Page images

The state was not in the true cotton belt; the yield per acre was but three-fifths that in Alabama and less than half that in Mississippi.1 Its advance in cotton production in the decade 1850-1860 was but eighteen per cent; in Mississippi it was one hundred and forty-six per cent. It is true that the sea - island cotton of South Carolina and Georgia had a special value, but of this the South Carolina production rarely exceeded seven thousand bales.

It is not unfair to suppose that some of the strength of the secession movement in South Carolina was due to a vain hope of recovering something of her former prosperity by being free to import African slaves. But causes deeper than those mentioned lay at the root of South Carolina's decadence. In 1775, when her exports of rice and indigo were valued at over one million pounds, she was one of a fringe of colonies on the Atlantic seaboard, and she was one of the few which raised specialties for export. There was no "back country" except that given over to the Indian and the buffalo. But when population crossed the mountains, and great states grew northwest and west of her, she could have little share in that trade on account of the barrier of mountains and because the others had their own natural commercial ports of Mobile and New Orleans. The Mississippi was the highway of the West until railroads found their 1 U. S. Seventh Census (1850), Compendium, 178.



[ocr errors]

way west over the easier routes of the North, and New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore took the trade because ships could load both ways. Charleston ceased to import, as she once did, for the northern trade, and found herself with deserted wharves. No additions of slaves, no efforts of masters, could have prevented such a change. Charleston was left aside, with nothing to carry outward except South, Carolina's own comparatively limited production. The deep discontent with conditions which no efforts on their part could, to any great extent, have overcome ripened into sullen dissatisfaction with the Union, at whose door was laid the cause, instead of at that of nature.




'HE civil war in Kansas was ending, and the


territory was certain to be one of the free states which, by the admission of Minnesota and Oregon, now numbered eighteen as against fifteen slave states-Delaware and Maryland were not dependent on slavery, and four others, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, had large areas where the slaves were so few that there was no positive and insistent pro-slavery feeling. There was still a wide-spread and powerful Union sentiment throughout all parts of the South, except in South Carolina, though even there it was far from unknown.

The Whig party, which had been the stronghold of Unionist feeling, had now as a party disappeared, its following in the South finding refuge in the ephemeral organization known as "Americans" or

Know-Nothings," and many of the northern Whigs drifting to the new Republican party, a name which to the South, unfortunately and incorrectly, was the synonym of abolitionist. New England

was now solidly Republican; New York elected a Republican governor in 1858, and Pennsylvania in 1859 for the first time left the Democratic ranks. Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota were Republican. Maryland elected a "Know-Nothing" governor, Hicks, in 1858. Houston left the Senate to become governor of Texas. Quitman, who for seven years had been a firebrand, had died in July, 1858. Alexander H. Stephens was no longer in Congress. Leaving Washington, March 5, 1859, he stood at the stern of the boat gazing at the Capitol. A friend remarked, "I suppose you are thinking of coming back to these halls as a senator." Stephens replied: "No, I never expect to see Washington again, unless I am brought here as a prisoner of war," a prophecy which was to be fulfilled.1

October 17, 1859, the country was startled by the news of the seizure, the previous night, of the United States arsenal at Harper's Ferry, and the domination of the village by a small body of men led by John Brown, whose name was already known throughout the Union by a series of bloody exploits in Kansas, ending in the summer of 1858 with a raid into Missouri to free some slaves."

Born at Torrington, Connecticut, in 1800, reared in the Western Reserve in northern Ohio, in his father's occupation as a tanner; married at twenty years


1 Johnston and Browne, Stephens, 348.

2 Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. xi.

[ocr errors]

and again at thirty-three; the father of twenty children, thirteen of them by his second wife; by turns tanner, farmer, land surveyor, wool dealer, cattle drover, sheep raiser, a migrant for years between Ohio and Massachusetts, and always unsuccessful in his affairs, he finally, after a ruinous visit to Europe in 1849 to sell wool, settled his family, but not himself, on a small farm in the Adirondacks, at North Elba, Essex County, New York. It was in this region that Gerrit Smith, a large-hearted philanthropist, had given farms to a considerable number of colored people, though a region where Indiancorn would not ripen and stock had to be fed six months in the year was wholly unfitted by climate and production to the negro race. It was among these that Brown established himself somewhat as an adviser and helper, and no doubt also because he obtained a home for his family under favorable conditions.

Brown himself states that he became an abolitionist during the War of 1812, through witnessing the maltreatment of a colored boy, a slave.1 It is not surprising, with his intensity of character, that as early as 1839 he had decided upon some such course as was taken in 1859. He seems to have kept this steadily in view and to have looked upon his whole family as instruments in the cause." Coming of Puritan stock, he inherited the intense

1 Sanborn, John Brown, 12-17.

'Sanborn, in Atlantic Monthly, XXXV., 21 (January, 1875).


« PreviousContinue »