Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

his situation, which at times become intolerable. And if the curious speculator would examine these Cooper-River boats on their return from the head of the river in order to estimate the profit to the city generally, that is the amount of marketable produce to be sold, his disappointment would be extreme. We venture to assert that in nine trips out of ten, bating an occasional load of cotton, there is absolutely nothing brought down to be sold. The whole freight consists of small plantation stuff for the use of the planters who live in town, and this is brought at a charge so considerable that it is often questionable whether it is not cheaper to purchase in the market of the city than to pay the freight. It is well known that in Autumn the rice birds frequently darken the air on Cooper River and are killed in great abundance. Who ever sees a rice bird for sale in the Charleston market ? We think it may be asserted with truth that the pheasant is as well known to our people as these little fatlings of our rice fields. Our rivers abound in fish, some of which are unrivalled in flavor by that of any fresh-water in America, but they never find their way to Charleston, while the cod from Boston may be obtained fresh in its season ; and if our market abounds in shad in their season, we are indebted for it to Northern enterprise. The lovers of this fish in Charleston may congratulate themselves that every Northern river abounds in shad, otherwise we should have the mortification of seeing the produce of our rivers pass by our wharves on their way to a New York or Boston market.

When facts like these are noticed, they are usually mentioned to the reproach of our planters, and they are accused of want of enterprise. But this is doing them injustice, and is a reproach brought only by those who know not their peculiar position. Let it be remembered that our planters are engaged in the cultivation of great staples, and from long habits of balancing accounts at the end of every year only, lose, in fact, never acquire the habit

* We remember once coming down with a large supply of watermelons, for which the freight was two cents a piece, and the first sounds which saluted our ears on passing through the market was, watermelɔns at three cents.

of considering small occasional gains. He who calculates the value of his rice crop by thousands of dollars, is not likely to put himself to any trouble to make a few additional dollars by the sale of rice birds. If success has crowned his labors, he cares not for the small addition ; if, on the other hand, his crop is lost, the loss is too great to make this little saving an object. There is, after all, a great deal of the hazard of mercantile life in the planter's pursuit, and as the merchant abandons to his clerks samples and remnants, so does the planter reject those incidental aids which are turned to a profit by other agriculturists. Again : On Cooper River are to be found immense beds of limestone, excelling, in richness of calcareous matter, any known deposits in the world, and yet it may happen, and we think it likely that it has happened, that lime from Thomaston has been purchased for the use of these plantations. Certainly none is made for sale, and the supply for Charleston continues to come from Thomaston. This appears strange, and tells against the planter's energy. But not necessarily so. Of two mines which lie before us, we naturally work the more valuable. If the planter's swamps, cultivated in rice, yield him a larger profit, than he could derive from his lime pits, would it not argue a strange want of interest if he should abandon the former and devote himself to the latter ? On Goose Creek and Back River it is found to be more profitable to make bricks than rice, and bricks are, accordingly, the staples of those rivers. So, too, when the proprietor of Miphis bluffs shall discover that his lime will be likely to yield a higher rate of profit than his rice fields, the latter will be abandoned, and Miphis lime will

an article in the Charleston market as that from Thomaston. When our planters are thus taunted with want of enterprize, because they will not and cannot do everything, it is forgotten that our country is sparsely peopled, and that rural occupations furnish a comfortable living to all. Our people are not yet driven to live by their wits. As long as this is the case great fortunes can not be made. For we believe it is indisputable that the ingenuity of man is more creative of wealth than the cultivation of God's earth. Among the various devices of Northern ingenuity with which our streets abound, none has ever affected

be as

common

[ocr errors]

us so much as the little pegs with a slit in them, for the purpose of keeping clothes fast to the clothes-line. Dr. Lieber regards as a sublime idea the making of screws all of one pattern, so that an accident to machinery may be easily repaired in any part of the world. If this obvious suggestion of utility is to be called a sublime idea, how are we to consider that which proposes to grow rich by supplying a homely want of a washerwoman. To us, it appears the ne plus ultra of human daring.

Our planters will probably never furnish washerwomen with pins for their clothes-lines, but want of enterprise and sagacity to perceive their interests are not their faults. It is true that their movements must be slow. The investments on a plantation are not readily shifted about; and a sense of interest frequently compels the planter to continue in his old course until arrangements for a change can be completed. Our economical doctors are continually prescribing a variety of occupations as a panacea for our supposed evils; as well might the medical practitioner prescribe a sound state of health to his consulting patient. In all other countries the instinct of capital is unerring in finding its natural operation ; and so it is here. The proper occupation of capital in these States is the raising of staple crops; any other diversion of it is unwise, and generally unsuccessful. Every man in these States who has realized a capital, invests it in agriculture. This alone is a proof that though perhaps not the most productive, it is the safest investment. And let no one argue from the failures of planters that theirs is necessarily a bad busi

Men are unsuccessful in every walk of life, and he who fails as a planter, would not probably succeed in any other occupation. In fact, the very safest occupation for a man of desultory habits is the planter's life. In a great measure his business goes on without his attention, and though he will not thrive in this any more than he would in any other pursuit, it may be said that he will be longer in coming to his end.

We have thus shown how small is the interest which the planter has in the commercial prosperity of the South, and how indifferent the great interests of our cities is to that of our rural population. There is, however, one feature in the civilization of the

ness.

South which we have always regarded with concern, and which we would gladly see improved. It is, that men have no sense of mutual dependence. Absenteeism, which has been regarded as

the bane of Ireland, is here felt only as a social loss. Society • may deplore the loss of a planter, but his absence or presence

does not affect the material well-being of others. In all other countries there is a natural connection and dependence between the rich and the poor, and however artificial may be the grades of society, they are linked together by a chain of connections so imperceptible, that when the middle class only is examined, it may appear to belong either to the upper or the lower sphere, according to the point from which it is viewed. Not so here. The line is marked. On one side lies the planter class, on the other the poor. Individuals may pass over the line, but the transition is abrupt. There are no intermediate resting-places. In other countries, a large estate furnishes employment to all within its influence. To say nothing of laborers actually employed in agriculture, every department of life is interested in the support of the estate. The mechanic finds employment; the small dealer his profits; the small farmer a market for the sale of his kitchen stuffs, and all are called upon to minister in some way to the comfort, convenience or profit of the great proprietor. Here it is not so.

Our standard of a well-ordered estate is its absolute independence of its neighbors. A perfect estate contains within itself all the means of conducting itself. It has its own smiths, its own carpenters, its spinners, its weavers.

But two persons in the neighborhood feel any interest in its prosperity—the physician and the overseer. To the rest of the world it is absolutely a stranger.

As a matter of course, this kind of perfection is to be found only on large estates, and for the most part in the lower districts. Wherever it is carried out, it constitutes, in our opinion, the great evil, and the only evil of slavery. It isolates classes, and prevents a healthful sympathy from existing between the poor and the rich. That mutual good will exists between the two classes is highly creditable to both, but it places the poor frequently in the condition of recipients of favors, which it would be more to their

real interests to earn by their labor. This class, finding themselves placed in no dependence upon their wealthy neighbors, might become interested in the prosperity of our cities, and even contribute to it, and this is the class which might derive essential benefit from a liberal policy on the part of our railways. They supply our city with fruit and poultry; but, instead of using the railway, they are compelled, when a little money is wanted, or a small supply of groceries, to harness to his chicken truck the halfstarved horse, which insufficiently ploughs his sterile lands, and drive from twenty to forty miles to Charleston, passing, perhaps, the greater part of the distance, along the railway, which might so greatly promote his own comfort and that of the people in the town.

The influence of Southern civilization is felt by these people, and though most persons may imagine that they have no interest in slavery, it is an erroneous opinion. From this class come the overseers, who frequently end by becoming proprietors. They have but one idea of the investment of money.

Their savings are converted into negroes. But still it appears desirable to give them some more immediate and direct interest in slave property. Legislation on this subject is delicate and dangerous, but it is questionable whether it may not be to the ultimate interest of all parties, if the law should restrict slaves to feudal and menial services. This would at once establish a connexion of mutual dependence between the rich and poor. Every plantation requires mechanics. These would at once grow up in the neighborhood, and an impetus thus once given, other trades and manufactures might also flourish, and the vast amount of money now carried to the north for the purchase of negro supplies might thus be beneficially appropriated to the improvement of our own poor, and the embellishment of our soil.

But it may be objected that this is the entering wedge of socialism. Be it so. Let us not be terrified at a name. Socialism is based upon a sense of a deeply seated evil, and is one of the efforts of philanthropic zeal to provide a remedy. It may be mistaken, it may be chimerical, it may be mischievous, but that it has foundations in benevolence is indisputable. Every extreme development of civilization is attended with a corresponding de

« ElőzőTovább »