Travels to the Westward of the Allegany Mountains

Author: François André Michaux  | Date: 1805

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Cotton Culture (1802)



THE two Carolinas and Georgia are divided naturally into the upper and lower country: but the upper country embraces the greatest extent. . . .

The low price to which tobacco has for some years fallen in Europe, has occasioned the culture of it to be abandoned in these countries. That of the Green-seed Cotton has replaced it, very advantageously for the inhabitants, a great number of whom are already enriched by it. The separation of the seeds from the husks which enclose them, a tedious operation, which requires much manual labour, has been lately simplified by a machine, for which the inventor has obtained a patent from the American government. The legislature of South Carolina, have, for three years, paid him a sum of fifty thousand piasters, for permitting all the inhabitants of that state to construct them. This very simple machine, the price of which does not exceed sixty piasters, is worked by a horse or current of water, and cleanses three or four hundred pounds of cotton in a day, while, by the common process, a man cannot pick more than twenty-five or thirty pounds. It is true that this machine has the inconvenience of cutting the wool already too short in this species of cotton, which, for that reason, is of an inferior quality to any other kind met with in commerce; but this is said to be compensated by the saving of time, and, more especially, of manual labour. . . .

The low country, in the two Carolinas and Georgia, extends from a hundred and twenty-five to a hundred and fifty miles from the sea-side, growing broader towards the south. . . .

. . . The culture of rice, in the southern and maritime parts of the United States, has diminished very much within a few years: it has been, in a great degree, replaced by that of cotton, which yields greater profit to the planters; for they calculate that one good crop of cotton is equivalent to two of rice. Hence it has resulted that a great number of rice fields have been converted into cotton fields, guarding, as much as possible, against the entry of the water.

The soil most proper for the growth of cotton is found in the islands lying on the coast. Those belonging to the state of Georgia produce that which is most esteemed, and known, in commerce, in France, by the name of the Coton de Géorgie, Laine fine; and in England by that of Sea-Island Cotton. This variety of cotton has a deep black seed, and very long fine wool. In February 1803, it sold at Charlestown for one-and-twenty pence a pound, while that which had grown in the high country was not worth more than eight pence half-penny, or nine pence. The first is almost wholly exported to England, and the second goes to France: but it is very remarkable, that when, from any cause, both these qualities are imported into our ports, the difference in the price does not exceed twelve or fifteen per cent.

The planters of cotton are particularly apprehensive of the cold, which sets in early, and very frequently makes them lose part of their crops, by freezing half the stems of the plant, many of the capsules of which have not reached the degree of maturity necessary for opening them. . . .

In all the lower country the labours of the field are performed by negroes; and most of the planters employ them even in those which might be done with the plough. They think that the land is better cultivated, and they also calculate that, in the course of the year, the expense of feeding and keeping a horse would be ten times as much as that of a negro, which does not exceed fifteen or sixteen piasters annually.

F.A. Michaux, (London, 1805), 331–348 passim.

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Chicago: François André Michaux, Travels to the Westward of the Allegany Mountains, trans. B. Lambert in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 72. Original Sources, accessed February 28, 2020,

MLA: Michaux, François André. Travels to the Westward of the Allegany Mountains, translted by B. Lambert, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, page 72. Original Sources. 28 Feb. 2020.

Harvard: Michaux, FA, Travels to the Westward of the Allegany Mountains, trans. . cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.72. Original Sources, retrieved 28 February 2020, from