Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

a

At the same time, I do not desire to engage in it, as I hardly need assure you, in a spirit at all inconsistent with a desirable friendship. Rather, in explaining the significance which, in my own mind, attaches to my narrative of facts, relative to the question upon which we have the misfortune to be divided in judgment, I shall hope to lessen, instead of aggravating, the causes of our difference.

Many of the comforts demanded by people in a moderate state of civilization are necessarily purchased at a greater cost, in a newly-settled region, than in the midst of a long-established community. We cannot expect to find a grist-mill, much less a baker's shop, still less a printing-office or a bookseller's shop, in an actual wilderness. The cost of good bread, therefore, or of intellectual sustenance, will be greater than where the constant demand to be expected from a numerous population has induced abor (or capital, which represents labor) to establish such conveniences.

For the same reason, the usual mears of civilized education, both for young and for mature minds, will be procured with diffi culty in the early days of any country. Consequently, though we may perceive some compensations, certain fallings-short from the standard of comfort and of character in older cummunities are inevitable.

The prosperity of a young country or state is to be measured by the rapidity with which these deficiencies are supplied, and the completeness with which the opportunity for profitable labor is retained.

An illustration will best enable me to explain how slavery prolongs, in a young community, the evils which properly belong only to a frontier. Let us suppose two recent immigrants, one in Texas, the other in the young free State of Iowa, to have both, at the same time, a considerable sum of money-say five thousand dollars—at disposal. Land has been previously purchased, a hasty dwelling of logs constructed, and ample crops for sustenance harvested. Each has found communication with his market interrupted during a portion of the year by floods ; each needs an ampler and better house; each desires to engage a larger part of his land in profitable production; each needs some agricultural machinery or implements; in the neighborhood of each, a church, a school, a grist-mill, and a branch railroad are proposed.

Each may be supposed to have previously obtained the necessary materials for his desired constructions: and to need immediately the services of a carpenter. The Texan, unable to hire one in the neighborhood, orders his agent in Houston or New Orleans to buy bim one: when he arrives, he has cost not less than two of the five thousand dollars. The Iowan, in the same predicament, writes to a friend in the East or advertises in the newspapers, that he is ready to pay better wages than carpenters can get in the older settlements; and a young man, whose only capital is in his hands and his wits, glad to come where there is a glut of food and a dearth of labor, soon presents himself. To construct a causeway and a bridge, and to clear, fence, and break up the land he desires to bring into cultivation, the Texan will need three more slaves—and he gets them as before, thereby investing all his money. The Iowan has only to let his demand be known, or, at most, to advance a small sum to the public conveyances, and all the laborers he requires -independent, small capitalists of labor-gladly bring their only commodity to him and offer it as a loan, on his promise to pay a better interest, or wages, for it than Eastern capitalists are willing to do.

The Iowan next sends for the implements and machinery which will enable him to make the best use of the labor he has engaged. The Texan tries to get on another year without them, or employs such rude substitutes as his stupid, uninstructed, and uninterested slaves can readily make in his ill-furnished plantation work-shop. The Iowan is able to contribute liberally to aid in the construction of the church, the school-house, the mill, and the railroad. His laborers, appreciating the value of the reputation they may acquire for honesty, good judgment,

[ocr errors]

skill and industry, do not need constant superintendence, and he is able to call on his neighbors and advise, encourage and stiinulate thein. Thus the church, the school, and the railroad are soon in operation, and with them is brought rapidly into play other social machinery, which makes much luxury cominon and cheap to all.

The Texan, if solicited to assist in similar enterprises, answers truly, that cotton is yet too low to permit him to invest money where it does not promise to be immediately and directly productive.

The Iowan may still have one or two thousand dollars, to be lent to merchants, mechanics, or manufacturers, who are disposed to establish themselves near him. With the aid of this capital, not only various minor conveniences are brought into the neighborhood, but useful information, scientific, agricultural, and political ; and commodities, the use of which is educative of taste and the finer capacities of our nature, are attractively presented to the people.

The Texan mainly does without these things. He confines the imports of his plantation almost entirely to slaves, corn, bacon, salt, sugar, molasses, tobacco, clothing, medicine, hoes and plow-iron. Even if he had the same capital to spare, he would live in far less comfort than the Iowan, because of the want of local shops and efficient systems of public conveyance which cheapen the essentials of comfort for the latter.

You will, perhaps, say that I neglect to pay the Iowan laborers their wages. It is unnecessary that I should do so: those wages remain as capital to be used again for the benefit of the community in Iowa. Besides, the additional profit which has accrued to the farmer by reason of the more efficient tools and cattle be has acquired, the greater cheapness with which the railroad will transport his crops to be sold, the smaller subtractions from stock and crops he will bave met with from the better emsloyment of his neighbors, and the influence of the church and school upon them, will go far towards paying these debts.

The difficulty of obtaining a profitable return for labor, applied with the disadvantages which thus result from slavery, is such that all but the simplest, nearest, and quickest promises of profit are neglected in its direction. As a general, almost universal, rule, the Texan planter, at the beginning of any season, is in debt, and anxious to acquire money, or its equivalent, to meet his engagements. The quickest and surest method of getting it before the year ends, is to raise cotton—for cotton, almost alone, of all be can produce under these disadvantages, bears the cost of transportation to cash customers. He will rarely, as I have supposed, invest in a carpenter; he will rarely undertake the improvement of a road. He will content himself with his pioneer's log-cabin, and wait the pleasure of nature at the swamp and the ford. His whole income will be reinvested in field-hands.

He plants cotton largely-quite all that his laborers can cultivate properly. Generally, a certain force will cultivate more than it can pick, pack, and transport to public conveyance. Unwilling to lose the overplus, be obtains, upon credit again, another addition to his slave force. Thus the temptation constantly recurs, and constantly the labor is directed to the quickest and surest way of sustaining credit for more slaves.

After a certain period, as his capital in slaves increases, and his credit remains unimpaired, the dread of failure, and the temptation to accumulate capital become less, and he may begin to demand the present satisfaction of his tastes and appetites. Habit, however, will have given bim a low standard of comfort, and a high standard of payment for it; and he will still be satisfied to dispense with many conveniences which have long before been acquired by the Iowan; and to pay a bigher price for those be demands, than more recent, or less successful, immigrants to his vicinity can afford.

Thus he will have personally grown rich, perhaps; but few, if any, public advantages will have accrued from his expenditures. It is quite possible that, before he can arrive at that point of liberality in expenditure which the Iowan started with, the fertility of his soil will have been so greatly reduced that the results of labor upon it are no longer accumulative of profit, but simply enable him to sustain the mode of life to wbich he and his slaves are accustomed.

This occurs, I again remind you, not merely because labor is applied to the end of immediately realizing a return in slaves, but because it continues constantly to be applied without the advantage of efficient machinery, and the cheapest means of marketing its results; also, because the planter's mind, which, by a freer expenditure of capital at an early day, would have been informed and directed to a better method of agriculture, remains in ignorance of it, or locked against it by the prejudice of custom and habit.

I have described to you the real condition, and its historical rationale, of a majority of the better class of planters in Texas, as, after many favorable opportunities of acquaintance with them, I have apprehended it. My knowledge of Iowan proprietors, of similar capital, is not personal, but inferential and from report. It may be there are none such, but it makes little difference in the end whether the five thousand dollars to be expended is held by one proprietor, or divided among a number. It is so much capital disengaged.

I have made circumstantial inquiry of several persons who have resided both in Iowa and in Texas, and have ascertained, most distinctly, that the rapidity with which the discomforts of the frontier are overcome, the facility with which the most valuable conveniences, and the most important luxuries, moral, mental, and animal, of old communities, are reobtained, is astonishingly greater in the former than the latter.

Comparing Texas with New York, I can speak entirely from personal observation. I believe it is a low estimate, that every dollar of the nominal capital of the substantial farmers of New York represents an amount of the most truly valuable cominudities of civilization, equal to five dollars in the nominal wealth

a

« PředchozíPokračovat »