Studies in the South
“ A FIRST-CLASS POSITION.”
THERE are many men from the Northern and Northwestern States in Texas, and a large proportion of those with whom I talked complained bitterly of being “disappointed with the country ; ” but most of them seemed to have had unreasonable expectations. Some of them said they had heard, before leaving their old homes, that “ a man could live so much easier hyar than in Eelenoy,” but that it was not at all true. One young man, with something rather flashy in his appearance, whom I met at Dallas, while waiting for a train, told me with great candor that he had been “ down hyar for a couple o’ years,” and had “ tried a number o’ things.” He was now about to obtain a “ firstclass position” as agent of a traveling dramatic and variety company, with “ some durned purty gurls in it.” After some further explanation of his prospects, he remarked, “ Anyhow, I ’ve never had a blister on my hands yit, an’ I don’t mean to have, if I can help it.” He liked the country pretty well, he said, “ only the folks are so blamed ready to shoot people. Why, they ’ll shoot a man jest to see him kick while he’s a dyin’.” This gentleman was from Chicago.
Usually, when in the South, after a man gave me any information in regard to his own pursuits or undertakings, I wished him success, as we separated ; and I always said so the more explicitly because I had to decline the inevitable invitation to drink to each other’s prosperity ; but in this case I reflected that the course my young friend had chosen would probably lead to a pistol shot in a drinking saloon or house of ill-fame, as the last act in the drama for him, or to a cell in some state prison.
At San Antonio I met a “ Massachusetts Yankee,” as he described himself, who several years ago invested his entire fortune, some thirty thousand dollars, in blooded cattle and horses, and brought them to Texas for sale, hoping to stock the whole region with animals of improved breed. But he had not been able to sell them for one half what they cost him. The people there, he said, would “ ruther have these durned little Mexican mules.”
I found a young white man in Texas, a native of the country, who is not afraid to work, nor at all careful about blistering his fingers. He lives near Emory, in Rains County. He was twenty-four years of age; was married at eighteen, and had nothing then. Now he owns one hundred and twenty acres of good land, a span of heavy mules, two cows, twenty - four sheep, nearly a hundred hens, and a “ small drove ” of hogs. He is not in debt, has some money in the bank, and intends to buy more land next winter. He and his wife have “ made ” all this by their own labor and good management. He invited me to go out to see his place. I found them living in a log cabin of one room, well furnished, very neat, orderly, and comfortable. His wife had a troublesome ailment of the eyes, brought on four years ago by her being overheated, while at work in the field with the hoe, “ chopping out cotton.” (The cottonseed is planted by handfuls, and a great deal more comes up than can grow. It is thinned out, mostly, with the hoe.) This young woman cards, spins, and weaves the cloth for the clothing of the family, and makes up all their garments. She attends to the chickens and the cows, and makes money from her eggs and butter. We had an excellent supper and breakfast, and the “ spare bed ” was clean and sweet. The young man raises cotton and corn, and all the time that is not needed for work on the farm he employs in hauling goods from the railroad to Emory for the merchants there. He contrives always to have a “return load,” and makes this business highly profitable. Both these youug people are as energetic and “pushing” as any that I know in the North. The man does not drink at all, and has no vices that I could discover. They have two sturdy little children. All go to church on Sundays. The only thing I could see to regret in their life was that the youug wife and mother was working too hard. They are simplehearted, kindly people, not very intelligent or well informed, but sensible and contented. Perhaps they know enough. More knowledge might not make them happier or better.
THE SUNSET ROUTE.
We leave New Orleans at noon, if we are going to Texas by the Sunset Route, and, if going through without stopping, ride steadily westward the remainder of the day and all night, to reach Houston at seven or eight o’clock of the following morning. There, if we are going on at once, we make close connections, again push on all day long, and reach San Antonio at night. I did not go through thus directly, but I mention the arrangement of trains and the time required in order to convey some impression of distances in that part of our country. I think, however, that no one can have an adequate idea of the vast extent of the State of Texas without traveling through it. From New Orleans to Houston most of the country is low and flat. The water is nearly everywhere brackish, and in every door-yard you see a huge cistern, or wooden vat or tank, above ground, to receive the rain-water from the roof of the house, for domestic use. Very often the cistern is nearly as large as the house. The cabins of the negroes in Western Louisiana are roomy and comfortable; they are mostly, indeed, small framed houses, all of them having outside chimneys, built of sticks and clay. These are cheap, and, when well constructed, durable and safe. Much of the land near the coast is very fertile, and, when dry enough for tillage, produces excellent crops of sugar-cane and cotton. Where the land becomes higher the liveoak is abundant. It is a very handsome tree, usually growing with a low, spreading top, and looking much like a greatly magnified apple-tree. This resemblance half domesticates the appearance of the rolling, open pasture-lands where it grows.
Westward from Houston the country becomes drier, though there is still much low prairie. All along the road through this region one sees many cattle, and soon learns the meaning of the accounts, so often repeated, of cattle being able to “ live out all winter, without feed or shelter.” They do live so ; that is, some of them do. Many die from starvation. I saw their bodies everywhere, and many of those still alive were wretchedly emaciated. Hundreds of them were, to use an expressive Southwestern phrase, “ on the lift; ” that is, when they laid down they were so weak that they could not get up ; but if they were helped to get up they could walk about and feed, until weariness or weakness prompted them to he down again, when the process had to be repeated. I saw great numbers of dead animals in the pools and ditches, where they had come to drink, and being too weak to struggle through the mud they had fallen into the water and been drowned. The owners appeared generally to hold the same cheerful philosophy with a man with whom I talked at Corinth, Mississippi, who thought he did not lose much when hundreds of his sheep died for want of food and shelter, because, as he said, “ we git the wool.” So those Texas cattle men seemed satisfied with the hides. “ Hundreds and thousands of the cattle die when the new grass begins to come : ” so I was told everywhere. The explanation is that the cattle, weak from long starvation and ravenous with hunger, eat excessively of the fresh grass. They have no “ dry feed” to serve as a corrective, and the surfeit on green food kills them. The whole system and plan of cattleraising in this State seemed to me to be enormously wasteful, yet the industry is a source of wealth. It would, however, be much more profitable with better methods; and as population becomes more dense, and the range for cattle is circumscribed, these will of necessity be adopted. Nearly every pursuit in the South is to a great extent carried on, or rather goes on, with similar wastefulness of method and result. Of course no business thus managed produces so much as it would if prosecuted with even moderate energy, foresight, and prudence. I should not like to express my opinions upon such matters so forcibly as Southern men express theirs everywhere.
A GREAT SOUTHERN INDUSTRY.
Sheep-raising and wool-growing would be highly remunerative in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and other parts of the South ; and this would be one of the easiest industries for people to engage in who have not much capital to begin with. But the South, in common with large portions of New England, is devoted to another industry, which is always incompatible with slieep-raising and wool-producing. This is the rearing of dogs. I did not find anything else, I think, that can be attributed to the South generally. I found plenty of white republicans and black democrats there ; and there is, as in the North, almost every possible variety of opinion on every possible subject. The South is so large, and its life and thought so varied and complex, that a real observer will be slow to impute many things to this part of our country in general. But in regard to this business the South is really “ solid.” The popular devotion to the rearing of dogs recalls the animal worship of the ancient Egyptians. I was often on the point of asking, u How much do you make a year on your dogs ? ” They are so numerous, and are increasing so rapidly ; they occupy a place of such prominence in the general life of the South, and so dominate public seutiment and influence public morality, that one is constantly inclined to the conviction that their rearing and care must be among the most important and valuable pursuits of the people. I was told that there is a dog-tax in some of the States, but that when the assessor of taxes goes his rounds scarcely anybody can be found who will confess to owning a dog. A vigorous effort was made in the legislature of one of the chief Southern States, a few years ago, to enact a law to limit or discourage the rearing of dogs, and to stimulate the production of sheep and wool. But a colored member of the legislature made an eloquent and enthusiastic defense of dog-rearing, and talked sentiment, and quoted what the poets have written in praise of dogs (some white wags having assisted him in the preparation of his speech), until one would have thought that the highest interests of civilization depended upon having as many dogs in the country as possible. The obnoxious bill was voted down by a large majority, and the imperiled industry was rescued.
NORTHERNERS AND NATIVES.
Notwithstanding all such discouragements, there are already Northern men in many places in the northern zone of the South who have begun sheep-growing, and I saw many more who were “ prospecting ” with a view to engaging in this pursuit. Most of those with whom I conversed were from Northern cities. Some of them had scarcely ever seen a sheep, and it was very interesting to hear their conversation with “ the natives ” (as all Northerners traveling in the South, or living there, call the people of the country) who have “ had some experience in sheep,” as they say. One man in Tennessee said that when he began, a few years ago, he thought it “ scandalous ” to let sheep run in the woods all winter, without any feed, as the natives did. He bought two hundred sheep, and kept them on dry feed, and gave them plenty of it; “ but a lot of them died, and more were sick,” while the sheep that lived in the woods even while the ground was covered with snow, and were not fed at all, did very well. He said the natives knew best, after all ; that sheep could subsist very well in the woods; and he declared that he had seen sheep eat all day on a piece of ground as bare as a barn-floor. The popular belief or theory that “ stock will do well enough out-of-doors ” is a very convenient one for people who have no great liking for labor ; the truth is, doubtless, that sheep should be fed in winter, and should also be sheltered from cold, wet storms, but that they should have access to the ground, and to the herbage of the woods or fields. Considering the manner in which many Northern men are,beginning operations in the South, in pursuits new to them, it should not be surprising if we receive unfavorable reports now and then from some men who “ have been to the South and tried it.”
THE PROCESS OF DESOLATION.
In Mississippi a large proportion of the land under cultivation is mortgaged to New Orleans merchants and bankers. When a Mississippi planter increases his indebtedness from year to year, he calls it extending his credit; and in many cases this process is continued until almost everything he owns is swallowed up. Then there is a sale, or some kind of “ final arrangement,” and the planter, advanced in years, and with possessions far less in value than when he began life and business as a young man, goes to Texas, to begin again. In some parts of the South, and noticeably in Northern Mississippi, much damage has been done to the agricultural interests of the country by the washing away of the surface soil. Over thousands of acres this process has gone on so long that nothing is left but the inert and unproductive clay, and this is cut up by gullies and chasms so wide and deep that they often have to be bridged, like rivers. It would require a vast amount of work and an expenditure too great for the present inhabitants of such regions to repair these injuries, and restore the soil of these unsightly and sterile, ruined areas. Owing to the neglect and inefficiency of the owners of the land, or, in some instances, to the poverty caused by the civil war, the same processes have been permitted to go on here unchecked which, in other parts of the world, have transformed once fertile and populous regions into deserts. Such destructive washing can be prevented by proper management and care on the part of the cultivators of the soil, in adapting their methods to its peculiar qualities and conditions. I saw nothing in my journey through the South which appeared to me more imperatively to require the immediate and earnest attention of the most intelligent and capable men of the country than this evil of the rapid denudation of large areas of fertile country of the entire body of their soil. It is the permanent destruction of a valuable part of the national domain, and of the inheritance of posterity.
PROSPERITY IN LOUISIANA.
There is a larger proportion of rich land in Louisiana than in any other Southern State, I think, and in various parts of the State I saw signs of more of what Northern people would regard as a healthful and “ happy ” life, for both white people and negroes, than I found anywhere else in equal measure, though I observed instances of a similar kind in other States, especially in Virginia and Alabama. There are fewer “poor whites ” in Louisiana than in any other part of the South. There was less whining about poverty, less of the frantic outcry for Northern capital, than elsewhere. I also saw there white men who could “ work out-of-doors ” in the summer. I am convinced that white men can work in the fields all summer long, in every part of the South. I saw many who said they and their neighbors had always done so ; and yet I was frequently informed by Southern men that white men cannot endure field labor in the “ cotton belt,” or in the “ sugar regions,”and that if the negroes will not work nothing can bo done. I think it appears to be true that the negro is not so much affected by malaria as the white man. He can live and work near the swamps and rivers, where “ the chills ” would soon shake the life out of a white man. But so far as my observations warrant any conclusions regarding this matter, it is plain to me that the chief difficulty in the way of the success of “ white labor ” in the South is a psychological one ; it is the want of will.
Virginia and Georgia, with portions of other Southern States, are likely, before many years have passed, to produce great quantities of grapes and wine. It is not improbable, indeed, that in almost every part of the South some particular kinds of grapes, with the wines which they produce, will become sources of profit, and will be extensively cultivated. Where much wine is made much of it will be used, and this industry has important and peculiar relations to the morals and civilization of the countries in which it is largely developed. Its effects are not wholly beneficial or desirable, but, with our existing national civilization and character, whatever is found to be profitable, or which proves to be a source of wealth, is certain to he employed and fostered by our people.
Much might be written of the seaisland cotton culture, of rice-growing and the production of tobacco, as well as of other matters pertaining to Southern agriculture, which I have not described ; but to treat them adequately would require greater fullness of detail than I can now employ. The newspapers of the Southern States are doing excellent service in stimulating interest and disseminating information in regard to agricultural interests and improvements. There is a healthful, practical spirit abroad in the South regarding such subjects, and her people have an admirable journal devoted to agriculture, horticulture, live-stock, and the household, which was established more than forty years ago. Some of the most intelligent agriculturists of our country are in the Southern States. There is, however, a greater disposition to look to the national government for aid to agriculture than is wholesome or desirable. The prosperity of the Southern people will be more real and durable if they depend upon themselves. The more fully the industries of the people (as well as their educational institutions and activities) can be kept free from the entanglements of partisan politics, the better it will be for the interests of all concerned.
The condition and the development of agriculture in the Southern States are matters of national interest, and they will in a few years exert a decided influence upon emigration, and will attract increasing attention, not only in the Northern States of this country, but in Europe. The old methods of work are certainly to be displaced more and more, as railroads are extended, as manufacturing industries are multiplied, and as immigration increases. Northern and English capital will, it is probable, be more largely invested in Southern land and its cultivation. As in every other department and interest of Southern life, so in agriculture, the old order of things is passing away. The South is taking its place in the modern world of business and financial activities, and it will soon be a more important factor in the world of industry than it has ever been before. Labor and money are
the most important agencies in the new development of Southern civilization. They will be found potent enough for their work. Whether they are to be directed and supplemented by adequate intellectual and social forces, time alone can determine.
One of the greatest means for the improvement of agriculture in the South is the extraordinary increase in the use of improved farm utensils and machinery. This brings me to consider Southern manufactures. I have visited nearly all the principal cotton-mills of the South, besides many factories in different States for the production of oil and oil-cake from cotton-seed, artificial stone, ice, fertilizers of various kinds, medicines and toilet preparations, flour, tobacco, beer, whisky, lime, cement, soap, soda-water, artificial limbs, saddles, sash, blinds and doors, furniture, lumber, wagons and carriages, plows, steam-engines, boilers, cane and sugar mills, saw-mills, cotton-presses, iron store fronts, cottongins, staves and barrels, and other articles for industrial and domestic use. I saw in several places the manufacture of excellent rope and twine, and was in one good electrotype foundry. I observed also the beginnings of various other manufacturing enterprises, some of which are likely to grow to important proportions. Many things are now made from the oil contained in cottonseed, and this is becoming one of the most valuable products of the South. An oil-mill is not an attractive place to well-dressed visitors, but I have seen few manufactures which have more interest for a thoughtful man who enjoys seeing substances which have been regarded as of slight value converted into articles of the highest importance and utility. Such development of a new source of wealth out of a familiar agricultural product is of far greater benefit to the country than would he conferred by the discovery of the richest mine of silver or gold. The workmen in the mills like to eat the oil-cake, which is sweet and pleasant to the taste. They chew it while at work, and grow fat on it. Work in the oil-mills is a healthy occupation, though not very cleanly.
Iron is made from the ore at various points, and this industry is rapidly increasing. The manufacture of agricultural machinery and implements is already extensive and highly remunerative, and the same is true of wagon and carriage making. Whisky has long been, as everybody knows, one of the staple products of the South. It is made far more abundantly than I could wish were the case, considering its relation to the real interest and welfare of the people of the country ; but the special opposition to its production — as if that were the cause of its excessive and injurious consumption — is of course entirely unintelligent. Within a few years the making of beer has also become extensive and profitable in the South. The production and sale of fertilizers amount to many millions of dollars’ worth annually. There are excellent iron foundries, doing a good business, at several places in Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and other States. In most of these, as in some other of the shops and factories mentioned above, negroes are employed ; and in the manufacture of tobacco, a business of enormous extent, most of the laborers are negroes, though a few white women work with them.
In the cotton-mills of the Southern States only white laborers are now employed, I believe, although before the emancipation of the slaves there were cotton-mills which were carried on by means of slave labor. Through my entire journey in the South I gave much attention to everything connected with the cotton manufactures of the region, because I have had more acquaintance with the same business in the North than with any other of our great manufacturing industries. Having seen much of factory life in New England, I have been greatly interested in employing the “ comparative method ” of study in the Southern mills. The first thing noticeable everywhere there is the extremely happy and satisfied feeling of the manufacturers, and their confident hopefulness in regard to their business in the future. I saw the books and balancesheets of a number of the principal mills, and ascertained that the owners have a solid and adequate basis for their somewhat exultant and triumphant mood. They are making money, and are extending this industry with great energy and rapidity. In some instances they have had offers from Northern capitalists of more money than they need, and several of the stronger corporations are becoming possessed of sulffcient capital of their own.
Some Northern manufacturers think it might be easier, or more profitable, for the people of the South to begin with such manufactures as shoemaking, and other industries requiring a less costly “ plant,” than to engage in the manufacture of cotton, until they have more capital than at present. But Southern men insist that their region is the natural and proper place for the manufacture of cotton, and that the time has already arrived for them to make all coarse cotton fabrics as fast as possible for home consumption, and to take their part in supplying the markets of the world. Many of the large mills are putting in new Lowell-made machinery, of the latest and most improved construction, and are already producing goods of great excellence and durability. 'When I visited them they nearly all had orders for all they could produce for many months in advance. I saw large quantities of valuable goods, baled, marked, and ready to be forwarded to the markets of New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Zanzibar, and other remote parts of the world. Everywhere there was apparent a determination to make superior goods, and to depend upon their merit for success. Many of the gentlemen with whom I conversed regarding these subjects dwelt upon the unprofitableness of sending cotton all the way to New England to be spun and woven, and then sending it all the way back to Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, and Texas to be sold and used. They said everywhere, “ It will not be so long. Of course you will make the finer cotton fabrics in the North for some years yet, but we shall ultimately try to learn that too, and some of your manufacturers will probably come down here to make money by and by.”
Another side of the cotton manufactures of the South, which interests me quite as much as the feeling and fortunes of the manufacturers or capitalists, is the condition and character of the operatives, as affected by their employment and circumstances. I enjoyed excellent opportunities for studying these matters. I walked through every part of most of the mills, often alone, observing and examining everything as fully as I desired ; and visited many of the operatives in their homes, inspecting their houses and surroundings, learning as much as possible about sanitary matters, their food, social and personal habits, use of leisure time, their morals and general tone, temper and character. It is manifest that there is a very comfortable and satisfactory feeling between employers and employed. Everywhere the mill owners, agents, and overseers say that the Southern operatives are the best laborers in the world, the most loyal to the interests of their employers, the most faithful, pleasant tempered, and easily managed. On the other hand, I found it impossible to obtain from the laborers with whom I talked any expression of dissatisfaction with their employers. I could not find anywhere any indications of restlessness or discontent among the mill people. I believe there has been little or no socialist agitation, no labor disturbances, among the Southern factory operatives.
The wages paid and the hours of labor in Southern cotton-mills (they say “factories ” there, mostly) are about the same as in New England ; but in their home life and all its most important conditions, Southern operatives are more fortunate than the same class of laborers in the Northern States. They have better and much larger houses. There is as yet very little, if any, unwholesome or injurious crowding in the tenements occupied by the operatives of Southern mills. Sanitary arrangements appear to be recognized by mill-owners in the South as something that must be carefully looked after. Perhaps the climate, which insures greater danger from any neglect of such things, may compel closer attention to these matters than they usually receive in the North.
LIFE AND ITS CONDITIONS.
But the relation between the factory people and their employers is plainly different in the South from anything that I have observed in New England ; it is more “ patriarchal ” and less democratic. The control, authority, or influence of the owners and managers over the working people is more absolute than in the North. I am obliged to say that it seems to be a just and beneficent control. The employers appear to feel a real interest in the welfare and prosperity of the people whom they employ. I have not been able to detect, on either side, any feeling of antagonism, any notion that the interests of the manufacturers and those of the laborers are opposed, or even distinct. Almost universally, perhaps in all cases, the operatives are paid in full, in money, and at short intervals. In many places the corporations own most of the houses occupied by the operatives. The rent is generally much lower than the prevailing rates in the same town. The houses are carefully kept in repair by the millowners. At some of the largest mills, each family among the operatives has a garden and keeps a cow. The laborers in the mills go to church on Sundays, and are members of churches, far more generally than in the North. There is much less drinking, and there is beyond all comparison less of licentiousness, among them than in their class in New England. The women and girls who work in Southern mills are, I am convinced, almost all of good character. I inquired everywhere in regard to this, and was uniformly told that when, as occasionally happens, a girl of immodest behavior comes into a mill to work the women employed there detect her at once, and commonly expel her by the severity of their manner toward her. But if she does not go, the women make complaint to the agent of the mill, and the offender is at once discharged. It is announced and well understood everywhere that no person of known vicious habits or character will be employed or retained in a cotton-mill there, and the effect is certainly most wholesome. I observed everywhere that the women and girls in the mills were modest and feminine in looks and bearing.
KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTER.
An observer who is familiar with the appearance of the laborers in Northern cotton-mills can see at once that Southern operatives are less intelligent; that they are not so “ well informed about what is going on in the world,” in the New England sense of these expressions. They are more placid, contented, and industrious, and less restless, than people of the same class in New England; they are more domestic, settled, and regular in their habits and character. There is far less moving about from place to place, and from one mill to another, than in the North. All, or very nearly all, the hands in Southern factories are Southerners, natives of the region near the mill in which they work, and they all belong to a more primitive, simple, and old-fashioned order of things than is now anywhere in existence in connection with factory life in New England. Southern operatives read less than Northern ; they have not so many ideas, and they have not been affected in any considerable degree by the “ reforming and progressive ” sentiments and influences of the time. They are, in consequence, happier, less liable to discontent, and far more useful and agreeable to their employers. After wide observation in New England, I believe that the operatives of Fall River are, as a class, more “ intelligent and intellectual " than those of any other factory town in that portion of our country. Physically, too, they are a superior class. But without judging between them and their employers, one may say that they do not appear to be more happy, useful, or successful than other operatives.
Some of the principal Southern cotton-mills have savings-banks connected with them, belonging to the corporation ; that is, the corporation receives the savings from their own operatives who wish to deposit them, and pays interest on them, the same as any other savingsbank. But most of the mill-owners consider this plan injudicious; they regard it as establishing a relation not wholesome or strictly legitimate between employers and employed. These gentlemen say, “We must have thorough and absolute control over our business. This is indispensable to successful management. But the moment we owe a man a dollar which we are not ready to pay, he controls us. Now there might be, some time, a condition of financial disturbance or panic, which would agitate our depositors, and make them anxious or distrustful about their money ; and that, you see, would demoralize them as laborers for us. Many of our people have for years wished us to keep their money for them, but we do not think it would be for our interest, or for theirs, to do so. No ; let other people establish and conduct savings-banks for them. We pay them promptly and in full, because it is better for them and for us that they should have no longdeferred or postponed claims against us. We do not need their money, and we do not wish to take care of them in a way that would not be for their good. If we should need money, it would be far better to obtain it in the market, in the regular way.”
CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS.
The owners and managers of Southern mills and factories whom I have met appear to me to be gentlemen of high character; and they seem to have an intelligent and encouraging perception of the truth that the prosperity and moral welfare of their laborers are essential conditions of their own success as employers and capitalists. They all appear to give very close attention to the details of business, and to trust comparatively little to the judgment of subordinates. Of course, if the time ever comes when many foreigners shall be employed in Southern mills, most of the conditions which I have here described will probably be changed. I hope it may be long before the present state of things is greatly altered, for I think the operatives in Southern mills are among the happiest and most truly prosperous laborers that I have seen anywhere. The principal mills have good schools connected with them, and nearly all the children of the operatives attend Sunday-schools. The Methodist and Baptist churches appear to be doing most for the moral and social welfare and guidance of the working people, as they are the principal churches in most places in the South, but other religious organizations are also doing their part. The operatives are not regarded in the South as constituting a class so separate or distinct as in New England. They belong more fully and vitally to the body of the people.
FACTORIES IN THE WOODS.
There are large and prosperous factories at Wesson, Mississippi; Columbus and Augusta, Georgia; Greensboro, North Carolina, and at various other places, where I saw many things of special and local interest; but I cannot particularly describe any of these, as I prefer rather to report the general features and conditions of this industry throughout the South. But there are some small factories in different parts of the country, which are of interest because they are small, and as instances of the successful jwosecution of this industry in mills of a type which is very different from that of the extensive establishments which I have described. Some of these smaller factories are among the oldest in the South. Most of them are situated in places remote from towns and railroads, and they are managed in a very quiet aud unambitious style, working but a small force of hands as compared with the great mills ; yet they produce a handsome profit for their owners. I found a good representative of this class of mills in the woods on Flint River, in Alabama. It was under the charge of Major-, a graduate of West Point, and an officer of the Confederate army, and belonged to a family corporation which owns three thousand acres of land around the factory. The whole property is worth about a hundred thousand dollars. They had made twelve per cent, profit on this capital the year before. They work one hundred bands, — twenty men and eighty women and girls. The young women were all Americans, and they seemed modest and pleasant, and the major said there was no vice among them. Each family has a house on the land of the corporation, a large garden, and a cow. The houses seemed to me wonderfully large, after my acquaintance with New England factory “tenementhouses.” Think of a house more than forty feet long for one family of operatives ! This is the size of each dwelling at the Bell Factory, and each has in addition a detached kitchen. I saw a sewing-machine in every house. All have open fire-places and cooking-stoves. The people raise their own vegetables, and each house has a pretty door-yard, with shrubbery and flowers. It seemed a happy and prosperous little community. The manager plainly felt great interest in the moral and personal welfare of his laborers, and they showed that they loved him as a wise, strong friend. He is, indeed, a kind of patriarch of the “ settlement ” of three hundred inhabitants, a fatherly king over them. No liquor is sold in or near the place, except under his direction. There are a church and a school. The major rarely goes away to the town, or leaves the little factory village. The factory has been in operation more than fifty years. Before the war the work was done by negro slaves owned by the corporation. They grew up in the mill, and knew no other work. Now the operatives are all whites. It would be a great blessing to the country if there could be many factories like this, but the changed conditions of the time have probably made their establishment impossible. Everything must now be done on a different scale, in starting new enterprises, though some of these old factories may be successful for some time longer. They are likely, however, soon to be swallowed up by larger undertakings, or destroyed by their competition.
I suppose that no conditions could make it possible to organize a similar industry and community among New England people. We should all assert ourselves, and fight for independence and equality, and should disdain to obey any man. No measure of profit would reconcile us to patriarchal control or guidance. We should find means to evade and nullify the rules relating to the sale of liquor, and, in short, to do whatever was forbidden. But such a system is suited exactly to the character and qualities of the people of the primitive community which I have described. In purity of life, content, and happiness, they surpass any New England factory population with which I am acquainted.
If the cotton crop should be large for the next two or three years, and agricultural affairs in the Southern States generally prosperous, several large cotton-mills will probably be erected. At Charleston, South Carolina, I found much interest and discussion over plans for a great cotton factory. The leading business men of the city said that they had been “ away behind ” the North in enterprise, but they did not intend always to he so. There is a large and valuable building at Corinth, Mississippi, which was erected a few years ago for a cotton-mill, but which has never been occupied. When I was there it was offered to me for a merely nominal price, on condition that I should put in machinery, and promise to employ one hundred laborers. Norfolk, Virginia, has been unfortunate with her mills, losing heavily by fires, but will try again. Some Southern mills are exempted from taxation for a long term of years. This may be right, or necessary, but there are real objections to this method of fostering particular industries. In various parts of the South I saw signs of the gradual accumulation of capital, and of successful effort in laying the foundations of new or expanded business enterprises ; a coral-insect kind of work, going on out of sight, but which is sure to be manifest in time. On the other hand, many Southerners who declaim against the backwardness and “shiftlessness” apparent in their region are themselves quite as inefficient and improvident as any of the people around them.
Railroad construction is active in many parts of the South, and that portion of our country is building more railroads than it is likely to have business adequately to sustain. But some of the new roads and projected lines are important, and will of course be of great benefit to the regions most affected by their construction and operation. While in New Orleans I took a long walk down the river-front. There is evidently a great deal of business in the city, and her capital appears to be abundant and substantial. But I think that her relative importance as a metropolis, and her superiority in commerce and wealth over the other cities of the South, are likely to he less marked in the future than they have been in the past. The city has been made and sustained chiefly by the Mississippi River, but the river itself will be of less importance henceforward. The dominion is passing to the railroads in all that part of the country. A glance at a railroad map shows that the Mississippi River has hitherto kept railroads out of a vast region to the west of it along all its lower course. From Memphis to the Gulf the river has had the country and its commerce all to itself. But a railroad has recently been completed which forms a continuous line westward from New Orleans to San Antonio, Texas. A railroad is now being built from Vicksburg to Shreveport, on the Red River. There is already a road from New Orleans up the west side of the Mississippi to Bayou Goula, and there are various short pieces and scattered links which will soon be extended and connected, until the whole country from the Mississippi westward to the Trinity will be, within the next twenty years, I think, striped and crossbarred with railroads.
TO BUILD UP CITIES.
All this may greatly benefit and develop the region referred to, but it will have the effect of sending to other points much of the tribute that has hitherto gone to New Orleans. The railroads of the South will be much more valuable and friendly to ports on the Southern Atlantic coast than to the beautiful metropolis of the Gulf States. Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, Richmond, and Baltimore will all be greatly aggrandized by the new and advancing development of the Southern States. The prophecy of a great Southern port and city to rival New York is a guess, a dream. The chances or possibilities of the future are too many and too uncertain for such predictions to have any basis even in probability, but the five coast States between Pennsylvania and Florida are certain to gain greatly in wealth by the increasing production of the States lying west of them. Of all these seaboard States, Virginia holds, I think, the best position for commerce. Chesapeake Bay is an invaluable possession, and the situation of the State north of Cape Hatteras gives it great advantages.
THE “ DRUMMER.”
The traveling salesman, or “ drummer,” is one of the chief features of the mercantile business of the South, at present. I do not think I traveled an hour by railway, while in the Southern States, without the company of at least one of these men, nor stopped at any railroad hotel without meeting one ; and usually there were several of them present at such places at the same time. It must be said that most of these young men are kind and obliging to their fellow-travelers, — to everybody, indeed ; and the uncomplaining indifference with which they accept the miserable fare of Southern eating-houses and hotels may claim a degree of respect, though they are commonly treated better than anybody else on the road. (The clerk of the pretentious railroad hotel at Montgomery, Alabama, added fifty per cent, to my bill when he learned that I was not a drummer.) I was interested in observing and studying this class of young men, and in learning how they regarded their own life and occupation. There are a few elderly men, of excellent character, on the road, but most of them are young, and are somewhat peculiar. Many of them regard themselves as the real merchants and principal business men of the country, and speak of the houses which employ them as if they (the merchants in the cities) were mere subordinates, or agents, employed by the drummers to put up and forward the goods sold on the road. I heard many discussions among these traveling salesmen of the various methods by which they could so conduct business as to bring the principal profits to their own pockets. They speak of the trade as theirs, and not that of the houses they represent, and often talk of the amount of business which they control, frequently threatening to “ carry the trade over to another house.” They always have the best rooms, and the best of everything at the hotels, and when several of them meet at the same house they are apt to have " little suppers ” together. They are usually extremely hospitable on such occasions, and often invited me to join them, but I always begged to be excused. A good deal of wine is consumed at these suppers. It is a part of “ the necessary traveling expenses,” as they explained to me. At Jackson, Mississippi, arriving late at night at the hotel, I found myself in a merry company of drummers, who greeted me with effusive cordiality and offers of unlimited hospitality. The leader explained that they were “ all as drunk as the devil, but g-g-goo-GOOD-natured. An’ we’re jus’ as glad to see you’s if you were sober ! ” The traveling-salesman method of doing business seemed to me clumsy and costly, and the older men on the road in the South say they do not believe the system will be maintained for many years in its present proportions.
CREDIT AND DEBT.
Merchandise of all kinds is very generally sold on credit in most of the Southern States, and there is a larger proportion of the population who are hopelessly in debt than in any other part of our country. In a “ rather smart ” Tennessee town, I saw a drygoods and variety store which bore in large letters across its front the legend, “ Our Terms ! Cash Down From Every Body Saint and Sinner Now and Forever More Amen.” It would mark the coming of a better day for Southern business men, and for their customers as well, if this inscription could be placed above the doors of all their shops and stores, from Norfolk to Sau Antonio.