Why Not Bigger than London, Financiers and Capitalists
The following data is extracted from The Creoles of Louisiana.
Much, too, was the more unjust blame laid at the door of financiers and capitalists. Railways? But who could swing a railway from New Orleans, in any direction, that it would not be better to stretch from some point near the centre of Western supply to some other centre in the manufacturing and consuming East? Slave labor had handed over the rich prize of European and New England immigration to the unmonopolized West, and the purely fortune-hunting canal-boat and locomotive pushed aside the slave and his owner and followed the free immigrant. And, in truth, it was years later, when the outstretched iron arms of Northern enterprise began to grasp the products of the Southwest itself, that New Orleans capitalists, with more misgiving than enthusiasm, thrust out their first railway worthy of the name through the great plantation State of Mississippi.
Some lamented a lack of banking capital. But bankers knew that New York's was comparatively smaller. Some cried against summer absenteeism; but absenteeism was equally bad in the cities that had thriven most. Some pointed to the large proportion of foreigners; but the first census that gave this proportion showed it but forty-four and a half per cent of the whites in New Orleans, against forty-two in Cincinnati, forty-eight in New York, and fifty-two in St. Louis. The truth lay deeper hid. In those cities American thought prevailed, and the incoming foreigner accepted it. In New Orleans American thought was foreign, unwelcome, disparaged by the unaspiring, satirical Creole, and often apologized for by the American, who found himself a minority in a combination of social forces oftener in sympathy with European ideas than with the moral energies and the enthusiastic and venturesome enterprise of the Now World. Moreover, twenty-eight thousand slaves and free blacks hampered the spirit of progress by sheer dead weight.
Was it true that the import trade needed only to be cultivated? Who should support it beside the planter? And the planter, all powerful as he was, was numerically a small minority, and his favorite investments were land and Negroes. The wants of his slaves were only the most primitive, and their stupid and slovenly eye-service made the introduction of labor-saving machinery a farce. Who or what should make an import trade? Not the Southern valley. Not the West, either; for her imports, she must have straight lines and prompt deliveries.
Could manufactures be developed? Not easily, at least. The same fatal shadow fell upon them. The unintelligent, uneconomical black slave was unavailable for its service; and to graft upon the slave-burdened South the high-spirited operatives of other countries was impossible.
What did all this sure up? Stripped of disguises, it stood a triumph of machinery over slavery that could not be retrieved, save possibly through a social revolution so great and apparently so ruinous that the mention of it kindled a white heat of public exasperation.
All this was emphasized by the Creole. He retained much power still, as well by his natural force as by his ownership of real estate and his easy coalition with foreigners of like ideas. He cared little to understand. It was his pride not to be understood. He divided and paralyzed public sentiment when he could no longer rule it, and often met the most imperative calls for innovation with the most unbending conservatism. For every movement was change, and every change carried him nearer and nearer toward the current of American ideas and to absorption into their flood, which bore too much the semblance of annihilation. Hold back as He might, the transformation was appallingly swift. And now a new influence had set in, which above all others was destined to promote, ever more and more, the unity of all the diverse elements of New Orleans society, and their equipment for the task of placing their town in a leading rank among the greatest cities of the world.
Source: The Creoles of Louisiana