Why Not Bigger than London, Creole
The following data is extracted from The Creoles of Louisiana.
The same influence that made the Creole always and only a sugar, tobacco, or cotton factor, waived away the classes which might have brought in manufactures with them. Its shadow fell as a blight upon intelligent, trained labor. Immigrants from the British Isles and from Europe poured in; but those adepts in the mechanical and productive arts that so rapidly augment the fortunes of a commonwealth staid away; there was nothing in surrounding nature or society to evolve the operative from the hod-carrier and drayman, and the prospecting manufacturer and his capital turned aside to newer towns where labor was uncontemned, and skill and technical knowledge sprang forward at the call of enlightened enterprise.
Men never guessed the whole money value of time until the great inventions for the facilitation of commerce began to appear. "Adopt us," these seemed to say as they came forward in procession, "or you cannot become or even remain great." But, even so, only those cities lying somewhere on right lines between the great centres of supply and demand could seize and hold them. It was the fate, not the fault, of New Orleans not to be one such. St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, were more fortunate; while Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, were born of these new conditions. The locomotive engine smote the commercial domain of New Orleans in half, and divided the best part of her trade beyond the mouth of the Ohio among her rivals. In that decade of development - 1830-40 - when the plantation idea was enriching her with one hand and robbing her of double with the other, the West was filling with town life, and railroads and canals were starting eagerly eastward and westward, hearing immense burdens of freight and travel, and changing the scale of mikes to that of minutes. Boston and New York had pre-empted the future with their daring outlays, and clasped hands tighter with the States along the Ohio by lines of direct transit. Pennsylvania joined Philadelphia with the same river, and spent more money in railroads and canals than any other State in the Union. Baltimore reached out her Chesapeake & Ohio canal and railway. Ohio and Indiana spent millions. But the census of 1840 proclaimed New Orleans the fourth city of the Union, and her merchants openly professed the belief that they were to become the metropolis of America without exertion.
Rapid transit only amused them, while raw crops and milled breadstuffs still sought the cheapest rates of freight. They looked at the tabulated figures; they were still shipping their share of the Valley's vastly increased field products. It was not true, they said, with sudden resentment, that they “sold the skin for a groat and bought the tail for a shilling.” But they did not look far enough. Improved transportation, denser settlement, labor-saving machinery, had immensely increased the West's producing power. New Orleans should have received and exported an even greater proportion - not merely quantity - of those products of the field. Partly not heeding, and partly unable to help it, she abandoned this magnificent surplus to the growing cities of the West and East. Still more did she fail to notice that the manufactures of the Mississippi and Ohio States had risen from fifty to one hundred and sixty-four millions. She began to observe these facts only as another decade was closing with 1850, when her small import trade had shrunken to less than a third that of Boston and a tenth that of New York..
Her people then began to call out in alarm. Now admitting, now denying, they marked, with a loser's impatience, the progress of other cities at what seemed to be their expense. Boston had surpassed them in numbers; Brooklyn was four-fifths their size; St. Louis, seven-eighths; Cincinnati was but a twenty-fifth behind; Louisville, Chicago, Buffalo, Pittsburg, were coming on with populations of from forty to fifty thousand. Where were the days when New Orleans was the commercial empress of her great valley and heir-apparent to the sovereignty of the world's trade? New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Liverpool - could they ever be overtaken? American merchant and Creole property-holder cried to each other to throw off their lethargy and place New Orleans where Nature had destined her to sit.
The air was full of diagnoses: There had been too exclusive an attention to the moving of crops; there had been too much false pride against mercantile pursuits; sanitation had been neglected; there had not been even the pretense of a quarantine since 1825; public improvements had been few and trivial; a social exclusiveness made the town unhomelike and repellent to the higher order of immigrant; the port charges were suicidal. One pen even brought out the underlying fact of slave labor, and contrasted its voiceless acceptation of antiquated methods of work with the reflecting, outspeaking, acting liberty of the Northern workman which filled the Northern communities with practical thinkers. The absurd municipality system of city government, which split the city into four towns, was rightly blamed for munch nonprogression.
Source: The Creoles of Louisiana