Louisiana and the Mississippi

New York Daily News, December 25, 1860

Among the many fatal consequences of a disruption of the United States, the freedom of navigation on the Mississippi River is beginning to attract attention. If Louisiana goes out of the Union with other Southern States, she will probably make the “Father of Waters” as exclusively advantageous to herself as possible; and it is supposed that a combination of influences prejudicial to Northern interests would cause New Orleans to partake largely of benefits which are now pretty equally divided between that city and New York. At present, notwithstanding the great canal and railroad works constructed, a large portion of Northwestern produce and almost all the cotton grown South finds an outlet to the ocean in the Mississippi. While the country holds together of course the prosperity which this fact guarantees to Louisiana is profitable to the common Union, which has alike at heart the interests of all its parts; but in case of secession the division of advantages would be, in this connection, all on the side of the South. The Cotton growers, who are now somewhat liberal, would do all their transporting business through the medium of the Mississippi; and the course the products of the Northwest would take, might be inconvenient to us. Such are the views of several Republican journals, who laugh at real evils, while argumentatively combating this imaginary one. An enthusiastic advocate of allowing the secessionists to do as they please, inconsistently occupies the position that Louisiana, on account of the Mississippi trade, should be an exception to the rule, which practically illustrates what we have stated repeatedly, that Republican “principle” often means pecuniary aggrandizement!

The “principle” which is applied to States that have no great rivers to enrich a Government, cannot be permitted to apply to one that has. Another Republican authority, as an offset to the deleterious effects of a secession of the Mississippi, gets up a long editorial to prove that the railroads and canals are daily making us independent of the Mississippi, and that the big river is not at all the indispensable accumulation of fresh water and navigatory peculiarities which it has been represented.

These arguments may be very good in their way, but they are all based on a false foundation. Secession, or no secession, Louisiana, either separately or in concert with other States, would not consent that any quarter of the country should be deprived of privileges; for the use of which, in a thousand ways, the patronage of good customers would amply compensate her. The more trade, commerce and business everywhere, the more money, prosperity and comfort. The “French province of the Republic” knows this well, and will do nothing that would result in injury to herself.

“If Louisiana were silly enough to take advantage of her position, to stop the free transit of the products of the Northwest, under whatever Government she or they may be, it would be exactly what New York and Philadelphia, and Boston want. It would be doing their work for them at our own cost; and nobody knows this better than the political parties of that region, who are pretending to be alarmed for such a result, and threaten to come down and prevent it by force. They could not do such a thing if they would; they would not do so if they could. If that day of convulsion should come, they would intrigue and pay that Louisiana should help them turn the commerce of the West toward the East.” Thus writes a “Louisianian” on the subject. His words are a fitting rebuke to the would be philosophers of Gotham.