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road is the medium of shipping much cotton and other produce directly to New York from Mobile, which would have been diverted elsewhere were it not for this advantageous route.
The construction of the proposed ship, canal across Florida would be very beneficial to Mobile, affording cheap water transportation to her commercial routes, while those routes leading to the South Atlantic ports must necessarily be fed by expensive railroad transportation.
My visit to Mobile was in Spring time, when the whole land was covered with blossoms. The drive along the quiet and secluded by-way to "Spring Hill" reminded one of the rich bloom and greenness of England, save that here and there were semi-tropical blossoms. Climbing to the roof of the Jesuit College on Spring Hill, I looked out over a lovely plain, once studded with beautiful homes, many of which have now fallen sadly into decay. A dense growth of forest still shrouds much of the surrounding country: in the distance the faint line of the Gulf seemed a silver thread. Along the hills over which I wandered flourished all the trees peculiar to the far South, and the Scuppernong grape grew magnificently in the college vineyards. The fresh and aromatic atmosphere of the woods, mingled with the delicate breath from the sea, made it difficult for one to fancy that pestilence could ever spread its wings above Mobile. Yet there, as elsewhere, from time to time the death angel inaugurates his terrible campaign, and the citizens are compelled to flee to the mountains.
ram, the "Tennessee," the pride and glory of the Alabamians who built her, stood out to meet her formidable foes, although she had seen the decks of all her other Confederate consorts transformed into slaughter-pens. One cannot forget how, even after the harbor was taken, and closed against the blockade runners, the little city held valiantly out another twelve months, until the attack by Canby on the defenses along the eastern shore was crowned with victory, until the Spanish Fort and Blakely, Batteries Hager and Tracy were invested, besieged and taken, and the victorious columns, descending from Selma and Montgomery, had joined the others, bringing the coast under control of the Federal
Mobile is the home of some Southern celebrities; among them are Admiral Semmes, who lives peaceably and handsomely, following the profession of law; Madame Octavia Walton Le Vert, Augusta J. Evans, authoress of "Beulah and one or two other ultra scholastic novels, and Gen. John Forsyth, ex-diplomat, and one of the ablest journalists in the country. The Register," which Gen. Forsyth edits, is sometimes a little bitter in partisan politics, but altogether highly creditable to Mobile. The city is also famous for having inaugurated the masked secret societies, which have lately become such a feature of the Southern carnival, and which for several years held the field with the "Cowbellions" and the "Strikers," whose representations were always looked forward to with pleasure by the citizens of New Orleans and the whole Gulf coast. The Cowbellions, the Strikers, and the "T. D. A.'s," are New Year's Eve societies; and among the Mardi-Gras companies are the "Order of Myths," and the "H. S. S." Not even the war and the depression of commerce have been able to deaden the jollity of the genial maskers.
Mobile Bay is replete with historic interest. One may perhaps think, in looking out over its placid waters, of Iberville's colonists coming, a motley and sea-stained gang, to land on Dauphin's Island, in 1799, and finding there so many human bones, that they called it Massacre Island; but one cannot forget the mighty naval battle when grim old commander Farragut was forcing his way past the fire of Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, whose Confederate guns were at all hazards to be silenced. One cannot remember, without a thrill, how one day the squadron, which had hung steadfastly at the mouth of the bay during three long years of war, transformed itself into a fiery antagonist-a war-fleet, breathing forth fire and destruction; nor how, after the admiral had fought his way with his fleeting structures, but devoid of any remarkpast the forts into the harbor, the giant able features. Both Catholics and Protest
The home of many lovely women, Mobile has a thoroughly good society, cultivated and frank, and the assemblages of its citizens at church and theater are as brilliant gatherings as are to be found in the whole country. There are no public buildings of special beauty; the Custom House, the Odd Fellows' and Temperance Halls, the Catholic Cathedral, the First Presbyterian and Christ Churches, Mobile College, the Academy, the Bank of Mobile, are all pleas
ants have well-conducted orphan asylums; in the numerous public schools the white and black children are pretty well provided for, education making progress as gratifying in the city as it is meager and discouraging in the country. migration and manufactures would make of Mobile one of the most attractive of Southern towns; it needs but a little aid to establish itself firmly and handsomely. The cemetery is somewhat dilapidated, yet filled with pretty monuments and those sweetest memorials of the dead-a profusion of delicious flowers.
Something should be done to arrest the drainage towards Texas; it is dwarfing the development of the Alabamian towns, and leaving them in an unpleasant predicament. There is a very large discouraged class in the State-people who were willing enough at the close of the war to accept its main results, and to devote themselves to a rebuilding, but who have been so embarrassed and hindered by the anomalous condition of labor and politics, and are so destitute of means with which to carry on new enterprises, that they prefer to fly to newer States. The spirit of nationality among the people in those sections of Alabama which have suffered most, has been somewhat broken, yet, according to the statement made to me by one of the most distinguished of Alabama's citizens, these same people need but the return of a little prosperity to make them contented.
The Commonwealth labors under a dreadful burden of ignorance; the illiteracy in some sections is appalling. With a population of a little more than a million, Alabama has more than three hundred and 'eighty thousand persons who can neither read nor write; and of these nearly one hundred thousand are whites. There are also large classes who can both read and write, but whose education goes no farther. Among the one hundred and seventy-five thousand voters in the State, there is a newspaper circulation of forty thousand only. The negro does not seem to care for the papers. A good public school system was inaugurated in Alabama in 1854, and three years later nearly ninety thousand children were attending school in the State; but the advent of the war annulled the progress already made, and since reconstruction educational matters have been somewhat embroiled. The conduct of the schools is now in the hands of what is known as the State Board of Education,
powers, the legislature being only revisory of its acts. The school fund receives from half a million to $600,000 annually from the State, one-third of it being interest on the fund bestowed by the general government, and the remainder being made up of one-fifth of the commonwealth's general revenue-all the poll tax, the licenses, and the tax on insurance companies. This fund is nominally apportioned impartially to the whites and blacks in each county, and the trustees in each township are informed what their share is. Under this system, the average attendance at the various schools opened throughout the State, was one hundred and fifty thousand; but in 1873 the schools were all closed, (save those in the large cities,) on account of the inability of the State to pay teachers! This cessation has been productive of much harm and disorganization. Efforts have, however, been made to resuscitate the State University at Tuscaloosa, which is not in a flourishing condition, and a normal college, for teachers of both sexes,
has been started at Florence, in the northern part of the State. In Western Alabama, a colored university and normal col
MARINE AND CITY HOSPITALS, MOBILE.
lege has been established at Marion, and a colored normal school is opened at Huntsville. The American Missionary Society also maintains a college for colored people at Talladega.
That which chiefly astonishes the stranger visiting Alabama, is that the superb material resources of the State should have so long remained undeveloped. He is told that, in a little less than a century, Alabama expended two hundred millions of dollars in the purchase of slaves; had she spent it in developing her elements of wealth, she would have been one of the richest commonwealths in the world to-day. The extraordinary extent and nature of her mineral stores, the fertility of her fields for cotton, cereals and fruits, the grandeur of her forests, the length of her streams, and her lovely climate, will render her, after the dreary transition period is past, one of the mightiest States of the South.
The expedition of De Soto through Alabama three centuries and a half ago, was one of the most remarkable of the time. This brave Spaniard, with his little band, was pushing across the new and hostile country to the harbor at Pensacola, where ships with supplies from Havana awaited. him, when he was attacked by swarms of warriors under the chief Tuscaloosa, at an Indian town, said to have been near the present site of Selma, and there fought one of the bloodiest battles of early American history. Turning his face northward
and westward once more, he fought his way step by step to the Mississippi river, leaving the savages some ghastly memorials of Spanish pluck and valor, but having done nothing towards the colonization of the great territory later known as Alabama. One hundred and sixty-two years thereafter, another European expedition appeared at Pensacola, but finding the Spaniards in possession there, cast anchor at Ship Island, and finally at Biloxi. Iberville, who had been commissioned by France to found settlements on the Mississippi, planted the seed of the colonies, which Bienville brought to such abundant harvest. Slaves were introduced into Alabama, then a part of Louisiana, under the régime of John Law's great Mississippi Company, and rice, tobacco and indigo were successfully cultivated. A little more than a century after the first French occupation, Alabama had nearly two hundred thousand whites, and one hundred and seventeen thousand blacks within her borders, and seemed springing more rapidly into development than most of the other States of the Union.
The area of Alabama is 50,722 square miles, of which the cotton and timber regions comprise about 10,000, and the mineral section, 15,000 square miles. The cotton fields have been the basis of the
for that development of huge manufacturing towns and wonderful increase of population which has marked the growth of other States, uniting, as she does, a superabundance of agricultural and mineral resources. It is supposed that not more than half the available cotton lands are at present under cultivation. From the rich Tennessee valley to the fertile Gulf coast there is such a combination of natural treasures as no country in Europe can boast. Alabama can produce all the grains and esculents of the Northern States, yet to-day whole sections of the State are dependent upon the Northwest for bread, because the foolish "all cotton " policy is continued from slave times. Lying at the foot of the Alleghany Mountains, which, in the north-western portion of the State, bow their giant heads stupidly, and lean lazily toward the level earth, she possesses those grand mineral beds which crop out at intervals along the range through Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. Her river system is one of the noblest on the continent. It comprehends the Tennessee, which courses through eight Northern counties, and affords a fertile, although somewhat exhausted, cotton valley; the Alabama and her tributaries; and the Tombigbee, the Black Warrior and the Coosa. These are all navigable. The Chattahoochee river is the boundary line between Georgia and Alabama; and in the lower part of the State several of the rivers flowing through Florida to the Gulf furnish navigation to the border counties.
The improvement of the Coosa and the Cahawba rivers, so that they shall be navigable all the way from the mineral fields to their junction with the Alabama, is considered of the utmost importance. Some of the richest iron mines and coal fields in the State are on the Upper Coosa, beyond its navigable portion. Surveys have been provided for, under the reconstruction governments, but as yet little has been accomplished. The upper portion of the Black Warrior river drains the Warrior coal field, and could be made of vast service in future. The opening of the Coosa river would give to the markets of Montgomery and Mobile the produce of a section of Alabama which now finds its outlet in Georgia, and it would furnish the cotton belt of the State with cheap grain-a most important consideration; while, at the same time, it will afford fine water power for manufactures. Mobile is anxious to become a grain depot,
like New Orleans, for the corn trade of the West with Europe. The improvement of the Coosa river and of Mobile harbor would accomplish this. The needed opening of the Tennessee river, which I have alluded to elsewhere, would be of the greatest value to northern Alabama; and a canal from the Tennessee to the Coosa,
TRINITY CHURCH, MOBILE.
cut through at a point where the streams are not more than forty miles apart, would give a continuous water line from the north-west to Mobile Bay.* This would become one of the most popular and economical of national highways, and would be lined, throughout Alabama, with manufacturing towns.
The timber region of Alabama comprises a belt extending entirely across the lower portion of the State, bordering on Florida and the Gulf. It is rich in forests of longleaved pine, and on the river lowlands grow white, black and Spanish oaks, and the black cypress. Cotton can be produced in the light, sandy soil of this section, but the gathering of naval stores is a more productive industry in these border counties. Between Mobile and Pascagoula Bays many settlements are springing up, and enterprising young men from the North and West are sending millions of feet of lumber to New Orleans. The lands can be purchased for a trifle; and there are many small bays and estuaries where
* Alabama Manuals.
vessels for any port in the world might load directly at the saw-mill.
In the cotton belt, which also extends directly across Alabama, from the Mississippi to the Georgia line, there are many large towns which would, in happier times, be flourishing, and whose appearance testifies to a long reign of wealth, elegance, and culture within their limits. Montgomery, Selma, Demopolis, Livingston, Eutaw, Greensboro, Marion, are all inhabited or surrounded by planters who are, or have once been wealthy, and who have gathered about them fine private schools, libraries and churches. Southeastward through the cotton country, from the capital, runs the Montgomery, Eufaula. and Brunswick Railroad, intended as part of a gigantic line, some day to be completed, from Brunswick, Georgia, on the Atlantic coast to Vicksburg, on the Mississippi, and other lines are here and there projected. It often occurs to one that Alabama is indulging in an "overcrop" of railways " of railways considering the abundance of her superb
The soil of the Alabama cotton belt is inexhaustibly rich. This is the testimony of all observers, native and foreign. That it has in some sections been forced, so as to be, for a time, less productive than usual, there can be no doubt; but with anything like decent care it will grow cotton as long as will the soil of Egypt. But there has been a terrible fall in prices, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of planters have been utterly ruined. Good lands there once commanded $50 per acre; those same lands now command possibly $10, in some instances, $5. The enormous fertility of this section is shown by the fact that in 1860, just before the slave system was broken up, it produced 997,978, almost a million, bales of cotton, or one-fifth of the whole crop of the United States for that year. The planters there, as elsewhere, would prefer the free labor which they now employ, rather than slaves, if the free labor could be relied on to work with a view to getting as good results for his employer as the slave did for his owner.
There are, of course, great multitudes of negroes on these cotton lands, who, as a rule, labored well, in spite of the savage reverses experienced by the whole planting interest of Alabama for some years, until the continuous disaster discouraged them, and they took refuge either in emigration or the precarious dependence upon the charity of others but little richer than themselves. But whatever may be the condition of large planters, or the freedmen, who are, of course, more or less ignorant and irresponsible, there is no doubt that industrious and capable immigrants, settling in the cotton belt, and carefully cultivating from forty to fifty acres of land, with ten in cotton and an equal number in grain and provisions, could enrich themselves. The main suffering, which has been great in Alabama, has occurred because the people raised but little with which to feed themselves. Relying entirely upon cotton, when that failed they found themselves penniless and starving. This suffering does not, however, reach the people, save when the crops are absolutely destroyed by the caterpillars or by rains. by rains. If the Alabama planters could succeed for a few years, they might have some money to invest in the much needed local manufactures, but at present they have none, and foreign capital does not flow to them.