« ElőzőTovább »
Inquiries are again instituted. The question is daily agitated and discussed. Now we are told that the basis of Northern wealth is commerce, and commerce is accordingly the panacea prescribed as a remedy for our distemper. The whole South is agitated. . Conventions are held for the purpose of promoting Southern com
These appear now to be of annual recurrence, and as one has not long since closed its session in this city, we propose to append to their discussions a planter's inquiry into the true policy of the South.
Our Southern friend, whom we find at Saratoga, gradually subsiding from the sublime nabob to an ordinary, civil-spoken and well-behaved gentleman, must have observed, that those who have thus cruelly taken the wind out of his sails are all citizens. They come from Boston, or New York or Philadelphia. True, they may possess magnificent villas on the Hudson, on the Delaware, or on some charming site in Massachusetts, but these are not their homes; they are their places of recreation, to which they resort as a temporary relaxation from the toils and excitement of city life. He finds none who are dependent upon the soil, or if any, they are graziers, the extent of whose possessions fills him with amazement. Now, though our friend may register his name as a citizen of Charleston, and claims to represent the refinement of that city, he is, in reality, a countryman, bound to the soil which is tilled for him by his slaves, and conscious that, though he resorts to the city for his pleasure, his home, his business and his affections are on his plantation. Here, then, is a comparison instituted between two parties who do not occupy a common position. The estate of the Southerner, perhaps his patrimony, is vested in a concern, which, though varying in infinite degrees as to the amount of profit, has still a limit to its profits. He has, therefore, no reason to complain, if others, pursuing other modes of industry, should surpass himn in revenue. His position is altered relatively, but his capital remains the same, unimpaired. No injury has been done him, even though others have gone before him. He has ceased to be a nabob ; his vanity has received a wound, and that is all.
The persons, whose wealth has offended our planter, derive their revenues from the profits of commerce or manufactures.
Their wealth is an indication of the general activity of business in their respective cities, and with the general prosperity of these several cities, their wealth increases or diminishes. With the planter the case appears to be different. He appears to have no special interest in the commercial prosperity of the South, or of any portion of it. From the nature of his productions he is interested (more deeply, perhaps, than any other man) in the prosperity of the civilized world, but is not affected, beneficially, at least, by that of the particular town in which he sells his produce. The great object of the planter is to sell his produce at the highest price, and purchase his supplies at the lowest. His interests are more cosmopolitan than those of any class of men. ductions of his labor being in demand chiefly in the other hemisphere, suffer no variation in price at the different markets at which they are exposed for sale. Their prices depend, not upon the commercial prosperity of any particular city, but upon the ability of the world to pay for them. If cotton commanded a higher price in New York than in Charleston, the latter city would soon cease to sell a bale of that article. Our factors would be merely shipping agents and our planters' accounts would be kept in New York. All the towns in the interior are cotton marts ; and it not unfrequently happens that the planters have sold their crops there for better prices than were obtained at the place of its consumption.
We think that before we close we shall go further, and prove that the planter, if he consults his interests merely, would be opposed to the commercial prosperity of the South; but before we proceed to this subject let us notice some peculiarities of Southern civilization, which render nugatory with us all those appliances of progress which at the Nort
which at the North and elsewhere contribute so largely to dazzle the eye of the beholder.
It is said to have been an apothegm of Mr. Macon, whose character for wisdom has been attested by so many distinguished persons, that good roads are the union of a country. We have long pondered over the paradox, and though not yet prepared to adopt it, must yet declare that in our judgment they are of very little advantage to our country.
Our staple product finds its way to market either by means of the river whose waters have assisted in its culture, or by wagons. These wagons are not without their use in the economy of a plantation. The teams by which they are drawn are employed during the summer in making the crop; after, and during the harvest they impel the machinery by which it is prepared for market, and when a wagon load is ready they haul it to the market town. The wagon on its return is freighted with plantation supplies, or with goods for a neighboring country store. This was the routine of a planter's economy before railways were constructed in the Southern country; and this continues to be the case in spite of the numerous tracks which now interlace the country. Why make use of a railway to do that which a necessary but unemployed team always has done and may as well continue to do? It
may be urged that by employing the iron road for transportation the teams may be kept at home and made available for the greater improvement of the plantation. This may be true, but it is not universally felt. Besides there is great uncertainty in railway accommodation. For it is a fact now generally understood, that however specious the inducements offered to the agricultural interest, to induce it to interest itself in their stock, the railways naturally and perhaps necessarily regard the commercial interests at their extremities, and regarding the country produce on their lines as certainly theirs, make no special efforts for their accommodation. Produce is, therefore, kept waiting at their different stations until the heart of the planter sickens with deferred hope, and he finds it expedient whenever he wishes to meet a fair market to commit his goods to his old-fashioned, but trustworthy team, and to eschew the seductive steam of the locomotive.
But even then it may be urged, a good road must be an advantage, granted, provided it be not burthened with heavy tolls. Time is not always money. A loaded wagon must proceed slowly over the best road; and the trifling gain or loss of time on a short journey may not be sufficient to counterbalance the additional cost of a turnpike. This requires no illustration from those, who, liv
ing in the city, know how the rate of freights influence the price of cotton. Good roads are the luxuries provided for travellers ; country produce has always made a shift to get along very well over an ordinary road.
The truth is, that our people do not understand the art of making money out of small things; what effects might have been produced by good roads, we cannot pretend ever to determine, but it is certain that our railroads offer no inducement whatever to this sort of economy. When the South Carolina railway was first projected, our people were flattered with the notion that it would fill the city with country produce. It was to give an impetus to rural enterprise of all kinds. Their expectations have not been realized. The Goose Creek trucks and negro's boats of the Islands still furnish us with our poultry. The region of country laid under contribution for this article is not enlarged, nor their price diminished; and our beef market in summer is still as melancholy and as wretched as before the construction of the road. Nor have we derived nearly all the advantage which its passage through a fine fruit country promised. If proper accommodations were furnished, the railway would be lined with orchards from Summerville to Aiken; but as it is, thousands of barrels are said to be destroyed, because of the high price demanded for their freight. A case occurred lately, under our own observation which illustrates how completely the rural interest is made to bend before the commercial interest. A friend received by the same train six bales of cotton, which even sold for upwards of a hundred dollars a bale, and two coops of chickens, for which he had paid three dollars. The freight charged on those two consignments was the same. He further stated that at the station where he had purchased the chickens, an immense number of these unfortunate animals were waiting, destined for the Charleston market, but detained there by an embargo, not only in the shape of excessive freight, but by the absolute reluctance of the management to give them transportation.
These facts are mentioned, not in the spirit of complaint, but as an illustration of the position already taken, that the prosperity of Charleston is independent of the rural interest, and uncon
nected with it. Peaches and chickens can hardly afford to travel over a road which cost twenty thousand dollars a mile. By means of her railroads, the city has laid under contribution a greater area of the staple producing country. As a cotton mart, and as a receiving port, she has increased, but her road has contributed nothing to the homely, every-day comforts of her citizens. Nay, it has contracted them. For while her population, both permanent and transient, has considerably increased, the one from which her supplies are obtained remains stationary, and the increased demand not being met by an increased supply, has led to the present high price of living.
Were it not a fact, which may be easily verified by any one who would take the trouble to inquire, we would be afraid of incurring the suspicion of dealing in romance, when we assert that increased facilities for communication are of no advantage either to the cities or to the rural population. Charleston stands at the junction of two rivers which are navigable for twenty and forty miles respectively. In addition to these by means of the Stono and the Wando, a water communication may be had with the adjacent country in four different directions. But one of these rivers is the source of steamboat navigation. A steamer plies once or twice a week on Cooper River. And if anything is calculated to excite the admiration of our Northern friends it is the history of steam navigation on that river. The charge for freight or passage is the same, whether the destination be Red Bank, ten miles from the city, or Stony Landing, the highest point on the river. There is to be sure a good reason for this. But this is not all. To be allowed to land at any wharf on the river is a favor, and the privilege is sometimes altogether refused. Any one acquainted with New England can imagine how eagerly the owners of land on such a river, would compete to induce the boats to make landing places of their wharves. That which they consider a great good we consider somewhat of a nuisance. And the reason of the difference is obvious. The Northerner looks forward to his farm becoming henceforth a town and hopes to become rich by operating in town lots. The planter has no such expectation, and finds himself exposed to many annoyances from