Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

VALUE OF THE COTTON-GIN.

in December, 1807, Mr. Whitney | thousand millions of dollars to the obtained a verdict against the pirates Slave States of this country, is to on his invention ; his patent being place a very moderate estimate on now in the last year of its existence. its value. Mr. Whitney petitioned Judge Johnson, in entering judg Congress, in 1812, for a renewal of ment for the plaintiff, said:

his patent, setting forth the costly “With regard to the utility of this discov

and embarrassing struggles he had

and embarrassing struggt ery, the court would deem it a waste of been forced to make in defense of his time to dwell long upon this topic. Is there

right, and observing that he had been a man who hears us, who has not experienced its utility? The whole interior of unable to obtain any decision on the the Southern States was languishing, and merits of his claim until he had been its inhabitants emigrating for want of some object to engage their attention, and employ

eleven years in the law, and until their industry, when the invention of this thirteen of the fourteen years' lifemachine at once opened views to them

time of his patent had expired. But tion. From childhood to age, it has pre

the immense value of his invention sented to us a lucrative employment. Indi stood directly in the way of any such viduals who were depressed with poverty, and sunk in idleness, have suddenly risen to

acknowledgment of its merits and wealth and respectability. Our debts have his righteous claims as the renewal been paid off. Our capitals have increased,

ed, he sought would have involved. and our lands trebled themselves in value. We cannot express the weight of the obliga

Some liberal members from the cotthe country owes to this inven- ton-growing region favored his petition. The extent of it cannot now be seen. Some faint presentiment may be formed

tion, but a majority of the Southrons from the reflection that Cotton is rapidly fiercely opposed it, and it was lost. supplanting Wool, Flax, Silk, and even Furs, | Mr. Whitney, in the course of a in manufactures, and may one day profitably supply the use of specie in our East correspondence with Robert Fulton, India trade. Our sister States also partici- , inventor of the first successful steampate in the benefits of this invention; for, beside affording the raw material for their

boat, remarks : manufacturers, the bulkiness and quantity of the article afford a valuable employment

"The difficulties with which I have had to for their shipping."

contend have originated, principally, in the

want of a disposition in mankind to do jusMr. Whitney's patent expired in | tice. My invention was new and distinct

from every other: it stood alone. It was not 1808, leaving him a poorer man,

interwoven with anything before known; doubtless, than though he had never and it can seldom happen that an invention listened to the suggestions of his or improvement is so strongly marked, and

can be so clearly and specifically identified; friend Mrs. Greene, and undertaken

and I have always believed that I should the invention of a machine, by means have had no difficulty in causing my rights of which the annual production of

to be respected, if it had been less valuable,

and been used only by a small portion of the cotton in the Southern States has community. But the use of this machine been augmented from some five or being immensely profitable to almost every

planter in the cotton districts, all were inten thousand bales in 1793 to over

terested in trespassing upon the patent right, five millions of bales, or one million and each kept the other in countenance. tons, in 1859; this amount being at

Demagogues made themselves popular by

misrepresentation and unfounded clamors, least three-fourths in weight, and both against the right and the law made for seven-eighths in value, of all the cot its protection. Hence there arose associaton produced on the globe.

tions and combinations to oppose both. At To say

ay | one time, but few men in Georgia dared to that this invention was worth one come into court and testify to the most sim

t

[ocr errors]

ple facts within their knowledge, relative to He was now married to Miss Henrietta the use of the machine. In one instance, IT

F. Edwards, daughter of the Hon. had great difficulty in proving that the machine had been used in Georgia, although, at Pierpont Edwards, United States Disthe same moment, there were three separate sets of this machinery in motion within fifty

children, a son and three daughters, yards of the building in which the court sat, and all so near that the rattling of the wheels were born to him in the next five was distinctly heard on the steps of the court years. In September, 1822, he was house."

attacked by a dangerous and painful In 1798, Mr. Whitney, despair- disease, which, with alternations of ing of ever achieving a competence terrible suffering and comparative from the proceeds of his cotton- ease, preyed upon him until January gin, engaged in the manufacture 8, 1826, when he died, not quite sixty of arms, near New Haven; and his years of age. rare capacity for this or any similar undertaking, joined with his invin- The African Slave-Trade, so far as cible perseverance and energy, was it had any legal or tolerated existfinally rewarded with success. He ence, was peremptorily closed, as we was a most indefatigable worker; have seen, on the 1st day of January, one of the first in his manufactory in 1808. This was the period from the morning, and the last to leave it which, according to the fond anticiat night; able to make any imple- pations of optimists and quietists, ment or machine he required, or to Slavery in our country should have invent a new one when that might be commenced its decadence, and thence needed; and he ultimately achieved gone steadily and surely forward to its

Lu

arms—improvements that have since bly justified by the teachings of hisbeen continued and perfected, until tory. In all former ages, in all other the American rifled musket of our countries, Slavery, so long as it exday, made at the National Armory in isted and flourished, was kept alive Springfield, Massachusetts, is doubt- by a constant or frequent enslaveless the most effective and perfect ment of captives, or by importations of weapon known to mankind. In 1817, | bondmen. Whenever that enslaveMr. Whitney, now fifty-two years old, ment, that importation, ceased, Slafound himself fully relieved from pe- very began to decline. The graticuniary embarrassments and the har tude of masters to faithful, devoted assing anxieties resulting therefrom. servants, who had nursed them in ill

6 The inventor of the cotton-gin is not deemed | the operation of cleaning is easily and successworthy of even the slightest distinct biograph- | fully accomplished, been invented. This maical notice in the Encyclopædia Britannica. The

chine was invented in 1795, by Mr. Eli Whitney,

of Massachusetts. There are two qualities of only, and not very accurate, allusion to him

this cotton, the one termed Upland Georgia, that I have been able to find in that 'immense grown in the States of Georgia and South Carwork, is as follows:

olina, and the other of superior quality, raised " The Upland Cotton is a different species

upon the banks of the Mississippi, and disfrom the Sea Island, and is separated with such tinguished in the market by the name of New difficulty from the seed, that the expense of Orleans cotton,” &c., &C.-Encyclopædia Britancleaning the wool must have put a stop to its nica, Eighth (last) Edition, vol. vil., p. 4.17 · further cultivation, had not a machine, by which | Truly, the world knows little of its greatest men. cerned, was rather a mitigation of the harsher poor and sold himself, either to discharge a debt

[ocr errors]

THE RENAISSANCE OF SLAVERY. . ness, or adhered to them in times of | masters; but when children who had peril or calamity, or who had simply grown up together-sprung, indeed, given the best years of their lives to from different castes, but still memthe enlargement of their wealth, had bers of the same household-familiar been effectual in reducing, by manu- from infancy, and to some extent mission, the aggregate number of playmates, came to hold the relation, slaves much faster than it was in respectively, of master and slave, it creased by the preponderance of was inevitable that kindly feelings births over deaths. The chances of should frequently be reciprocated bewar, of invasion, and still more of tween them, leading often to devotion insurrection and civil convulsion, had on the one hand and emancipation on operated from time to time still fur- the other. It was not without reather to reduce the number of slaves. son, therefore, that the founders of Even the licentious and immoral con- our Republic and the framers of our nections between masters and their | Constitution supposed they had probondwomen, so inseparable from the vided for the gradual but certain disexistence of Slavery, tended strongly appearance of Slavery, by limiting its toward a like result; since it was sel area on the one hand, and providing dom or never reputable, save in slave for an early inhibition of the Slaveholding America-if even there--for Trade on the other. a master to send his own children to But the unexpected results of the the auction-block and consign them purchase of Louisiana and the invento eternal bondage among strangers.' tion of the Cotton-Gin were such as Quite often, the slave-mother, as well | to set at naught all these calculaas her child or children, owed her tions. The former opened to slaveemancipation to the affection, the re- holding settlement and culture a vast morse, or the shame, of her master domain of the richest soil on earth, in and paramour. So long as slaves a region peculiarly adapted to the were mainly foreigners and barbari- now rapidly and profitably expandans, often public enemies, of fierce, ing production of Cotton; for Whitstrange aspect and unintelligible ney's invention had rendered this staspeech, there would naturally be lit- ple far more remunerative to its protle sympathy betwixt them and their ducer than any rival which the South

TU

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

7."That the practice of buying and selling their great Lawgiver, "shall surely be put to servants, thus early begun amongst the pa- death."--Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. XX., p. triarchs, descended to their posterity, is known | 319. to every attentive reader of the Bible. It was expressly authorized by the Jewish law, in

The above passage seems scarcely just to the which were many directions how such servants Law given by Moses. The true object and were to be treated. They were to be bought purpose of that Law, so far as bondage is cononly of the heathen; for, if an Israelite grew

features of an existing institution than the or to procure the means of subsistence, he was to be treated, not as a slave, but as a hired ser creation of a new one. Moses, "for the hardvant, and restored to freedom at the year of ness of your hearts,' says Jesus, allowed or Jubilee. Unlimited as the power thus given tolerated some things which 'from the beginning to the Hebrews over their bondservants of

were not so.' How any one can quote the Law heathen extraction appears to have been, they

of Moses as a warrant for Slavery, yet not admit were strictly prohibited from acquiring such property by any other means than fair purchase.

it as a justification of free-and-easy Divorce, is 'He that stealeth a man and selleth him,' said not apparent.

had ever, or has ever yet, attempted afforded such constant and nearly to grow; while the nearly simultane-uniform employment for this descripous inventions of Hargreaves, Ark- tion of labor. Throughout the greater wright, and others, whereby steam part of the South-West, plowing for was applied to the propulsion of the cotton-crop may be commenced machinery admirably adapted to the in January; to be followed directly fabrication of Cotton, secured the by planting; this by weeding; and cultivators against all reasonable ap- hardly has the cultivation of the crop prehension of a permanently glut been completed when the picking of ted market. As the production was the more advanced bolls may be comdoubled, and even quadrupled, every menced; and this, with ginning, often few years, it would sometimes seem employs the whole force of the planthat the demand had been exceed- tation nearly or quite up to the comed; and two or three great commer- mencement of the Christmas holidays. cial convulsions gave warning that These being over, the preparation of even the capacity of the world's the fields for plowing is again comsteadily expanding markets could be menced; so that there is no season over-estimated and surpassed by the when the hands need stand idle; and, producers of Cotton and its various though long spring and summer rains, fabrics. But two years at most suf- impeding tillage while impelling the ficed to clear off the surplus and en- growth of weeds and of grass, somelarge this steadily growing demand times induce weeks of necessary hurup to the full measure of the mo ry and unusual effort, there is absomentarily checked production. The lutely no day of the year wherein five millions of bales, produced by the the experienced planter or competent United States in 1859–60, were sold overseer cannot find full employment as readily and quickly as the one for his hands in some detail of the million bales produced in 1830–31, cultivation of Cotton. and at considerably higher prices per The forest-covered and unhealthy, pound.

but facile and marvelously fertile, But the relatively frigid climate South-West hungered for slaves, as and superficially exhausted soil of we have seen evinced in the case Maryland, Virginia, and North Car- of Indiana Territory. Impoverished, olina—wherein the greater number but salubrious and corn-growing Maof slaves were originally held—were ryland, Virginia, etc., were ready to poorly, or not at all, adapted to the supply them. Enterprising, advenproduction of cotton, whereof slave- turous whites, avaricious men from labor early claimed, and succeeded the North and from Europe, but still in substantially maintaining, a mo- more from the older Slave States, nopoly. No other out-door work hied to the South-West, in hot pur

8 James Hargreaves had invented the Spin to cotton-spinning occurred in 1787, but it was ning-Jenny in 1764; this was supplanted by the many years in winning its way into general use. invention by. Sir Richard Arkwright, in 1768, John Fitch's first success in steam navigation of a superior machine for spinning cotton thread. was achieved in 1786. Fulton's patents were James Watt patented his Steam Engine in 1769, | granted in 1809-11, and claimed the simple and his improvement, whereby a rotary motion means of adapting paddle-wheels to the axlo was produced, in 1782; and its first application | of the crank of Watt's engine.

[merged small][ocr errors]

U

suit of wealth by means of cotton- sipated, easy-going Virginians looked planting and subsidiary callings; and for extrication, at the last gasp, from each became a purchaser of slaves to their constantly recurring pecuniary the full extent of his means. To clear embarrassments; while, on the other more land and grow more cotton, hand, a majority of the South-Westwherewith to buy more negroes, was ern planters were eager to buy of him the general and absorbing aspiration at large prices, provided he would --the more negroes to be employed sell on one or two years' credit. He in clearing still more land and grow patronized hotels and railroads; he ing still more cotton. Under this often chartered vessels for the transdispensation, the price of slaves ne- portation of his human merchandise; cessarily and rapidly advanced, until he was necessarily shrewd, keen, and it was roughly computed that each intelligent, and frequently acquired,

verage field-hand was worth so many or at least wielded, so much wealth hundred dollars as cotton commanded and influence as to become almost cents per pound: That is, when cot-| respectable. Quite usually, he was ton was worth ten cents per pound, an active politician, almost uniformly field-hands were worth a thousand of the most ultra Pro-Slavery type, dollars each; with cotton at twelve and naturally attached to the Democents, they were worth twelve hun- cratic party. Traveling extensively dred; and when it rose, as it some and almost constantly, his informatimes did even in later days, to fifteen tion and volubility rendered him cents per pound for a fair article of mail and telegraph, newspaper and middling Orleans, a stout negro, from stump orator, to those comparatively seventeen to thirty years old, with no ignorant and secluded planters whom particular skill but that necessarily he visited twice or more per year, as acquired in the rude experience of buyer or seller, or collector of his farm labor anywhere, would often dues for slaves already sold; while bring fifteen hundred dollars on a his power as profitable customer on New Orleans auction-block. Hence the one hand, or lenient creditor on the business of negro-trading, or the the other, was by no means inconsidsystematic buying of slaves to sell erable. It was this power, in conagain, though never quite reputable, nection with that of the strongly and, down to the last thirty or forty sympathizing and closely affiliated years, very generally regarded with class of gamblers and blacklegs, by abhorrence-became a highly impor- which Van Buren's renomination for tant and influential, as well as gain the Presidency was defeated in the ful, occupation. The negro-trader, Baltimore Convention of 1844, and often picking up bargains at execu- the Democratic party committed, tors' or assignees' sales in the older through the nomination of Polk and States, or when a sudden shift must its accessories, to the policy of anbe made to save a merchant from nexing Texas, thus securing a fresh bankruptcy or a farm from the sher- and boundless expansion to Slavery. iff, controlled large sums of money, When that Annexation was suddenly, often in good part his own. He was and to most unexpectedly, achieved, the Providence to whom indolent, dis- / at the close of John Tyler's adminis

« AnteriorContinuar »