Indian Corn and Potatoes, the two principal edibles for which the poor of the Old World are largely indebted to America
, were consumed to a very limited extent, and not at all imported, by the people of the eastern hemisphere.
The wheat-producing capacity of our soil, at first unsurpassed, was soon exhausted by the unskillful and thriftless cultivation of the Eighteenth Century.
Though one-third of the labor of the country was probably devoted to the cutting of timber, the axe-helve was but a pudding-stick; while the plow was a rude structure of wood, clumsily pointed and shielded with iron.
A thousand bushels of corn (maize) are now grown on our western prairies at a cost of fewer days' labor than were required for the production of a hundred in New York or New England
eighty years ago. And, though the settlements of that day were nearly all within a hundred miles of tidewater, the cost of transporting bulky staples, for even that distance, over the execrable roads that then existed, was about equal to the present charge for transportation from Illinois
to New York.
Industry was paralyzed by the absence or uncertainty of markets.
Idleness tempted to dissipation, of which the tumult and excitement of civil war had long been the school.
Unquestionably, the moral condition of our people had sadly deteriorated through the course of the Revolution.
Intemperance had extended its ravages; profanity and licentiousness had overspread the land; a coarse and scoffing infidelity had become fashionable, even in high quarters; and the letters of Washington1
and his compatriots bear testimony to the wide-spread prevalence of venality and corruption, even while the great issue of independence or subjugation was still undecided.
The return of peace, though it arrested the calamities, the miseries, and the desolations of war, was far from ushering in that halcyon state of universal prosperity and happiness which had been fondly and sanguinely anticipated.
Thousands were suddenly deprived by it of their accustomed employment and means of subsistence, and were unable at once to replace them.
Those accepted though precarious avenues to fame and fortune, in which they had found at least competence, were instantly closed, and no new ones seemed to open before them.
In the absence of aught that could, with justice, be termed a currency, Trade and Business were even more depressed than Industry.
Commerce and Navigation, unfettered by legislative restriction, ought to have been, or ought soon to have become, most flourishing, if the dicta of the world's accepted political economists had been sound; but the facts were deplorably at variance with their inculcations.
Trade, emancipated from the vexatious trammels of the custom-house marker and gauger, fell tangled and prostrate in the toils of the usurer and the sheriff.
The common people, writhing under the intolerable pressure of debt, for which no means of payment existed, were continually prompting