Page images
PDF
EPUB

ing of cotton, rice, sugar, hemp, and tobacco. Its population is estimated to exceed ten millions. Its commercial emporium, the city of New Or. leans, which in 1840 had a population of 102,193, is rapidly advancing in trade, and the exports of its principal staples, cotton and tobacco, have doubled in ten, and those of sugar and molasses, in five years. The lead trade of Galena, Wisconsin, and lowa, in 1845, amounted to 700,000 pigs. It is alleged, indeed, that the valley of the Mississippi furnishes one-half of the domestic products of the country. One-half of those products reach the sea-board by the lakes, by the Pennsylvania and Ohio canals, and other channels of transportation ; while the other half is sent by New Orleans, Mobile, and other southern ports. The imports to the west are effected through the same channels, the lighter and more costly articles of merchandise being imported by the lakes, or by the canals of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and the railroads of Maryland, and the heavier arti. cles being received by the southern route. According to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, the domestic exports from New Orleans and Mobile, in 1844, amounted to..

$39,348,929 The domestic exports by the lakes may be set down at... 35,000,000 Those by the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other routes, at 10,000,000 Total.....

$84,348,928 It appears, also, from statistical tables which have been prepared at New Orleans, that from the 1st of September, 1844, to the 31st of August, 1845, the receipts of the principal staples from the interior amounted to the sum of fifty-seven millions one hundred and ninety-seven thousand one hundred and twenty-two dollars. There are large imports made on account of the trade with New Mexico, as well as the fur trade with the Indians, and army and Indian supplies. Upon the supposition that an equal amount of exports was made through the lakes, we have an aggre. gate value of one hundred and fourteen millions three hundred and ninetyeight thousand two hundred and forty-four dollars; and, according to a statement before us, the commerce of the valley amounts to the aggregate sum of between two hundred and fifty and three hundred millions of dol. lars.

The extent of this commerce may be adjudged from the fact that there are about twelve or fifteen hundred vessels employed in its prosecution, exclusive of keelboats, barges, and flatboats. There are more than four hundred vessels plying upon the lakes, including steamers, ships, and brigs, and on the waters of the Mississippi, there were, in 1843, six hundred and seventy-two steamboats; while it appears by a report which is also now before us, that there are at present employed in the navigation of the riv. ers of the valley of the Mississippi, more than seventeen hundred boatmen, exclusive of the flat and keelboat-men, which would swell the number to about three thousand four hundred. It is estimated that there are six hundred flatboats upon the western waters. There are also fifty-six steamboats upon the lakes, and nineteen steam propellers, which were constructed at the cost of about three millions of dollars; and the extent of the lake coast furnishes a channel for the transportation of the products of the industry of a population amounting to about three millions. The subjoined amount of steamboat tonnage was enrolled and licensed at the respective districts, according to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury for 1844:VOL. XV.NO. I.

5

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Total........

....144,150 The improvement of the navigation of the western waters by the general government, is a subject which has often been brought before the cognizance of Congress, and has received the favorable attention of that body. In the “ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States, northwest of the river Ohio,” it is declared that “the navigable waters leading into the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence, and the carrying places between the same, shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said territory, as to the citizens of the United States, and those of any other states that may be admitted into the Confederacy, without any tax, duty, or impost, therefor.” The principal rivers of that portion of the country are obstructed to a greater or less extent, by “snags, sawyers, sunken logs and stumps,” and the business of improving them is entrusted to the topographical bureau at Washington, and to topographical officers as superintendents of the work. There are, doubtless, annually occurring severe losses, arising from the wrecking of boats upon the western waters--losses which devolve upon individuals as well as insurance companies; and, from the increasing amount of commerce which is prosecuted upon the western waters, they are liable every year to be augmented. If the removal of those obstacles upon these riv. ers is to be undertaken at all by the general government, we think that the work should be vigorously prosecuted, although it is a labor which will, doubtless, require years for its successful accomplishment. Considerable progress has been already made in the improvement of the river and lake navigation and defences of the West, and we trust that it may

be rapidly advanced.

Connected with the objects of the convention, a report was also made upon the agriculture of the South. It was alleged in this report, that the planters of that part of the country, were in somewhat a depressed condition, in consequence of the over-production of their great staple, the cotton plant. It maintains that a general disposition had been manifested on the part of those planters, to embark their capital and enterprise in the production of this staple, to the too general neglect of other species of cultivatiort. The extraordinary state of facts was accordingly presented, that they had by their policy overstocked the markets of the world with cotton, and had thus diminished its price, while they had purchased their supplies of meat and bread from abroad. The mode of remedying this surplus of production, as recommended in the report, is to diminish the amount of the cotton crop, so as not to exceed the demand, and thus es. ercise the power of regulating the price. It was also recommended that if the crop was thus to be reduced, some other direction should be given to the surplus capital and industry of that part of the Union, and that those might be properly invested in manufactures. The extension of manufacturing establishments through the South, it was maintained, would not only diminish the foreign market for cotton, by promoting its domestic consumption, but that it would advance the interests of southern mechanics, and promote the exchange of the raw material of the cotton-growing states, for its own fabrics, at a low price.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

It was accordingly proposed in the report for the southern planters to form a compact, agreeing upon some definite ratio for the annual diminution of the cotton crop, for a term of years, until they should be relieved from their embarrassments by a satisfactory demand for their great staple. It was also proposed to apply the capital and labor thus diverted from the production of cotton, to the extension of manufacturing establishments, and that they should encourage every new market for the consumption of the raw material. The production of an abundance of provisions, and every species of grain and stock, was likewise recommended for the use of the plantations, and the substitution of the “comfort” for the woollen blanket, as an article of economy, upon the ground that it is more appropriate to the use of the negroes. It was finally resolved that the more frequent formation of agricultural societies in the Southern States, together with a more liberal patronage of agricultural periodicals, on the part of planters, would tend to advance the agricultural interest, and effectually promote the prosperity of the South.

We have presented this brief view of the resources and commerce of the South and West, because they constitute a most prominent field of American enterprise. They must yield a vast surplus of products, to seek its markets either in our own country or abroad. With the rapid increase of the population by domestic and foreign immigration, and the advance of its agricultural and commercial enterprise, with their great staples of export, they now exercise a most important influence both upon foreign and domestic trade. In fact, the Mississippi valley alone contains the greater portion of the population of the nation; and while cities and villages are rapidly springing up along the shores of its lakes and rivers, as well as in every part of the interior, extensive colonies of emigrants are scattering themselves through the plains of Oregon and Texas, thus further extending the field of wealth, industry and commerce.

Art, WII.-APPLICATION OF STEAM TO THE PADDLE.WHEEL AND PROPELLER,

To THE EDITOR of THE MERCHANTs' MAGAZINE AND commeRCIAL REview:—

ALTHough it has generally been admitted that John Fitch was the first —certainly in this country—who successfully applied steam to propel boats, yet the honor of inventing side-wheels with buckets, has been attributed to Robert Fulton; in fact, all the honors of an original inventor have been heaped on Fulton, while poor Fitch was left to die in poverty, viewed as a madman, by the savans of New York and Philadelphia, headed, in the latter place, even by Doctor Franklin, who, it is said, demonstrated, to his own satisfaction, that there was as much resistance, to get the paddle out of the water, as there was force acquired by its entrance into, and hold on the water. On a former occasion I had the pleasure to vindicate the claim of the late Colonel John Stevens, of Hoboken, N.J., as the first in this country, and I believe in Europe, who successfully applied steam to propel wheel carriages on iron rails, by the adhesion of the locomotive invented by him in the year 1812. At length, a living witness has come forward, in the person of John Hutchins, of Williamsburg, (L. I.) New York, to prove, by a map of the Collect Pond, in the city of New York, and drawings of the ong-boat used in the same in 1796–7, that Fitch was the original inventor, both of the propeller, screw, and side paddle-wheel. It appears that Fulton and Livingston were on board the boat with Hutchins, then quite a young man, who acted as steersman. Mr. Hutchins, over his signature, on the map alluded to, has given a description of the boat and its engine, with both the screw and the side paddle-wheel, used by Fitch in the presence of Fulton and Livingston. They are represented as on board the long-boat, Fitch at their side, with an iron pot for a boiler, holding from ten to twelve gallons of water, covered by plank, secured by an iron bar, the walking beam playing into two wooden iron-bound barrels, connecting rod, force-pump, &c. With all the simplicity and efficiency of this engine, it would appear that only such master spirits as Livingston and Fulton could appreciate its power, and its eventual success. Fulton, to save himself from ridicule at home, made his first attempt in France, on the Seine, 1801. It was after the death of Fitch, in Kentucky, on the banks of the Ohio, that Fulton, aided by the liberal purse of Livingston, ventured on the Hudson, 1807, with the Clermont, propelled, in the first instance, at less speed than the clumsy boats of Fitch on the Collect and on the Delaware. It is a fact not generally known, that Fulton and Livingston attempted to stop the use of steam on the Delaware, claiming to be the original inventors. The cause was tried before the Legislature of New Jersey. Colonel Aaron Ogden exposed their pretensions. The case was decided against Fulton—he took cold, returning home, from wet and exposure, and soon after died. Mr. Hutchins gives a short sketch of Fitch's biography. The date of his birth, at Windsor, Connecticut, is not given. It appears he was first a farmer's boy, then an apprentice to a watchmaker. After the death of his father, he emigrated to Trenton, N. J., where he kept store. The store, with its contents, valued at $3,000, was destroyed by the British, when they took that place. He then entered the United States army, a lieutenant, and was taken prisoner by the northwestern Indians, from whom he was redeemed by a British officer. He made a map of the country, which he struck off on a cider-press. We find him afterwards a surveyor in Kentucky, then an engineer in Pennsylvania. It is stated that it was in 1785 Fitch conceived the project of making a vessel to be propelled by the force of condensed vapor. When the idea first occurred to him, he states he did not know there was such a thing as a steam-engine in existence. It appears he applied to Congress for aid; a committee was appointed; he was foiled, and there the matter dropped. In 1786, he communicated his plans to Voight, an ingenious mechanic in Philadelphia, afterwards in the mint, who approved his plan, and promised assistance. Between June and August, 1786, Fitch constructed a model, which worked to his satisfaction. He at length, by unwearied exertions, and probably to get rid of “the crazy man,” got twenty persons to take shares of fifty dollars each, and then applied to the Legislature of Pennsylvania for further aid. A letter which he wrote on this subject to Governor Mifflin, 1787, shows how sanguine were his anticipations. He reckons, “confidently, on a speed of seven to eight miles an hour, and on being able to navigate the sea, as well as rivers.” In 1787, he tried his boat on the Delaware, but the engine was inadequate. In May, 1788, with a smaller boat and the same engine, he made a trip to Burlington, N. J. Success seemed to have crowned his exertions, when the boiler sprung a leak. In October of the same year, he

made a passage from Philadelphia to Burlington, twenty miles, in three hours and ten minutes, and others at nearly the same rate. In June, 1789, a larger cylinder was tried, but without much improvement in speed. In 1790, the boat was again altered. She performed well, and it is stated the business of the summer was profitable. In the meantime, Fitch was principally engrossed in legal proceedings for the security of a patent. His claims were contested by Rumsey. What were the real merits of Rumsey, we shall not undertake to determine. A boat on his plan was tried in London, and failed. Fitch gained his patent, but it was never attended with any pecuniary advantage. The last struggle of the Perseterance, (aptly named,) was in 1791, and she was consigned to a neglected old age in Kensington docks. He filled several manuscript books with a personal and general narrative, which he bequeathed to the Philadelphia Library, with the proviso that they were to remain closed for thirty years. He appeared determined that one generation should pass, ere he submitted his reputation to the trial of human opinion. A writer in the Herald justly observes, “Of the boldness of his conception, and the perseverance with which he followed it up, there can be but one opinion; and had fortune seconded his efforts, and his means been equal to the accomplishment of his designs, there can be no doubt that he would now hold, undisputed, the honor of having given to the country this most noble and useful invention.” The public are indebted to Mr. John Hutchins for the drawing of the boat used in New York in 1796–7, with the machinery that was used during those years. It settles an important and disputed question, as to the application by Fitch, at that early period, of the side paddle-wheel, with six arms and paddles, claimed by the friends of Fulton as his invention, and, of course, the practical application of steam. But the most singular part of all, is the use, fifty years ago, of the late patented screw propeller, which, it appears, Fitch had the good sense to abandon, and, as I suppose, took the paddle-oar, to please the wise men of Philadelphia. Another reason, however, is given. The water was thrown into the boat by the buckets, and put out his fire. He then invented the propeller. He did not think of a wheel-house, to keep the water out of the boat; nor did Fulton, in the first instance. On the Delaware, his contrivance of six oars to enter the water as six came out, was ingenious, and did away with Doctor Franklin's objections to the side paddle-wheel, arms and buckets. The power of attorney of Fitch to Colonel Aaron Ogden, of New Jersey, to use his patent and bill of sale, with many of his papers, I learn, are with his son, M. Ogden, at Jersey City. If they will shed any light on the subject of Fitch's invention, I trust their possessor will give them to the public. It appears by the New York Municipal Gazette, Vol. II., No. 2, 1841, and 2d series, 1845, Vol. I., No. 145, that Mr. E. Merriam has discovered, in our Secretary of State's office, the original petition of John Fitch to the Legislature of New York, dated 27th February, 1787, to protect his invention on the waters of New York. A committee, consisting of Thomas Sickles of Albany, Samuel Jones of Queens, and Alexander Hamilton of New York, reported in his favor, when a law was passed, 19th March, 1787, to be found in the 2d Vol. Laws of State of New York, published 1789, page 116. On a future occasion, I may pursue this interesting subject, to aid in giving “honor to whom honor is due.” J. E. B.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »