Georgia alone showed rapid increase. At the beginning of the decade the Indians still held all of the territory west of Macon, at the center of the state, with the exception of two tiers of counties along the southern border; and, when these lands were opened towards the close of the decade, they were occupied by a rush of settlement similar to the occupation of Oklahoma and Indian Territory in our own day. What Maine was to New England, that Georgia was to the southern seaboard, with the difference that it was deeply touched by influences characteristically western. Because of the traits of her leaders, and the rude, aggressive policy of her people, Georgia belonged at least as much to the west as to the south. From colonial times the Georgia settlers had been engaged in an almost incessant struggle against the savages on her border, and had the instincts of a frontier society. [Footnote: Ibid., II., 88; Longstreet, Georgia Scenes; Gilmer, Sketches; Miss. Hist. Soc., Publications, VIII., 443.]
From 1800 to 1830, throughout the tidewater region, there were clear evidences of decline. As the movement of capital and population towards the interior went on, wealth was drained from the coast; and, as time passed, the competition of the fertile and low-priced lands of the Gulf basin proved too strong for the outworn lands even of the interior of the south. Under the wasteful system of tobacco and cotton culture, without replenishment of the soil, the staple areas would, in any case, have declined in value. Even the corn and wheat lands were exhausted by unscientific farming. [Footnote: Gooch, Prize Essay on Agriculture in Va., in Lynchburg Virginian, July 4, 1833; Martin, Gazetteer of Va., 99, 100.] Writing in 1814 to Josiah Quincy, [Footnote: E Quincy, Josiah Quincy, 353.] John Randolph of Roanoke lamented the decline of the seaboard planters. He declared that the region was now sunk in obscurity: what enterprise or capital there was in the country had retired westward; deer and wild turkeys were not so plentiful anywhere in Kentucky as near the site of the ancient Virginia capital, Williamsburg. In the Virginia convention of 1829, Mr. Mercer estimated that in 1817 land values in Virginia aggregated two hundred and six million dollars, and Negroes averaged three hundred dollars, while in 1829 the land values did not surpass ninety millions, and slaves had fallen in value to one hundred and fifty dollars. [Footnote: Va. Const. Conv., Debates (1829-1830), 178; Collins, Domestic Slave Trade, 26.]
In a speech in the Virginia House of Delegates, in 1832, Thomas Marshall [Footnote: Collins, Domestic Slave Trade, 24, cited from Richmond Enquirer, February, 2, 1832.] asserted that the whole agricultural product of Virginia did not exceed in value the exports of eighty or ninety years before, when it contained not one-sixth of the population. In his judgment, the greater proportion of the larger plantations, with from fifty to one hundred slaves, brought the proprietors into debt, and rarely did a plantation yield one and a half per cent. profit on the capital. So great had become the depression that Randolph prophesied that the time was coming when the masters would run away from the slaves and be advertised by them in the public papers. [Footnote: Collins, Domestic Slave Trade, 26.]
It was in this period that Thomas Jefferson fell into such financial embarrassments that he was obliged to request of the legislature of Virginia permission to dispose of property by lottery to pay his debts, and that a subscription was taken up to relieve his distress. [Footnote: Randall, Jefferson, III., 527, 561.] At the same time, Madison, having vainly tried to get a loan from the United States Bank, was forced to dispose of some of his lands and stocks; [Footnote: Hunt, Madison, 380.] and Monroe, at the close of his term of office, found himself financially ruined. He gave up Oak Hill and spent his declining years with his son-in-law in New York City. The old-time tide-water mansions, where, in an earlier day, everybody kept open house, gradually fell into decay.
Sad indeed was the spectacle of Virginia's ancient aristocracy. It had never been a luxurious society. The very wealthy planters, with vast cultivated estates and pretentious homes, were in the minority. For the most part, the houses were moderate frame structures, set at intervals of a mile or so apart, often in park like grounds, with long avenues of trees. The plantation was a little world in itself.
Here was made much of the clothing for the slaves, and the mistress of the plantation supervised the spinning and weaving. Leather was tanned on the place, and blacksmithing, wood-working, and other industries were carried on, often under the direction of white mechanics. The planter and his wife commonly had the care of the black families whom they possessed, looked after them when they were sick, saw to their daily rations, arranged marriages, and determined the daily tasks of the plantation. The abundant hospitality between neighbors gave opportunity for social cultivation, and politics was a favorite subject of conversation.
The leading planters served as justices of the peace, but they were not dependent for their selection upon the popular vote. Appointed by the governor on nomination of the court itself, they constituted a kind of close corporation, exercising local judicial, legislative, and executive functions. The sheriff was appointed by the governor from three justices of the peace recommended by the court, and the court itself appointed the county clerk. Thus the county government of Virginia was distinctly aristocratic. County-court day served as an opportunity for bringing together the freeholders, who included not only the larger planters, but the small farmers and the poor whites—hangers-on of the greater plantations. Almost no large cities were found in Virginia. The court-house was hardly more than a meeting-place for the rural population. Here farmers exchanged their goods, traded horses, often fought, and listened to the stump speeches of the orators. [Footnote: Johnson, Robert Lewis Dabney, 14-24; Smedes, A Southern Planter, 34-37.]
Such were, in the main, the characteristics of that homespun plantation aristocracy which, through the Virginia dynasty, had ruled the nation in the days of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. As their lands declined in value, they naturally sought for an explanation and a remedy. [Footnote: Randall, Jefferson, III., 532.] The explanation was found most commonly in the charge that the protective tariff was destroying the prosperity of the south; and in reaction they turned to demand the old days of Jeffersonian rural simplicity, under the guardianship of state rights and a strict construction of the Constitution. Madison in vain laid the fall in land values in Virginia to the uncertainty and low prices of the crops, to the quantity of land thrown on the market, and the attractions of the cheaper and better lands beyond the mountains. [Footnote: Madison, Writings (ed. of 1865), III., 614.]
Others called attention to the fact that the semi-annual migration towards the west and southwest, which swept off enterprising portions of the people and much of the capital and movable property of the state, also kept down the price of land by the great quantities thereby thrown into the market. Instead of applying a system of scientific farming and replenishment of the soil, there was a tendency for the planters who remained to get into debt in order to add to their possessions the farms which were offered for sale by the movers. Thus there was a flow of wealth towards the west to pay for these new purchases. The overgrown plantations soon began to look tattered and almost desolate. "Galled and gullied hill-sides and sedgy, briary fields" [Footnote: Lynchburg Virginian, July 4, 1833.] showed themselves in every direction. Finally the planter found himself obliged to part with some of his slaves, in response to the demand from the new cotton-fields; or to migrate himself, with his caravan of Negroes, to open a new home in the Gulf region. During the period of this survey the price for prime field-hands in Georgia averaged a little over seven hundred dollars. [Footnote: Phillips, in Pol. Sci. Quart., XX., 267.] If the estimate of one hundred and fifty dollars for Negroes sold in family lots in Virginia is correct, it is clear that economic laws would bring about a condition where Virginia's resources would in part depend upon her supply of slaves to the cotton-belt. [Footnote: Collins, Domestic Slave Trade, 42-46.] It is clear, also, that the Old Dominion had passed the apogee of her political power.
It was not only the planters of Virginia that suffered in this period of change. As the more extensive and fertile cotton-fields of the new states of the southwest opened, North Carolina and even South Carolina found themselves embarrassed. With the fall in cotton prices, already mentioned, it became increasingly necessary to possess the advantages of large estates and unexhausted soils, in order to extract a profit from this cultivation. From South Carolina there came a protest more vehement and aggressive than that of the discontented classes of Virginia. Already the indigo plantation had ceased to be profitable and the rice planters no longer held their old prosperity.
Charleston was peculiarly suited to lead in a movement of revolt. It was the one important center of real city life of the seaboard south of Baltimore. Here every February the planters gathered from their plantations, thirty to one hundred and fifty miles away, for a month in their town houses. At this season, races, social gayeties, and political conferences vied with one another in engaging the attention of the planters. Returning to their plantations in the early spring, they remained until June, when considerations of health compelled them either again to return to the city, to visit the mountains, or to go to such watering-places as Saratoga in New York. Here again they talked politics and mingled with political leaders of the north. It was not until the fall that they were able to return again to their estates. [Footnote: Hodgson, Letters from North America, I.,50.] Thus South Carolina, affording a combination of plantation life with the social intercourse of the city, gave peculiar opportunities for exchanging ideas and consolidating the sentiment of her leaders.
The condition of South Carolina was doubtless exaggerated by Hayne, in his speech in the Senate in 1832, when he characterized it as "not merely one of unexampled depression, but of great and all- pervading distress," with "the mournful evidence of premature decay," "merchants bankrupt or driven away—their capital sunk or transferred to other pursuits—our shipyards broken up—our ships all sold!" "If," said he, "we fly from the city to the country, what do we there behold? Fields abandoned; the hospitable mansions of our fathers deserted; agriculture drooping; our slaves, like their masters, working harder, and faring worse; the planter striving with unavailing efforts to avert the ruin which is before him." He drew a sad picture of the once thriving planter, reduced to despair, gathering up the small remnants of his broken fortune, and, with his wife and little ones, tearing himself from the scenes of his childhood and the bones of his ancestors to seek in the wilderness the reward for his industry of which the policy of Congress had deprived him. [Footnote: Register of Debates, VIII., pt. i., 80; cf. Houston, Nullification in S.C., 46; McDuffie, in Register of Debates, 18th Cong., 2 Sess., 253.]
The genius of the south expressed itself most clearly in the field of politics. If the democratic middle region could show a multitude of clever politicians, the aristocratic south possessed an abundance of leaders bold in political initiative and masterful in their ability to use the talents of their northern allies. When the Missouri question was debated, John Quincy Adams remarked "that if institutions are to be judged by their results in the composition of the councils of this Union, the slave-holders are much more ably represented than the simple freemen." [Footnote: Adams, Memoirs, IV., 506.]
The southern statesmen fall into two classes. On the one side was the Virginia group, now for the most part old men, rich in the honors of the nation, still influential, but, except for Monroe, no longer directing party policy. Jefferson and Madison were in retirement in their old age; Marshall, as chief-justice, was continuing his career as the expounder of the Constitution in accordance with Federalist ideals; John Randolph, his old eccentricities increased by disease and intemperance, remained to proclaim the extreme doctrines of southern dissent and to impale his adversaries with javelins of flashing wit. A maker of phrases which stung and festered, he was still capable of influencing public opinion somewhat in the same way as are the cartoonists of modern times. But "his course through life had been like that of the arrow which Alcestes shot to heaven, which effected nothing useful, though it left a long stream of light behind it." [Footnote: Lynchburg Virginian, May 9, 1833.] In North Carolina, the venerable Macon remained to protest like a later Cato against the tendencies of the times and to raise a warning voice to his fellow slave-holders against national consolidation.
In the course of this decade, the effective leadership of the south fell to Calhoun and Crawford. [Footnote: See chap. xi. below.] About these statesmen were grouped energetic and able men like Hayne, McDuffie, and Hamilton of South Carolina, and Cobb and Forsyth of Georgia—men who sometimes pushed their leaders on in a sectional path which the latter's caution or personal ambitions made them reluctant to tread. Nor must it be forgotten that early in the decade the south lost two of her greatest statesmen, the wise and moderate Lowndes, of South Carolina, and Pinkney, the brilliant Maryland orator. In the course of the ten years which we are to sketch, the influence of economic change within this section transformed the South Carolinians from warm supporters of a liberal national policy into the straightest of the sect of state- sovereignty advocates, intent upon raising barriers against the flood of nationalism that threatened to overwhelm the south. In relating the changing policy of the southern political leaders, we shall again observe the progress and the effects of the economic transformations which it has been the purpose of this chapter to portray.
COLONIZATION OF THE WEST (1820-1830)
The rise of the new west was the most significant fact in American history in the years immediately following the War of 1812. Ever since the beginnings of colonization on the Atlantic coast a frontier of settlement had advanced, cutting into the forest, pushing back the Indian, and steadily widening the area of civilization in its rear. [Footnote: Three articles by F.J. Turner, viz.: "Significance of the Frontier in American History," in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report 1893, 199-227; "Problem of the West," in "Atlantic Monthly, LXXVIII, 289; "Contributions of the West to American Democracy, ibid, XCI., 83.] There had been a west even in early colonial days; but then it lay close to the coast. By the middle of the eighteenth century the west was to be found beyond tide-water, advancing towards the Allegheny Mountains. When this barrier was crossed and the lands on the other side of the mountains were won, in the days of the Revolution, a new and greater west, more influential on the nation's destiny, was created. [Footnote: Howard, Preliminaries of Revolution, chap. xiii.; Van Tyne, Am. Revolution, chap. xv.; McLaughlin, Confederation and Constitution, chap. viii. (Am. Nation, VIII., IX., X.).]
The men of the "Western Waters" or the "Western World," as they loved to call themselves, developed under conditions of separation from the older settlements and from Europe. The lands, practically free, in this vast area not only attracted the settler, but furnished opportunity for all men to hew out their own careers. The wilderness ever opened a gate of escape to the poor, the discontented, and the oppressed. If social conditions tended to crystallize in the east, beyond the Alleghenies there was freedom. Grappling with new problems, under these conditions, the society that spread into this region developed inventiveness and resourcefulness; the restraints of custom were broken, and new activities, new lines of growth, new institutions were produced. Mr. Bryce has well declared that "the West is the most American part of America.... What Europe is to Asia, what England is to the rest of Europe, what America is to England, that the Western States and Territories are to the Atlantic States." [Footnote: Bryce, American Commonwealth (ed. of 1895), II., 830.] The American spirit—the traits that have come to be recognized as the most characteristic— was developed in the new commonwealths that sprang into life beyond the seaboard. In these new western lands Americans achieved a boldness of conception of the country's destiny and democracy. The ideal of the west was its emphasis upon the worth and possibilities of the common man, its belief in the right of every man to rise to the full measure of his own nature, under conditions of social mobility. Western democracy was no theorist's dream. It came, stark and strong and full of life, from the American forest. [Footnote: P. J. Turner, "Contributions of the West to American Democracy," in Atlantic Monthly, XCL, 83, and "The Middle West," in International Monthly, IV., 794.]
The time had now come when this section was to make itself felt as a dominant force in American life. Already it had shown its influence upon the older sections. By its competition, by its attractions for settlers, it reacted on the east and gave added impulse to the democratic movement in New England and New York. The struggle of Baltimore, New York City, and Philadelphia for the rising commerce of the interior was a potent factor in the development of the middle region. In the south the spread of the cotton-plant and the new form which slavery took were phases of the westward movement of the plantation. The discontent of the old south is partly explained by the migration of her citizens to the west and by the competition of her colonists in the lands beyond the Alleghenies. The future of the south lay in its affiliation to the Cotton Kingdom of the lower states which were rising on the plains of the Gulf of Mexico.
Rightly to understand the power which the new west was to exert upon the economic and political life of the nation in the years between 1820 and 1830, it is necessary to consider somewhat fully the statistics of growth in western population and industry.
The western states ranked with the middle region and the south in respect to population. Between 1812 and 1821 six new western commonwealths were added to the Union: Louisiana (1812), Indiana (1816), Mississippi (1817), Illinois (1818), Alabama (1819), and Missouri (1821). In the decade from 1820 to 1830, these states, with their older sisters, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, increased their population from 2,217,000 to nearly 3,700,000, a gain of about a million and a half in the decade. The percentages of increase in these new communities tell a striking story. Even the older states of the group grew steadily. Kentucky, with 22 per cent., Louisiana, with 41, and Tennessee and Ohio, each with 61, were increasing much faster than New England and the south, outside of Maine and Georgia. But for the newer communities the percentages of gain are still more significant: Mississippi, 81 per cent.; Alabama, 142; Indiana, 133; and Illinois, 185. The population of Ohio, which hardly more than a generation before was "fresh, untouched, unbounded, magnificent wilderness," [Footnote: Webster, Writings (National ed.), V., 252.] was now nearly a million, surpassing the combined population of Massachusetts and Connecticut.
A new section had arisen and was growing at such a rate that a description of it in any single year would be falsified before it could be published. Nor is the whole strength of the western element revealed by these figures. In order to estimate the weight of the western population in 1830, we must add six hundred thousand souls in the western half of New York, three hundred thousand in the interior counties of Pennsylvania, and over two hundred thousand in the trans-Allegheny counties of Virginia, making an aggregate of four million six hundred thousand. Fully to reckon the forces of backwoods democracy, moreover, we should include a large fraction of the interior population of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, North Carolina, and Georgia, and northern New York. All of these regions were to be influenced by the ideals of democratic rule which were springing up in the Mississippi Valley.
In voting-power the western states alone—to say nothing of the interior districts of the older states—were even more important than the figures for population indicate. The west itself had, under the apportionment of 1822, forty-seven out of the two hundred and thirteen members of the House of Representatives, while in the Senate its representation was eighteen out of forty-eight—more than that of any other section. Clearly, here was a region to be reckoned with; its economic interests, its ideals, and its political leaders were certain to have a powerful, if not a controlling, voice in the councils of the nation.
At the close of the War of 1812 the west had much homogeneity. Parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio had been settled so many years that they no longer presented typical western conditions; but in most of its area the west then was occupied by pioneer farmers and stock- raisers, eking out their larder and getting peltries by hunting, and raising only a small surplus for market. By 1830, however, industrial differentiation between the northern and southern portions of the Mississippi Valley was clearly marked. The northwest was changing to a land of farmers and town-builders, anxious for a market for their grain and cattle; while the southwest was becoming increasingly a cotton-raising section, swayed by the same impulses in respect to staple exports as those which governed the southern seaboard. Economically, the northern portion of the valley tended to connect itself with the middle states, while the southern portion came into increasingly intimate connection with the south. Nevertheless, it would be a radical mistake not to deal with the west as a separate region, for, with all these differences within itself, it possessed a fundamental unity in its social structure and its democratic ideals, and at times, in no uncertain way, it showed a consciousness of its separate existence.
In occupying the Mississippi Valley the American people colonized a region far surpassing in area the territory of the old thirteen states. The movement was, indeed, but the continuation of the advance of the frontier which had begun in the earliest days of American colonization. The existence of a great body of land, offered at so low a price as to be practically free, inevitably drew population towards the west. When wild lands sold for two dollars an acre, and, indeed, could be occupied by squatters almost without molestation, it was certain that settlers would seek them instead of paying twenty to fifty dollars an acre for farms that lay not much farther to the east—particularly when the western lands were more fertile. The introduction of the steamboat on the western waters in 1811, moreover, soon revolutionized transportation conditions in the West. [Footnote: Flint, Letters, 260; Monette, in Miss. Hist. Soc., Publications, VII., 503; Hall, Statistics of the West, 236, 247; Lloyd, Steamboat Disasters (1853), 32, 40-45; Preble, Steam Navigation, 64; McMaster, United States, IV., 402; Chittenden, Early Steamboat Navigation on the Missouri, chap. ix.] At the beginning of the period of which we are treating, steamers were ascending the Mississippi and the Missouri, as well as the Ohio and its tributaries. Between the close of the War of 1812 and 1830, moreover, the Indian title was extinguished to vast regions in the west. Half of Michigan was opened to settlement; the northwestern quarter of Ohio was freed; in Indiana and Illinois (more than half of which had been Indian country prior to 1816) all but a comparatively small region of undesired prairie lands south of Lake Michigan was ceded; almost the whole state of Missouri was freed from its Indian title; and, in the Gulf region, at the close of the decade, the Indians held but two isolated islands of territory, one in western Georgia and eastern Alabama, and the other in northern and central Mississippi. These ceded regions were the fruit of the victories of William Henry Harrison in the northwest, and of Andrew Jackson in the Gulf region. They were, in effect, conquered provinces, just opened to colonization.
The maps of the United States census, giving the distribution of population in 1810, 1820, and 1830, [Footnote: See maps of population; compare U. S. Census of 1900, Statistical Atlas, plates 4, 5, 6.] exhibit clearly the effects of the defeat of the Indians, and show the areas that were occupied in these years. In 1810 settlement beyond the mountains was almost limited to a zone along the Ohio River and its tributaries, the Cumberland and the Tennessee. In the southwest, the vicinity of Mobile showed sparse settlement, chiefly survivals of the Spanish and English occupation; and, along the fluvial lands of the eastern bank of the lower Mississippi, in the Natchez region, as well as in the old province of Louisiana, there was a considerable area occupied by planters.
By 1820 the effects of the War of 1812 and the rising tide of westward migration became manifest. Pioneers spread along the river- courses of the northwest well up to the Indian boundary. The zone of settlement along the Ohio ascended the Missouri, in the rush to the Boone's Lick country, towards the center of the present state. From the settlements of middle Tennessee a pioneer farming area reached southward to connect with the settlements of Mobile, and the latter became conterminous with those of the lower Mississippi.
By 1830 large portions of these Indian lands, which were ceded between 1817 and 1829, received the same type of colonization. The unoccupied lands in Indiana and Illinois were prairie country, then deemed unsuited for settlement because of the lack of wood and drinking-water. It was the hardwoods that had been taken up in the northwest, and, for the most part, the tracts a little back from the unhealthful bottom-lands, but in close proximity to the rivers, which were the only means of transportation before the building of good roads. A new island of settlement appeared in the northwestern portion of Illinois and the adjacent regions of Wisconsin and Iowa, due to the opening of the lead-mines. Along the Missouri Valley and in the Gulf region the areas possessed in 1820 increased in density of population. Georgia spread her settlers into the Indian lands, which she had so recently secured by threatening a rupture with the United States. [Footnote: MacDonald, Jacksonian Democracy (Am. Nation, XV.), chap. x. ]
Translated into terms of human activity, these shaded areas, encroaching on the blank spaces of the map, meant much for the history of the United States. Even in the northwest, which we shall first describe, they represent, in the main, the migration of southern people. New England, after the distress following the War of 1812 and the hard winter of 1816-1817, had sent many settlers into western New York and Ohio; the Western Reserve had increased in population by the immigration, of Connecticut people; Pennsylvania and New Jersey had sent colonists to southern and central Ohio, with Cincinnati as the commercial center. In Ohio the settlers of middle- state origin were decidedly more numerous than those from the south, and New England's share was distinctly smaller than that of the south. In the Ohio legislature in 1822 there were thirty-eight members of middle-state birth, thirty-three of southern (including Kentucky), and twenty-five of New England. But Kentucky and Tennessee (now sufficiently settled to need larger and cheaper farms for the rising generation), together with the up-country of the south, contributed the mass of the pioneer colonists to most of the Mississippi Valley prior to 1830. [Footnote: See, for Ohio, Niles' Register, XXI., 368 (leg. session of 1822), and Nat. Republican, January 2, 1824; for Illinois in 1833, Western Monthly Magazine, I., 199; for Missouri convention of 1820, Niles' Register, XVIII., 400; for Alabama in 1820, ibid., XX., 64. Local histories, travels, newspapers, and the census of 1850 support the text.] Of course, a large fraction of these came from the Scotch-Irish and German stock that in the first half of the eighteenth century passed from Pennsylvania along the Great Valley to the up-country of the south. Indiana, so late as 1850, showed but ten thousand natives of New England, and twice as many persons of southern as of middle states origin. In the history of Indiana, North Carolina contributed a large fraction of the population, giving to it its "Hoosier" as well as much of its Quaker stock. Illinois in this period had but a sprinkling of New-Englanders, engaged in business in the little towns. The southern stock, including settlers from Kentucky and Tennessee, was the preponderant class. The Illinois legislature for 1833 contained fifty-eight from the south (including Kentucky and Tennessee), nineteen from the middle states, and only four from New England. Missouri's population was chiefly Kentuckians and Tennesseeans.
The leaders of this southern element came, in considerable measure, from well-to-do classes, who migrated to improve their conditions in the freer opportunities of a new country. Land speculation, the opportunity of political preferment, and the advantages which these growing communities brought to practitioners of the law combined to attract men of this class. Many of them, as we shall see, brought their slaves with them, under the systems of indenture which made this possible. Missouri, especially, was sought by planters with their slaves. But it was the poorer whites, the more democratic, non-slaveholding element of the south, which furnished the great bulk of the settlers north of the Ohio. Prior to the close of the decade the same farmer type was in possession of large parts of the Gulf region, whither, through the whole of our period, the slave- holding planters came in increasing numbers.
Two of the families which left Kentucky for the newer country in these years will illustrate the movement. The Lincoln family [Footnote: Tarbell, Lincoln, I., chaps, i.-iv.; Herndon, Lincoln, I., chaps, i.-iv.; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, I., chaps, i.-iii.] had reached that state by migration from the north with the stream of backwoodsmen which bore along with it the Calhouns and the Boones. Abraham Lincoln was born in a hilly, barren portion of Kentucky in 1809. In 1816, when Lincoln was a boy of seven, his father, a poor carpenter, took his family across the Ohio on a raft, with a capital consisting of his kit of tools and several hundred gallons of whiskey. In Indiana he hewed a path into the forest to a new home in the southern part of the state, where for a year the family lived in a "half-faced camp," or open shed of poles, clearing their land. In the hardships of the pioneer life Lincoln's mother died, as did many another frontier woman. In 1830 Lincoln was a tall, strapping youth, six feet four inches in height, able to sink his axe deeper than other men into the opposing forest. At that time his father moved to the Sangamon country of Illinois with the rush of land-seekers into that new and popular region. Near the home of Lincoln in Kentucky was born, in 1808, Jefferson Davis [Footnote: Mrs. Davis, Jefferson Davis, I., 5.], whose father, shortly before the War of 1812, went with the stream of southward movers to Louisiana and then to Mississippi. Davis's brothers fought under Jackson in the War of 1812, and the family became typical planters of the Gulf region.
Meanwhile, the roads that led to the Ohio Valley were followed by an increasing tide of settlers from the east. "Old America seems to be breaking up, and moving westward," wrote Morris Birkbeck in 1817, as he passed on the National Road through Pennsylvania. "We are seldom out of sight, as we travel on this grand track, towards the Ohio, of family groups, behind and before us. ... A small waggon (so light that you might almost carry it, yet strong enough to bear a good load of bedding, utensils and provisions, and a swarm of young citizens,—and to sustain marvellous shocks in its passage over these rocky heights) with two small horses; sometimes a cow or two, comprises their all; excepting a little store of hard-earned cash for the land office of the district; where they may obtain a title for as many acres as they possess half-dollars, being one fourth of the purchase-money. The waggon has a tilt, or cover, made of a sheet, or perhaps a blanket. The family are seen before, behind, or within the vehicle, according to the road or the weather, or perhaps the spirits of the party. ... A cart and single horse frequently affords the means of transfer, sometimes a horse and packsaddle. Often the back of the poor pilgrim bears all his effects, and his wife follows, naked-footed, bending under the hopes of the family." [Footnote: Birkbeck, Notes on a Journey from Va. to Ill., 25, 26.]
The southerners who came by land along the many bad roads through Tennessee and Kentucky usually traveled with heavy, long-bodied wagons, drawn by four or six horses. [Footnote: Hist. of Grundy County, Ill., 149.] These family groups, crowding roads and fords, marching towards the sunset, with the canvas-covered wagon, ancestor of the prairie-schooner of the later times, were typical of the overland migration. The poorer classes traveled on foot, sometimes carrying their entire effects in a cart drawn by themselves. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XXI., 320.] Those of more means took horses, cattle, and sheep, and sometimes sent their household goods by wagon or by steamboat up the Mississippi. [Footnote: Howells, Life in Ohio, 1813-1840, 86; Jones, Ill. and the West, 31; Hist, of Grundy County, Ill., 149.] The routes of travel to the western country were numerous. [Footnote: See map, page 226.] Prior to the opening of the Erie Canal the New England element either passed along the Mohawk and the Genesee turnpike to Lake Erie, or crossed the Hudson and followed the line of the Catskill turnpike to the headwaters of the Allegheny, or, by way of Boston, took ship to New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore, in order to follow a more southerly route. In Pennsylvania the principal route was the old road which, in a general way, followed the line that Forbes had cut in the French and Indian War from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh by way of Lancaster and Bedford. By this time the road had been made a turnpike through a large portion of its course. From Baltimore the traveler followed a turnpike to Cumberland, on the Potomac, where began the old National Road across the mountains to Wheeling, on the Ohio, with branches leading to Pittsburgh. This became one of the great arteries of western migration and commerce, connecting, as it did at its eastern end, with the Shenandoah Valley, and thus affording access to the Ohio for large areas of Virginia. Other routes lay through the passes of the Alleghenies, easily reached from the divide between the waters of North Carolina and of West Virginia. Saluda Gap, in northwestern South Carolina, led the way to the great valley of eastern Tennessee. In Tennessee and Kentucky many routes passed to the Ohio in the region of Cincinnati or Louisville.
When the settler arrived at the waters of the Ohio, he either took a steamboat or placed his possessions on a flatboat, or ark, and floated down the river to his destination. From the upper waters of the Allegheny many emigrants took advantage of the lumber-rafts, which were constructed from the pine forests of southwestern New York, to float to the Ohio with themselves and their belongings. With the advent of the steamboat these older modes of navigation were, to a considerable extent, superseded. But navigation on the Great Lakes had not sufficiently advanced to afford opportunity for any considerable movement of settlement, by this route, beyond Lake Erie.
In the course of the decade the cost of reaching the west varied greatly with the decrease in the transportation rates brought about by the competition of the Erie Canal, the improvement of the turnpikes, and the development of steamboat navigation. The expense of the long overland journey from New England, prior to the opening of the Erie Canal, made it extremely difficult for those without any capital to reach the west. The stage rates on the Pennsylvania turnpike and the old National Road, prior to the opening of the Erie Canal, were about five or six dollars a hundred-weight from Philadelphia or Baltimore to the Ohio River; the individual was regarded as so much freight. [Footnote: Evans, Pedestrians Tour, 145.] To most of the movers, who drove their own teams and camped by the wayside, however, the actual expense was simply that of providing food for themselves and their horses on the road. The cost of moving by land a few years later is illustrated by the case of a Maryland family, consisting of fifteen persons, of whom five were slaves. They traveled about twenty miles a day, with a four-horse wagon, three hundred miles, to Wheeling, at an expense of seventy- five dollars. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XLVIII., 242.] The expense of traveling by stage and steamboat from Philadelphia to St. Louis at the close of the decade was about fifty-five dollars for one person; or by steamboat from New Orleans to St. Louis, thirty dollars, including food and lodging. For deck-passage, without food or lodging, the charge was only eight dollars. [Footnote: Ill. Monthly Magazine, II., 53.] In 1823 the cost of passage from Cincinnati to New Orleans by steamboat was twenty-five dollars; from New Orleans to Cincinnati, fifty dollars. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XXV., 95.] In the early thirties one could go from New Orleans to Pittsburgh, as cabin passenger, for from thirty-five to forty-five dollars. [Footnote: Emigrants' and Travelers' Guide through the Valley of the Mississippi, 341.]
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE WEST (1820-1830)
Arrived at the nearest point to his destination on the Ohio, the emigrant either cut out a road to his new home or pushed up some tributary of that river in a keel-boat. If he was one of the poorer classes, he became a squatter on the public lands, trusting to find in the profits of his farming the means of paying for his land. Not uncommonly, after clearing the land, he sold his improvements to the actual purchaser, under the customary usage or by pre-emption laws. [Footnote: Hall, Statistics of the West, 180; Kingdom, America, 56; Peck, New Guide for Emigrants to the West (1837), 119-132.] With the money thus secured he would purchase new land in a remoter area, and thus establish himself as an independent land-owner. Under the credit system [Footnote: Emerick, Credit and the Public Domain.] which existed at the opening of the period, the settler purchased his land in quantities of not less than one hundred and sixty acres at two dollars per acre, by a cash payment of fifty cents per acre and the rest in installments running over a period of four years; but by the new law of 1820 the settler was permitted to buy as small a tract as eighty acres from the government at a minimum price of a dollar and a quarter per acre, without credit. The price of labor in the towns along the Ohio, coupled with the low cost of provisions, made it possible for even a poor day-laborer from the East to accumulate the necessary amount to make his land-purchase. [Footnote: See, for example, Peck, New Guide for Emigrants to the West (1837), 107-134; Bradbury, Travels, 286.]
Having in this way settled down either as a squatter or as a land- owner, the pioneer proceeded to hew out a clearing in the midst of the forest. [Footnote: Kingdom, America, 10, 54, 63; Flint, Letters, 206; McMaster, United States, V., 152-155; Howells, Life in Ohio, 115.] Commonly he had selected his lands with reference to the value of the soil, as indicated by the character of the hardwoods, but this meant that the labor of clearing was the more severe in good soil. Under the sturdy strokes of his axe the light of day was let into the little circle of cleared ground. [Footnote: Hall, Statistics of the West, 98, 101, 145.] With the aid of his neighbors, called together under the social attractions of a "raising," with its inevitable accompaniment of whiskey and a "frolic," he erected his log-cabin. "America," wrote Birkbeck, "was bred in a cabin." [Footnote: Birkbeck, Notes on Journey, 94.]
Having secured a foothold, the settler next proceeded to "girdle" or "deaden" an additional forest area, preparatory to his farming operations. This consisted in cutting a ring through the bark around the lower portion of the trunk, to prevent the sap from rising. In a short time the withered branches were ready for burning, and in the midst of the stumps the first crop of corn and vegetables was planted. Often the settler did not even burn the girdled trees, but planted his crop under the dead foliage.
In regions nearer to the east, as in western New York, it was sometimes possible to repay a large portion of the cost of clearing by the sale of pot and pearl ashes extracted from the logs, which were brought together into huge piles for burning. [Footnote: Life of Thurlow Weed (Autobiography), I., ii.] This was accomplished by a "log-rolling," under the united efforts of the neighbors, as in the case of the "raising." More commonly in the west the logs were wasted by burning, except such as were split into rails, which, laid one above another, made the zig-zag "worm-fences" for the protection of the fields of the pioneer.
When a clearing was sold to a later comer, fifty or sixty dollars, in addition to the government price of land, was commonly charged for forty acres, enclosed and partly cleared. [Footnote: Kingdom, America, 10, 54.] It was estimated that the cost of a farm of three hundred and twenty acres at the edge of the prairie in Illinois, at this time, would be divided as follows: for one hundred and sixty acres of prairie, two hundred dollars; for fencing it into four forty-acre fields with rail-fences, one hundred and sixty dollars; for breaking it up with a plough, two dollars per acre, or three hundred and twenty dollars; eighty acres of timber land and eighty acres of pasture prairie, two hundred dollars. Thus, with cabins, stables, etc., it cost a little over a thousand dollars to secure an improved farm of three hundred and twenty acres. [Footnote: J.M. Peck, Guide for Emigrants (1831), 183-188; cf. Birkbeck (London, 1818), Letters, 45, 46, 69-73; S.H. Collins, Emigrant's Guide; Tanner (publisher), View of the Valley of the Miss. (1834), 232; J. Woods, Two Years' Residence, 146, 172.] But the mass of the early settlers were too poor to afford such an outlay, and were either squatters within a little clearing, or owners of eighty acres, which they hoped to increase by subsequent purchase. Since they worked with the labor of their own hands and that of their sons, the cash outlay was practically limited to the original cost of the lands and articles of husbandry. The cost of an Indiana farm of eighty acres of land, with two horses, two or three cows, a few hogs and sheep, and farming utensils, was estimated at about four hundred dollars.
The peculiar skill required of the axeman who entered the hardwood forests, together with readiness to undergo the privations of the life, made the backwoodsman in a sense an expert engaged in a special calling. [Footnote: J. Hall, Statistics of the West, 101; cf. Chastellux, Travels in North America (London, 1787), I., 44.] Frequently he was the descendant of generations of pioneers, who, on successive frontiers, from the neighborhood of the Atlantic coast towards the interior, had cut and burned the forest, fought the Indians, and pushed forward the line of civilization. He bore the marks of the struggle in his face, made sallow by living in the shade of the forest, "shut from the common air," [Footnote: Birkbeck, Notes on Journey, 105-114.] and in a constitution often racked by malarial fever. Dirt and squalor were too frequently found in the squatter's cabin, and education and the refinements of life were denied to him. Often shiftless and indolent, in the intervals between his tasks of forest-felling he was fonder of hunting than of a settled agricultural life. With his rifle he eked out his sustenance, and the peltries furnished him a little ready cash. His few cattle grazed in the surrounding forest, and his hogs fed on its mast.
The backwoodsman of this type represented the outer edge of the advance of civilization. Where settlement was closer, co-operative activity possible, and little villages, with the mill and retail stores, existed, conditions of life were ameliorated, and a better type of pioneer was found. Into such regions circuit-riders and wandering preachers carried the beginnings of church organization, and schools were started. But the frontiersmen proper constituted a moving class, ever ready to sell out their clearings in [Footnote: Babcock, Forty Years of Pioneer Life ("Journals and Correspondence of J.M. Peck"), 101.] order to press on to a new frontier, where game more abounded, soil was reported to be better, and where the forest furnished a welcome retreat from the uncongenial encroachments of civilization. If, however, he was thrifty and forehanded, the backwoodsman remained on his clearing, improving his farm and sharing in the change from wilderness life.
Behind the type of the backwoodsman came the type of the pioneer farmer. Equipped with a little capital, he often, as we have seen, purchased the clearing, and thus avoided some of the initial hardships of pioneer life. In the course of a few years, as saw- mills were erected, frame-houses took the place of the log-cabins; the rough clearing, with its stumps, gave way to well-tilled fields; orchards were planted; live-stock roamed over the enlarged clearing; and an agricultural surplus was ready for export. Soon the adventurous speculator offered corner lots in a new town-site, and the rude beginnings of a city were seen.
Thus western occupation advanced in a series of waves: [Footnote: J.M. Peck, New Guide to the West (Cincinnati, 1848), chap. iv.; T. Flint, Geography and Hist. of the Western States, 350 et seq.; J. Flint, Letters from America, 206; cf. Turner, Significance of the Frontier in American History, in Am. Hist. Assoc., Report 1893, p. 214; McMaster, United States, V., 152-160.] the Indian was sought by the fur-trader; the fur-trader was followed by the frontiersman, whose live-stock exploited the natural grasses and the acorns of the forest; next came the wave of primitive agriculture, followed by more intensive farming and city life. All the stages of social development went on under the eye of the traveler as he passed from the frontier towards the east. Such were the forces which were steadily pushing their way into the American wilderness, as they had pushed for generations.
While thus the frontier folk spread north of the Ohio and up the Missouri, a different movement was in progress in the Gulf region of the west. In the beginning precisely the same type of occupation was to be seen: the poorer classes of southern emigrants cut out their clearings along rivers that flowed to the Gulf and to the lower Mississippi, and, with the opening of this decade, went in increasing numbers into Texas, where enterprising Americans secured concessions from the Mexican government. [Footnote: Garrison, Texas, chaps, xiii., xiv.; Wooten (editor), Comprehensive Hist. of Texas, I., chaps. viii., ix.; Texas State Hist. Assoc., Quarterly, VII., 29, 289; Bugbee, "Texas Frontier," in Southern Hist. Assoc., Publications, IV., 106.]
Almost all of the most recently occupied area was but thinly settled. It represented the movement of the backwoodsman, with axe and rifle, advancing to the conquest of the forest. But closer to the old settlements a more highly developed agriculture was to be seen. Hodgson, in 1821, describes plantations in northern Alabama in lands ceded by the Indians in 1818. Though settled less than two years, there were within a few miles five schools and four places of worship. One plantation had one hundred acres in cotton and one hundred and ten in corn, although a year and a half before it was wilderness. [Footnote: Hodgson, Letters from North Am., I., 269; see Riley (editor), "Autobiography of Lincecum," in Miss. Hist. Soc., Publications, VIII., 443, for the wanderings of a southern pioneer in the recently opened Indian lands of Georgia and the southwest in these years.]
But while this population of log-cabin pioneers was entering the Gulf plains, caravans of slave-holding planters were advancing from the seaboard to the occupation of the cotton-lands of the same region. As the free farmers of the interior had been replaced in the upland country of the south by the slaveholding planters, so now the frontiersmen of the southwest were pushed back from the more fertile lands into the pine hills and barrens. Not only was the pioneer unable to refuse the higher price which was offered him for his clearing, but, in the competitive bidding of the public land sales, [Footnote: Northern Ala. (published by Smith & De Land), 249; Brown, Hist. of Ala., 129-131; Brown, Lower South, 24-26.] the wealthier planter secured the desirable soils. Social forces worked to the same end. When the pioneer invited his slave-holding neighbor to a "raising," it grated on his sense of the fitness of things to have the guest appear with gloves, directing the gang of slaves which he contributed to the function. [Footnote: Smedes, A Southern Planter, 67.] Little by little, therefore, the old pioneer life tended to retreat to the less desirable lands, leaving the slave-holder in possession of the rich "buck-shot" soils that spread over central Alabama and Mississippi and the fat alluvium that lined the eastern bank of the Mississippi. Even to-day the counties of dense Negro population reveal the results of this movement of segregation.
By the side of the picture of the advance of the pioneer farmer, bearing his household goods in his canvas-covered wagon to his new home across the Ohio, must therefore be placed the picture of the southern planter crossing through the forests of western Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, or passing over the free state of Illinois to the Missouri Valley, in his family carriage, with servants, packs of hunting-dogs, and a train of slaves, their nightly camp-fires lighting up the wilderness where so recently the Indian hunter had held possession. [Footnote: Hodgson, Letters from North Am., I., 138; Niles' Register, XLIV., 222; Smedes, A Southern Planter, 52-54; Flint, Geography and History of the Western States, II., 350, 379; Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Travels, II., chaps. xvi., xvii.]
But this new society had a characteristic western flavor. The old patriarchal type of slavery along the seaboard was modified by the western conditions in the midst of which the slave-holding interest was now lodged. Planters, as well as pioneer farmers, were exploiting the wilderness and building a new society under characteristic western influences. Rude strength, a certain coarseness of life, and aggressiveness characterized this society, as it did the whole of the Mississippi Valley. [Footnote: Baldwin, Flush Times in Ala.; cf. Gilmer, Sketches of Georgia, etc.] Slavery furnished a new ingredient for western forces to act upon. The system took on a more commercial tinge: the plantation had to be cleared and made profitable as a purely business enterprise.
The slaves were purchased in considerable numbers from the older states instead of being inherited in the family. Slave-dealers passed to the southwest, with their coffles of Negroes brought from the outworn lands of the old south. It was estimated in 1832 that Virginia annually exported six thousand slaves for sale to other states. [Footnote: Collins, Domestic Slave Trade, 50.] An English traveler reported in 1823 that every year from ten to fifteen thousand slaves were sold from the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, and sent to the south. [Footnote: Blane, Excursion through U.S., 226; Hodgson, Letters from North Am., I., 194.] At the same time, illicit importation of slaves through New Orleans reached an amount estimated at from ten to fifteen thousand a year. [Footnote: Collins, Domestic Slave Trade, 44.] It was not until the next decade that this incoming tide of slaves reached its height, but by 1830 it was clearly marked and was already transforming the southwest. Mississippi doubled the number of her slaves in the decade, and Alabama nearly trebled hers. In the same period the number of slaves of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina increased but slightly.
As the discussion of the south has already made clear, the explanation of this transformation of the southwest into a region of slave-holding planters lies in the spread of cotton into the Gulf plains. In 1811 this region raised but five million pounds of cotton; ten years later its product was sixty million pounds; and in 1826 its fields were white with a crop of over one hundred and fifty million pounds. It soon outstripped the seaboard south. Alabama, which had practically no cotton crop in 1811, and only ten million pounds in 1821, had in 1834 eighty-five million pounds, [Footnote: See table of cotton crop, ante, p. 47.] a larger crop than either South Carolina or Georgia.
Soon after 1830 the differences between the northern and southern portions of the Mississippi Valley were still further accentuated. (1) From New York and New England came a tide of settlement, in the thirties, which followed the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, and began to occupy the prairie lands which had been avoided by the southern axemen. This region then became an extension of the greater New England already to be seen in New York. (2) The southern pioneers in the northwest formed a transitional zone between this northern area and the slave states south of the Ohio. (3) In the Gulf plains a greater south was in process of formation, but by no means completely established. As yet it was a mixture of pioneer and planter, slave and free, profoundly affected by its western traits. [Footnote: Curry, "A Settlement in East Ala.," in Am. Hist. Magazine, II., 203.]
The different states of the south were steadily sending in bands of colonists. In Alabama, for example, the Georgians settled, as a rule, in the east; the Tennesseeans, moving from the great bend of the Tennessee River, were attracted to the northern and middle section; and the Virginians and Carolinians went to the west and southwest, following the bottom-lands near the rivers. [Footnote: Brown, Hist. of Ala., 129, 130; Northern Ala. (published bv Smith & De Land), pt. iv., 243 et seq.]
WESTERN COMMERCE AND IDEALS (1820-1830)
By 1820 the west had developed the beginnings of many of the cities which have since ruled over the region. Buffalo and Detroit were hardly more than villages until the close of this period. They waited for the rise of steam navigation on the Great Lakes and for the opening of the prairies. Cleveland, also, was but a hamlet during most of the decade; but by 1830 the construction of the canal connecting the Cuyahoga with the Scioto increased its prosperity, and its harbor began to profit by its natural advantages. [Footnote: Whittlesey, Early Hist. of Cleveland, 456; Kennedy, Hist. of Cleveland, chap. viii.] Chicago and Milwaukee were mere fur-trading stations in the Indian country. Pittsburgh, at the head of the Ohio, was losing its old pre-eminence as the gateway to the west, but was finding recompense in the development of its manufactures. By 1830 its population was about twelve thousand. [Footnote: Thurston, Pittsburg and Allegheny in the Centennial Year, 61.] Foundries, rolling-mills, nail-factories, steam-engine shops, and distilleries were busily at work, and the city, dingy with the smoke of soft coal, was already dubbed the "young Manchester" or the "Birmingham" of America. By 1830 Wheeling had intercepted much of the overland trade and travel to the Ohio, profiting by the old National Road and the wagon trade from Baltimore. [Footnote: Martin, Gazetteer of Va., 407.]
Cincinnati was rapidly rising to the position of the "Queen City of the West." Situated where the river reached with a great bend towards the interior of the northwest, in the rich farming country between the two Miamis, and opposite the Licking River, it was the commercial center of a vast and fertile region of Ohio and Kentucky; [Footnote: Melish, Information to Emigrants, 108.] and by 1830, with a population of nearly twenty-five thousand souls, it was the largest city of the west, with the exception of New Orleans. The center of steamboat-building, it also received extensive imports of goods from the east and exported the surplus crops of Ohio and adjacent parts of Kentucky. Its principal industry, however, was pork-packing, from which it won the name of "Porkopolis" [Footnote: Drake and Mansfield, Cincinnati in 1826, p. 70; Winter in the West, I., 115.] Louisville, at the falls of the Ohio, was an important place of trans-shipment, and the export center for large quantities of tobacco. There were considerable manufactures of rope and bagging, products of the Kentucky hemp-fields; and new cotton and woolen factories were struggling for existence. [Footnote: Durrett, Centenary of Louisville (Filson Club, Publications, No. 8), 50-101; Louisville Directory, 1832, p. 131.] St. Louis occupied a unique position, as the entrepot of the important fur-trade of the upper Mississippi and the vast water system of the Missouri, as well as the outfitting-point for the Missouri settlements. It was the capital of the far west, and the commercial center for Illinois. Its population at the close of the decade was about six thousand.
Only a few villages lay along the Mississippi below St. Louis until the traveler reached New Orleans, the emporium of the whole Mississippi Valley. As yet the direct effect of the Erie Canal was chiefly limited to the state of New York. The great bulk of western exports passed down the tributaries of the Mississippi to this city, which was, therefore, the center of foreign exports for the valley, as well as the port from which the coastwise trade in the products of the whole interior departed. In 1830 its population was nearly fifty thousand.
The rise of an agricultural surplus was transforming the west and preparing a new influence in the nation. It was this surplus and the demand for markets that developed the cities just mentioned. As they grew, the price of land in their neighborhood increased; roads radiated into the surrounding country; and farmers, whose crops had been almost worthless from the lack of transportation facilities, now found it possible to market their surplus at a small profit. While the west was thus learning the advantages of a home market, the extension of cotton and sugar cultivation in the south and southwest gave it a new and valuable market. More and more, the planters came to rely upon the northwest for their food supplies and for the mules and horses for their fields. Cotton became the engrossing interest of the plantation belt, and, while the full effects of this differentiation of industry did not appear in the decade of this volume, the beginnings were already visible. [Footnote: Callender, "Early Transportation and Banking Enterprises of the States," in Quarterly Journal of Econ., XVII., 3-54.] In 1835, Pitkin [Footnote: Pitkin, Statistical View (1835), 534.] reckoned the value of the domestic and foreign exports of the interior as far in excess of the whole exports of the United States in 1790. Within forty years the development of the interior had brought about the economic independence of the United States.
During most of the decade the merchandise to supply the interior was brought laboriously across the mountains by the Pennsylvania turnpikes and the old National Road; or, in the case of especially heavy freight, was carried along the Atlantic coast into the gulf and up the Mississippi and Ohio by steamboats. The cost of transportation in the wagon trade from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and Baltimore to Wheeling placed a heavy tax upon the consumer. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XX., 180.] In 1817 the freight charge from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was sometimes as high as seven to ten dollars a hundredweight; a few years later it became from four to six dollars; and in 1823 it had fallen to three dollars. It took a month to wagon merchandise from Baltimore to central Ohio. Transportation companies, running four-horse freight wagons, conducted a regular business on these turn-pikes between the eastern and western states. In 1820 over three thousand wagons ran between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, transporting merchandise valued at about eighteen million dollars annually. [Footnote: Birkbeck, Journey from Va., 128; Ogden, Letters from the West, 8; Cobbett, Year's Residence, 337; Evans, Pedestrious Tour, 145; Philadelphia in 1824, 45; Searight, Old Pike, 107, 112; Mills, Treatise on Inland Navigation (1820), 89, 90, 93, 95-97; Journal of Polit. Econ., VIII., 36.]
The construction of the National Road reduced freight rates to nearly one-half what they were at the close of the War of 1812; and the introduction of steam navigation from New Orleans up the Mississippi cut water-rates by that route to one-third of the former charge. [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 18 Cong., I Sess., I., 991; cf. Fearon, Sketches, 260; Niles' Register, XXV., 95; Cincinnati Christian Journal, July 27, 1830.] Nevertheless, there was a crying need for internal improvements, and particularly for canals, to provide an outlet for the increasing products of the west. "Even in the country where I reside, not eighty miles from tidewater," said Tucker, [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 15 Cong., I Sess., I., 1126.] of Virginia, in 1818, "it takes the farmer one bushel of wheat to pay the expense of carrying two to a seaport town."
The bulk of the crop, as compared with its value, practically prevented transportation by land farther than a hundred miles. [Footnote: McMaster, United States, III., 464.] It is this that helps to explain the attention which the interior first gave to making whiskey and raising live-stock; the former carried the crop in a small bulk with high value, while the live-stock could walk to a market. Until after the War of 1812, the cattle of the Ohio Valley were driven to the seaboard, chiefly to Philadelphia or Baltimore. Travelers were astonished to see on the highway droves of four or five thousand hogs, going to an eastern market. It was estimated that over a hundred thousand hogs were driven east annually from Kentucky alone. Kentucky hog-drivers also passed into Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas with their droves. [Footnote: Life of Ephraim Cutler, 89; Birkbeck, Journey, 24.; Blane, Excursion through U. S. (London, 1824), 90; Atlantic Monthly, XXVI., 170.] The swine lived on the nuts and acorns of the forest; thus they were peculiarly suited to pioneer conditions. At first the cattle were taken to the plantations of the Potomac to fatten for Baltimore and Philadelphia, much in the same way that, in recent times, the cattle of the Great Plains are brought to the feeding-grounds in the corn belt of Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. [Footnote: Michaux, Travels, 191: Palmer, Journal of Travels, 36] Towards the close of the decade, however, the feeding-grounds shifted into Ohio, and the pork-packing industry, as we have seen, found its center at Cincinnati, [Footnote: Hall, Statistics of the West (1836), 145- 147.] the most important source of supply for the hams and bacon and salt pork which passed down the Mississippi to furnish a large share of the plantation food. From Kentucky and the rest of the Ohio Valley droves of mules and horses passed through the Tennessee Valley to the south to supply the plantations. Statistics at Cumberland Gap for 1828 gave the value of live-stock passing the turnpike gate there at $1,167,000. [Footnote: Emigrants' and Travellers' Guide to the West (1834), 194.] Senator Hayne, of South Carolina, declared that in 1824 the south was supplied from the west, through Saluda Gap, with live-stock, horses, cattle, and hogs to the amount of over a million dollars a year. [Footnote: Speech in Senate in 1832, Register of Debates in Cong., VIII., pt. i., 80; cf. Annals of Cong., 18 Cong., i Sess., I., 1411.]
But the outlet from the west over the roads to the east and south was but a subordinate element in the internal commerce. Down the Mississippi floated a multitude of heavily freighted craft: lumber rafts from the Allegheny, the old-time arks, with cattle, flour, and bacon, hay-boats, keel-boats, and skiffs, all mingled with the steamboats which plied the western waters. [Footnote: Flint, Recollections of the Last Ten Years, 101-110; E. S. Thomas, Reminiscences, I., 290-293; Hall, Statistics of the West (1836), 236; Howells, Life in Ohio, 85; Schultz, Travels, 129; Hulbert, Historic Highways, IX., chaps, iii., iv., v.] Flatboatmen, raftsmen, and deck-hands constituted a turbulent and reckless population, living on the country through which they passed, fighting and drinking in true "half-horse, half-alligator" style. Prior to the steamboat, all of the commerce from New Orleans to the upper country was carried on in about twenty barges, averaging a hundred tons each, and making one trip a year. Although the steamboat did not drive out the other craft, it revolutionized the commerce of the river. Whereas it had taken the keel-boats thirty to forty days to descend from Louisville to New Orleans, and about ninety days to ascend the fifteen hundred miles of navigation by poling and warping up-stream, the steamboat had shortened the time, by 1822, to seven days down and sixteen days up. [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 17 Gong., 2 Sess., 407; McMaster, United States, V., 166; National Gazette, September 26, 1823 (list of steamboats, rates of passage, estimate of products); Blane, Excursion through the U. S., 119; Niles' Register, XXV., 95.] As the steamboats ascended the various tributaries of the Mississippi to gather the products of the growing west, the pioneers came more and more to realize the importance of the invention. They resented the idea of the monopoly which Pulton and Livingston wished to enforce prior to the decision of Chief- Justice Marshall, in the case of Gibbons vs. Ogden—a decision of vital interest to the whole interior. [Footnote: Thomas, Travels through the Western Country, 62; Alexandria Herald, June 23, 1817.]
They saw in the steamboat a symbol of their own development. A writer in the Western Monthly Review, [Footnote: Timothy Flint's Western Monthly Review (May, 1827), I., 25; William Bullock, Sketch of a Journey, 132.] unconsciously expressed the very spirit of the self-contented, hustling, materialistic west in these words: "An Atlantic cit, who talks of us under the name of backwoodsmen, would not believe, that such fairy structures of oriental gorgeousness and splendor, as the Washington, the Florida, the Walk in the Water, the Lady of the Lake, etc. etc., had ever existed in the imaginative brain of a romancer, much less, that they were actually in existence, rushing down the Mississippi, as on the wings of the wind, or plowing up between the forests, and walking against the mighty current 'as things of life,' bearing speculators, merchants, dandies, fine ladies, every thing real, and every thing affected, in the form of humanity, with pianos, and stocks of novels, and cards, and dice, and flirting, and love-making, and drinking, and champagne, and on the deck, perhaps, three hundred fellows, who have seen alligators, and neither fear whiskey, nor gun-powder. A steamboat, coming from New Orleans, brings to the remotest villages of our streams, and the very doors of the cabins, a little Paris, a section of Broadway, or a slice of Philadelphia, to ferment in the minds of our young people, the innate propensity for fashions and finery. Within a day's journey of us, three distinct canals are in respectable progress towards completion. . . . Cincinnati will soon be the center of the 'celestial empire,' as the Chinese say; and instead of encountering the storms, the sea sickness, and dangers of a passage from the gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic, whenever the Erie canal shall be completed, the opulent southern planters will take their families, their dogs and parrots, through a world of forests, from New Orleans to New York, giving us a call by the way. When they are more acquainted with us, their voyage will often terminate here."
By 1830 the produce which reached New Orleans from the Mississippi Valley amounted to about twenty-six million dollars. [Footnote: Quarterly Journal of Economics, XVII., 20; Pitkin, Statistical View (ed. of 1835), 534-536.] In 1822 three million dollars' worth of goods was estimated to have passed the Falls of the Ohio on the way to market, representing much of the surplus of the Ohio Valley. Of this, pork amounted to $1,000,000 in value; flour to $900,000; tobacco to $600,000; and whiskey to $500,000. [Footnote: National Republican, March 7, 1823; cf. National Gazette, September 26, 1823; Blane, Excursion through the U. S., 119.] The inventory of products reveals the Mississippi Valley as a vast colonial society, producing the raw materials of a simple and primitive agriculture. The beginnings of manufacture in the cities, however, promised to bring about a movement for industrial independence in the west. In spite of evidences of growing wealth, there was such a decline in agricultural prices that, for the farmer who did not live on the highways of commerce, it was almost unprofitable to raise wheat for the market.
An Ohio pioneer of this time relates that at the beginning of the decade fifty cents a bushel was a great price for wheat at the river; and as two horses and a man were required for four days to make the journey of thirty-five miles to the Ohio, in good weather, with thirty-five or forty bushels of wheat, and a great deal longer if the roads were bad, it was not to be expected that the farmer could realize more than twenty-five cents in cash for it. But there was no sale for it in cash. The nominal price for it in trade was usually thirty cents. [Footnote: Howells, Life in Ohio, 138; see M'Culloch, Commercial Dictionary, I., 683,684; Hazard, U.S. Commercial and Statistical Register, I., 251; O'Reilly, Sketches of Rochester, 362.] When wheat brought twenty-five cents a bushel in Illinois in 1825, it sold at over eighty cents in Petersburg, Virginia, and flour was six dollars a barrel at Charleston, South Carolina. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XXIX, 165.]
These are the economic conditions that assist in understanding the political attitude of western leaders like Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson. The cry of the east for protection to infant industries was swelled by the little cities of the west, and the demand for a home market found its strongest support beyond the Alleghenies. Internal improvements and lower rates of transportation were essential to the prosperity of the westerners. Largely a debtor class, in need of capital, credit, and an expansion of the currency, they resented attempts to restrain the reckless state banking which their optimism fostered.
But the political ideals and actions of the west are explained by social quite as much as by economic forces. It was certain that this society, where equality and individualism flourished, where assertive democracy was supreme, where impatience with the old order of things was a ruling passion, would demand control of the government, would resent the rule of the trained statesmen and official classes, and would fight nominations by congressional caucus and the continuance of presidential dynasties. Besides its susceptibility to change, the west had generated, from its Indian fighting, forest-felling, and expansion, a belligerency and a largeness of outlook with regard to the nation's territorial destiny. As the pioneer, widening the ring-wall of his clearing in the midst of the stumps and marshes of the wilderness, had a vision of the lofty buildings and crowded streets of a future city, so the west as a whole developed ideals of the future of the common man, and of the grandeur and expansion of the nation.
The west was too new a section to have developed educational facilities to any large extent. The pioneers' poverty, as well as the traditions of the southern interior from which they so largely came, discouraged extensive expenditures for public schools. [Footnote: McMaster, United States, V., 370-372.] In Kentucky and Tennessee the more prosperous planters had private tutors, often New England collegians, for their children. For example, Amos Kendall, later postmaster-general, was tutor in Henry Clay's family. So- called colleges were numerous, some of them fairly good. In 1830 a writer made a survey of higher education in the whole western country and reported twenty-eight institutions, with seven hundred and sixty-six graduates and fourteen hundred and thirty undergraduates. Less than forty thousand volumes were recorded in the college and "social" libraries of the entire Mississippi Valley. [Footnote: Am. Quarterly Register (November, 1830), III., 127-131.] Very few students went from the west to eastern colleges; but the foundations of public education had been laid in the land grants for common schools and universities. For the present this fund was generally misappropriated and wasted, or worse. Nevertheless, the ideal of a democratic education was held up in the first constitution of Indiana, making it the duty of the legislature to provide for "a general system of education, ascending in a regular graduation from township schools to a State university, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all." [Footnote: Poore, Charters and Constitutions, pt. i., 508 (art. ix., sec. 2 of Constitution of Ind., 1816).]
Literature did not flourish in the west, although the newspaper press [Footnote: W. H. Perrin, Pioneer Press of Ky. (Filson Club Publications).] followed closely after the retreating savage; many short-lived periodicals were founded, [Footnote: Venable, Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley, chap, iii.; W. B. Cairns, Development of American Literature from 1815 to 1833, in University of Wis., Bulletin (Phil, and Lit. Series), I., 60-63.] and writers like Timothy Flint and James Hall were not devoid of literary ability. Lexington, in Kentucky, and Cincinnati made rival claims to be the "Athens of the West." In religion, the west was partial to those denominations which prevailed in the democratic portions of the older sections. Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians took the lead. [Footnote: Am. Quarterly Register, III., 135 (November, 1830); Schermerhorn and Mills, View of U. S. West of the Alleghany Mountains (Hartford, 1814); Home Missionary, 1829, pp. 78, 79; 1830, p. 172; McMaster, United States, IV., 550-555.]
The religious life of the west frequently expressed itself in the form of emotional gatherings, in the camp-meetings and the revivals, where the rude, unlettered, but deeply religious backwoods preachers moved their large audiences with warnings of the wrath of God. Muscular Christianity was personified in the circuit-rider, who, with his saddle-bags and Bible, threaded the dreary trails through the forest from settlement to settlement. From the responsiveness of the west to religious excitement, it was easy to perceive that here was a region capable of being swayed in large masses by enthusiasm. These traits of the camp-meeting were manifested later in political campaigns.
Thus this society beyond the mountains, recruited from all the older states and bound together by the Mississippi, constituted a region swayed for the most part by common impulses. By the march of the westerners away from their native states to the public domain of the nation, and by their organization as territories of the United States, they lost that state particularism which distinguished many of the old commonwealths of the coast. The section was nationalistic and democratic to the core. The west admired the self-made man and was ready to follow its hero with the enthusiasm of a section more responsive to personality than to the programmes of trained statesmen. It was a self-confident section, believing in its right to share in government, and troubled by no doubts of its capacity to rule.
THE FAR WEST (1820-1830)
In the decade of which we write, more than two-thirds of the present area of the United States was Indian country—a vast wilderness stretching from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean. East of the Mississippi, the pioneers had taken possession of the hardwoods of the Ohio, but over the prairies between them and the Great Lakes the wild flowers and grasses grew rank and undisturbed. To the north, across Michigan and Wisconsin, spread the somber, white-pine wilderness, interlaced with hardwoods, which swept in ample zone along the Great Lakes, and, in turn, faded into the treeless expanse of the prairies beyond the Mississippi. To the south, in the Gulf plains, Florida was, for the most part, a wilderness; and, as we have seen, great areas of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia were still unoccupied by civilization.
West of the Mississippi lay a huge new world—an ocean of grassy prairie that rolled far to the west, till it reached the zone where insufficient rainfall transformed it into the arid plains, which stretched away to the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. Over this vast waste, equal in area to France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Denmark, and Belgium combined, a land where now wheat and corn fields and grazing herds produce much of the food supply for the larger part of America and for great areas of Europe, roamed the bison and the Indian hunter. Beyond this, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas, enclosing high plateaus, heaved up their vast bulk through nearly a thousand miles from east to west, concealing untouched treasures of silver and gold. The great valleys of the Pacific coast in Oregon and California held but a sparse population of Indian traders, a few Spanish missions, and scattered herdsmen.
At the beginning of Monroe's presidency, the Pacific coast was still in dispute between England, Spain, Russia, and the United States. Holding to all of Texas, Spain also raised her flag over her colonists who spread from Mexico along the valley of the Rio Grande to Santa Fe, and she claimed the great unoccupied wilderness of mountain and desert comprising the larger portion of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, as well as California. In the decade of 1820-1830, fur-traders threaded the dark and forbidding defiles of the mountains, unfolded the secrets of the Great Basin, and found their way across the Rockies to California and Oregon; the government undertook diplomatic negotiations to safeguard American rights on the Pacific, and extended a line of forts well into the Indian country; while far-seeing statesmen on the floor of Congress challenged the nation to fulfill its destiny by planting its settlements boldly beyond the Rocky Mountains on the shores of the Pacific. It was a call to the lodgment of American power on that ocean, the mastery of which is to determine the future relations of Asiatic and European civilizations. [Footnote: Cf. Babcock, Am. Nationality (Am. Nation, XIII.), chap. xv.]
A survey of the characteristics of the life of the far west shows that, over Wisconsin and the larger part of Michigan, the Indian trade was still carried on by methods introduced by the French. [Footnote: Masson, Le Bourgeois de Nordwest; Parkman. Old Regime.] Aster's American Fur Company practically controlled the trade of Wisconsin and Michigan. It shipped its guns and ammunition, blankets, gewgaws, and whiskey from Mackinac to some one of the principal posts, where they were placed in the light birch canoes, manned by French boatmen, and sent throughout the forests to the minor trading-posts. Practically all of the Indian villages of the tributaries of the Great Lakes and of the upper Mississippi were regularly visited by the trader. The trading-posts became the nuclei of later settlements; the traders' trails grew into the early roads, and their portages marked out the location for canals. Little by little the fur-trade was undermining the Indian society and paving the way for the entrance of civilization. [Footnote: Turner, Character and Influence of the Fur Trade in Wis., in Wis. Hist. Soc., Transactions, 1889.]
In the War of 1812, all along the frontier of Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, as well as in the southwest, the settlers had drawn back into forts, much as in the early days of the occupation of Kentucky and Tennessee, and the traders and the Indians had been entirely under the influence of Great Britain. In the negotiations at Ghent, that power, having captured the American forts at Mackinac, Prairie du Chien, and Chicago, tried to incorporate in the treaty a provision for a neutral belt, or buffer state, of Indian territory in the northwest, to separate Canada from the United States. [Footnote: Cf. Babcock, Am. Nationality (Am. Nation, XIII.), chap. x.] Taught by this experience, the United States, at the close of the war, passed laws excluding aliens from conducting the Indian trade, and erected forts at Green Bay, Prairie du Chien, Chicago, and Fort Snelling. By order of Secretary of War Calhoun, Governor Cass, of Michigan, made an expedition in 1820 along the south shore of Lake Superior into Minnesota, to compel the removal of English flags and to replace British by American influence. [Footnote: Schoolcraft, Hist, of Indian Tribes, VI., 422; ibid., Narrative Journal; "Doty's Journal," in Wis. Hist. Soc., Collections, XIII., 163.] At the same time, an expedition under Major Long visited the upper waters of the Minnesota River on a similar errand. [Footnote: Keating, Long's Expedition.] An agent who was sent by the government to investigate the Indian conditions of this region in 1820, recommended that the country now included in Wisconsin, northern Michigan, and part of Minnesota should be an Indian reservation, from which white settlements should be excluded, with the idea that ultimately the Indian population should be organized as a state of the Union. [Footnote: Morse, Report on Indian Affairs in 1820.]