The Commercial Interests of the West

Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, December 28, 1860

It may be well for Western States bordering on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to carefully scrutinize the conduct of those who have an interest in throwing obstructions in the way of navigating these natural highways. The North-eastern States, it is well known, have lavished their treasures for the purpose of drawing trade from these channels, and, in a great measure, have succeeded in accomplishing their object. They, to a very large extent, are the proprietors of the main railroads running East and West, which now carry the bulk of Western produce. Their charges of transportation rise and fall with the ebb and flow of water in the rivers.

Such being the case, it is submitted whether, under these circumstances, this conduct of these North-eastern States in the present critical condition of our Union is entirely above suspicion, and whether it is not based upon and controlled by a desire of bringing about a separation of the States! This done, the West, if joined to the North, will be entirely dependent upon artificial channels for her connection with the seaboard. It may be replied that, in case of a separation of the States, the mouth of the Mississippi will not be obstructed, and that we can use it as now; this may be so, and it may not be. Who knows? Who is willing to risk the great interests of the producing States to a may-be-so? All over the commercial world, without exception, national lines offer more or less obstructions to trade. Such would be the inevitable result if the Mississippi should become part of a Southern Confederacy; in that event Western commerce would of course seek an unobstructed channel, even at a greater cost.

The shrewd men of the North are fully aware of the above result, and no doubt have already made a calculation of the profit and loss which will inure to them by a dissolution of the Union. They can not but foresee a very large diminution, if not an entire loss, of their Southern trade; but they flatter themselves that this loss will be more than repaired by the large addition expected to come from the Great West. They know that should the West adhere North (as they anticipated) her entire manufacturing interest would be broken up, because with the loss of her Southern customers the West would be so crippled that she would be compelled to stop manufacturing.

The gain and loss to the North-east may, then, be summed up thus, to-wit:

Loss of Southern trade.Gain, the residue of Western trade, now enjoyed by the South, to which add all her manufacturing.

There is another item which may or may not be potential in causing the North-east to assume her present threatening attitude, and that is the stock in the railroads before referred to; these stocks are held by her leading citizens, whose influence may now be lent to hastening a separation, for the purpose of giving an additional value to their stock certificates.

We do not desire to attribute selfish motives as being the controlling principle of New England; but we can not believe that so shrewd (not to say so selfish) a people would adopt any course which, in their minds, would not lead to pecuniary gain.

As an evidence that the foregoing deductions are properly drawn, we submit whether any man conversant with New England character would for a moment believe that her people would, for principle, do any thing injuriously affecting her pecuniary interest; and whether, if our railroads were not constructed, she would be willing to hurry off the South, and thus yield up her Western trade via New Orleans?

There is another topic growing out of a separation of our beloved Union, which it may be premature to refer to, but the signs of the times give little to hope, but that ere long the Great West will be called to decide “where she will go:” whether she will ally herself to a kindred people, whose very interest[s], social and pecuniary, are common, or whether she will, on a question concerning the negro, with which, as States, we have nothing to do, will [sic] join herself with the North-east, a people with whom we have very little sympathy, and whose interests are antagonistic.