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many violent partizans. The acquisition of this immense tract of fertile
country would give an undue preponderance to the slave states, and this
circumstance alone has prevented its purchase from being universally
approved of; for the grasping policy of the American system seems to
animate both congress and legislatures in all their acts. The Americans
commenced their operations in true Yankee style. The first settlement made
was by a person named Austin, under a large grant from the Mexican
government. Then "pioneers," under the denomination of "explorers," began
gradually to take possession of the country, and carry on commercial
negotiations without the assent of the government. This was followed by
the public prints taking up the question, and setting forth the immense
value of the country, and the consequent advantages that would arise to
the United States from its acquisition. The settlers excited movements,
and caused discontent and dissatisfaction among the legitimate owners; and
at their instigation, insurrections of the Indians took place, which
greatly embarrassed the government. At this stage of the affair, Mr.
Poinsett, the American minister, commenced his diplomatic manoeuvres in
the city of Mexico - fomenting disaffection, encouraging parties, and
otherwise interfering in the internal concerns of the country. He appears,
however, to have carried his intrigues beyond the bounds of discretion, as
they were discovered; and he consequently became so obnoxious to the
government and people of Mexico, that Jackson found it necessary to recall
him, and send a Colonel Butler in his stead, commissioned to offer
5,000,000 dollars for the province of Texas.

Mr. Poinsett's object in acting as he did, was that he might embarrass the
government, and take advantage of some favourable crisis to drive a
profitable bargain; or that, during some convulsion that would be likely
to lead to a change, the expiring executive would be glad to grasp at his
offer, and thereby a claim would be established on the country, which the
United States would not readily relinquish. The policy of the British
government suffering the Mexican republic to be bullied out of this
province would be very questionable indeed, as the North Americans command
at present quite enough of the Gulf of Mexico, and their overweening
inclination to acquire extent of territory would render their proximity to
the West Indian Islands rather dangerous; however, it would be much more
advantageous to have the Mexicans as neighbours than the people of the
United States.

The Mexican secretary of state, Don Lucas Alaman, in a very able and
elaborate report made to Congress, sets forth the ambitious designs of the
American government, and the proceedings of its agents with regard to this
province. He also recommends salutary measures for the purpose of
retaining possession and preventing further encroachments; which the
Congress seems to have taken into serious consideration, as very important
resolutions have been adopted. The Congress has decreed, that hereafter
the Texas is to be governed as a colony; and, except by special commission
of the Governor, the immigration of persons _from the United States_, is
strictly forbidden. So much at present for the efforts of the Americans to
get possession of the Texas; and if the British government be alive to the
interests of the nation, they never shall; - for, entertaining the hostile
feelings that they do towards the British empire, their closer connexion
with the West Indies would certainly not be desirable.

FOOTNOTES:

[9] A "big bug," is a great man, in the phraseology of the western
country.

[10] In the Indian tongue, _Meschacebe_ - "old father of waters."

[11] I have been informed by a gentleman who has resided in the English
West Indian Islands, that he has known instances there of highly educated
white women, young and unmarried, making black mothers suckle puppy
lap-dogs for them.

[12] Previous to my leaving America, a most extensive and well-organised
conspiracy was discovered at Charleston, and several of the conspirators
were executed. The whole black population of that town were to have risen
on a certain day, and put their oppressors to death.

[13]

Extract from "The Liberal" of 19th March, 1830: -

"Constitution des Etats unis.

"Art. 1 er. des Amendments.

"Le Congrés n'aura pas le droit de faire aucune loi pour abreger
la liberté de la parole ou de la presse, &c.

"Constitution de L'Etat de la Louisiane.

"Art. 6, v. 21.

"La presse sera libre à tous ceux qui entreprendront d'examiner les
procédures de la legislature ou aucune branche du gouvernement; et
aucune loi sera jamais faite pour abreger ses droits, &c.

"Loi faite par la legislature de l'Etat de la Louisiane.

"Acte pour punir les crime y mentionés et pour d'autre objets.

"Sect. 1ére. Il et décrété, &c. Que quiconque écrira, imprimera,
publiera, ou répandra toute pièce ayant une tendance à produire du
mécontentement parmi la population de couleur libre, ou de
l'insubordination parmi les esclaves de cet Etat, sera sur
conviction du fait, pardevant toute cour de juridiction competante
condamné à l'emprisonnement aux travaux forcés pour la vie ou à la
peine de mort, à la discretion de la cour!!!!

"Sec. 2. Il est de plus décrété, que quiconque se servira
d'expressions dans un discours public prononcé au barreau, au barre
des Judges, au Théâtre, en chaire, ou dans tout lieu quelconque;
quiconque se servira d'expressions dans des conversations ou des
discours particulars, ou fera usage des signes ou fera des actions
ayant une tendance à produire du mecontentement parmi la
population de couleur libre ou à exciter à l'insubordination parmi
les esclaves de cet Etat; quiconque donnera sciemment la main à
apporter dans cet Etat aucun papier, brochure ou livre ayant la
même tendance que dessus, sera, sur conviction, pardevant toute
cour de juridiction competante, condamné à l'emprisonnement aux
travaux forcés pour un terme qui ne sera pas moindre de trois ans
et qui n'excédera pas vingt un ans, ou à la peine de mort à la
discretion de la cour!!!!

"Sec. 3. Il est de plus décrété, que seront considerées comme
illegales toute réunions de negres; mulatres ou autres personnes
de couleur libre dans le temples, les ecoles ou autres lieux pour
y apprendre à lire ou à ecrire: et les personnes qui se réuniront
ainsi; sur conviction du fait, pardevant toute cour de juridiction
competente, seront emprisonneés pour un terme qui ne sera pas
moindre d'un mois et qui n'excédera pas douze mois, à la
discrétion!!!!

"Sec. 4. Il est de plus décrété, que toute personne dans cet état
qui enseignera, permettra qu'on enseigne ou fera enseigner à lire
ou à ecrire à un esclave quelconque, sera, sur conviction du fait,
pardevant toute cour de juridiction competante, condamné à un
imprisonnement qui ne sera pas moindre d'un mois et n'excédera pas
douze mois!!!!"

* * * * *

From the remarks of the same journal of the 23rd March, it would
appear that the third and fourth sections of this most enlightened
and Christian act have been rejected, as being "_too bad_."

"Nous avons lu la publication officielle de l'acte intitulé: 'acte
pour empêcher l'introduction des personnes de couleur libres dans
cet Etat, et pour d'autres objets.' Il est trop long pour que nous
puissons le publier, nous en donnons l'extrait suivant.

"1. Toute personne de couleur libre, qui sera rentreé dans cet
état depuis 1825, sera forcée d'en sortir.

"2. Aucune personne, de couleur libre, ne pourra à l'avenir
s'introduire dans cet état sous aucun pretexte quelconque.

"3. Le blanc qui aura fait circuler des écrits tendant à troubler
le repos public, ou censurant les actes de la legislature
concernant les esclaves ou les personnes de couleur libres, sera
puni rigoureusement.

"4. L'émancipation des esclaves est soumise à quantité de
formalités.

"Tous les noirs, grieffes et mulatres, au premier degré, libres,
sont obligés de se faire enregistrer au bureau du maire, à Nelle.
Orleans, ou chez les judges de paroisse dans les autres parties de
l'état.

"Nous voyons avec joie, que la partie du bill tendant à empêcher
l'instruction des personnes de couleur, a été rejeté."




CHAPTER VIII.


Having spent a month in Orleans and the neighbouring plantations, I took
my leave and departed for Louisville. The steam-boat in which I ascended
the river was of the largest description, and had then on board between
fifty and sixty cabin passengers, and nearly four hundred deck passengers.
The former paid thirty dollars, and the latter I believe six, on this
occasion. The deckers were provided only with an unfurnished berth. The
steam-boats, on their passage up and down the rivers, stop at nearly all
the towns of importance, both for the purpose of landing and receiving
freight, which enabled me to visit most of the settlements along the
banks.

For several hundred miles from New Orleans, the trees, particularly those
in the cypress swamps, are covered with tellandsea, or Spanish moss, which
hangs down from the branches so thickly, as to give a most gloomy aspect
to the forest. It is found to be a good substitute for horse hair, and is
universally used by upholsterers for stuffing mattresses, cushions, &c.
The process of preparing it is very simple: being taken from the trees, it
is placed in water for a few days, until the outer pellicle has rotted; it
is then dried, when a long fibre resembling horse hair is obtained.

Natchez, in the state of Mississippi, is about 300 miles above Orleans,
and is the largest and wealthiest town on the river, from that city up to
St. Louis. It stands on bluffs, perhaps 300 feet above the water at
ordinary periods. It contains nearly 4000 inhabitants, and is decidedly
the prettiest town for its dimensions in the United States. Natchez,
although upwards of 400 miles from the sea, is considered a port; and a
grant of 1500 dollars was made by congress for the purpose of erecting a
light-house; the building has been raised, and stands there, a monument of
useless expenditure. There are a number of "groggeries," stores, and other
habitations, at the base of the bluffs, for the accommodation of
flat-boatmen, which form a distinct town, and the place is called, in
contradistinction to the city above, Natchez-under-the-hill. Swarms of
unfortunate females, of every shade of colour, may be seen here sporting
with the river navigators, and this little spot presents one continued
scene of gaming, swearing, and rioting, from morning till night.

The ravages of the yellow fever in this town are always greater in
proportion to the population than at New Orleans; and it is a remarkable
fact, that frequently when the fever is raging with violence in the city
on the hill, the inhabitants below are entirely free from it. In addition
to the exhalations from the exposed part of the river's bed, there are
others of a still more pestilential character, which arise from stagnant
pools at the foot of the hill. The miasmata appear to ascend until they
reach the level of the town above, where the atmosphere being less dense,
and perhaps precisely of their own specific gravity, they float, and
commingle with it.

The country from Baton-rouge to Vicksburg, on the walnut hills, is almost
entirely devoted to the cultivation of cotton, the soil and climate being
found particularly congenial to the growth of that plant. The great trade
of Natchez is in this article. The investment of capital in the
cultivation of cotton is extremely profitable, and a plantation
judiciously managed seldom fails of producing an income, in a few years,
amounting to the original outlay. Each slave is estimated to produce from
250 to 300 dollars per annum; but of course from this are to be deducted
the _wear and tear_ of the slave, and the casualties incident to human
life. On sugar plantations the profit is much more on each individual; but
the risk is greater, and the deaths are generally calculated at one-third
of the gang in ten years: this is the cause why slaves _on sugar
plantations_ are so miserably fed and clad, for their being rendered less
wretched would not make them less susceptible to the epidemic. Each acre
of well-cultivated land produces from one and a half to two bales of
cotton, and even the first year the produce will cover the expenses. A
planter may commence with 10,000 or 12,000 dollars, and calculate on
certain success; but with less capital, he must struggle hard to attain
the desired object. A sugar plantation cannot be properly conducted with
less than 25,000 or 30,000 dollars, and the first year produces no return.
The cotton begins to ripen in the month of October - the buds open, and the
flowers appear. A slave can gather from 100 to 150 lbs. a day. Rice and
tobacco are also grown in the neighbourhood of the cotton lands, but of
course the produce is inferior to that of the West Indies.

Occasionally, along the banks of the Mississippi, you see here and there
the solitary habitation of a wood-cutter. Immense piles of wood are placed
on the edge of the bank, for the supply of steam-boats, and perhaps a
small corn patch may be close to the house; this however is not commonly
the case, as the inhabitants depend on flat-boats for provisions. The
dwelling is the rudest kind of log-house, and the outside is sometimes
decorated with the skins of deer, bears, and other animals, hung up to
dry. Those people are commonly afflicted with fever and ague; and I have
seen many, particularly females, who had immense swellings or
protuberances on their stomachs, which they denominate "ague-cakes." The
Mississippi wood-cutters scrape together "considerable of dollars," but
they pay dearly for it in health, and are totally cut off from the
frequent frolics, political discussions, and elections; which last,
especially, are a great source of amusement to the Americans, and tend to
keep up that spirit of patriotism and nationality for which they are so
distinguished. The excitement produced by these elections prevents the
people falling into that ale-drinking stupidity, which characterizes the
low English.

The "freshets" in the Mississippi are always accompanied with an immense
quantity of "drift-wood," which is swept away from the banks of the
Missouri and Ohio; and the navigation is never totally devoid of danger,
from the quantity of trees which settle down on the bottom of the river.
Those trees which stand perpendicularly in the river, are called
"planters;" those which take hold by the roots, but lie obliquely with the
current, yielding to its pressure, appearing and disappearing alternately,
are termed "sawyers;" and those which lie immovably fixed, in the same
position as the "sawyers," are denominated "snags." Many boats have been
stove in by "snags" and "sawyers," and sunk with all the passengers. At
present there is a snag steam-boat stationed on the Mississippi, which has
almost entirely cleared it of these obstructions. This boat consists of
two hulks, with solid beams of timber uniting the bows. It has a most
powerful engine; and when the crew discover a snag, which always lies with
the stream, and is known by the ripple on the water, they run down below
it for some distance in order to gather head-way - the boat is then run at
it full tilt, and seldom fails of breaking off the projecting branch close
to the trunk.

We arrived, a fine morning about nine o'clock, at Memphis in Tennessee,
and lay-to to put out freight. We had just sat down, and were regaling
ourselves with a substantial breakfast, when one of the boilers burst,
with an explosion that resembled the report of a cannon. The change was
sudden and terrific. Between fifty and sixty persons were killed and
wounded. The scene was the most horrifying that can be imagined - the dead
were shattered to pieces, covering the decks with blood; and the dying
suffered the most excruciating tortures, being scalded from head to foot.
Many died within the hour; whilst others lingered until evening, shrieking
in the most piteous manner. The persons assembled on shore displayed the
most disgusting want of sympathy; and most of the gentlemen passengers
took care to secure their luggage before rendering any assistance to the
unfortunates. A medical gentleman, who happened to be on board (a Doctor
Otis, I think, from Carolina), was an exception. This gentleman - and
gentleman he really was, in every respect - attended with the most
unremitting care on all the wounded without distinction. A collection was
made by the cabin passengers, for the surviving sufferers. The wretch who
furnished oil on the occasion, hearing of the collection, had the
conscience to make a charge of sixty dollars, when the quantity furnished
could not possibly have amounted to a third of that sum.

The boiler recoiled, cutting away part of the bow, and the explosion blew
up the pilot's deck, which rendered the vessel totally unfit for service.
I remained three days at Memphis, and visited the neighbouring farms and
plantations. Several parties of Chickesaw Indians were here, trading their
deer and other skins with the townspeople. This tribe has a reservation
about fifty miles back, and pursues agriculture to a considerable extent.
After the massacre and extermination of the Natchez Indians, by the
Christians of Louisiana, the few survivors received an asylum from the
Chickesaws; who, notwithstanding the heavy vengeance with which they were
threatened, could never be induced to give up the few unhappy "children of
the Sun" who confided in their honour and generosity: the fugitives
amalgamated with their protectors, and the Natchez are extinct.

Some of the Indians here assembled, indulged immoderately in the use of
ardent spirits, with which they were copiously supplied by the white
people. During these drinking fits, there is always one at least of the
party who remains sober, in order to secure the knives, &c. Hence the
Americans derive the cant phrase of "doing the sober Indian," which they
apply to any one of a company who will not _drink fairly_. One of the
Indians had a pony which he wished to sell, having occasion for some
articles, and his skins not bringing him as much as he had anticipated. A
townsman demanded the price. The Indian put up both his hands, intimating
that he would take ten dollars. The pony was worth double the sum; but the
spirit of barter would not permit the white man to purchase without
reducing the price: he offered the Indian five dollars. The Indian was
evidently indignant, but only gave a nod of dissent. After some
hesitation, the buyer, finding that he could not reduce the price, said
he would give the ten dollars. The Indian then held up his fingers, and
counted fifteen. The buyer demurred at the advance; but the Indian was
inexorable, and at length intimated that he would not trade at all. Such
is the character of the Aborigines - they never calculate on _your_
necessities, but only on their own; and when they are in want of money,
demand the lowest possible price for the article they may wish to
sell - but if they see you want to take further advantage of them, they
invariably raise the price or refuse to traffic.

Hunting in Tennessee is commonly practised on horseback, with dogs. When
the party comes upon a deer-track, it separates, and hunters are posted,
at intervals of about a furlong, on the path which the deer when started
is calculated to take. Two or three persons then set forward with the
dogs, always coming up against the wind, and start the deer, when the
sentinels at the different points fire at him as he passes, until he is
brought down. Another mode is to hunt by torch-light, without dogs. In
this case, slaves carry torches before the party; the light of which so
amazes the deer, that he stands gazing in the brushwood. The glare of his
eyes is always sufficient to direct the attention of the rifleman, who
levels his piece at the space between them, and seldom fails of hitting
him fairly in the head.

A boat at length arrived from New Orleans, bound for Nashville in
Tennessee, and I secured a passage to Smithland, at the mouth of the
Cumberland river, where I had a double opportunity of getting to
Louisville, as boats from St. Louis, as well as those from Orleans, stop
at that point. The day following my arrival a boat came up, and I
proceeded to Louisville. On board, whilst I was amusing myself forward, I
was accosted by a deck-passenger, whom I recollected to have seen at
Harmony. He told me, amongst other things, that a Mr. O - - , who resided
there, had been elected captain, and added that he was "a considerable
clever fellow," and the best captain they ever had. I inquired what
peculiar qualification in their new officer led him to that conclusion.
Expecting to hear of his superior knowledge in military tactics, I was
astounded when he seriously informed me, in answer, that on a late
occasion (I believe it was the anniversary of the birth of Washington),
after parade, he ordered them into a "groggery," "not to take a _little_
of something to drink, but by J - -s to drink as much as they had a mind
to." It must be observed, that this individual I had seen but once, in the
streets of Harmony, and then he was in a state of inebriation. Another
anecdote, of a similar character, was related to me by an Englishman
relative to his own election to the post of brigadier-general. The
candidate opposed to him had served in the late war, and in his address to
the electors boasted not a little of the circumstance, and concluded by
stating that he was "ready to lead them to a cannon's mouth when
necessary." This my friend the General thought a poser; but, however, he
determined on trying what virtue there was - not in stones, like the "old
man" with the "young saucebox," - but in a much more potent article,
whisky; so, after having stated that although he had not served, yet he
was as ready to serve against "the hired assassins of England" - this is
the term by which the Americans designate our troops - as his opponent, he
concluded by saying, "Boys, Mr. - - has told you that he is ready to lead
you to a cannon's mouth - now _I_ don't wish you any such misfortune as
getting the contents of a cannon in your bowels, but if necessary,
perhaps, I'd lead you as far as he would; however, men, the short and the
long of it is, instead of leading you to the mouth of a cannon, I'll lead
you this instant to the mouth of a barrel of whisky." This was enough - the
electors shouted, roared, laughed, and drank - and elected my friend
Brigadier-general. Brigadier-general! what must this man's relatives in
England think, when they hear that he is a Brigadier-general in the
American army? Yet he is a very respectable man (an auctioneer), and much
superior to many west country Generals. The fact is, a dollar's-worth of
whisky and a little Irish wit would go as far in electioneering as five
pounds would go in England; and were it not for the protection afforded by
the ballot, the Americans would be fully as corrupt, and would exercise
the franchise as little in accordance with the public interest, as the
English and Irish who enjoy the freedom of corporate towns. Some aspirants
to office in the New England states, about the time of the last
presidential election, tried the system of bribing, and obtained promises
fully sufficient to insure their returns; but on counting the votes, it
was found that more than one half the persons who were paid to vote _for_,
must have voted _against_ the person who had bribed them. It is needless
to say this experiment was not repeated. The Americans thought it bad
enough to take the bribe, but justly concluded that it would be a double
crime to adhere to the agreement. The bravo who takes a purse to commit an
assassination, and does not do that for which he has been paid; is an
angel, when compared to the villain who performs his contract.

The usual time occupied in a voyage from Orleans to Louisville is from ten
to twelve days, and boats have performed it in the surprisingly short
space of eight days. The spur that commerce has received from the
introduction of steam-boats on the western waters, can only be appreciated


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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 9 of 15)