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Stay in the City of Buffalo. Sketch of its History.--Destruction by the British.--Sub
sequent grant of Congress to repair its Losses. -Revival and rebuilding.-Rapid Progress from thence. --Statistics of its Commerce.-Financial Report to the State Legislature. ---Prospects of future Greatness.--Advantageous and agreeable Situation of Buffalo.—The Welland Canal from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.-Description of Buffalo, its Buildings and Population. - Projected Public Buildings, University and Exchange.--Environs, Rides, Villas, Prospects, Climate.--Steamboats, Schooners, Brigs, and Ships.--Source of the great River St. Lawrence.-Size, Depth, and Elevation of the Lakes.-Lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario. - Public Meet. ing of the Bethel Society of Buffalo.-American Picture of the maritime Population.
We remained ten days at Buffalo, during which I had an oppor, tunity of being introduced to most of the leading merchants and principal inhabitants of the place, and of attending one public meeting for a benevolent object, and taking part in the proceedings of it; of enjoying the private hospitalities of the citizens in some agreeable evening parties, and of visiting all the remarkable places within and around the city, so as to make my acquaintance with it tolerably complete. From what I saw myself, therefore, and what I learned of others, the following history and description of the place has been compiled.
Previous to the year 1814 Buffalo was a small village, surrounded by thick forests; and from about 1800, the period of its first settlement by any white inhabitant, its progress had been so slow that there were not more than 200 dwellings in it, and these all small, and tenanted by very humble dwellers. In this year it was set fire to by the British, then at war with the United States, in retaliation, it is said, for a similar act of destruction first committed on some Canadian village on the Niagara strait by the Americans.
The conflagration was so effective, however, that only one house escaped destruction, and this, it is asserted, was spared at the earnest entreaty of a widow to whom it belonged,
and who was bold enough to make her way to the commanding officer of the detachment, and personally to secure his order to exempt her house from the general devastation. The population fled into the wood for safety, and some time elapsed before they were reassembled again. At the termination of the war the sum of 80,000 dollars was appropriated by Congress to repair the injury sustained; and this giving a new motive to exertion on the part of the few inhabitants then remaining, they put forth their efforts to rebuild their town.
Up to the year 1825, however, there were not more than 2000 inhabitants in Buffalo. But from this period it began rapidly to increase. The completion of the Erie Canal opening the navigation between the Atlantic and the lakes, the transfer of the ship
ping from the adjoining village of Black Rock, and the liberal ap-
The estimated amount of business transacted here, as compared
. In 1837 it was 450,000 bushels, being an increase of 350 per cent. In 1832 the flour passing through Buffalo was 22,000 barrels. In 1837 it was 127,000 barrels, being an increase of 600 per cent. But the increase since the last year has been even still more remarkable
. The canal tolls on the Erie Canal have, for the first half of 1838 up to the 1st of August, already exceeded the whole receipts of the previous year by 50,000 dollars; the wheat trade has increased from 265,000 to 463,000 bushels, and the flour trade from 41,000 to 154,000 barrels in the same or corresponding periods of time, being an increase of 163 per cent in the exports of a single half year only. The following
passages from the last Financial Report of the Legislature of this State are full of deeply-interesting and important matter illustrative of this subject :
“The steady progress of population and wealth of that portion of our state which is tributary to the canal needs little remark. Whether, owing to the growth of the country on its immediate borders, or to the influence of the lateral canals in swelling its commerce, the tables of tonnage exhibit a rate of increase which will probably be maintained for many years.
Although the contribution thus furnished by this state to the revenues of the canal at the present time is large (for two thirds of the whole of its tolls are now drawn from the trade of our own people), yet the amount becomes relatively unimportant when compared with the enormous results we are hereafter to derive from our commerce with the West. Let us advert briefly to the present extent and future progress of that commerce, and the probable effect which it is hereafter to produce upon our fiscal affairs.
“The western termination of the Erie Canal looks out upon Lake Erie, the most southerly and central of that great chain of navigable lakes, which stretches far into the interior from our western boundary. Around these inland seas a cluster of five great states is rapidly rising. The territory which they comprise, and which is to become tributary to the canal, embraces that great area, extending from the lakes on the north to the Ohio on the south, and from the western confines of this state to the Upper Mississippi, containing, 280,000 square miles. To measure its extent by well-known objects, it is fifteen times as large as that portion of the state of New York, west of the county of Oneida, nearly twice as large as the kingdom of France, and about six times as
extensive as the whole of England. It contains 180,000,000 acres of arable land, a large portion of which is of surpassing fertility.
“In the brief period of twenty-one years, such has been the influx of population into this great district, that Ohio, the eldest member in this brotherhood of nations, now numbers 1,400,000 inhabitants, Indiana upward of 600,000, Illinois and Michigan (both of whom have organized their governments and come into the Union), 700,000; while west of Lake Michigan, not only is Wisconsin rapidly rising, but even beyond the Up per Mississippi, 30,000 citizens have already laid the foundations of yet another state. Such is the onward march of this population, that the amount of its annual increase alone exceeds in number the white inhabitants of ten of the states in the Union. The population already embraced within the district in question falls short of three millions, and if the same rate of progress shall be maintained for the twelve years next to come, by 1850 it will exceed six millions.
“This group of inland states has two outlets for its trade to the ocean; one by the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, the other through Lake Erie and the navigable communications of this state to the Atlantic. Whether it be attributable to similarity of origin, or laws, or habits, or to ties of consanguinity, or superior salubrity of climate, their people evidently prefer the market in the Atlantic, and they are making pro digious efforts to reach it. Three great canals (one of them longer than the Erie Canal), embracing in their aggregate length about one thousand miles, are to connect the Ohio with Lake Erie, while another deep and capacious channel, excavated for nearly thirty miles through solid rock, ünites Lake Michigan with the navigable waters of the Illj. nois. In addition to these broad avenues of trade, they are also constructing lines of railroads, not less than 1500 miles in extent, in order to reach, with more ease and speed, the lakes through which they seek a conveyance to a seaboard. The undaunted resolution of this energetic race of men is strikingly evinced by the fact that the cost of the works which they have thus undertaken (and most of which are in actual progress) will exceed forty-eight millions of dollars; a sum far ex. ceeding all that New-York, with two millions of inhabitants and two hundred years of accumulated wealth, has ever attempted. The cir. cumstance, moreover, is particularly important, that the public works of each of these great communities are arranged on a harmonious plan, each having a main line supported and enriched by lateral and tributary branches, thereby bringing the industry of their whole people into prompt and profitable action, while the systems themselves are again united on a grander scale, in a series of systems comprising an aggregate length of more than 2500 miles, with Lake Erie as its common centre.
" It is estimated that the agricultural products which annually descend the Mississippi and its tributaries have already reached 70,000,000 dollars. The value of the property transported on the canals of the State of New York during the year 1836, is shown by official tables to be 67,000,000 dollars. Of that amount it may be estimated that 50,000,000 dollars consisted of property belonging exclusively to a portion of the population of this state not exceeding a million and a half in number, being at the rate of 33 dollars 33 cents for each inhabitant; and the amount which they paid for its transportation exceeded two millions of dollars. If the same scale of production and consumption shall be assumed for the population in the district in question (and no reason is perceived why it should not be), the six millions of inhabitants in the West who will resort to the Erie Canal for the means of conveyance, will furnish tonnage, in exports and imports, of at least 200,000,000 aí
dollars in value. The experience of other nations will show that this amount is not over estimated. The food produced in England alone in the year 1835, by an agricultural population of about eight millions, was valued by their political economists at 604,000,000 dollars ; and that of France was ascertained by its minister of finance to be 5,237,000,000 francs, or 980,000,000 dollars.
“But there are peculiar reasons why the proportion of agricultural exports of this great inland population should far exceed that of other nations. The exuberance of their soil, the salubrity of their climate, and the cheapness of their lands (arising from the vast supply within their limits) will enable them always to furnish food to every other por. tion of the Continent on more advantageous terms than it can be elsewhere produced. Labour there reaps its best reward, and harvests of a hundred fold repay its exertions; and such will always be the superior productiveness of this region, that when the great series of public works shall be completed, and a bushel of wheat on the plains of Indiana shall be brought within a few cents in price of a bushel in NewEngland, its production in New England must cease. The same cause will probably operate to change the culture of portions even of our own state ; for the unequalled fertility of the West will always enable it to supply those products requiring richness of soil with a less amount of labour, and consequently at a cheaper rate, than they can be produced within our own borders.
“We know that the western part of our own state is increasing in numbers with considerable rapidity, and yet that it furnishes an export of at least 20,000,000 dollars in value. The states of the West around the lakes by the year 1845 will probably hold the same relative position in respect to the whole of the Erie Canal, which the counties of NewYork west of the Seneca Lake now bear to that part of the line east of Utica. Our trade will then be measured, not by counties, but by sov. ereign states, themselves containing their fifty counties ; and our rev. enues, then no longer dependant on the villages and townships scattered along the borders of the canal, will be drawn from the wide-spread and populous communities inhabiting the broad expanse between the Ohio and the lakes."
It is impossible to read these accounts of the immense resources for the production of food which the United States of America contains, and which a journey across the State of New-York alone is sufficient to verify, without lamenting the first imposition of any prohibitory laws against the freest intercourse between this country and Great Britain in the interchange of their respective productions. The first effect of our refusing to receive American grain free of all duty has been to induce the Americans to prohibit our manufactures by a high tariff, and to set up manufactories for themselves; and the next effect has been to keep up the price of food at so high a rate in England as to put it out of the power of millions of our population to obtain sufficient for their full and proper nutriment. We thus do each other mutual injury without the slightest countervailing good. If we would permit a free trade in grain, the Americans would take from us more than double the amount of manufactures that they now consume, paying us in wheat and flour, and would never think of becoming our rivals as manufacturers. But because we will not take their products in payment, therefore
COMMERCE OF BUFFALO.
they not only will not buy of us, but they set up as our rivals or opponents; and, from their abundant food, they will in a short time produce goods at rates sufficiently cheap to meet us in foreign markets, while every year will increase our difficulties and lessen theirs, till they pass us in the race, and leave us unable to overtake them.
The most melancholy feature of this question, however, is this: that by our free admission of cotton and other Southern products of America, we really uphold the system of slavery under which these articles are produced ; while, by refusing the same free admission to the grain of the North, we force them to become manufacturers, and thus, in a double sense, take the bread out of the mouths of our own citizens.
It is, indeed, high time that this evil were corrected. There is perhaps yet time to amend it now, but if left for a few years longer it will be too late; and those influential and powerful classes in England, who now vainly imagine that they are protecting their own,incomes from land by this fatal policy, will be among the first to lament that they did not take warning before the labouring classes of the country were reduced to a state of want, of which the wealthiest among the landholders will then feel the burden.
Of all the daily-extending commerce already described, Buffalo may be said to be the chief point and centre in the West, as she is to the navigation of the Lakes what New-York is to the navigation of the Atlantic, and New Orleans to the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, namely, the port of entry and departure, the place of deposite for sale, forwarding, and commission; she cannot fail, therefore, to increase in size, population, and wealth with every succeeding year. The water-power for flour-mills is here capable of being made a source of employment to 10,000 persons at least. The manufacture of steam-engines for the Western lakes could not have a better locality, as the pig-iron of Ohio and Pennsylvania is brought speedily and cheaply by water-carriage to the spot; and new discoveries of beds of the finest coal, within thirty miles of the port, in the State of New-York, will furnish the fuel required.
The building of boats and ships for the canal and the lakes, with the noble timbers of Grand Island supplied from Whitehaven, could be effected here cheaper and better than anywhere else, and all the various trades connected with shipping and commerce, such as smiths, coopers, &c., would furnish employment for 50,000 men more. With the constantly-increasing facilities of intercourse, which bring Buffalo within thirty-six hours' distance of New York on the one hand, about the same distance of Detroit on the other, with all the vast range of country, fringing the great upper lakes, and bordering the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri, all accessible in a few days, there would seem to be no bounds to the extent of the great commercial operations of which this internal maritime empo. rium may become the chief centre.