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(caption title) Rail-road Meeting
James Mebane and Dennis Heartt
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Call number Cp 385 R15r (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Signed at end: James Mebane, chairman; Dennis Heartt, secretary
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CHATHAM COUNTY, N. C. AUGUST 1, 1828.
AGREEABLY to previous notice, a number of citizens of the counties of Chatham, Randolph, Guilford and Orange, assembled this day at William Albright's, in Chatham county, for the purpose of considering and adopting such measures as to them should seem best calculated to obtain for the people of this state the benefits of a Central Rail-Road. On motion, James Mebane, esq. of Orange, was called to the chair, and Dennis Heartt, of the the same county, appointed secretary. Upwards of two hundred persons were present.
The meeting having been organized, a very interesting and impressive address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Caldwell; in which were set forth the causes of the failures in our former attempts at internal improvements, deducing therefrom lessons to impress upon the minds of his hearers the importance of concentrating the whole force of the state upon one central effort; clearly demonstrating the great superiority of rail-roads over all other kinds of improvement. particularly in this state; as also its beneficial effects in ministering to the convenience and prosperity of the citizens of the state; its cost, its practicability, and its easy accomplishment.
On motion, it was
Resolved, That the Rev. Dr. Caldwell, William Albright and John Stafford, be a committee to prepare an address to the citizens of North-Carolina, on the importance and necessity of improving the state by the construction of a Central Rail-Road.
The committee, after having retired for a short time, reported the following
Fellow Citizens of North Carolina,
A number of inhabitants of Chatham, Randolph and Orange, and some from Guilford, having assembled for the special purpose of comparing our views respecting the expediency of a central rail-road, first from some seaport to the capital of the state,
and then by a middle course to its western extremity,
It is an impression deeply and generally felt throughout our state, that we are subject to embarrassments and disadvantages of no ordinary character and magnitude. These have been long growing upon us. And there is substantial reason to apprehend, that unless some great change can be effected competent to control and reverse our present course, we must still painfully descend, how long we know not, to lower points of depression. Much of the distress among us is doubtless to be explained by a want of frugality in our domestic expenditure, of economy in the management of our estates, of forbearance in contracting debts, and of a discreet and diligent application of the best methods of agriculture. But there is something in the peculiar pressure, and protracted growth of our present evils, which marks them to be of a different origin from all such as have befallen us in former periods. At no stage of our history, have extravagance and want of system been so little prevalent among us, as for a few years past. Admonished by the distresses consequent upon these pernicious habits, many of us have certainly been correcting them for some time. Yet those who have been most assiduous and successful in this pruning of expenses, and in the advancement of industry, though they have reaped valuable benefits, are still convinced that it is more difficult to keep clear of embarrassment now, to pay debts when incurred, and to enlarge their property, than at past periods easily within their recollection. If it be thought by some that mismanaged banks are the great and only cause of our misfortunes, this we shall suppose to be peculiarly the case with such as have borrowed their money, or have endorsed as sureties. But there are vast numbers through the state, of whom this was never to be said; and yet many of these too will doubtless assert, that they have never known it so hard to obtain money, and grow in property as it has been for a succession of years. In regard to extravagant and relaxed habits of living and in the management of property, is it true that they have been more characteristic
of us recently, than through the whole progress of our growth as a people? If loose customs have not been more prevalent lately than formerly, why is it that now we begin first to experience these destructive consequences, so distinctly marked, of so long continuance, and in many instances so invincible even to our most faithful exertions?
Fellow citizens, these things and others also which it were easy to suggest, have occurred to our reflection; and they intimate to us the operation of a cause different in its nature from any which we have mentioned. While other states of this union have for many years actively and successfully exerted themselves in opening the opportunities of commerce to their people, North Carolina has unhappily languished under a spirit of despondency in regard to the possibility of ever attaining to similar privileges. Time was when a vast portion of the interior settlers of other states were in a situation similar to our own. They were intercepted from the market of the world by immense distances, and almost insuperable obstacles. So long as this continued to be the case, they and we went into that market upon some terms of equality. If we had to overcome difficulties, it was in a greater or less degree necessary to them also. The prices of our productions in the universal market were regulated by these difficulties, and by the expense necessary to make our way through them. The labour and expense of transportation were alike to them and to us, and so also were the profits by which they were remunerated. But this no longer continues to be the case. The different states of the union have for many years augmented their population, and while they extended their settlements far into their interior territories, two consequences have resulted which it is important to distinguish. One is, the vast abundance of agricultural productions of every discription which have been thrown into the market, and the other, a prevention of increased expense and labour in transportation, by making the improvement of their roads and rivers, and the opening of canals keep pace with the extension of their settlements. In our state these improvements have never been realized. The consequence is at length experienced by us to be such as naturally results from such a change of circumstances. We must now continue to carry through all the original difficulties of transportation, every article we produce, into a market that is stocked and glutted with the same articles, transported with no more difficulty than if the market were within a few miles of their own doors. Efforts, it is true, have been sometimes made by ourselves to obtain the same facilities of conveyance, but they have failed for want of concentrated and well directed application. Our resources and exertions have been limited in supply,
inefficient by dispersion, and we are left to contend with all the primitive obstructions of a natural state. Others have been rapidly advancing, but we have continued stationary. They in throngs, with there lands improved by every stimulus to industry, carry their exports into the general market with little cost, while under every discouragement, with our lands impoverished for want of excitement to the cultivator, to us it remains to sustain the same labour and the same burthen as at the first. The rivers of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Maryland, Virginia, South-Carolina, Georgia, and of the eastern and western states, if not navigable by nature are made so by art, to the hills and mountains in which they originate. The inhabitants of these states, piercing or surmounting the impediments of nature, at once give evidence of the manner in which such works are executed, and of the unbounded riches and prosperity which flow in through the channels thus created. By an unbounded profusion of productions from all these vast territories now covered with inhabitants, but within our recollection a fruitless and howling wilderness, the price of every thing is reduced, and yet the wealth of every man, and every family, is maintained in a growing and flourishing state, by establishing the facilities of intercourse, and thus annihilating distance and the cost of transportation. It is not evident then that in consequence of these changes which have been effected around us in the north, the west and the south, our relative condition in regard to the market of the world, is become wholly altered? Of most of our people it must certainly be said, that to them no rivers have been made navigable, no canals have been dug, no turnpike roads levelled and paved, no railways constructed. By us no encouragements have been felt, springing from the bountiful returns of industry, to improve our farms, increase our flocks, and multiply our productions to the utmost of our moral and physical ability. We still remain destitute of all this instrumentality of action, with all its animating and inspiring motives. Hence, though we could once rival, upon something like equal terms, the people of other states in the general market, we can now do it no longer. Prices for which they can sell with enriching profits, would be impoverishing and ruinous to us. Is not this a subject of melancholy conviction and painful experience to us every day? If the causes be not such as have been here detailed, then where else are they to be found? If the new countries which have been opened, and the vast internal territories settled in our portion of this continent, have not poured into the market an immeasurable abundance of grain and every species of produce, thus reducing the prices, while by opening commercial channels the cost of carriage has been kept at almost nothing, in what
other manner, we would ask, and by what other means is it, that the general market is now in so different a state from that in which it once was? And if this which we have now described, be the true cause of the alteration nothing is more evident than that the inconvenience resulting to us are irremediable, so long as the circumstances remain unchanged. Much of our embarrassments may be derived from our want of economy in the expenses of our families and in the management of our farms, from banks, from borrowing and suretyship; yet if all these were to be utterly done away, we should still find ourselves ground and oppressed by such prices in the general market as must merge all the profits of our toil, and prove a complete interdict upon all our prospects of an advantageous trade. To enter now the general market from our interior country, and cope with the prices, we must have railroads, or canals, or navigable rivers. We must contend with our antagonists in that field, and in that arena, with their own weapons. As well might we arm ourselves with bows and arrows, to go into battle against muskets and rifles and bayonets and cannon, as hope to contend in prices, without canals and railroads and steamboats, against those who are amply furnished with all these instruments of commercial rivalship. In every year of scarcity among us, in vain shall we flatter ourselves that we are safe with our high prices, within the distances and barriers which nature has interposed between them and us. They will make their way through them all, and attack us with their low prices within the limits of our fancied security, and while we are hugging ourselves with exultation at the prospects of gain from the wants and distresses of our unfortunate and suffering neighbours. But in every year of abundance, all our hopes must perish, because the incumbrance of transportation is an interdict upon our trade.
Such, fellow-citizens, appears to us to be our present situation. And so it must continue to be. Nay, without the remedies to which we look, our condition, we fear, is far from having reached the utmost point of deterioration. The same causes which have brought upon us our present difficulties, have not yet produced all their natural and deplorable effects. Cotton is now almost the only article which bears transportation. But it is much to be apprehended that even cotton will not long remain a source of profit in our present manner of conveyance. The states of S. Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, together with the Arkansaw and other territories, are well fitted to this article, and they are yearly filling up more and more with an enterprising population, who are pressing their production of cotton to a vast and incalculable extent They possess navigable rivers, and they are acting upon the same policy of internal improvement
as has been prosecuted by other states. Must we not look forward then to the time when the supply of cotton in the market will be so largely proportioned to the demand, that the price will sink to the lowest ebb, and we shall be left in the same situation in regard to this also, which we already experience in respect to grain and all ordinary agricultural productions among our northern neighbours? If we do not brace ourselves speedily to some effectual method of internal improvement, we may soon be compelled to bid adieu even to this last forlorn hope, which now constitutes our only trust.
In regard to such articles as are the growth of all the states, the case is becoming more desperate every day. Intelligence is now brought to us, which may well fill us with fresh alarms, for it puts a seal finally upon our exclusion from the market. The "Chesapeake and Ohio Canal," the "Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road," with other works of a like nature and extent, are either actually commenced or instantly contemplated, in Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, New-York, Pennsylvania and other states. These will throw open other extensive regions for the production and transportation of agricultural products. They will probably depress the market still lower and place it farther beyond our capacity. They must in a still greater degree aggravate the effects to us, which we have already so dreadfully experienced.
And is this a time, fellow-citizens, for us to continue in supineness and inaction, when even the last remaining prop of our interest in the market of the world, is ready to be undermined, and to leave us prostrate in the dust? It is to no purpose to raise our voice in outcries against the odious subject of internal improvement, as that which our neighbours have practiced to our mischief and overthrow. It may be, nay it certainly is the grand cause of all our evils, in comparison with which all other causes and evils are of little moment. But though it brings these consequences upon us, it is the source of prosperity to them, and they are unquestionably at liberty to carry it on to the utmost of their discretion and ability, notwithstanding all its consequences to us in cheapening and destroying our market. The only method we can now take, and it is happily a sure one, is to shake off the lethargy that locks up our senses and our powers in listlessness and languor; to cast away our apprehensions and our disheartening fears; to gird ourselves with strength, and arm with a resolution and perseverance worthy of the elevated rank we hold in population and power in this distinguished confederation of republican states. No sooner shall we open a grand central thoroughfare, annihilating distance, and bringing the sea into a proximity to every man's dwelling, than we shall realize
that we are upon a level with the rest of the union and of the world, in all the immunities of commerce, and in the means of individual and national prosperity. Then a spirit of activity and elastic force will be breathed into the bosoms of our desponding and helpless people. Then will every man see, that instead of its being useless to produce more than a bare sufficiency for his subsistence, every supernumerary article he can accumulate by his industry, his frugality, and his skill, will multiply his riches, and swell the means of knowledge, enjoyment, usefulness and respectability to himself, his children, and to society.
By constituting this great artery for circulating the vital principles of commerce through the state, it is not to the western and interior parts of the country only that these and similar effects are likely to be produced. The eastern and western counties have their peculiar productions, by the easy and costless transmission of which, each will reciprocate benefits equivalent to such as it will receive. Even the maritime commerce created to the state, would soon promote into quickened action and profitable employment a large portion of the population around the waters of our coast, and diffused through the counties bordering on the sea. They would grow into a body of seamen, manning our numerous ships, and rivalling the north and east in outriding the billows of the ocean. Multitudes that now languish without occupation or interest, would then find both, on an element for which they are fitted by all their early habits and pursuits. By concentrating the commerce of the east and west, such a comerce as would result from the exports and imports of half a million of people, upon a single seaport on our coast, a maritime city must speedily spring into existence, inspiriting with new enterprise, and with energies unfelt before, the bosoms of all, but especially of numbers that now linger without motive, and drag out a life of pining penury. Several counties between Newbern and the hilly country are overspread with forests of pine, which with all their exuberance of timber, masts, spars, pitchtar, and turpentine, would, from the first origin of a central rail road, assume a value little less than would be given to them, were they transplanted to the sea-coast.
But we forbear, though it would be easy to enlarge further on these subjects so interesting to us as individuals and to every lover of his country. We indulge no such vanity as to imagine that our suggestions can at all enlighten or expand the views which will occur to our fellow citizens, when a work so pregnant with advantages is made the subject of their consideration. In conclusion, we would recommend to all of our fellow citizens throughout the state, who are of opinion with us that it is our interest as a people to engage in the contemplated undertaking.
to avail themselves of some seasonable opportunity, before the meeting of the general assembly, to have a common understanding with one another on the subject, and to adopt measures for transmitting to that honorable body a firm, respectful and conclusive expression of their opinions and wishes.
And we would further recommend a similar declaration to the honourable assembly, of our opinion and wish that provision be made for employing, under the direction of his excellency the governor, well qualified, practical and scientific engineers, during the ensuing year, to survey the course and estimate the cost of a central rail road from the ocean to the western extremity of the state, and to publish their report, or as much of it as can be completed, at least one month before the annual elections of members of assembly next afterwards to ensue.
The address was read, and unanimously adopted.
The following resolutions were offered, and passed with great unanimity.
Resolved, That, as an experiment in this kind of internal improvements, and as its locality would afford an opportunity to numerous citizens from various parts of the state to witness its practical utility, it be recommended to our next legislature to construct a rail-road from Campbellton to the market house in Fayetteville.
Resolved, That though the attention of this meeting has been directed more particularly to a central rail-road, yet they recommend to our legislature a continued perseverance in other important improvements in which they are engaged and which promise a successful termination, and especially those on the Cape-Fear.
Resolved, That a committee of correspondence be appointed to communicate with such other committees as may be appointed on the same subject in other sections of the state, and that the following persons constitute the committee: Rev. Dr. Joseph Caldwell, Hon. Duncan Cameron and Michael Holt, esq. of Orange; William Albright, Joshua Lindley, Mark Bynum and William Harden, esqrs. of Chatham; Col. Benjamin Elliott, James Wren, John B. Troy and Hermon Allen, esqrs. of Randolph; and Dr. David Worth, Col. Daniel Clapp and T. Early Strange, of Guilford.
Resolved, That the thanks of this meeting be presented to the Rev. Dr. Caldwell, for his able address, and for the ability and industry with which he has attempted to draw the attention of his fellow citizens to the important subject of a rail road.
Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting, together with the address, be published in a pamphlet, and distributed by the corresponding committee, and that the editors within the state be requested to give them an insertion in their respective papers.
On motion, the meeting then adjourned.
JAMES MEBANE, Chairman.
DENNIS HEARTT, Secretary.D. HEARTT, Printer,