The plantation, thus managed, yielded a handsome profit to its owner. The value of each year’s cotton crop, when delivered on the bank of the river, was not less than forty thousand dollars. Including wages of the overseer, and all outlays for repairs and purchase of such articles as were not produced at home, the expenses would not exceed five or six thousand dollars. Cotton-planting was very profitable under almost any management, and especially so under a prudent and economical owner. Being thus profitable with slave labor, it was natural for the planters to think it could prosper under no other system. “You can’t raise cotton without niggers, and you must own the niggers to raise it,” was the declaration in all parts of the South.
WAR AND AGRICULTURE.
Official Favors.—Division of Labor.—Moral Suasion.—Corn-gathering in the South.—An Alarm.—A Frightened Irishman.—The Rebels Approaching.—An Attack on Waterproof.—Falstaff Redivivus.—His Feats of Arms.—Departure for New Orleans.
Our cotton having been ginned and baled, we made preparations for shipping it to market. These preparations included the procurement of a permit from the Treasury agent at Natchez, a task of no small magnitude. An application for the permit required, in addition to my own signature, the names of two property-owning citizens, as security for payment of the duties on the cotton. This application being placed in the hands of the Treasury agent, I was requested to call in two hours. I did so, and was then put off two hours longer. Thus I spent two whole days in frequent visits to that official. His memory was most defective, as I was obliged to introduce myself on each occasion, and tell him the object of my call.
A gentleman who had free access to the agent at all times hinted that he could secure early attention to my business on payment for his trouble. Many persons asserted that they were obliged to pay handsomely for official favors. I do not know this to be true. I never paid any thing to the Treasury agent at Natchez or elsewhere, beyond the legitimate fees, and I never found any man who would give me a written statement that he had done so. Nevertheless, I had much circumstantial evidence to convince me that the Treasury officials were guilty of dishonorable actions. The temptation was great, and, with proper care, the chances of detection were small.
Armed with my permit, I returned to the plantation. Mr. Colburn, in my absence, had organized our force, lately engaged in cotton-picking, into suitable parties for gathering corn, of which we had some three hundred acres standing in the field. In New England I fear that corn which had remained ungathered until the middle of February, would be of comparatively little value. In our case it was apparently as sound as when first ripened.