Southern Policy

Vicksburg Daily Whig, January 18, 1860

Whilst this journal would by no means advocate the commercial independence of the South, as a distinctive measure, intended as an initiatory step for dissolving the Union; still, we are free to declare that, in our opinion, the South ought, without further delay, to commence a system of measures for her own protection. The Southern Conventions, as they are called, which have from time to time assembled, were not only abortive, but positively injurious. Those assemblages, indeed, were conceived in a spirit of Disunion, and were hot beds for the speedy propagation of fire-eating sentiments. Such being their character, this journal, of course, had no sympathies with them; nor did we ever expect any substantial good to spring from their deliberations. However, it is manifest to even a casual observer of ordinary intelligence, that the policy in trade and commerce uniformly pursued by the South is not only blind and simple, but absolutely suicidal to our pecuniary prosperity.

By mere supineness, the people of the South have permitted the Yankees to monopolize the carrying trade, with its immense profits. We have yielded to them the manufacturing business, in all its departments, without an effort, until recently, to become manufacturers ourselves. We have acquiesced in the claims of the North to do all the importing, and most of the exporting business, for the whole Union. Thus, the North has been aggrandised, in a most astonishing degree, at the expense of the South. It is no wonder that their villages have grown into magnificent cities. It is not strange that they have "merchant princes," dwelling in gorgeous palaces and reveling in luxuries transcending the luxurious appliances of the East! How could it be otherwise? New York city, like a mighty queen of commerce, sits proudly upon her island throne, sparkling in jewels and waving an undisputed commercial scepter over the South. By means of her railways and navigable streams, she sends out her long arms to the extreme South; and, with an avidity rarely equaled, grasps our gains and transfers them to herself—taxing us at every step—and depleting us as extensively as possible without actually destroying us. Meantime, the South remains passive—in a state of torpidity—malting cotton bales for the North to manufacture, and constantly exerting ourselves to increase the production as much as possible. We have no ships in the foreign carrying trade, or very few indeed. No vessels enter Southern harbors (comparatively speaking) laden with the rich "merchandise" of foreign climes directly imported from those distant countries. We extend but little encouragement to the various mechanical arts, but buy most of our farming implements from the Northern people. Although Mississippi has within her limits an extensive seaboard, affording capacious and secure harbors, capable almost of sheltering the shipping of the world, still the blue waters of our harbors are unbroken by a single keel, save the diminutive fishing smacks which frequent those waters. Although nature hath prepared for us most beautiful positions for commercial cities, and pointed, with her unerring finger, to the advantages spread before our blind eyes; still, we have no seaboard cities, except so far as they exist in imagination, or are delineated on paper, or are shadowed forth in pompous resolutions emanating from disunion conventions! Why is this? Why are we so far behind in the great march of improvement? Simply because we have failed to act in obedience to the dictates of sound policy. Simply because we have been almost criminally neglectful of our own pecuniary interests. What should we do? What remedy have we?

Why, in the first place, let us withdraw one-third, or even one-half of our capital from agricultural operations, and invest it in the establishment of manufacturies of cotton. Thus, we will greatly reduce the production of the raw material; and, as a necessary consequence, greatly enhance the market price of our great staple. The business of manufacturing the common cotton fabrics can be as profitably conducted here in Mississippi as it can be in Massachusetts. This fact has been demonstrated by the humble history of the few manufacturies already operating in our State. It has been proven that the business of making cotton goods in Mississippi pays from 10 to 12 per cent. profit per annum on the investment. Now, suppose we had extensive establishments for producing common fabrics of cotton in every county of Mississippi, created by Southern capital, and owned and worked by our own people; we could clothe ourselves at a small expense, comparatively, and sell the Yankees our surplus cloth, and thus realize a profit, instead of buying for ourselves. Consider the enhanced price of cotton, consequent upon the reduced supply; calculate the profits of manufacturing at home; refer to the opportunity we would thus have of becoming stock raisers, and producers of the small grains and fruits which our climate and soil are capable of maturing; and who does not see, at a glance, how eminently advantageous and profitable such a system would be. Connected with this policy, let us encourage the mechanical arts. Let us fabricate here all of our carriages and wagons; all of our farming implements; every article of furniture required by our people; and thus secure to ourselves an accession of valuable citizens, those multiplied thousands of industrious, honorable, moral artisans, who are producers, instead of consumers, and who are valuable, indeed, to any community that can secure their presence. Let us sedulously cultivate the sentiment, so true in itself, that labor is honorable and dignified. Lastly, let us at once begin the business of direct importation and direct exportation, and thus keep at home the millions of dollars which we annually pay to the North. The business of direct importation and direct exportation would, of course, build up, as if by the wand of a magician, splendid Southern cities of commercial grandeur and opulence; and thus we might become the most happy, prosperous, wealthy and intelligent people upon whom the sun has ever smiled. All this we should do—not in spitefulness—not in a spirit of envy—not with a view of breaking the ties of national Union—not with a design of engendering sectional animosity, but in obedience merely to the dictates of enlightened sectional policy, and in obedience to that universal principle, so well understood and acted upon by our Yankee friends, of consulting our own pecuniary interests, and adding to our general and individual pecuniary emoluments.

This is a fruitful topic. It might be spoken of in volumes. We have but glanced at it in the foregoing observations. After all, what we have penned, so far from being original suggestions, is but the recapitulation of self-evident propositions, suggesting themselves to every intelligent mind. It remains to be seen whether the South will awake from her ignoble slumber, and act for herself, or whether she will indolently remain inactive, and continue to be mere "hewers of wood and drawers of water," for the merchant princes of the North.