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4. ATALA. From the French of M. Vis-
count de Chateaubriand..... • Translated
And with equal truth it may be affirmed, that unceasing vigilance united with vigorous, well directed action, is the price of individual and social prosperity.
The spirit of 'enterprise and acquisition is abroad in the land, moving individuals and communities to explore every source of wealth ; to open new avenues to its attainment and seize upon and occupy the vantage ground wherever discovered. In an age like this there is no repose for individuals nor communities. For it is only by continual vigilance and well directed effort that individuals can acquire or retain the means of subsistence and comfort; or, that one community can protect itself against the encroachments of another. “Commerce is King” says a contemporary. If indeed it be so, we say, it is only by usurpation. For according to the just laws of social economy commerce is an agent—a servant of the producer and consumer. But nevertheless, commerce has in different periods of history, exercised regal control over the condition and destinies of nations, leading them on, it may be, to wealth and power for a season; but having exhausted the resources of the country and corrupted the Capital, it has uniformly, in the end, left both in a state of utter desolation. The ruins of Baalbec, Tyre, and Venice attest its nature to destroy no less than its power to build up. It is only when acting in the capacity of an agent, peforming its office every where with equal justice to all, that it promotes and permanently sustains the prosperity and happiness of a people.
Commerce is an Agent when its operations are confined within a small circle; or, when it exchanges the natural products of one climate for those of another; it rules with the malign influence of a Tyrant, when seated in some proud capital, it compels those residing afar off to bring their bread their meat and their raw material to be exchanged for the works of art, which might have been produced at less expense in their own land.
It is the duty of every community to guard itself against the oppressions of such a system with as much vigilance as against the encroachments of political usurpation. For when a great commercial system has obtained control over a state or nation it is scarcely possible for those who are oppressed by its operation to extricate themselves from its exactions and burthens.
We discussed the “Natural Laws of Commerce," and the “Artificial Agents of Exchange” in the first volume of the Western Journal, and have frequently recurred to these subjects, for the purpose of awakening the public mind in the west to a just appreciation of the conveniences and evils inherent in a system of commerce embracing the valley of the Mississippi, whilst, the seat of its power is located on the coast of the Atlantic. It would seem that the inconvenience, nay even the absurdity, of such a system, could not escape the observation of any intelligent mind; and yet nothing appears to have been so much desired, by the people of the west, as a more intimate connection with the eastern markets.
The cost of transportation and other charges incident to the exchange of commodities at so great a distance, is only one amongst the many evils of such a trade : the finances and circulation of money, throughout the entire system, are controlled by the operations an the chief commercial point, whither money is attracted by laws not less certain and constant in their effects than those of gravitation. Owing to the influence of these laws, capital never accumulates in districts remote from the great commercial centre, to an extent sufficient to attract the arts and embellish either the country or its towns; and, hence, all, who possess time and means for the enjoyments of fashionable luxuries, flock to the great commercial emporium; and expend there, or within its immediate vicinity, the small profits which have been saved, with much care, from their pursuits in the interior. And in time this custoin becomes so firmly established that one, who has never spent a season
at the metropolis, is in danger of loosing caste in that society esteemed the most respectable in the country; and, therefore, many whose means do not justify the expense of a pilgrimage to the east, are compelled to go thither for the purpose of sustaining their social position. Thus, in many respects, under the present system, which is daily gaining strength, the Western States are subjected to the relation of Provinces of the east: they are drained of the capital created here as fast as it accumulates ; the productive properties of their soil are exhausted to furnish bread and other commodities to the manufacturers and artizans of that region; the attachment of the people for their homes and their immediate social relations are weakened by a comparison of the rude condition of things around them with the luxuries and artificial refinements of eastern cities; and withal our public policy receives its direction, and is, in a great measure, controlled by those residing east of the Alleghanies. And so it must ever be under the present system. For there is an affinity, and we might say, almost an identity between political and commercial power, by virtue whereof the former is modified and controlled more than by written constitutions or legislative enactments.
These evils can never be removed by the construction of rail roads, or otherwise improving the facilities of transportation and travelling. We may remove many inconveniences which now obstruct our communication with the east; but the evils, which flow from the violation of natural laws, will still remain.
Keeping in view what has been premised in respect to the nature of commerce and the evils involved in a system which does not conform to natural laws, we shall proceed to inquire into the means necessary to be adopted to check the encroachments of the present system and counteract its monopolizing tendency. And here, we may premise that the subject is one which deeply concerns the interest of every part of the region watered by the Mississippi, from its remotest sources at the base of the Rocky Mountain to the Gulf of Mexico; and, also, the countries extending westward to the valley of the Rio Grande. It therefore demands the consideration and active exertions of the people inhabiting every part of this region, in an equal degree.
Let none flatter themselves with the idea that, whatever may be the fate of others, their own special interest will be promoted by ex
tending and perpetuating their present commercial relations with the eastern cities.
It is not many years since we were laughed at for predicting the probable decline of New Orleans. The opinion had become almost universal, in both Europe and America, that New Orleans was destined to rival the greatest commercial cities on the globe. This opinion was plausible and it required the strongest kind of evidence-palpable demonstration to change it: nor was the fact generally admitted, that the commerce of New Orleans did not keep pace with the increase of commodities in the interior, until it was promulgated by her own citizens.
The following facts, which we find in an address to the people of Louisiana, by a committee appointed by the convention which met in New Orleans in April last, show a decline in the commerce of New Orleans that would scarcely be believed, were the address not sanctioned by the names of fifteen individuals, who may be regarded as amongst the most inteligent and respectable gentlemen of that state. The committee say:
"The progress of Louisiana, notwithstanding her great natural wealth, has been but slow in comparison with many of her sister states, whilst New Orleans, once the emporium and mart of the immense empire of the West, sees her commercial rank and position fading away in the triumphant struggles of a host of formidable rivals. The Valley of the Mississippi, the natural tributary of New Orleans, has been rapidly increasing in wealth and population, while the commerce of the city has not increased, as will be seen by a comparison of the year 1849 and 1850 : NO. OF VESSELS.
Boats. Boats. Americ'n For'n C'stwise. American Foreign Coastwise. 1849.... 1496..2873.... 697...344.. 1558....240,844 42..201,196 10.461,899 62 1850.....924..2784....522...378.. 1342...: 175,167 35..176,344 02.412,126 01 Decrease-572.... 89....175.........216 .....65,677 07...24,852 08..49,773 61 Increase ..................... 34.....................
The comparison of these years must not be considered as an isolated case; but, on the contrary, is too true an expose of the course of trade of the eity for several years past.'
It may be questioned whether in a time of peace and general prosperity, a parallel of commercial decline can be found in the whole history of commerce. The committee proceed to state what they regard as the causes which have led to this extraordinary decline in the commerce of New Orleans :
With the picture of the past before us, it is impossible to resist the convietion, that had New Orleans been true to herself, she could