CHAPTER VII. WESTERN COMMERCE AND IDEALS (1820-1830)
During most of the decade the merchandise to supply the interior was brought laboriously across the mountains by the Pennsylvania turnpikes and the old National Road; or, in the case of especially heavy freight, was carried along the Atlantic coast into the gulf and up the Mississippi and Ohio by steamboats. The cost of transportation in the wagon trade from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and Baltimore to Wheeling placed a heavy tax upon the consumer. [Footnote: Niles' Register, XX., 180.] In 1817 the freight charge from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh was sometimes as high as seven to ten dollars a hundredweight; a few years later it became from four to six dollars; and in 1823 it had fallen to three dollars. It took a month to wagon merchandise from Baltimore to central Ohio. Transportation companies, running four-horse freight wagons, conducted a regular business on these turn-pikes between the eastern and western states. In 1820 over three thousand wagons ran between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, transporting merchandise valued at about eighteen million dollars annually. [Footnote: Birkbeck, Journey from Va., 128; Ogden, Letters from the West, 8; Cobbett, Year's Residence, 337; Evans, Pedestrious Tour, 145; Philadelphia in 1824, 45; Searight, Old Pike, 107, 112; Mills, Treatise on Inland Navigation (1820), 89, 90, 93, 95-97; Journal of Polit. Econ., VIII., 36.]
The construction of the National Road reduced freight rates to nearly one-half what they were at the close of the War of 1812; and the introduction of steam navigation from New Orleans up the Mississippi cut water-rates by that route to one-third of the former charge. [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 18 Cong., I Sess., I., 991; cf. Fearon, Sketches, 260; Niles' Register, XXV., 95; Cincinnati Christian Journal, July 27, 1830.] Nevertheless, there was a crying need for internal improvements, and particularly for canals, to provide an outlet for the increasing products of the west. "Even in the country where I reside, not eighty miles from tidewater," said Tucker, [Footnote: Annals of Cong., 15 Cong., I Sess., I., 1126.] of Virginia, in 1818, "it takes the farmer one bushel of wheat to pay the expense of carrying two to a seaport town."
The bulk of the crop, as compared with its value, practically prevented transportation by land farther than a hundred miles. [Footnote: McMaster, United States, III., 464.] It is this that helps to explain the attention which the interior first gave to making whiskey and raising live-stock; the former carried the crop in a small bulk with high value, while the live-stock could walk to a market. Until after the War of 1812, the cattle of the Ohio Valley were driven to the seaboard, chiefly to Philadelphia or Baltimore. Travelers were astonished to see on the highway droves of four or five thousand hogs, going to an eastern market. It was estimated that over a hundred thousand hogs were driven east annually from Kentucky alone. Kentucky hog-drivers also passed into Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas with their droves. [Footnote: Life of Ephraim Cutler, 89; Birkbeck, Journey, 24.; Blane, Excursion through U. S. (London, 1824), 90; Atlantic Monthly, XXVI., 170.] The swine lived on the nuts and acorns of the forest; thus they were peculiarly suited to pioneer conditions. At first the cattle were taken to the plantations of the Potomac to fatten for Baltimore and Philadelphia, much in the same way that, in recent times, the cattle of the Great Plains are brought to the feeding-grounds in the corn belt of Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. [Footnote: Michaux, Travels, 191: Palmer, Journal of Travels, 36] Towards the close of the decade, however, the feeding-grounds shifted into Ohio, and the pork-packing industry, as we have seen, found its center at Cincinnati, [Footnote: Hall, Statistics of the West (1836), 145- 147.] the most important source of supply for the hams and bacon and salt pork which passed down the Mississippi to furnish a large share of the plantation food. From Kentucky and the rest of the Ohio Valley droves of mules and horses passed through the Tennessee Valley to the south to supply the plantations. Statistics at Cumberland Gap for 1828 gave the value of live-stock passing the turnpike gate there at $1,167,000. [Footnote: Emigrants' and Travellers' Guide to the West (1834), 194.] Senator Hayne, of South Carolina, declared that in 1824 the south was supplied from the west, through Saluda Gap, with live-stock, horses, cattle, and hogs to the amount of over a million dollars a year. [Footnote: Speech in Senate in 1832, Register of Debates in Cong., VIII., pt. i., 80; cf. Annals of Cong., 18 Cong., i Sess., I., 1411.]