|Date(s):||1800 to 1825|
|Location(s):||Providence, Rhode Island | Kanawha, Virginia|
|Tag(s):||Land, Resource, Hunting, Cotton, Timber|
|Course:||“U.S. History: 1812 - 1914,” Foothill College|
Land played an important role in the United States economy, more specifically the raising of cotton. A traveler of this era notes of his stop at Rhode Island, writing that cotton was the source of wealth as there were many manufacturers of cotton which performed weave ticking, shirting and sheeting. He goes on to mention that “Rhode-Island is the greatest manufacturing state in the Union, having, at least, 150 cotton factories” (Royall, 369). Cotton to 19th century United States was the modern equivalent of oil to Saudi Arabia. Although the South was the heavier grower of cotton, the traveler's writings indicate that the industrial North is dependent on the importing of cotton as it fuels a rapidly growing textiles industry. Additionally, the United States led the world in the exporting of cotton. As the economy started to grow, those who grew cotton began to hold much influence in the politics of the country.
In the pursuit of one's own property, settlers continued to move west for a piece of the American dream. As the traveler makes his way west, he marvels at the spirit and attitude of the people making their way to the expanding frontier. “The inhabitants of the western states are an enterprising, systematical, industrious people, to which they are stimulated by the fertility of their soil, and numerous navigable rivers” (Royall, 55-56). Traveling west to acquire one's own land meant a great deal to the individuals during this time. It meant a chance for a better life, but not all acts to obtain land would be met uncontested or free from immoral decisions. Ideas of obtaining more and more land would eventually lead to tense struggles and wars against the indigenous people.
The ground of the United States was indeed fertile and rich when settlers arrived in the United States. The soil displayed healthy signs of deep, rich colors, both red and black. Native Americans lived on these fertile grounds and the original inhabitants of the United States would find themselves in an increasingly an unfavorable position during the 19th century as the expanding westerns sought to gain more land and take advantage of the fertile soil to raise their own crop. The traveler mentions that “Kenhawa county consists of two strings of inhabitants, upon Kenhawa and Elk rivers. It was reclaimed from the Indians and the buffaloes, by degrees, with the loss of many lives by the former, until Gen. Wayne subdued them” (Royall, 50). One can see glimpses into the tension taking place between the expanding settlers and the encroached Natives. This struggle would be ongoing and eventually lead to the downfall of Native American communities across the United States.
Managing the resources on the land, proved to be something of an after thought to 19th century Americans. Timber in particular was considered a resource that would never run out. People paying attention to the vanishing trees realized something terrible was happening with all the deforestation taking place around the states. The traveler writes “the mournful screaking of the machinery, day and night; the bare, rugged, inhospitable looking mountain, from which all the timber has been cut, give to it a gloomy appearance” (Royall, 47). The intrinsic value of nature's scenic beauty was vanishing. He repeatedly mentions the loss of timber in his travels, writing “the great scarcity of timber enclose their fields principally with ditches. The great number of hands in proportion to the quantity of land has ruined Virginia” (Royall, 119). The loss of timber is directly correlated with the rise of industry and animal raising. The technology at the time required massive amounts of wood to be burned and coal to be extracted. What the Americans at the time failed to understand were the environmental consequences of deforestation which included soil erosion and unhealthy amounts of silt in water ways.
Hunting wild animals to a near point of extinction showcased another example of the American view on resource management. The traveler writes of the animal diversity that once existed in the Kenhawa county of Virginia. “The buffaloes were so numerous on this river, that they made large roads through the bottoms. Elks, deer and bears were likewise numerous. None of the buffaloes are to be seen now” (Royall, 50). This example suggests that animals would be killed for sport without restrictions or an understanding of the role they played in the local ecosystems. Buffalo were one of the animals hunted most aggressively in the nineteenth century, considered too plentiful to ever die out. Their hides were used in the production of animal clothing and tongues were considered special products to be eaten.