Part 3 out of 5
She decked its varied imagery
Where, in the highest of the row
Upon a sill more white than snow,
She nourished a pomegranate-tree.
Some lover from a foreign clime,
Some roving gallant of the main,
Had brought it on a gay spring-time,
And told her of the nacar stain
The thing would wear when bloomed again.
Therefore all garden growths in vain
Their glowing ranks swept through her brain,
The plant was knit by subtile chain
To all the balm of Southern zones,
The incenses of Eastern thrones,
The tinkling hem of Aaron's train.
The almond shaking in the sun
On some high place ere day begin,
Where winds of myrrh and cinnamon
Between the tossing plumes have been,
It called before her, and its kin
The fragrant savage balaustine
Grown from the ruined ravelin
That tawny leopards couch them in;
But this, if rolling in from seas
It only caught the salt-fumed breeze,
Would have a grace they might not win.
And for the fruit that it should bring,
One globe she pictured, bright and near,
Crimson, and throughly perfuming
All airs that brush its shining sphere.
In its translucent atmosphere
Afrite and Princess reappear,--
Through painted panes the scattered spear
Of sunrise scarce so warm and clear,--
And pulped with such a golden juice,
Ambrosial, that one cannot choose
But find the thought most sumptuous cheer.
Of all fair women she was queen,
And all her beauty, late and soon,
O'ercame you like the mellow sheen
Of some serene autumnal noon.
Her presence like a sweetest tune
Accorded all your thoughts in one.
Than last year's alder-tufts in June
Browner, yet lustrous as a moon
Her eyes glowed on you, and her hair
With such an air as princes wear
She trimmed black-braided in a crown.
A perfect peace prepared her days,
Few were her wants and small her care,
No weary thoughts perplexed her ways,
She hardly knew if she were fair.
Bent lightly at her needle there
In that small room stair over stair,
All fancies blithe and debonair
She deftly wrought on fabrics rare,
All clustered moss, all drifting snow,
All trailing vines, all flowers that blow,
Her daedal fingers laid them bare.
Still at the slowly spreading leaves
She glanced up ever and anon,
If yet the shadow of the eaves
Had paled the dark gloss they put on.
But while her smile like sunlight shone,
The life danced to such blossom blown
That all the roses ever known,
Blanche of Provence, Noisette, or Yonne,
Wore no such tint as this pale streak
That damasked half the rounding cheek
Of each bud great to bursting grown.
And when the perfect flower lay free,
Like some great moth whose gorgeous wings
Fan o'er the husk unconsciously,
Silken, in airy balancings,--
She saw all gay dishevellings
Of fairy flags, whose revellings
Illumine night's enchanted rings.
So royal red no blood of kings
She thought, and Summer in the room
Sealed her escutcheon on their bloom,
In the glad girl's imaginings.
Now, said she, in the heart of the woods
The sweet south-winds assert their power,
And blow apart the snowy snoods
Of trilliums in their thrice-green bower.
Now all the swamps are flushed with dower
Of viscid pink, where, hour by hour,
The bees swim amorous, and a shower
Reddens the stream where cardinals tower.
Far lost in fern of fragrant stir
Her fancies roam, for unto her
All Nature came in this one flower.
Sometimes she set it on the ledge
That it might not be quite forlorn
Of wind and sky, where o'er the edge,
Some gaudy petal, slowly borne,
Fluttered to earth in careless scorn,
Caught, for a fallen piece of morn
From kindling vapors loosely shorn,
By urchins ragged and wayworn,
Who saw, high on the stone embossed,
A laughing face, a hand that tossed
A prodigal spray just freshly torn.
What wizard hints across them fleet,--
These heirs of all the town's thick sin,
Swift gypsies of the tortuous street,
With childhood yet on cheek and chin!
What voices dropping through the din
An airy murmuring begin,--
These floating flakes, so fine and thin,
Were they and rock-laid earth akin?
Some woman of the gods was she,
The generous maiden in her glee?
And did whole forests grow within?
A tissue rare as the hoar-frost,
White as the mists spring dawns condemn,
The shadowy wrinkles round her lost,
She wrought with branch and anadem,
Through the fine meshes netting them,
Pomegranate-flower and leaf and stem.
Dropping it o'er her diadem
To float below her gold-stitched hem,
Some duchess through the court should sail
Hazed in the cloud of this white veil,
As when a rain-drop mists a gem.
Her tresses once when this was done,
--Vanished the skein, the needle bare,--
She dressed with wreaths vermilion
Bright as a trumpet's dazzling blare.
Nor knew that in Queen Dido's hair,
Loading the Carthaginian air,
Ancestral blossoms flamed as fair
As any ever hanging there.
While o'er her cheek their scarlet gleam
Shot down a vivid varying beam,
Like sunshine on a brown-bronzed pear.
And then the veil thrown over her,
The vapor of the snowy lace
Fell downward, as the gossamer
Tossed from the autumn winds' wild race
Falls round some garden-statue's grace.
Beneath, the blushes on her face
Fled with the Naiad's shifting chase
When flashing through a watery space.
And in the dusky mirror glanced
A splendid phantom, where there danced
All brilliances in paler trace.
A spicery of sweet perfume,
As if from regions rankly green
And these rich hoards of bud and bloom,
Lay every waft of air between.
Out of some heaven's unfancied screen
The gorgeous vision seemed to lean.
The Oriental kings have seen
Less beauty in their dais-queen,
And any limner's pencil then
Had drawn the eternal love of men,
But twice Chance will not intervene.
For soon with scarce a loving sigh
She lifts it off half unaware,
While through the clinging folds held high,
Arachnean in a silver snare
Her rosy fingers nimbly fare,
Till gathered square with dainty care.
But still she leaves the flowery flare
--Such as Dame Venus' self might wear--
Where first she placed them, since they blow
More bounteous color hanging so,
And seem more native to the air.
Anon the mellow twilight came
With breath of quiet gently freed
From sunset's felt but unseen flame.
Then by her casement wheeled in speed
Strange films, and half the wings indeed
That steam in rainbows o'er the mead,
Now magnified in mystery, lead
Great revolutions to her heed.
And leaning out, the night o'erhead,
Wind-tossed in many a shining thread,
Hung one long scarf of glittering brede.
Then as it drew its streamers there,
And furled its sails to fill and flaunt
Along fresh firmaments of air
When ancient morn renewed his chant,--
She sighed in thinking on the plant
Drooping so languidly aslant;
Fancied some fierce noon's forest-haunt
Where wild red things loll forth and pant,
Their golden antlers wave, and still
Sigh for a shower that shall distil
The largess gracious nights do grant.
The oleanders in the South
Drape gray hills with their rose, she thought,
The yellow-tasselled broom through drouth
Bathing in half a heaven is caught.
Jasmine and myrtle flowers are sought
By winds that leave them fragrance-fraught.
To them the wild bee's path is taught,
The crystal spheres of rain are brought,
Beside them on some silent spray
The nightingales sing night away,
The darkness wooes them in such sort.
But this, close shut beneath a roof,
Knows not the night, the tranquil spell,
The stillness of the wildwood ouphe,
The magic dropped on moor and fell.
No cool dew soothes its fiery shell,
Nor any star, a red sardel,
Swings painted there as in a well.
Dyed like a stream of muscadel
No white-skinned snake coils in its cup
To drink its soul of sweetness up,
A honeyed hermit in his cell.
No humming-bird in emerald coat,
Shedding the light, and bearing fain
His ebon spear, while at his throat
The ruby corselet sparkles plain,
On wings of misty speed astain
With amber lustres, hangs amain,
And tireless hums his happy strain;
Emperor of some primeval reign,
Over the ages sails to spill
The luscious juice of this, and thrill
Its very heart with blissful pain.
As if the flowers had taken flight
Or as the crusted gems should shoot
From hidden hollows, or as the light
Had blossomed into prisms to flute
Its secret that before was mute,
Atoms where fire and tint dispute,
No humming-birds here hunt their fruit.
No burly bee with banded suit
Here dusts him, no full ray by stealth
Sifts through it stained with warmer wealth
Where fair fierce butterflies salute.
Nor night nor day brings to my tree,
She thought, the free air's choice extremes,
But yet it grows as joyfully
And floods my chamber with its beams,
So that some tropic land it seems
Where oranges with ruddy gleams,
And aloes, whose weird flowers the creams
Of long rich centuries one deems,
Wave through the softness of the gloom,--
And these may blush a deeper bloom
Because they gladden so my dreams.
The sudden street-lights in moresque
Broke through her tender murmuring,
And on her ceiling shades grotesque
Reeled in a bacchanalian swing.
Then all things swam, and like a ring
Of bubbles welling from a spring
Breaking in deepest coloring
Flower-spirits paid her minist'ring.
Sleep, fusing all her senses, soon
Fanned over her in drowsy rune
All night long a pomegranate wing.
* * * * *
THE PRAIRIE STATE.
On the head-waters of the Wabash, near Lake Erie, we first meet with
those grassy plains to which the early French explorers of the West gave
the name of Prairies. In Southern Michigan, they become more frequent;
in the State of Indiana, still more so; and when we arrive in Illinois,
we find ourselves in the Prairie State proper, three-quarters of its
territory being open meadow, or prairie. Southern Wisconsin is partly of
this character, and, on crossing the Mississippi, most of the surface of
both Iowa and Minnesota is also prairie.
Illinois, with little exception, is one vast prairie,--dotted, it is
true, with groves, and intersected with belts of timber, but still one
great open plain. This State, then, being the type of the prairie lands,
a sketch of its history, political, physical, and agricultural, will
tolerably well represent that of the whole prairie region.
The State of Illinois was originally part of Florida, and belonged to
Spain, by the usual tenure of European title in the sixteenth century,
when the King of France or Spain was endowed by His Holiness with half
a continent; the rights of the occupants of the soil never for a moment
being considered. So the Spaniard, in 1541, having planted his flag at
the mouth of the Mississippi, became possessed of the whole of the vast
region watered by its tributary streams, and Illinois and Wisconsin
became Spanish colonies, and all their native inhabitants vassals of His
Most Catholic Majesty. The settlement of the country was, however,
never attempted by the Spaniards, who devoted themselves to their more
lucrative colonies in South America.
The French missionaries and fur-traders found their way from Canada into
these parts at an early day; and in 1667 Robert de la Salle made his
celebrated explorations, in which he took possession of the territory of
Illinois in behalf of the French crown. And here we may remark, that the
relations of the Jesuits and early explorers give a delightful picture
of the native inhabitants of the prairies. Compared with their savage
neighbors, the Illini seem to have been a favored people. The climate
was mild, and the soil so fertile as to afford liberal returns even to
their rude husbandry; the rivers and lakes abounded in fish and fowl;
the groves swarmed with deer and turkeys,--bustards the French called
them, after the large gallinaceous bird which they remembered on the
plains of Normandy; and the vast expanse of the prairies was blackened
by herds of wild cattle, or buffaloes. The influence of this fair and
fertile land seems to have been felt by its inhabitants. They came to
meet Father Marquette, offering the calumet, brilliant with many-colored
plumes, with the gracious greeting,--"How beautiful is the sun, O
Frenchman, when thou comest to us! Thou shalt enter in peace all our
dwellings." A very different reception from that offered by the stern
savages of Jamestown and Plymouth to John Smith and Miles Standish!
So, in peace and plenty, remained for many years this paradise in the
About the year 1700, Illinois was included in Louisiana, and came under
the sway of Louis XIV., who, in 1712, presented to Anthony Crozat the
whole territory of Louisiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin,--a truly royal
The fortunate recipient, however, having spent vast sums upon the
territory without any returns, surrendered his grant to the crown a
few years afterwards; and a trading company, called the Company of the
Indies, was got up by the famous John Law, on the basis of these lands.
The history of that earliest of Western land-speculations is too well
known to need repetition; suffice it to say, that it was conducted upon
a scale of magnificence in comparison with which our modern imitations
in 1836 and 1856 were feeble indeed. A monument of it stood not many
years ago upon the banks of the Mississippi, in the ruins of Fort
Chartres, which was built by Law when at the height of his fortune, at
a cost of several millions of livres, and which toppled over into the
river in a recent inundation.
In 1759 the French power in North America was broken forever by Wolfe,
upon the Plains of Abraham; and in 1763, by the Treaty of Paris, all the
French possessions upon this continent were ceded to England, and the
territory of the Illinois became part of the British empire.
Pontiac, the famous Ottawa chief, after fighting bravely on the French
side through the war, refused to be transferred with the territory; he
repaired to Illinois, where he was killed by a Peoria Indian. His tribe,
the Ottawas, with their allies, the Pottawattomies and Chippewas,
in revenge, made war upon the Peorias and their confederates, the
Kaskaskias and Cahoklas, in which contest these latter tribes were
At this time, the French population of Illinois amounted to about three
thousand persons, who were settled along the Mississippi and Illinois
rivers, where their descendants remain to this day, preserving a
well-defined national character in the midst of the great flood of
Anglo-American immigration which rolls around them.
Illinois remained under British rule till the year 1778, when George
Rogers Clarke, with four companies of Virginia rangers, marched from
Williamsburg, a distance of thirteen hundred miles, through a hostile
wilderness, captured the British posts of Kaskaskia and Cahokia, and
annexed a territory larger than Great Britain to the new Republic. Many
of Colonel Clarke's rangers, pleased with the beauty and fertility of
the country, settled in Illinois; but the Indians were so numerous and
hostile, that the settlers were obliged to live in fortified stations,
or block-houses, and the population remained very scanty for many years.
In 1809 Illinois was made into a separate Territory, and Ninian Edwards
appointed its first Governor.
During the War of 1812, Tecumseh, an Indian chief of remarkable ability,
endeavored to form a coalition of all the tribes against the Americans,
but with only partial success. He inflicted severe losses upon them,
but was finally defeated and slain at the Battle of the Thames, leaving
behind him the reputation of being the greatest hero and noblest patriot
of his race.
In 1818, Illinois, then having a population of about forty-five
thousand, was admitted into the Union. The State was formed out of that
territory which by the Ordinance of 1787 was dedicated to freedom; but
there was a strong party in the State who wished for the introduction
of slavery, and in order to effect this it was necessary to call a
convention to amend the Constitution. On this arose a desperate contest
between the two principles, and it ended in the triumph of freedom.
Among those opposed to the introduction of slavery were Morris Birkbeck,
Governor Coles, David Blackwell, Judge Lockwood, and Daniel P. Cook.
It was a fitting memorial of the latter, that the County of Cook,
containing the great commercial city of Chicago, should bear his name.
The names of the pro-slavery leaders we will leave to oblivion.
In 1824 the lead mines near Galena began to be worked to advantage,
and thousands of persons from Southern Illinois and Missouri swarmed
thither. The Illinoisans ran up the river in the spring, worked in the
mines during the summer, and returned to their homes down the river in
the autumn,--thus resembling in their migrations the fish so common in
the Western waters, called the Sucker. It was also observed that great
hordes of uncouth ruffians came up to the mines from Missouri, and it
was therefore said that she had vomited forth all her worst population.
Thenceforth the Missourians were called "Pukes," and the people of
From 1818 to 1830, the commerce of the State made but small progress.
At this time, there were one or two small steamboats upon the Illinois
River, but most of the navigation was carried on in keel-boats. The
village merchants were mere retailers; they purchased no produce, except
a few skins and furs, and a little beeswax and honey. The farmers along
the rivers did their own shipping,--building flat-boats, which, having
loaded with corn, flour, and bacon, they would float down to New
Orleans, which was the only market accessible to them. The voyage was
long, tedious, and expensive, and when the farmer arrived, he found
himself in a strange city, where all were combined against him, and
often he was cheated out of his property,--returning on foot by a long
and dangerous journey to a desolate farm, which had been neglected
during his absence. Thus two crops were sometimes lost in taking one to
The manners and customs of the people were simple and primitive. The
costume of the men was a raccoon-skin cap, linsey hunting-shirt,
buck-skin leggings and moccasons, with a butcher-knife in the belt.
The women wore cotton or woollen frocks, striped with blue dye and
Turkey-red, and spun, woven, and made with their own hands; they went
barefooted and bareheaded, except on Sundays, when they covered the head
with a cotton handkerchief. It is told of a certain John Grammar, for
many years a representative from Union County, and a man of some note
in the State councils, though he could neither read nor write, that in
1816, when he was first elected, lacking the necessary apparel, he and
his sons gathered a large quantity of hazel-nuts, which they took to
the nearest town and sold for enough blue strouding to make a suit of
clothes. The pattern proved to be scanty, and the women of the household
could only get out a very bob-tailed coat and leggings. With these Mr.
Grammar started for Kaskaskia, the seat of government, and these he
continued to wear till the passage of an appropriation bill enabled him
to buy a civilized pair of breeches.
The distinctions in manners and dress between the higher and lower
classes were more marked than at present; for while John Grammar wore
blue strouding, we are told that Governor Edwards dressed in fine
broadcloth, white-topped boots, and a gold-laced cloak, and rode about
the country in a fine carriage, driven by a negro.
In those days justice was administered without much parade or ceremony.
The judges held their courts mostly in log houses or in the bar-rooms of
taverns, fitted up with a temporary bench for the judge, and chairs for
the lawyers and jurors. At the first Circuit Court in Washington County,
held by Judge John Reynolds, the sheriff, on opening the court, went out
into the yard, and said to the people, "Boys, come in; our John is going
to hold court." The judges were unwilling to decide questions of law,
preferring to submit everything to the jury, and seldom gave them
instructions, if they could avoid it. A certain judge, being ambitious
to show his learning, gave very pointed directions to the jury, but
they could not agree on a verdict. The judge asked the cause of their
difference, when the foreman answered with great simplicity,--"Why,
Judge, this 'ere's the difficulty: the jury wants to know whether that
'ar what you told us, when we went out, was r'aly the law, or whether it
was on'y jist your notion."
In the spring of 1831, Black Hawk, a Sac chief, dissatisfied with the
treaty by which his tribe had been removed across the Mississippi,
recrossed the river at the head of three or four hundred warriors, and
drove away the white settlers from his old lands near the mouth of the
Rock River. This was considered an invasion of the State, and Governor
Reynolds called for volunteers. Fifteen hundred men answered the
summons, and the Indians were driven out. The next spring, however,
Black Hawk returned with a larger force, and commenced hostilities by
killing some settlers on Indian Creek, not far from Ottawa. A large
force of volunteers was again called out, but in the first encounter the
whites were beaten, which success encouraged the Sacs and Foxes so much
that they spread themselves over the whole of the country between the
Mississippi and the Lake, and kept up a desultory warfare for three or
four months against the volunteer troops. About the middle of July, a
body of volunteers under General Henry of Illinois pursued the Indians
into Wisconsin, and by forced marches brought them to action near the
Mississippi, before the United States troops, under General Atkinson,
could come up. The Indians fought desperately, but were unable to stand
long before the courage and superior numbers of the whites. They escaped
across the river with the loss of nearly three hundred, killed in the
action, or drowned in the retreat. The loss of the Illinois volunteers
was about thirty, killed and wounded.
This defeat entirely broke the power of the Sacs and Foxes, and they
sued for peace. Black Hawk, and some of his head men, were taken
prisoners, and kept in confinement for several months, when, after a
tour through the country, to show them the numbers and power of the
whites, they were set at liberty on the west side of the Mississippi. In
1840 Black Hawk died, at the age of eighty years, on the banks of the
great river which he loved so well.
After the Black-Hawk War, the Indian title being extinguished, and the
country open to settlers, Northern Illinois attracted great attention,
and increased wonderfully in wealth and population.
In 1830, the population of the State amounted to 157,445; in 1840, to
476,183; in 1850, to 851,470; in 1860, to 1,719,496.
* * * * *
Situated in the centre of the United States, the State of Illinois
extends from 37 deg. to 42 deg. 30' N. latitude, and from 10 deg. 47' to 14 deg. 26' W.
longitude from Washington. The State is 378 miles long from North to
South, and 212 miles broad from East to West. Its area is computed at
55,408 square miles, or 35,459,200 acres, less than two millions of
which are called swamp lands, the remaining thirty-three millions being
tillable land of unsurpassed fertility.
The State of Illinois forms the lower part of that slope which embraces
the greater part of Indiana, and of which Lake Michigan, with its
shores, forms the upper part. At the lowest part of this slope, and of
the State, is the city of Cairo, situated about 350 feet above the
level of the Gulf of Mexico, at the confluence of the Ohio and the
Mississippi; hence, the highest place in Illinois being only 800 feet
above the level of the sea, it will appear that the whole State, though
containing several hilly sections, is a pretty level plain, being, with
the exception of Delaware and Louisiana, the flattest country in the
The State contains about twenty-five considerable streams, and brooks
and rivulets innumerable. There are no large lakes within its borders,
though it has some sixty miles of Lake Michigan for its boundary on the
east. Small clear lakes and ponds abound, particularly in the northern
portion of the State.
As to the quality of the soil, Illinois is divided as follows:--
First, the alluvial land on the margins of the rivers, and extending
back from half a mile to six or eight miles. This soil is of
extraordinary fertility, and, wherever it is elevated, makes the best
farming land in the State. Where it is low, and exposed to inundations,
it is very unsafe to attempt its cultivation. The most extensive tract
of this kind is the so-called American Bottom, which received this name
when it was the western boundary of the United States. It extends from
the junction of the Kaskaskia and Mississippi, along the latter, to the
mouth of the Missouri, containing about 288,000 acres.
Secondly, the table-land, fifty to a hundred feet higher than the
alluvial; it consists principally of prairies, which, according to their
respectively higher or lower situations, are either dry or marshy.
Thirdly, the hilly sections of the State, which, consisting alternately
of wood and prairie, are not, on the whole, as fertile as either the
alluvial or the table-land.
There are no mountains in Illinois; but in the southern as well as the
northern part, there are a few hills. Near the banks of the principal
rivers the ground is elevated into bluffs, on which may be still found
the traces left by water, which was evidently once much higher than
it now is; whence it is inferred, that, where the fertile plains of
Illinois now extend, there must once have been a vast sheet of water,
the mud deposited by which formed the soil, thus accounting for the
great fertility of the prairies.
* * * * *
As we have said, the entire area of Illinois seems at one period to
have been an ocean-bed, which has not since been disturbed by any
considerable upheaval. The present irregularities of the surface are
clearly traceable to the washing out and carrying away of the earth. The
Illinois River has washed out a valley about two hundred and fifty feet
deep, and from one and a half to six miles wide. The perfect regularity
of the beds of mountain limestone, sandstone, and coal, as they are
found protruding from the bluffs on each side of this valley, on the
same levels, is pretty conclusive evidence that the valley itself owes
its existence to the action of water. That the channels of the rivers
have been gradually sunken, we may distinctly see by the shores of the
Upper Mississippi, where are walls of rock, rising perpendicularly,
which extend from Lake Pepin to below the mouth of the Wisconsin, as if
they were walls built of equal height by the hand of man. Wherever the
river describes a curve, walls may be found on the convex side of it.
The upper coal formation occupies three-fifths of the State, commencing
at 41 deg. 12' North latitude, where, as also along the Mississippi, whose
banks it touches between the places of its junction with the Illinois
and Missouri rivers, it is enclosed by a narrow layer of calcareous
coal. The shores of Lake Michigan, and that narrow strip of land, which,
commencing near them, runs along the northern bank of the Illinois
towards its southwestern bend, until it meets Rock River at its mouth,
belong to the Devonian system. The residue of the northern part of the
State consists of Silurian strata, which, containing the rich lead mines
of Galena in the northwest corner of the State, rise at intervals into
conical hills, giving the landscape a character different from that of
the middle or southern portion. Scattered along the banks of rivers, and
in the middle of prairies, are frequently found large masses of granite
and other primitive rocks. Since the nearest beds of primitive rocks
first appear in Minnesota and the northern part of Wisconsin, their
presence here can be accounted for only by assuming that at the time
this region was covered with water they were floated down from the
North, enclosed and supported in masses of ice, which, melting, allowed
the rocks to sink to the bottom. A still further proof of the presence
of the ocean here in former times is to be found in the sea-shells which
occur upon many of the higher knolls and bluffs west of the Mississippi
Illinois contains probably more coal than any other State in the Union.
It is mined at a small depth below the surface, and crops out upon the
banks of most of the streams in the middle of the State. These mines
have been very imperfectly worked till within a few years; but it is
found, that, as the work goes deeper, the quality of the coal improves,
and in some of the later excavations is equal to the best coals of Ohio
and Pennsylvania, and will undoubtedly prove a source of immense wealth
to the State.
The two northwestern counties of the State form a part of the richest
and most extensive lead region in the world. During the year 1855, the
product of these mines, shipped from the single port of Galena, was
430,365 pigs of lead, worth $1,732,219.02.
Copper has been found in large quantities in the northern counties, and
also in the southern portion of the State. Some of the zinc ores are
found in great quantities at the lead mines near Galena, but have not
yet been utilized. Silver has been found in St. Clair County, whence
Silver Creek has derived its name. It is said that in early times the
French sunk a shaft here, from which they obtained large quantities of
the metal. Iron is found in many parts of the State, and the ores have
been worked to considerable extent.
Among other valuable mineral products may be mentioned porcelain and
potter's clay, fire clay, fuller's earth, limestone of many varieties,
sandstone, marble, and salt springs.
* * * * *
Illinois has an average temperature, which, if compared with that of
Europe, corresponds to that of Middle Germany; its winters are more
severe than those of Copenhagen, and its summers as warm as those of
Milan or Palermo. Compared with other States of the Union, Northern
Illinois possesses a temperature similar to that of Southern New York,
while the temperature of Southern Illinois will not differ much from
that of Kentucky or Virginia. By observations of the thermometer during
twenty years, in the southern part of the State, on the Mississippi, the
mercury, once in that period, fell to-25 deg., and four times it rose above
100 deg., Fahrenheit.
The prevailing winds are either western or southeastern. The severest
storms are those coming from the west, which traverse the entire space
between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic coast in forty-eight hours.
There are on an average eighty-nine rainy days in the year; the quantity
of rain falling amounts to forty-two inches,--the smallest amount
being in January, and the largest in June. The average number of
thunder-storms in a year is forty-nine; of clear days, one hundred and
thirty-seven; of changeable days, one hundred and eighty-three; and of
days without sunshine, forty-five.
* * * * *
The vegetation of the State forms the connecting link between
the Flora of the Northeastern States and that of the Upper
Mississippi,--exhibiting, besides the plants common to all the States
lying between the Mississippi and the Atlantic Ocean, such as are,
properly speaking, natives of the Western prairies, not being found
east of the Alleghany Mountains. Immense grassy plains, interlaced with
groves, which are found also along the watercourses, cover two-thirds of
the entire area of the State in the North, while the southern part is
garnished with heavy timber.
No work which we have seen gives so good an account of the Flora of the
prairies as the one by Frederick Gerhard, called "Illinois as it is." We
have been indebted to this work for a good deal of valuable matter, and
shall now make some further extracts from it.
"Before we finally turn our backs on the last scattered houses of the
village, we find both sides of the road lined with ugly worm-fences,
which are overtopped by the various species of Helianthus, Thistles,
Biennial Gaura, and the Illinoisian Bell-flower with cerulean blossoms,
and other tall weeds. Here may also be found the coarse-haired
_Asclepias tuberosa_, with fiery red umbels, the strong-scented _Monarda
fistulosa_, and an umbelliferous plant, the grass-like, spiculated
leaves of which recall to mind the Southern Agaves, the _Eryngo._ Among
these children of Nature rises the civilized plant, the Indian Corn,
with its stalks nearly twelve feet high."
"Having now arrived at the end of the cultivated lands, we enter upon
the dry prairies, extending up the bluffs, where we meet the small
vermilion Sorrel _(Rumex acetosella)_ and Mouse-ear, which, however, do
not reside here as foreigners, but as natives, like many other plants
that remind the European of his native country, as, for instance, the
Dandelion _(Taraxacum officinale)_; a kind of Rose, _(Rosa lucida,)_
with its sweet-scented blossoms, has a great predilection for this dry
soil. With surprise we meet here also with many plants with hairy,
greenish-gray leaves and stalk-covers, as, for instance, the _Onosmodium
molle, Hieracium longipilum, Pycnanthemum pilosum, Chrysopsis villosa,
Amorpha canescens, Tephrosia Virginiana, Lithospermum canescens;_
between which the immigrated Mullein _(Verbuscum thapsus)_ may be found.
The pebbly fragments of the entire slope, which during spring-time
were sparingly covered with dwarfish herbs, such as the _Androsace
occidentalis, Draba Caroliniana, Plantago Virginica, Scutellaria
parvula,_ are now crowded with plants of taller growth and variegated
blossoms. _Rudbeckia hirta_, with its numerous radiating blossoms of a
lively yellow, and the closely allied _Echinacea purpurea_, whose long
purple rays hang down from a ruddy hemispherical disc, are the most
remarkable among plants belonging to the genus _Compositoe_, which
blossom early in summer; in the latter part of summer follow innumerable
plants of the different species,_Liatris, Vernonia, Aster, Solidago,
"We approach a sinuous chasm of the bluffs, having better soil and
underwood, which, thin at first, increases gradually in density.
Low bushes, hardly a foot high, are formed by the American Thistle,
_(Ceanothus Americanus,)_ a plant whose leaves were used instead of tea,
in Boston, during the Revolution. Next follow the Hazel-bush, _(Corylus
Americana,)_ the fiery-red _Castilleja coccinea,_ and the yellow
Canadian Louse-wort; the _Dipteracanthus strepens_, with great blue
funnel-shaped blossoms, and the _Gerardia pedicularia_, are fond of
such places; and where the bushes grow higher, and the _Rhus glabra,
Zanthoxylum Americanum, Ptelea trifoliata, Staphylea trifolia,_ together
with _Ribes-Rubus Pyrus, Cornus, and Cratoegus,_ form an almost
impenetrable thicket, surrounded and garlanded by the round-leaved,
rough Bindweed, _(Smilax rotundifolia,)_ and _Dioscorea villosa_, the
Climbing Rose, _(Rosa setigera,) Celastrus scandens_, remarkable for its
beautiful red fruits, _Clematis Virginiana, Polygonum, Convolvulus, and
other vines, these weedy herbs attempt to overtop the bushes."
"We now enter upon the illimitable prairie which lies before us, the
fertile prairie, in whose undulating surface the moisture is retained;
this waits for cultivation, and will soon be deprived of its flowery
attire, and bear plain, but indispensable grain. Those who have not yet
seen such a prairie should not imagine it like a cultivated meadow, but
rather a heaving sea of tall herbs and plants, decking it with every
variety of color.
"In the summer, the yellow of the large _Composite_ will predominate,
intermingled with the blue of the Tradescantias, the fiery red of the
Lilies, (_Lilium Philadelphicum_ and _Lilium Canadense_,) the purple of
the Phlox, the white of the _Cacalia tuberosa, Melanthium Virginicum,_
and the umbelliferous plants. In spring, small-sized plants bloom here,
such as the Anemone, with its blue and white blossoms, the Palmated
Violet, the Ranunculus, which are the first ornaments of the prairies in
spring; then follow the Esculent Sea-Onion, _Pentaloplius longiflorus,
Lithospermum hirtum, Cynthia Virginica,_ and _Baptisia leucophaea_.
As far as the eye reaches, no house nor tree can be seen; but where
civilization has come, the farmer has planted small rows of the quickly
growing Black Acacia, which affords shelter from the sun to his cattle
and fuel for his hearth."
"We now enter the level part of the forest, which has a rich black soil.
Great sarmentous plants climb here up to the tops of the trees: wild
Grapes, the climbing, poisonous Sumach, (_Rhus toxicodendron,_) and the
vine-like Cinque-foil, which transforms withered, naked trunks into
green columns, Bignonias, with their brilliant scarlet trumpet-flowers,
are the most remarkable. The _Thuja occidentalis,_ which may be met
with in European gardens, stands in mournful solitude on the margins of
pools; here and there an isolalod Cedar, (_Juniperus Virginiana_)
and the low Box-tree, (_Taxus Canadensis_) are in Illinois the only
representatives of the evergreens, forests of which first appear in the
northern part of Wisconsin and Minnesota."
"Flowers of the most brilliant hues bedeck the rivers' banks; above
all, the _Lobelia cardinalis_ and _Lobelia syphilitica_, of the deepest
carmine and cerulean tinge, the yellow _Cassia Marilandica_, and the
delicate _Rosa blanda_, a rose without thorns; also the _Scrophularia
"On the marshy ground thrive the _Iris versicolor, Asclepias incarnata_,
the Primrose-tree, Liver-wort, the tall _Physostegia Virginiana_, with
rosy-red blossoms, and the _Helenium autumnale_, in which the yellow
color predominates. In spring, the dark violet blossom of the _Amorpha
fruticosa_ diffuses its fragrance."
"Entering a boat on the river, where we cannot touch the bottom with the
oar, we perceive a little white flower waving to and fro, supported
by long spiral halms between straight, grass-like leaves. This is the
_Vallisneria spiralis_, a remarkable plant, which may be also met with
in Southern Europe, especially in the Canal of Languedoc, and regarding
the fructification of which different opinions prevail."
"Nearer to the land, we observe similar grass-like leaves, but with
little yellow stellated flowers: these belong to the order of _Schollera
graminea_. Other larger leaves belong to the Amphibious Polygony, and
different species of the _Potamogeton,_ the ears of whose blossoms rise
curiously above the surface of the water. Clearing our way through a
row of tall swamp weeds, _Zizania aquatica, Scirpus lacustris, Scirpus
pungens_, among which the white flowers of _Sparganium ramosum_ and
_Sagittaria variabilis_ are conspicuous, we steer into a large inlet
entirely covered with the broad leaves of the _Nymphaea odorala_ and the
_Nelumbium luteum_, of which the former waves its beautiful flower on
the surface of the river, while the latter, the queen, in fact, of
the waters, proudly raises her magnificent crown upon a perpendicular
footstalk. On the opposite bank, the evening breeze lifts the triangular
leaves and rosy-red flowers of the Marsh-Mallow, overhung by Gray
Willows and the Silver-leaved Maple and the Red Maple, on which a flock
of white herons have alighted."
In all the rivers and swamps of the Northwest grows the Wild Rice,
(_Zizania aquatica,_) a plant which was' formerly very important to the
Indians as food, and now attracts vast flocks of waterfowl to feed upon
it in the season. In autumn the squaws used to go in their canoes
to these natural rice-fields, and, bending the tall stalks over the
gunwale, beat out the heads of grain with their paddles into the canoe.
It is mentioned among the dainties at Hiawatha's wedding-feast:--
"Haunch of deer, and hump of bison,
Yellow cakes of the Momdamin,
And the wild rice of the river."
The Fruits of the forest are Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries,
Gooseberries, in some barren spots Whortleberries, Mulberries,
Grapes, Wild Plums and Cherries, Crab-Apples, the Persimmon, Pawpaw,
Hickory-nuts, Hazel-nuts, and Walnuts.
The Timber-trees are,--of the Oaks, _Quercus alba, Quercus macrocarpa,
Quercus tinctoria, Quercus imbricaria,--Hard and Soft Maples_,--and of
the Hickories, _Carya alba, Carya tomentosa, and Carya amara_. Other
useful timber-trees are the Ash, Cherry, several species of Elm, Linden,
and Ironwood (_Carpinus Americana_).
Of Medicinal Plants, we find _Cassia Marilandica, Polygala Senega,
Sanguinaria Canadensis, Lobelia inflata, Phytolacca decandra,
Podophyllum peliatum, Sassafras officinale_.
Various species of the Vine are native here, and the improved varieties
succeed admirably in the southern counties.
The early travellers in this region mention the great herds of wild
cattle which roamed over the prairies in those times, but the last
Buffalo on the east side of the Mississippi was killed in 1832; and now
the hunter who would see this noble game must travel some hundreds of
miles west, to the head-waters of the Kansas or the Platte. The Elk,
which was once so common in Illinois, has also receded before the white
man, and the Deer is fast following his congener. On the great prairies
south of Chicago, where, fifteen years ago, one might find twenty deer
in a day's tramp, not one is now to be seen. Two species of Hare occur
here, and several Tree Squirrels, the Red, Black, Gray, Mottled, and the
Flying; besides these, there are two or three which live under ground.
The Beaver is nearly or quite extinct, but the Otter remains, and the
Musk-Rat abounds on all the river-banks and marshes.
Of carnivorous animals, we have the Panther and Black Bear in the wooded
portions of the State, though rare; the Lynx, the Gray and Black Wolf,
and the Prairie Wolf; the Skunk, the Badger, the Woodchuck, the Raccoon,
and, in the southern part of the State, the Opossum.
Mr. Lapham of Wisconsin has published a list of the birds of that State,
which will also answer for Northern Illinois. He enumerates two hundred
and ninety species, which, we think, is below the number which visit the
central parts of Illinois. From the central position of this State,
most of the birds of the United States are found here at one season or
another. For instance, among the rapacious birds, we have the three
Eagles which visit America, the White-Headed, the Washington, and
the Golden or Royal Eagle. Of Hawks and Falcons, fourteen or fifteen
species, among which are the beautiful Swallow-tailed Hawk, and that
noble falcon, the Peregrine. Ten or twelve Owls, among which, as a rare
visitor, we find the Great Gray Owl, (_Syrnium cinereum_,) and the Snowy
Owl, which is quite common in the winter season on the prairies, preying
upon grouse and hares. Of the Vultures, we have two, as summer visitors,
the Turkey-Buzzard and the Black Vulture.
Of omnivorous birds, sixteen or eighteen species, among which is the
Raven, which here takes the place of the Crow, the two species not being
able to live together, as the stronger robber drives away the weaker. Of
the insectivorous birds, some sixty or seventy species are found here,
among which is the Mocking-Bird, in the middle and southern districts.
Thirty-five to forty species of granivorous birds, among which we
occasionally find in winter that rare Arctic bird, the Evening Grosbeak.
Of the _Zygodachyli_, fourteen species, among which is found the Paquet,
in the southern part of the State. _Tenuirostres_, five species. Of the
Kingfishers, one species. Swallows and Goat-suckers, nine species. Of
the Pigeons, two, the Turtle-Dove and the Passenger Pigeon, of which the
latter visit us twice a year, in immense flocks.
Of the gallinaceous birds, the Turkey, which is found in the heavy
timber in the river bottoms; the Quail, which has become very abundant
all over the State, within twenty years, following, it would seem, the
march of civilization and settlement; the Ruffed Grouse, abundant in the
timber, but never seen on the prairie; the Pinnated Grouse, or Prairie
Hen, always found on the open plains. These birds increased very much in
number after the settlement of the State, owing probably to the increase
of food for them, and the decrease of their natural enemies, the prairie
wolves; but since the building of railroads, so many are killed to
supply the demands of New York and other Eastern cities, that they are
now decreasing very rapidly, and in a very few years the sportsman will
have to cross the Mississippi to find a pack of grouse. The Sharp-tailed
Grouse, an occasional visitor in winter from Wisconsin, is found in the
Of wading birds, from forty to fifty species, among which the Sand-Hill
Crane is very abundant, and the Great White or Whooping Crane very rare,
although supposed by some authors to be the same bird in different
stages of plumage.
Of the lobe-footed birds, seven species, of which is the rare and
beautiful Wilson's Phalarope, which breeds in the wet prairies near
Of web-footed birds, about forty species, among which are two Swans and
five Geese. Among the Ducks, the Canvas-Back is found; but, owing to the
want of its favorite food in the Chesapeake, the _Vallisneria_, it is,
in our waters, a very ordinary duck, as an article of food.
The waters of Illinois abound with fish, of which class we enumerate,--
Percidae, 3 Pomotis, 2
Labrax, 3 Cottus, 2
Lucioperca, 2 Corvina, 1
Huro, 1 Pimelodus, 5
Centrarchus, 3 Leuciscus, 6
Hydrargea, 2 Corregomus, 3
Esox, 3 Amia, 1
Hyodon, 1 Lepidosteus, 3
Lota, 2 Accipenser, 3
Of these, the Perch, White, Black, and Rock Bass, the Pike-Perch, the
Catfish, the Pike and Muskalonge, the Whitefish, the Lake Trout, and the
Sturgeon are valuable fishes for the table.
Of the class of Reptiles, we have among the Lizards the Mud-Devil,
(_Menopoma Alleghaniensis_,) which grows in the sluggish streams to
the length of two feet; also _Triton dorsalis_, _Necturus lateralis_,
Of the Snakes, we find three venomous species, the Rattlesnake, the
Massasauga, and the Copper-Head. The largest serpents are the Black
Snake, five feet long, and the Milk Snake, from five to six feet in
Among the Turtles is _Emys picta_, _Chelonura serpentina_, and _Cistuda
Of the Frogs, we have _Rana sylvatica_, _Rana palustris_, and _Rana
pipiens_, nearly two feet long, and loud-voiced in proportion,--a
Various theories and speculations have been formed as to the origin of
the prairies. One of them, is, that the forests which formerly occupied
these plains were swept away at some remote period by fire; and that the
annual fires set by the Indians have continued this state of things.
Another theory is, that the violent winds which sweep over them have
prevented the growth of trees; a third, that want of rain forbids their
growth; a fourth, that the agency of water has produced the effect;
and lastly, a learned professor at the last meeting of the Scientific
Convention put forth his theory, which was, that the real cause of the
absence of trees from the prairies is the mechanical condition of the
soil, which is, he thinks, too fine,--a coarse, rocky soil being, in his
estimation, a necessary condition of the growth of trees.
Most of these theories seem to be inconsistent with the plain facts of
the case. First, we know that these prairies existed in their present
condition when the first white man visited them, two hundred years ago;
and also that similar treeless plains exist in South America and Central
Africa, and have so existed ever since those countries were known. We
are told by travellers in those regions, that the natives have the same
custom of annually burning the dry grass and herbage for the same reason
that our Indians did it, and that the early white settlers kept up the
custom,--namely, to promote the growth of young and tender feed for the
wild animals which the former hunted and the cattle which the latter
live by grazing.
Another fact, well known to all settlers in the prairie, is, that it is
only necessary to keep out the fires by fences or ditches, and a thick
growth of trees will spring up on the prairies. Many fine groves now
exist all over Illinois, where nothing grew twenty years ago but the
wild grasses and weeds; and we have it on record, that locust-seed, sown
on the prairie near Quincy, in four years produced trees with a diameter
of trunk of four to six inches, and in seven years had become large
enough for posts and rails. So with fruit-trees, which nowhere flourish
with more strength and vigor than in this soil,--too much so, indeed,
since they are apt to run to wood rather than fruit. Moreover, the soil
in the groves and on the river bottoms, where trees naturally grow, is
the same, chemically and mechanically, as that of the open prairie; the
same winds sweep over both, and the same rain falls upon both; so that
it would seem that the absence of trees cannot be attributed wholly to
fire, water, wind, or soil, but is owing to a combination of two or more
of those agencies.
But from whatever cause the prairies originated, they have no doubt been
perpetuated by the fires which annually sweep over their surface. Where
the soil is too wet to sustain a heavy growth of grass, there is no
prairie. Timber is found along the streams, almost invariably,--and,
where the banks are high and dry, will usually be found on the east bank
of those streams whose course is north and south. This is caused by the
fact that the prevailing winds are from the west, and bring the fire
with them till it reaches the stream, which forms a barrier and protects
the vegetation on the other side.
If any State in the Union is adapted to agriculture, and the various
branches of rural economy, such as stock-raising, wool-growing, or
fruit-culture, it must surely be Illinois, where the fertile natural
meadows invite the plough, without the tedious process of clearing off
timber, which, in many parts of the country, makes it the labor of a
lifetime to bring a farm under good cultivation. Here, the farmer who is
satisfied with such crops as fifty bushels of corn to the acre, eighteen
of wheat, or one hundred of potatoes, has nothing to do but to plough,
sow, and reap; no manure, and but little attention, being necessary
to secure a yield like this. Hence a man of very small means can soon
become independent on the prairies. If, however, one is ambitious of
raising good crops, and doing the best he can with his land, let him
manure liberally and cultivate diligently; nowhere will land pay for
good treatment better than here.
Mr. J. Ambrose Wight, of Chicago, the able editor of the "Prairie
Farmer," writes as follows:--
"From an acquaintance with Illinois lands and Illinois farmers, of
eighteen years, during thirteen of which I have been editor of the
'Prairie Farmer,' I am prepared to give the following as the rates of
produce which may be had per acre, with ordinary culture:--
Winter Wheat, 15 to 25 Bushels.
Spring " 10 to 20 "
Corn, 40 to 70 "
Oats, 40 to 60 "
Potatoes, 100 to 200 "
Grass, Timothy and Clover, 1-1/2 to 3 Tons.
"_Ordinary culture_, on prairie lands, is not what is meant by the term
in the Eastern or Middle States. It means here, no manure, and commonly
but once, or at most twice, ploughing, on perfectly smooth land, with
long furrows, and no stones or obstructions; where two acres per day
is no hard job for one team. It is often but very poor culture, with
shallow ploughing, and without attention to weeds. I have known crops,
not unfrequently, far greater than these, with but little variation in
their treatment: say, 40 to 50 bushels of winter wheat, 60 to 80 of
oats, and 100 of Indian corn, or 300 of potatoes. _Good culture_, which
means rotation, deep ploughing, farms well stocked, and some manure
applied at intervals of from three to five years, would, in good
seasons, very often approach these latter figures."
We will now give the results of a very detailed account of the
management of a farm of 240 acres, in Kane County, Illinois, an average
farm as to soil and situation, but probably much above the average in
cultivation,--at least, we should judge so from the intelligent and
business-like manner in which the account is kept; every crop having a
separate account kept with it in Dr. and Cr., to show the net profit or
loss of each.
23 acres of Wheat, 30 bushels per acre, net profit $453.00
17-1/2 " " on Corn ground, 22-1/2 " " " 278.50
9-1/2 " Spring Wheat, 24 " " " 159.70
2-1/2 " Winter Rye, 22-7/12 " " " 10.25
5-1/2 " Barley, 33-1/4 " " " 32.55
12 " Oats, 87-1/2 " " " 174.50
28-1/2 " Corn, 60 " " " 638.73
1 " Potatoes, 150 " " " 27.50
103 Sheep, average weight of fleece, 3-1/2 lbs., " 177.83
15 head of Cattle and one Colt " 103.00
1500 lbs. Pork " 35.00
Fruit, Honey, Bees, and Poultry " 73.75
21 acres Timothy Seed, 4 bushels per acre, " 123.00
A farm of this size, so situated, with the proper buildings and stock,
may, at the present price of land, be supposed to represent a capital of
$15,000--on which sum the above account gives an interest of over 15 per
cent. Is there any other part of the country where the same interest can
be realized on farming capital?
But this farm of 240 acres is a mere retail affair to many farms in the
State. We will give some examples on a larger scale.
"Winstead Davis came to Jonesboro', Illinois, from Tennessee, thirty
years ago, without means of any kind; now owns many thousand acres of
land, and has under cultivation, this year, from 2500 to 3000 acres."
"W. Willard, native of Vermont, commenced penniless; now owns more than
10,000 acres of land, and cultivates 2000."
"Jesse Funk, near Bloomington, Illinois, began the world thirty years
ago, at rail-splitting, at twenty-five cents the hundred. He bought
land, and raised cattle; kept increasing his lands and herds, till he
now owns 7000 acres of land, and sells over 840,000 worth of cattle and
"Isaac Funk, brother of the above, began in the same way, at the same
time. He has gone ahead of Jesse; for _he_ owns 27,000 acres of land,
has 4000 in cultivation, and his last year's sales of cattle amounted to
It is evident that the brothers Funk are men of administrative talent;
they would have made a figure in Wall Street, could have filled cabinet
office at Washington, or, perhaps, could even have "kept a hotel."
These are but specimens of the large-acred men of Illinois. Hundreds of
others there are, who farm on nearly the same scale.
The great difficulty in carrying on farming operations on a large scale
in Illinois has always been the scarcity of labor. Land is cheap and
plenty, but labor scarce and dear: exactly the reverse of what obtains
in England, where land is dear and labor cheap. It must be evident that
a different kind of farming would be found here from that in use in
older countries. There, the best policy is to cultivate a few acres
well; here, it has been found more profitable to skim over a large
surface. But within a few years the introduction of labor-saving
machines has changed the conditions of farming, and has rendered it
possible to give good cultivation to large tracts of land with few men.
Many of the crops are now put in by machines, cultivated by machines,
and harvested by machine. If, as seems probable, the steam-plough
of Fawkes shall become a success, the revolution in farming will be
complete. Already some of the large farmers employ wind or steam power
in various ways to do the heavy work, such as cutting and grinding food
for cattle and hogs, pumping water, etc.
Although the soil and climate of Illinois are well adapted to
fruit-culture, yet, from various causes, it has not, till lately, been
much attended to. The early settlers of Southern and Middle Illinois
were mostly of the Virginia race, Hoosiers,--who are a people of few
wants. If they have hog-meat and hominy, whiskey and tobacco, they are
content; they will not trouble themselves to plant fruit-trees. The
early settlers in the North were, generally, very poor men; they could
not afford to buy fruit-trees, for the produce of which they must wait
several years. Wheat, corn, and hogs were the articles which could be
soonest converted into money, and those they raised. Then the early
attempts at raising fruit were not very successful. The trees were
brought from the East, and were either spoiled by the way, or were
unsuited to this region. But the great difficulty has been the want of
drainage. Fruit-trees cannot be healthy with wet feet for several months
of the year, and this they are exposed to on these level lands. With
proper tile-draining, so that the soil shall be dry and mellow early in
the spring, we think that the apple, the pear, the plum, and the cherry
will succeed on the prairies anywhere in Illinois. The peach and the
grape flourish in the southern part of the State, already, with very
little care; in St. Clair County, the culture of the latter has been
carried on by the Germans for many years, and the average yield of
Catawba wine has been two hundred gallons per acre. The strawberry grows
wild all over the State, both in the timber and the prairie; and the
cultivated varieties give very fine crops. All the smaller fruits do
well here, and the melon family find in this soil their true home; they
are raised by the acre, and sold by the wagon-load, in the neighborhood
Stock-raising is undoubtedly the most profitable kind of farming on
the prairies, which are so admirably adapted to this species of rural
economy, and Illinois is already at the head of the cattle-breeding
States. There were shipped from Chicago in 1860, 104,122 head of live
cattle, and 114,007 barrels of beef.
The Durham breed seems to be preferred by the best stock-farmers, and
they pay great attention to the purity of the race. A herd of one
hundred head of cattle raised near Urbanna, and averaging 1965 pounds
each, took the premium at the World's Fair in New York. Although the
Durhams are remarkable for their large size and early maturity, yet
other breeds are favorites with many farmers,--such as the Devons, the
Herefords, and the Holsteins, the first particularly,--for working
cattle, and for the quality of their beef. There is a sweetness about
the beef fattened upon these prairies which is not found elsewhere, and
is noticed by all travellers who have eaten of that meat at the best
In fact, Illinois is the paradise of cattle, and there is no sight more
beautiful, in its way, than one of those vast natural meadows in June,
dotted with the red and white cattle, standing belly-deep in rich grass
and gay-colored flowers, and almost too fat and lazy to whisk away
the flies. Even in winter they look comfortable, in their sheltered
barn-yard, surrounded by huge stacks of hay or long ranges of
corn-cribs, chewing the cud of contentment, and untroubled with any
thought of the inevitable journey to Brighton.
Where corn is so plenty as it is in Illinois, of course hogs will be
plenty also. During the year 1860, two hundred and seventy-five thousand
porkers rode into Chicago by railroad, eighty-five thousand of which
pursued their journey, still living, to Eastern cities,--the balance
remaining behind to be converted into lard, bacon, and salt pork.
The wholesale way of making beef and pork is this. All summer the cattle
are allowed to run on the prairie, and the hogs in the timber on the
river bottoms. In the autumn, when the corn is ripe, the cattle are
turned into one of those great fields, several hundred acres in extent,
to gather the crop; and after they have done, the hogs come in to pick
up what the cattle have left.
Sheep do well on the prairies, particularly in the southern part of the
State, where the flocks require little or no shelter in winter. The
prairie wolves formerly destroyed many sheep; but since the introduction
of strychnine for poisoning those voracious animals, the sheep have been
very little troubled.
Horses and mules are raised extensively, and in the northern counties,
where the Morgans and other good breeds have been introduced, the horses
are as good as in any State of the Union. Theory would predict this
result, since the horse is found always to come to his greatest
perfection in level countries,--as, for instance, the deserts of Arabia,
and the _llanos_ of South America.
There are two articles in daily and indispensable use, for which the
Northern States have hitherto been dependent on the Southern: Sugar
and Cotton. With regard to the first, the introduction of the Chinese
Sugar-Cane has demonstrated that every farmer in the State can raise
his own sweetening. The experience of several years has proved that the
_Sorghum_ is a hardier plant than corn, and that it will be a sure crop
as far North as latitude 42 deg. or 43 deg..
An acre of good prairie will produce 18 tons of the cane, and each ton
gives 60 gallons of juice, which is reduced, by boiling, to 10 gallons
of syrup. This gives 180 gallons of syrup to the acre, worth from 40 to
50 cents a gallon,--say 40 cents, which will give 72 dollars for the
product of an acre of land; from which the expenses of cultivation being
deducted, with rent of land, etc., say 36 dollars, there will remain a
net profit of 36 dollars to the acre, besides the seed, and the fodder
which comes from a third part of the stalk, which is cut off before
sending the remainder to the mill. This is found to be the most
nutritious food that can be used for cattle and horses, and very
valuable for milch cows. These results Lave been obtained from Mr. Luce,
of Plainfield, Will County, who has lately built a steam-mill for making
the syrup from the cane which is raised by the farmers in that vicinity.
In this first year, he manufactured 12,500 gallons of syrup, which sells
readily at fifty cents a gallon. A quantity of it was refined at the
Chicago Sugar-Refinery, and the result was a very agreeable syrup, free
from the peculiar flavor which the home-made Sorghum-syrup usually
has. As yet, no experiments on a large scale have been made to obtain
crystallized sugar from the juice of this cane, it having been, so far,
used more economically in the shape of syrup. That it can be done,
however, is proved by the success of several persons who have tried it
in a small way. In the County of Vermilion, it is estimated that three
hundred thousand gallons of syrup were made in 1860.
As to Cotton, since the building of the Illinois Central Railroad has
opened the southern part of the State to the world, and let in the
light upon that darkened Egypt, it is found that those people have
been raising their own cotton for many years, from the seed which they
brought with them into the State from Virginia and North Carolina. The
plant has become acclimated, and now ripens its seed in latitude 39 deg. and
40 deg.. Perhaps the culture may be carried still farther, so that cotton
may be raised all over the State. The heat of our summers is tropical,
but they are too short. If, however, the cotton-plant, like Indian corn
and the tomato, can be gradually induced to mature itself in four or
five months, the consequences of such a change can hardly be estimated.
But whether or not it be possible to raise cotton and sugar profitably
in Illinois, that she is the great bread- and meat-producing State no
one can doubt; and in 1861 it happens that Cotton is King no longer, but
must yield his sceptre to Corn.
The breadstuffs exported from the Northwest to Europe and to the Cotton
States will this year probably amount to more money than the whole
foreign export of cotton,--the crop which to some persons represents all
that the world contains of value.
Probable export of Cotton in 1861, three-fourths
of the crop of 4,000,000 bales, 3,000,000 bales,
at $45 . . . . . . . . . $135,000,000
Estimated export of Breadstuffs
to Europe . . . . . . . . $100,000,000
Estimated export of Breadstuffs
to Southern States . . . . . . $45,000,000
We are feeding Europe and the Cotton States, who pay us in gold; we
feed the Northern States, who pay us in goods; we are feeding our
starving brothers in Kansas, who have paid us beforehand, by their
heroic devotion to the cause of freedom. Let us hope that their troubles
are nearly over, and that, having passed through more hardships than
have fallen to the lot of any American community, they may soon enter
upon a career of prosperity as signal as have been their misfortunes, so
that the prairies of Kansas may, in their turn, assist in feeding the
Nothing has done so much for the rapid growth of Illinois as her canal
As early as 1833 several railroad charters were granted by the
legislature; but the stock was not taken, and nothing was done until the
year 1836, when a vast system of internal improvements was projected,
intended "to be commensurate with the wants of the people,"--that is,
there was to be a railroad to run by every man's door. About thirteen
hundred miles of railroads were planned, a canal was to be built from
Chicago to the Illinois River at Peru, and several rivers were to be
made navigable. The cost of all this it was supposed would be about
eight millions of dollars, and the money was to be raised by loan. In
order that all might have the benefit of this system, it was provided
that two hundred thousand dollars should be distributed among those
counties where none of these improvements were made. To cap the climax
of folly, it was provided that the work should commence on all these
roads simultaneously, at each end, and from the crossings of all the
As no previous survey or estimate had been made, either of the routes,
the cost of the works, or the amount of business to be done on them, it
is not surprising that the State of Illinois soon found herself with a
heavy debt, and nothing to show for it, except a few detached pieces
of railroad embankments and excavations, a half-finished canal, and a
railroad from the Illinois River to Springfield, which cost one million
of dollars, and when finished would not pay for operating it.
The State staggered on for some ten years under this load of debt,
which, as she could not pay the interest upon it, had increased in 1845
to some fourteen millions. The project of repudiating the debt was
frequently brought forward by unscrupulous politicians; but to the honor
of the people of Illinois be it remembered, that even in the darkest
times this dishonest scheme found but few friends.
In 1845, the holders of the canal bonds advanced the sum of $1,700,000
for the purpose of finishing the canal; and subsequently, William B.
Ogden and a few other citizens of Chicago, having obtained possession of
an old railroad-charter for a road from that city to Galena, got a few
thousand dollars of stock subscribed in those cities, and commenced the
work. The difficulties were very great, from the scarcity of money and
the want of confidence in the success of the enterprise. In most of the
villages along the proposed line there was a strong opposition to having
a railroad built at all, as the people thought it would be the ruin of
their towns. Even in Chicago, croakers were not wanting to predict that
the railroad would monopolize all the trade of the place.
In the face of all these obstacles, the road was built to the Des
Plaines River, twelve miles,--in a very cheap way, to be sure; as a
second-hand strap-rail was used, and half-worn cars were picked up from
These twelve miles of road between the Des Plaines and Chicago had
always been the terror of travellers. It was a low, wet prairie, without
drainage, and in the spring and autumn almost impassable. At such
seasons one might trace the road by the broken wagons and dead horses
that lay strewn along it.
To be able to have their loads of grain carried over this dreadful place
for three or four cents a bushel was to the farmers of the Rock River
and Fox River valleys--who, having hauled their wheat from forty to
eighty miles to this Slough of Despond, frequently could get it no
farther--a privilege which they soon began to appreciate. The road had
all it could do, at once. It was a success. There was now no difficulty
in getting the stock taken up, and before long it was finished to Fox
River. It paid from fifteen to twenty per cent to the stockholders,
and the people along the line soon became its warmest friends,--and no
wonder, since it doubled the value of every man's farm on the line. The
next year the road was extended to Rock River, and then to Galena, one
hundred and eighty-five miles.
This road was the pioneer of the twenty-eight hundred and fifty miles of
railroads which now cross the State in every direction, and which have
hastened the settlement of the prairies at least fifty years.
Among these lines of railway, the most important, and one of the longest
in America, is the Illinois Central, which is seven hundred and four
miles in length, and traverses the State from South to North, namely:--
1. The main line, from Cairo to La Salla 308 miles
2. The Galena Branch, from La Salle to Dunleith 146 "
3. The Chicago Branch, from Chicago to Centralia 250 "
This great work was accomplished in the short space of four years and
nine months, by the help of a grant of two and a half millions of acres
of land lying along the line. The company have adopted the policy of
selling these lands on long credit to actual settlers; and since the
completion of the road, in 1856, they have sold over a million of acres,
for fifteen millions of dollars, in secured notes, bearing interest. The
remaining lands will probably realize as much more, so that the seven
hundred and four miles of railroad will actually cost the corporators
There are eleven trunk and twenty branch and extension lines, which
centre in Chicago, the earnings of nineteen of which, for the year 1859,
were fifteen millions of dollars. As that, however, was a year of great
depression in business, with a short crop through the Northwest, we
think, in view of the large crop of 1860, and the consequent revival of
business, that the earnings of these nineteen lines will not be less
this year than twenty-two millions of dollars.
In the early settlement of the State, twenty-five or thirty years ago,
the pioneers being necessarily very liable to want of good shelter, to
bad food and impure water, suffered much from bilious and intermittent
fevers. As the country has become settled, the land brought under
cultivation, and the habits of the people improved, these diseases have
in a great measure disappeared. Other forms of disease have, however,
taken their place, pulmonary affections and fevers of the typhoid type
being more prevalent than formerly; but as most of the immigrants into
Northern Illinois are from Western New York and New England, where this
latter class of diseases prevails, the people are much less alarmed by
them than they used to be by the bilious diseases, though the latter
were really less dangerous. The coughs, colds, and consumptions are old
acquaintances, and through familiarity have lost their terrors.
The census of 1850 gives the following comparative view of the annual
percentage of deaths in several States:--
Massachusetts, . . 1.95 per cent.
Rhode Island, . . 1.52 "
New York, . . . 1.47 "
Ohio, . . . . 1.44 "
Illinois, . . . . 1.36 "
Missouri, . . . 1.80 "
Louisiana, . . . 2.31 "
Texas, . . . 1.43 "
This table shows that Illinois stands in point of health among the very
highest of the States.
Having sketched the history and traced the material development of the
Prairie State to the present time, we will close this article with a few
words as to its politics and policy.
As we have seen, the early settlers of Illinois were from Virginia
and Kentucky, and brought with them the habits, customs, and ideas of
Slaveholders; and though by the sagacity and virtue of a few leading
men the institution of Slavery was kept out, yet for many years the
Democratic Party, always the ally and servant of the Slave-Power, was in
the ascendant. Until 1858, the Legislature and the Executive have always
been Democratic, and the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, from
Jackson down to Buchanan, was sure of the electoral vote of Illinois.
But the growth of the northern half of the State has of late years been
far outstripping that of the southern portion, and the former now has
the majority. We have now a Republican Legislature and a Republican
Governor, and, by the new apportionment soon to be made, the Republican
Party will be much more largely in the ascendant,--so much so, indeed,
that there is no probability of another Democratic Senator being chosen
from Illinois in the next twenty years, Mr. Douglas will be the last of
The people of Northern Illinois, who are in future to direct the policy
of the State, are mostly from Western New York and New England.
"Coelum, non animum mutant."
They bring with them their unconquered prejudices in favor of freedom;
their great commercial city is as strongly anti-slavery as Worcester
or Syracuse, and has been for years an unsafe spot for a slave-hunter.
Their interests and their sympathies are all with the Northern States.
What idle babble, then, is this theory of a third Confederacy, to be
constructed out of the middle Atlantic States and the Northwest!
If, as one of our orators says, New England is the brain of this
country, then the Northwest is its bone and muscle, ready to cultivate
its wide prairies and feed the world,--or, if need be, to use the same
strength in crushing treason, and in preserving the Territories for free
CONCERNING FUTURE YEARS
Does it ever come across you, my friend, with something of a start, that
things cannot always go on in your lot as they are going now? Does not a
sudden thought sometimes flash upon you, a hasty, vivid glimpse, of what
you will be long hereafter, if you are spared in this world? Our common
way is too much to think that things will always go on as they are
going. Not that we clearly think so: not that we ever put that opinion
in a definite shape, and avow to ourselves that we hold it: but we live
very much under that vague, general impression. We can hardly help it.
When a man of middle age inherits a pretty country-seat, and makes up
his mind that be cannot yet afford to give up business and go to live
there, but concludes that in six or eight years he will be able with
justice to his children to do so, do you think he brings plainly before
him the changes which must be wrought on himself and those around him
by these years? I do not speak of the greatest change of all, which may
come to any of us so very soon: I do not think of what may be done
by unlooked-for accident: I think merely of what must be done by the
passing on of time. I think of possible changes in taste and feeling,
of possible loss of liking for that mode of life. I think of lungs that
will play less freely, and of limbs that will suggest shortened walks,
and dissuade from climbing hills. I think how the children will have
outgrown daisy-chains, or even got beyond the season of climbing trees.
The middle-aged man enjoys the prospect of the time when he shall go to
his country house; and the vague, undefined belief surrounds him, like
an atmosphere, that he and his children, his views and likings, will be
then just such as they are now. He cannot bring it home to him at how
many points change will be cutting into him, and hedging him in, and
paring him down. And we all live very much under that vague impression.
Yet it is in many ways good for us to feel that we are going on,
--passing from the things which surround us,--advancing into the
undefined future, into the unknown land. And I think that sometimes we
all have vivid flashes of such a conviction. I dare say, my friend, you
have seen an old man, frail, soured, and shabby, and you have thought,
with a start, Perhaps _there_ is Myself of Future Years.
We human beings can stand a great deal. There is great margin allowed by
our constitution, physical and moral. I suppose there is no doubt that
a man may daily for years eat what is unwholesome, breathe air which is
bad, or go through a round of life which is not the best or the right
one for either body or mind, and yet be little the worse. And so men
pass through great trials and through long years, and yet are not
altered so very much. The other day, walking along the street, I saw a
man whom I had not seen for ten years. I knew that since I saw him last
he had gone through very heavy troubles, and that these had sat very
heavily upon him. I remembered how he had lost that friend who was the
dearest to him of all human beings, and I knew how broken down he had
been for many months after that great sorrow came. Yet there he was,
walking along, an unnoticed unit, just like any one else; and he was
looking wonderfully well. No doubt he seemed pale, worn, and anxious:
but he was very well and carefully dressed; he was walking with a brisk,
active step; and I dare say is feeling pretty well reconciled to being
what he is, and to the circumstances amid which he is living. Still, one
felt that somehow a tremendous change had passed over him. I felt
sorry for him, and all the more that he did not seem to feel sorry for
himself. It made me sad to think that some day I should be like him;
that perhaps in the eyes of my juniors I look like him already, careworn
and aging. I dare say in his feeling there was no such sense of falling
off. Perhaps he was tolerably content. He was walking so fast, and
looking so sharp, that I am sure he had no desponding feeling at the
time. Despondency goes with slow movements and with vague looks. The
sense of having materially fallen off is destructive to the eagle-eye.
Yes, he was tolerably content. We can go down-hill cheerfully, save at
the points where it is sharply brought home to us that we are going
down-hill. Lately I sat at dinner opposite an old lady who had the
remains of striking beauty. I remember how much she interested me. Her
hair was false, her teeth were false, her complexion was shrivelled, her
form had lost the round symmetry of earlier years, and was angular and
stiff; yet how cheerful and lively she was! She had gone far down-hill
physically; but either she did not feel her decadence, or she had grown
quite reconciled to it. Her daughter, a blooming matron, was there,
happy, wealthy, good; yet not apparently a whit more reconciled to life
than the aged grandam. It was pleasing, and yet it was sad, to see how
well we can make up our mind to what is inevitable. And such a sight
brings up to one a glimpse of Future Years. The cloud seems to part
before one, and through the rift you discern your earthly track far
away, and a jaded pilgrim plodding along it with weary step; and
though the pilgrim does not look like you, yet you know the pilgrim is
This cannot always go on. To what is it all tending? I am not thinking
now of an outlook so grave, that this is not the place to discuss it.
But I am thinking how everything is going on. In this world there is no
standing still. And everything that belongs entirely to this world, its
interests and occupations, is going on towards a conclusion. It will
all come to an end. It cannot go on forever. I cannot always be writing
sermons as I do now, and going on in this regular course of life. I
cannot always be writing essays. The day will come when I shall have no
more to say, or when the readers of the Magazine will no longer have
patience to listen to me in that kind fashion in which they have
listened so long. I foresee it plainly, this evening,--even while
writing my first essay for the "Atlantic Monthly,"--the time when
the reader shall open the familiar cover, and glance at the table of
contents, and exclaim indignantly, "Here is that tiresome person again:
why will he not cease to weary us?" I write in sober sadness, my friend:
I do not intend any jest. If you do not know that what I have written is
certainly true, you have not lived very long. You have not learned the
sorrowful lesson, that all worldly occupations and interests are wearing
to their close. You cannot keep up the old thing, however much you may
wish to do so. You know how vain anniversaries for the most part are.
You meet with certain old friends, to try to revive the old days; but
the spirit of the old time will not come over you. It is not a spirit
that can be raised at will. It cannot go on forever, that walking down
to church on Sundays, and ascending those pulpit-steps; it will change
to feeling, though I humbly trust it may be long before it shall change
in fact. Don't you all sometimes feel something like that? Don't you
sometimes look about you and say to yourself, That furniture will wear
out: those window-curtains are getting sadly faded; they will not last a
lifetime? Those carpets must be replaced some day; and the old patterns
which looked at you with a kindly, familiar expression, through these
long years, must be among the old familiar faces that are gone. These
are little things, indeed, but they are among the vague recollections
that bewilder our memory; they are among the things which come up in the
strange, confused remembrance of the dying man in the last days of life.
There is an old fir-tree, a twisted, strange-looking fir-tree, which
will be among my last recollections, I know, as it was among my first.
It was always before my eyes, when I was three, four, five years old: I
see the pyramidal top, rising over a mass of shrubbery; I see it always
against a sunset-sky; always in the subdued twilight in which we seem to
see things in distant years. These old friends will die, you think;
who will take their place? You will be an old gentleman, a frail old
gentleman, wondered at by younger men, and telling them long stones
about the days when Lincoln was President, like those which weary you
now about the War of 1812. It will not be the same world then. Your
children will not be always children. Enjoy their fresh youth while it
lasts, for it will not last long. Do not skim over the present too fast,
through a constant habit of onward-looking. Many men of an anxious turn
are so eagerly concerned in providing for the future, that they hardly
remark the blessings of the present. Yet it is only because the future
will some day be present, that it deserves any thought at all. And many
men, instead of heartily enjoying present blessings while they are
present, train themselves to a habit of regarding these things as merely
the foundation on which they are to build some vague fabric of they know
not what. I have known a clergyman, who was very fond of music, and in
whose church the music was very fine, who seemed incapable of enjoying
its solemn beauty as a thing to be enjoyed while passing, but who
persisted in regarding each beautiful strain merely as a promising
indication of what his choir would come at some future time to be. It is
a very bad habit, and one which grows, unless repressed. You, my reader,
when you see your children racing on the green, train yourself to regard
all that as a happy end in itself. Do not grow to think merely that
those sturdy young limbs promise to be stout and serviceable when they
are those of a grown-up man; and rejoice in the smooth little forehead
with its curly hair, without any forethought of how it is to look some
day when overshadowed (as it is sure to be) by the great wig of the Lord
Chancellor. Good advice: let us all try to take it. Let all happy things
be not merely regarded as means, but enjoyed as ends. Yet it is in the
make of our nature to be ever onward-looking; and we cannot help it.
When you get the first number for the year of the magazine which you
take in, you instinctively think of it as the first portion of a new
volume; and you are conscious of a certain, though alight, restlessness
in the thought of a thing incomplete, and of a wish that you had the
volume completed. And sometimes, thus looking onward into the future,
you worry yourself with little thoughts and cares. There is that old
dog: you have had him for many years; he is growing stiff and frail;
what are you to do when he dies? When he is gone, the new dog you get
will never be like him; he may be, indeed, a far handsomer and more
amiable animal, but he will not be your old companion; he will not be
surrounded with all those old associations, not merely with your own
by-past life, but with the lives, the faces, and the voices of those who
have left you, which invest with a certain sacredness even that humble,
but faithful friend. He will not have been the companion of your
youthful walks, when you went at a pace which now you cannot attain. He
will just be a common dog; and who that has reached your years cares
for _that_? The other, indeed, was a dog too; but that was merely the
substratum on which was accumulated a host of recollections: it is _Auld
Lang Syne_ that walks into your study, when your shaggy friend of ten
summers comes stiffly in, and after many querulous turnings lays himself
down on the rug before the fire. Do you not feel the like when you
look at many little matters, and then look into the Future Years? That
harness,--how will you replace it? It will be a pang to throw it by;
and it will be a considerable expense, too, to get a new suit. Then you
think how long harness may continue to be serviceable. I once saw, on a
pair of horses drawing a stage-coach among the hills, a set of harness
which was thirty-five years old. It had been very costly and grand when
new; it had belonged for some of its earliest years to a certain wealthy
nobleman. The nobleman had been for many years in his grave, but there
was his harness still. It was tremendously patched, and the blinkers
were of extraordinary aspect; but it was quite serviceable. There is
comfort for you, poor country parsons! How thoroughly I understand your
feeling about such little things! I know how you sometimes look at your
phaeton or your dog-cart; and even while the morocco is fresh, and the
wheels still are running with their first tires, how you think you see
it after it has grown shabby and old-fashioned. Yes, you remember,
not without a dull kind of pang, that it is wearing out. You have a
neighbor, perhaps, a few miles off, whose conveyance, through the wear
of many years, has become remarkably seedy; and every time you meet it
you think that there you see your own, as it will some day be. Every dog
has his day: but the day of the rational dog is overclouded in a fashion
unknown to his inferior fellow-creature; it is overclouded by the
anticipation of the coming day which will not be his. You remember how
that great, though morbid man, John Poster, could not heartily enjoy the
summer weather, for thinking how every sunny day that shone upon him
was a downward step towards the winter gloom. Each indication that the
season was progressing, even though progressing as yet only to greater
beauty, filled him with great grief. "I have seen a fearful sight
to-day," he would say,--"I have seen a buttercup." And we know, of
course, that in his case there was nothing like affectation; it was only
that, unhappily for himself, the bent of his mind was so onward-looking,
that he saw only a premonition of the snows of December in the roses of
June. It would be a blessing, if we could quite discard the tendency.
And while your trap runs smoothly and noiselessly, while the leather is
fresh and the paint unscratched, do not worry yourself with visions of
the day when it will rattle and creak, and when you will make it wait
for you at the corner of back-streets when you drive into town. Do not
vex yourself by fancying that you will never have heart to send off the
old carriage, nor by wondering where you shall find the money to buy a
Have you ever read the "Life of Mansie Wauch, Tailor in Dalkeith," by
that pleasing poet and most amiable man, the late David Macbeth Moir?
I have been looking into it lately; and I have regretted much that the
Lowland Scotch dialect is so imperfectly understood in England, and that
even where so far understood its raciness is so little felt; for great
as is the popularity of that work, it is much less known than it
deserves to be. Only a Scotchman can thoroughly appreciate it. It is
curious, and yet it is not curious, to find the pathos and the polish of
one of the most touching and elegant of poets in the man who has
with such irresistible humor, sometimes approaching to the farcical,
delineated humble Scotch life. One passage in the book always struck me
very much. We have in it the poet as well as the humorist and it is a
perfect example of what I have been trying to describe in the pages
which you have read. I mean the passage in which Mansie tells us of a
sudden glimpse which, in circumstances of mortal terror, he once had of
the future. On a certain "awful night" the tailor was awakened by cries
of alarm, and, looking out, he saw the next house to his own was on fire
from cellar to garret. The earnings of poor Mansie's whole life were
laid out on his stock in trade and his furniture, and it appeared likely
that these would be at once destroyed.
"Then," says he, "the darkness of the latter days came over my spirit
like a vision before the prophet Isaiah; and I could see nothing in the
years to come but beggary and starvation,--myself a fallen-back old man,
with an out-at-the-elbows coat, a greasy hat, and a bald brow,
hirpling over a staff, requeeshting an awmous; Nanse a broken-hearted
beggar-wife, torn down to tatters, and weeping like Rachel when she
thought on better days; and poor wee Benjie going from door to door with
a meal-pock on his back."
Ah, there is exquisite pathos _there_, as well as humor; but the thing
for which I have quoted that sentence is its startling truthfulness. You
have all done what Mansie Wauch did, I know. Every one has his own way
of doing it, and it is his own especial picture which each sees; but
there has appeared to us, as to Mansie, (I must recur to my old figure,)
as it were a sudden rift in the clouds that conceal the future, and
we have seen the way, far ahead,--the dusty way,--and an aged pilgrim
pacing slowly along it; and in that aged figure we have each recognized
our own young self. How often have I sat down on the mossy wall that
surrounded my churchyard, when I had more time for reverie than I have
now,--sat upon the mossy wall, under a great oak, whose branches came
low down and projected far out,--and looked at the rough gnarled bark,
and at the pacing river, and at the belfry of the little church, and
there and then thought of Mansie Wauch and of his vision of Future
Years! How often in these hours, or in long solitary walks and rides
among the hills, have I had visions, clear as that of Mansie Wauch, of
how I should grow old in my country parish! Do not think that I wish or
intend to be egotistical, my friendly reader. I describe these feelings
and fancies because I think this is the likeliest way in which to reach
and describe your own. There was a rapid little stream that flowed, in
a very lonely place, between the highway and a cottage to which I often
went to see a poor old woman; and when I came out of the cottage, having
made sure that no one saw me, I always took a great leap over the little
stream, which saved going round a little way. And never once, for
several years, did I thus cross it without seeing a picture as clear to
the mind's eye as Mansie Wauch's,--a picture which made me walk very
thoughtfully along for the next mile or two. It was curious to think how
one was to get through the accustomed duty after having grown old and
frail. The day would come when the brook could be crossed in that brisk
fashion no more. It must be an odd thing for the parson to walk as an
old man into the pulpit, still his own, which was his own when he was a
young man of six-and-twenty. What a crowd of old remembrances must be
present each Sunday to the clergyman's mind, who has served the same
parish and preached in the same church for fifty years! Personal
identity, continued through the successive stages of life, is a
commonplace thing to think of; but when it is brought home to your own
case and feeling, it is a very touching and a very bewildering thing.
There are the same trees and hills as when you were a boy; and when each
of us comes to his last days in this world, how short a space it will
seem since we were little children! Let us humbly hope, that, in that
brief space parting the cradle from the grave, we may (by help from
above) have accomplished a certain work which will cast its blessed
influence over all the years and all the ages before us. Yet it remains
a strange thing to look forward and to see yourself with gray hair, and
not much even of that; to see your wife an old woman, and your little
boy or girl grown up into manhood or womanhood. It is more strange still
to fancy you see them all going on as usual in the round of life, and
you no longer among them. You see your empty chair. There is your
writing-table and your inkstand; there are your books, not so carefully
arranged as they used to be; perhaps, on the whole, less indication than
you might have hoped that they miss you. All this is strange when you
bring it home to your own case; and that hundreds of millions have felt
the like makes it none the less strange to you. The commonplaces of life
and death are not commonplace when they befall ourselves. It was in
desperate hurry and agitation that Mansie Wauch saw his vision; and in
like circumstances you may have yours too. But for the most part such
moods come in leisure,--in saunterings through the autumn woods,--in
reveries by the winter fire.
I do not think, thus musing upon our occasional glimpses of the Future,
of such fancies as those of early youth,--fancies and anticipations of
greatness, of felicity, of fame; I think of the onward views of men
approaching middle age, who have found their place and their work in
life, and who may reasonably believe, that, save for great unexpected
accidents, there will be no very material change in their lot till that
"change come" to which Job looked forward four thousand years since.
There are great numbers of educated folk who are likely always to live
in the same kind of house, to have the same establishment, to associate
with the same class of people, to walk along the same streets, to look
upon the same hills, as long as they live. The only change will be the
gradual one which will be wrought by advancing years.
And the onward view of such people in such circumstances is generally a
very vague one. It is only now and then that there comes the startling
clearness of prospect so well set forth by Mansie Wauch. Yet sometimes,
when such a vivid view comes, it remains for days, and is a painful
companion of your solitude. Don't you remember, clerical reader of
thirty-two, having seen a good deal of an old parson, rather sour in
aspect, rather shabby-looking, sadly pinched for means, and with powers
dwarfed by the sore struggle with the world to maintain his family and
to keep up a respectable appearance upon his limited resources; perhaps
with his mind made petty and his temper spoiled by the little worries,
the petty malignant tattle and gossip and occasional insolence of a
little backbiting village? and don't you remember how for days you felt
haunted by a sort of nightmare that there was what you would be, if you
lived so long? Yes; you know how there have been times when for ten days
together that jarring thought would intrude, whenever your mind was
disengaged from work; and sometimes, when you went to bed, that thought
kept you awake for hours. You knew the impression was morbid, and you
were angry with yourself for your silliness; but you could not drive it
It makes a great difference in the prospect of Future Years, if you are
one of those people who, even after middle age, may still make a great
rise in life. This will prolong the restlessness which in others is
sobered down at forty: it will extend the period during which you will
every now and then have brief seasons of feverish anxiety, hope, and
fear, followed by longer stretches of blank disappointment. And it will
afford the opportunity of experiencing a vividly new sensation, and of
turning over a quite new leaf, after most people have settled to the
jog-trot at which the remainder of the pilgrimage is to be covered. A
clergyman of the Church of England may be made a bishop, and exchange a
quiet rectory for a palace. No doubt the increase of responsibility is
to a conscientious man almost appalling; but surely the rise in life
is great. There you are, one of four-and-twenty, selected out of near
twenty thousand. It is possible, indeed, that you may feel more reason
for shame than for elation at the thought. A barrister unknown to fame,
but of respectable standing, may be made a judge. Such a man may even,
if he gets into the groove, be gradually pushed on till he reaches an
eminence which probably surprises himself as much as any one else. A
good speaker in Parliament may at sixty or seventy be made a Cabinet
Minister. And we can all imagine what indescribable pride and elation
must in such cases possess the wife and daughters of the man who has
attained this decided step in advance. I can say sincerely that I never
saw human beings walk with so airy tread, and evince so fussily their
sense of a greatness more than mortal, as the wife and the daughter of
an amiable but not able bishop I knew in my youth, when they came to
church on the Sunday morning on which the good man preached for the
first time in his lawn sleeves. Their heads were turned for the time;
but they gradually came right again, as the ladies became accustomed to
the summits of human affairs. Let it be said for the bishop himself,
that there was not a vestige of that sense of elevation about him. He
looked perfectly modest and unaffected. His dress was remarkably ill put
on, and his sleeves stuck out in the most awkward fashion ever assumed
by drapery. I suppose that sometimes these rises in life come very
unexpectedly. I have heard of a man who, when he received a letter from
the Prime Minister of the day offering him a place of great dignity,
thought the letter was a hoax, and did not notice it for several days.
You could not certainly infer from his modesty what has proved to be the
fact, that he has filled his place admirably well. The possibility of
such material changes must no doubt tend to prolong the interest in
life, which is ready to flag as years go on. But perhaps with the
majority of men the level is found before middle age, and no very great
worldly change awaits them. The path stretches on, with its ups and
downs; and they only hope for strength for the day. But in such men's
lot of humble duty and quiet content there remains room for many fears.
All human beings who are as well off as they can ever be, and so who
have little room for hope, seem to be liable to the invasion of great
fear as they look into the future. It seems to be so with kings, and
with great nobles. Many such have lived in a nervous dread of change,
and have ever been watching the signs of the times with apprehensive
eyes. Nothing that can happen can well make such better; and so they
suffer from the vague foreboding of something which will make them
worse. And the same law reaches to those in whom hope is narrowed down,
not by the limit of grand possibility, but of little,--not by the fact
that they have got all that mortal can get, but by the fact that they
have got the little which is all that Providence seems to intend to give
to _them_. And, indeed, there is something that is almost awful, when
your affairs are all going happily, when your mind is clear and equal
to its work, when your bodily health is unbroken, when your home is
pleasant, when your income is ample, when your children are healthy and
merry and hopeful,--in looking on to Future Years. The more happy
you are, the more there is of awe in the thought how frail are the
foundations of your earthly happiness,--what havoc may be made of them
by the chances of even a single day. It is no wonder that the solemnity
and awfulness of the Future have been felt so much, that the languages
of Northern Europe have, as I dare say you know, no word which expresses
the essential notion of Futurity. You think, perhaps, of _shall_
and _will_. Well, these words have come now to convey the notion of
Futurity; but they do so only in a secondary fashion. Look to their
etymology, and you will see that they _imply_ Futurity, but do not
_express_ it. _I shall_ do such a thing means _I am bound to do it, I am
under an obligation to do it. I will_ do such a thing means _I intend to
do it. It is my present purpose to do it_. Of course, if you are under
an obligation to do anything, or if it be your intention to do anything,
the probability is that the thing will be done; but the Northern family
of languages ventures no nearer than _that_ towards the expression of
the bare, awful idea of Future Time. It was no wonder that Mr. Croaker
was able to east a gloom upon the gayest circle, and the happiest
conjuncture of circumstances, by wishing that all might be as well that
day six months. Six months! What might that time not do? Perhaps you
have not read a little poem of Barry Cornwall's, the idea of which must
come home to the heart of most of us:--
"Touch us gently, Time!
Let us glide adown thy stream
Gently,--as we sometimes glide
Through a quiet dream.
Humble voyagers are we,
Husband, wife, and children three;--
One is lost,--an angel, fled
To the azure overhead.
"Touch us gently, Time!
We've not proud nor soaring wings:
_Our_ ambition, our content,
Lies in simple things.
Humble voyagers are we,
O'er life's dim, unsounded sea,
Seeking only some calm clime:--
Touch us gently, gentle Time!"
I know that sometimes, my friend, you will not have much sleep, if, when
you lay your head on your pillow, you begin to think how much depends
upon your health and life. You have reached now that time at which you
value life and health not so much for their service to yourself, as for
their needfulness to others. There is a petition familiar to me in this
Scotch country, where people make their prayers for themselves, which
seems to me to possess great solemnity and force, when we think of
all that is implied in it. It is, _Spare useful lives!_ One life, the
slender line of blood passing into and passing out of one human heart,
may decide the question, whether wife and children shall grow up
affluent, refined, happy, yes, and _good_, or be reduced to hard
straits, with all the manifold evils which grow of poverty in the case
of those who have been reduced to it after knowing other things. You
often think, I doubt not, in quiet hours, what would become of your
children, if you were gone. You have done, I trust, what you can to care
for them, even from your grave: you think sometimes of a poetical figure
of speech amid the dry technical phrases of English law: you know what
is meant by the law of _Mortmain_; and you like to think that even your
_dead hand_ may be felt to be kindly intermeddling yet in the affairs of
those who were your dearest: that some little sum, slender, perhaps, but
as liberal as you could make it, may come in periodically when it is
wanted, and seem like the gift of a thoughtful heart and a kindly hand
which are far away. Yes, cut down your present income to any extent,
that you may make some provision for your children after you are dead.
You do not wish that they should have the saddest of all reasons for
taking care of you, and trying to lengthen out your life. But even after
you have done everything which your small means permit, you will still
think, with an anxious heart, of the possibilities of Future Years. A
man or woman who has children has very strong reason for wishing to live
as long as may be, and has no right to trifle with health or life.
And sometimes, looking out into days to come, you think of the little
things, hitherto so free from man's heritage of care, as they may some
day be. You see them shabby, and early anxious: can _that_ be the little
boy's rosy face, now so pale and thin? You see them in a poor room, in
which you recognize your study-chairs with the hair coming out of the
cushions, and a carpet which you remember now threadbare and in holes.
It is no wonder at all that people are so anxious about money. Money
means every desirable material thing on earth, and the manifold
immaterial things which come of material possessions. Poverty is the
most comprehensive earthly evil; all conceivable evils, temporal,
spiritual, and eternal, may come of _that_. Of course, great temptations
attend its opposite; and the wise man's prayer will be what it was long
ago,--"Give me neither poverty nor riches." But let us have no nonsense
talked about money being of no consequence. The want of it has made many
a father and mother tremble at the prospect of being taken from their
children; the want of it has embittered many a parent's dying hours.
You hear selfish persons talking vaguely about faith. You find such
heartless persons jauntily spending all they get on themselves, and then
leaving their poor children to beggary, with the miserable pretext that
they are doing all this through their abundant trust in God. Now this is
not faith; it is insolent presumption. It is exactly as if a man should
jump from the top of St. Paul's, and say that he had faith that the
Almighty would keep him from being dashed to pieces on the pavement.
There is a high authority as to such cases,--"Thou shalt not tempt the
Lord thy God." If God had promised that people should never fall into
the miseries of penury under any circumstances, it would be faith to
trust that promise, however unlikely of fulfilment it might seem in any
particular case. But God has made no such promise; and if you leave your
children without provision, you have no right to expect that they
shall not suffer the natural consequences of your heartlessness and
thoughtlessness. True faith lies in your doing everything you possibly
can, and _then_ humbly trusting in God. And if, after you have done your
very best, you must still go, with but a blank outlook for those you
leave, why, _then_ you may trust them to the Husband of the widow and
Father of the fatherless. Faith, as regards such matters, means firm
belief that God will do all He has promised to do, however difficult or
unlikely. But some people seem to think that faith means firm belief
that God will do whatever they think would suit them, however
unreasonable, and however flatly in the face of all the established laws
of His government.
We all have it in our power to make ourselves miserable, if we look
far into Future Years and calculate their probabilities of evil, and
steadily anticipate the worst. It is not expedient to calculate too far
ahead. Of course, the right way in this, as in other things, is
the middle way: we are not to run either into the extreme of
over-carefulness and anxiety on the one hand, or of recklessness and
imprudence on the other. But as mention has been made of faith, it may
safely be said that we are forgetful of that rational trust in God which
is at once our duty and our inestimable privilege, if we are always
looking out into the future, and vexing ourselves with endless fears as
to how things are to go then. There is no divine promise, that, if a
reckless blockhead leaves his children to starve, they shall not starve.
And a certain inspired volume speaks with extreme severity of the man
who fails to provide for them of his own house. But there is a divine
promise which says to the humble Christian,--"As thy days, so shall thy
strength be." If your affairs are going on fairly now, be thankful,
and try to do your duty, and to do your best, as a Christian man and a
prudent man, and then leave the rest to God. Your children are about
you; no doubt they may die, and it is fit enough that you should not
forget the fragility of your most prized possessions; it is fit enough
that you should sometimes sit by the fire and look at the merry faces
and listen to the little voices, and think what it would be to lose
them. But it is not needful, or rational, or Christian-like, to be
always brooding on that thought. And when they grow up, it may be hard
to provide for them. The little thing that is sitting on your knee may
before many years be alone in life, thousands of miles from you and from
his early home, an insignificant item in the bitter price which Britain
pays for her Indian Empire. It is even possible, though you hardly for a
moment admit _that_ thought, that the child may turn out a heartless
and wicked man, and prove your shame and heartbreak: all wicked and
heartless men have been the children of somebody; and many of them,
doubtless, the children of those who surmised the future as little as
Eve did when she smiled upon the infant Cain. And the fireside by which
you sit, now merry and noisy enough, may grow lonely,--lonely with the
second loneliness, not the hopeful solitude of youth looking forward,
but the desponding loneliness of age looking back. And it is so with
everything else. Your health may break down. Some fearful accident may
befall you. The readers of the magazine may cease to care for your
articles. People may get tired of your sermons. People may stop buying
your books, your wine, your groceries, your milk and cream. Younger
men may take away your legal business. Yet how often these fears prove
utterly groundless! It was good and wise advice, given by one who had
managed, with a cheerful and hopeful spirit, to pass through many trying
and anxious years, to "take short views":--not to vex and worry yourself
by planning too far ahead. And a wiser than the wise and cheerful Sydney
Smith had anticipated his philosophy. You remember Who said, "Take no
thought"--that is, no over-anxious and over-careful thought--"for the
morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."
Did you ever sail over a blue summer sea towards a mountainous coast,
frowning, sullen, gloomy: and have you not seen the gloom retire before
you as you advanced; the hills, grim in the distance, stretch into sunny
slopes when you neared them; and the waters smile in cheerful light,
that looked so black when they were far away? And who is there that has
not seen the parallel in actual life? We have all known the anticipated
ills of life--the danger that looked so big, the duty that looked so
arduous, the entanglement that we could not see our way through--prove
to have been nothing more than spectres on the far horizon; and when
at length we reached them, all their difficulty had vanished into air,
leaving us to think what fools we had been for having so needlessly
conjured up phantoms to disturb our quiet. Yes, there is no doubt of
it, a very great part of all we suffer in this world is from the