- Louisiana, Past and Present . . . . . 17
- The French Quarter of New Orleans — The Revolution and its Effects . . . . . 28
- The Carnival — The French Markets . . . . . 38
- The Cotton Trade — The New Orleans Levées . . . . . 50
- The Canals and the Lake — The American Quarter . . . . . 59
- On The Mississippi River — The Levée System — Railroads — The Fort St. Philip Canal . . . . . 67
- The Industries of Louisiana — A Sugar Plantation — The Teche Country . . . . . 78
- The Political Situation in Louisiana . . . . . 89
- “Ho! For Texas” — Galveston . . . . . 99
- Scene on the Oclawaha River, Florida — Frontispiece
- General Map of the Southern States . . . . . 15
- Bienville, the Founder of New Orleans . . . . . 17
- The Cathedral St. Louis — New Orleans . . . . . 18
- “A blind beggar hears the rustling of her gown, and stretches out his trembling hand for alms,” . . . . . 19
- “A black girl looks wonderingly into the holy-water font” . . . . . 19
- The Archbishop’s Palace, New Orleans . . . . . 20
- “Some aged private dwellings, rapidly decaying,” . . . . . 25
- A brace of old Spanish Governors. — From portraits owned by Hon. Charles Gayarré, of New Orleans . . . . . 26
- “And where to-day stands a fine Equestrian Statue of the Great General” . . . . . 27
- “A lazy negro, recumbent in a cart” . . . . . 29
- “The negro nurses stroll on the sidewalks, chattering in quaint French to the little children” . . . . . 30
- “The interior garden, with its curious shrine” . . . . . 31
- “The new Ursuline Convent, New Orleans . . . . . 32
- “And while they chatter like monkeys, even about politics, they gesticulate violently” . . . . . 35
- “The old French and Spanish cemeteries present long streets of cemented walls” . . . . . 36
- The St. Louis Hotel, New Orleans . . . . . 37
- The Carnival — “White and black join in its masquerading.” . . . . . 38
- “The coming of Rex, most puissant King of Carnival” . . . . . 40
- “The Bœuf-Gras — the fat ox — is led in the procession” . . . . . 41
- “When Rex and his train enter the queer old streets, the balconies are crowded with spectators” . . . . . 42
- “The joyous, grotesque maskers appear upon the ball-room floor” . . . . . 43
- “Many bright eyes are in vain endeavoring to pierce the disguise” . . . . . 45
- “The French market at sunrise on Sunday morning” . . . . . 46
- “Passing under long, hanging rows of bananas and pine-apples” . . . . . 47
- “One sees delicious types in these markets” . . . . . 48
- “In a long passage, between two of the market buildings, sits a silent Louisiana Indian woman” . . . . . 49
- “Stout colored women, with cackling hens dangling from their brawny hands” . . . . . 49
- “These boats, closely ranged in long rows by the levée” . . . . . 50
- “Whenever there is a lull in the work, they sink down on the cotton bales” . . . . . 52
- “Not far from the levée there is a police court, where they especially delight to lounge” . . . . . 52
- “The cotton thieves” . . . . . 55
- “There is the old apple and cake woman” . . . . . 55
- “The Sicilian fruit-seller” . . . . . 56
- “At high water, the juvenile population perches on the beams of the wharves, and enjoys a little quiet fishing” . . . . . 57
- “The polite but consequential negro policeman,” . . . . . 57
- The St. Charles Hotel, New Orleans . . . . . 59
- The New Basin . . . . . 60
- The old Spanish Fort . . . . . 60
- The University of Louisiana, New Orleans . . . . . 61
- The Theatres of New Orleans . . . . . 61
- Christ Church, New Orleans . . . . . 62
- The Canal street Fountain, New Orleans . . . . . 62
- The Charity Hospital, New Orleans . . . . . 63
- The old Maison de Santé, New Orleans . . . . . 63
- The United States Marine Hospital, New Orleans . . . . . 64
- Trinity Church, New Orleans . . . . . 64
- St. Paul's Church, New Orleans . . . . . 64
- First Presbyterian Church, New Orleans . . . . . 65
- The Catholic Churches of New Orleans — St. Joseph’s, St. Patrick’s Jesuit Church and School . . . . . 65
- The Custom-House, New Orleans . . . . . 66
- The United States Branch Mint, New Orleans . . . . . 66
- “Sometimes the boat stops at a coaling station” . . . . . 68
- “The Wasp” . . . . . 69
- “Some tract of hopelessly irreclaimable, grotesque water wilderness.” (From a painting by Julio.) . . . . . 70
- The monument on the Chalmette battle-field . . . . . 72
- Light-house, South-west Pass . . . . . 74
- “Pilot Town,” South-west Pass . . . . . 75
- “A Nickel for Daddy” . . . . . 77
- “A cheery Chinaman” . . . . . 82
- Sugar-cane Plantation — “The cane is cut down at its perfection” . . . . . 83
- “The beautiful ‘City Park,’” New Orleans . . . . .87
- Map showing the Distribution of the Colored Population of the United States. (From the U. S. Census Reports) . . . . . 88
- Map of the Gulf States and Arkansas . . . . . 89
- The Supreme Court, New Orleans . . . . . 92
- The United States Barracks, New Orleans . . . . . 93
- Mechanics’ Institute, New Orleans . . . . . 95
- Going to Texas . . . . . 99
THIS book is the record of an extensive tour of observation through the States of the South and South-west during the whole of 1873, and the Spring and Summer of 1874.
The journey was undertaken at the instance of the publishers of Scribner’s Monthly, who desired to present to the public, through the medium of their popular periodical, an account of the material resources, and the present social and political condition, of the people in the Southern States. The author and the artists associated with him in the preparation of the work, traveled more than twenty-five thousand miles; visited nearly every city and town of importance in the South; talked with men of all classes, parties and colors; carefully investigated manufacturing enterprises and sites; studied the course of politics in each State since the advent of reconstruction; explored rivers, and penetrated into mountain regions heretofore rarely visited by Northern men. They were everywhere kindly and generously received by the Southern people; and they have endeavored, by pen and pencil, to give the reading public a truthful picture of life in a section which has, since the close of a devastating war, been overwhelmed by a variety of misfortunes, but upon which the dawn of a better day is breaking.
The fifteen ex-slave States cover an area of more than 880,000 square miles, and are inhabited by fourteen millions of people. The aim of the author has been to tell the truth as exactly and completely as possible in the time and space allotted him, concerning the characteristics of this region and its inhabitants.
The popular favor accorded in this country and Great Britain to the fifteen illustrated articles descriptive of the South which have appeared in Scribner’s Monthly, has led to the preparation of the present volume. Much of the material which has appeared in Scribner will be found in its pages; the whole has, however, been re-written, re-arranged, and, with numerous additions, is now simultaneously offered to the English-speaking public on both sides of the Atlantic.
To the talent and skill of Mr. J. Wells Champney, the artist who accompanied the author during the greater part of the journey, the public is indebted for more than four hundred of the superb sketches of Southern life, character, and scenery which illustrate this volume. The other artists who have contributed have done their work faithfully and well.
New York, November, 1874.
TO MR. ROSWELL-SMITH,
Scribner & Co., 654 Broadway, New York.
My Dear Sir: — You have been from first to last so inseparably as well as pleasantly connected with "The Great South” enterprise, that I cannot forbear taking this occasion to thank you, not only for originally suggesting the idea of a journey of observation through the Southern States, but also for having generously submitted to the enlargement of the first plan’s scope, until the undertaking demanded a really immense outlay.
I am sure that thousands of people will unite with me in testifying to you, and the gentlemen associated with you, their thanks for the lavish expenditure which has procured the beautiful series of engravings illustrating this volume. What I have been able only to hint at, the artists have interpreted with a fidelity to life and nature in the highest degree admirable.
I herewith present you the result of the joint labor of author and artists, “The Great South” volume. Permit me, sir, to dedicate it to you, and by means of this humble tribute to express my admiration for the energy and unsparing zeal with which you have carried to completion the largest enterprise of its kind ever undertaken by a monthly magazine.
November 1, 1874.
THE GREAT SOUTH.
louisiana past and present.
LOUISIANA to-day is Paradise Lost. In twenty years it may be Paradise Regained. It has unlimited, magnificent possibilities. Upon its bayou-penetrated soil, on its rich uplands and its vast prairies, a gigantic struggle is in progress. It is the battle of race with race, of the picturesque and unjust civilization of the past with the prosaic and leveling civilization of the present. For a century and a-half it was coveted by all nations; sought by those great colonizers of America, — the French, the English, the Spaniards. It has been in turn the plaything of monarchs and the bait of adventurers. Its history and tradition are leagued with all that was romantic in Europe and on the Western continent in the eighteenth century. From its immense limits outsprang the noble sisterhood of South-western States, whose inexhaustible domain affords an ample refuge for the poor of all the world.
A little more than half a century ago the frontier of Louisiana, with the Spanish internal provinces, extended nineteen hundred miles. The territory boasted a sea-coast line of five hundred miles on the Pacific Ocean; drew a boundary line seventeen hundred miles along the edge of the British-American dominions; thence followed the Mississippi by a comparative course for fourteen hundred miles; fronted the Mexican Gulf for seven hundred miles, and embraced within its limits nearly one million five hundred thousand square miles. Texas was a fragment broken from it. California, Kansas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, and Mississippi, were made from it, and still there was an Empire to spare, watered by five of the finest rivers of the world. Indiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska were born of it.
From French Bienville to America Claiborne the territorial administrations were dramatic, diplomatic, bathed in the atmosphere of conspiracy. Superstition cast a weird veil of mystery over the great rivers, and Indian legend peopled every nook and cranny of the section with fantastic creations of untutored fancy. The humble roof of the log cabin on the banks of the Mississippi covered all the grace and elegance of French society of Louis the Fourteenth’s time. Jesuit and Cavalier carried European thought to the Indians.
Frenchman and Spaniard, Canadian and Yankee, intrigued and planned on Louisiana soil with an energy and fierceness displayed nowhere else in our early history. What wonder, after this cosmopolitan record, that even the fragment of Louisiana which has retained the name — this remnant embracing but a thirtieth of the area of the original province — yet still covering more than forty thousand square miles of prairie, alluvial, and sea marsh — what wonder that it is so richly varied, so charming, so unique?
Six o’clock, on Saturday evening, in the good old city of New Orleans. From the tower of the Cathedral St. Louis the tremulous harmony of bells drifts lightly on the cool spring breeze, and hovers like a benediction over the antique buildings, the blossoms and hedges in the square, and the broad and swiftly-flowing river. The bells are calling all in the parish to offer masses for the repose of the soul of the Cathedral’s founder, Don Andre Almonaster, once upon a time “perpetual regidor” of New Orleans. Every Saturday eve, for three-quarters of a century, the solemn music from the Cathedral belfry has brought the good Andre to mind; and the mellow notes, as we hear them, seem to call up visions of the quaint past.
Don Andre gave the Cathedral its dower in 1789, while the colony was under the domination of Charles the Fourth of Spain. The original edifice is gone now, and in its stead, since 1850, has stood a composite structure which is a monument to bad taste. Venerable
and imposing was the old Cathedral, with its melange of rustic, Tuscan, and Roman Doric styles of architecture; with its towers crowned with low spires, and its semicircular arched door, with clustered columns on either side at the front; and many a grand pageant had it seen.
Under the pavement of the Cathedral lies buried Father Antonio de Sedella, a Spanish priest, who, in his time, was one of the celebrities of New Orleans, and the very recollection of whom calls up memories of the Inquisition, of intrigue and mystery. Father Antonio’s name is sacred in the Louisiana capital, nevertheless; for although an enraged Spanish Governor once expelled him for presuming to establish the Inquisition in the colony, he came back, and flourished until 1837, under American rule, dying at the age of ninety, in the odor of sanctity, mourned by the women and worshiped by the children.
Now the sunlight mingles with the breeze bewitchingly; the old square, the gray and red buildings with massive walls and encircling balconies, the great door of the new Cathedral, all are lighted up. See! a black-robed woman, with downcast eyes, passes silently over the holy threshold; a blind beggar, with a parti-colored handkerchief wound about his weather-beaten head, hears the rustling of her gown, and stretches out his trembling hand for alms; a black girl looks wonderingly into the holy-water font; the market-women hush their chatter as they near the portal; a mulatto fruit-seller is lounging in the shade of an ancient arch, beneath the old Spanish Council House. This is not an American scene, and one almost persuades himself that he is in Europe, although ten minutes of rapid walking will bring him to streets and squares as generically American as any in Boston, Chicago, or St. Louis.
The city of New Orleans is fruitful in surprises. In a morning’s promenade, which shall not extend over an hundred acres, one may encounter the civilizations of Paris, of Madrid, of Messina; may stumble upon the semi-barbaric life of
the negro and the native Indian; may see the overworked American in his business establishment and in his elegant home; and may find, strangest of all, that each and every foreign type moves in a special current of its own, mingling little with the American, which is dominant: in it, yet not of it — as the Gulf Stream in the ocean.
But the older colonial landmarks in the city, as throughout the State and the Mississippi Valley, are fast disappearing. The imprint of French manners and customs will long remain, however; for it was produced by two periods of domination. The hatred of Napoleon the Great for the English was the motive which led to the cession of Louisiana to the United States: had he not come upon the stage of European politics, the Valley of the Father of Waters might have been French to-day; and both sides of Canal street would have reminded the European of Paris and Bordeaux.
The French Emperor, fearful lest the cannon of the English fleets might thunder at the gates of New Orleans when he was at war with England, at the beginning of this century, sold the “Earthly Paradise” to the United States. “The English,” said the man of destiny, “shall not have the Mississippi, which they covet.” And they did not get it. Seventy years ago the tide of crude, hasty American progress rushed in upon the lovely lowlands bordering the river and the Gulf; and it is astonishing that even a few landmarks of French and Spanish rule are left high above the flood.
Yonder is the archbishop’s palace: enter the street at one side of it, and you seem in a foreign land; in the avenue at the other you catch a glimpse of the rush and hurry of American traffic of to-day along the levée; you see the sharp-featured “river-hand,” hear his uncouth parlance, and recognize him for your countryman; you see huge piles of cotton bales; you hear the monotonous whistle of the gigantic white steamers arriving and departing; and the irrepressible negro slouches sullenly by with his hands in his pockets, and his cheeks distended with tobacco.
You must know much of the past of New Orleans and Louisiana to thoroughly understand their present. New England sprang from the Puritan mould; Louisiana from the French and Spanish civilizations of the eighteenth century. The one stands erect, vibrating with life and activity, austere and ambitious, upon its rocky shores; the other lies prone, its rich vitality dormant and passive, luxurious and unambitious, on the glorious shores of the tropic Gulf. The former was Anglo-Saxon and simple even to Spartan plainness at its outset; the latter was Franco-Spanish, subtle in the graces of the elder societies, self-indulgent and romantic at its beginning. And New Orleans was no more and no less the opposite of Boston in 1773 than a century later. It was a hardy rose which dared to blush, in the New England even of Governor Winthrop’s time, before June had dowered the land with beauty; it was an o’er modest Choctaw rose in the Louisiana of De Soto’s epoch which did not shower its petals on the fragrant turf in February.
In Louisiana summer lingers long after the rude winter of the North has done its work of devastation; the sleeping passion of the climate only wakes now and then into the anger of lightning or the terrible tears of the thunder-storm; there are no chronic March horrors of deadly wind or transpiercing cold; the sun is kind; the days are radiant.
Wandering from the ancient Place d’Armes, now dignified with the appellation of “Jackson Square,” through the older quarters of the city, one may readily recall the curious, changeful past of the commonwealth and its cosmopolitan capital; for there is a visible reminder at many a corner and on many a wall. It requires but little effort of imagination to restore the city to our view as it was in 1723, five years after Bienville, the second French Governor of Louisiana, had undertaken the dubious project of establishing a capital on the treacherous Mississippi’s bank.
Discouraged and faint almost unto death, after the terrible sufferings which he and his fellow-colonists had undergone at Biloxi, a bleak fort in a wilderness, he had dragged his weary limbs to the place on the river where New Orleans stands to-day, and there defiantly unfurled the flag of France, and made his last stand! Bienville was a man of vast courage and supreme daring; he had been drifting along the Mississippi, through the stretches of wilderness, since 1699; had vanquished Indian and beast of the forest; was skilled in the lore of the backwoodsman, as became hardy son of hardier Canadian father.
When he succeeded the alert and courageous Sauvolle as Governor of the colony, which had then become indisputably French, he entered upon a period of harrowing and petty vexations. He had to keep faithful and persistent watch at the entrance of the river from the Gulf, for, during many years England, France, and Spain were at war, and the Spaniards ever kept a jealous eye on French progress in America. The colony languished, and was inhabited by only a few vagabond Canadians, some dubious characters from France, and the Government officers. On the 14th of September, 1712, Louis the Magnificent granted to Anthony Crozat, a merchant prince, the Rothschild of the day, the exclusive privilege, for fifteen years, of trading in all the indefinitely bounded territory claimed by France as Louisiana.
Crozat obtained with his charter the additional privilege of sending a ship once a year for negroes to Africa, and of owning and working all the mines that might be discovered in the colony, provided that one-fourth of their proceeds should be reserved for the king. One ship-load of slaves to every two ship-loads of independent colonists was the proportion established for emigration to Louisiana more than a century and a half ago. Slavery was well begun.
In 1713 Bienville was displaced to make room for Cadillac, sent from France as Governor; a rude, quarrelsome man, who saw no good in the new colony, and hated and feared Bienville. But Cadillac’s daughter loved the quondam Governor whom her father’s arrival had degraded; and to save her from a wasted life, the proud Cadillac offered her in marriage to Bienville. The latter did not reciprocate the maid’s affection, and Cadillac, burning with rage, and anxious to avenge himself for this humiliation, sent Bienville with a small force on a dangerous expedition among the hostile Indians. He went, returning successful and unharmed. Cadillac’s temper soon caused his own downfall, and others, equally unsuccessful, succeeded him. Crozat’s schemes failed, and he relinquished the colony.
And then? Louisiana the indefinite and unfortunate fell into the clutches of John Law. The regent Duke of Orleans had decided to “foster and preserve the colony,” and in 1717 gave it to the “Company of the Indies,” a commercial oligarchy into which Law had blown the breath of life. The Royal Bank sprang into existence under Law’s enchanted wand; the charter of the Mississippi Company was registered at Paris, and the exclusive privilege of trading with Louisiana, during twenty-five years, was granted to that company.
France was flooded with rumors that Louisiana was the long-sought Eldorado; dupes were made by millions; princes waited in John Law’s anti-rooms in Paris. Then came the revulsion, the overturn of Law. Louisiana was no longer represented as the new Atlantis, but as the very mouth of the pit; and it was colonized only by thieves, murderers, beggars, and gypsies, gathered up by force throughout France and expelled from the kingdom.
After the bursting of the Law bubble, Bienville was once more appointed Governor of Louisiana, and his favorite town was selected as the capital of the territory. The seat of government was removed from New Biloxi to New Orleans, as the city was called in honor of the title of the regent of France.
Let us look at the New Orleans of the period between 1723 and 1730. Imagine a low-lying swamp, overgrown with a dense ragged forest, cut up into a thousand miniature islands by ruts and pools filled with stagnant water. Fancy a small cleared space along the superb river channel, a space often inundated, but partially reclaimed from the circumambient swamp, and divided into a host of small correct squares, each exactly like its neighbor, and so ditched within and without as to render wandering after nightfall perilous.
The ditch which ran along the four sides of every square in the city was filled with a composite of black mud and refuse, which, under a burning sun, sent forth a deadly odor. Around the city was a palisade and a gigantic moat; tall grasses grew up to the doors of the houses, and the hoarse chant of myriads of frogs mingled with the vesper songs of the colonists. Away where the waters of the Mississippi and of Lake Pontchartrain had formed a high ridge of land, was the “Leper’s Bluff;” and among the reeds from the city thitherward always lurked a host of criminals.
The negro, fresh from the African coast, then strode defiantly along the low shores by the stream; he had not learned the crouching, abject gait which a century of slavery afterwards gave him. He was punished if he rebelled; but he kept his dignity. In the humble dwellings which occupied the squares there were noble manners and graces; all the traditions and each finesse of the time had not been forgotten in the voyage from France: and airy gentlemenand stately dames promenaded in this queer, swamp-surrounded, river-endangered fortress, with Parisian grace and ease.
There were few churches, and the colonists gathered about great wooden crosses in the open air for the ceremonials of their religion There were twice as many negroes as white people in the city. Domestic animals were so scarce that he who injured or fatally wounded a horse or a cow was punished with death. Ursuline nuns and Jesuit fathers glided about the streets upon their scared missions. The principal avenues within the fortified enclosure were named after princes of the royal blood — Maine, Condé, Conti, Toulouse, and Bourbon; Chartres street took its name from that of the son of the regent of Orleans, and an avenue was named in honor of Governor Bienville.
Along the river, for many miles beyond the city, marquises and other noble representatives of aristocratic French families had established plantations, and lived luxurious lives of self-indulgence, without especially contributing to the wealth of the colony. Jews were banished from the bounds of Louisiana. Sundays and holidays were strictly observed, and negroes found working on Sunday were confiscated. No worship save the Catholic was allowed; white subjects were forbidden to marry or to live in concubinage with slaves, and masters were not allowed to force their slaves into any marriage against their will; the children of a negro slave-husband and a negro free-wife were all free; if the mother was a slave and the husband was free, the children shared the condition of the mother.
Slaves were forbidden to gather in crowds, by day or night, under any pretext, and if found assembled, were punished by the whip, or branded with the mark of the flower-de-luce, or executed. The slaves all wore marks or badges, and were not permitted to sell produce of any kind without the written consent of their masters. The protection and security of slaves in old age was well provided for; Christian negroes were permitted burial in consecrated ground. The slave who produced a bruise, or the “shedding of blood in the face,” on the person of his master, or any of the family to which he appertained, by striking them, was condemned to death; and the runaway slave, when caught, after the first offence, had his ears cut off, and was branded; after the second, was hamstrung and again branded; after the third, was condemned to death. Slaves who had been set free were still bound to show the profoundest respect to their “former masters, their widows and children,” under pain of severe penalties. Slave husbands and wives were not permitted to be seized and sold separately when belonging to the same master; and whenever slaves were appointed tutors to their masters’ children, they “were held and regarded as being thereby set free to all intents and purposes.”
The Choctaws and Chickasaws, neighbors to the colonists, were waging destructive war against each other; hurricanes regularly destroyed all the engineering works erected by the French Government at the mouths of the Mississippi; and expeditions against the Natchez and the Chickasaws, arrivals of ships from France with loads of troops, provisions, and wives for the colonists, the building of levées along the river front near New Orleans, and the occasional deposition from and re-instatement in office of Bienville, were the chief events in those crude days of the beginning.
I like to stand in these old Louisiana by-ways, and contemplate the progress of French civilization in them, now that it has been displaced by a newer one. I like to remember that New Orleans was named after the regent of France; that the beautiful lake lying between the city and the Gulf was christened after the splendid Pontchartrain, him of the lean and hungry look, and of the “smile of death,” him to whom the heart of Louis the Fourteenth was always open; and that the other lake, near the city, was named in memory of Maurepas, the wily adviser of Louis the Sixteenth and unlucky.
I like to remember that Louisiana itself owes its pretentious name to the devotion of its discoverer to the great monarch whom the joyous La Salle could not refrain from calling “the most puissant, most high, most invincible and victorious prince.” I like to picture to myself Allouez and Father Dablon, Marquette and Joliet, La Salle, Iberville, and Bienville, following in the footsteps of Garay and Leon, Cordova and Narvaez, De Vaca and Friar Mark; and finally tracing and identifying the current of the wild, mysterious Mississippi, which had been but a tradition for ages, until every nook and cranny, from the Falls of St. Anthony to the Gulf of Mexico, re-echoed to French words of command and prayer, as well as to gayest of French chansons.
Let us take another picture of New Orleans, from 1792 to 1797, thirty years after the King of France had bestowed upon “his cousin of Spain” the splendid gift of Louisiana, ceding it, “without any exception or reservation whatever, from the pure impulse of his generous heart.” That a country should, by a simple stroke of the pen, strip herself of possessions extending from the mouth of the Mississippi to the St. Lawrence, is almost incomprehensible.
France had perhaps already learned that her people had not in their breasts that eternal hunger for travel, that feverish unrest, which has made the Anglo-Saxon the most successful of colonists, and has given half the world to him and to his descendants. But the French had nobly done the work of pioneering. Sauvolle, grimly defying death at Biloxi; Bienville, urging the adventurous prow of his ship through the reeds at the Mississippi’s mouth, are among the most heroic figures in the early history of the country.
New Orleans from 1792 to 1797? Its civilization has changed; it is fitted into the iron groove of Spanish domination, and has become bigoted, narrow, and hostile to innovation. Along the streets, now lined with low, flat-roofed, balconied houses, out of whose walls peep little hints of Moorish architecture, stalks the lean and haughty Spanish cavalier, with his hand upon his sword; and the quavering voice of the night watchman, equipped with his traditional spear and lantern, is heard through the night hours proclaiming that all is “serene,” although at each corner lurks a fugitive from justice, waiting only until the watchman has passed to commit new crime. Six thousand souls now inhabit the city, there are hints in the air of a plague, and the Intendant has written home to the Council of State that “some affirm that the yellow fever is to be feared.”
The priests and friars are half-mad with despair because the mixed population pays so very little attention to its salvation from eternal damnation, and because the roystering officers and soldiers of the regiment of Louisiana admit that they have not been to mass for three years. The French hover about the few taverns and coffee-houses permitted in the city, and mutter rebellion against the Spaniard, whom they have always disliked. The Spanish and French schools are in perpetual collision; so are the manners, customs, diets, and languages of the respective nations. The Ursuline convent has refused to admit Spanish women who desire to become nuns, unless they learn the French language; and the ruling Governor, Baron Carondelet, has such small faith in the loyalty of the colonists that he has had the fortifications constructed with a view not only to protecting himself against attacks from without, but from within.
The city has suddenly taken on a wonderful aspect of barrack-yard and camp. On the side fronting the Mississippi are two small forts commanding the road and the river. On their strong and solid brick-coated parapets, Spanish sentinels are languidly pacing; and cannon look out ominously over the walls. Between these two forts, and so arranged as to cross its fires with them, fronting on the main street of the town, is a great battery commanding the river. Then there are forts at each of the salient angles of the long square forming the city, and a third a little beyond them — all armed with eight guns each. From one of these tiny forts to another, noisy dragoons are always clattering; officers are parading to and fro; government officials block the way; and the whole town looks like a Spanish garrison gradually growing, by some mysterious process of transformation, into a French city.
Yet the Spanish civilization does not and can not take a strong hold there. Spain does not give to New Orleans so many lasting historic souvenirs as France. Barracks, petty forts, dragoon stables, and many other quaint buildings finally disappear, leaving only the “Principal,” next the Cathedral, its fellow on the other side of the old church, some aged private dwellings, rapidly decaying, and a delicate imprint and suggestion of former Spanish rule scattered throughout various quarters of the city. But Spanish society still lingers, and in some parts of the old town the many-balconied, thick-walled houses for the moment mislead the visitor into the belief that he is in Spain until he hears the French language, or the curious Creole patois everywhere about him.
Let us take another look at the past of New Orleans. The Spaniard has gone his ways; Ulloa and O’Reilly, Unzaga, Galvez, and Miro, have held their governorships under the Spanish King. Carondelet, Gayoso, Casa-Calvo, and Salcedo alike have vanished. There have been insurrections on the part of the French; many longings after the old banner; and at last the government of France determines once more to possess the grand territory. Spain well knows that it is useless to oppose this decision; is not sorry, withal, to be rid of a colony so difficult to govern, and so near to the quarrelsome Americans, who have many times threatened to take New Orleans by force if any farther commercial regulations are made by Spaniards at the Mississippi’s outlet.
Napoleon the Great has three things to gain by the possession of the Territory: the command of the Gulf; the supply of the islands owned by France; and a place of settlement for surplus population. So that, at St. Ildefonso, on the morning of October first, 1800, a treaty of cession is signed by Spain, its third article reading as follows: “His Catholic Majesty promises and engages, on his part, to retrocede to the French Republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the conditions and stipulations herein relative to His Royal Highness the Duke of Parma — the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it; and such as it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states.”
This treaty is kept secret while the French fit out an expedition to sail and take sudden possession of the reacquired Territory; but the United States has sharp ears; and Minister Livingston besets the cabinet of the First Consul at Paris; fights a good battle of diplomacy; is dignified as well as aggressive; wins his cause; and Napoleon tells his counselors, on Easter Sunday, 1803, his resolve in the following words: “I know the full value of Louisiana, and I have been desirous of repairing the fault of the French negotiator who abandoned it in 1763; a few lines of a treaty have restored it to me, and I have scarcely recovered it when I must expect to lose it. But if it escapes from me, it shall one day cost dearer to those who oblige me to strip myself of it than to those to whom I wish to deliver it.” And it is forthwith ceded to the United States, in 1803, on the “tenth day of Floreal, in the eleventh year of the French republic,” in consideration of the payment by our government of sixty millions of francs.
Half a generation brings the conflicting national elements into something like harmony, and makes Louisiana a territory containing fifty thousand souls. The first steamboat ploughs through the waters of the Mississippi, but more stirring events also take place. In 1812 Congress declares that war exists between Great Britain and the United States, and early in 1815 General Andrew Jackson wins a decisive victory over the English arms, on the lowlands near New Orleans. Fifteen thousand skilled British soldiers are beaten off and sent home in disorder by the raw troops of the river States, by the stalwart Kentuckians, the hunters of Tennessee, the rough, hard-handed sons of Illinois, the dashing horsemen of Mississippi, and the handsome and athletic Creoles of Louisiana. When the victorious Americans return to New Orleans, a grand parade is held in the square henceforth to commemorate the name of Jackson, and where to-day stands a fine equestrian statue of the great general. In front of old Almonaster’s cathedral the troops are drawn up in order of review. Under a triumphal arch, from which glittering lines of bayonets stretch to the river, General Jackson, the hero of the Chalmette battle-field, passes, and bows low his laurel-crowned head to receive the apostolic benediction of the venerable Abbé.
THE FRENCH QUARTER OF NEW ORLEANS —
THE REVOLUTION AND ITS EFFECTS.
LET me show you some pictures from the New Orleans of to-day. The nightmare of civil war has passed away, leaving the memory of visions which it is not my province — certainly not my wish — to renew. The Crescent City has grown so that Claiborne and Jackson could no longer recognize it. It was gaining immensely in wealth and population until the social and political revolutions following the war came with their terrible, crushing weight, and the work of re-establishing the commerce of the State has gone on under conditions most disheartening and depressing; though trial seems to have brought out a reserve of energy of which its possessors had never suspected themselves capable.
Step off from Canal street, that avenue of compromises which separates the French and the American quarters, some bright February morning, and you will at once find yourself in a foreign atmosphere. A walk into the French section enchants you; the characteristics of an American city vanish; this might be Toulouse, or Bordeaux, or Marseilles! The houses are all of stone or brick, stuccoed or painted; the windows of each story descend to the floors, opening, like doors, upon airy, pretty balconies, protected by iron railings; quaint dormer windows peer from the great roofs; the street doors are massive, and large enough to admit carriages into the stone-paved court-yards, from which stairways communicate with the upper apartments.
Sometimes, through a portal opened by a slender, dark-haired, bright-eyed Creole girl in black, you catch a glimpse of a garden, delicious with daintiest blossoms, purple and red and white gleaming from vines clambering along a gray wall; rose-bushes, with the grass about them strewn with petals; bosquets, green and symmetrical; luxuriant hedges, arbors, and refuges, trimmed by skillful hands; banks of verbenas; bewitching profusion of peach and apple blossoms; the dark green of the magnolia; in a quiet corner, the rich glow of the orange in its nest among the thick leaves of its parent tree; the palmetto, the catalpa; — a mass of bloom which laps the senses in slumbrous delight. Suddenly the door closes, and your paradise is lost, while Eve remains inside the gate!
From the balconies hang, idly flapping in the breeze, little painted tin placards, announcing “Furnished apartments to rent!” Alas! in too many of the old mansions you are ushered by a gray-faced woman clad in deepest black, with little children clinging jealously to her skirts, and you instinctively note by her manners and her speech that she did not rent rooms before the war. You pity her, and think of the multitudes of these gray-faced women; of the numbers of these silent, almost desolate houses.
Now and then, too, a knock at the porter’s lodge will bring to your view a bustling Creole dame, fat and fifty, redolent of garlic and new wine, and robust in voice as in person. How cheerily she retails her misfortunes, as if they were blessings! “An invalid husband — voyez-vous ça! Auguste a Confederate, of course — and is yet; but the pauvre garçon is unable to work, and we are very poor!” All this merrily, and in high key, while the young negress — the housemaid — stands lazily listening to her mistress’s French, nervously polishing with her huge lips the handle of the broom she holds in her broad, corded hands.
Business here, as in foreign cities, has usurped only half the domain; the shopkeepers live over their shops, and communicate to their commerce somewhat of the aroma of home. The dainty salon, where the ladies’ hairdresser holds sway, has its doorway enlivened by the baby; the grocer and his wife, the milliner and his daughter, are behind the counters in their respective shops. Here you pass a little café, with the awning drawn down, and, peering in, can distinguish half-a-dozen bald, rotund old boys drinking their evening absinthe, and playing picquet and vingt-et-un, exactly as in France.
Here, perhaps, is a touch of Americanism: a lazy negro, recumbent in a cart, with his eyes languidly closed, and one dirty foot sprawled on the sidewalk. No! even he responds to your question in French, which he speaks poorly though fluently French signs abound; there is a warehouse for wines and brandies from the heart of Southern France; here is a funeral notice, printed in deepest black: “The friends of Jean Baptiste,” etc., “are respectfully invited to be present at the funeral, which will take place at precisely four o’clock, on the ——.” The notice is on black-edged note-paper, nailed to a post. Here pass a group of French negroes, the buxom girls dressed with a certain grace, and with gayly-colored handkerchiefs wound about an unpardonable luxuriance of wool. Their cavaliers are clothed mainly in antiquated garments rapidly approaching the level of rags; and their patois resounds for half-a-dozen blocks.
Turning into a side street leading off from Royal, or Chartres, or Bourgogne, or Dauphin, or Rampart streets, you come upon an odd little shop, where the cobbler sits at his work in the shadow of a grand old Spanish arch; or upon a nest of curly-headed negro babies ensconced on a tailor’s bench at the window of a fine ancient mansion; or you look into a narrow room, glass-fronted, and see a long and well-spread table, surrounded by twenty Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, all talking at once over their eleven o’clock breakfast.
Or you may enter aristocratic restaurants, where the immaculate floors are only surpassed in cleanliness by the spotless linen of the tables; where a solemn dignity, as befits the refined pleasure of dinner, prevails, and where the waiter gives you the names of the dishes in both languages, and bestows on you a napkin large enough to serve you as a shroud, if this strange melange of French and Southern cookery should give you a fatal indigestion. The French families of position usually dine at four, as the theatre begins promptly at seven, both on Sundays and week days. There is the play-bill, in French, of course; and there are the typical Creole ladies, stopping for a moment to glance at it as they wend their way shopward. For it is the shopping hour; from eleven to two the streets of the old quarter are alive with elegantly, yet soberly attired ladies, always in couples, as French etiquette exacts that the unmarried lady shall never promenade without her maid or her mother.
One sees beautiful faces on the Rue Royale (Royal street), and in the balconies and lodges of the Opera House; sometimes, too, in the cool of the evening, there are fascinating little groups of the daughters of Creoles on the balconies, gayly chatting while the veil of the twilight is torn away, and the glory of the Southern moonlight is showered over the quiet streets.
The Creole ladies are not, as a rule, so highly educated as the gracious daughters of the “American quarter;” but they have an indefinable grace, a savoir in dress, and a piquant and alluring charm in person and conversation, which makes them universal favorites in society.
One of the chiefest of their attractions is the staccato and queerly-colored English, really French in idea and accent, which many of them speak. At the Saturday matinées, in the opera or comedy season at the French Theatre, you will see hundreds of the ladies of “the quarter;” and rarely can a finer grouping of lovely brunettes be found; nowhere a more tastefully-dressed and elegantly-mannered assembly.
The quiet which has reigned in the old French section since the war ended is, perhaps, abnormal; but it would be difficult to find village streets more tranquil than are the main avenues of this foreign quarter after nine at night. The long, splendid stretches of Rampart and Esplanade streets, with their rows of trees planted in the centre of the driveways, — the whitewashed trunks giving a fine effect of green and white, — are peaceful; the negro-nurses stroll on the sidewalks, chattering in quaint French to the little children of their former masters — now their “employers.”
There is no attempt on the part of the French or Spanish families to inaugurate style and fashion in the city; quiet home society, match-making and marrying of daughters, games and dinner parties, church, shopping, and calls in simple and unaffected manner, content them.
The majority of the people in the whole quarter seem to have a total disregard of the outside world, and when one hears them discussing the distracted condition of local politics, one can almost fancy them gossiping on matters entirely foreign to them, instead of on those vitally connected with their lives and property. They live very much among themselves. French by nature and training, they get but a faint reflection of the excitements in these United States. It is also astonishing to see how little the ordinary American citizen of New Orleans knows of his French neighbors; how ill he appreciates them. It is hard for him to talk five minutes about them without saying, “Well, we have a non-progressive element here; it will not be converted.” Having said which, he will perhaps paint in glowing colors the virtues and excellences of his French neighbors, though he cannot forgive them for taking so little interest in public affairs.
Here we are again at the Archbishop’s Palace, once the home of the Ursuline nuns, who now have, further down the river, a splendid new convent and school, surrounded by beautiful gardens. This ancient edifice was completed by the French Government in 1733, and is the oldest in Louisiana. Its Tuscan composite architecture, its porter’s lodge, and its interior garden with its curious shrine, make it well worth preserving, even when the tide of progress shall have reached this nook on Condé street. The Ursuline nuns occupied this site for nearly a century, and it was abandoned by them only because they were tempted, by the great rise in real estate in that vicinity, to sell. The new convent is richly endowed, and is one of the best seminaries in the South.
Many of the owners of property in the vicinity of the Archbishop’s Palace have removed to France, since the war, — doing nothing for the benefit of the metropolis which gave them their fortunes. The rent of these solidly-constructed old houses once brought them a sum which, when translated from dollars into francs, was colossal, and which the Parisian tradesmen tucked away into their strong boxes. Now they get almost nothing; the houses are mainly vacant. With the downfall of slavery, and the advent of reconstruction, came such radical changes in Louisiana politics and society that those belonging to the ancien régime who could flee, fled; and a prominent historian and gentleman of most honorable Creole descent told me that, among his immense acquaintance, he did not know a single person who would not leave the State if means were at hand.
The grooves in which society in Louisiana and New Orleans had run before the late struggle were so broken that even a residence in the State was distasteful to him and the society he represented; since the late war, he said, 500 years seemed to have passed over the common-wealth. The Italy of Augustus was not more dissimilar to the Italy of to-day than is the Louisiana of to-day to the Louisiana before the war. There was no longer the spirit to maintain the grand, unbounded hospitality once so characteristic of the South. Formerly, the guest would have been presented to planters who would have entertained him for days, in royal style, and who would have sent him forward in their own carriages, commended to the hospitality of their neighbors. Now these same planters were living upon corn and pork. “Most of these people,” said the gentleman, “have vanished from their homes; and I actually know ladies of culture and refinement, whose incomes were gigantic before the war, who are ‘washing’ for their daily bread. The misery, the despair, in hundreds of cases, are beyond belief.”
“Many lovely plantations,” said he, “are entirely deserted; the negroes will not remain upon them, but flock into the cities, or work on land which they have purchased for themselves.” He would not believe that the free negro did as much work for himself as he formerly did for his master. He considered the labor system at the present time terribly onerous for planters. The negroes were only profitable as field hands when they worked on shares, the planters furnishing them land, tools, horses, mules, and advancing them food. He said that he would not himself hire a negro even at small wages; he did not believe it would be profitable. The discouragement of the natives of Louisiana, he believed, arose in large degree from the difficulty of obtaining capital with which to begin anew. He knew instances where only $10,000 or $20,000 were needed for the improvement of water power, or of lands which would net hundreds of thousands. He had himself written repeatedly, urging people at the North to invest, but they would not, and alleged that they should not alter their determination so long as the present political condition prevailed.
He added, with great emphasis, that he did not think the people of the North would believe a statement which should give a faithful transcript of the present condition of affairs in Louisiana. The natives of the State could hardly realize it themselves; and it was not to be expected that strangers, of differing habits of life and thought, should do it. He did not blame the negro for his present incapacity, as he considered the black man an inferior being, peculiarly unfitted by ages of special training for what he was now called upon to undertake. The negro was, he thought, by nature, kindly, generous, courteous, susceptible of civilization only to a certain degree; devoid of moral consciousness, and usually, of course, ignorant. Not one out of a hundred, the whole State through, could write his name; and there had been fifty-five in one single Legislature who could neither read nor write. There was, according to him, scarcely a single man of color in the last Legislature who was competent in any large degree.
The Louisiana white people were in such terror of the negro government that they would rather accept any other despotism. A military dictator would be far preferable to them; they would go anywhere to escape the ignominy to which they were at present subjected. The crisis was demoralizing every one. Nobody worked with a will; every one was in debt. There was not a single piece of property in the city of New Orleans in which he would at present invest, although one could now buy for $5,000 or $10,000 property originally worth $50,000. He said it would not pay to purchase, the taxes were so enormous. The majority of the great plantations had been deserted on account of the excessive taxation. Only those familiar with the real causes of the despair could imagine how deep it was.
Benefit by immigration, he maintained, was impossible under the present régime. New-comers mingled in the distracted politics in such a manner as to neglect the development of the country. Thousands of the citizens were fleeing to Texas (and I could vouch for the correctness of that assertion). He said that the mass of immigrants became easily discouraged and broken down, because they began by working harder than the climate would permit.
In some instances, Germans on coming into the State had been ordered by organizations both of white and colored native workmen not to labor so much daily, as they were setting a dangerous example! Still, he believed that almost any white man would do as much work as three negroes. He hardly thought that in fifty years there would be any negroes in Louisiana. The race was rapidly diminishing. Planters who had owned three or four hundred slaves before the war, had kept a record of their movements, and found that more than half of them had died of want and neglect. The negroes did not know how to care for themselves. The women now on the same plantations where they had been owned as slaves gave birth to only one child where they had previously borne three. They would not bear children as of old; the negro population was rapidly decreasing. Gardening, he said, had proved an unprofitable experiment, because of the thievish propensities of the negro. All the potatoes, turnips, and cabbages consumed by the white people of New Orleans came from the West.
Such was the testimony of one who, although by no means unfair or bitterly partisan, perhaps allowed his discouragement to color all his views. He frankly accepted the results of the war, so far as the abolition of slavery and the consequent ruin of his own and thousands of other fortunes were concerned; he has, indeed, borne with all the evils which have arisen out of reconstruction, without murmuring until now, when he and thousands of his fellows are pushed to the wall. He is the representative of a very large class; the discouragement is no dream. It is written on the faces of the citizens; you may read and realize it there.
Ah! these faces, these faces; — expressing deeper pain, profounder discontent than were caused by the iron fate of the few years of the war! One sees them everywhere; on the street, at the theatre, in the salon, in the cars; and pauses for a moment, struck with the expression of entire despair — of complete helplessness, which has possessed their features. Sometimes the owners of the faces are one-armed and otherwise crippled; sometimes they bear no wounds or marks of wounds, and are in the prime and fullness of life; but the look is there still. Now and then it is controlled by a noble will, the pain of which it tells having been trampled under the feet of a great energy; but it is always there. The struggle is over, peace has been declared, but a generation has been doomed. The past has given to the future the dower of the present; there seems only a dead level of uninspiring struggle for those going out, and but small hope for those coming in. That is what the faces say; that is the burden of their sadness.
These are not of the loud-mouthed and bitter opponents of everything tending to reconsolidate the Union; these are not they who will tell you that some day the South will be united once more, and will rise in strength and strike a blow for freedom; but they are the payers of the price. The look is on the faces of the men who wore the swords of generals who led in disastrous measures; on the faces of women who have lost husbands, children, lovers, fortunes, homes, and comfort for evermore. The look is on the faces of the strong fighters, thinkers, and controllers of the Southern mind and heart; and here in Louisiana it will not brighten, because the wearers know that the great evils of disorganized labor, impoverished society, scattered families, race legislation, retributive tyranny and terrorism, with the power, like Nemesis of old, to wither and blast, leave no hope for this generation. Heaven have mercy on them! Their fate is too utterly inevitable not to command the strongest sympathy.
Of course, in the French quarter, there are multitudes of negroes who speak both French and English in the quaintest, most outlandish fashion; eliding whole syllables which seem necessary to sense, and breaking into extravagant exclamations on the slightest pretext. The French of the negroes is very much like that of young children; spoken far from plainly, but with a pretty grace which accords poorly with the exteriors of the speakers. The negro women, young and old, wander about the streets bareheaded and barearmed; now tugging their mistresses’ children, now carrying huge baskets on their heads, and walking under their heavy burdens with the gravity of queens. Now and then one sees a mulatto girl hardly less fair than the brown maid he saw at Sorrento, or in the vine-covered cottage at the little mountain town near Rome; now a giant matron, black as the tempest, and with features as pronounced in savagery as any of her Congo ancestors.
But the negroes, taken as a whole, seem somewhat shuffling and disorganized; and apart from the statuesque old house and body servants, who appear to have caught some dignity from their masters, they are by no means inviting. They gather in groups at the street corners just at nightfall, and while they chatter like monkeys, even about politics, they gesticulate violently. They live without much work, for their wants are few; and two days’ labor in a week, added to the fat roosters and turkeys that will walk into their clutches, keeps them in bed and board. They find ample amusement in the “heat o’ the sun,” the passers-by, and tobacco. There are families of color noticeable for intelligence and accomplishments, but, as a rule, the negro of the French quarter is thick-headed, light-hearted, improvident, and not too conscientious.
Perhaps one of the most patent proofs of the poverty now so bitterly felt among the hitherto well-to-do families in New Orleans was apparent in the suspension of the opera in the winter of 1873. Heretofore the Crescent City has rejoiced in brilliant seasons, both the French and Americans uniting in subscriptions sufficient to bring to them artists of unrivaled talent and culture. But opera entailed too heavy an expense, when the people who usually supported it were prostrate under the hands of plunderers, and a comedy company from the Paris theatres took its place upon the lyric stage. The French Opera House is a handsomely arranged building of modern construction, at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse streets. The interior is elegantly decorated, and now during the season of six months the salle is nightly visited by hundreds of the subscribers, who take tickets for the whole season, and by the city’s floating population. Between each act of the pieces all the men in the theatre rise, stalk out, puff cigarettes, and sip iced raspberry-water and absinthe in the cafés, returning in a long procession just as the curtain rises again; while the ladies receive the visits of friends in the loges or in the private boxes, which they often occupy four evenings in the week. The New Orleans public, both French and American, possesses excellent theatrical taste, and is severely critical, especially in opera. It is difficult to find a Creole family of any pretensions in which music is not cultivated in large degree.
People in the French quarter very generally speak both prevailing languages, while the majority of the American residents do not affect the French. The Gallic children all speak English, and in the street-plays of the boys, as in their conversation, French and English idioms are strangely mingled. American boys call birds, fishes and animals by corrupted French names, handed down through seventy years of perversion, and a dreadful threat on the part of Young America is, that he will “mallerroo” you, which seems to hint that our old French friend malheureux, “unhappy,” has, with other words, undergone corruption. When an American boy wishes his comrade to make his kite fly higher, he says, poussez! just as the French boy does, and so on ad infinitum.
Any stranger who remains in the French quarter over Sunday will be amazed at the great number of funeral processions. It would seem, indeed, as if death came uniformly near the end of the week in order that people might be laid away on the Sabbath. The cemeteries, old and new, rich and poor, are scattered throughout the city, and most of them present an extremely beautiful appearance — the white tombs nestling among the dark-green foliage.
It would be difficult to dig a grave of the ordinary depth in the “Louisiana lowlands” without coming to water; and, consequently, burials in sealed tombs above ground are universal. The old French and Spanish cemeteries present long streets of cemented walls, with apertures into which once were thrust the noble and good of the land, as if they were put into ovens to be baked; and one may still read queer inscriptions, dated away back in the middle of the eighteenth century. Great numbers of the monuments both in the old and new cemeteries are very imposing; and, one sees every day, as in all Catholic communities, long processions of mourning relatives carrying flowers to place on the spot where their loved and lost are entombed; or catches a glimpse of some black-robed figure sitting motionless before a tomb. The St. Louis Cemetery is fine, and many dead are even better housed in it than they were in life. The St. Patrick, Cypress Grove, Firemen’s, Odd Fellows, and Jewish cemeteries, in the American quarter, are filled with richly-wrought tombs, and traversed by fine, tree-planted avenues.
The St. Louis Hotel is one of the most imposing monuments of the French quarter, as well as one of the finest hotels in the United States. It was originally built to combine a city exchange, hotel, bank, ball-rooms, and private stores. The rotunda, metamorphosed into a dining-hall, is one of the most beautiful in this country, and the great inner circle of the dome is richly frescoed with allegorical scenes and busts of eminent Americans, from the pencils of Canova and Pinoli. The immense ball-room is also superbly decorated. The St. Louis Hotel was very nearly destroyed by fire in 1840, but in less than two years was restored to its original splendor. On the eastern and western sides of Jackson Square are the Pontalba buildings, large and not especially handsome brick structures, erected by the Countess Pontalba, many years ago. Chartres street, and all the avenues contributing to it, are thoroughly French in character; cafés, wholesale stores, pharmacies, shops for articles of luxury, all bear evidence of Gallic taste.
Every street in the old city has its legend, either humorous or tragical; and each building which confesses to an hundred years has memories of foreign domination hovering about it. The elder families speak with bated breath and touching pride of their “ancestor who came with Bienville,” or with such and such Spanish Governors; and many a name among those of the Creoles has descended untarnished to its present possessors through centuries of valor and adventurous achievement.
THE CARNIVAL — THE FRENCH MARKETS.
CARNIVAL keeps it hold upon the people along the Gulf shore, despite the troubles, vexations, and sacrifices to which they have been forced to submit since the social revolution began. White and black join in its masquerading, and the Crescent City rivals Naples in the beauty and richness of its displays. Galveston has caught the infection, and every year the King of the Carnival adds a city to the domain loyal to him. The saturnalia practiced before the entry into Lent are the least bit practical, because Americans find it impossible to lay aside business utterly even on Mardi-Gras. The device of the advertiser pokes its ugly face into the very heart of the masquerade, and brings base reality, whose hideous features, outlined under his domino, put a host of sweet illusions to flight.
The Carnival in New Orleans was organized in 1827, when a number of young Creole gentlemen, who had recently returned from Paris, formed a street-procession of maskers. It did not create a profound sensation — was considered the work of mad wags; and the festival languished until 1837, when there was a fine parade, which was succeeded by another still finer in 1839. From two o’clock in the afternoon until sunset of Shrove Tuesday, drum and fife, valve and trumpet, rang in the streets, and hundreds of maskers cut furious antics, and made day hideous. Thereafter, from 1840 to 1852, Mardi-Gras festival had varying popularity — such of the townspeople as had the money to spend now and then organizing a very fantastic and richly-dressed rout of mummers. At the old Orleans Theatre, balls of princely splendor were given; Europeans even came to join in the New World’s Carnival, and wrote home enthusiastic accounts of it. In 1857 the “Mistick Krewe of Comus,” a private organization of New Orleans gentlemen, made their début, and gave to the festivities a lustre which, thanks to their continued efforts, has never since quitted it. In 1857 the “Krewe” appeared in the guise of supernatural and mythological characters, and flooded the town with gods and demons, winding up the occasion with a grand ball at the Gaiety Theatre; previous to which they appeared in tableaux representing the “Tartarus” of the ancients, and Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” In 1858 this brilliant coterie of maskers renewed the enchantments of Mardi-Gras, by exhibiting the gods and goddesses of high Olympus and of the fretful sea, and again gave a series of brilliant tableaux. In 1859 they pictured the revels of the four great English holidays, May Day, Midsummer Eve, Christmas and Twelfth Night. In 1860 they illustrated American history in a series of superb groups of living statues mounted on moving pedestals. In 1861 they delighted the public with “Scenes from Life” — Childhood, Youth, Manhood and Old Age; and the ball at the Varieties Theatre was preceded by a series of grandiose tableaux which exceeded all former efforts. Then came the war; maskers threw aside their masks; but, in 1866, after the agony of the long struggle, Comus once more assembled his forces, and the transformations which Milton attributed to the sly spirit himself were the subject of the display. The wondering gazers were shown how Comus,
By sly enticement gives his baneful cup,
With many murmurs mixed, whose pleasing poison
The visage quite transforms of him that drinks,
And the inglorious likeness of a beast
In 1867 Comus
became Epicurean, and blossomed into a walking bill of fare, the maskers
representing everything in the various courses and entrées of a
gourmand’s dinner, from oysters and sherry to the omelette brûlée,
the Kirsch and Curaçoa. A long and stately array of bottles, dishes of
meats and vegetables, and desserts, moved through the streets, awakening
saturnalian laughter wherever it passed. In 1868 the Krewe presented a
procession and tableaux from “Lalla Rookh;” in 1869, the “Five Senses;”
and in 1870, the “History of
Another feature has been added to the festivities, one which promises in time to be most attractive of all. It is the coming of Rex, most puissant King of Carnival. This amiable dignitary, depicted as a venerable man, with snow-white hair and beard, but still robust and warrior-like, made his first appearance on the Mississippi shores in 1872, and issued his proclamations through newspapers and upon placards, commanding all civil and military authorities to show subservience to him during his stay in “our good city of New Orleans.” Therefore, yearly, when the date of the recurrence of Mardi-Gras has been fixed, the mystic King issues his proclamation, and is announced as having arrived at New York, or whatever other port seemeth good. At once thereafter, and daily, the papers teem with reports of his progress through the country, interspersed with anecdotes of his heroic career, which is supposed to have lasted for many centuries. The court report is usually conceived somewhat in the style of the following paragraph, supposed to be an anecdote told at the “palace” by an “old gray-headed sentinel:”
“Another incident, illustrating the King’s courageous presence of mind, was related by the veteran. While sojourning at Auch (this was several centuries ago), a wing of the palace took fire, the whole staircase was in flames, and in the highest story was a feeble old woman, apparently cut off from any means of escape. His Majesty offered two thousand francs to any one who would save her from destruction, but no one presented himself. The King did not stop to deliberate; he wrapped his robes closely about him, called for a wet cloth — which he threw aside — then rushed to his carriage, and drove rapidly to the theatre, where he passed the evening listening to the singing of ’If ever I cease to love.’”
This is published seriously in the journals, next to the news and editorial paragraphs; and yearly, at one o’clock on the appointed day, the King, accompanied by Warwick, Earl-Marshal of the Empire, and by the Lord High Admiral, who is always depicted as suffering untold pangs from gout, arrives on Canal street, surrounded by troops of horse and foot, fantastically dressed, and followed by hundreds of maskers. Sometimes he comes up the river in a beautiful barge and lands amid thunderous salutes from the shipping at the wharves. This parade, which is gradually becoming one of the important features of the Carnival, is continued through all the principal streets of the city. The bœuf-Gras — the fat ox — is led in the procession.
The animal is gayly decorated with flowers and garlands. Mounted on pedestals extemporized from cotton-floats are dozens of allegorical groups, and the masks, although not so rich and costly as those of Comus and his crew, are quite as varied and mirth-provoking. The costumes of the King and his suite are gorgeous; and the troops of the United States, disguised as privates of Arabian artillery and as Egyptian spahis, do escort-duty to his Majesty. Rumor hath it, even, that on one occasion, the ladies of New Orleans presented a flag to an officer of the troops of “King Rex” (sic), little suspecting that it was thereafter to grace the Federal barracks. Thus the Carnival has its pleasant waggeries and surprises.
Froissart thought the English amused themselves sadly; and indeed, comparing the Carnival in Louisiana with the Carnival in reckless Italy, one might say that the Americans masquerade grimly. There is but little of that wild luxuriance of fun in the streets of New Orleans which has made Italian cities so famous; people go to their sports with an air of pride, but not of all-pervading enjoyment. In the French quarter, when Rex and his train enter the queer old streets, there are shoutings, chaffings, and dancings, the children chant little couplets on Mardi-Gras; and the balconies are crowded with spectators. But the negroes make a somewhat sorry show in the masking: their every-day garb is more picturesque.
Carnival culminates at night, after Rex and the “day procession” have retired.Thousands of people assemble in dense lines along the streets included in the published route of march; Canal street is brilliant with illumination, and swarms of persons occupy every porch, balcony, house-top, pedestal, carriage and mule-car. Then comes the train of Comus, and torch-bearers, disguised in outré masks, light up the way. After the round through the great city is completed, the reflection of the torch-light on the sky dies away, and the Krewe betake themselves to the Varieties Theatre, and present tableaux before the ball opens.
This theatre, during the hour or two preceding the Mardi-Gras ball, offers one of the loveliest sights in Christendom. From floor to ceiling, the parquet, dress-circle and galleries are one mass of dazzling toilets, none but ladies being given seats. White robes, delicate faces, dark, flashing eyes, luxuriant folds of glossy hair, tiny, faultlessly-gloved hands, — such is the vision that one sees through his opera-glass.
Delicious music swells softly on the perfumed air; the tableaux wax and wane like kaleidoscopic effects, when suddenly the curtain rises, and the joyous, grotesque maskers appear upon the ball-room floor. They dance; gradually ladies and their cavaliers leave all parts of the galleries, and come to join them; and then,
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.”
Meantime, the King of the Carnival holds a levée and dancing party at another place; all the theatres and public halls are delivered up to the votaries of Terpsichore; and the fearless, who are willing to usher in Lent with sleepless eyes, stroll home in the glare of the splendid Southern sunrise, yearly vowing that each Mardi-Gras has surpassed its predecessor.
Business in New Orleans is not only entirely suspended on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi-Gras), but the Carnival authorities have absolute control of the city. They direct the police; they arrest the mayor, and he delivers to them the keys, while the chief functionaries of the city government declare their allegiance to “Rex;” addresses are delivered, and the processions move. The theatres are thrown open to the public, and woe betide the unhappy manager who dares refuse the order of the King to this effect. On one occasion a well-known actor arrived in the city during the festivities to fulfill an engagement, but as the managers of the theatre at which he was to act had refused to honor the King’s command for free admission to all, the actor was at once arrested, taken to the “den” of the Earl-Marshal, and there kept a close prisoner until a messenger arrived to say that the recalcitrant manager had at last “acknowledged the corn.” The violet is the royal flower; the imperial banner is of green and purple, with a white crown in the centre; and the anthem of the mystic monarch is, “If ever I cease to love.” The accumulation of costumes and armor, all of which are historically accurate, is about to result in the establishment of a valuable museum.
The artist’s pencil has reproduced in these pages one of the many comical incidents which enliven the Carnival tide, and calls his life sketch “Beauty and the Beast.” From the gallery of the Varieties Theatre, many bright eyes are in vain endeavoring to pierce the disguise under which a fashionable member of the Comus Krewe parades before their gaze.
From early morning until nightfall the same quaint, distorted street-cries which one hears in foreign cities ring through the streets of New Orleans; and in the French quarter they are mirth-provoking, under their guise of Creole patois. The Sicilian fruit-sellers also make their mellifluous dialect heard loudly; and the streets always resound to the high-pitched voice of some negro who is rehearsing his griefs or joys in the most theatrical manner. Negro-beggars encumber the steps of various banks and public edifices, sitting for hours together with open, outstretched hands, almost too lazy to close them over the few coins the passers-by bestow. A multitude of youthful darkies, who have no visible aim in existence but to sport in the sun, abound in the American quarter, apparently well fed and happy. The mass of the negroes are recklessly improvident, living, as in all cities, crowded together in ill-built and badly-ventilated cabins, the ready victims for almost any fell disease.
Next to the river traffic, the New Orleans markets are more picturesque than anything else appertaining to the city. They lie near the levée, and, as markets, are indeed clean, commodious, and always well stocked. But they have another and an especial charm to the traveler from the North, or to him who has never seen their great counterparts in Europe. The French market at sunrise on Sunday morning is the perfection of vivacious traffic. In gazing upon the scene, one can readily imagine himself in some city beyond the seas. From the stone houses, balconied, and fanciful in roof and window, come hosts of plump and pretty young negresses, chatting in their droll patois with monsieur the fish-dealer, before his wooden bench, or with the rotund and ever-laughing madame who sells little piles of potatoes, arranged on a shelf like cannon balls at an arsenal, or chaffering with the fruit-merchant, while passing under long, hanging rows of odorous bananas and pineapples, and beside heaps of oranges, whose color contrasts prettily with the swart or tawny faces of the purchasers.
During the morning hours of each day, the markets are veritable bee-hives of industry; ladies and servants flutter in and out of the long passages in endless throngs; but in the afternoon the stalls are nearly all deserted. One sees delicious types in these markets; he may wander for months in New Orleans without meeting them elsewhere. There is the rich savage face in which the struggle of Congo with French or Spanish blood is still going on; there is the old French market-woman, with her irrepressible form, her rosy cheeks, and the bandanna wound about her head, just as one may find her to this day at the Halles Centrales in Paris; there is the negress of the time of D’Artaguette, renewed in some of her grandchildren; there is the plaintive-looking Sicilian woman, who has been bullied all the morning by rough negroes and rougher white men as she sold oranges; and there is her dark, ferocious-looking husband, who handles his cigarette as if he were strangling an enemy.
In a long passage, between two of the market buildings, where hundreds of people pass hourly, sits a silent Louisiana Indian woman, with a sack of gumbo spread out before her, and with eyes downcast, as if expecting harsh words rather than purchasers.
Entering the clothes market, one finds lively Gallic versions of the Hebrew female tending shops where all articles are labeled at such extraordinarily low rates that the person who manufactured them must have given them away; quavering old men, clad in rusty black, who sell shoe-strings and cheap cravats, but who have hardly vitality enough to keep the flies off from themselves, not to speak of waiting on customers; villainous French landsharks, who have eyes as sharp for the earnings of the fresh-water sailor as ever had a Gotham shanghai merchant for those of a salt-water tar; mouldy old dames, who look daggers at you if you venture to insist that any article in their stock is not of finest fabric and quality; and hoarse-voiced, debauched Creole men, who almost cling to you in the energy of their pleading for purchases. Sometimes, too, a beautiful black-robed girl leans over a counter, displaying her superbly-moulded arms, as she adjusts her knitting-work. And from each and every one of the markets the noise rises in such thousand currents of patois, of French, of English, of good-natured and guttural negro accent, that one cannot help wondering how it is that buyer and seller ever come to any understanding at all.
Then there are the flowers! Such marvelous bargains as one can have in bouquets! Delicate jessamines, modest knots of white roses, glorious orange blossoms, camelias, red roses, tender pansies, exquisite verbenas, the luscious and perfect virgin’s bower, and the magnolia in its season; — all these are to be had in the markets for a trivial sum. Sometimes, when a Havana or a Sicilian vessel is discharging her cargo, fruit boxes are broken open; and then it is a treat to see swarms of African children hovering about the tempting piles, from which even the sight of stout cudgels will not frighten them.
In the winter months the markets are crowded with strangers before six o’clock every morning. Jaunty maids from New England stroll in the passages, escorted by pale and querulous invalid fathers, or by spruce young men, who swelter in their thick garments, made to be worn in higher latitudes. While New York or Boston ladies sip coffee in a market-stall, groups of dreamy-eyed negro girls surround them and curiously scan the details of their toilets. Black urchins grin confidingly and solicit alms as the blond Northerner saunters by. Perchance the Bostonian may hear a silvery voice, whose owner’s face is buried in the depths of a sun-bonnet, exclaim — “There goes a regular Yankee!”
Sailors, too, from the ships anchored in the river, promenade the long passage-ways; the accents of twenty languages are heard; and the childlike, comical French of the negroes rings out above the clamor. Wagons from the country clatter over the stones; the drivers sing cheerful melodies, interspersed with shouts of caution to pedestrians as they guide their restive horses through the crowds. Stout colored women, with cackling hens dangling from their brawny hands, gravely parade the long aisles; the fish-monger utters an apparently incomprehensible yell, yet brings crowds around him; on his clean block lies the pompano, the prince of Southern waters, which an enthusiastic admirer once described as “a just fish made perfect,” or a “translated shad.”
Towards noon the clamor ceases, the bustle of traffic is over, and the market-men and women betake themselves to the old cathedral, in whose shadowed aisles they kneel for momentary worship.
THE COTTON TRADE — THE NEW ORLEANS LEVEES.
COTTON furnishes to New Orleans much of its activity and the sinews of its trade. It stamps a town, which would otherwise resemble some decayed but still luxurious European centre, with a commercial aspect. Americans and Frenchmen are alike interested in the growth of the crop throughout all the great section drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries. They rush eagerly to the Exchange to read the statements of sales, and rates, and bales on hand; and both are intensely excited when there is a large arrival from some unexpected quarter, or when the telegraph informs them that some packet has sunk, with hundreds of bales on board, while toiling along the currents of the Arkansas or Red rivers.
In the American quarter, during certain hours of the day, cotton is the only subject spoken of; the pavements of all the principal avenues in the vicinity of the Exchange are crowded with smartly-dressed gentlemen, who eagerly discuss crops and values, and who have a perfect mania for preparing and comparing the estimates at the basis of all speculations in the favorite staple; with young Englishmen, whose mouths are filled with the slang of the Liverpool market; and with the skippers of steamers from all parts of the West and South-west, each worshiping at the shrine of the same god.
From high noon until dark the planter, the factor, the speculator, flit feverishly to and from the portals of the Exchange, and nothing can be heard above the excited hum of their conversation except the sharp voice of the clerk reading the latest telegrams.
New Orleans receives the greater portion of the crop of Louisiana and Mississippi, of North Alabama, of Tennessee, of Arkansas, and Florida. The gross receipts of cotton there amount to about thirty-three and one-third per cent. of the entire production of the country. Despite the abnormal condition of government and society there, the natural tendency is towards a rapid and continuous increase of cotton production in the Gulf States.
But the honor of receiving the Texas crop, doubled, as it soon will be, as the result of increased immigration, favoring climate, and cheap land, will be sharply disputed by Galveston, one of the most ambitious and promising of the Gulf capitals; and the good burghers of New Orleans must look to a speedy completion of their new railways if they wish to cope successfully with the wily and self-reliant Texan.
Judging from the progress of cotton-growing in the past, it will be tremendous in future. In 1824-’25 the cotton crop of the United States was 569,249 bales; in 1830-’31, it ran up to 1,038,000 bales; during ’37-’38 it reached as high as 1,800,000 bales; and eleven years later was 2,700,000 bales. In 1859-’60 the country’s cotton crop was 4,669,770 bales; in 1860-’61 it dropped to 3,656,000 bales. Then came the war. In the days of slave labor, planters did not make more than a fraction of their present per cent. They themselves attended very little to their crops, leaving nearly everything to the overseers. Cotton raising is now far more popular in the Gulf States than it was before the war, although it has still certain distressing drawbacks, arising from the incomplete organization of labor. The year after the close of the war, 2,193,000 bales were produced, showing that the planters went to work in earnest to retrieve their fallen fortunes. From that time forward labor became better organized, and the production went bravely on. In 1866-’67 it amounted to 1,951,000 bales, of which New Orleans received 780,000; in 1867-’68 to 2,431,000 bales, giving New Orleans 668,000; in 1868-’69 to 2,260,000, 841,000 of which were delivered at New Orleans; in 1869-’70 to 3,114,000, and New Orleans received 1,207,000; in 1870-’71 to 4,347,000, giving the Crescent City 1,548,000; and in 1871-’72 to 2,974,000, more than one-third of which passed through New Orleans. The necessity of a rapid multiplication of railroad and steamboat lines is shown by the fact that more than 150,000 bales of the crop of 1870-’71 remained in the country, at the close of that season, on account of a lack of transportation facilities. From 1866 to 1872, inclusive, the port of New Orleans received 6,114,000 bales, or fully one-third of the entire production of the United States. The receipts from the Red River region alone at New Orleans for 1871-’72, by steamer, were 197,386 bales; for 1870-’71 they amounted to 284,313 bales; and the Ouachita River sent to the metropolis 89,084 bales in 1871-’72, and 151,358 in 1870-’71.
Knowing these statistics, one can hardly wonder at the vast masses of bales on the levée at the landings of the steamers, nor at the numbers of the boats which daily arrive, their sides piled high with cotton. About these boats, closely ranged in long rows by the levée, and seeming like river monsters which have crawled from the ooze to take a little sun, the negroes swarm in crowds, chatting in the broken, colored English characteristic of the river-hand. They are clad in garments which hang in rags from their tawny or coal black limbs. Their huge, naked chests rival in perfection of form the works of Praxiteles and his fellows. Their arms are almost constantly bent to the task of removing cotton bales, and carrying boxes, barrels, bundles of every conceivable shape and size; but whenever there is a lull in the work they sink down on the cotton bales, clinging to them like lizards to a sunny wall, and croon to themselves, or crack rough and good-natured jokes with one another. Not far from the levée there is a police court, where they especially delight to lounge.
In 1871-’72 (the commercial year extends from September to September) the value of the cotton received at New Orleans was $94,430,000; in 1870-’71 it was $101,000,000; and in 1869-’70 even $120,000,000. The difference in the value of the crops during that period was very great. In 1869-’70 cotton sold for nearly $100 per bale, and in 1870-’71 it had depreciated to an average of $65 per bale. Until the facilities for speedy transportation have been greatly increased, a glut of the market, produced by a successful conduct of the year’s labor on the majority of the plantations, will continue to bring prices down.
The whole character of the cotton trade has been gradually changing since the war. Previous to that epoch a large portion of the business was done directly by planters through their merchants; but now that the plantations are mainly worked on shares by the freedmen, the matter has come into the hands of country traders, who give credits to the laborers during the planting seasons, and take their pay in the products of the crop, in harvest time. These speculators then follow to market the cotton which they have thus accumulated in small lots, and look attentively after it until it has been delivered to some responsible pruchaser, and they have pocketed the proceeds.
They often pay the planter and his coöperating freedmen a much higher price for cotton than the market quotations seem to warrant; but they always manage to retain a profit, rarely allowing a freedman to find that his season’s toil has done more than square his accounts with the acute trader who has meantime supplied him and his family with provisions, clothing, and such articles of luxury as the negro’s mind and body crave. Shortly after the war there was trouble between planters and factors; and it is not probable that much, if any, business will hereafter be transacted by the latter directly with the planter, though upon the arrival of the crop in New Orleans the cotton factor becomes the chief authority. Business is largely done between buyer and seller on the basis of a confidence which seems to the casual observer rather reckless, but which custom has made perfectly safe.
The Cotton Exchange of New Orleans sprang into existence in 1870, and merchants and planters were alike surprised that they had not thought its advantages necessary before. It now has three hundred members, and expends thirty thousand dollars annually in procuring the latest commercial intelligence, and maintaining a suite of rooms where the buyer and seller may meet, and which shall be a central bureau of news. The first president of the Exchange was the well-known E. H. Summers, of Hilliard, Summers & Co., of New Orleans; the second and present one is Mr. John Phelps, one of the principal merchants of the city. The boards of the Exchange are carefully and thoroughly edited, and are always surrounded by a throng of speculators, as well as by the more staid and important of the local merchants. During the busy season, the labor at the Exchange, and in the establishments of all the prominent merchants and factors, is almost incessant.
In the months between January and May, when the season is at its height, clerks and patrons work literally night and day; so that when the most exhausting period of the year arrives, finding themselves thoroughly overworked, they leave the sweltering lowlands, and fly to the North for rest and cool refuge. New Orleans is accused of a lack of energy, but her cotton merchants are more energetic than the mass of Northern traders and speculators, working, as they do, with feverish impulse early and late. One well-known cotton factor, whose transactions amount to nearly $12,000,000 yearly, gets to his desk, during the season, long before daylight, — and that, in the climate of the Gulf States, comes wonderfully early.
The railroad development of the South since the war has metamorphosed the whole cotton trade of New Orleans. Cotton which once arrived in market in May now reaches the factor during the preceding December or January. The Jackson and Mobile roads did much to effect this great change, and when rail communication with Texas is secured, it will bring with it another marked difference in the same direction.
The sugar interest once left the most money in New Orleans; now cotton is the main stay. It is estimated that each bale which passes through the market leaves about seven dollars and fifty cents. Most of the business with England is done by cable, and the telegraph bills of many prominent firms are enormous. The Board of Arbitration and Board of Appeals of the Exchange make all decisions, and have power to expel any unruly member.
The Louisiana capitalists have given some attention to the manufacture of cotton, and the factories which have already been established are clearing from eighteen to twenty-five per cent. per annum. There are two of these factories in New Orleans, each of which consumes about one thousand bales yearly; a third is located at Beauregard, and a fourth in the penitentiary at Baton Rouge. The consumption by all the Southern cotton mills, during the three years closing with 1872 amounted to two hundred and ninety-one thousand bales, and is increasing at a rapid rate. Each new railway connection enlarges the city’s claims as a cotton mart. The Jackson Railroad, during the commercial year 1871-’72, brought into it forty thousand bales, thus adding about four million dollars to the trade.
When the levées are crowded with the busy negroes, unloading cotton from the steamboats, the apparent confusion is enough to turn a stranger’s head; yet the order is perfect. Each of the steamers has its special stall, into which it swings with grace and precision, to the music of a tolling bell and an occasional hoarse scream from the whistle; and the instant the cables are made fast and the gangways swung down, the “roustabouts” are on board, and busily wheeling the variously branded bales to the spaces allotted them on the wharves.
The negroes who man the boats running up and down the Mississippi are not at all concerned in the discharging of cargoes, being relieved from that duty by the regular wharfmen. There is a rush upon the pile of bales fifty-feet high on the capacious lower deck of a Greenville and Vicksburg, a Red River, or a Ouachita packet, and the monument to the industry of a dozen planters vanishes as if by magic. Myriads of little flags, each ornamented with different devices, flutter from various points along the wharves; and as the blacks wheel the cotton past the “tally-man” standing near the steamer’s gangways, he notes the mark on each bale, and in a loud voice calls out to him who is wheeling it the name of the sign on the flag under which it is to rest until sold and removed. While the bales remain on the levées, the cotton thieves now and then steal a pound or two of the precious staple.
This army of “roustabouts” is an ebony-breasted, tough-fisted, bullet-headed, toiling, awkward mass; but it does wonders at work. It is generally good-humored, even when it grumbles; is prodigal of rude, cheerful talk and raillery; has no secrets or jealousies; is helpful, sympathetic, and familiar. It leaps to its work with a kind of concentrated effort, and, as soon as the task is done, relapses into its favorite condition of slouch.
Neither the sharp voices of the skippers, nor the harsh orders of the masters of the gangs, nor the cheery and mirth-provoking responses of the help, mingled with the sibilations of escaping steam, the ringing of countless bells, and the moving and rumbling of drays, carts and steam-cars can drown or smother the jocund notes of the negro’s song. His arms and limbs and head keep time to the harmony, as he trundles the heavy bale along the planks.
When he pauses from his work, you may see his dusky wife or daughter, in a long, closely-fitting, trim calico gown, and a starched gingham sun-bonnet, giving him his dinner from a large tin pail; or you may find him patronizing one of the grimy old dames, each of whom looks wicked enough to be a Voudou Queen, who are always seated at quiet corners with a basket of coarse but well-prepared food. Small merchants thrive along the levée. There is the old apple and cake woman, black and fifty, blundering about the wharf’s edge; there is the antiquated and moss-grown old man who cowers all day beside a little cart filled with cans of ice-cream; there is the Sicilian fruit-seller, almost as dark visaged as a negro; there is the coffee and sausage man, toward whom, many a time daily, black and toil-worn hands are eagerly outstretched; and bordering on Canal street, all along the walks leading from the wharf, are little booths filled with negroes in the supreme stages of shabbiness, who feast on chicken and mysterious compounds of vegetables, and drink alarming draughts of “whiskey at five cents a glass.” The sailor on the Mississippi is much like his white brother of more stormy seas, who drinks up his wages, gets penitent, confesses his poverty, and begs again for work.
At high water, the juvenile population of New Orleans perches on the beams of the wharves, and enjoys a little quiet fishing. For two or three miles down the river, from the foot of Canal street, the levées are encumbered with goods of every conceivable description. Then the landings cease, and, almost level with the bank on which you walk, flows the grand, impetuous stream which has sometimes swept all before it on the lowlands where the fair Louisiana capital lies, and transformed the whole section between Lake Pontchartrain and the present channel into an eddying sea.
Up the river, commerce of the heavy and substantial order has monopolized the space, and you may note in a morning the arrival of a hundred thousand bushels of grain, on a single one of the capacious tow-boats of the Mississippi Valley Transportation Company. Merchants even boast that the port can supply, to outgoing ships, that quantity daily from the West; and that the lack of transportation facilities often causes an accumulation of three hundred thousand bushels in the New Orleans storehouses. Up and down the levées run the branch lines of the Jackson, the Louisiana and Texas, and the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas railways, and teams drive recklessly on the same tracks on which incoming trains are drawn by rapidly moving locomotives. The freight depots, the reception sheds and the warehouses are crammed with jostling, sweating, shouting, black and white humanity; and, in the huge granite Custom-House, even politics has to give way, from time to time, before the torrents of business. At night a great silence falls on the levée. Only the footsteps of the watchmen, or of the polite, but consequential negro policeman, are heard on the well-worn planks. Now and then an eye of fire, the lamp of an incoming steamer, peers out of the obscurity shrouding the river, or glides athwart the moonlight, and three hoarse screams announce an arrival. Along the shore, a hundred lights twinkle in the water, and turn the commonest surroundings into enchantment. There is little sign of life from any of the steamers at the docks, though here and there a drunken river-hand blunders along the wharves singing some dialect catch; but with early sun-peep comes once more the roar, the rush, the rattle!
The coastwise trade is one of the important elements of the commerce of New Orleans. Of the total tonnage entered and cleared from that port during the fiscal year 1871-’72, fifty-four per cent., or 1,226,000 tons, belonged to this trade, representing something like $125,000,000; while the foreign trade was only $109,000,000 for the same period. During the commercial year ending September 30, 1872, two thousand five hundred and nine steamboats, comprising a tonnage of 3,500,000 tons burthen, arrived at the port. The value of the principal articles brought in by these boats was $160,000,000, the up-river cargoes amounting to about $90,000,000. It is, therefore, fair to estimate the net value of this commerce at nearly $400,000,000 per annum.
Now let us take the actual figures of the commerce of the Gulf for one year: that from September, 1871, to September, 1872.
|Exports from New Orleans||90,800,000|
|Imports to New Orleans||18,700,000|
This, exclusive of the Darien and Central American trade, now so rapidly increasing, makes a grand total of more than five hundred millions of dollars.
It will be seen that the imports are small in quantity as compared with the exports when the cotton is counted in — the imports amounting to only about one-seventh of the exports; but this ratio will be much reduced in time, as New Orleans becomes a more economical port. Five steamship lines now make the city their point of departure. Three of these, the Liverpool Southern, the Mississippi and Dominion, and the State Line Steamship Company, communicate directly with Liverpool, while other lines are projected.
THE CANALS AND THE LAKE — THE AMERICAN QUARTER.
NEW ORLEANS is built on land from two to four feet below the level of the Mississippi river at high water mark. It fronts on a great bend in the stream in the form of a semicircle, whence it takes its appellation of the “Crescent City," and stretches back to the borders of Lake Pontchartrain, which lies several feet below the level of the Mississippi, and has an outlet on the Gulf of Mexico. The rain-fall, the sewerage of the city, and the surplus water from the river, are drained into the canals which traverse New Orleans, and are thence carried into the lake. The two principal canals, known as the Old and New Basins are navigable; steamers of considerable size run through them and the lake to the Gulf, and thence along the Southern Atlantic coast; and schooners and barks, laden with lumber and produce, are towed in and out by mules. The city is divided into drainage districts, in each of which large pumping machines are constantly worked to keep down the encroaching water. Were it not for the canals and the drainage system, the low-lying city would, after a heavy rain, be partially submerged. A fine levée extends for four and a-half miles along the front of Lake Pontchartrain, making a grand driveway; and as a complement to this improvement, it is expected that in a few years the cypress swamps will be filled up, and the lake front will be studded with mansions. The building of this levée was an imperative necessity, the action of the lake making the perfecting of the city’s present system of drainage impossible otherwise.
On Sundays the shell road leading northward from Canal street past the Metairie and Oakland Parks, by the side of the New Basin, is crowded with teams, and the restaurants, half hidden by foliage, echo to boisterous merriment. But on a week day it is almost deserted. Schooners on the canal glide lazily along; ragged negro boys sit on the banks, sleepily fishing; while the intense green of the leaves is beautifully reflected from the water. Arrived near the lake, you catch a view of dark water in the canal in the foreground, with a gayly-painted sail-boat lying close to the bank; an ornamental gateway just beyond; a flock of goats browsing at the roadside; and afar off, a white light-house standing lonely on a narrow point of land. You may step into a sail-boat at the lake, and let a brown, barefooted Creole fisherman sail you down to the pier where the railroad from New Orleans terminates; then back again, up the Bayou St. John, until he lands you near the walls of the “old Spanish fort.” There you may find a summer-house, an orchard, and a rose-garden. From the balcony you can see a long pier running into the lake; the sun’s gold on the rippling water; the oranges in the trees below; the group of sailors tugging at the cable of their schooner; the pretty cluster of cottages near the levée’s end; the cannon, old and dismounted, lying half-buried under the grasses; the wealth of peach-blossoms in the bent tree near the parapet; and a bevy of bare-legged children playing about their mother, as she sits on the sward, cutting rose-stems, and twisting blossoms into bouquets.
As evening deepens, you sail home, and, in the dining-room of the restaurant near the canal, look out upon the passing barges and boats gliding noiselessly townward; hear the shouts of festive parties as they wander on the levée, or along the cypress-girt shore; hear the boatmen singing catches; or watch a blood-red moon as it rises slowly, and casts an enchanted light over the burnished surface of the water-way.
A promenade on Canal street is quite as picturesque as any in the French quarter. There is the negro boot-black sitting in the sun, with his own splay-feet on his blacking-block; and there are the bouquet-sellers, black and white, ranged at convenient corners, with baskets filled with breast knots of violets, and a world of rose-buds, camelias, and other rich blossoms. The newsboy cries his wares, vociferous as his brother of Gotham. The “roust-abouts” from the levée, clad in striped trowsers and flannel shirts, and in coats and hats which they seem to have slept in for a century, hasten homeward to dinner, with their cotton-hooks clenched in their brawny hands. The ropers for gambling-houses — one of the curses of New Orleans — haunt each conspicuous corner, and impudently scan passers-by.
From twelve to two the American ladies monopolize Canal street. Hundreds of lovely brunettes may be seen, in carriages, in cars, in couples with mamma, or accompanied by the tall, dark, thin Southern youth, attired in black broadcloth, slouch hat, and irreproachable morning gloves. The confectioners’ shops are crowded with dainty little women, who have the Italian rage for confetti, and the sugared cakes of the pastry-cook vanish like morning dew. The matinées at the American theatres, as at the French, begin at noon; and at three or half-past three, twice a week, the tide of beauty floods Canal, St. Charles, Carondelet, Rampart, and other streets. At evening, Canal street is very quiet, and hardly seems the main thoroughfare of a great city.
The American quarter of New Orleans is superior to the French in width of avenue, in beauty of garden and foliage; but to-day many streets there are grass-grown, and filled with ruts and hollows. In that section, not inaptly designated the “Garden City,” there are many spacious houses surrounded by gardens, parks and orchards; orange-trees grow in the yards, and roses clamber in at the windows. The homes of well-to-do Americans, who have been able to keep about them some appearance of comfort since the war, are found mostly on Louisiana and Napoleon avenues and on Prytania, Plaquemine, Chestnut, Camp, Jena, Cadiz, Valence, Bordeaux, and St. Charles streets. Along St. Charles street, near Canal, are the famous St. Charles Hotel; the Academy of Music, and the St. Charles Theatre, both well appointed theatrical edifices; and the Masonic, City, and Exposition Hails. Opposite the City Hall — one of the noblest public buildings in New Orleans, built of granite and white marble, in Grecian Ionic style — is Lafayette Square. On its south-western side is the First Presbyterian Church; and at its southern extremity the Odd Fellows’ Hall, where the famous McEnery Legislature held its sessions. On Common street, one of the business thoroughfares of the town, is the University of Louisiana. The city is making its most rapid growth in the direction of Carrollton, a pretty suburb, filled with pleasant homes, and within three-quarters of an hour’s ride of Canal street.
Canal street is bordered by shops of no mean pretensions, and by many handsome residences; it boasts of Christ Church, the Varieties Theatre, the noted restaurant of Moreau, the statue of Henry Clay, a handsome fountain, and the new Custom-House. The buildings are not crowded together, as in New York and Paris; they are usually two or three stories high, and along the first story runs a porch which serves as a balcony to those dwelling above, and as protection from sun and rain to promenaders below. The banks, insurance offices, and wholesale stores fronting on Canal street are elegant and modern, an improvement in the general tone of business architecture having taken place since the war. Under the régime of slavery, little or no attention was paid to fine buildings; exterior decoration, save that which the magnificent foliage of the country gave, was entirely disregarded. Now, however, the citizens begin to take pride in their public edifices.
The bugbear of yellow fever has, for many years, been a drawback to the prosperity of New Orleans. The stories told of its fearful ravages during some of its visitations are startling; but there is hope that the complete and thorough draining of the city will prevent the repetition of such scenes and consequent panics in future. The inhabitants who remain in the city throughout the summer are, in ordinary seasons, as healthy a people as can be found in the United States. Although a lifetime spent in the soft climate of Louisiana may render an organism somewhat more languid and effeminate than that of the Northerner, there are few of the wretched chronic complaints, terminating in lingering illness and painful death, which result from the racking conflict of extremes in the New England climate.
Many Louisianians disbelieve in the efficacy of quarantine against the yellow fever. They say that, during seventy years, from 1796 to 1870, they had quarantine nineteen times, and in each of those nineteen years the dread fever at least showed its ugly face. The war quarantine, they assert, failed every year of the four that it was in operation. The Charity Hospital has received cases of yellow fever annually for the last fifty years. Only in two cases, however, where the proper quarantine precautions had been taken, had the disease assumed the proportions of a general plague. The general impression is that the fever will certainly carry off unacclimated persons; but physicians in the hospitals assert that there has been no evidence of the transmission of the fever in hospital wards to unacclimated people; and as they have watched cases for weeks after exposure, their testimony should be considered valuable. Previous to the war, no proper attention had been paid to drainage and cleanliness of streets in New Orleans; and it is the opinion of many good authorities that a careful examining of all vessels arriving from foreign ports, and in town a sanitary police of the most rigorous character, will soon make the fever a rare and not a very dangerous visitor.
The Charity Hospital is one of the noblest buildings in the city, and the people of New Orleans have good reason to be proud of it. Dating from the earliest foundation of the city, it has never closed its doors save when accident has compelled it to do so temporarily. From the time when the Ursuline nuns took charge of it under Bienville until now it has been one of the most beneficent charities in the country. No question of race, nationality, religion, sex or character hinders from admission a single applicant for repose and healing within the walls; and the best medical talent is placed at the disposition of the poorest and meanest of citizens. The Asylum of St. Elizabeth, and the male and female orphan asylums, are also noteworthy charities.
The Maison de Santé, long one of the most noted infirmaries of New Orleans, is now deserted, and like the United States Marine Hospital, which has not been used since 1860, is rapidly falling into decay. During the war the fine United States Hospital, which once stood at MacDonough’s, on the river opposite New Orleans, was destroyed.
The Protestant churches in the American quarter are good specimens of modern church architecture. The oldest of the Episcopal organizations, dating back to 1806, is Christ Church, on Canal street, founded by Bishop Chase. This church was the germ of Protestantism in the South-west. The present edifice is the third erected by the society. The fashionable Episcopal churches are considered to be Trinity and St. Paul's. Annunciation Church is a fine edifice. The McGhee Church, of which Rev. Dr. Tudor is pastor, is the principal of the Methodist Episcopal churches South. The Northern post-bellum settlers are mainly Congregational or Methodist, and have gathered at the First Congregational Church, and at the Methodist Episcopal Ames Chapel. The First Presbyterian Church Society long enjoyed the spiritual guidance of the eloquent Dr. Palmer, a divine of national reputation. The principal Baptist society assembles at the Coliseum Place Church. There are great numbers of colored church organizations, many of which are in a flourishing condition, having been largely aided by Northern missions. As there are one hundred and sixteen churches in New Orleans, the visitor can hardly hope to peer into them all; but on Baronne street he may steal for a moment into the shade of the old Jesuit Church, and, entering the dimly-lighted nave, see the black-robed girls at the confessional, and the richly-dressed women making their rounds before the chapels and kneeling, prayer-books in hand, beside the market-woman and the serving girl. The Jesuit Church, St. Augustine’s, St. Joseph’s, St. Patrick’s, and the Mortuary Chapel, are among the best of the Catholic religious structures. St. Patrick's has a tower 190 feet high, modeled after that of the famous minster at York, England.
The city is not rich in architecture. After the National Capitol, the Custom-House is considered the largest public building in the country. It has a front of 334 feet on Canal street, and nearly the same on the levée. It is built entirely of granite from Massachusetts. Begun in 1848, little has been done since the war to complete it. As the seat of the United States courts, and of the exciting political conventions which have been so intimately connected with the present political condition of Louisiana, the Custom-House attracts an interest which its architecture certainly could never excite. The building still lacks the roof contemplated in the original plan. When General Butler was military commander of New Orleans he proposed to erect a temporary roof, but his recall came before the work was begun.
The Ionic building at the corner of Esplanade and New Levée streets, once used as a United States branch mint, is noted as the place of execution of Mumford, who tore down the flag which the Federal forces had just raised on the roof when in 1862 the city was first occupied by the Northern forces. Mumford was hung, by General Butler’s order, from a flag-staff projecting from one of the windows under the front portico of the main building.
ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER — THE LEVÉE SYSTEM — RAILROADS. THE FORT ST. PHILIP CANAL.
THE banks of the Mississippi, within the State of Louisiana, are lovely, the richness of the foliage and the luxuriance of the vegetation redeeming them from the charge of monotony which might otherwise be urged. Here and there a town, as in the case of Plaquemine, has been compelled to recede before the encroachments of the river.
The people of the State have shown rare pertinacity in maintaining the levée system. Like the Dutch in Holland, they doggedly assert their right to the lowlands in which they live, always braving inundation. They have built, and endeavor to maintain in repair, more than 1,500 miles, or 51,000,000 cubic feet of levées within the State limits. Their State engineer corps is always at work along the banks of the Mississippi, above and below Red River, on the Red River itself, on the Lafourche, the Atchafalaya, the Black and Ouachita, and on numerous important bayous.
The work of levée building has been pressed forward even when the Commonwealth has been prostrated by a hundred evils. Detailed surveys are constantly necessary to insure the State against inundation. The cost value of the present system is estimated at about $17,000,000, and it is asserted that the future expenditure of a similar sum will be necessary to complete and perfect it.
Ten years before the war, when Louisiana was in her most prosperous condition, she possessed 1,200 miles of levées, and the police juries of the several parishes compelled a strict maintenance of them by “inspectors of sections.” Of course, during the war, millions of cubic feet of levées were destroyed by neglect, and for military purposes; and that the State, in her impoverished condition, should have been able to rebuild the old, and add new levées in so short a time, speaks volumes for her energy and industry, — qualities which find a thorough representative in General Jeff Thompson, the present State Engineer.
The Louisiana people claim that the general government should now take the building of levées along the Mississippi into its own hands, and their reasoning to prove it is ingenious. They say, for instance, that the tonnage of the great river amounts during a given year to 1,694,000 tons. They then claim that the transit of steamboats gives, by causing waves, an annual blow, equal to the whole tonnage of the commerce of the river, against each portion or point of the levées, or the banks on which the levées are erected; and that this blow is delivered at the average rate of about six miles an hour, a force equal to 15,000,000 tons; — a force expended by the commerce of the whole Mississippi basin upon each lineal foot in the 755 miles of Louisiana levées upon the river! On these grounds they object to paying all the expenses of levée building in their own State; and they are supported by able scientists.
The United States certainly is the only power in America which can ever control the Mississippi, and prevent occasional terrible overflows; and it is its bounden duty to do it.
By day and night, the journey down river in the State of Louisiana is alike beautiful, impressive, exhilarating. But when a moonless night settles down upon the stream, and you float away into an apparent ocean on the back of the white Leviathan whose throbbing sides, seem so tireless, the effect is solemnly grand.
Sometimes the boat stops at a coaling station, and tons of coal are laboriously transferred from barges to the steamer. An army of negroes shovel the glistening nuggets into rude hand-barrows, which another army, formed into a procession, carries to the furnaces.
I went down from Vicksburg on one of the larger and finer of the steamers; and the journey was a perpetual succession of novel episodes. At one point, when I supposed we were comfortably holding our way in the channel, a torch-light flared up, and showed us nearing a scraggy bank. The thin, long prow of the boat ran upon the land. Gangways were lowered; planks were run out from the boat’s side to the bank; forty negroes sprang from some mysterious recess below, and huddled before the capstan.
The shower of harmless sparks from the torches cast momentary red gleams over the rude but kindly black faces. A sharp-voiced white man, whom I learned afterwards to call the “Wasp,” because he always flew nervously about stinging the sprawling negroes into activity, thrust himself among the laborers. Twenty stings from his voice, and the dusky forms plunged into the darkness beyond the gangways. Then other torches were placed upon the bank — lighting up long wood-piles.
The Wasp flitted restlessly from shore to deck, from deck to shore, while the negroes attacked the piles, and, each taking half a dozen sticks, hurried to the deck with them. Presently there was an endless procession of black forms from the landing to the boat and back through the flickering light, to the tune of loud adjurations from the Wasp. Now and then the chain of laborers broke into a rude chant, beginning with a prolonged shout, such as
“Oh! I los’ my money dar!”
and followed by a gurgling laugh, as if the singers were amused at the sound of their own voices. When any of the darkies stumbled or lagged, the Wasp, generally kind and well-disposed towards the negroes, despite his rough ways, broke into appeal, threat, and entreaty, crying out raspingly and with, oaths, “You, Reuben!” “You, Black Hawk!” “Come on thar, you Washington! ain’t you going to hear me!” Now and then he would run among the negroes, urging them into such activity that a whole pile would vanish as if swallowed by an earthquake. In two hours and a-half sixty cords of wood were transferred from the bank to the boat, and the Wasp, calling the palpitating wood-carriers around him, thus addressed them: “Now, you boys, listen. You, Black Hawk, do you hear? you and these three, first watch! You, Reuben, and these three, second watch!” etc. Then the torches were dipped in the river, and the great white boat once more wheeled around into the channel.
On the shores we could dimly discern huge trees half fallen into the stream, and stumps and roots and vines peeping up from the dark waters. We could hear the tug-boats groaning and sighing as they dragged along heavily laden barges; and once the light of a conflagration miles away cast a strange, dim light over the current. Now and then the boat, whirling around, made for the bank, and the light of our torches disclosed a ragged negro holding a mail-bag. Up the swinging gangway clambered one of our deck hands; the mails were exchanged; the lights went out once more.
So on, and ever on, a cool breeze blowing from the perfumed banks. Now we could see the lights from some little settlement near a bayou emptying into the stream; now, the eye of some steamer, and hear the songs of the deck-hands as she passed us. Now we moved cautiously, taking soundings, as we entered some inlet or detour of the river; and now paused near some great swamp land — some tract of hopelessly irreclaimable, grotesque water wilderness, where abound all kinds of noisesome reptiles, birds and insects.
One should see such a swamp in October, when the Indian summer haze floats and shimmers lazily above the brownish-gray of the water; when a delicious magic in the atmosphere transforms the masses of trees and the tangled vines and creepers into semblances of ruined walls and tapestries. But at any season you see towering white cypresses, shooting their ghostly trunks far above the surrounding trees; or, half rotten at their bases, fallen into the water; the palmettoes growing in little clumps along the borders of treacherous knolls, where the earth seemed firm, but where you could not hope with safety to rest your feet; the long festoons of dead Spanish moss hanging from the high boughs of the red cypress, which refuses to nourish the pretty parasite; and the great cypress knees, now white, now brown, looming up through the warm haze, and peeping from nooks where the water is transparent, seeming like veins in a quarry riven by lightning strokes.
Vista after vista of cypress-bordered avenues, with long lapses of water filling them, and little islands of mud and slime, thinly coated with a deceptive foliage, stretch before your vision; a yellowish ray, flashing across the surface of the water, shows you where an alligator had shot forward to salute his friend or attack his enemy; and a strange mass hanging from some remotest bough, if narrowly inspected, proves an eagle’s nest, fashioned with a proper care for defense.
You see the white crane standing at some tree root, sullenly contemplating the yielding mass of decaying logs and falling vines; and the owl now and then cries from a high perch. The quaint grossbeak, the ugly heron, the dirty-black buzzard, the hideous water-goose, with his featherless body and satiric head, start up from their nooks as you enter; the water moccasin slides warily into the slime; and if you see a sudden movement in the centre of a leaden-colored mass, with a flash or two of white in it, you will do well to beware, for half a dozen alligators may show themselves at home there. You may come upon some monarch-tree, prostrate and decayed within from end to end. Entering it, and tapping carefully as you proceed to frighten away lurking snakes, you will find that you can walk through without stooping, even though you are of generous height.
As far as the eye can reach you will see hundreds of ruined trees, great stretches of water, forbidding avenues which seem to lead to the bottomless pit, vistas as endless as hasheesh visions; and the cries of strange birds, and the bellowings of the alligator, will be the only sounds from life. You will be glad to steal back to the pure sunlight and the open lowland, to the river and the odors of many flowers — to the ripple of the sad-colored current, and the cheery songs of the boatmen.
Some evening, just as sunset is upon the green land and the broad stream, you stand high up in the pilot-house, as you float into a channel between low-lying islands, clad even to the water’s edge with delicate shrubs whose forms are minutely reflected in the water. You may almost believe yourself removed out of the sphere of worldly care, and sailing to some haven of profoundest peace.
So restfully will the tender glory of the rose and amethyst of the sunset come to you; so softly will the perfume of the jessamines salute your senses; so gently will avenue after avenue of verdurous banks, laved by tranquil waters and extending beyond the reach of your vision, open before you; so quietly will the wave take from the horizon the benison of the sun’s dying fires; so artfully will the perfect purple — the final promise of a future dawn — peep up from the islets’ rims ere it disappears, that you will be charmed into the same serene content which nature around you manifests. From some distant village is borne on the breeze the music of an evening bell; from some plantation-grounds, or a grove of lofty trees, comes the burden of a negro hymn, or a jolly song of love and adventure.
Down below, the firemen labor at the seven great furnaces, and throw into them cords on cords of wood, tons on tons of coal; the negroes on the watch scrub the decks, or trundle cotton bales from one side of the boat to the other, or they lie listlessly by the low rails of the prow, blinking and shuffling and laughing with their own rude grace. Above, the magic perfume from the thickets filled with blossoms is always drifting, and the long lines of green islets bathed by the giant stream, pass by in rapid panorama.
You notice that some little fiend of a black boy, clad in an old woolen cap, a flannel shirt whose long flaps hang over his ragged and time-honored trowsers, and shoes whose heels are so trodden in that when he walks his motion seems to rock the steamer, will, when his comrade is not watching, steal some little article which said comrade can ill afford to lose; whereupon comrade, in due time discovering the loss, will end by complaining of the suspected boy to the Wasp; then you see the Wasp come buzzing and stinging and swearing along the broad decks, and calling George Washington to a certain post where he is to face him. Perhaps the Wasp will say: “George Washington, Jack says you stole his belt;” and then will sting and buzz and swear; whereupon George Washington, mopping his black face with the flap of his red flannel over-garment, will say hastily, in one indignant sibilation: “Deed to God, hope I die, sah — no sah!” Perhaps then the Wasp will make George Washington hold up his hand, and, looking him earnestly in the face, will say, “George Washington, are you going to tell me a lie?” with a buzz and a sting and a swear.
Whereupon George Washington will again and defiantly sibilate: “If dat nigger say dat, he lied. I do’ know nuffin about his belt nohow. Mus’ a los’ it woodin-up las’ night. I did n’t tetch it;” but after various hand-raisings will finally end by rendering up the belt, and retiring to the shade of a cotton bale, followed by the laughter of his comrades.
You come to a plantation landing where some restive steers are to be taken aboard, and notice the surprising manner in which those playful creatures toss about the negroes who wish to lead them on, until one or two agile fellows, catching the beasts by the tails, and as many more holding their horns, manage to make them walk the narrowest planks.
Or you come to some landing where a smart-looking young negro man comes on board with a quadroon wife; and you notice a hurried look of surprise on some of the old men’s faces as the couple are shown a state-room, or as they promenade unconcernedly.
Or a group of chattering French planters, with ruddy complexions and coal black eyes and hair, arrive, and the village priest, a fat, stalwart old boy in a white choker and a shovel hat, accompanies them; or perhaps a lean, gray-haired man, with a strongly marked dialect and a certain contemptuous way of talking of modern things, tells you that he remembers the first steamboat but three that ever ran upon the Mississippi river, and hints that “times were better then than now. That was a right smart o’ years ago.”
Descending the river from New Orleans, you go slowly down a muddy-colored but broad and strong current, between low and seemingly unstable banks. You pass the Chalmette battle-field, where Andrew Jackson won his victory over the English, and where Monument Cemetery, the burial place of many thousand soldiers, killed in the late civil war, is located. The monument from which the cemetery takes its name was erected in 1856, to commemorate General Jackson’s good fight.
The fears that the levées along the Mississippi would not be able always to resist the great body of water bearing and wearing upon them have several times been realized. Among the most disastrous instances of the “crevasse” is that of May, 1816, when the river broke through, nine miles above New Orleans, destroying numbers of plantations, and inundating the back part of the city. Gov. Claiborne adopted the expedient of sinking a vessel in the breach, and saved the town. In 1844 the river did much damage along the levée at New Orleans; and the inundations of 1868 and 1871 were severe lessons of the necessity of continually strengthening the works.
Within fifty or sixty miles of the river’s mouths, the banks become too low for cultivation; you leave the great sugar plantations behind, and the river broadens, until, on reaching the “Head of the Passes,” it separates into several streams, one of which in turn divides again a few miles from its separation from the main river. Beginning at the north and east, these passes, as they are called, are named respectively “Pass à l’Outre,” “North-east Pass,” the “South Pass,” and “South-west Pass.” Across the mouths of these passes bars of mud are formed, deposited by the river, which there meeting the salt and consequently heavier water of the gulf, runs over the top of it, and, being partially checked, the mud is strained through the salt water, and sinks at once to the bottom.
This separation of the fresh from the salt water is maintained in a remarkable degree. When the river is high, the river water runs far out to sea, and has been seen at fifteen miles from the passes, with as sharply defined a line between them as that between oil and water. This is also true with reference to the upper and lower strata. Sometimes, when a steamer is running through a dense pea-soup colored water on top, the paddle-wheels will displace it sufficiently to enable one to see clear gulf water rushing up to fill the displacement. The flood tide runs up underneath the river water for a long distance, and, at extra-ordinary high tides, is distinctly visible as far as New Orleans, one hundred and ten miles above. The bars change their depth constantly.
When the river is high, and consequently brings down most mud, the depth of the deposit increases with great rapidity; while in a low stage of the river the accumulation is slight. The bars are subject to another and great change, believed to be peculiar to the Mississippi; that is, the formation of “mud lumps.” These mud lumps are cone-shaped elevations of the bottom, often thrown up in a few hours, so that although the pilot may find ample depth for the largest ship on one day, on the next he may be aground with one of a much lighter draught.
Sometimes the lumps disappear as quickly as formed; at others they spread, show themselves above the water, and gradually grow into islands. It is supposed that this is the manner in which the long, narrow banks on either side of the “passes” have been formed. These cone-shaped lumps of mud are believed to be started by the action of carburetted hydrogen gas formed by the decay of vegetable matter contained in the river deposits, the substance of the bar being loosened by the action of the gas and forced upward until the lump makes its appearance above the water; when, becoming dry, and being continually fed by the forces from below, it gradually gains consistency, and forms another link in the delta chain, extending into the waters of the Gulf.
The attention of the United States Government to the necessity of improvement at the mouths of the Mississippi was first attracted in earnest in 1837, when an extended and elaborate survey of the passes and mouths was made by Captain Talcot, of the Engineer Corps. To save the commerce of New Orleans it was necessary to deepen the channel; and the plan of dredging with buckets was carried into effect as far as a slight appropriation permitted. No farther work was then undertaken until 1852, when $75,000 was set aside for it; and a number of processes for deepening — such as stirring up the river bottom with suitable machinery, and the establishment of parallel jetties, five miles in length, at the mouth of the South-west Pass — were tried.
By 1853 a depth of eighteen feet of water had been obtained in the South-west Pass by stirring up the river bottom; but in 1856 it was found that no trace of the deepening remained. In that year the sum of $300,000 was appropriated for opening and keeping open, by contract, ship channels through the bars at the mouths of the South-west Pass.
Contractors began work, but unless they labored incessantly, they could not keep the channels open; and they retired discomfited. The plan of dragging harrows and scrapers seaward along the bottom of the channel was adopted, thus aiding the river-flood to carry the stirred-up matter to deep water; and a depth of eighteen feet was maintained upon the bar for one year at a cost of $60,000. Other efforts, in 1866 and 1867, were equally costly and of small avail; and in 1868, the “Essayons,” a steam dredge-boat, constructed by the Atlantic Works, of Boston, was employed upon the bar at Pass à l’Outre. The plan of this boat, which had been recommended by General McAllister, was a powerful steamer with a cutting propeller, which could be lowered into the surface of the mud, where its rapid revolutions would effect the necessary “stirring-up.” So far as her draught permits, the “Essayons” has been a complete success; and another steamer, whose cutting propeller can work at greater depth, and which has been named “McAllister,” is now engaged upon the work. The main labor with these new boats has been done at the South-west Pass, which has become the principal entrance to the Mississippi, and there the United States Government is erecting a light-house on iron piles, as the marshes offer but an insecure foundation. The improvements at the river’s mouth, like those in the Red River, Tone’s Bayou, the Tangipahoa River, the harbor of Galveston, and the Mississippi forts, as well as those on the lakes in the rear of New Orleans, are all under the direction of Major C. N. Howell, of the Engineer Department. Pass à l’Outre is generally considered by best authorities the natural channel for eastward-bound and returning ships. With its bar opened, none such would, it is affirmed, ever go to South-west Pass, for the reason that they might save several hours coming in. This pass, properly opened, can accommodate three times the number of ships which now annually enter the Mississippi.
The effect on the commerce of New Orleans of the bar-formations at the river’s mouths is depressing. They cause burdensome taxes on the earnings of ships. In 1870 the value of imports at New Orleans amounted to only one-seventh of the exports; but if the port were made as economical as that of New York, by removing all obstacles to free entrance and exit, the imports would soon nearly equal the exports. The Government is at present expending about $650,000 annually on the necessary river and harbor improvements in Louisiana and Texas. Twice that amount might be judiciously invested every year. The work on the channel at the Mississippi’s outlet must evidently be perpetual, unless the plan of a canal is adopted.
“The Balize,” now a little collection of houses at the North-east Pass, was a famous place in its day — was, indeed, the port of New Orleans; and vessels were often detained there for weeks on the great bar, which had been labored upon to but little advantage before the cession of Louisiana to the United States. The extensive French military and naval establishments at the Balize were utterly destroyed by the great hurricanes of September, 1740. Now-a-days, the venerable port is almost desolate; a few damp and discouraged fishermen linger sadly among the wrecks of departed greatness. “Pilot Town,” at the South-west Pass, is interesting and ambitious. The pilots and fishermen are delightful types, and are nearly all worthy seamen and good navigators. At “Pass à l’Outre” and “South-west Pass” the Government maintains a “boarding-station” for protection of the revenue, and an inspector is sent up to the port of New Orleans with each incoming vessel.
Steaming back to the Louisiana capital on one of the inward-bound vessels, leaving behind you the low-lying banks; the queer towns at the mouths of the passes, with their foundations beneath the water; the long lines of pelicans sailing disconsolately about the current; the porpoises disporting above the bars, and the alligators sullenly supine on the sand, you will land into the rush and whir of the great commerce “on the levée.” If it be evening, you will hear the hoarse whistles of a dozen steamers, as they back into midstream, the negroes on their decks scrambling among the freight and singing rude songs, while the loud cries of the captains are heard above the noise of escaping steam.
One of the most pressing needs of Louisiana is an increase of railway lines. The New Orleans, Mobile and Texas road has done much for the commerce of the State, and is, undoubtedly, one of the best constructed lines in the country. It drains extensive sections of Mississippi and Alabama toward New Orleans. The extension of this route to Houston in Texas, and the building of a branch from Vermilionville to Shreveport, will do much for the development of the commonwealth. The trade between New Orleans and Shreveport, which is really immense, was much restricted for many years by the difficulty of navigating the Red river, whose tortuous water-ways have latterly been considerably improved. The projected “Louisiana Central” railroad, located along the route of the Red river for about 200 miles, passing through Alexandria and Natchitoches, will make Shreveport within twelve hours of New Orleans. The journey formerly occupied three or four days. Morgan’s “Louisiana and Texas” railroad extends from New Orleans to Brashear City on Berwick’s Bay, where it communicates with a fleet of first-class iron steamers running to Texas ports. The branch of this road from Brashear City to Vermilionville, graded years ago, might now be completed to advantage.
The New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern railroad gives a valuable connection with the North, via Jackson, in Mississippi. A recent enterprise is the New Orleans and North-eastern road, which is to cross Lake Pontchartrain on a trestle-work, supported on piles, and opening up a delightful location for suburban residences beyond the lake, is to push on into the iron and coal regions of Alabama. The Illinois Central Railroad Company has built a line from Jackson, Tennessee, to the south bank of the Ohio river, opposite Cairo, Illinois, bringing New Orleans as near to Chicago by rail as it is to New York, and creating an important adjunct to the system for transportation from the Northwest to the gulf and the ocean. Railroad routes along the banks of the Mississippi would give new life to such towns as Baton Rouge, the old capital of Louisiana, 129 miles from New Orleans, and Natchez in Mississippi. Baton Rouge now has no communication with New Orleans save by steamer. It is a lovely town, built on gently sloping banks crowned with picturesque houses, the ruined Gothic State Capitol, a substantial Penitentiary, and the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. It is one of the healthiest towns in the State, and with proper facilities for speedy communication with other towns, might be the seat of a flourishing trade. Routes parallel with the river would be speedily built if New Orleans had better outlets and more tonnage. Knowing this, the enterprising inhabitants of that city are anxious for the Fort St. Philip canal, which shall render the tedious and risky navigation of the passes at the Mississippi’s mouth unnecessary.
The project of the Fort St. Philip canal is not entirely due to the sagacity of this generation. Forty years ago the Legislature of Louisiana, at the suggestion of a distinguished engineer, memorialized Congress on the subject of a canal to connect the Mississippi river with the Gulf, leaving the stream a few miles below Fort St. Philip and entering the Gulf about four miles south of the island “Le Breton.” Numerous commercial conventions have endorsed it since that time. It would give, by means of a system of locks, a channel which would never be subject to the evils now disfiguring the passes at the river’s mouth, and would communicate directly with deep water. The estimated cost of the work is about eight millions of dollars. It is a national commercial necessity, and should be undertaken by the Government at once. New Orleans would more than quadruple her transportation facilities by means of this canal, not only with regard to Liverpool, Bremen, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Southampton, Havre, and Glasgow, but to New York and Philadelphia. Havana, Lima, and Aspinwall.
THE INDUSTRIES OF LOUISIANA — A SUGAR PLANTATION. THE TECHE COUNTRY.
THE main industries of Louisiana at the present time are the growth of cotton, the production of sugar, rice, and wheat, — agriculture in general, — and cattle raising. The culture of the soil certainly offers inducements of the most astonishing character, and the immigrant who purchases a small tract — five to ten acres — of land can, during the first year of possession, make it support himself and his numerous family, and can also raise cotton enough on it to return the purchase money.
Vergennes, in his memoir on La Louisiane, printed early in this century, says: “I will again repeat what I have already many times said — that Louisiana is, without doubt, by reason of the softness of her climate and the beauty of her situation, the finest country in the universe. Every European plant, and nearly all those of America, can be successfully cultivated there.” This was the verdict of one who had made a careful survey of the great province then known as Louisiana, and especially the tract now comprised in the lowlands. Rice, an important article of food, can be raised on grounds which are too low and moist for any other species of valuable vegetables, and in the Mississippi basin, rice, sugar and corn can be cultivated in close proximity. The fertility of the sugar lands is proverbial; and Louisiana is prodigal of fruit of all kinds. With but little attention orange and fig-trees prosper and bear splendid crops; apples and peaches are produced in abundance; and grape-bearing lands are to be found in all sections of the State. Sugar, cotton, rice and tobacco might all be readily cultivated on the same farm in many sections.
The cultivation of rice, introduced into Louisiana by Bienville, at the time of the founding of New Orleans, may be profitably pursued in all the “parishes,” i. e., counties, on the river and Gulf coasts, and on the high pine lands of the northern part of the State. The rice raised on the irrigated lands below New Orleans, and in the immediate proximity of the Gulf, is known as “lowland rice;” that raised elsewhere as “upland.”
The quality of the staple is constantly improving by cultivation. In 1860 the rice crop of Louisiana amounted to 6,500,000 pounds. There is no good reason why it should not now be 60,000,000. Barley and buckwheat flourish admirably in the State, and the attention given to the cultivation of wheat since the close of the war has accorded singularly gratifying results. The average yield in the hill portion of the State is fully equal to that of the Northern States, — about twelve bushels to the acre — and in the Red River Valley, where the planters were compelled to devote much of their old cotton land to the production of wheat, for the sake of getting the wherewithal to live, the yield was twenty bushels to the acre.
The wheat yearly gains largely in weight, size and color. It is said that wherever the cavalry of the United States camped in Louisiana during the war, immense grain fields sprang up from the seed scattered where horses were fed. In the swamps of Assumption parish wheat and rye have been known to yield forty bushels to the acre. The wheat may be planted in September, October, or November, and reaped late in April or early in May. Indian corn does not yield well, rarely giving over fifteen bushels to the acre. Marsh, Hungarian herbs, and prairie grasses grow in abundance and make excellent hay. Pasturage is perennial, and in the Attakapas the grazing regions are superb. Cotton may be cultivated throughout the entire arable portion of the State.
The cultivation of the sugar-cane in Louisiana merits especial mention. One of the most remunerative of industries under the slave system, it has been for some time languishing because of the disorganization of labor, and because also of the division of large plantations into small farms. For a whole year before the sugar crop is ready for the market, a constant outlay is required, and the small planters succeed but poorly, while the larger ones have been ruined by the war, and have allowed their sugar-houses to decay, and their splendid machinery to rust in ditches.
In 1751, two ships transporting soldiers to Louisiana, stopped at Hispaniola, and the Jesuits on that island sent some sugar-canes and some negroes, used to their cultivation, to the brothers of their order in the new colony. The Jesuits at New Orleans undertook the culture of the crop, but did not succeed; and it was only in 1795 that the seeds became thoroughly naturalized in Louisiana.
Up to 1816 the cultivation of the cane was confined to the lower parishes, but it is now raised with reasonable success in many other portions of the State. From 1828 to 1833, the sugar production in the commonwealth was about 280,000 hogsheads. The following table will show the amount of the crops of each year from 1834 to 1873 inclusive:
The ribbon cane planted in Louisiana was brought from Java, in a ship which touched at Charleston. It was hardy, and was at once adopted in all sections of
the State. But it is thought that it has deteriorated very much, and an association recently sent a gentleman to the islands of the Pacific Ocean and to India to search for a fresh supply. He secured some ten thousand cuttings, which were so long in transit as to be nearly all destroyed, and parties in the sugar interest are now anxious that a government vessel should be sent out to obtain a new supply.
There were, at the time of my visit to Louisiana, 1,224 sugar-houses in operation in the State, 907 of which possessed steam power. The number of large plantations is everywhere decreasing, while small farms take their place.
The coöperative system, as practiced in Martinique and other colonies, has been adopted to some extent in the State. It separates the production of cane from the manufacture of sugar, the small planters taking their cane to the sugar-houses to be worked through on shares. This is much better than the old system, which made the raising of sugar by free labor so expensive as to be almost impossible. The coöperative system will, perhaps, prevail very largely ere long, many extensive planters giving it their sanction. In 1871, there was enough labor and capital expended on the crop to have brought it up to a quarter of a million hogsheads.
The accumulated losses of the last three years have made the trade so dubious that dozens of the largest planters in the State cannot secure a cent of advances. Plantations are deserted; owners are completely discouraged. The present sugar production of this most fertile of cane-growing lands is only two per cent. of the whole production of the world. The consumption of sugars in the United States for the calendar year 1871 was 663,000 tons, of which eighty-five per cent. was foreign. The whole number of acres now devoted to the cultivation of sugar in Louisiana is estimated at 148,840, producing to the acre about 49,000 pounds of cane, or 1,500 pounds of raw sugar. To every thousand pounds of sugar there is also a yield of 666 pounds of molasses.
All the land comprised in the section known as the “Delta proper of the Mississippi River,” embracing eighteen parishes and an area of 12,000 square miles, is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of sugar-cane, as well as of cotton, corn, rice, tobacco, indigo, oranges, lemons and figs. More than half of the population of the State is settled upon this delta; and in 1860, one hundred and fifty thousand slaves were held in that section, and the total estimate of taxable property there, including the slaves, amounted to $271,017,667, more than half of the State’s entire valuation. It is not wonderful that stagnation has fallen upon this once prosperous region, since, reckoning the slaves at the average $1,000 apiece, by their liberation alone $150,000,000 of the above valuation at once vanished into thin air.
For fifty or sixty miles below New Orleans, the narrow strip which protects the Mississippi channel on either side from the gulf is crowded with plantations. The soil there is all of recent alluvial formation, and is, consequently, extremely prolific. This section may, without the least exaggeration, be called “of the best land in the world.” The rivers and bayous furnish fish and oysters of finest flavor; the earth brings forth fruit and vegetables in tropical abundance; all the conditions of life are easy; and, in addition, there is the profitable culture of sugar and rice.
The negroes themselves are making money rapidly in this section, and show much skill in managing their affairs. In many cases they were aided in purchasing their lands by their old masters, and generally go to them for advice as to speculation and conduct in crop raising. The same negro who will bitterly oppose his old master politically, will implicitly follow his advice in matters of labor and investment in which he is personally concerned.
At every turn, and on every available spot along the shore, as one drifts slowly down the lower Mississippi, one is charmed to note the picturesque grouping of sugar-houses and “quarters,” the mansions surrounded by splendid groves, and the rich fields stretching miles away towards a dark belt of timber.
Each plantation has its group of white buildings, gleaming in the sun; each its long vistas of avenues, bordered with orange-trees; for the orange and the sugar-cane are friendly neighbors. When the steamer swings around at the wharf of such a lordly plantation as that of the “Woodlands” of Bradish Johnson, or that of Effingham Lawrence, the negroes come trooping out, men and women dancing, somersaulting, and shouting; and, if perchance there is music on the steamer, no power can restrain the merry antics of the African.
The “Magnolia” plantation of Mr. Lawrence is a fair type of the larger and better class; it lies low down to the river’s level, and seems to court inundation. Stepping from the wharf, across a green lawn, the sugar-house first greets the eye, an immense solid building, crammed with costly machinery. Not far from it are the neat, white cottages occupied by the laborers; there is the kitchen where the field-hands come to their meals; there are the sheds where the carts are housed, and the cane is brought to be crushed; and, ranging in front of a cane-field containing many hundreds of acres, is a great orange orchard, the branches of whose odorous trees bear literally golden fruit; for, with but little care, they yield their owner an annual income of $25,000.
The massive oaks and graceful magnolias surrounding the planter’s mansion give grateful shade; roses and all the rarer blossoms perfume the air; the river current hums a gentle monotone, which, mingled with the music of the myriad insect life, and vaguely heard on the lawn and in the cool corridors of the house, seems lamenting past grandeur and prophesying of future greatness. For it was a grand and lordly life, that of the owner of a sugar plantation; filled with culture, pleasure, and the refinements of living; — but now!
Afield, in Mr. Lawrence’s plantation, and in some others, one may see the steam-plough at work, ripping up the rich soil. Great stationary engines pull it rapidly from end to end of the tracts; and the darkies, mounted on the swiftly-rolling machine, skillfully guide its sharp blades and force them into the furrows. Ere long, doubtless, steam-ploughs will be generally introduced on Louisiana sugar estates. Four of these stationary engines, built at Leeds, England, and supplied with water brought from the river in mule carts, suffice to do the work upon the ample plantation of Mr. Lawrence.
As to the details of plantation work, the negroes, evidently, do not attend to them with quite the thoroughness exacted under the rigid discipline of slavery. Evidences of neglect, in considerable variety, offer themselves to the critical eye. Entering the sugar-house, the amiable planter will present you to a venerable, mahogany-looking individual in garments stained with saccharine juices, and with a little tone of pride in his voice will tell you that “this is Nelson, overseer of this place, who has been here, man and boy, forty years, and who knows more about the process of sugar-making than any one else on the plantation.”
Nelson will, therefore, conduct you into the outer shed, and, while showing you the huge rollers under which the canes, when carted in from the fields in November or December, are crushed, will impress upon you the danger of early winter frosts which may baffle every hope of profit, will explain to you how difficult and how full of risks is the culture of the juicy reed, which must be nursed through twelve or thirteen weary months, and may leave but a meagre result. He will take you across the delightfully-shaded way into one of the fields, passing on the walk a cheery Chinaman wearing a smile which is seven times childlike and bland, and point you to the stalks of the cane left at the last harvest to lie all winter in the furrows and furnish young sprouts for the spring. These shapely and rich-colored stalks have joints every few inches along their whole length, from which spring out the new buds of promise. When the spring ploughing begins, these stalks are laid along the beds of the drills, and each shoot, as it makes its appearance, is carefully watched and cultured that it may produce a new cane, a great portion of the crop being thus reserved, each year, for seed.
The complaisant overseer will give you a profusion of details as to how the cane, if safe from the accidents of the seasons, is cut down at its perfection and brought to the sugar-house; how all hands, black and white, join, for many days, in “hauling” it from the fields, and then keep the mill going for a week night and day; how there is high wassail and good cheer in the intervals of the work, and every nerve is strained to the utmost for the completion of the task. He will show you the great crushers which bring the sweetness out of the fresh canes as they are carried forward upon an endless series of rollers, and will then point out the furnace into which the refuse is thrown to be burned, thus furnishing the motive power for crushing the stalks and for all the minor and subordinate mechanical details in the processes of the manufacture. The baggasse, as this refuse is called, usually furnishes steam enough for this purpose, and leaves nothing but a kind of coke in the ash-pit of the furnace; no coal being used except in the refining mill’s furnace.
Out from the crushed arteries of the cane wells a thick, impure liquid, which demands immediate attention to preserve it from spoiling; and then the clarifying process is begun and continued, by the aid of hundreds of ingenious mechanisms, whose names even you will not remember when Nelson takes you into the refinery.
You enter a set of huge chambers, the floors of which are sticky with sugar, and watch the juice passing through various processes. There are the great open trays, traversed by copper and iron steam-pipes; there are the filter-pans filled with bone dust, from which the liquid trickles down. Now it wanders through separators, and then through bone dust again, onward toward granulation in the vacuum pans, and then into coolers, where the sugar is kept in a half liquid state by means of revolving paddles, until, finally, it comes to the vessels, in which, by rapid whirlings, all the molasses is thrown out; and the molasses, leaving the dry sugar ready for commerce, goes meandering among the pipes under the floors, and round and round again through the whirling machines, until there is no suspicion of sweetness in it, and it is ignominiously discharged.
It seems a pity that such fine machinery should be in use only during one-sixth of the year, as it would be injured far less by being kept constantly running than by remaining idle. The new steam-mills are, in every point of view, so vastly superior to the old horse-mills, that they have been adopted on the greater portion of the sugar plantations, and are desired by every planter; but they are so enormously expensive, that coöperative or joint ownership is, in many cases, essential.
The division of the large plantations into small farms seems, sooner or later, inevitable; as no one owner can, under the new condition of things, make the necessary and continuous outlay. In a few years the cane now crushed at one of these immense sugar-houses in the winter months will belong, in small lots, to a hundred different men, instead of to the one aristocratic and wealthy planter, as under the old régime.
There is not a parish in Louisiana which does not offer powerful inducements to immigration; not one which will not most bitterly need it if the present political condition, which is driving the original inhabitants from their homes, is continued. Closely following upon the bloodshed in Grant parish, came a hurried, voluminous emigration of its citizens to Texas. They flocked to the new Eden in the greatest terror, seeming eager to leave their homes forever behind them. Still, these troubles must some day have an end, because, save in the final disruption of the world, there is no end to the fairy beauty and fertility of the bayou lands, or to the luxuriant vegetation of the vast plains.
The parishes bordering on the Red river are especially adapted to the staples — sugar, cotton, wheat, corn, rye and oats — and are always accessible, the river in their vicinity remaining navigable at all seasons of the year. These parishes, six in number, comprise more than 8,500 square miles of rich alluvial land, and some of the largest towns are situated in them. Shreveport, on the west bank of the river, is the second city in the State. It is now the great centre of emigration into Eastern and Northern Texas, and a line of railway is projected to it from Vicksburg, which will give it increased commercial importance.
In the parishes which comprise South-western Louisiana, there are more than 3,000,000 acres of land of almost inexhaustible fertility. The forests are composed of oak, ash, locust, pine, gum, maple, cypress, elm, willow, hickory, pecan, persimmon, dogwood, mulberry, and magnolia trees. The giant cypresses along the lakes and bayous are abundant enough to last for a century. Employment to hundreds of mills and thousands of workmen could readily be furnished, the lumber being easily floated down the innumerable bayous and along the lakes to market.
By the borders of the great desolate sea-marshes of St. Mary and Iberia runs a grand belt of timber from one to two miles wide. A western editor once said that if the Teche lands of Louisiana were in Illinois, they would bring from $300 to $500 per acre. And they could be made worth that sum in their present situation in five years from this writing by the introduction of intelligent and laborious immigrants, and by the amplification of the State’s railway system. The “Attakapas” region, as the five parishes or counties of St. Mary, Iberia, Vermilion, St. Martin and Lafayette were originally called, from the name of a tribe of Indians, is certainly seductive enough to tempt the most fastidious.
The cattle-grazing regions are as extensive as remarkable. There are seven great prairies, respectively named Grand Choiseuil, Attakapas, Opelousas, Grand Prairie, Prairie Mamon, Calcasieu, and Aubine, all covered with rich pasturage.
Thousands of cattle roam over these prairies; the population is pastoral and to a certain extent uncultivated. There are Frenchmen and Frenchwomen among them who are as remote from any active participation in the politics of the State or the country at large, as if they lived in France. Cattle and horses subsist even in the marshes, and graze the year round upon a treacherous surface, in which such animals, bred on solider ground, will instantly sink and flounder. I am not willing to vouch for the Louisiana statement that these marsh-bred cattle and horses are web-footed, though such is the affirmation. One informant assured me that a proper system of transportation from the marshes to New Orleans would develop this now almost useless section immensely. Thousands of cattle might be turned in to grow fat and bide the time when their owners should seek them for the New Orleans market. They would not even need a cowherd’s care.
All the prairies in Western Louisiana are perennially green; and upon them were once located the largest vacheries in the United States — vacheries whose owners sometimes branded five thousand calves apiece yearly. Sheep by thousands were also raised, but both these important industries seem to have largely fallen off since the war. The French paid great attention to the cattle and sheep husbandry in this section of Louisiana early in the last century, and it has been estimated by a competent authority that, allowing one animal to every five acres, more than 220,000 cattle could be annually reared and transported from the single prairie of Opelousas — a vast expanse of natural meadow. It was not uncommon for a stock raiser to possess from 30,000 to 40,000 head of cattle, and twenty-five years before the war, the stock raisers of one parish in that section owned 100,000 cattle and 30,000 horses.
There is no good reason why Louisiana should not be known in future as an extensive a cattle-raising State as her neighbor, Texas. She has nothing to fear from the dangers incurred by proximity to a foreign frontier, and there are no Indians to manifest their unconquerable longing for “raids.”
But if you wish once again to find the lost gate of Eden, if you wish to gain the promised land, if you wish to see in this rude, practical America of ours an “earthly paradise,” where life is good, because Nature has invested it with everything that is delicious and fairest; if you wish to see plantations at the height of culture — lawns as fragrant, as clean-shaven, as nobly shaded by graceful trees as any sovereign’s — seek the Teche country. It is the pearl of Louisiana; it is the gem of the South. Thither, more than a century ago, when the cruel order of the English dispersed them from their homes, Andry and the exiled Acadians took their mournful way. Thither they went, threading the swamps and wandering up the beautiful Atchafalaya, and her lakes, where
Now, as then, the traveler, pushing his way in a tiny steamer, or in a shallop or pirogue, can hear —
From Berwick’s Bay, where the rich fields lie trustingly upon the water, and strange vines and creepers seem to caress the waves, and bid them be tranquil, ascend the Teche bayou, and lose yourself in the tangled network of lake and lakelet, plain and forest, plantation and swamp. By day you shall have the exquisite glory of the sun, which, gleaming on the seigniorial residences, on the great white sugar-houses with their tall chimneys, on the long rows of cabins for the laborers, on the villas peering from orange groves and bosquets of the mespilus, makes all doubly bright and beautiful; and at evening the moon will lend her witchery to swell your surprise and admiration.
You will drift on by superb knots of shrubbery, from which sprightly birds are singing madrigals; past floating bridges and garden bowers; past ruined plantations, the wrecks of the war; past dense cypress swamps, bordered by picturesque groupings of oaks and ash and gum-trees; through that fine region stretching from the entrance of the bayou into the parish of Iberia and the town of New Iberia, where the beautiful water willows and forest trees lean forward from the banks as if to see themselves reflected in the stream; where the wheels of passing steamers rudely brush the arching foliage; where the live oak spreads its ample spray over some cool dell upon whose grassy carpet grow strange bright-hued flowers; and where vistas of forest glade — happy sylvan retreats — open as by enchantment, and moonlight makes delicious checkerwork of gleam and shadow.
Below New Iberia, on Petit Anse Island, there is a salt mine sixty feet beneath the level of the Gulf of Mexico, and you may go down through fifty-eight feet of solid rock-salt, to watch the miners pick out the crystal freight which has proved superior to any other salt found in the Southern market. Or you may penetrate the romantic country near Lake Peigneur, and even hunt the genial comedian — the noble artist who created the rôle of “Rip Van Winkle,” — in his “Orange Island” retreat.
The richness of Louisiana may perhaps be best illustrated by this same island. It is one of many in the lake, rising high above it and the surrounding prairie. It possesses delicious lawns miles in length, sloping gently southward; orange groves, which in 1868, after a neglect of ten years, produced half a million oranges; bold banks and knolls with northward outlook; and delightful sea breezes constantly blowing over the whole length and breadth of its lovely lands. On Grand Cote Island you may wander among wide fields of cotton and of corn, or you may climb steep hill-sides to find a lake of purest water high up among them, its surface covered with water lilies; or you may sit in garden bowers over which the Scuppernong grape-vines run riot, and gaze out upon the towering magnolia, the blooming cotton and the waving cane.
The forests in the parish of St. Martin, in the Teche valley, contain millions of tall, straight cypress-trees; and beyond are stretches of ash, gum, hickory, black walnut, magnolia, live, white and red oaks, linn, pecan, sycamore, and other trees. There are also here some grand estates, notably those of General Declouet, Mr. Lestrapes, and Dr. Wilkins. General Declouet’s mansion is a fine type of the old Creole house, with spacious halls and corridors, baronial dining-room, and portrait galleries from which look down the faces of a hundred ancestors. Avenues, bordered with China-trees or with pines, lead up to it; while magnolias, fig-trees, and live oaks are scattered throughout the grounds.
One finds superb forests everywhere in Louisiana. They are among the chief glories of the State. One may purchase, for an insignificant sum, a lovely natural park, with trees in it which an English duke might covet for his estate.
The oaks which stud the beautiful “City Park,” and the “race-course” grounds, in New Orleans, are exceedingly fine. City and country alike abound in the most delicious foliage.
St. Mary’s parish formerly contained 170 sugar plantations, scattered along the banks of the Teche, the Atchafalaya, and the various bayous and waterways in that section. In the same parish, 13,000 slaves were owned before the war, and more than 100 vessels plied between Franklin (a pretty, cultured town, twenty miles from Brashear) and various Northern and Southern ports. The fertile lands readily yield a hogshead of sugar to the acre, and the manufacture may begin early in November. Flooded rice-lands produce ten barrels to the acre; unflooded, six. There are orange orchards in this parish producing 3,000,000 of oranges annually. Such facts are eloquent.
Lands in certain of the parishes, not very far from towns and trade centres, can be generally purchased at from $3 to $15 per acre; those more remote are only worth $1 or $1.50 per acre. The general health of South-western Louisiana is good; there is no greater error than the common supposition in the North that the lowland climate is fatal to health. There is not a heartier or healthier population in the Union than that of South-western Louisiana; none more frank, unsuspicious and generous. Of course hostility and even ostracism, at the present time, are the lot of such as take sides for the Kellogg Government; but for him who does not take active part, no matter what his opinions may be, there is never even a harsh word. The recent operations of the “White League” in Northern Louisiana have been prompted by the extremists of the Democratic party, in the vain hope of intimidating negro’ voters, and driving out “Yankees” who are settled in some of the parishes, and who vote the Republican ticket. The assassinations of which this League has been guilty, and the proscriptive measures which it has adopted, are condemned in the strongest terms by large numbers of native Conservatives in other sections of the State, who realize that no reform is possible on the basis of an exclusive white man’s government, and who appreciate the immense harm done the material interests of the commonwealth by a revival of the old Ku-Klux tactics which once disgraced the State.
Louisiana has some few valuable minerals, and the discovery of rock-salt in Vermilion parish, and of crystalline sulphur on the Calcasieu river, has encouraged a search for others. Iron is scattered at various depths below the surface of the State south of Red river, and in some of the parishes it is so abundant as to obstruct the ploughs or the hoes of the farmers. Valuable deposits of organized peat are found in many places near the coast, and the investment of a little capital might soon develop a great industry in the preparation of this important fuel. Coal abounds in certain regions through which railway lines are already projected, and the petroleum wells in Bossier, Bienville, and Natchitoches parishes, as well as in a broad belt extending nearly to the Gulf in Calcasieu parish, promise a remarkable development. The salt region runs through five islands, ranged along the coast for about twenty miles west of the mouth of the Atchafalaya. One of these islands is 140 feet above the sea-level.
THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN LOUISIANA.
THE testimony of most of the planters in Louisiana, as elsewhere throughout the South, is that the free negro works well, and earns his wages, save when he is distracted by politics. Indeed, there are none who are willing to assert that free labor has not been a success; and the majority would prefer it to the most arbitrary days of ownership, if the State were otherwise in a settled condition.
It is, nevertheless, evident that political excitements, gotten up by adventurers with the hope of obtaining power, take the negro’s attention altogether too much from his work, and constitute a species of mild intellectual dissipation, which he thinks it vastly fine to indulge in, but which only unfits him for serious efforts at progress, and factitiously elevates him to a position directly opposed to the interests of his fellow-citizens.
Judging from conversations with great numbers of persons, there is not much hope that the equality of races will be at present recognized by the white man in Louisiana. He will not admit that the negro is at all competent to legislate for him, or to vote with him on matters of common importance to white and black.
While he has no desire to see any of the conditions of that kind of society which prevailed before the war re-established, he refuses to recognize or acquiesce in the actual condition. Having been, as he considers, doomed by the revolution, he sits haughtily tranquil, wrapped in reserve, save when he ventures to predict the downfall of the Republic, and to lament the despotism under which he asserts that he is kept. He is fond of gloomy horoscopes, and delights in announcing to the world that the precedent established in Louisiana by the Lynch returning-board and the Durell decision will yet be disastrous to New York and Massachusetts.
He is not more glad to be rid of slavery than he would be to see the last negro vanish from the soil. He is weary of the whole subject of politics; anxious for immigration, yet doubtful of its practical results; willing to guarantee, to the extent allowed by his impaired fortunes, any reasonable enterprise tending toward the commercial development of the State, but discouraged, and often-times distracted.
Impulsive, intensely individual, and extremely sensitive, he fancies that he sees fresh humiliations in the thousand changes which are but the inevitable attendants of the revolution. In the parishes, the tyranny of those who use the new political element for base purposes is constantly increasing in boldness and violence — now showing itself in an appetite for public plunder, and now in shielding from richly merited punishment some infamous scoundrel.
Sometimes the negro, annoyed and perplexed, takes the reins into his own hands, and then follow scenes of bloodshed and violence; then comes to the front the question of black versus white, and the commonwealth is, as nearly always when the Legislature is in session, convulsed to its centre. Meantime professional politicians and lobbyists constantly arrange new plans for the pacification of parties, for compromises never to be effected, and victories never to be won.
The citizens are willing and anxious to work, but all their energy, all the intense commercial ambition of New Orleans is neutralized by the incubus of a legislature which in no wise properly represents the people. The negro afield, with his sturdy family around him, cultivating the little plot which has at last become his, and the white man, with his own hand to the plough, showing that he no longer thinks labor degrading, are, to be sure, gratifying sights, which present themselves from time to time; but they are by no means so common as they would be if the State were not constantly anguish-stricken, overwhelmed with taxation and myriad debts, and hindered from making the improvements necessary to the securing of new trade and consequent prosperity.
There are in Louisiana men of brilliant and imposing eloquence; men of entrain and magnetism, who seem fashioned for leadership; and yet, strange as it may appear, who take but little interest in the affairs of their own State; who either content themselves with deriding their inferiors, or with watching chances for personal elevation by taking advantage of the weakness or insincerity of those in power. They laugh at the discomfiture of their fellows, while the house is being pulled down over their own heads. With anarchy at their doors, they refuse to take the first step toward reconciliation, or a proper understanding between the races now so equally divided as to numbers within the State limits.
In 1864 Michael Hahn was chosen first free State Governor of Louisiana. On the occasion of his inauguration, the celebrated Gilmore, then a band director in the Federal army; gave his first mammoth jubilee. Cannon roared, drums rolled, the earth shook. A constitutional convention was next held, and a constitution prohibiting slavery was a few months later adopted by the Reconstruction party. In 1865 Henry C. Warmoth was elected a delegate from the “territory” of Louisiana to the National Congress. The negroes placed him in office, and supplied him with funds. Under Banks, he had been provost judge of the parish of Orleans, and there had acquired influence over, and the confidence of, the colored voters.
In the fall of 1865 the first general election under the new State constitution was held, and the Democrats were overwhelmingly successful in all sections. They elected J. Madison Wells Governor, and at the first session of their Legislature passed several bills which placed them in direct antagonism with the colored people. Among the measures instrumental in bringing on a conflict of races was a bill for the regulation of labor, which the negroes bitterly opposed.
In 1866 a new constitutional convention was held, the members of the Radical party desiring to check the Democratic successes by remodeling the constitution. Riots occurred, in which white and black men lost their lives. This led to the appointment of a special committee of investigation by Congress, and to the inauguration of the policy of reconstruction.
In the fall of 1867 another convention met, which had been provided for by the Reconstruction Act, and in May of 1868 a thoroughly radical constitution was adopted, Henry C. Warmoth being elected Governor, and a Republican Legislature, of course largely composed of ignorant negroes, coming into power. This legislative session was occupied by petty squabbles, and by the passage of many bills in the interest of corrupt jobs. The Conservatives did not, however, yield their power without some show of resistance, and the Presidential campaign of 1868 was the occasion of much severe fighting in the State. The negroes were very shamefully intimidated, and but few of them succeeded in casting their votes for President.
However, the new party, composed of ignorant and immoral negroes, led on by reckless and greedy white adventurers, held Louisiana completely in its power, and gross frauds were perpetrated. Ignorance, captivated by the glitter of money, and misled by wily sharpers, thrust ruin in a hundred ways upon the unfortunate State. For two or three years the most scandalous plundering was indulged in. The Governor was himself disgusted with such manoeuvres, and gradually showed a leaning toward the respectable Conservatives, who now and then gathered around him. But the Conservatives had waited too long before attempting a policy of conciliation. The negroes were thoroughly estranged, and could not be persuaded to listen to anything which they might say. A division took place in the Republican party; the Legislature became hostile to Governor Warmoth, and in the summer of 1871 a new convention was held in New Orleans. Both wings of the now divided Republican party attempted to obtain control of this convention, which was held in the Custom-House. The Federal appointees in New Orleans — Mr. Casey, the collector of the port, Mr. Packard, the United States Marshal, and others — refused the opposite faction admission to the convention, the services of a company of United States infantry being secured to prevent Warmoth’s entrance.
Upon this, Warmoth and his party declared war against the Federal appointees, held an opposition convention, and even sent a committee to President Grant asking for the removal of Packard and Casey. The President disregarded this request, and Warmoth and his friends therefore opposed his re-election, Warmoth even braving the anger of the Administration by participating in the Cincinnati “Liberal” convention of 1872.
The division in the Republican ranks grew daily more pronounced, and when the time came to choose a new governor candidates were abundant. The Conservatives finally united upon John McEnery; Warmoth ran on an independent ticket, and the Federal, or “Custom-House” party, brought forward William Pitt Kellogg, the then United States Senator from the State. Mr. Kellogg had been collector of the port of New Orleans under President Johnson, and had acquired some little knowledge of Louisiana politics. He was, without doubt, beaten in the election for governor, McEnery being unquestionably elected, although it is conceded on all hands that frauds were liberally practiced by both parties.
The Conservatives, who had doubtless learned wisdom from their political experiences since the close of the war, were about to resume power, not a little glad to be freed from the contest of factions which had so long paralyzed the State, when their hopes were dashed by sudden Federal intervention.
The history of the infamy which, in the name of law, was perpetrated in New Orleans, in December of 1872, is well known to all who have taken any interest in general politics. The non-elected Legislature was placed in power by Federal bayonets, called into requisition by an order issued by a Federal judge named Durell. A returning-board which had not, and did not pretend to have the election returns before it, yet which was the only one recognized by Judge Durell, who was firm in his policy of usurpation, seated the Kellogg government, and struck a direct blow at the will of the majority. It pushed Louisiana to the very verge of ruin.
In his speech on the Louisiana bill, made before the United States Senate early in 1873, Carl Schurz has briefly summed up the whole matter in the following words. Speaking of the Legislature mentioned above, he says:
“There was, I believe, not a single one of them who was returned by a board that had the official returns of the election in its hands or had ever seen them. By virtue of what, then, were those men put in the Legislature? Not by virtue of votes, not by virtue of returns, but upon the ground of newspaper reports, of wild guesses, of forged affidavits, of the usurpation of a Federal judge, and of Federal bayonets. That was their whole title to the legislative capacity which they assumed.
“What was their first act? They impeached the Governor. Throwing aside all the forms of impeachment prescribed by law, they impeached and suspended the Governor, if a summary decree can be called impeachment and suspension. They who had not a shadow of right based upon law, upon votes, upon an election, upon legal returns, proceeded to undo one governor and to make another. That second governor was Pinchback. The National Government recognized him as the Governor of Louisiana.
“Then they proceeded to what they called the canvass of the votes in the Legislature, not canvassing legal returns of voters in any legal form, but a canvass on the ground of newspaper reports, wild guesses, and forged affidavits. What I say here is by no means an exaggerated assertion, for it is distinctly proven by the testimony, and I think it is denied by no one. Then they declared the men of their choice: Kellogg, Governor; Antoine, Lieutenant-Governor, and so on all the State officers of Louisiana.
“Thus the usurpation is consummated — a usurpation without the shadow of a law as an excuse; with nothing but fraud and force to stand upon; a usurpation palpable, gross, shameless, and utterly subversive of all principles of republican government; a usurpation such as this country has never seen, and probably no citizen of the United States has ever dreamed of. The offspring of this Legislature is the Kellogg government.”
What has been the result of this usurpation? The State has been broken down by taxation and debt; the negro has been demoralized; the principal cities and towns are impoverished.
Had the usurpation been confined within bounds, the people of Louisiana would doubtless have borne it in silence; but the usurping government was not content with ordinary measures. Possessed of arbitrary power, it proceeded to exercise it in the most odious fashion. Scarcely ninety days after the Durell decision, the judges whom, by large majorities, the people of the parish of Orleans had elected to preside over certain district courts, and who had been commissioned by Warmoth and sworn in, were unseated by force, and the candidates who had been defeated were put in their places.
This was the signal for an uprising. The incipient riot, however, was speedily quelled, and the natives of the State who did not propose to compromise their loyalty by a collision with the United States troops, stationed in New Orleans, were remanded to their condition of a subjugated class.
Resistance to taxation, which began in 1873, was pretty effectually checked by the proclamation of the President, which made such resistance dangerous. People who wish to keep in their hands what little property now remains to them are compelled in one manner or another to pay up.
New Orleans has suffered peculiarly, its taxable property being cumbered with two huge debts, that of the city itself, now estimated at about $22,500,000 and over three-fifths of the State’s various liabilities. While the city groans under such enormous taxation, it has been loaded down with grievous licenses on all trades, professions, and occupations, amounting to nearly $1,000,000 annually.
Under these burdens it is not astonishing that real estate in the city has declined from thirty to more than fifty per cent. The double public debt of the city is already more than one-fourth of its property assessment, and many times more than the value of all the available property now owned by the corporation. The annual expenditures of the city were increased from $3,767,000 in 1862, to $6,961,381 in 1872; and still mount upward. Meantime the streets remain uncared for, and the treasury is empty. Where has the money gone?
The city certificates are sold on the street at enormous discounts; the Legislature’s sessions cost the people half a million dollars yearly, instead of $100,000 as in 1860, and this also the city is compelled mainly to pay; whoever, therefore, buys property in the city of New Orleans buys with it a share of a great and discouraging public debt.
There is some hope, however, at present, for the administration of the metropolis. The economy inaugurated in 1873 will be but of small avail for a year or two, for the sums expended around the City Hall in New Orleans were so enormous that gradual reduction will not relieve the people much. The budget of 1872 provided for the payment of the sum of $229,000 to the various employes about the City Hall, or more than is annually paid to the President, Vice-President, judges of the Supreme Court, and cabinet officers of the United States, and the State officers of Louisiana. There was a veritable army of office-holders and dependents about the municipal head-quarters.
The government of the city is now entirely vested in a mayor, and seven “administrators,” respectively charged with the administration of finance, commerce, improvements, assessments, police, public accounts, and water works and public buildings. These eight gentlemen constitute what is known as the City Council, and are elected biennially at the time of the election for members of the General Assembly.
The famous Board of Metropolitan Police, created by Warmoth, is in no manner under the direction of the City Council, the administrator of the police department being merely an ex-officio member of that board. The Metropolitan Police constitute a body directed by a board controlled by the State Executive, and which is paid by taxes levied upon the city. It is in reality an armed military force which the central State Government maintains in the capital for the enforcement of its measures and the prevention of riots. Since Warmoth created it, its cost has been enormous, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly. The police expenses for the year ending October 1st, 1869, were $930,809.09; for 1870, $725,357.73; and for 1871, about $800,000. The municipality constantly threatens rebellion against the control of its action by State interference, but, meantime, that control increases in strength and extent.
The speculation in warrants, the creation of certain courts out of elements diametrically opposed to the real interests of the people of the State, are evils which are even worse than they have been represented by the injured, and for which there is no excuse. The Federal Government may and should protect the freedman in the rights given him by the revolution consequent on the war; but it should not permit the use of ignorant masses of negroes as stepping-stones to tyrannical, centralized power; it should not allow interlopers to array the black freedman against the white freeman, under any pretense whatsoever.
To give an account of the condition of the State finances is somewhat difficult. It was stated, in 1872, that the amount of the actual funded and unfunded debt was between $24,000,000 and $25,000,000; that the contingent liabilities amounted to $5,483,602; and that the amount of bonds “authorized” by the Legislature, but not yet issued, was $10,770,000, making a total of actual, contingent, and prospective liability which is far from cheering, especially as from 1860 to 1871 the valuation of property in the State decreased from $435,000,000 to $250,000,000.
With the possibility of a war of races constantly thrusting forward its ugly head, it is easy to perceive how industrial development is hindered and capital frightened away; it is easy to see how passions which should long since have become extinct still smoulder, and are ready at a moment’s warning to burst forth into anarchy and chaos.
It is now and then asserted that corruption, consequent upon despair and disgust, has affected the ranks of the native born citizens; and that there have been cases where even they have crowded the lobbies of the hybrid legislature in the interests of corporations. This seems hardly credible, when it is remembered that the masses of the conservative citizens vehemently assert that the returning-board which established that legislature in power had no official statements in its possession on which to base its conclusion, and since they are supported in their assertion by the declaration of a Committee of the United States Senate that the Lynch returning-board’s canvass “had no semblance of integrity.”
A visit to Mechanics’ Institute, the seat of the Kellogg Legislature, during the session, is a curious experience. At the doors stand negro policemen, armed with clubs and revolvers; and crowds of blacks obstruct the passage-ways. Mounting a staircase covered with old, tobacco stained matting, one finds himself in the House of Representatives, where sit the law-makers with their feet upon their desks. Nearly all the honorable members are black; some of them are so completely ignorant that they cannot follow the course of debate. But all are so drilled by the adventurers who control them that their opposition to anything likely to better the present horrible political condition is firm and determined. There are also many blacks in the Senate. When a colored man is in the chair, he is always falling into profound errors with regard to his rulings and decisions. He finds it difficult to follow the course of any bill the moment half-a-dozen members are speaking of it, and constantly submits to corrections and suggestions from some lean white man, dressed in new clothes, who smiles contemptuously, as, from a carpet-bag point of view, he superintends this legislative farce. And this scene has been enacted for six weary years — the State meantime sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss of crushing taxation. It is not wonderful that “White Leagues,” in opposition to negro government, are springing up throughout Louisiana.
Here are some instances which will show how greatly property has decreased in value under the present crushing taxation and wholesale plundering.
A gentleman in New Orleans was, some time since, offered a loan of $6,000 on the security of certain real estate owned by him. He did not then need the money; but recently went to the capitalist and said, “I will now accept your kind offer.” Said the capitalist, “I would not now lend you $600 on the property. It is worth nothing as security. No property in the city, in the current condition of politics, is worth anything.”
A gentleman who purchased, a short time before the war, a finely wooded estate in a rich section of Louisiana, for $100 in gold per acre, informed me that he had tried repeatedly to borrow upon the security of that estate, and that he could not get any one to lend a sum equivalent to one dollar per acre on it.
Some three years ago a prominent capitalist was addressed by a citizen of Louisiana, who represented that a great many rich estates could be purchased in various sections of the commonwealth for at least one-third of their original value; and added, as an inducement to speedy decision, that he did not think property would ever be lower in Louisiana. The capitalist replied that he differed with his much esteemed friend; that in a few years those estates would, by the various derangements consequent on the then predominant legislation, be reduced to almost no value whatever, and that he was therefore determined to wait.
During a visit to New Orleans, in March of 1874, my attention was called to a number of notable instances of the rapid decline of property. One gentleman pointed out a house which, in 1868, he would have been glad to purchase for $12,000; a little later it was sold for $8,000; then for $6,000, and now no one could be found to take it at $4,000. Many houses are given rent free to persons who will occupy them, that they may not be allowed to fall into decay. The sheriff is the prosperous man in New Orleans. His office has been made worth $60,000 yearly.
The annual session of the Legislature, fortunately limited by the Constitution to sixty days, is a terrible trial. The state government cannot be depended upon. Earnest men, on the conservative side, are deterred from conciliatory action by the insincerity of those in power. At one time the dominant party seemed really desirous of inaugurating reform in the management of certain affairs, and called for a committee of investigation to be composed of the property-holders. But as, at nearly the same time, it voted away $500,000 worth of State bonds for a doubtful enterprise, the property-holders could not be made to believe that there was, in truth, any desire for “retrenchment” and “reform.”
Time and time again the legislature which the Federal Government placed in power in Louisiana has sworn in as members men whom the returning-boards did not even pretend had been elected; and these men have been allowed to sit as representatives of people whom they have never seen.
One of the worst features of the situation in Louisiana is the entire absence of the intelligent and well-to-do negroes from politics there. It is only the rascals and the dubious who get into power; and they are more terrible than the white rogues. They practice all the vices in the calendar; they take the thousands of dollars diverted from their proper channels, and lavish them upon abandoned white women; they enrich themselves and boast of it.
The present condition of the educational system of Louisiana is encouraging, although disfigured by evils which arise from the political disorganization. The State superintendent of education, at the time of my visit, was a mulatto gentleman of evident culture — seeming, indeed, quite up to the measure of his task, if he only had the means to perform it. He could not tell me how many schools were in operation in the State; nor how much the increase had been since the war. There was, he explained, the greatest difficulty in procuring returns from the interior districts, even the annual reports being forwarded tardily, or sometimes not at all. The school-tax has heretofore been two mills on the dollar, but it is to be raised to one-fourth of one per cent. The State is in six divisions, one of which comprises New Orleans, and there is a superintendent for each division.
There are now in Louisiana 291,000 youth between the ages of six and twenty-one; and it is fair to presume that at least one-half of them are children of colored parents, since the population of Louisiana is pretty equally divided into white and black. The Legislature appropriates half a million dollars yearly for the use of the schools, of which about seven-eighths is annually expended. There are a few mixed schools now in the State, although the mingling of colors has not been insisted upon.
Great numbers of private schools have sprung into existence, especially in New Orleans, where the predominant religion is the Catholic; and the Germans have shown their fear of mixed schools by establishing special schools for their own children. The Catholic clergy in New Orleans have not gone so far as to forbid the attendance of children of Catholic parents in the public schools; but the organ of that clergy announced, some time since, that the poverty, and not the will of the parties, acceded the permission to attend secular schools. Immense progress has certainly been made since the war. In 1868, when the real work of school reform in the State began, there was no supervision whatever exercised over school funds, and millions of dollars were uselessly squandered. There were then less than one hundred public schools in the entire State. But it was estimated at the first educational convention ever held in Louisiana, which met in New Orleans, in 1872, that there were at that time 1,100 schools in operation, with nearly 100,000 pupils. The old system, or lack of system, had had most painful results. There were no means of obtaining proper reports; there was no certainty that the few teachers who were employed did their duty.
The present school-law is well adapted to the condition and wants of the State. There is one ugly fact in the way of progress in the interior of the commonwealth, and that is, as asserted by the superior officials, that the money appropriated to the different parishes for school funds, has, in many cases, never been used for schools; and prosecution of officers supposed to have retained that money is of but small avail. There are ostensibly parish boards of school directors in office in every section of the State; but they do not all perform their duty.
The school-law provides for the maintenance of a proper normal department; and good teachers are yearly sent out therefrom. New Orleans now has about seventy public schools, and a little more than $700,000 invested in school property. The teachers in those schools exclusively attended by white children are all white; in the few mixed schools there are some colored teachers. The superintendent said that it would not do to insist upon mixed schools in remote districts, as the people would in that case refuse to have any school at all.
The Louisiana State University, temporarily located at Baton Rouge until its new buildings at Alexandria are completed, is a struggling institution, which needs and merits much aid from richer States; and an agricultural college and a system of industrial schools have been projected. The colored children in the public schools manifest an earnestness and aptitude which amply demonstrates their claim to be admitted to them. People in all sections have ceased grumbling at the “school-house taxes,” and that in itself is a cheering sign.
“HO FOR TEXAS!” — GALVESTON.
ONE of the saddest sights in New Orleans or Galveston is the daily arrival of hundreds of refugees from the older Southern States, seeking homes on the Texan prairies. The flood of emigration from South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia is formidable, and turned the tide of politics in Texas, in a single year, from Republican flood to Democratic ebb. Old men and little children, youths and maidens, clad in homespun, crowd the railway cars, looking forward eagerly to the land of promise. The ignorance of these poor people with regard to the geography of the country in general, is dense. “I never traveled so much befo’,” is a common phrase; “is Texas a mighty long ways off yet?” The old men, if one enters into conversation with them, will regale him with accounts of life in their homes “befo’ the surrender.” With them, everything dates from the war, leaving the past irrevocably behind its yawning gulf, while in front there is only poverty — or flight.
The route from New Orleans to Brashear City is, in the delightful months of April and May, one of the most beautiful in the South. The railroad which connects at Brashear City with the Morgan steamers sailing to Galveston, and along which the tide of emigration constantly flows, traverses weird forests and lofty cane-brakes, and passes over bayous, swamps, and long stretches of sugar plantations.
Crossing the Mississippi by the great railroad ferry to Algiers, the traveler soon leaves behind the low, green banks, studded with neat, white houses embowered in a profusion of orange groves; and is borne out of sight of the black lines of smoke left upon the cloudless sky by the funnels of the river steamers. He passes Bayou des Allemands, and a low country filled with deep, black pools; hurries across the reedy and saturated expanse of Trembling Prairie, dotted with fine oaks; rattles by Raceland, and its moist, black fields, to La Fourche Bayou, on which lies the pretty, cultivated town of Thibodeaux.
He next passes Chacahoula swamp, a wilderness of shriveled cypresses and stagnant water; Tigerville, with its Indian mounds; the rich Bœuf country, along the banks of whose lovely bayou lie wonderful sugar lands, once crowded with prosperous planters, but now showing many an idle plantation. He passes immense groves, from the boughs of whose trees thousands of Spanish moss beards are pendent; and through which long and sombre aisles, like those of a cathedral, open to right and left. He wonders at the presence of the bearded moss on all the trees, and his commercial eye perhaps suggests that it be made available in upholstery; but he is told that the quaint parasite already does good service as the scavenger of the air.
At Brashear City he finds a steamer for Texas at the fine docks built by the enterprising proprietor of the “Morgan line,” and notes, as he passes out to the blue waters of the Gulf, the richness of the vegetation along the shores of the inlet. An afternoon and a night — and he is in Galveston.
The coast line of Texas, bordering upon the Gulf of Mexico from Sabine Pass to the Rio Grande, — from the Louisiana boundary to the hybrid, picturesque territory where the American and Mexican civilizations meet and conflict, is richly indented and studded with charming bays. Trinity, Galveston, West, Matagorda, Espiritu Santu, Aransas, and Corpus Christi harbors, each and all offer varied possibilities for future commerce. The whole coast, extending several hundred miles, is also bordered by a series of islands and peninsulas, long and narrow in form, which protect the inner low-lying banks from the high seas.
- City. The writer takes this occasion to acknowledge his indebtedness to Secretary Hester of the Cotton Exchange of New Orleans, and to Mr. Parker of the Picayune, for many interesting details in this connection; to Hon. Charles Gayarré for access to historical portraits; and to Collector Casey and his able deputy, Mr. Champlin, for reference to official statistics. — King’s note.
- Grand total.
The collection district, of which New Orleans is the chief port,
embraces all the shores, inlets, and waters within the State of
Louisiana east of the Atchafalaya, not including the waters of the
Teche, of the Ohio river, or the several rivers and creeks emptying into
it, or of the Mississippi or any of its tributaries except those within
the State of Mississippi. The district extends on the coast from the
western boundary of Mississippi, on Lake Borgne, to the Atchafalaya; and
the ports of delivery, to which merchandise can be shipped under
transportation bond, are as follows: Bayou St. John and Lake Port, in
Louisiana; Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville, in Tennessee;
Hickman and Louisville, in Kentucky; Tuscumbia, in Alabama; Cincinnati,
in Ohio; Madison, New Albany and Evansville, in Indiana; Cairo, Alton,
Quincy, Peoria and Galena, in Illinois; Dubuque, Burlington and Keokuk,
in Iowa; Hannibal and St. Louis, in Missouri, and Leavenworth, in
Kansas. The shipment of merchandise, under transportation bond, has
increased steadily from $1,736,981 in 1866 to $5,502,427 in 1872; the
value of merchandise imported, from $10,878,365 to $20,006,363; and
domestic exports, from $89,002,141 to $95,970,592, in the same period.
The total value of the merchandise imported during those years is
$102,305,014; the total of domestic exports amounted to $608,871,013,
and the whole amount of revenue collected, to $35,140,906.
The receipts from customs at New Orleans for 1872 were very much diminished by the large shipments of goods in bond to the interior cities of Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cairo, St. Louis, Chicago, etc., the duties on which were collected at those ports respectively. From 1866 to 1872 inclusive, the movement of the port included 2,852 foreign vessels, with a tonnage of 1,547,747 tons, and 1,773 American ships, with a tonnage of 1,100,492. The revenue receipts at New Orleans have been largely diminished by the removal of the duties on coffee — the importations of that article during the seven years following 1866 amounting to 155,953,213 pounds, valued at $16,511,602. The magnitude of the trade of the port may also be well illustrated by showing the importations of sugar and railroad iron for the same time. Of the former article there were imported 263,918,978 pounds, worth $14,531,960, and of the latter 480,043 tons, valued at $15,299,642. King’s note.
- Distinctly visible. For these and many other interesting details, the writer gratefully acknowledges his obligations to Major C. W. Howell, Captain of United States Engineers, and to Captain Frank Barr, United States Revenue Marine. King’s note.
- Thin air. The census of 1870 gives Louisiana 732,731 population, of whom 364,210 were blacks. The population of New Orleans in 1870 was nearly 200,000. King’s note.
Text prepared by:
- Bruce R. Magee
King, Edward. The Great South: A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. Hartford, Conn.: American, 1875. Archive.org. Web. 16 June 2017. <https:// archive.org/ details/ great south areco00 kinggoog> .