Page images

not now have been reduced to a condition of so much hazard, and the humiliation of such appeals as have become necessary would have been spared to her citizens. With her natural advantages, aided by a liberal system of internal improvements, she would have remained the Queen of the Southwest, united, in sympathy and interest with those whom she had conciliated and attached to herself by the liberality of her spirit and the extent of her enterprises. The very reverse has been the case. New Orleans, in proud exultation over her natural resources, has cut herself off from the improvements of the age, and resting upon these resources as upon a rock, has defied the wind and the waves which have already been sweeping over her in mockery of her faith and folly. One by one, her ancient friends and supporters have been bidding her good-by, and seeking less congenial but more valuable commercial alliances with the more enterprising marts of the Atlantic seaboard.'

It was natural however that New Orleans should be the first point affected by eastern improvements; for a large portion of her trade was carried on with the eastern part of the valley where the influence of cheaper and more speedy communication with the eastern markets was first felt.

Up to the present time the towns in the interior have continued to grow by means of their local trade which has been increasing in a ratio with the rapid increase of the population in the surrounding country; but like New Orleans these must sooner or later reach a point beyond which they cannot progress; and this time will occur long before the resources of the country around them are fully developed, unless a change can be effected in the present commercial system. But how is this change to be produced ?

The committee from whose address we have quoted, asks a similar question in respect to the trade of New Orleans. We give their answer:

She must, by a wise and liberal stroke of policy, regain a part, if not the whole, of the trade she has supinely lost, and open new sources of opulence and power, which are sc abundant around her. She can do thism

1st. By changing or modifying her laws bearing hardly and unequally upon capital and enterprise, and increasing her financial facilities for the control of trade.

2d. By introducing such reforms into the administration of our municipal affairs, as shall ensure an economical as well as efficient government for the city, and shall restore her credit, now utterly prostrated.

3d. By affording greater facilities and removing unnecessary restrictions on commerce; by encouraging manufactures--employing steamships, and establishing a direct foreign commerce with countries requiring the staple productions of the great valley; aud finally, what

[ocr errors]

is of most importance—by munificent appropriations for rail-roads leading from New Orleans, and connecting with the vast system of rail-roads now projected or under construction in neighboring states, and by co-operating zealously with the friends of internal improvement throughout the Southwest.'

These answers are pertinent, and the advice they contain may be regarded as applicable to the towns of the interior, but they do not embrace everything necessary to be considered and done to establish a complete commercial system for the Western States and Territories. The Mississippi river must constitute the basis of our system, and through its channel we must form a connection with foreign markets. This we regard as the leading idea. Our imports from foreign countries must come through this channel before we can extricate our commeree from eastern control. The first step, therefore, to be taken is to look to the means of effecting this end.

The channel at the entrance of the Mississippi into the Gulf is not of sufficient depth to admit the passage of the large class of merchant vessels that are now being introduced with so much advantage to commerce. Let this obstruction be removed. Let the whole valley join in demanding of congress an appropriation for that purpose; and if that body should refuse to do for New Orleans what it has done for New York and other ports on the Atlantic, then let some other means be resorted to. According to the estimates of Lieutenant Maury, contained in an able article on the channel of the Mississippi, published in the last number of the Western Journal, the excavation and removal of 176,000 cubic yards of earth or sediment would give three additional feet to the depth of the channel across the bar; and surely there can be some mode devised of raising means sufficient to effect this object without the aid of the General Government. The next step is to remove the obstructions occasioned by the rapids in the upper Mississippi ; and these two improvements should be placed upon the same grounds and receive the united support of every part of the country from the falls of St. Anthony to the Balize. For as extensive as are the views of the committee from whose address we have quoted, New Orleans would lose at least one-fourth of her legitimate commerce, even should all that the committee have suggested be accomplished, if the navigation of the upper Mississippi should remain unimproved.

The commerce of all the cities on the Mississippi river must stand or fall together. Their destiny is inseparable. If New Orleans can be made the entrepot of the foreign merchandise required for the consumption of the West, then a line of cities will arise on the bank of the Mississippi that will far eclipse those on the Atlantic coast; but so long as we receive our foreign merchandise through the eastern cities, the commerce of the towns and cities on the Mississippi will be confined within narrow bounds, and chiefly to the business of receiving and forwarding.

Exports can never build up a commercial city. During the year ending 30th June, 1850, the exports of Louisiana were valued at more than those of Massachusetts, Pensylvania and Maryland combined; and yet Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore are rapidly increasing in population and commerce, while both are believed to be declining in New Orleans.* There are many reasons why exportations alone are not calculated to build up a city: a few commission merchants, warehousemen and brokers, with their clerks and laborers, can receive, sell and ship the produce of a nation; there is no necessity that the owner should follow his property to the place of exportation, and if he be inclined to indulge in the enjoyment of a city life for a season, he resorts to one which imports its commodities from foreign countries, where the means of enjoyment are more varied and refined, and the rarer works of art are more abundant.

But the overwhelming advantage which importing cities possess in the United States, consists chiefly in the collection of duties at those points, and in the remittances thence in payment for foreign merchandise. Our western staples are shipped at New Orleans, but the bills for which they are sold, or those •drawn upon their value in foreign markets, find their way to New York and other eastern cities, where they are received in payment for merchandise, consumed in the West and South, or remitted in payment of foreign commodities. Hence, New Orleans, the point of exportation, and the Western States, the place of production and consumption, are continually drained of their capital.

If our conceptions on this important subject be correct, it follows that no system of internal improvement, that can be devised,

“There were 299 vacant houses in the 2d. municipality in March 1851, a season of the year when we should expect to find the population of New Orleans as great as at any other. Vide De Bow's Review, Vol. 11, p. 171. note.

will materially change our condition, unless, through the channel of the Mississippi, it be connected with foreign markets by steamships and the larger class of sailing vessels, that will place the trade of New Orleans in fair competition with eastern ports. Or, in other words, make the freights and charges cheaper from Liverpool to St Louis, by the way of New Orleans, than by the way of New York, and through the interior.

This department of our system belongs almost exclusively to the merchants. Let the agriculturists and those whose wealth consists of real estate in cities construct railroads and other works of internal improvements, at their own charge, leaving the merchants in possession of their means, to build vessels and establish commercial relations with foreign countries. And if the latter possess the entertprise and enlightened views, which have charcterised that patriotic and liberal class of men in every age, it will not be many years, before a fair proportion of the duties collected in the United States on foreign merchandise, will be paid at the ports of the Mississippi river and its tributaries.

We are aware that objections are urged against New Orleans as a suitable point for the distribution of many kinds of merchandise ; and it must be admitted, that in some respects these objections are well founded. Many articles deteriorate there during the summer; and besides, the climate and unhealthiness of its location deter the inhabitants of the interior from visiting it, during the hot season. These, with other objections, will doubtless prevent NewOrleans from becoming the Mighty City, that many have heretofore supposed; but we do not regard these objections as constituting an obstruction to the full and perfect development of our system; indeed they are calculated, in an eminent degree, to promote that end.

Did New Orleans possess climate und other facilities, favorable to those industrial pursuits, which add so much to the population, wealth and trade of cities; and did it also possess attractions for visitors during the hot season, it would absorb and monopolize too great a portion of the commerce of the continent, and the circle of its trade would be so large, as to render the system inconvenient and oppressive. But nature has so ordered the physical condition and geographical relations of this great region, as to compel the building up of many large cities on the banks of the Mississippi and its tributaries, which will prevent any one of these, from controling the commerce of the whole.

There is no reason why Memphis, St. Louis, Alton and other points on the Mississippi, should not become importing cities; and in our estimation, the greater the number that engage in this department of commerce, the better it will be for the country.

We are far from regarding the foreign trade of the United States in a light as favorable as it is viewed by many of our contemporaries ; but if it must be enconraged to the injury of our manufacturing and mining interests, we desire that the Western States should enjoy a fair portion of its benefits, and at the same time extricate themselves from a part of its burthens.

The area necessary to be embraced by the vision of the political economist of this region is so broad, and so little has been done to develop, or even define a system, calculated to promote the prosperity of its inhabitants throughout all its parts, that one, who would sketch an outline of the works necessary to be achieved, is liable to be regarded as a visionary projector-an air-castle builder. But unless our views embrace the whole system, much labor may be thrown away in the prosecution of projects of doubtful utility; and we shall leave many important points unguarded, which will be seized upon by others and occupied to our disadvantage.

A central railroad to the Pacific and a railroad across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, are projects that should be constantly kept in view, by the people of the South and West. It may be many years before a sufficient amount of capital can be brought to bear upon the first of these works, to authorize its prosecutions beyond the Western boundary of Missouri, but still we should continue to regard it as a part of our system of internal improvement. For the enterprise will most assuredly be carried out in time. The construction of the Tehuantepec route is a work of less difficult achievement, and would be completed within a very few years, were the difficulties, which seem to exist at present in respect to the right of way, removed. We trust the Western and Southern delegation in Congress will take a lively interest in this matter during the next Session of the national legislature, and that some steps will be taken by our government, that will place the prosecution of the work upon grounds beyond the control or future interference of the Mexican government. We are of the opinion, that the importance of this route has not been sufficiently

« PreviousContinue »