We stopped at the Julien House, Dubuque. Dubuque is a city in Iowa, on the western shore of the Mississippi, and as the names both of the town and of the hotel sounded French in my ears, I asked for an explanation. I was then told that Julien Dubuque, a Canadian Frenchman, had been buried on one of the bluffs of the river within the precincts of the present town; that he had been the first white settler in Iowa, and had been the only man who had ever prevailed upon the Indians to work. Among them he had become a great “Medicine,” and seems for awhile to have had absolute power over them. He died, I think, in 1800, and was buried on one of the hills over the river. “He was a bold, bad man,” my informant told me, “and committed every sin under heaven. But he made the Indians work.”
Lead mines are the glory of Dubuque, and very large sums of money have been made from them. I was taken out to see one of them, and to go down it; but we found, not altogether to my sorrow, that the works had been stopped on account of the water. No effort has been made in any of these mines to subdue the water, nor has steam been applied to the working of them. The lodes have been so rich with lead that the speculators have been content to take out the metal that was easily reached, and to go off in search of fresh ground when disturbed by water. “And are wages here paid pretty punctually?” I asked. “Well, a man has to be smart, you know.” And then my friend went on to acknowledge that it would be better for the country if smartness were not so essential.
Iowa has a population of 674,000 souls, and in October, 1861, had already mustered eighteen regiments of one thousand men each. Such a population would give probably 170,000 men capable of bearing arms, and therefore the number of soldiers sent had already amounted to more than a decimation of the available strength of the State. When we were at Dubuque, nothing was talked of but the army. It seemed that mines, coal-pits, and corn-fields were all of no account in comparison with the war. How many regiments could be squeezed out of the State, was the one question which filled all minds; and the general desire was that such regiments should be sent to the Western army, to swell the triumph which was still expected for General Fremont, and to assist in sweeping slavery out into the Gulf of Mexico. The patriotism of the West has been quite as keen as that of the North, and has produced results as memorable; but it has sprung from a different source, and been conducted and animated by a different sentiment. National greatness and support of the law have been the idea of the North; national greatness and abolition of slavery have been those of the West. How they are to agree as to terms when between them they have crushed the South — that is the difficulty.
At Dubuque in Iowa, I ate the best apple that I ever encountered. I make that statement with the purpose of doing justice to the Americans on a matter which is to them one of considerable importance. Americans, as rule, do not believe in English apples. They declare that there are none, and receive accounts of Devonshire cider with manifest incredulity. “But at any rate there are no apples in England equal to ours.” That is an assertion to which an Englishman is called upon to give an absolute assent; and I hereby give it. Apples so excellent as some which were given to us at Dubuque I have never eaten in England. There is a great jealousy respecting all the fruits of the earth. “Your peaches are fine to look at,” was said to me, “but they have no flavor.” This was the assertion of a lady, and I made no answer. My idea had been that American peaches had no flavor; that French peaches had none; that those of Italy had none; that little as there might be of which England could boast with truth, she might at any rate boast of her peaches without fear of contradiction. Indeed, my idea had been that good peaches were to be got in England only. I am beginning to doubt whether my belief on the matter has not been the product of insular ignorance and idolatrous self-worship. It may be that a peach should be a combination of an apple and a turnip. “My great objection to your country, sir,” said another, “is that you have got no vegetables.” Had he told me that we had got no sea-board, or no coals, he would not have surprised me more. No vegetables in England! I could not restrain myself altogether, and replied by a confession “that we ‘raised’ no squash.” Squash is the pulp of the pumpkin, and is much used in the States, both as a vegetable and for pies. No vegetables in England! Did my surprise arise from the insular ignorance and idolatrous self-worship of a Britisher, or was my American friend laboring under a delusion? Is Covent Garden well supplied with vegetables, or is it not? Do we cultivate our kitchen-gardens with success, or am I under a delusion on that subject? Do I dream, or is it true that out of my own little patches at home I have enough, for all domestic purposes, of peas, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, beet-root, onions, carrots, parsnips, turnips, sea-kale, asparagus, French beans, artichokes, vegetable marrow, cucumbers, tomatoes, endive, lettuce, as well as herbs of many kinds, cabbages throughout the year, and potatoes? No vegetables! Had the gentleman told me that England did not suit him because we had nothing but vegetables, I should have been less surprised.
From Dubuque, on the western shore of the river, we passed over to Dunleath, in Illinois, and went on from thence by railway to Dixon. I was induced to visit this not very flourishing town by a desire to see the rolling prairie of Illinois, and to learn by eyesight something of the crops of corn or Indian maize which are produced upon the land. Had that gentleman told me that we knew nothing of producing corn in England, he would have been nearer the mark; for of corn, in the profusion in which it is grown here, we do not know much. Better land than the prairies of Illinois for cereal crops the world’s surface probably cannot show. And here there has been no necessity for the long previous labor of banishing the forest. Enormous prairies stretch across the State, into which the plow can be put at once. The earth is rich with the vegetation of thousands of years, and the farmer’s return is given to him without delay. The land bursts with its own produce, and the plenty is such that it creates wasteful carelessness in the gathering of the crop. It is not worth a man’s while to handle less than large quantities. Up in Minnesota I had been grieved by the loose manner in which wheat was treated. I have seen bags of it upset and left upon the ground. The labor of collecting it was more than it was worth. There wheat is the chief crop, and as the lands become cleared and cultivation spreads itself, the amount coming down the Mississippi will be increased almost to infinity. The price of wheat in Europe will soon depend, not upon the value of the wheat in the country which grows it, but on the power and cheapness of the modes which may exist for transporting it. I have not been able to obtain the exact prices with reference to the carriage of wheat from St. Paul (the capital of Minnesota) to Liverpool, but I have done so as regards Indian-corn from the State of Illinois. The following statement will show what proportion the value of the article at the place of its growth bears to the cost of the carriage; and it shows also how enormous an effect on the price of corn in England would follow any serious decrease in the cost of carriage:—
A bushel of Indian-corn at Bloomington, in Illinois, cost, in October, 1861 10 cents. Freight to Chicago 10 " Storage 2 " Freight from Chicago to Buffalo 22 " Elevating, and canal freight to New York 19 " Transfer in New York and insurance 3 " Ocean freight 23 " --------- Cost of a bushel of Indian-corn at Liverpool 89 cents.
Thus corn which in Liverpool costs 3s. 10d. has been sold by the farmer who produced it for 5d.! It is probable that no great reduction can be expected in the cost of ocean transit; but it will be seen by the above figures that out of the Liverpool price of 3s. 10d., or 89 cents, considerably more than half is paid for carriage across the United States. All or nearly all this transit is by water; and there can, I think, be no doubt but that a few years will see it reduced by fifty per cent. In October last the Mississippi was closed, the railways had not rolling stock sufficient for their work, the crops of the two last years had been excessive, and there existed the necessity of sending out the corn before the internal navigation had been closed by frost. The parties who had the transit in their hands put their heads together, and were able to demand any prices that they pleased. It will be seen that the cost of carrying a bushel of corn from Chicago to Buffalo, by the lakes, was within one cent of the cost of bringing it from New York to Liverpool. These temporary causes for high prices of transit will cease; a more perfect system of competition between the railways and the water transit will be organized; and the result must necessarily be both an increase of price to the producer and a decrease of price to the consumer. It certainly seems that the produce of cereal crops in the valleys of the Mississippi and its tributaries increases at a faster rate than population increases. Wheat and corn are sown by the thousand acres in a piece. I heard of one farmer who had 10,000 acres of corn. Thirty years ago grain and flour were sent Westward out of the State of New York to supply the wants of those who had immigrated into the prairies; and now we find that it will be the destiny of those prairies to feed the universe. Chicago is the main point of exportation Northwestward from Illinois, and at the present time sends out from its granaries more cereal produce than any other town in the world. The bulk of this passes, in the shape of grain or flour, from Chicago to Buffalo, which latter place is, as it were, a gateway leading from the lakes, or big waters, to the canals, or small waters. I give below the amount of grain and flour in bushels received into Buffalo for transit in the month of October during four consecutive years:—
October, 1858 4,429,055 bushels. " 1859 5,523,448 " " 1860 6,500,864 " " 1861 12,483,797 "
In 1860, from the opening to the close of navigation, 30,837,632 bushels of grain and flour passed through Buffalo. In 1861, the amount received up to the 31st of October was 51,969,142 bushels. As the navigation would be closed during the month of November, the above figures may be taken as representing not quite the whole amount transported for the year. It may be presumed the 52,000,000 of bushels, as quoted above, will swell itself to 60,000,000. I confess that to my own mind statistical amounts do not bring home any enduring idea. Fifty million bushels of corn and flour simply seems to mean a great deal. It is a powerful form of superlative, and soon vanishes away, as do other superlatives in this age of strong words. I was at Chicago and at Buffalo in October, 1861. I went down to the granaries and climbed up into the elevators. I saw the wheat running in rivers from one vessel into another, and from the railroad vans up into the huge bins on the top stores of the warehouses — for these rivers of food run up hill as easily as they do down. I saw the corn measured by the forty-bushel measure with as much ease as we measure an ounce of cheese and with greater rapidity. I ascertained that the work went on, week day and Sunday, day and night, incessantly — rivers of wheat and rivers of maize ever running. I saw the men bathed in corn as they distributed it in its flow. I saw bins by the score laden with wheat, in each of which bins there was space for a comfortable residence. I breathed the flour and drank the flour, and felt myself to be enveloped in a world of breadstuff. And then I believed, understood, and brought it home to myself as a fact that here in the corn-lands of Michigan, and amid the bluffs of Wisconsin, and on the high table plains of Minnesota, and the prairies of Illinois had God prepared the food for the increasing millions of the Eastern World, as also for the coming millions of the Western.
I do not find many minds constituted like my own, and therefore I venture to publish the above figures. I believe them to be true in the main; and they will show, if credited, that the increase during the last four years has gone on with more than fabulous rapidity. For myself, I own that those figures would have done nothing unless I had visited the spot myself. A man can not, perhaps count up the results of such a work by a quick glance of his eye, nor communicate with precision to another the conviction which his own short experience has made so strong within himself; but to himself seeing is believing. To me it was so at Chicago and at Buffalo. I began then to know what it was for a country to overflow with milk and honey, to burst with its own fruits and be smothered by its own riches. From St. Paul down the Mississippi, by the shores of Wisconsin and Iowa; by the ports on Lake Pepin; by La Crosse, from which one railway runs Eastward; by Prairie du Chien, the terminus of a second; by Dunleath, Fulton, and Rock Island, from whence three other lines run Eastward; all through that wonderful State of Illinois, the farmer’s glory; along the ports of the Great Lakes; through Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and further Pennsylvania, up to Buffalo? the great gate of the Western Ceres, the loud cry was this: “How shall we rid ourselves of our corn and wheat?” The result has been the passage of 60,000,000 bushels of breadstuffs through that gate in one year! Let those who are susceptible of statistics ponder that. For them who are not I can only give this advice: Let them go to Buffalo next October, and look for themselves.
In regarding the above figures, and the increase shown between the years 1860 and 1861, it must of course be borne in mind that, during the latter autumn, no corn or wheat was carried into the Southern States, and that none was exported from New Orleans or the mouth of the Mississippi. The States of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have for some time past received much of their supplies from the Northwestern lands; and the cutting off of this current of consumption has tended to swell the amount of grain which has been forced into the narrow channel of Buffalo. There has been no Southern exit allowed, and the Southern appetite has been deprived of its food. But taking this item for all that it is worth — or taking it, as it generally will be taken, for much more than it can be worth — the result left will be materially the same. The grand markets to which the Western States look and have looked are those of New England, New York, and Europe. Already corn and wheat are not the common crops of New England. Boston, and Hartford, and Lowell are fed from the great Western States. The State of New York, which, thirty years ago, was famous chiefly for its cereal produce, is now fed from these States. New York City would be starved if it depended on its own State; and it will soon be as true that England would be starved if it depended on itself. It was but the other day that we were talking of free trade in corn as a thing desirable, but as yet doubtful — but the other day that Lord Derby, who may be Prime Minister tomorrow, and Mr. Disraeli, who may be Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow, were stoutly of opinion that the corn laws might be and should be maintained — but the other day that the same opinion was held with confidence by Sir Robert Peel, who, however, when the day for the change came, was not ashamed to become the instrument used by the people for their repeal. Events in these days march so quickly that they leave men behind; and our dear old Protectionists at home will have grown sleek upon American flour before they have realized the fact that they are no longer fed from their own furrows.
I have given figures merely as regards the trade of Buffalo; but it must not be presumed that Buffalo is the only outlet from the great corn-lands of Northern America. In the first place, no grain of the produce of Canada finds its way to Buffalo. Its exit is by the St. Lawrence or by the Grand Trunk Railway as I have stated when speaking of Canada. And then there is the passage for large vessels from the upper lakes — Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie — through the Welland Canal, into Lake Ontario, and out by the St. Lawrence. There is also the direct communication from Lake Erie, by the New York and Erie Railway to New York. I have more especially alluded to the trade of Buffalo, because I have been enabled to obtain a reliable return of the quantity of grain and flour which passes through that town, and because Buffalo and Chicago are the two spots which are becoming most famous in the cereal history of the Western States.
Everybody has a map of North America. A reference to such a map will show the peculiar position of Chicago. It is at the south or head of Lake Michigan, and to it converge railways from Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. At Chicago is found the nearest water carriage which can be obtained for the produce of a large portion of these States. From Chicago there is direct water conveyance round through the lakes to Buffalo, at the foot of Lake Erie. At Milwaukee, higher up on the lake, certain lines of railway come in, joining the lake to the Upper Mississippi, and to the wheat-lands of Minnesota. Thence the passage is round by Detroit, which is the port for the produce of the greatest part of Michigan, and still it all goes on toward Buffalo. Then on Lake Erie there are the ports of Toledo, Cleveland, and Erie. At the bottom of Lake Erie there is this city of corn, at which the grain and flour are transhipped into the canal-boats and into the railway cars for New York; and there is also the Welland Canal, through which large vessels pass from the upper lakes without transhipment of their cargo.
I have said above that corn — meaning maize or Indian-corn — was to be bought at Bloomington, in Illinois, for ten cents (or five pence) a bushel. I found this also to be the case at Dixon, and also that corn of inferior quality might be bought for four pence; but I found also that it was not worth the farmer’s while to shell it and sell it at such prices. I was assured that farmers were burning their Indian-corn in some places, finding it more available to them as fuel than it was for the market. The labor of detaching a bushel of corn from the hulls or cobs is considerable, as is also the task of carrying it to market. I have known potatoes in Ireland so cheap that they would not pay for digging and carrying away for purposes of sale. There was then a glut of potatoes in Ireland; and in the same way there was, in the autumn of 1861, a glut of corn in the Western States. The best qualities would fetch a price, though still a low price; but corn that was not of the best quality was all but worthless. It did for fuel, and was burned. The fact was that the produce had re-created itself quicker than mankind had multiplied. The ingenuity of man had not worked quick enough for its disposal. The earth had given forth her increase so abundantly that the lap of created humanity could not stretch itself to hold it. At Dixon, in 1861, corn cost four pence a bushel. In Ireland, in 1848, it was sold for a penny a pound, a pound being accounted sufficient to sustain life for a day; and we all felt that at that price food was brought into the country cheaper than it had ever been brought before.
Dixon is not a town of much apparent prosperity. It is one of those places at which great beginnings have been made, but as to which the deities presiding over new towns have not been propitious. Much of it has been burned down, and more of it has never been built up. It had a straggling, ill-conditioned, uncommercial aspect, very different from the look of Detroit, Milwaukee, or St. Paul. There was, however, a great hotel there, as usual, and a grand bridge over the Rock River, a tributary of the Mississippi, which runs by or through the town. I found that life might be maintained on very cheap terms at Dixon. To me, as a passing traveler, the charges at the hotel were, I take it, the same as elsewhere. But I learned from an inmate there that he, with his wife and horse, were fed and cared for and attended, for two dollars (or eight shillings and four pence) a day. This included a private sitting-room, coals, light, and all the wants of life — as my informant told me — except tobacco and whisky. Feeding at such a house means a succession of promiscuous hot meals, as often as the digestion of the patient can face them. Now I do not know any locality where a man can keep himself and his wife, with all material comforts and the luxury of a horse and carriage, on cheaper terms than that. Whether or no it might be worth a man’s while to live at all at such a place as Dixon, is altogether another question.
We went there because it is surrounded by the prairie, and out into the prairie we had ourselves driven. We found some difficulty in getting away from the corn, though we had selected this spot as one at which the open rolling prairie was specially attainable. As long as I could see a corn-field or a tree I was not satisfied. Nor, indeed, was I satisfied at last. To have been thoroughly on the prairie, and in the prairie, I should have been a day’s journey from tilled land. But I doubt whether that could now be done in the State of Illinois. I got out into various patches and brought away specimens of corn — ears bearing sixteen rows of grain, with forty grains in each row, each ear bearing a meal for a hungry man.
At last we did find ourselves on the prairie, amid the waving grass, with the land rolling on before us in a succession of gentle sweeps, never rising so as to impede the view, or apparently changing in its general level, but yet without the monotony of flatness. We were on the prairie, but still I felt no satisfaction. It was private property, divided among holders and pastured over by private cattle. Salisbury Plain is as wild, and Dartmoor almost wilder. Deer, they told me, were to be had within reach of Dixon, but for the buffalo one has to go much farther afield than Illinois. The farmer may rejoice in Illinois, but the hunter and the trapper must cross the big rivers and pass away into the Western Territories before he can find lands wild enough for his purposes. My visit to the corn-fields of Illinois was in its way successful, but I felt, as I turned my face eastward toward Chicago, that I had no right to boast that I had as yet made acquaintance with a prairie.
All minds were turned to the war, at Dixon as elsewhere. In Illinois the men boasted that, as regards the war, they were the leading State of the union. But the same boast was made in Indiana, and also in Massachusetts, and probably in half the States of the North and West. They, the Illinoisians, call their country the war-nest of the West. The population of the State is 1,700,000, and it had undertaken to furnish sixty volunteer regiments of 1000 men each. And let it be borne in mind that these regiments, when furnished, are really full — absolutely containing the thousand men when they are sent away from the parent States. The number of souls above named will give 420,000 working men, and if, out of these, 60,000 are sent to the war, the State, which is almost purely agricultural, will have given more than one man in eight. When I was in Illinois, over forty regiments had already been sent — forty-six, if I remember rightly — and there existed no doubt whatever as to the remaining number. From the next State, Indiana, with a population of 1,350,000, giving something less than 350,000 working men, thirty-six regiments had been sent. I fear that I am mentioning these numbers usque ad nauseam; but I wish to impress upon English readers the magnitude of the effort made by the States in mustering and equipping an army within six or seven months of the first acknowledgment that such an army would be necessary. The Americans have complained bitterly of the want of English sympathy, and I think they have been weak in making that complaint. But I would not wish that they should hereafter have the power of complaining of a want of English justice. There can be no doubt that a genuine feeling of patriotism was aroused throughout the North and West, and that men rushed into the ranks actuated by that feeling, men for whom war and army life, a camp and fifteen dollars a month; would not of themselves have had any attraction. It came to that, that young men were ashamed not to go into the army. This feeling of course produced coercion, and the movement was in that way tyrannical. There is nothing more tyrannical than a strong popular feeling among a democratic people. During the period of enlistment this tyranny was very strong. But the existence of such a tyranny proves the passion and patriotism of the people. It got the better of the love of money, of the love of children, and of the love of progress. Wives who with their bairns were absolutely dependent on their husbands’ labors, would wish their husbands to be at the war. Not to conduce, in some special way, toward the war; to have neither father there, nor brother nor son; not to have lectured, or preached, or written for the war; to have made no sacrifice for the war, to have had no special and individual interest in the war, was disgraceful. One sees at a glance the tyranny of all this in such a country as the States. One can understand how quickly adverse stories would spread themselves as to the opinion of any man who chose to remain tranquil at such a time. One shudders at the absolute absence of true liberty which such a passion throughout a democratic country must engender. But he who has observed all this must acknowledge that that passion did exist. Dollars, children, progress, education, and political rivalry all gave way to the one strong national desire for the thrashing and crushing of those who had rebelled against the authority of the stars and stripes.
When we were at Dixon they were getting up the Dement regiment. The attempt at the time did not seem to be prosperous, and the few men who had been collected had about them a forlorn, ill-conditioned look. But then, as I was told, Dixon had already been decimated and redecimated by former recruiting colonels. Colonel Dement, from whom the regiment was to be named, and whose military career was only now about to commence, had come late into the field. I did not afterward ascertain what had been his success, but I hardly doubt that he did ultimately scrape together his thousand men. “Why don’t you go?” I said to a burly Irishman who was driving me. “I’m not a sound man, yer honor,” said the Irishman; “I’m deficient in me liver.” Taking the Irishmen, however, throughout the Union, they had not been found deficient in any of the necessaries for a career of war. I do not think that any men have done better than the Irish in the American army.
From Dixon we went to Chicago. Chicago is in many respects the most remarkable city among all the remarkable cities of the Union. Its growth has been the fastest and its success the most assured. Twenty-five years ago there was no Chicago, and now it contains 120,000 inhabitants. Cincinnati, on the Ohio, and St. Louis, at the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi, are larger towns; but they have not grown large so quickly nor do they now promise so excessive a development of commerce. Chicago may be called the metropolis of American corn — the favorite city haunt of the American Ceres. The goddess seats herself there amid the dust of her full barns, and proclaims herself a goddess ruling over things political and philosophical as well as agricultural. Not furrows only are in her thoughts, but free trade also and brotherly love. And within her own bosom there is a boast that even yet she will be stronger than Mars. In Chicago there are great streets, and rows of houses fit to be the residences of a new Corn-Exchange nobility. They look out on the wide lake which is now the highway for breadstuffs, and the merchant, as he shaves at his window, sees his rapid ventures as they pass away, one after the other, toward the East.
I went over one great grain store in Chicago possessed by gentlemen of the name of Sturgess and Buckenham. It was a world in itself, and the dustiest of all the worlds. It contained, when I was there, half a million bushels of wheat — or a very great many, as I might say in other language. But it was not as a storehouse that this great building was so remarkable, but as a channel or a river-course for the flooding freshets of corn. It is so built that both railway vans and vessels come immediately under its claws, as I may call the great trunks of the elevators. Out of the railway vans the corn and wheat is clawed up into the building, and down similar trunks it is at once again poured out into the vessels. I shall be at Buffalo in a page or two, and then I will endeavor to explain more minutely how this is done. At Chicago the corn is bought and does change hands; and much of it, therefore, is stored there for some space of time, shorter or longer as the case may be. When I was at Chicago, the only limit to the rapidity of its transit was set by the amount of boat accommodation. There were not bottoms enough to take the corn away from Chicago, nor, indeed, on the railway was there a sufficiency of rolling stock or locomotive power to bring it into Chicago. As I said before, the country was bursting with its own produce and smothered in its own fruits.
At Chicago the hotel was bigger than other hotels and grander. There were pipes without end for cold water which ran hot, and for hot water which would not run at all. The post-office also was grander and bigger than other post-offices, though the postmaster confessed to me that that matter of the delivery of letters was one which could not be compassed. Just at that moment it was being done as a private speculation; but it did not pay, and would be discontinued. The theater, too, was large, handsome, and convenient; but on the night of my attendance it seemed to lack an audience. A good comic actor it did not lack, and I never laughed more heartily in my life. There was something wrong, too, just at that time — I could not make out what — in the Constitution of Illinois, and the present moment had been selected for voting a new Constitution. To us in England such a necessity would be considered a matter of importance, but it did not seem to be much thought of here, “Some slight alteration probably,” I suggested. “No,” said my informant, one of the judges of their courts, “it is to be a thorough, radical change of the whole Constitution. They are voting the delegates today.” I went to see them vote the delegates, but, unfortunately, got into a wrong place — by invitation — and was turned out, not without some slight tumult. I trust that the new Constitution was carried through successfully.
From these little details it may, perhaps, be understood how a town like Chicago goes on and prospers in spite of all the drawbacks which are incident to newness. Men in those regions do not mind failures, and, when they have failed, instantly begin again. They make their plans on a large scale, and they who come after them fill up what has been wanting at first. Those taps of hot and cold water will be made to run by the next owner of the hotel, if not by the present owner. In another ten years the letters, I do not doubt, will all be delivered. Long before that time the theater will probably be full. The new Constitution is no doubt already at work, and, if found deficient, another will succeed to it without any trouble to the State or any talk on the subject through the Union. Chicago was intended as a town of export for corn, and therefore the corn stores have received the first attention. When I was there they were in perfect working order.
From Chicago we went on to Cleveland, a town in the State of Ohio, on Lake Erie, again traveling by the sleeping-cars. I found that these cars were universally mentioned with great horror and disgust by Americans of the upper class. They always declared that they would not travel in them on any account. Noise and dirt were the two objections. They are very noisy, but to us belonged the happy power of sleeping down noise. I invariably slept all through the night, and knew nothing about the noise. They are also very dirty — extremely dirty — dirty so as to cause much annoyance. But then they are not quite so dirty as the day cars. If dirt is to be a bar against traveling in America, men and women must stay at home. For myself, I don’t much care for dirt, having a strong reliance on soap and water and scrubbing-brushes. No one regards poisons who carries antidotes in which he has perfect faith.
Cleveland is another pleasant town — pleasant as Milwaukee and Portland. The streets are handsome and are shaded by grand avenues of trees. One of these streets is over a mile in length, and throughout the whole of it there are trees on each side — not little, paltry trees as are to be seen on the boulevards of Paris, but spreading elms: the beautiful American elm, which not only spreads, but droops also, and makes more of its foliage than any other tree extant. And there is a square in Cleveland, well sized, as large as Russell Square I should say, with open paths across it, and containing one or two handsome buildings. I cannot but think that all men and women in London would be great gainers if the iron rails of the squares were thrown down and the grassy inclosures thrown open to the public. Of course the edges of the turf would be worn, and the paths would not keep their exact shapes. But the prison look would be banished, and the somber sadness of the squares would be relieved.
I was particularly struck by the size and comfort of the houses at Cleveland. All down that street of which I have spoken they do not stand continuously together, but are detached and separate — houses which in England would require some fifteen or eighteen hundred a year for their maintenance. In the States, however, men commonly expend upon house rent a much greater proportion of their income than they do in England. With us it is, I believe, thought that a man should certainly not apportion more than a seventh of his spending income to his house rent — some say not more than a tenth. But in many cities of the States a man is thought to live well within bounds if he so expends a fourth. There can be no doubt as to Americans living in better houses than Englishmen, making the comparison of course between men of equal incomes. But the Englishman has many more incidental expenses than the American. He spends more on wine, on entertainments, on horses, and on amusements. He has a more numerous establishment, and keeps up the adjuncts and outskirts of his residence with a more finished neatness.
These houses in Cleveland were very good, as, indeed, they are in most Northern towns; but some of them have been erected with an amount of bad taste that is almost incredible. It is not uncommon to see in front of a square brick house a wooden quasi-Greek portico, with a pediment and Ionic columns, equally high with the house itself. Wooden columns with Greek capitals attached to the doorways, and wooden pediments over the windows, are very frequent. As a rule, these are attached to houses which, without such ornamentation, would be simple, unpretentious, square, roomy residences. An Ionic or Corinthian capital stuck on to a log of wood called a column, and then fixed promiscuously to the outside of an ordinary house, is to my eye the vilest of architectural pretenses. Little turrets are better than this, or even brown battlements made of mortar. Except in America I do not remember to have seen these vicious bits of white timber — timber painted white — plastered on to the fronts and sides of red brick houses.
Again we went on by rail to Buffalo. I have traveled some thousands of miles by railway in the States, taking long journeys by night and longer journeys by day; but I do not remember that while doing so I ever made acquaintance with an American. To an American lady in a railway car I should no more think of speaking than I should to an unknown female in the next pew to me at a London church. It is hard to understand from whence come the laws which govern societies in this respect; but there are different laws in different societies, which soon obtain recognition for themselves. American ladies are much given to talking, and are generally free from all mauvaise honte. They are collected in manner, well instructed, and resolved to have their share of the social advantages of the world. In this phase of life they come out more strongly than English women. But on a railway journey, be it ever so long, they are never seen speaking to a stranger. English women, however, on English railways are generally willing to converse: they will do so if they be on a journey; but will not open their mouths if they be simply passing backward and forward between their homes and some neighboring town. We soon learn the rules on these subjects; but who make the rules? If you cross the Atlantic with an American lady you invariably fall in love with her before the journey is over. Travel with the same woman in a railway car for twelve hours, and you will have written her down in your own mind in quite other language than that of love.
And now for Buffalo, and the elevators. I trust I have made it understood that corn comes into Buffalo, not only from Chicago, of which I have spoken specially, but from all the ports round the lakes: Racine, Milwaukee, Grand Haven, Port Sarnia, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and many others. At these ports the produce is generally bought and sold; but at Buffalo it is merely passed through a gateway. It is taken from vessels of a size fitted for the lakes, and placed in other vessels fitted for the canal. This is the Erie Canal, which connects the lakes with the Hudson River and with New York. The produce which passes through the Welland Canal — the canal which connects Lake Erie and the upper lakes with Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence — is not transhipped, seeing that the Welland Canal, which is less than thirty miles in length, gives a passage to vessels of 500 tons. As I have before said, 60,000,000 bushels of breadstuff were thus pushed through Buffalo in the open months of the year 1861. These open months run from the middle of April to the middle of November; but the busy period is that of the last two months — the time, that is, which intervenes between the full ripening of the corn and the coming of the ice.
An elevator is as ugly a monster as has been yet produced. In uncouthness of form it outdoes those obsolete old brutes who used to roam about the semi-aqueous world, and live a most uncomfortable life with their great hungering stomachs and huge unsatisfied maws. The elevator itself consists of a big movable trunk — movable as is that of an elephant, but not pliable, and less graceful even than an elephant’s. This is attached to a huge granary or barn; but in order to give altitude within the barn for the necessary moving up and down of this trunk — seeing that it cannot be curled gracefully to its purposes as the elephant’s is curled — there is an awkward box erected on the roof of the barn, giving some twenty feet of additional height, up into which the elevator can be thrust. It will be understood, then, that this big movable trunk, the head of which, when it is at rest, is thrust up into the box on the roof, is made to slant down in an oblique direction from the building to the river; for the elevator is an amphibious institution, and flourishes only on the banks of navigable waters. When its head is ensconced within its box, and the beast of prey is thus nearly hidden within the building, the unsuspicious vessel is brought up within reach of the creature’s trunk, and down it comes, like a musquito’s proboscis, right through the deck, in at the open aperture of the hole, and so into the very vitals and bowels of the ship. When there, it goes to work upon its food with a greed and an avidity that is disgusting to a beholder of any taste or imagination. And now I must explain the anatomical arrangement by which the elevator still devours and continues to devour, till the corn within its reach has all been swallowed, masticated, and digested. Its long trunk, as seen slanting down from out of the building across the wharf and into the ship, is a mere wooden pipe; but this pipe is divided within. It has two departments; and as the grain-bearing troughs pass up the one on a pliable band, they pass empty down the other. The system, therefore, is that of an ordinary dredging machine only that corn and not mud is taken away, and that the buckets or troughs are hidden from sight. Below, within the stomach of the poor bark, three or four laborers are at work, helping to feed the elevator. They shovel the corn up toward its maw, so that at every swallow he should take in all that he can hold. Thus the troughs, as they ascend, are kept full, and when they reach the upper building they empty themselves into a shoot, over which a porter stands guard, moderating the shoot by a door, which the weight of his finger can open and close. Through this doorway the corn runs into a measure, and is weighed. By measures of forty bushels each, the tale is kept. There stands the apparatus, with the figures plainly marked, over against the porter’s eye; and as the sum mounts nearly up to forty bushels he closes the door till the grains run thinly through, hardly a handful at a time, so that the balance is exactly struck. Then the teller standing by marks down his figure, and the record is made. The exact porter touches the string of another door, and the forty bushels of corn run out at the bottom of the measure, disappear down another shoot, slanting also toward the water, and deposit themselves in the canal boat. The transit of the bushels of corn from the larger vessel to the smaller will have taken less than a minute, and the cost of that transit will have been — a farthing.
But I have spoken of the rivers of wheat, and I must explain what are those rivers. In the working of the elevator, which I have just attempted to describe, the two vessels were supposed to be lying at the same wharf on the same side of the building, in the same water, the smaller vessel inside the larger one. When this is the case the corn runs direct from the weighing measure into the shoot that communicates with the canal boat. But there is not room or time for confining the work to one side of the building. There is water on both sides, and the corn or wheat is elevated on the one side, and reshipped on the other. To effect this the corn is carried across the breadth of the building; but, nevertheless, it is never handled or moved in its direction on trucks or carriages requiring the use of men’s muscles for its motion. Across the floor of the building are two gutters, or channels, and through these, small troughs on a pliable band circulate very quickly. They which run one way, in one channel, are laden; they which return by the other channel are empty. The corn pours itself into these, and they again pour it into the shoot which commands the other water. And thus rivers of corn are running through these buildings night and day. The secret of all the motion and arrangement consists, of course, in the elevation. The corn is lifted up; and when lifted up can move itself and arrange itself, and weigh itself, and load itself.
I should have stated that all this wheat which passes through Buffalo comes loose, in bulk. Nothing is known of sacks or bags. To any spectator at Buffalo this becomes immediately a matter of course; but this should be explained, as we in England are not accustomed to see wheat traveling in this open, unguarded, and plebeian manner. Wheat with us is aristocratic, and travels always in its private carriage.
Over and beyond the elevators there is nothing specially worthy of remark at Buffalo. It is a fine city, like all other American cities of its class. The streets are broad, the “blocks” are high, and cars on tramways run all day, and nearly all night as well.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01