-time, will the waters accumulate above. So much will this yet be the case, that the want of sufficient current in the lower part of the river to drain the channel above will virtually operate as an impediment to the stream, which will then accumulate to such a degree at some point above the Levee as to enable it to break through all obstacles, and seek an entirely new channel to the Gulf. It is, therefore, not improbable that the present course of the stream may yet be traced by a long and devious ridge running across the Delta, whilst the Mississippi is finding a readier outlet through Lake Ponchartrain to the Gulf.
There are few towns on the surface of the globe possessing such a medley of population as New Orleans. There are five distinct bases to the mixed race that inhabits it — the Anglo-American, the French, the Spanish, the African, and the Indian. Not only is each of these to be found in it unmixed with any other, but they are all commingled, the one with the other, in a variety of ways and in interminable degrees. The bulk of the population, however, at present consists of Anglo-Americans and French Creoles; the former having no blood in their veins but that of the Saxon, and the latter having in it a small admixture of the American and the Spanish, but none other. But the majority of the Creole population are of pure French extraction, natives of Louisiana; a small proportion of them having in their veins the yet unadulterated blood of Castile, and still speaking the Spanish language; and the remainder, also a small proportion, being, as already said, a mixture of the French and Spanish blood. The African race does not preponderate in point of
301numbers in New Orleans, but it constitutes not far from fifty per cent. of the entire population. Of these not more than one-sixth are free blacks, no less than two-fifths of the whole population of New Orleans being still held in bondage. The pure Indians are exceedingly few in number, as happily is also the mixed breed between the Indian and the negro, which forms so large and so degraded a proportion of the population of the Mexican confederacy. The mulatto, and the many shades which succeed, and also the mixed white and Indian race, are much more common, the latter being in smaller proportion, however, than the former. The race partly partaking of the blood of the aborigines is not a despised one in America; whilst that inheriting, in the smallest appreciable degree, the blood of the African, is put universally under the ban of society. Unfortunately, even when colour ceases to designate the inheritor of negro blood, it leaves upon the features apparently ineradicable traces to betray it. Their antipathy is kept alive by the whites long after every thing that may be considered repulsive in the negro has disappeared by successive infusions of white blood into his veins. Lovelier women than the quadroons, those removed in the fourth degree from the negro, are nowhere to be found. The exaggerations of the negro form are softened down in them into those graceful curves which give roundness and elegance to the shape; the woolly and crispy hair is superseded by a luxuriant growth of long, straight, and silken tresses; the eye is black, large, round, liquid, and languishing, whilst the huge flat features of the negro are modified into a contour embodying rather a voluptuous expression. The complexion is beautiful and well befitting the sunny south, a slight
302shade underlying the transparent skin, whilst on the cheek a bright carnation intervenes between the two. Despite all their charms, however, they are a proscribed race, living only to minister to the sensualities of those who will not elevate them to an equality with themselves. It is astonishing to witness the degree to which they are seemingly reconciled to their fate. From their infancy they learn that there is but one course of life before them, and as they reach maturer years they glide into it without either struggle or reluctance.
The inhabitants of New Orleans may be again divided into its resident and its peripatetic population. The former include the Creoles — few of whom, being natives of the town, ever leave it; and the negroes, and the mixed races, who have no option but to remain. The latter, the transitory population, are chiefly composed of the Anglo-Americans; a small proportion of whom are natives of the city, and the bulk of them abandoning it on the approach of the sickly season. A little more than one-fifth of the whole population thus annually migrate from the town, the runaways returning as soon as the dangerous period for such as are unacclimated is past. From the beginning of July, until the winter begins to make its appearance in October, the stranger who does not quit New Orleans must be very cautious how he acts during the first, second, and even third season of his acclimation. The process is one which proves fatal to many, notwithstanding all their care, fevers of a severe bilious type carrying hundreds off, even when the great scourge, the yellow fever, is not at work. There is, however, a very exaggerated notion abroad of the unhealthiness of New Orleans. It will have been seen that the annual migration to
303escape disease is a feature as common to social life throughout the whole sea-coast region, extending from the Potomac to Florida, as it is to that of New Orleans. It is true, that in the case of New Orleans is to be superadded the almost annual visitation of the dreadful epidemic which sometimes creates such havoc in the midst of it; but even this sometimes creeps far up along the coast, proving itself as fatal elsewhere as in New Orleans. Whilst the yellow fever has been in New York and Philadelphia, there have been of late, seasons during which it has not made its appearance in New Orleans. Much is annually being done in the way of cleaning, draining, and ventilating the town, for the purpose of entirely averting it, or of modifying its virulence when it visits it. The good effects of this have already made themselves manifest, and the inhabitants are not without hope that the time is not far distant when its visitations will, instead of being regular, be few and far between. They will then only have to cope with the ordinary autumn fevers, which are as common to the whole sea-coast region as they are to the delta of the Mississippi.
The process of acclimation is undoubtedly a perilous one, but so it would be on the lower parts of the James River. There, however, parties are not compelled to undergo it; but in New Orleans the necessities of business, and the temptations which exist to induce people to run the risk, make many encounter the process, great numbers passing successfully through it. Once acclimated, no persons enjoy better health than the resident population of New Orleans; whilst the natives of the city, particularly of the Anglo-American race, are as tall, strong,
304and healthy a set of men as can be found in any part of the Union. Much of the unhealthiness, which would otherwise be incident to the city and the district in the midst of which it stands, is counteracted by the keen winds which now and then sweep down the valley from the north, not only purifying the atmosphere in the neighbourhood of New Orleans, but making themselves felt along the whole coast of the Gulf of Mexico, being as well known in Vera Cruz as in the capital of Louisiana.
The people of New Orleans are a very pleasure-loving people. Americans and French, negroes, mulattoes, or quadroons, as soon as the business of the day is over, give themselves up, more or less, to every species of gaiety and dissipation. The Creole population being almost entirely catholic, much of the manners of continental Europe is visible in New Orleans. These were established before the cession, and the soberer character and severer tenets of the American and protestant population have not yet been able to make much headway against them; and it will be long ere the strict moral discipline of the northern towns is introduced to any extent into New Orleans. A change may be effected when the resident protestant population becomes more numerous, but not before; for the peripatetic protestants, who form so large a proportion of the American population, regard their sojourn in New Orleans in the light of a somewhat protracted visit, and make up their minds, as most visitors do every where, to enjoy themselves. The consequence is, that the gaiety and dissipation of the place are kept up by the Creoles and the floating American population, who by their combined numbers and influence completely
305overbear the resident section of the latter, who, although mingling freely in the more innocent amusements, having local reputations to sustain, keep aloof from the scenes of more questionable gaiety with which the town abounds. There are three theatres, one French and two English, which are seldom shut, and are generally well attended; and during the winter season particularly, scarcely a night passes over New Orleans without its public balls and masquerades. Some of them, particularly in the French quarter, are the mere nuclei for every species of demoralization. They are frequently the occasion of brawls, and sometimes the witnesses of fatal collisions; many of the men attending them being armed, the handle of the "Bowie knife," or the "Arkansas toothpick," a still more terrible weapon, being not unfrequently visible, protruding from a pocket made for it inside of the waistcoat. The greatest attendance at these scenes, and indeed at the theatres, is on Sunday.
But it is now time to advert to New Orleans in connexion with its commercial position, and the political influence incident to that position.
If we consider for a moment the different circumstances which, at any particular point, call for the existence of a large entrepôt of trade, we must perceive, on looking at the situation of New Orleans, that whilst some of these circumstances already exist in its vicinity, they are yet all destined to develope themselves around it to an extent unparalleled in any other quarter of the world. Wherever we find a large community with diversified wants to be supplied from abroad, inhabiting a vast fertile region, producing in superfluous abundance the articles which will be received by the foreigner in exchange, that community
306must have some great entrepôt, either on or near the ocean, to serve as the medium or pivot of its export and import trade. Behind New Orleans both these conditions exist in preeminent degree; and the city itself is the result. The Mississippi valley is a region almost illimitable in its extent and inexhaustible in its fertility, lying between the parallel ridges of the Allegany and the Rocky Mountains, and extending in a northerly and southerly direction from the 29th to the 47th parallel of latitude. This enormous region, for nearly two-thirds of its whole extent, possesses a soil fertile to a degree, and yields in abundance every variety of crop and fruit produced in the temperate zone, with many of the productions more common to the tropical regions of the globe. Its western portion, that lying between a line drawn parallel to the Mississippi, about 400 miles to the west of it, and the Rocky Mountains, is sandy, rocky, and sterile; the rest, stretching across the Mississippi and eastward to the Allegany chain, being unequalled in fertility by any other portion of the earth's surface. This great valley, in its cultivable area, is about ten times the size of Great Britain, and it now comprises within its limits eleven of the States of the Union. There is nowhere else so enormous a surface cast as it were in one mould, and forming one great system. From the Alleganies to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Lakes to the Gulf, it spreads out in one huge undivided basin, irrigated by one mighty system of rivers, and possessing but one natural outlet to the ocean. At this outlet stands New Orleans, which has thus a position in point of commercial importance unparalleled by that of any other seaport in the world.
It is more in connexion with its future prospects than its present condition that we are to appreciate the importance of the position of New Orleans. It is impossible, when one reflects for a moment upon the coming destiny of the great region which lies beyond it, to set anything like reasonable bounds to its future extent, wealth, and greatness. There can scarcely be a doubt but that it will, at no very distant period, be the greatest commercial emporium in the world. At present it is, more or less, the entrepôt for the trade of upwards of nine millions of people, the population of the great valley at present exceeding that number. In 1810 it did not possess half a million of inhabitants. In 1840 its population as compared with 1810 was multiplied by eighteen times. What will it be in 1870? On the lowest computation it will be twenty-five millions; but even this will only be a commencement in the work of filling it. Without having to sustain as many to the square mile as England now sustains, the valley of the Mississippi can accommodate and subsist 150 millions of people. In regarding the future of New Orleans we are entitled to look to the time when the valley behind it will teem with population. The inhabitants of the valley are, and ever will be, an industrious people. Conceive 150 millions at work in the same great basin, with a fertile soil on all hands for them to cultivate! They will necessarily be chiefly agricultural, for the main sources of the wealth of the valley are in the diversified capabilities of its soil. Throughout the whole of its northern region cereal crops are, and ever will be, produced in the greatest abundance; its middle section will yield tobacco, Indian corn, hemp, and flax, live stock, and cotton;
308whilst the cotton-plant and the sugar-cane will form the staples of its productions in the south. When it is all under cultivation, who can estimate the wealth which each successive year will draw from it? There will be annually an enormous surplus for exportation, and an immense yearly void to be filled by imports. It is true that much of its surplus productions will find outlets to foreign markets in the Atlantic seaports, by means of the great lines of communication already adverted to as connecting them with the valley; but if New Orleans has to act as the entrepôt of one-half, or even one-third of its entire trade, it would still, in the importance of its position, vastly surpass every other mercantile emporium in the world, for it would in that case be yet called upon to act as the medium through which would be transacted the export and import trade of from fifty to seventy-five millions of people.
What renders the situation of New Orleans still more imposing, is the magnificent and bounteous manner in which nature has irrigated the valley of the Mississippi. It is not only of exuberant fertility almost throughout its entire length and breadth, and capable of sustaining an industrious population amounting to three-fourths of that of all Europe; but it is also watered by a system of streams all navigable in their channels, and the commingled waters of which pass by New Orleans in their common course to the ocean. Nature has thus, without putting man, in this favoured region, to either trouble or expense, provided him, on all hands, with highways to the sea, with the like of which no trouble and expense on his part could ever have provided him. The Mississippi itself is, as it were, the great spinal cord of this vast
309system of irrigation. Pursuing its long and snake-like course along the lowest level of the valley, it receives on either bank, as it rolls majestically along, tributaries almost as extensive and as lordly as itself. Amongst the chief are the Wabash, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Tennessee, the Red River, the Arkansas, and the White River, all navigable for steamers and vessels of large draught, for hundreds of miles from their confluence with their common reservoir; and one of them, the Missouri, for thousands of miles. Ascending the Mississippi from New Orleans to its confluence with the Missouri, and then ascending the Missouri to the extreme point of its navigation, the combined navigable channels of the two streams exceed in length three thousand miles! Ascending the Mississippi and Ohio in the same way, their combined navigable channels are about two thousand miles in length. The Red River itself is navigable for thirteen hundred miles above its junction with the Mississippi. These tributaries again have their tributaries, some of which are navigable for hundreds of miles; and these again theirs, navigable for shorter distances. Thus the system goes on, increasing its ramifications as it penetrates into the interior, where its remoter, minor, and innumerable branches dwindle into the proportions of streams navigable only to the barge and the flat boat. But vessels of large draught navigate the Mississippi, its tributaries, their tributaries, and the chief of their tributaries again; that is to say, vessels of large draught can, in some instances, ascend into tributaries removed in the fourth degree from the Mississippi! This noble system of rivers permeates the richest portions of the valley; its arid, or more westerly part, being but
310indifferently irrigated by streams which are generally shallow, and whose channels are frequently interrupted by rapids. It would almost seem as if every farmer or planter in the valley had his own land skirted by a navigable stream. When to this natural is added the artificial irrigation, which will yet connect river with river in every direction, how great will be the facilities, not only for mutual interchange, but for pouring, with a view to exportation, the surplus productions of the valley upon the ocean! It is almost impossible to set limits to the extent to which canals will yet intersect the valley. The necessity for them will be obvious, and their construction easy; for nature has already, as it were, regulated the levels, leaving man only to dig out the soil. It was, no doubt, in view of all this, as forming part and parcel of the future destiny of this great region, that De Tocqueville designated it "the most magnificent habitation that God ever designed for man."
To sum up the favourable points connected with the position of New Orleans, it may here be added, that it stands at the outlet of about 25,000 miles of inland navigation! And in this estimate those streams only are embraced which are navigable for steamboats and vessels of large draught. What will yet be the amount of produce thrown upon it through such means, existing in such a region, or the amount of imports which, by the same means, it will yet have to distribute through it, I leave the reader, if he can, to appreciate. I have said enough to make out my proposition, that there is that in the position of New Orleans, which will yet render it the greatest commercial emporium, not only in America, but in the world; for, with the wide ocean before it, and the
311great human hive which will yet resound to the hum of universal industry behind, what bounds can be set to its progress?
The political importance of such a position did not escape the wary and far-seeing government at Washington. Previously to the cession of Louisiana, the Americans were confined to the east bank of the Mississippi, and that only for a part, although by far the greater part of its course; its lower portion flowing, like the St. Lawrence, exclusively through the territory of a foreign power. But possessed as they were of by far the better bank of the river, which was being rapidly colonized not only from Europe but also from the seaboard States, and which, at an early time, gave evidence of what its future wants would be, at no very distant period, in a commercial point of view, — they foresaw that without a free access at all times to the ocean, the enormous section of their territory stretching from the Alleganies to the Mississippi, would be in the position of Russia, a country of immense resources, pent up, as it were, within itself, and whose only outlets to the markets of the world are by the narrow straits of the Sound and the Bosphorus, its use of these depending, to a great extent, upon the caprice of foreign powers. The policy of the Union was evidently to secure a free course to the ocean for the commerce of the valley. To leave the mouth of the Mississippi entirely within the control of another power, was to leave in its hands a most profitable possession in time of peace, and one which would exercise a most inconvenient influence in time of war. The Union, therefore, had two courses before it; either to secure the left bank of the river, the whole way to the gulf, by
312virtue of which its navigation would be common to it and the colonies of France on the other bank; or, if possible, to get hold of both banks, from its sources to the ocean. It wisely played the higher game, and succeeded; the cession of Louisiana putting it in possession, not only of both banks where it had but the one before, but also of the lower part of the river, from which it was previously excluded. The necessities of the French treasury happened to coincide with the views and policy of the Federal Grovernment; and in 1803 the flag of France was struck on the continent, leaving the Americans the undisputed masters of the valley, of the river, and of all its tributaries.
Both the political and commercial importance of New Orleans have been partly trenched upon, as already shown by the great lines of communication which have been established, to connect the valley with the Atlantic seaboard, and to bring the Atlantic cities within the category of its seaports. But for these New Orleans would have been its sole outlet to the ocean. Its northern and north-eastern sections now chiefly find their way to the seaboard and to foreign markets by the lakes, the St. Lawrence, the Erie canal, and the Pennsylvania canals and railways. But to all the region south of the Missouri on one side, and bordering the Ohio on the other, the one 1,200 and the other 1,000 miles from New Orleans, the Mississippi is still and ever will remain, if not the exclusive, the chief outlet to the ocean. The principal grain-growing region lies north of these streams, but to large sections of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, the Mississippi will be the medium for the exportation of grain; particularly of such as is sent from the valley
313to the West India and South American markets. Whatever the eastern cities may do to convert themselves into entrepôts for the trade of the west, New Orleans will always share in the trade of the whole of it; whilst to a large portion of it, it will ever be indispensable. Should a separation ever occur between the eastern and western States, which the communications opened with the Atlantic render the more improbable, the importance of New Orleans to the latter could not be over-estimated. And even should there be a separation between the western States themselves, such an event would have but little effect upon the prospects of the city. But such separation is scarcely within the range of probabilities. Whether combined with the East or not, the West will ever remain united. Its interests are one — its pursuits one — its component parts occupy the same great basin, and are united together by a common interest and a common necessity. The Mississippi is the great bond between them; its tributaries are the minor ligaments which bind them together; and whatever fate may yet await the other portions of the Confederacy, there is but little doubt that the States of Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, will ever remain united together in a close commercial and political alliance.
The New Orleans of the present day is typical of the greatness of the New Orleans of a future time. It would be here out of place to enter into any elaborate statistical statements with regard to its export or import trade, either in their present development, or the rapid expansion which they have undergone during the last quarter of a century. Its
314chief articles of export are cotton, rice, hemp, flax, Indian corn, salted provisions, and sugar, the last mentioned commodity being now the principal product of Louisiana. Its imports, being drawn from almost all points of the globe, are too varied to be here enumerated. At the cession the trade of New Orleans was but small; already it has swelled into colossal dimensions. A glance at its population returns will show the rapidity with which it has increased; and its increase in size is the sole result of the increase of its trade; for New Orleans is not the place to which people would retire merely to live. In 1810 its population, in round numbers, was 17,000. In 1820 it had risen to 27,000, being an increase in ten years of from 60 to 70 per cent. In 1830 the returns showed a population of 46,000, or an increase, during the preceding decade, of about the same per-centage as before. But in 1840 the population had risen in numbers to 102,000, being considerably more than 100 per cent. increase during these ten years. At present the number of people inhabiting it cannot be far from 150,000. And this despite not only its insalubrity, but also the exaggerated notions which are abroad, even in America, of its unhealthiness. Considering the many disadvantages under which it labours, nothing more conclusive could be adduced than this rapid advancement, in proof of the imperious necessity, in a commercial point of view, of which it is the result. As this necessity expands with the growth of population, the accumulation of produce, and the multiplication of wants in the Mississippi valley, the city, in continued obedience to the principle which first exhaled it from the swamps of the Delta, must expand with it, attaining no final limit until the valley
315can contain no more, produce no more, and consume no more. The sense which its inhabitants entertain of its future increase is manifest in the scale on which they have laid out the plan of the city, providing not only for its present necessities, but for its future growth; for each of the municipalities into which it is divided extends from the river to Lake Ponchartrain, a distance of from five to six miles. Should it ever reach the lake, its principal front will then be turned upon the gulf, when it will be flanked by two harbours, one on the river for the trade with the interior, and the other on the lake for its intercourse with the North and with foreign ports.
Many think that a healthier site might have been chosen higher up the river, which would have answered all the purposes of the present one, and made the town much more healthy. But a site so chosen would not have answered all the purposes of the present one; the object in selecting it having been to erect it upon the nearest practicable point to the sea. Had an attempt been made to build a city a little higher up, it would have had to compete with another, which, despite the disadvantages of the present site, would inevitably have occupied it. New Orleans might have been built higher up, but not lower down the river.
The South occasionally exhibits some restlessness at the extent to which the North has become its medium of communication with England. Its export trade is carried on directly with Europe, but a great proportion of its imports, particularly in the case of the southern Atlantic States, reach it through the northern ports. What it aims at is that its import should be as direct as its export trade; and more
316particularly that it should possess a direct mail and passenger communication with Europe. However valid the objection may be to an extensive land carriage of goods, or their separate conveyance to the South by coasting vessels, after their arrival at the northern ports, the price being in either case greatly enhanced to the consumer in the South — with regard to letters and passengers it is an objection which scarcely holds. A glance at the map will show that the shortest mathematical line which can be drawn between Liverpool and Charleston, or New Orleans, will run up the American coast to New York and Boston, and thence past Halifax and Cape Race to St. George's Channel. By the present mode of communication, New York and Boston can be much more speedily reached by the overland journey than they could be passed from either Charleston or New Orleans by sea. It may be a little more expensive, but what is lost in money is more than saved in time. Besides, hundreds, and in the case of New Orleans thousands of miles of sea are always to be avoided if possible; and more particularly when a journey by land is in the direct line of one's course. If in proceeding by land from New Orleans to New York or Boston, on his way to England, the traveller deviated seriously from his course, it might be a matter worthy of consideration whether a more direct mode of communication could not be devised. But the traveller by land from New Orleans to New York, is proceeding in the direct line to Liverpool; every step which he takes towards the north-east bringing him nearer and nearer to that port. And as to the speedy receipt of important commercial or political intelligence from Europe, no direct line of ocean
317communication with the South could compete with that by Boston or New York, now that the electric telegraph may be considered as finished between these ports and New Orleans. The mails too can sooner be distributed through the South, by railways and steamers from the North, than they could by such an independent communication as some aspire to establish. But, as already intimated, the question as to the direct importation of goods, or the establishment of a more direct trade with Europe, rests upon different grounds.
Before leaving the South for the Western States, a few general remarks upon the more prominent peculiarities of Southern life, as they manifest themselves to the traveller, may serve as a not inappropriate conclusion to the present chapter. There is, perhaps, no other country in the world where such a contrast is exhibited between in-door and out-door life as in America. Both in France and Italy, where the pleasures and enjoyments of life partake so much of an out-door character, men and women are, in their domestic relations, pretty much what they are found to be in the gay and giddy world without. In England, on the other hand, where the chief pleasures of life centre in the domestic circle, the traveller carries with him into the world without much of the sedateness and the reserve of home. In both cases, society partakes more or less of the same general characteristics, whether you mingle with it in the public highways or in the private sanctuaries of domestic life. But it is not so in America, where it combines, to a great extent, the more striking characteristics of life both in England and France. The equable character of the seasons, the serenity of
318the sky, the facilities provided both by nature and art for locomotion, and the extent to which, in the prosecution of business, mutual intercourse is carried on, all tend to draw the American more frequently from his home than the Englishman leaves his, and to cause much of his life to be passed, as in France, in the open world without. But, notwithstanding this, he still partakes largely of the domestic preferences of the Englishman. His life is therefore a kind of medium between the two; for whilst he does not live so much abroad as the Frenchman, he does not live so much at home as the Englishman. Society in America has thus two very distinct phases in which it presents itself, that which it assumes in the world without, and that which marks its in-door life. Life in the streets and on the highways is therefore but an imperfect index to American society in the proper acceptation of the term. The distinction between the two aspects which it assumes in the North is not so great as in the South, the former being in perpetual and almost universal motion, whereas the wealthier portion of the inhabitants of the latter pass much of their time in the repose and quietude of rural life. The stranger therefore, who only frequents the public places, lives in the hotels, and traverses the highways of the South, can form but a very imperfect estimate of society in that section of the country. In the South, as in the North, turn which way he will, he will find a stream of people constantly on the move. But in the North the turgid current embraces almost the entire population, whereas in the South there is a large residuum that is seldom in motion. In the North, therefore, society in its external aspect is much more pleasing
319than in the South, inasmuch as its better as well as its more indifferent ingredients mingle more frequently together; but in its internal aspect it is less so, as almost all carry with them into their domestic relations more or less of the asperities of life in the outer world. In the South, society, as the mere traveller through the country comes in contact with it, is by no means attractive, the better elements of social life there mingling less frequently in the current; and for the same reason Southern society, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, is far more refined than that of the North, there being much less of the brusquerie of outward life infused into it. If, then, that with which the traveller meets in the steamboat, in the market, on the street, on the railway, or in the hotel, can convey to him but an inadequate idea of society in the North, much less is that which he encounters under similar circumstances in the South calculated to produce correct impressions of Southern social life. A stranger passing rapidly through the Southern States, and judging of American society from its development upon the streets and highways, would form a much less favourable idea of it than he would of Northern society in travelling rapidly through the North. In the South he is borne along, as he proceeds, upon a stream, possessing far less in common with that through which it passes than the current with which he would mingle in the North possesses of the characteristics of the society through which it flows. Whether on the railway, the high road, the steamboat, and with some exceptions in the hotel, out-door life in the South has far less to recommend it to the stranger than it has in the North. Nowhere is society, in this its public manifestation, very refined in America, but it certainly has a tone about
320it in the North of which in the South it is deficient. Less attention is paid to accommodation as you proceed; every thing seems filthy in the car, the steamer, and the tavern, as compared with the accommodation met with in the Northern States; whilst the further South one proceeds, he naturally looks for the appliances of cleanliness in greater abundance. Even the travellers themselves, taking them generally, are in their tout ensemble less attractive in their appearance, and certainly less refined in their habits, and less particular in their manner, than their Northern fellow-countrymen; whilst not a small proportion of those met with in the extreme South are suspicious in their demeanour, repulsive in their looks, and equivocal in their characters. New Orleans, and the other towns situated near the mouth of the Mississippi, such as Natches and Vicksburg, are infested with characters to whom this latter description applies; vagabonds who can only live in that section of the Union where the population is as yet comparatively scanty, the law but feebly enforced, and public opinion, even when decidedly pronounced against them, as yet too impotent to crush them. These gamblers and desperadoes prey upon the unwary, and sometimes by their mere numbers overawe, pillage, and terrify their more sober and well-disposed fellow-travellers. Such a nuisance in the midst of any community becomes at last so intolerable as to work its own cure; and it has reached that point in the South, the parties in question no longer carrying it with so high a hand as heretofore, and being compelled year after year to envelop their misdeeds more and more in the mantle of secresy.
The reader must not imagine that in travelling through the South one is constantly surrounded by