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worst of their struggle with beet-sugar is over and that they have a fair chance for moderately profitable operations in future, if Congress will not diminish the advantage they now derive from the tariff.
The seeker after information concerning the cane-sugar industry in Louisiana is astonished at the outset of his researches by the significant fact that the acreage planted in cane has not increased during the past quarter of a century, but has, on the contrary, decreased. This is a statement that can be made of no other important agricultural crop produced in the United States. It cannot be said that it is due to the destruction of the system of slave labor, nor to any local peculiarity of climate or population. The cotton crop of the State has increased; so has the rice crop, which is cultivated on the same kind of land which grows the cane and in the same parishes. It is true that cane planting and grinding require a stricter and more systematic labor organization than raising cotton or rice, but experienced planters now get as good results per acre with free labor as they
formerly did with slave. Mr. John Dymond, one of the largest planters in the State and one of the bestinformed men on all matters concerning the sugar industry, says that Louisiana has the capacity economically to produce 500,000 tons of sugar a year, which is about four times her present production. Then why does not the annual product increase with the rapidly increasing consumption of sugar? The reason is that the sugar-planter stands on quite a different footing from the cottonplanter or the wheatfarmer. He must produce his staple in competition with the slave, coolie, peon, and other low grades of labor employed in its culture in other countries. He could not produce it at all save for the heavy tax on imported sugars levied by our tariff schedules. He can feel no certainty that this tax will not be varied to his serious detriment, if not to his absolute ruin, at any meeting of Congress. Consequently he is not willing to take the risk of opening new plantations or enlarging old ones. In fact he only continues in the business because he knows of no other way to utilize his fertile acres. Making sugar is his trade. He loves it and is unwilling to abandon it. Its very uncertainty has a fascination for him. Besides, it combines manufacturing with agriculture, and thus develops intellectual faculties not much called into play in ordinary farming. The planter must have the machinery and appliances for grinding the cane and converting the juice into sugar and molasses, and must understand their economical use. If he is unskillful, his product will not bring as much into one or two cents per pound as that of his skillful neighbor. To be successful he must also understand the management of labor, the purchase of supplies, the marketing of his product, and the diking and draining of his land. He must, therefore, be farmer, manufacturer, merchant, and civil engineer combined. I have said that the sugar-planters of Louisiana are a peculiarly intelligent class. They could not
be otherwise without going to the wall. It is not a business for dull, unprogressive men. These planters have an association which supports an experimental farm, where new varieties of cane are raised, new machinery tried, and the best scientific knowledge put into practice. They are a force in the politics of the State strong enough to defeat, recently, for reëlection a United States senator, because he was willing to uphold the sugar tariff as a revenue tariff only, and not as a tariff based on the principle of protection. The planters saw that if there was to be no principle of national policy underlying the sugar duty they were liable at any time to be ruined by the reduction of the duty to a point where it would yield the most revenue. Evidently, they said, the duty would produce more money to the Treasury if placed just below the figure which would enable the Louisiana planter to compete with foreign sugars.
The reader who has no interest in sugar
other than as a consumer, will, I apprehend, be ready by this time to ask whether it is worth while to maintain by a high protective tariff an industry not indigenous and not capable, after nearly a hundred years of existence, of standing alone. Now let us hear the planter's argument for a protective tariff on his product. First, he says that cane-growing is not a forced and unnatural industry. The cane is not indigenous in this country, but neither is wheat nor oats nor cotton. There is no greater danger of frost injuring the cane crop of Louisiana than there is of its injuring the corn crop of Illinois. After a century of cultivation the cane may well claim to be a fully naturalized crop. Second, he argues that no tax by which money is raised to support the Federal Government is fairer or less onerous than the tariff on sugar. The rich use the most sugar and thus pay the heaviest tax per capita, but all pay something, as is just, because all are protected and benefited by the Government. In
fact the sugar tariff is the only natural tax which is distributed over the whole body of the population. The annual consumption of raw sugar in this country is about 56 pounds per capita of the population. At an average
IN THE FRENCH MARKET
of 21⁄2 cents per pound duty, the increased cost by reason of the tariff is $1.40 per individual. The duty paid on foreign sugars for the year ending June 30th, 1884, was in round numbers $48,000,000, and the benefit derived by the Louisiana planters from the duty was about $7,000,000. At the same time the planters of the Sandwich Islands received, in effect, a bounty from our Government of over $3,000,000 by the admission of their sugar duty free. Thus the United States practically gave nearly half as much to aid the canesugar industry in a foreign country as it did to foster it in our own State of Louisiana.
The next point in the argument is that the Government, having for nearly a hundred years encouraged the investment of capital in sugar-planting by a protective tariff, has
assumed a certain responsibility in the premises which it cannot honestly throw off. In other words, it has no right to ruin a large class of its citizens who have placed confidence in the continuance of a policy long
since become settled and traditional. It is in honor bound, say the planters, either to maintain a duty on foreign sugars at a point high enough to enable them to compete with such sugars in our home markets, or to compensate them for the losses which would result from the abandonment of the protective policy.
Finally they draw an affecting picture of the ruin and desolation that would come upon the richest districts of Louisiana if the sugar interests should be destroyed. There is only one other crop besides the cane adapted to the alluvial lands of the State, and that is rice. It would not be practicable or profitable to convert more than a small part of the area now cultivated in cane into rice plantations. Rice can only be grown where there are economical facilities for flooding the land. The greater part of the agricultural area below Red River would be abandoned if caneplanting could no longer be carried on. The levees could not be kept up, and the country would become a swampy wilderness. New Orleans would be ruined as a commercial city, the richest parishes in the State would be plunged into poverty and misery, and many thousands of people would die from starvation. In time the negroes who might survive the calamity would make shift to live by raising corn and potatoes on lands not requiring levee protection; but nothing could restore the former prosperity of the lowlands: they would fall into a condition of semi-barbarism, like the coast districts of Central America.
The area of land now cultivated in cane, in Louisiana, is about 170,000 acres. It is no greater than is embraced in an average prairie county in Dakota or Nebraska; but it is stretched out in narrow strips along the banks of the Mississippi, and of the numerous bayous, which serve as escape-pipes for the waters of the great rivers, and in reality comprises
more than half the tillable soil in the lower half of the State. While a wheat-raising county in the North-west supports only 10,000 or 15,000 people at the most, this sugar country supports half the population of Louisiana. On the plantations it maintains 300,000 souls; and it is but a moderate estimate, to say that there are 150,000 more supported by transportation and the manufacture and sale of supplies used upon the plantations. An acre of wheat does not, on the average, produce more than $15; an acre of cotton will not average $30; but an acre of cane turns out a product in sugar and molasses which at the present low prices will bring from $75 to $100.
No important product of our national industry, with the possible exception of iron, has suffered such a fall in value in recent years as sugar. The grade of sugar which in 1869 sold in New Orleans for 154 cents per pound, sold in the same city in 1884 for 41⁄2 cents. It is wonderful that the planting interest managed to resist annihilation under such disastrous conditions. That it still survives is an evidence of the courage and energy of the men engaged in it, and of its inherent vitality. The Louisiana planters have increased the yield of cane by better tillage and the introduction of new varieties, and at the same time have increased the yield of sugar per ton of cane by greater care in the manufacturing processes and by the use of improved machinery. Labor, which is 70 per cent. of the expense of producing sugar, costs them as much, and in most plantations more, than in 1869. They still believe, however, that the country has the capacity of furnishing all the sweets consumed by its people, and think it would do so in two or three decades if a uniform and perma
nent tariff policy were adopted by Congress, and if there should be no efforts on the part of the Government to bring in Mexican, West Indian, and Hawaiian sugars free, under the operations of special commercial treaties. Why, they ask, should our statesmen be willing to destroy a home industry, now producing $20,000,000 a year, for the sake of securing $8,000,000 or $10,000,000 of foreign trade? Our interstate trade is more valuable than any foreign trade. Louisiana now buys with the money her sugar brings more food products, manufactured goods, than Mexico and the West Indies combined. If all her alluvial lands were cultivated, and also the much greater area in Texas favorable to cane-growing, the sugar interest would develop a commerce of $200,000,000, most of which would go to the Northern States for clothing, machinery, coal, grain, and cured meats.
If the reader has now in mind a few cardinal points about the cane-sugar industry and
its relations to the general government, let us go on board one of the sugar-boats that carry supplies to the plantations on rivers and bayous and bring the crops to New Orleans. The artist and the writer thread their way through the French market with its polyglot chatter, its fragrant coffee-stands, and its queer medley of meats and calicoes, fish, oranges, and toys, and passing the open many-gabled sugar-sheds, come out on the broad levee. A group of steamboats lie with their noses against the bank. These are the sugar-boats, and this particular portion of the city's great protecting embankment is called the sugar levee. There is a mild stir of business upon the levee in the way of weighing and testing barrels of sugar, and a good many people, black, white, and yellow, saunter about as if they had nothing in particular on their minds. We are bound for the Lower Coast. The country on both sides of the Mis
of freight. Finally the Alvin backs out from between the other boats and begins a voyage en zigzag, crossing and recrossing the river more times than any one cares to keep account of, to land at plantations on one bank and the other. Every time the boat lands she must make a great circle so as to get her bows against the rushing yellow current. A great deal more space is traversed in these zigzags and curves than in a direct line down the river, so that we are all the afternoon making twenty-eight miles. But what matter? Is not the February air as mild as that of a Northern May, and does not the warm breeze bring grateful odors of the new-plowed earth, the budding cane, the orange groves, and the delicate green foliage of the willows and cypress? Besides we see in our leisurely progress much of the life of the plantations, the gangs of negroes with plows and hoes, and
sissippi from New Orleans up to the mouth of the Red River is known as the Upper Coast; that below the city down to the Jetties, as the Lower Coast. Was it a tribute to the might
of the great river,
this use by the early French
settlers of a name for its banks
usually applied to the shores of the sea? They did not say les bords du Mississippi, as they would say les bords du Seine, but always les côtes du Mississippi. We make choice between the Daisy, a preposterously small and dirty boat, which carries the mail, and is therefore bound to make good time, and a large and reputable looking craft called the Alvin, which transports freight and stops at every plantation named on her manifest, preferring the latter. She does not start until an hour after her advertised time of leaving. Nobody grumbles or seems to think this extraordinary. It is the way of the country. Captain, mate, and clerk stand at the shore end of the long landing-stage, chatting and laughing, while keeping a desultory outlook for a belated passenger or dray-load
UNLOADING THE CRADLE.
the great cane-carts carrying the plant cane to the freshly tilled fields. Our boat is a traveling storehouse of curiously mixed merchandise. At one plantation we put off a consignment of crackers, at another a baby's cradle, at another a mule. Before the bows touch the bank a row of roustabouts stand on the plank, one with a barrel, another with a bag of fertilizer, a third with a box or bale-eight or ten of them ready to rush ashore. The moment the last article is landed, the mate shouts " get aboard" and "hoist away," and up goes the great plank into the air while the crew comes running in.