Notes on the State of Virginia (1853)/Query 20
A NOTICE OF THE COMMERCIAL PRODUCTIONS PARTICULAR TO THE STATE, AND OF THOSE OBJECTS WHICH THE INHABITANTS ARE OBLIGED TO GET FROM EUROPE AND FROM OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD?
Before the present war we exported, communibus annis, according to the best information I can get, nearly as follows:
|ARTICLES.||Quantity.||Price in Dollars.||Amount in Dollars.|
|Tobacco,||55,000 hhds. of 1,000 ℔.||at 30 d. per hhd.||$1,650,000|
|Wheat,||800,000 bushels.||at 5 d. per bushel.||666,666⅔|
|Indian corn,||600,000 bushels.||at ⅓. d. per bushel.||200,000|
|Masts, planks, scantling, shingles, staves,||———||——||66,666⅔|
|Tar, pitch, turpentine,||30,000 barrels.||at 1⅓ d. per barrel.||40,000|
|Peltry,||180 hhds. of 600 ℔.||at 5 d. per ℔.||42,000|
|Pork,||4,000 barrels.||at 10 d. per barrel.||40,000|
|Flax seed, hemp, cotton,||———||——||8,000|
|Pit coal, Pig iron,||———||——||6,666⅔|
|Peas,||5,000 bushels.||at ⅔ d. per bushel.||3,333⅓|
|Beef,||1,000 barrels.||at 3⅓ d. per barrel.||3,333⅓|
|Sturgeon, white shad, herring,||———||——||3,333⅓|
|Brandy and whiskey,||———||——||1,666⅔|
|This sum is equal to £850,000 Virginia money, 607,142 guineas.||$2,833,333⅓|
In the year 1758 we exported seventy thousand hogsheads of tobacco, which was the greatest quantity ever produced in this country in one year. But its culture was fast declining at the commencement of this war, and that of wheat taking its place; and it must continue to decline on the return of peace. I suspect that the change in the temperature of our climate has become sensible to that plant, which, to be good, requires an extraordinary degree of heat. But it requires still more indispensably an uncommon fertility of soil; and the price which it commands at market will not enable the planter to produce this by manure. Was the supply still to depend on Virginia and Maryland alone, as its culture becomes more difficult, the price would rise, so as to enable the planter to surmount those difficulties and to live. But the Western country on the Missisipi, and the midlands of Georgia, having fresh and fertile lands in abundance, and a hotter sun, will be able to undersell these two States, and will oblige them to abandon the raising tobacco altogether. And a happy obligation for them it will be. It is a culture productive of infinite wretchedness. Those employed in it are in a continued state of exertion beyond the powers of nature to support. Little food of any kind is raised by them, so that the men and animals on these farms are badly fed, and the earth is rapidly impoverished. The cultivation of wheat is the reverse in every circumstance. Besides clothing the earth with herbage, and preserving its fertility, it feeds the laborers plentifully, requires from them only a moderate toil, except in the season of harvest, raises great numbers of animals for food and service, and diffuses plenty and happiness among the whole. We find it easier to make an hundred bushels of wheat than a thousand weight of tobacco, and they are worth more when made. The weevil, indeed, is a formidable obstacle to the cultivation of this grain with us. But principles are already known which must lead to a remedy. Thus a certain degree of heat, to wit, that of the common air in Summer, is necessary to hatch the egg. If subterranean granaries, or others, therefore, can be contrived below that temperature, the evil will be cured by cold. A degree of heat, beyond that which hatches the egg, we know will kill it. But in aiming at this we easily run into that which produces putrefaction. To produce putrefaction, however, three agents are requisite: heat, moisture, and the external air. If the absence of any one of these be secured, the other two may safely be admitted. Heat is the one we want. Moisture then, or external air, must be excluded. The former has been done by exposing the grain in kilns to the action of fire, which produces heat, and extracts moisture at the same time; the latter, by putting the grain into hogsheads, covering it with a coat of lime, and heading it up. In this situation its bulk produces a heat sufficient to kill the egg; the moisture is suffered to remain indeed, but the external air is excluded. A nicer operation yet has been attempted: that is, to produce an intermediate temperature of heat between that which kills the egg, and that which produces putrefaction. The threshing the grain as soon as it is cut, and laying it in its chaff, in large heaps, has been found very nearly to hit this temperature, though not perfectly, nor always. The heap generates heat sufficient to kill most of the eggs, whilst the chaff commonly restrains it from rising into putrefaction. But all these methods abridge too much the quantity which the farmer can manage, and enable other countries to undersell him, which are not infested with this insect. There is still a desideratum then to give with us decisive triumph to this branch of agriculture over that of tobacco. The culture of wheat, by enlarging our pasture, will render the Arabian horse an article of very considerable profit. Experience has shewn that ours is the particular climate of America, where he may be raised without degeneracy. Southwardly the heat of the sun occasions a deficiency of pasture, and northwardly the Winters are too cold for the short and fine hair, the particular sensibility and constitution of that race. Animals, transplanted into unfriendly climates, either change their nature and acquire new fences against the new difficulties in which they are placed, or they multiply poorly and become extinct. A good foundation is laid for their propagation here by our possessing already great numbers of horses of that blood, and by a decided taste and preference for them established among the people. Their patience of heat without injury, their superior wind, fit them better in this and the more Southern climates even for the drudgeries of the plough and wagon. Northwardly they will become an object only to persons of taste and fortune, for the saddle and light carriages. To these, and for these uses, their fleetness and beauty will recommend them. Besides these there will be other valuable substitutes when the cultivation of tobacco shall be discontinued, such as cotton in the Eastern parts of the State, and hemp and flax in the Western.
It is not easy to say what are the articles either of necessity, comfort, or luxury, which we cannot raise, and which we, therefore, shall be under a necessity of importing from abroad, as everything hardier than the olive, and as hardy as the fig, may be raised here in the open air. Sugar, coffee and tea, indeed, are not between these limits; and habit having placed them among the necessaries of life with the wealthy part of our citizens, as long as these habits remain, we must go for them to those countries which are able to furnish them.
- viz: skins of deer, beavers, otters, muskrats, raccoons, foxes
- from peaches and apples