1856 Observations of Georgia by Frederick Law Olmsted
 
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
AMERCAN NOTES: TRAVELS IN AMERICA
1750-1920
 
A JOURNEY IN THE SEABOARD SLAVE STATES
BY FREDERICK LAW OLMSTED
 
LOWELL COTTON 1856

The greater part of Georgia is abundantly provided with running water, frequently affording excellent milling power. The mineral wealth of the State is said, by geologists, to be very great, but is, at present, almost entirely undeveloped, except in gold, which is somewhat extensively mined, without much profit. More attention has been given to manufacturing--thus far, with but indifferent success; but I cannot doubt that, if the same judgment, skill, and close scrutiny of details, were given to cotton manufacturing, that is now evidently applied to the management of rail-roads in Georgia, it would be well rewarded. The cost of the raw material must be from ten to twenty per cent. less than in Massachusetts, yet I saw Lowell cottons, both fine and coarse, for sale, almost under the roof of Georgia factories. Cotton goods manufactured in Georgia are sent to New York for sale, and are there sold by New York jobbers to Georgia retailers, who re-transport them to the vicinity in which the cotton was grown, spun, and wove, to be sold, by the yard or piece, to the planter. I saw the goods, with the mill marks, and was informed that this was the case, by a Georgia merchant.

Land-rent, water-power, timber, fuel, and raw material for cotton manufacturing, are all much cheaper in Georgia than in New England. The only other item of importance, in estimating the cost of manufacturing, must be the cost of labor, which includes, of course, the efficiency of the laborers. By the census, it appears that the average wages of the female operatives in the Georgia cotton factories was, in 1850, $7.39 a month; in Massachusetts, $14.57 a month.

Negroes were worth $180 a year, and found in clothes, food, and medical attendance, by the hirer, to work on rail-roads, when I was in Georgia. The same year, a Georgia planter, being hard pressed, sent to New York, for Irish laborers to work on his plantation--hiring them, probably, at $10 a month, and found in food only, losing their own time when ill--a very significant fact. New England factory-girls have been induced to go to Georgia to work in newly-established cotton factories, by the offer of high wages, but have found their position so unpleasant--owing to the general degradation of the laboring class--as very soon to be forced to return.

A correspondent of the Charleston News, writing from Sparta, Georgia, July, 1855, says:
 
 
 
"A large cotton factory has been in operation here about three years, but is now about being closed, and to-day will probably terminate its existence. It unpleasantly reminded us of a fate of a similar enterprise which so signally failed, after a brief career, in our own city. Why is it so? It would seem to be reasonable, at least that, surrounded with the raw material, unencumbered with the cost of transportation to Northern cities, Southern manufactories should not only compete, but successfully maintain a higher position than those so far removed from the cotton-growing region. But so it is, with few exceptions, our own Graniteville being among them."

In the "Southern Commercial Convention," which met at New Orleans, this year (1855), one of the orators distinguished himself by his splendid delivery of the following sublime passage, adapted for the occasion from the speech in the British Parliament, on taxes, which we have all seen in the "Child's First Speaker:"

"It is time that we should look about us, and see in what relation we stand to the North. From the rattle with which the nurse tickles the ear of the child born in the South, to the shroud that covers the cold form of the dead, everything comes to us from the North. We rise from between sheets made in Northern looms, and pillows of Northern feathers, to wash in basins made in the North, dry our beards on Northern towels, and dress ourselves in garments woven in Northern looms; we eat from Northern plates and dishes; our rooms are swept with Northern brooms, our gardens dug with Northern spades, and our bread kneaded in trays or dishes of Northern wood, or tin; and the very wood which feeds our fires is cut with Northern axes, helved with hickory brought from Connecticut and New York."

This state of things another gentleman--who, also, thought Slavery the most economical labor-system in the world--proposed to remedy as follows:

"Resolved, That this Convention recommend to each of the Southern States to encourage the establishment of a direct trade with Europe. either by an exemption from taxation, for a limited time, on the goods imported; or by allowing the importers an equivalent drawback or bounty; or by such other mode as, to the legislators of the respective States, may seem best.

"Resolved, That to further this great object, Congress be recommended to make such appropriations for deepening the inlets to harbors, and other purposes, as may be deemed necessary."

Fifty other, at least, equally puerile propositions were gravely listened to; but not one man dared to insinuate that Slavery had ever done any harm to the South, or to suggest that anything should be done about it, except to maintain and extend it.

And to this school of statesmanship the "Democratic" party, year after year, is obliged to surrender its power.

"With men we will get money, and with money we will get men."
 
 

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