In fact, when we consider the processes by which our forefathers elabo rated their metals and produced their weapons of defence or articles of general utility with their "stone-hammers" and "water-blast," we can form a slight conception of the value of coal for other uses than the pro duction of steam. It has been the great means of facilitating invention and progression,—the "Philosopher's Stone," which has turned all it touched to value or use.
Thus, the dynamic value of the coal which nature has stored up in our mountains is beyond calculation. The latent power which puts in motion the great forces of nature is heat; and the most available means of exerting that power, within the economy of nature, at the disposal of man, is in the carbon of our coal-beds.
We cannot dismiss this subject without giving a practical illustration of the value of coal in the production of steam as exerted in labor-saving machinery.
Not many years ago—as late as 1842-50—women were employed in the British collieries transporting coal from the mines to the surface. The loads they carried were almost incredible. In fact, the burdens could not be borne were not the bearers trained to the work from their infancy.
" We have seen a woman take on a load of at least 170 pounds avoirdu pois, travel with this 150 yards up the slope of the coal, below ground; ascend a pit by stairs 117 feet, and travel up the hill 20 yards more to where the coal was laid down. All this she would perform no less than twenty-four times each day, traversing a distance of 5i miles in going and returning."* "It was reckoned nothing extraordinary at a Lothian colliery (Scotland) for a woman to carry on her back from 35 to 40 cwt. of coal each day a distance of between 300 and 400 yards, the greater part of the road being not higher than 42 feet, and in some cases a considerable portion covered with water." As late as 1850, it appears, a great number of women and girls were employed in some of the Welsh mines, though not for the purpose of carrying coals to the surface, yet perhaps in occupations equally laborious. It may be considered a hard day's work for any man, however strong, to convey the burdens of those women as described in the foregoing quotation,—that is, a load equal to two tons, of 2000 pounds each, carried an average distance of 300 yards horizontal, or 200 feet perpendicular. It
would, therefore, require 700 men, thus employed, to transport the pro duction of one of our large collieries, producing 500 tons per day, a distance of 600 feet perpendicular. But a steam-engine of 100 horse power, using five tons of coal per day, will do the same work with ease.
Perhaps a still more practical and palpable illustration may be given of the value of mechanical force developed by the carbon of our coal, or, in other words, the vast addition to our industrial and national resources supplied by labor-saving machinery, steam, and mechanical skill.
The chief industrial or productive force of the Slave States was derived from the labor of their 4,000,000 of slaves. Of these, perhaps not more than 1,000,000 were productive as full-grown persons; or, the entire pro ductive value of men, women, and children was equal to the labor of 1,000,000 full-grown men. This labor, as a rule, was exerted simply as brute force, without the assistance of skill or mechanical means, but repre sented a capital or valuation, according to Southern figures, of 2,000,000,000 dollars. The same amount of force would be exerted by 150,000 horse power in steam machinery, costing, at $100 per horse-power, $15,000,000. Such an addition of force would be of tenfold more value to the 8,000,000 whites of the South than their slave-labor; or, if added to the slave-labor, under the intelligent development attainable by the slave, the productive power of the South would be increased a hundredfold, according to the degree of mechanical skill displayed and the uses to which the power is applied.
The secret of the rapid decay of Southern resources and means of defence is primarily in their lack of coal or their appreciation of its value. Had they developed their mineral resources, which are abundant, and increased their industrial or productive power by the mechanical force derived from the judicious use of coal and iron, those 12,000,000 people would never have rebelled; but, having rebelled, would never have been brought to submission.