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North Carolina in 1800

Archibald D. Murphy: To Provide for the Inland Navigation of North Carolina, 1815

The time has come when it behooves the legislature of North-Carolina to provide efficiently for the improvement of the inland navigation of the state. To delay this provision, is to postpone that national wealth, respectability and importance which follow only in the train of great internal improvements. With an extent of territory sufficient to maintain more than ten millions of inhabitants, under a system which would develop the possible resources of our agriculture, we can only boast of a population something less than six hundred thousand; and it is but too obvious that this population, under the present state of things, already approaches its maximum.


Within twenty-five years past, more than two hundred thousand of our inhabitants have removed to the waters of the Ohio, Tennessee and Mobile; and it is mortifying to witness the fact, that thousands of our wealthy and respectable citizens are annually moving to the west in quest of that wealth which a rich soil and a commodious navigation never fail to create in a free state; and that thousands of ou poorer citizens follow them, being literally driven away by the prospect of poverty. In this state of things our agriculture is at a stand; and abandoning all idea of getting rich, by the cultivation of the soil, men are seeking the way to wealth through all the devious paths of speculation. In this way individual prosperity contributes but little to the national wealth; and what is still more lamentable, habits of speculation are succeeding to habits of steady industry; and our citizens are learning to prefer the fortuitous gains of the first, to the slow yet regular gains of the second. This perversion of things is gradually undermining our morality, and converting the character which we bore of being industrious, enterprising farmers and thriving mechanics, into that of shopkeepers and speculators.

This rage of speculation has given a fictitious value to houses and lots in the several towns of the state, but has not advanced the price of lands in the country; and whilst the people, whom we have sent to work the soil of other states and territories, have raised the price of their lands from two to four fold, the price of ours has remained stationary. What is the cause of this strange condition of things? Is the soil of this state too poor to reward the labors of the husbandman with its products? Have we no navigable streams by which those products can be taken to market? We have as good a soil as any of the southern Atlantic states can boast of—fine rivers intersect our state in different directions, furnishing superior means and facilities for an extensive internal commerce, to those enjoyed by any of our neighboring states; but hitherto we have not availed ourselves of the means which Providence has thrown in our way—We have suffered year after year to pass by without seizing opportunities to improve our condition; and whilst we admit that internal improvements are essential to our prosperity, we seem to act upon a contrary principle, and to expect that national prosperity will come without national labor. It is surely worse than folly to expect the rewards of industry without its toils, or national prosperity without exertion; and we ought always to bear in mind, that it is the duty of the government to aid the enterprise of its citizens, and to afford to them facilities of disposing, to advantage, of the products of their industry.


Archibald D. Murphey, "Report of the Committee on Inland Navigation, North Carolina Senate Journal, 6 December, 1815.






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