POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & Co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Transcriber's Note: Minor typos have been corrected and footnotes moved to the end of the article.
THE ROUMI IN KABYLIA.
A fact need not be a fixed fact to be a very positive one; and Kabylia, a region to whose outline no geographer could give precision, has long existed as the most uncomfortable reality in colonial France. Irreconcilable Kabylia, hovering as a sort of thunderous cloudland among the peaks of the Atlas Mountains, is respected for a capacity it has of rolling out storms of desperate warriors. These troops disgust and confound the French by making every hut and house a fortress: like the clansmen of Roderick Dhu, they lurk behind the bushes, animating each tree or shrub with a preposterous gun charged with a badly-moulded bullet. The Kabyle, when excited to battle, goes to his death as carelessly as to his breakfast: his saint or marabout has promised him an immediate heaven, without the critical formality of a judgment-day. He fights with more than feudal faithfulness and with undiverted tenacity. He is in his nature unconquerable. So that the French, though they have riddled this thunder-cloud of a Kabylia with their shot, seamed it through and through with military roads, and established a beautiful fort national right in the middle of it, on the plateau of Souk-el-Arba, possess it to-day about as thoroughly as we Americans might possess a desirable thunder-storm which should be observed hanging over Washington, and which we should annex by means of electrical communications transpiercing it in every direction, and a resident governor fixed at the centre in a balloon. France has gorged Kabylia, with the rest of Algeria, but she has never digested it.
A trip through Algeria, such as we now propose, belongs, as a pleasure-excursion, only to the present age. In the last it was made involuntarily. Only sixty years ago the English spinster or spectacled lady's-companion, as she crossed over from the mouth of the Tagus to the mouth of the Tiber, or from Marseilles to Naples, looked out for capture by "the Algerines" as quite a reasonable eventuality. (Who can forget Toepfer's mad etchings for Bachelor Butterfly, of which this little episode forms the incident?) Her respectable mind was filled with speculations as to how many servants "a dey's lady" was furnished with, and what was the amount of her pin-money. A stout, sound-winded Christian gentleman, without vices and kind in fetters, sold much cheaper than a lady, being worth thirty pounds, or only about one-tenth the value of Uncle Tom.
The opening up of Algeria to the modern tourist and Murray's guide-books is in fact due to the American nation. So late as 1815 the Americans, along with the other trading nations, were actually paying to the dey his preposterous tribute for exemption from piratical seizure. In this year, however, we changed our mind and sent Decatur over. On the 28th of June he made his appearance at Algiers, having picked up and disposed of some Algerine craft, the frigate Mashouda and the brig Estido. The Algerines gave up all discussion with a messenger so positive in his manners, and in two days Decatur introduced our consul-general Shaler, who attended to the release of American captives and the positive stoppage of tribute.
The example was followed by other nations. Lord Exmouth bombarded Algiers in 1816, and reduced most of it to ashes. In 1827 the dey opened war with France by hitting the French consul with his fan. Charles X. retorted upon the fan with thirty thousand troops and a fleet. The fort of Algiers was exploded by the last survivor of its garrison, a negro of the deserts, who rushed down with a torch into the powder-cellar. Algeria collapsed. The dey went to Naples, the janizaries went to Turkey, and Algeria became French.
From this time the country became more or less open, according as France could keep it quiet, to the inroads of that modern beast of ravin, the tourist. The Kabyle calls the tourist Roumi (Christian), a form, evidently, of our word Roman, and referable to the times when the bishop of Hippo and such as he identified the Christian with the Romanist in the Moorish mind.
Modern Algiers, viewed from the sea, wears upon its luminous walls small trace of its long history of blood. As we contemplate its mosques and houses flashing their white profiles into the sky, it is impossible not to muse upon the contrast between its radiant and picturesque aspect and its veritable character as the accomplice of every crime and every baseness known to the Oriental mind. To see that sunny city basking between its green hills, you would hardly think of it as the abode of bandits; yet two powerful tribes still exist, now living in huts which crown the heights of Boudjareah overlooking the sea, who formerly furnished the boldest of the pitiless corsairs. To the iron hooks of the Bab (or gate) of Azoun were hung by the loins our Christian brothers who would not accept the Koran; at the Bab-el-Oued, the Arab rebels, not confounded even in their deaths with the dogs of Christians, were beheaded by the yataghan; and in the blue depths we sail over, whose foam washes the bases of the temples, hapless women have sunk for ever, tied in a leather bag between a cat and a serpent.
The history, in truth, is the history—always a cruel one—of an overridden nation compelled to bear a part in the wickedness of its oppressors. This rubric of blood may be read in many a dismal page. Algeria was a slave before England was Christian. The greatest African known to the Church, Augustine, has left a pathetic description of the conquest of his country by the Vandals in the fifth century: it was attended with horrible atrocities, the enemy leaving the slain in unburied heaps, so as to drive out the garrisons by pestilence. When Spain overthrew the Moors she took the coast-cities of Morocco and Algeria. Afterward, when Aruch Barbarossa, the "Friend of the Sea," had seized the Algerian strongholds as a prize for the Turks, and his system of piracy was devastating the Mediterranean, Spain with other countries suffered, and we have a vivid picture of an Algerine bagnio and bagnio-keeper from the pen of the illustrious prisoner Cervantes. "Our spirits failed" (he writes) "in witnessing the unheard-of cruelties that Hassan exercised. Every day were new punishments, accompanied with cries of cursing and vengeance. Almost daily a captive was thrown upon the hooks, impaled or deprived of sight, and that without any other motive than to gratify the thirst of human blood natural to this monster, and which inspired even the executioners with horror."
While our fancy traces the figure of the author of Don Quixote, a plotting captive, behind the walls of Algiers, the steamer is withdrawing, and the view of the city becomes more beautiful at every turn of the paddles. We pass through a whole squadron of fishing-boats, hovering on their long lateen sails, and seeming like butterflies balanced upon the waves, which are blue as the petal of the iris. Algiers gradually becomes a mere impression of light. The details have been effaced little by little, and melted into a general hue of gold and warmth: the windowless houses and the walls extending in terraces confuse interchangeably their blank masses. The dark green hills of Boudjareah and Mustapha seem to have opened their sombre flanks to disclose a marble-quarry: the city, piled up with pale and blocklike forms, appears to sink into the mountains again as the boat retires, although the picturesque buildings of the Casbah, cropping out upon the summit, linger long in sight, like rocks of lime. As we pass Cape Matifou we see rising over its shoulder the summits of the Atlas range, among whose peaks we hope to be in a fortnight, after passing Bona, Philippeville and Constantina.
Sailing along this coast of the Mediterranean resembles an excursion on one of the Swiss lakes. Four hours after passing Algiers, in going eastwardly toward the port of Philippeville, we come in sight of Dellys, a little town of poor appearance, where the hussars of France first learned the peculiarities of Kabyle fighting. This warfare was something novel. In place of the old gusty sweeps of cavaliers on horseback, falling on the French battalions or glancing around them in whirlwinds, the soldiers had to extirpate the Kabyles hidden in the houses. It was not fighting—it was ferreting. Each house in Dellys was a fort which had to be taken by siege. Each garden concealed behind its palings the "flower" of Kabyle chivalry, only to be uprooted by the bayonet. The women fought with fury.
We follow our course along these exquisite blue waters, and soon have a glimpse, at three miles distance, of an isolated, abrupt cone, trimmed at the summit into the proportions of a pyramid. It is the hill of Gouraya, an enormous mass of granite which lifts its scarped summit over the port of Bougie, called Salda by Strabo. We approach and watch the enormous rock seeming to grow taller and taller as we nestle beneath it in the beautiful harbor. Bougie lies on a narrow and stony beach in the embrace of the mountain, white and coquettish, spreading up the rocky wall as far as it can, and looking aloft to the protecting summit two thousand feet above it. We abstain from dismounting, but sweep the city with field-glasses from the deck of the ship, recollecting that Bougie was bombarded in the reign of the Merrie Monarch by Sir Edward Spragg. We trace the ravine of Sidi-Touati, which breaks the town in half as it splits its way into the sea. Here, in 1836, the French commandant, Salomon de Mussis, was treacherously shot while at a friendly conference with the sheikh Amzian, the pretext being the murder of a marabout by the French sentinels. The incident is worth mentioning, because it brought into light some of the nobler traits of Kabyle character. The sheikh, for killing a guest with whom he had just taken coffee, was reproached by the natives as "the man who murdered with one hand and took gifts with the other," and was forced by mere popular contempt from his sheikhship, to perish in utter obscurity.
Putting on steam again, we recede from Bougie, and passing Djigelly, with its overpoweringly large barracks and hospital, doubling Cape Bougarone and sighting the fishing-village of Stora, we arrive at the new port-city of Philippeville. This colony, a plantation of Louis Philippe's upon the site of the Roman Russicada, has only thirty-four years of existence, and contains twenty Frenchmen for every Arab found within it. It differs, however, from our American thirty-year-old towns in the interesting respect of showing the traces of an older civilization. French savants here examine the ruins of the theatre and the immense Roman reservoirs in the hillside, and take "squeezes" of inscriptions marked upon the antique altar, column or cippus. On an ancient pillar was found an amusing grafita, the sketch of some Roman schoolboy, showing an aquarius (or water-carrier) loaded with his twin buckets. Philippeville, nursed among these glowing African hills, has the look of some bad melodramatic joke. Its European houses, streets laid out with the surveyor's chain, pompous church, and arcades like a Rue de Rivoli in miniature, make a foolish show indeed, in place of the walls, white, unwinking and mysterious, which ordinarily enclose the Eastern home or protect the Arab's wife behind their blinded windows.
If we leave Philippeville in the evening, we find ourselves next morning in the handsome roadstead of Bona. This, for the present, will terminate our examination of the coast, for, however fond we may be of level traveling, we cannot reasonably expect to get over the Atlas Mountains by hugging the shore. The harbor of Bona, though broad and beautiful, is somewhat dangerous, concealing numbers of rocks which lurk at about the surface of the water. Other rocks, standing boldly out at the entrance of the port, offer a singular aspect, being sculptured into strange forms by the sea. One makes a very good statue of a lion, lying before the city as its guard, and looking across the waves for an enemy as the foam caresses its monstrous feet.
Dismounting from shipboard, we become landsmen for the remainder of our journey, and wave adieu to the steamboat which has brought us as we linger a moment on the mole of Bona. This city is named from the ancient Hippo, out of whose ruins, a mile to the southward, it was largely built. The Arabs call it "the city of jujube trees"—Beled-el-Huneb. To the Roumi (or Christian) traveler the interest of the spot concentrates in one historic figure, that of Saint Augustine. In the basilica of Hippo, of which the remains are believed to have been identified in some recent excavations, the sainted bishop shook the air with his learned and penetrating eloquence. Here he exhorted the faithful to defend their religious liberty and their lives, uncertain if the Vandal hordes of Genseric were not about to sweep away the faith and the language of Rome. Here, where the forest of El Edoug spreads a shadow like that of memory over the scene of his walks and labors, he brought his grand life of expiation to a holy close, praying with his last breath for his disciples oppressed by the invaders. We reach the site of Hippo (or Hippone) by a Roman bridge, restored to its former solidity by the French, over whose arches the bishop must have often walked, meditating on his youth of profligacy and vain scholarship, and over the abounding Divine grace which had saved him for the edification of all futurity.
Bona has a street named Saint Augustine, but it is, by one of the strange paradoxes which history is constantly playing us, owned entirely by Jews, and those of one sole family. This fact indicates how the thrifty race has prospered since the French occupancy. Formerly oppressed and ill-treated, taxed and murdered by the Turks, and only permitted to dress in the mournfulest colors, the Jew of Algeria hid himself as if life were something he had stolen, and for which he must apologize all his days. Now, treated with the same liberality as any other colonist, the Jew indulges in every ostentation of dress except as to the color of the turban, which, in small towns like Bona, still preserves the black hue of former days of oppression. On Saturdays the children of Jacob fairly blaze with gold and gay colors. On their working days they line the principal streets, eyeing the passers-by with a cool, easy indifference, but never losing a chance of business. In Algeria this race is generally thought to present a picture of arrogance, knavery and rank cowardice not equaled on the face of the globe. An English traveler saw an Arab, after maddening himself with opium and absinthe, run a-mok among the shopkeepers who lined the principal street of Algiers. Selecting the Hebrews, he drove before him a throng of twenty, dressed in all the colors of the rainbow, who allowed themselves to be knocked down with the obedience of ninepins. A Frenchman stopped the maniac after he had killed one Jew and wounded several, none of them making any effort at defence.
A few narrow streets, bordered with Moorish architecture, contain the native industry of Bona. It is about equally divided between the Jews and the M'zabites, who, like the Kabyles, are a remnant of the stiff-necked old Berber tribe. The M'zabites preserve the pure Arab dress—the haik, or small bornouse without hood, the broad breeches coming to the knee, the bare legs, and the turban rolled up into a coil of ropes. Thus accoutred, and squatting in the ledges of their small booths, the jewelers, blacksmiths and tailors of Bona are found at their work.
Returning to Philippeville by land, and remaining as short a time as possible in this unedifying city, which is a bad and overheated imitation of a French provincial town, we concede only so much to its modern character as to hire a fine open carriage in which to proceed inland toward Constantina. This city is reached after a calm, meditative ride through sunny hills and groves. After so quiet a preparation the first view of Constantina is fairly astounding. Encircled by a grand curve of mountainous precipices, rises a gigantic rock, washed by a moat formed of the roaring cascades of the river Rummel. On the flat top of this naked rock, like the Stylites on his pillar, stands Constantina. The Arabs used to say that Constantina was a stone in the midst of a flood, and that, according to their Prophet, it would require as many Franks to raise that stone as it would of ants to lift an egg at the bottom of a milk-pot.
This city, under its old Roman name of Cirta, was one of the principal strongholds of Numidia. In 1837 it was one of the most hotly-defended strongholds of the Kabyles. The French have renamed, as "Gate of the Breach," the old Bab-el-Djedid, where Colonel Lamoriciere entered at the head of his Zouaves. The city had to be conquered in detail, house by house. Lamoriciere himself was wounded: the Kabyles, driven to their last extremity, evacuated the Casbah on the summit of the rock, and let down their women by ropes into the abyss; the ropes, overweighted by these human clusters, broke, piling the bodies and fragments of bodies in heaps beneath the precipice, while some of the natives descended the steep rock safely with the agility of goats.
Of all the large Algerian cities, Constantina is that which has best preserved its primitive signet. In most quarters it remains what it was under the Turks. These quarters are still undermined, rather than laid out, with close and crooked streets, where the rough white houses are pierced with narrow windows, closed to the inquisitive eye of the Roumi. The roofs are of tile, for the winters on the hills are too severe to permit the flat, terraced roofs of Algiers or Bona. These white houses, roofed with brown, give a perfectly original aspect to the city as seen from any of the neighboring eminences. The plateau of Mansourah is connected with the town by a magnificent Roman bridge, two stories in height, restored by the French.
From this bridge, which is three hundred feet high by three hundred and fifteen feet in length, and has five arches, you look down into the bed of the Rummel, while the vultures and eagles scream around you, and you recite the words of the poet El Abdery, who called this river a bracelet which encircles an arm. The gorge opens out into a beautiful plain rich with pomegranates, figs and orange trees. The sea is forty-eight miles away.
The last bey of Constantina, not knowing that he was merely building for the occupancy of the French governors who were to come after him, decreed himself, some fifty years ago, a stately pleasure-dome, after the fashion of Kubla Khan. From the ruins of Constantina, Bona and Tunis, Ahmed Bey picked up whatever was most beautiful in the way of Roman marbles and carving. With these he built his halls, while the Rummel, through caverns measureless to man, ran on below. Some Frenchman of importance will now-a-days give you the freedom of this curious piece of Turkish construction, where, among storks and ibises gravely perched on one stilt, you examine the relics of Roman history, preserved by its very destroyers, according to the grotesque providence that watches over the study of archaeology.
You are told how Ahmed, wishing to adorn the walls of his gallery or loggia with frescoes, of which he had heard, but which he had no artist capable of executing, whether Arab, Moor or Jew, applied to a prisoner. The man was a French shoemaker, who had never touched a brush: he vainly tried to decline the honor, but the bey was inflexible: "You are a vile liar: all the Christians can paint. Liberty if you succeed, death if you disobey me."
Extremely nervous was the hand which the painter malgre lui applied to the unlooked-for task. From the laborious travail of his brain issued at length an odd mass of arabesques with which the walls were somehow covered. His invention exhausted, he awaited in an agony of fear the inspection of his Turkish master. He came, and was enchanted. The painter was free, and the bey observed: "The dog wanted to deceive me: I knew that all the Christians could paint."
You are amazed to find, in this nest of Islamite savagery and among these wild rocks, the uttermost accent of modern French politeness. Your presence is a windfall in quarters so retired, and you sit among orange plants and straying gazelles, while the military band throws softly out against the inaccessible crags the famous tower-scene from the fourth act of Il Trovatore. As night draws on, tired of your explorations, you seek a Moorish bath.
Let no tourist, experienced only in the effeminate imitations of the hummum to be found in New York or London, expect similar considerate treatment in Algeria. He will be more likely to receive the attention of the M'zabite bather after the fashion narrated in the following paragraph, which is a quotation from an English journalist in the land of the Kabyles:
"We were told to sit down upon a marble seat in the middle of the hall, which we had no sooner done than we became sensible of a great increase of heat: after this each of us was taken into a closet of milder temperature, where, after placing a white cloth on the floor and taking off our napkins, they laid us down, leaving us to the further operations of two naked, robust negroes. These men, newly brought from the interior of Africa, were ignorant of Arabic; so I could not tell them in what way I wished to be treated, and they handled me as roughly as if I had been a Moor inured to hardship. Kneeling with one knee upon the ground, each took me by a leg and began rubbing the soles of my feet with a pumice stone. After this operation on my feet, they put their hands into a small bag and rubbed me all over with it as hard as they could. The distortions of my countenance must have told them what I endured, but they rubbed on, smiling at each other, and sometimes giving me an encouraging look, indicating by their gestures the good it would do me. While they were thus currying me they almost drowned me by throwing warm water upon me with large silver vessels, which were in the basin under a cock fastened in the wall. When this was over they raised me up, putting my head under the cock, by which means the water flowed all over my body; and, as if this was not sufficient, my attendants continued plying their vessels. Then, having dried me with very fine napkins, they each of them very respectfully kissed my hand. I considered this as a sign that my torment was over, and was going to dress myself, when one of the negroes, grimly smiling, stopped me till the other returned with a kind of earth, which they began to rub all over my body without consulting my inclination. I was as much surprised to see it take off all the hair as I was pained in the operation; for this earth is so quick in its effect that it burns the skin if left upon the body. This being finished, I went through a second ablution, after which one of them seized me behind by the shoulders, and setting his two knees against the lower part of my back, made my bones crack, so that for a time I thought they were entirely dislocated. Nor was this all, for after whirling me about like a top to the right and left, he delivered me to his comrade, who used me in the same manner: and then, to my no small satisfaction, opened the closet door."
This is the true Moorish bath. Meantime, the M'zabite or negro, as he dislocates your legs, cracks your spinal column or dances over you on his knees, drones forth a kind of native psalmody, which, melting into the steamy atmosphere of the place, seems to be the litany of happiness and of the pure in heart. Clean in body and soul as you never were before, skinned, depilated, dissected, you emerge for a new life of ideal perfection, feeling as if you were suddenly relieved of your body.
There is held every Friday at Constantina a grand assembly of the fire-eating marabouts, the fanatics who have given so much trouble to their French rulers. Every revolution among the Kabyles is a religious movement, set in motion by the wild enthusiasm of the "saints." The religious orders of Kabylia, all of them differing in various degrees from Turkish Mohammedanism, are of some half dozen varieties, adapted to minds of various cultivation. Some, as that of Sidi-Yusef-Hansali, are mild in their rites and of a purely didactic or religious nature. This latter sect originated in Constantina, comprises two thousand brothers or khouans, and was in 1865 under the authority of Hammo-el-Zouaoui, a direct descendant of Yusef-Hansali. An hour passed in the college of this order, where the whole formula of worship consists in saying a hundred times "God forgive!" then, a hundred other times, "Allah ill' Allah: Mohammed ressoul Allah!" may be monotonous, but it is not revolutionary. From this tautological brotherhood, through various degrees of emotional activity, you arrive at the wild doings of the fire-eaters, or followers of Mohammed-ben-Aissa. This Aissa was a native of Meknes in Morocco, where he died full of years and piety three hundred years ago. His legend states that being originally very poor, he attempted to support his family in the truly Oriental manner, not by working for them, but by spending his whole time at the mosque in prayer for their miraculous sustenance. His inertia and his faith were acceptable to Mohammed, who appeared to Aissa's wife with baskets of food, and to Aissa with the order to found a sect. The allegory expressed by the disgusting actions of the order would seem to be that anything is nourishment to the true believer. They therefore exhibit themselves as eating red-hot iron, scorpions and prickly cactus. Various travelers, some of them cool hands and accurate observers, have seen these khouans at their horrible feasts without being able to explain the imposture. A British soldier, an experienced Indian officer, happened to be in Kabylia just before the breaking out of the great Sepoy rebellion in India, and was introduced to one of the fire-eating orgies by Major Deval at Tizi-ouzou, where our journey into Kabylia is to terminate. With his own eyes he saw a khouan, excited by half an hour's chanting and beating the tom-tom, drive a sword four inches deep into his chest by hitting it with a tile. The man marched around and exhibited it to the congregation as it quivered in his naked body. Another seared his face and hands with a large red-hot iron, holding it finally with his mouth without other support. Another chewed up an entire leaf of a cactus with its dangerous spikes, which sting one's hands severely and remain rankling in the flesh. Another filled his mouth with live coals from a brazier, and walked around blowing out sparks. Another swallowed a living scorpion, a small snake, broken glass and nails. The spectator was in the midst of these enthusiasts, being touched by them in their antics, yet he could detect no foul play, except that he imagined the sword in the first-named experiment to have been driven into an old wound or between the skin and the flesh. It was to counteract the influence of the fire-eating marabouts that the French government sent over Robert Houdin, the ingenious mechanician, but though he eclipsed their wonders by tricks of electricity and sleight, he has left but a lame explanation of the "juggleries" of the Algerine saints.
The worst attribute of these khouans is, that after having excited the ignorant Kabyles to many a losing war by their magnetism, they remain themselves behind the curtain, safe and sarcastic.
In the Moorish quarter of Constantina, where the streets are about five feet wide, you sit down to watch the perpetual come-and-go of the inhabitants. Taking a cup of fragrant coffee—which, as the reader knows, is in Eastern countries eaten at the same time that it is drunk—you sit on a stone bench of the coffee-house and contemplate mules, horses, asses, passengers, buyers, sellers, loungers, Arabs, Turks, Kabyles, Jews, Moors and spahis. On every side you hear the cry of "Balek! balek!" This means "Look out!" and the word is closely followed by the causative fact. The street is unpaved, the horse is unshod, the hoofs cannot be heard, and you have hardly time to efface yourself against a wall when a cavalier passes by like a careless torrent, scattering the white bornouses centrifugally from his pathway as he advances. The streets, as we observed, are very narrow. Each has its own manufacture. Here are the tailors; here, in this deafening alley, are the blacksmiths; farther on are the shoemakers, and you are driven mad with wonder at the quantities of slippers made for a people which goes eternally barefoot. Springing out of this daedal intricacy of booths and workshops rise the slender minarets of prayer, of which the principal one belongs to a mosque said to be the most beautiful in Algeria. The interior of this chief mosque is not deprived of ornament, having its columns of pink marble, its elliptical Moorish arches, and its tiles of painted fayence set in the walls. In the centre is the pulpit, coarsely painted red and blue, where the imaum recites his prayers. Three small, lofty windows are filled with carved lacework. The floor is spread with carpets for the knees of the rich, with matting for the poor. Over all rises the square, crescent-crowned minaret—no belfry, but a steeple where the chimes are rung by the human voice. Night and day, from the heights of their slender towers, the muezzins toll out their vibrating notes like a bell, inviting the faithful to prayers with the often-heard signal: "Allah ill' Allah: Mohammed resoul Allah!"
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
THE NATIONAL TRANS-ALLEGHANY WATER-WAY.
The offices of running water have afforded a fertile theme for the poet and the philosopher. In the ruder ages of the world the water-ways which carve their course over the face of the globe were regarded only in the light of natural barriers against hostile invasion; and thus arose the historic principle—
Lands intersected by a narrow frith Abhor each other.
But civilization has demonstrated that they subserve a much higher purpose, that the rivers of a country are its great arteries and highways of trade, and that they fulfill functions as numerous and benign in the political economy as in the physical geography of the regions they furrow. In the Old World, the advancing streams of culture, science and commerce, and even the migrations of nations, have ebbed and flowed along the classic valleys of the Rhine, the Rhone and the Danube; and the banks of the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Nile are rich in memories of the world's mightiest and most splendid empires. In America the fertile watersheds of the Ohio, the Mississippi and the Missouri are fast becoming what their antitypes of the great continent have been in the past. The outspreading wave of civilization and population has already reached westward to the foot of the Rocky Mountains from the Gulf of Mexico to Montana and Idaho, while even the basin of the Columbia River is rapidly filling up with an active, thriving and busy people, who can smile at the poet's vision:
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound Save its own dashings.
The water-courses of a country are not less valuable to it than the little Pactolus was to the ancient city of Sardis, through whose streets it ran freighted with gold. But these natural highways of human intercourse, like most of Nature's provisions, are capable of indefinite artificial extension and multiplication. Our finest modern canals are scarcely smaller, and certainly capable of more uninterrupted, safe and heavy navigation, than many of the rivers which have figured in history, and which Pascal so graphically described as "moving roads that carry us whither we wish to go."
Such considerations as these have a profound bearing on many of the great economic problems of the age, but on none more than upon the grand problem which is now agitating the national mind in the United States: How to connect its seaboard and central regions by water. A glance at the map of the Union shows that its vast interior lies ensconced between the two mountain-walls of the Rocky chain on its western side and the Appalachian chain on its eastern side. Hemmed in by these barriers is the immense expanse of the most prolific, populous and prosperous section on the continent, which, taking its name from "the Father of Waters," is geographically designated as the Mississippi Valley, estimated by Professor J. W. Foster of the Chicago University to contain an area of two million four hundred and fifty-five thousand square miles, equal to that of all Europe excepting Russia, Norway and Sweden. Unlike the inland basin of Asia, in which the vast, mountain-girt Desert of Gobi stretches out its seas of sand, stony, sterile and desolate, the inland basin of America is its garden-spot and granary. Swept by the vapor-bearing winds and rain-distilling clouds from the Gulf of Mexico, and blessed with an excellent climate, it contains all the physical elements of an empire within itself. Its position makes it the national strong-hold, so that with military men it has grown into an adage, "Whoever is master of the Mississippi is lord of the continent." It is yet but half developed, but no far-seeing mind can form any estimate of its future growth and opulence. "With a varied and splendid entourage—an imperial cordon of States—nothing," says Dr. John W. Draper of New York, "can prevent the Mississippi Valley from becoming in less than three centuries the centre of human power." The only wall of partition that shuts it off from the great marts of the world is formed by the chain of the Alleghanies, which stretch along the Atlantic seaboard, from south-west to north-east, for twelve hundred miles. This natural barrier, with a mean altitude of two thousand feet, is destitute of a central axis, and consists, as the two Rogerses, who have most fully explored its ridges, showed, of a series of convex and concave flexures, "giving them the appearance of so many colossal entrenchments." With a broad artificial channel cut through its sunken defiles and picturesque gorges, there would at once be opened a gateway for the flow and reflow of the heavy commerce of the Western World.
In 1781 the practical and philosophic eye of Thomas Jefferson perceived the national necessity for a great trans-Alleghany water-line, and early in the year 1786, though still tossed on the wave of the Revolution, and not yet recovered from the shock of British invasion, the State which gave birth to the author of the "Declaration of Independence" declared for the enterprise. With all the means and energy at its command it pushed forward the work from year to year, and directed it, as Mr. Jefferson had proposed, so as to connect the head-waters of the James River, flowing from the Alleghany summits to the ocean, with the mountain-river known as the Great Kanawha, which rises near the fountains of the upper James and descends into the broad bosom of the Ohio. Although this undertaking was prosecuted slowly at first, it was permanently recognized as one that must go on; in 1832 and 1835 it received new impulses; and in 1840 it had reached the piedmont districts. In 1847 a powerful impetus was given to the work, and it was thenceforth, till 1856, forced rapidly westward up the eastern slopes of the Alleghanies, as a complete and working structure, above a point three hundred miles from the Atlantic capes, and two hundred miles from Richmond, leaving an unfinished gap to the upper or navigable part of Kanawha River of a little over one hundred and fifty miles. This enormous work was more than half finished at an outlay of $10,436,869—a sum which, during the economic period of its expenditure, went as far as nearly twice that amount would go now.
By recent legislation the State of Virginia proposes to turn over the entire property of the canal to the United States, on the sole condition of its being finished by the government and converted into a national water-highway for the good of the common country—in other words, upon the one condition of its nationalization.
It is sometimes contended that the day of canals has passed, and henceforward the railway must take their place. But this notion is opposed to the present economic necessities of the world, as well as to the provisions of Nature, which evidently point to the utilization of the hydraulic systems of the globe. The lavish and prodigal use of the coal-deposit of the earth, and the deforesting of vast tracts of soil to supply fuel for the locomotive and the stationary engine, have already wrought incalculable and almost irremediable evils. The past year has seen the prices of all English coals go up at least eighty per cent., and the coal-famine of Great Britain, foreseen some years ago, has already threatened to sap the vigor of her industrial systems and destroy her manufacturing supremacy, or, at any rate, place her at the mercy of the United States for the fuel with which to operate them. The denudation of the vast territories of the United States by the axe of emigration has already told in a marked degree upon the condition of its climate, and greatly affected its meteorology and rainfall; while the railroads, which have spread their Briarean arms over the whole country, by their immense consumption of wood for cross-ties, sills, fuel, snow-sheds, bridges, etc., have wellnigh stripped the land of its timber, leaving its bosom exposed to the biting blasts of winter and to the fiery blaze of the summer sun.
The problem of more rapid canal navigation is speedily approaching solution, and to give up the water-lines of the larger sections would be fatal to their commercial development. "The Erie Canal," said a distinguished citizen of New York a short time ago, "now conveys one-fourth of the whole export of that vast interior region I have described (the Mississippi drainage), and as much of it during its six months of uninterrupted navigation as all of the trunk railways together during the same time." "Every canal-boat," he added, "which comes to Albany with an average cargo is more than the average of the New York Central Railroad trains. In the busy canal season more than one hundred and fifty such boats come daily to tide-water, and the New York Central Railroad traffic never reaches thirty trains a day." Such a canal traffic would make more than twenty miles of uninterrupted railroad-cars, which could not, by any possibility, be handled by the largest force of railroad employes with expedition or convenience. The furore which the steam-engine has excited and so long maintained in the mechanical world is decidedly abating. Engineers are everywhere at work studying the practicability of employing new forces. The solar heat, the wind-power, the water-power of rivers, and even the tidal energy of the sea, have been and are now being harnessed to the machineries of Europe. These reservoirs of force are kept perennially full by the sun and the moon, to whose action they are due, and at a future period, when men have prodigally squandered their heritage of coal and wood wealth, they will be invoked by the mechanic and manufacturer to furnish their chief motive-power. As an economist of the force-capital deposited by the sun's influence in the bowels of the earth during its carboniferous epoch, and as using, instead of it, the force-interest received annually from the sun through the medium of rain and wind, the water-way will and must become one of the most generally employed engines of the higher civilizations yet to be.
So long as the subject of trans-Alleghany water-communication was viewed as one merely affecting individual States, it possessed no national interest. But in its present aspect it is of vast moment, both national and international. While many overcrowded portions of the Old World are often confronted with both the spectre and the reality of gaunt famine, and their breadless thousands are looking wistfully to the fresh and prolific fields of the New, for relief, there are annually lost to the country and the world vast stores of corn, which the Western farmers cannot afford to send by railroad to the seaboard for foreign shipment, and freely use as a substitute for fuel. This fact is suggestive and significant. To understand its import we have only to look at the geographical position of the West and the Mississippi Valley, isolated in the heart of a continent.
There are three outlets for the commerce of these sections seeking New York, the emporium of the New World, and the chief trans-Atlantic markets: 1. By the Mississippi River to New Orleans, and thence by transhipment to New York and Europe. 2. By the northern lakes to the St. Lawrence Valley, or by the former to the Erie Canal. 3. By the costly transportation of railroads over the Alleghanies or along the lake-shores eastward.
The first of these routes is of course the longest, both in time and distance. It takes the merchandise by an extensive detour, which, from the mouth of the Ohio River, via the Gulf, to New York, exceeds three thousand miles. Although lying in the powerful current of the Gulf Stream, which is a propelling force speeding forward the vessel that trusts its warm, blue waters, this route is exposed to the most violent cyclonic storms, and navigators shun and evade it during the equinoctial or hurricane season. But, barring danger and distance, no country with such an outlet to the sea as the Mississippi River affords can be considered dependent upon any artificial communication. Notwithstanding the objections which exist to this long route (which is both expensive and long), its trade is rapidly increasing from the very exigencies of the case. The introduction of the barge-system on the great Western rivers has greatly facilitated and cheapened transportation. Steam-tugs, carrying neither passengers nor freight, are substituted for the steamboat. These tugs never stop except to coal and attach the barges, already loaded before their arrival at a city, and proceed with great despatch. Steaming steadily on, night and day, they make the trip from St. Louis to New Orleans almost as quickly as the oft-detained steamboat. The distance has been made between these cities by a tug, with ten heavily-freighted barges, in six days. The tugs plying on the Minnesota River carry with good speed barges containing thirty thousand bushels of wheat, and the freight of a single trip would fill more than eighty railroad-cars. This transportation is cheap, because the tugs require less than one-fourth the expense for running and management required by the steamboats. The carriage of grain from Minnesota to New Orleans by this method costs no more than the freightage from the same point to Chicago by rail. A boatload of wheat from St. Paul, taking the river route, is not once handled until it is put aboard ship at the Crescent City. The mighty energy of the North-west—"the Germany of America," as it has been well called by Dr. Draper—has long since discovered that the Mississippi is the best existing route to European markets. Grain can be shipped by way of St. Louis and New Orleans to New York and Europe twenty cents a bushel cheaper than it can be carried by the other existing routes. As long ago as 1868 the Illinois Central Railroad took hold of the West India and Southern trade through the river route, and offered such commercial inducements to Western importers that "Havana sends her products by this route to the North-west, instead of by New York."[A] As the North-west expands and multiplies in resources and population, it will be compelled to transact its foreign and seaboard commerce through the noble navigable waters of the Mississippi, unless it can obtain a short and cheap transportation to New York by some trans-Alleghany water-line. In the event of the North-western trade being diverted southward along the great natural artery of the continent, where no tolls, no tariffs and no transhipments are required, the loss will fall most heavily upon New York and the seaboard marts. The increasing stream of South American commerce, in the same event, must inevitably take the short, speedy and entirely inexpensive route to the North-west (through the broad and free highway of the "Father of Waters"), rather than encounter the delay, danger and expense of the Gulf-Stream route to New York, and thence by rail or the Lakes to its destination. The longer the present trade-status continues, and the mammoth corporations of the railroads force the transportation of the North-west, the West and the Mississippi Valley to take the river and Gulf route to the sea, the greater and more fixed becomes the diversion of this incalculable commerce from the great markets of the Middle and Eastern States. So far, therefore, from the far West being at the mercy of the East in this matter, the former has the advantage. The East, rather than allow the present tendency of the commercial current to set well in toward the Gulf, and wear a channel for itself, should strain every nerve to keep it steadily moving toward its own maritime cities. The great cities of the Atlantic seaboard can better afford to construct a water-line over the mountains at their own cost than to run the risk of the Mississippi River becoming the commercial avenue for its vast valley and drainage, and thus bearing the golden stream away from their harbors and streets.
The Utopian idea that Norfolk may become the rival of the great seaports and centres of capital, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, is without the field of discussion. It is not more possible than that a magnetized knife-blade should exert a more powerful attraction than the largest lodestone or the mightiest electro-magnet.
The Lake route from the Mississippi Valley to the East was made continuous and complete by the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. The day of the old flat-boats had not then closed, and the application of steam to river navigation was still in its infancy. The growth of the West—which has always outstripped its internal improvements—like an immense river long dammed up, bursting the barriers that confined it, forced its way toward the sea. Although it was said at first that the canal would never pay, "the opening of this work," as the Superintendent of the Census says, "was an announcement of a new era in the internal grain-trade of the United States. To the pioneer, the agriculturist and the merchant the grand avenue developed a new world. From that period do we date the rise and progress of the North-west." This splendid structure is to-day the great artery of Eastern wealth; and but for the fact that for six months in the year, when the vast sea of Western commerce would seek an outlet through its banks to the East, it is locked by ice, it would be widened into a ship-canal. It lies in the very track of the great north-westerly winds, which descend with torrential rush and polar cold over the Lakes, and thence through Northern New York. Last year, as late as the third of March, when the vegetation of the Middle States was beginning to spring forth in vernal beauty, the whole of the lower Lake region and Western and Northern New York were swept by these Arctic tempests; and this is the climatic rule rather than an exceptional case. Even in the season of open water the Lakes are exposed to the most violent storms, and within their narrow shores hundreds of vessels are annually lost. The mariner overtaken by what would be a moderate gale in a broad sea is in imminent peril for want of sea-room; and in a snow-storm, however light—whose winds elsewhere he would court to fill his sails and propel his craft—his course is beset with danger and difficulty. For more than half the year navigation is suspended by the thickening terrors of the tempest and the accumulated obstacles of ice.[B] And yet, with all the obstacles which impair the utility of the Lake route while it is in operation, the volume of Western produce prefers it, or rather is forced by the necessities of the case to employ it. And these necessities will continue to increase. With the aid of all the railroads now or to be constructed, the rapid expansion of Western commerce has distanced the facilities of transport. The iron horse, as has been well said, has always stimulated industry and production beyond his power to carry it. It was the forcible remark of the English traveler Sir Morton Peto that the American railroads from West to East were "choked with traffic." So great is the inadequacy of all existing outlets for conveying the more than Amazonian streams of trans-Alleghany merchandise that it has long since become the interest of every great corporation, as well as of every citizen of the country, to open for them new and national highways.
From this digression, embracing facts and views which seemed essential to an intelligent discussion of the main subject, we pass on to examine the Appalachian outlet by which the great Western empire of America may find its way to the sea. The bird's-eye view here presented will show the Appalachian mountain-chain, and the waters which thread their way along its gentle slopes eastward to the Atlantic basin and westward to the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. The Alleghanies bear a striking geographic resemblance to the Highlands of Scotland, so famed in song and story. Like the central Grampian Hills—those majestic buttresses in whose recesses the old Caledonians found secure and impregnable asylums from the Roman legions—except that they are richer in verdure and less lofty, they form the grand natural rampart of the American Union. To use the words of Lavallee, the French military historian and statistician, "Mountains play the principal part in military operations: true ramparts of states, they interrupt the development of strategic movements, and render the greatest efforts necessary for their passage and possession. They are the poetical part of the theatre of the art of war." If the day ever comes, as come it may, when the kingly powers of the world combine to crush the republican institutions of the United States, and swarm the harbors and bays of our Atlantic seaboard with their allied navies, the defiles of the Alleghanies will prove the Thermopylaes of the Union; and against their eastern base the surging wave of invasion must be stayed, if stayed at all. Like the Scottish peaks,
The grisly champions that guard The infant rills of Highland Dee,
or the Spanish wall of the Pyrenean chain, on whose Sierras, in 1808, Wellington's blazing lines of Torres Vedras arrested Massena's march, the mountains that look out on our Atlantic sea-front must ever be of the highest military importance.
To throw across their central ridges a great aqueduct is no mean undertaking of merely local significance, but may take rank with the old Roman aqueducts, with the magnificent roads constructed by Napoleon over the Alps, and with the more modern and now triumphant tunnels through Mont Cenis and the Hoosac Mountains, and the rapidly-progressing railway over the Andes from Callao to the Amazon Valley.
The broad and national features of the proposed trans-Alleghany water-way have so strongly commended themselves to President Grant that in his last message he recommends preliminary Congressional action, and in a more recent address to a number of distinguished visitors at the Executive Mansion he used much stronger and bolder language in assuring them that "he hoped Congress would give such encouragement to the measure as to secure the completion of the canal." He has in these words only repeated the sentiments of his illustrious predecessors, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, in behalf of the value of the work. We have already alluded to Mr. Jefferson's early advocacy of a water-line by the James and Kanawha Rivers. The first idea of this enterprise seems to have been suggested to Washington as early as the year 1753, after his celebrated trip from Jamestown to Fort Duquesne as an envoy of Governor Dinwiddie. At the close of the Revolutionary war he made an arduous and personal exploration of the country for many hundred miles. He kept a journal in which were minutely recorded his conversations with all intelligent persons he met respecting the facilities for internal navigation afforded by the rivers rising in the Alleghany Mountains and flowing either east or west. Returning to Mount Vernon October 4, 1784, he wrote, as the result of his observations, to the then governor of Virginia, the father of William Henry Harrison: "I shall take the liberty now, my dear sir, to suggest a matter which would (if I am not too short-sighted a politician) mark your administration as an important era in the annals of this country. It has been my decided opinion that the shortest, easiest and least expensive communication with the invaluable and extensive country back of us would be by one or both of the rivers of this State which have their sources in the Appalachian Mountains." General Washington, on the 26th of August, 1785, became the first president of the company authorized by the legislation which he had suggested previously to Governor Harrison. It is well known that the same views entertained by Washington and Jefferson were held and advocated by Mr. Madison, long before the most prescient statesman could descry the faintest image of that colossal empire of population, wealth and rapid development now lying west of the Alleghanies.
For the great future water-ways which are needed for the Western, the North-western and the Mississippi Valley trade there are several routes that have been demonstrated to be practicable. One of these is by a projected canal to connect the Coosa River with the Alabama River, and thence following that stream to the Gulf of Mexico. This, if ever carried out, as eventually it is probable will be the case, would avoid the bars and dangers of the navigation of the lower Mississippi, and in a measure obviate the necessity of the proposed sub-canals in Louisiana and other engineering expedients to remove or turn the very serious river-obstacles to an outlet south of New Orleans. Another proposal is to connect the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, and to run a canal from the latter to the Ocmulgee or Savannah River, and thence by the use of slack water to reach the harbors of Savannah and Charleston. This scheme has been clearly proved to be feasible, although the distance seems objectionable. The third (or central) water-line proposed is that so long agitated since the beginning of the present century, so often surveyed and re-surveyed by the most eminent engineers, and not long since by the United States Engineer Corps under the direction of General A. A. Humphreys, the chief engineer of the United States army. It is the shortest and most direct line, and has the advantage that it is, as we have seen, already nearly half completed, from the head of tide-water on the James River, above Lexington, to Buchanan, near the summit-level of the mountains. The engineers who have reported upon it—among whom are the late Colonel E. Lorraine, Benjamin H. Latrobe, Esq., and other eminent engineers—estimate that the largest sum required for its completion to the Kanawha River is $37,364,000, and the length of time required four years. "Of this large sum, however," they say, "it can be clearly shown that there will be no need of any other advance by government than the interest which will accumulate while the work is in progress, which, by issuing the bonds every six months, as required, will not reach the sum of six million dollars. And this is every cent that will ever be required to be advanced. Should the government undertake to make the work a fine one, it will of course cost the whole amount estimated, but this would be more than made up by its increased benefits to the whole country.
"The work when completed, even at a low rate of tolls—not over about half the rate charged on the Erie Canal—will return the advance, pay the interest and redeem the principal in less than twenty years.
"In considering this question we are not left to mere conjecture. The wonderful history of the Erie Canal, and a comparison of the circumstances connected with the operations of that great work with those under which this enterprise will be inaugurated and accompanied, furnish sufficient data for reliable conclusions."
When we consider that the Erie Canal, though frozen up and useless for half the year, has not only long since paid for its construction out of its tolls, but makes a present of itself to the State, with about thirty millions of dollars of net profit, and that it does more than five times the business of the great New York Central Railroad, transporting annually over five million tons of cargo (which exceeds the total foreign commerce of New York City), and yet is "choked" and gorged with freight, the close figuring of the engineers does not appear to be questionable.
The immense saving in the cost of water-carriage as compared with that of railway-transportation is hardly conceived by the public mind. Many of the railroads carry produce at very low and reasonable rates, but they cannot afford to take it at much if any less than three times the amount charged by the canals. It appears from the report of the New York State Engineer for 1868 that the average receipts per ton per mile on the New York Central Railroad and the Erie Railway was 2.92 cents and 2.42 cents respectively; while on the New York State canals it was 1 cent only, tolls included. But a trans-Alleghany canal would, after getting fully into operation, be able to transport produce more cheaply than the New York canals, which are frozen over about five months of the year, and during the very period when the great tide of Western freightage and the ingathered crops is pressing most heavily for an outlet to the East.[C] There are many products of the West and the Mississippi Valley that will not bear the cost of transportation to the Eastern cities, either by rail, Gulf or Lake route, because they would consume in transitu for freight between sixty and seventy per cent. of their market value in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
These views have been ably and earnestly pressed time and again upon Congress by Eastern and Western statesmen, merchants and citizens of all classes, by the press of all parties, and by the boards of trade and commercial conventions. The surveys cover every foot of the proposed James River Canal extension to the Ohio Valley, which, by general consent, seems to be regarded as the most eligible because it is the most direct central route, and because the State of Virginia has most munificently offered to remand the half-completed work to the general government on the sole condition of its nationalization.
If, as history has always testified, it be true that
Mountains interposed Make enemies of nations, which had else, Like kindred drops, been mingled into one,
it would be difficult, as it is unnecessary, even to attempt to form an adequate estimate of this great trans-Alleghany highway as a benign and powerful agent in the political reconstruction and moral unification of the American States.
After leaving Buchanan, the proposed route for the extension of the James River and Kanawha Canal runs westward to the mouth of Fork Run, a small mountain-river, and ascends that stream to the summit-level, seventeen hundred feet above tide-water. It then pierces the main range of the Alleghanies, passing under Tuckahoe and Katis Mountains by a tunnel nearly eight miles long, and emerges into the valley of the Greenbrier River on the western mountain-slope. Its water-line pursues its course by slack-water navigation down the Greenbrier to New River, and down New River to Lyken's Shoals on the Kanawha, eighty-five miles above its mouth. The last distance of eighty-five miles will be traversed by open navigation, as the Kanawha Valley permits it. Major W. B. Craighill of the Engineer Corps, in his able report to General A. A. Humphreys on this central water-line, says: "The recent completion of the Mont Cenis Tunnel in Europe, and the rapid progress made with the Hoosac Tunnel in this country, with the experience gained in these works, and the improved facilities daily coming into use for carrying on such operations, induce us to approach such an undertaking as the Lorraine tunnel not only without apprehension of failure, but with a feeling of assured certainty of success. It is no longer an extraordinary, but an ordinary, undertaking."
The practical capacity of the water-line when completed will be of almost unlimited extent, while the canal proper with its locks will have a capacity of from fifteen to twenty millions of tons annually. In the fall and early winter, after the harvests are over, and during the very season that the highway is most needed, and when the northern routes are blocked by ice, this trans-Alleghany water-way will be open.
The local trade in its path would alone justify its construction. It will penetrate the finest mineral lands of Virginia and West Virginia, which have been so long locked up from the world. The great Kanawha coal-fields and iron- and salt-mines are unsurpassed by any now known in any part of the globe. In the large demand from England and Europe for coal, which is finding expression in the large orders sent to Philadelphia and Baltimore for Pennsylvania and Maryland coal,[D] there is the best possible evidence that the local trade of the national canal would be enormous. So highly thought of is the Kanawha cannel coal that it is now shipped down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, and sent thence by sea to New York, where it brings per ton about three times the price of anthracite in that market. It is equal to the best English and Nova Scotia cannel, while the Kanawha bituminous and splint coals are unsurpassed by any others. The veins lie horizontally, and vary from three to fifteen feet in thickness, the aggregate thickness of the various strata amounting in some localities to forty or fifty feet of the solid carbon.
But, great as are the local interests and the trade of the water-line, they are entirely lost sight of in the national aspect of the question.
The population now demanding a direct and central highway for its great inland commerce, according to the best estimates (those of Poor), cannot fall short of fifteen millions, and most probably exceeds that number. It is now conclusively established that the centre of gravity of our national population has crossed the Appalachian chain. Professor Hilgard of the Coast Survey prepared a year ago, at the request of the Hon. J. A. Garfield of Ohio, a series of calculations to ascertain this centre of gravity by the four last censuses. Supposing a plane of the exact shape and size of the United States, exclusive of Alaska, loaded with the actual population, he determined the points on which it would balance. In the recently-published words[E] of Mr. Garfield we give the following results of Professor Hilgard's calculations: By this process he found that in 1840 the centre of gravity of the population was at a point in Virginia near the eastern foot of the Appalachian chain, and near the parallel of 39 deg. N. latitude. In 1850 this centre had moved westward fifty-seven miles across the mountains, to a point nearly south of Parkersburg, Virginia. In 1860 it had moved westward eighty-two miles, to a point nearly south of Chillicothe, Ohio. In 1870 it had reached a point near Wilmington, Clinton county, Ohio, about forty-five miles north-east of Cincinnati. In no case had it widely departed from the thirty-ninth parallel. If the same rate be maintained during the next three decades, which I doubt, it will fall in the neighborhood of Bloomington, Indiana, by 1900. Professor Hilgard also found that a line drawn from Lake Erie, at the north-eastern corner of Ohio, to Pensacola in Florida, would divide the population of the United States, as it stood in 1870, into two equal parts. This line is nearly parallel to the line of the Atlantic coast. From these calculations it will appear that both the "centre of gravity" and the line that divides the population in half are more than one hundred and fifty miles west of the Appalachian chain.
If these computations be correct, Poor's figures are too low by two or three millions at least. But, apart from the demand for an inter-continental canal by the population on the west of the Appalachian chain, the seaboard States and cities east of the Appalachians are, as we have already shown, as profoundly interested in such a national cheap thoroughfare as is the former section. Careful estimates have shown that the surplus produce[F] of the trans-Alleghany sections and the Mississippi Valley cannot be less than twenty-five million tons; and this would immediately seek an outlet through the Virginia water-line to the sea. The saving that would result to the West and to the whole country would be enormous; and at a very moderate calculation the amount would be an average of two dollars per ton on the river route, via New Orleans, and ten dollars per ton over the railroad routes. The completion of a comparatively short canal of eighty miles, to cover the gap from Buchanan to the upper Kanawha, would without the shadow of exaggeration save the West forty millions of dollars a year; and the central water-line would yield an interest of ten to fifteen per cent. on the capital invested, while opening a continuous water-road from Liverpool to Omaha, running nearly due west, fifty-nine hundred miles in length! By reducing the freights on the other present thoroughfares through the influence of wholesome competition, it would perhaps at once lessen the cost of inland transportation by nearly one hundred millions of dollars annually!
These considerations, and the added fact that for many years the chambers of commerce of the great Western cities, the many commercial conventions that have met, and the legislatures of the States bordering on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, have earnestly and unanimously memorialized Congress in behalf of the completion of this great inter-continental highway, fully establish the national character of the measure now pending in the national councils.
THOMPSON B. MAURY.
[A] New York Times.
[B] From the 3d to the 6th of March, last year, the thermometer at Rochester was several degrees below zero; at Troy, New York, on the 5th it stood at -14 deg. (below zero); at Ogdensburg, New York, at -32 deg. (below zero); at Watertown, New York, -34 deg. (below zero)! These intense colds recur as late as April.
[C] The average of twenty years shows that the James River and Kanawha Canal was closed annually by ice only fifteen days; the longest period in any one year was fifty-six days.
[D] A single English order for Cumberland coal, to be shipped by a Baltimore dealer last December, was for three hundred thousand tons.
[E] New York Nation, December 19, 1872.
[F] Last year's grain-yield in the Mississippi Valley was one billion and thirty-six millions of bushels. In many parts of the West, for want of transportation, corn is now sold for as little as eighteen and twenty cents per bushel, and the husks are worth, for fuel, nearly as much as the grain. One of the great newspapers of the West, the Chicago Inter-Ocean (January 8th) in discussing editorially "The Reason Farming does not Pay" in that country, forcibly says: "A charge of thirty cents per bushel for the carriage of corn, when the freight should be only fifteen cents, absorbs one-half the value of the crop; and this process, repeated from year to year during the whole period of a decade, exhausts what would otherwise become the surplus of the farmer, and finally impoverishes the entire agricultural community."
A PRINCESS OF THULE.
BY WILLIAM BLACK, AUTHOR OF "THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON."
"LOCHABER NO MORE."
On a small headland of the distant island of Lewis an old man stood looking out on a desolate waste of rain-beaten sea. It was a wild and a wet day. From out of the louring south-west fierce gusts of wind were driving up volumes and flying rags of clouds, and sweeping onward at the same time the gathering waves that fell hissing and thundering on the shore. Far as the eye could reach the sea and the air and the sky seemed to be one indistinguishable mass of whirling and hurrying vapor, as if beyond this point there were no more land, but only wind and water, and the confused and awful voices of their strife.
The short, thick-set, powerfully-built man who stood on this solitary point paid little attention to the rain that ran off the peak of his sailor's cap or to the gusts of wind that blew about his bushy gray beard. He was still following, with an eye accustomed to pick out objects far at sea, one speck of purple that was now fading into the gray mist of the rain; and the longer he looked the less it became, until the mingled sea and sky showed only the smoke that the great steamer left in its wake. As he stood there, motionless and regardless of everything around him, did he cling to the fancy that he could still trace out the path of the vanished ship? A little while before it had passed almost close to him. He had watched it steam out of Stornoway harbor. As the sound of the engines came nearer and the big boat went by, so that he could have almost called to it, there was no sign of emotion on the hard and stern face, except, perhaps, that the lips were held firm and a sort of frown appeared over the eyes. He saw a tiny white handkerchief being waved to him from the deck of the vessel; and he said, almost as though he were addressing some one there, "My good little girl!"
But in the midst of that roaring of the sea and the wind how could any such message be delivered? And already the steamer was away from the land, standing out to the lonely plain of waters, and the sound of the engines had ceased, and the figures on the deck had grown faint and visionary. But still there was that one speck of white visible; and the man knew that a pair of eyes that had many a time looked into his own—as if with a faith that such intercommunion could never be broken—were now trying, through overflowing and blinding tears, to send him a last look of farewell.
The gray mists of the rain gathered within their folds the big vessel and all the beating hearts it contained, and the fluttering of that little token disappeared with it. All that remained was the sea, whitened by the rushing of the wind and the thunder of waves on the beach. The man, who had been gazing so long down into the south-east, turned his face landward, and set out to walk over a tract of wet grass and sand toward a road that ran near by. There was a large wagonette of varnished oak and a pair of small, powerful horses waiting for him there; and having dismissed the boy who had been in charge, he took the reins and got up. But even yet the fascination of the sea and of that sad farewell was upon him, and he turned once more, as if, now that sight could yield him no further tidings, he would send her one more word of good-bye. "My poor little Sheila!" That was all he said; and then he turned to the horses and sent them on, with his head down to escape the rain, and a look on his face like that of a dead man.
As he drove through the town of Stornoway the children playing within the shelter of the cottage doors called to each other in a whisper, and said, "That is the King of Borva."
But the elderly people said to each other, with a shake of the head, "It iss a bad day, this day, for Mr. Mackenzie, that he will be going home to an empty house. And it will be a ferry bad thing for the poor folk of Borva, and they will know a great difference, now that Miss Sheila iss gone away, and there iss nobody—not anybody at all—left in the island to tek the side o' the poor folk."
He looked neither to the right nor to the left, though he was known to many of the people, as he drove away from the town into the heart of the lonely and desolate land. The wind had so far died down, and the rain had considerably lessened, but the gloom of the sky was deepened by the drawing on of the afternoon, and lay heavily over the deary wastes of moor and hill. What a wild and dismal country was this which lay before and all around him, now that the last traces of human occupation were passed! There was not a cottage, not a stone wall, not a fence, to break the monotony of the long undulations of moorland, which in the distance rose into a series of hills that were black under the darkened sky. Down from those mountains, ages ago, glaciers had slowly crept to eat out hollows in the plains below; and now in those hollows were lonely lakes, with not a tree to break the line of their melancholy shores. Everywhere around were the traces of the glacier-drift—great gray boulders of gneiss fixed fast into the black peat-moss or set amid the browns and greens of the heather. The only sound to be heard in this wilderness of rock and morass was the rushing of various streams, rain-swollen and turbid, that plunged down their narrow channels to the sea.
The rain now ceased altogether, but the mountains in the far south had grown still darker, and to the fisherman passing by the coast it must have seemed as though the black peaks were holding converse with the louring clouds, and that the silent moorland beneath was waiting for the first roll of the thunder. The man who was driving along this lonely route sometimes cast a glance down toward this threatening of a storm, but he paid little heed to it. The reins lay loose on the backs of the horses, and at their own pace they followed, hour after hour, the rising and falling road that led through the moorland and past the gloomy lakes. He may have recalled mechanically the names of those stretches of water—the Lake of the Sheiling, the Lake of the Oars, the Lake of the Fine Sand, and so forth—to measure the distance he had traversed; but he seemed to pay little attention to the objects around him, and it was with a glance of something like surprise that he suddenly found himself overlooking that great sea-loch on the western side of the island in which was his home.
He drove down the hill to the solitary little inn of Garra-na-hina. At the door, muffled up in a warm woolen plaid, stood a young girl, fair-haired, blue-eyed, and diffident in look.
"Mr. Mackenzie," she said, with that peculiar and pleasant intonation that marks the speech of the Hebridean who has been taught English in the schools, "it wass Miss Sheila wrote to me to Suainabost, and she said I might come down from Suainabost and see if I can be of any help to you in the house."
The girl was crying, although the blue eyes looked bravely through the tears as if to disprove the fact.
"Ay, my good lass," he said, putting his hand gently on her head, "and it wass Sheila wrote to you?"
"Yes, sir, and I hef come down from Suainabost."
"It is a lonely house you will be going to," he said absently.
"But Miss Sheila said I wass—I wass to—" But here the young girl failed in her effort to explain that Miss Sheila had asked her to go down to make the house less lonely. The elderly man in the wagonette seemed scarcely to notice that she was crying: he bade her come up beside him; and when he had got her into the wagonette he left some message with the innkeeper, who had come to the door, and drove off again.
They drove along the high land that overlooks a portion of Loch Roag, with its wonderful network of islands and straits, and then they stopped on the lofty plateau of Callernish, where there was a man waiting to take the wagonette and horses.
"And you would be seeing Miss Sheila away, sir?" said the man; "and it wass Duncan Macdonald will say that she will not come back no more to Borva."
The old man with the big gray beard only frowned and passed on. He and the girl made their way down the side of the rocky hill to the shore, and here there was an open boat awaiting them. When they approached, a man considerably over six feet in height, keen-faced, gray-eyed, straight-limbed and sinewy in frame, jumped into the big and rough boat and began to get ready for their departure. There was just enough wind to catch the brown mainsail, and the King of Borva took the tiller, his henchman sitting down by the mast. And no sooner had they left the shore and stood out toward one of the channels of this arm of the sea, than the tall, spare keeper began to talk of that which made his master's eye grow dark. "Ah, well," he said, in the plaintive drawling of his race, "and it iss an empty house you will be going to, Mr. Mackenzie; and it iss a bad thing for us all that Miss Sheila hass gone away; and it iss many's ta time she will hef been wis me in this very boat—"
"—— —— —— —— you, Duncan Macdonald!" cried Mackenzie, in an access of fury, "what will you talk of like that? It iss every man, woman and child on the island will talk of nothing but Sheila! I will drive my foot through the bottom of the boat if you do not hold your peace!"
The tall gillie patiently waited until his master had exhausted his passion, and then he said, as if nothing had occurred, "And it will not do much good, Mr. Mackenzie, to tek ta name o' God in vain; and there will be ferry much more of that now since Miss Sheila iss gone away, and there will be much more of trinking in ta island, and it will be a great difference, mirover. And she will be so far away that no one will see her no more—far away beyond ta Sound of Sleat, and far away beyond Oban, as I hef heard people say. And what will she do in London, when she has no boat at all, and she will never go out to ta fishing? And I will hear people say that you will walk a whole day and never come to ta sea, and what will Miss Sheila do for that? And she will tame no more o' ta wild-ducks' young things, and she will find out no more o' ta nests in the rocks, and she will hef no more horns when the deer is killed, and she will go out no more to see ta cattle swim across Loch Roag when they go to ta sheilings. It will be all different, all different, now; and she will never see us no more. And it iss as bad as if you wass a poor man, Mr. Mackenzie, and had to let your sons and your daughters go away to America, and never come back no more. And she ta only one in your house! And it wass the son o' Mr. Macintyre of Sutherland he would hef married her, and come to live on ta island, and not hef Miss Sheila go away among strangers that doesna ken her family, and will put no store by her, no more than if she wass a fisherman's lass. It wass Miss Sheila herself had a sore heart tis morning when she went away; and she turned and she looked at Borva as the boat came away, and I said, Tis iss the last time Miss Sheila will be in her boat, and she will not come no more again to Borva."
Mr. Mackenzie heard not one word or syllable of all this. The dead, passionless look had fallen over the powerful features, and the deep-set eyes were gazing, not on the actual Loch Roag before them, but on the stormy sea that lies between Lewis and Skye, and on a vessel disappearing in the midst of the rain. It was by a sort of instinct that he guided this open boat through the channels, which were now getting broader as they neared the sea, and the tall and grave-faced keeper might have kept up his garrulous talk for hours without attracting a look or a word.
It was now the dusk of the evening, and wild and strange indeed was the scene around the solitary boat as it slowly moved along. Large islands—so large that any one of them might have been mistaken for the mainland—lay over the dark waters of the sea, remote, untenanted and silent. There were no white cottages along these rocky shores; only a succession of rugged cliffs and sandy bays, but half mirrored in the sombre water below. Down in the south the mighty shoulders and peaks of Suainabhal and its sister mountains were still darker than the darkening sky; and when at length the boat had got well out from the network of islands and fronted the broad waters of the Atlantic, the great plain of the western sea seemed already to have drawn around it the solemn mantle of the night.
"Will you go to Borvabost, Mr. Mackenzie, or will we run her into your own house?" asked Duncan—Borvabost being the name of the chief village on the island.
"I will not go on to Borvabost," said the old man peevishly. "Will they not have plenty to talk about at Borvabost?"
"And it iss no harm tat ta folk will speak of Miss Sheila," said the gillie with some show of resentment: "it iss no harm tey will be sorry she is gone away—no harm at all, for it wass many things tey had to thank Miss Sheila for; and now it will be all ferry different—"
"I tell you, Duncan Macdonald, to hold your peace!" said the old man, with a savage glare of the deep-set eyes; and then Duncan relapsed into a sulky silence and the boat held on its way.
In the gathering twilight a long gray curve of sand became visible, and into the bay thus indicated Mackenzie turned his small craft. This indentation of the island seemed as blank of human occupation as the various points and bays they had passed, but as they neared the shore a house came into sight, about half-way up the slope rising from the sea to the pasture-land above. There was a small stone pier jutting out at one portion of the bay, where a mass of rocks was imbedded in the white sand; and here at length the boat was run in, and Mackenzie helped the young girl ashore.
The two of them, leaving the gillie to moor the little vessel that had brought them from Callernish, went silently toward the shore, and up the narrow road leading to the house. It was a square, two-storied substantial building of stone, but the stone had been liberally oiled to keep out the wet, and the blackness thus produced had not a very cheerful look. Then, on this particular evening the scant bushes surrounding the house hung limp and dark in the rain, and amid the prevailing hues of purple, blue-green and blue the bit of scarlet coping running round the black house was wholly ineffective in relieving the general impression of dreariness and desolation.
The King of Borva walked into a large room, which was but partially lit by two candles on the table and by the blaze of a mass of peats in the stone fireplace, and threw himself into a big easy-chair. Then he suddenly seemed to recollect his companion, who was timidly standing near the door, with her shawl still round her head.
"Mairi," he said, "go and ask them to give you some dry clothes. Your box it will not be here for half an hour yet." Then he turned to the fire.
"But you yourself, Mr. Mackenzie, you will be ferry wet—"
"Never mind me, my lass: go and get yourself dried."
"But it wass Miss Sheila," began the girl diffidently—"it wass Miss Sheila asked me—she asked me to look after you, sir—"
With that he rose abruptly, and advanced to her and caught her by the wrist. He spoke quite quietly to her, but the girl's eyes, looking up at the stern face, were a trifle frightened.
"You are a ferry good little girl, Mairi," he said slowly, "and you will mind what I say to you. You will do what you like in the house, you will take Sheila's place as much as you like, but you will mind this—not to mention her name, not once. Now go away, Mairi, and find Scarlett Macdonald, and she will give you some dry clothes; and you will tell her to send Duncan down to Borvabost, and bring up John the Piper and Alister-nan-Each, and the lads of the Nighean dubh, if they are not gone home to Habost yet. But it iss John the Piper must come directly."
The girl went away to seek counsel of Scarlett Macdonald, Duncan's wife, and Mr. Mackenzie proceeded to walk up and down the big and half-lit chamber. Then he went to a cupboard, and put out on the table a number of tumblers and glasses, with two or three odd-looking bottles of Norwegian make, consisting of four semicircular tubes of glass meeting at top and bottom, leaving the centre of the vessel thus formed open. He stirred up the blazing peats in the fireplace. He brought down from a shelf a box filled with coarse tobacco, and put it on the table. But he was evidently growing impatient, and at last he put on his cap again and went out into the night.
The air blew cold in from the sea, and whistled through the bushes that Sheila had trained about the porch. There was no rain now, but a great and heavy darkness brooded overhead, and in the silence he could hear the breaking of the waves along the hard coast. But what was this other sound he heard, wild and strange in the stillness of the night—a shrill and plaintive cry that the distance softened until it almost seemed to be the calling of a human voice? Surely those were words that he heard, or was it only that the old, sad air spoke to him?—
For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more, Maybe to return to Lochaber no more.
That was the message that came to him out of the darkness, and it seemed to him as if the sea and the night and the sky were wailing over the loss of his Sheila. He walked away from the house and up the hill behind. Led by the sound of the pipes, that grew louder and more unearthly as he approached, he found himself at length on a bit of high table-land overlooking the sea, where Sheila had had a rude bench of iron and wood fixed into the rock. On this bench sat a little old man, humpbacked and bent, and with long white hair falling down to his shoulders. He was playing the pipes—not wildly and fiercely, as if he were at a drinking-bout of the lads come home from the Caithness fishing, nor yet gayly and proudly, as if he were marching at the head of a bridal-procession, but slowly, mournfully, monotonously, as though he were having the pipes talk to him.
Mackenzie touched him on the shoulder, and the old man started. "Is it you, Mr. Mackenzie?" he said in Gaelic. "It is a great fright you have given me."
"Come down to the house, John. The lads from Habost and Alister, and some more will be coming; and you will get a ferry good dram, John, to put wind in the pipes."
"It is no dram I am thinking of, Mr. Mackenzie," said the old man. "And you will have plenty of company without me. But I will come down to the house, Mr. Mackenzie—oh yes, I will come down to the house—but in a little while I will come to the house."