The country from Baton-rouge to Vicksburg, on the walnut hills, is almost entirely devoted to the cultivation of cotton, the soil and climate being found particularly congenial to the growth of that plant. The great trade of Natchez is in this article. The investment of capital in the cultivation of cotton is extremely profitable, and a plantation judiciously managed seldom fails of producing an income, in a few years, amounting to the original outlay. Each slave is estimated to produce from 250 to 300 dollars per annum; but of course from this are to be deducted the wear and tear of the slave, and the casualties incident to human life. On sugar plantations the profit is much more on each individual; but the risk is greater, and the deaths are generally calculated at one-third of the gang in ten years: this is the cause why slaves on sugar plantations are so miserably fed and clad, for their being rendered less wretched would not make them less susceptible to the epidemic. Each acre of well-cultivated land produces from one and a half to two bales of cotton, and even the first year the produce will cover the expenses. A planter may commence with 10,000 or 12,000 dollars, and calculate on certain success; but with less capital, he must struggle hard to attain the desired object. A sugar plantation cannot be properly conducted with less than 25,000 or 30,000 dollars, and the first year produces no return. The cotton begins to ripen in the month of October—the buds open, and the flowers appear. A slave can gather from 100 to 150 lbs. a day. Rice and tobacco are also grown in the neighbourhood of the cotton lands, but of course the produce is inferior to that of the West Indies.
Occasionally, along the banks of the Mississippi, you see here and there the solitary habitation of a wood-cutter. Immense piles of wood are placed on the edge of the bank, for the supply of steam-boats, and perhaps a small corn patch may be close to the house; this however is not commonly the case, as the inhabitants depend on flat-boats for provisions. The dwelling is the rudest kind of log-house, and the outside is sometimes decorated with the skins of deer, bears, and other animals, hung up to dry. Those people are commonly afflicted with fever and ague; and I have seen many, particularly females, who had immense swellings or protuberances on their stomachs, which they denominate “ague-cakes.” The Mississippi wood-cutters scrape together “considerable of dollars,” but they pay dearly for it in health, and are totally cut off from the frequent frolics, political discussions, and elections; which last, especially, are a great source of amusement to the Americans, and tend to keep up that spirit of patriotism and nationality for which they are so distinguished. The excitement produced by these elections prevents the people falling into that ale-drinking stupidity, which characterizes the low English.