Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
The Souths First Crop of Sugar
By Charles Étienne Arthur Gayarré (18051895)
[From A Louisiana Sugar Plantation of the Old Régime.Harpers New Monthly Magazine. 1887.]
INDIGO had been the principal staple of the colony, but at last a worm which attacked the plant and destroyed it, through consecutive years, was reducing to poverty and to the utmost despair the whole population. Jean Étienne de Boré determined to make a bold experiment to save himself and his fellow-citizens, and convert his indigo plantation into one of sugar-cane.
In these critical circumstances he resolved to renew the attempt which had been made to manufacture sugar. He immediately prepared to go into all the expenses and incur all the obligations consequent on so costly an undertaking. His wife warned him that her father had in former years vainly made a similar attempt; she represented that he was hazarding on the cast of a die all that remained of their means of existence; that if he failed, as was so probable, he would reduce his family to hopeless poverty; that he was of an agebeing over fifty years oldwhen fate was not to be tempted by doubtful experiments, as he could not reasonably entertain the hope of a sufficiently long life to rebuild his fortune if once completely shattered; and that he would not only expose himself to ruin, but also to a risk much more to be dreadedthat of falling into the grasp of creditors. Friends and relatives joined their remonstrances to hers, but could not shake the strong resolve of his energetic mind. He had fully matured his plan, and was determined to sink or swim with it.
Purchasing a quantity of canes from two individuals named Mendez and Solis, who cultivated them only for sale as a dainty in the New Orleans market, and to make coarse syrup, he began to plant in 1794, and to make all the other necessary preparation, and in 1795 he made a crop of sugar which sold for twelve thousand dollarsa large sum at that time. Borés attempt had excited the keenest interest; many had frequently visited him during the year to witness his preparations; gloomy predictions had been set afloat, and on the day when the grinding of the cane was to begin, a large number of the most respectable inhabitants had gathered in and about the sugar-house to be present at the failure or success of the experiment. Would the syrup granulate? would it be converted into sugar? The crowd waited with eager impatience for the moment when the man who watches the coction of the juice of the cane determines whether it is ready to granulate. When that moment arrived the stillness of death came among them, each one holding his breath, and feeling that it was a matter of ruin or prosperity for them all. Suddenly the sugar-maker cried out with exultation, It granulates! Inside and outside of the building one could have heard the wonderful tidings flying from mouth to mouth and dying in the distance, as if a hundred glad echoes were telling it to one another. Each one of the bystanders pressed forward to ascertain the fact on the evidence of his own senses, and when it could no longer be doubted, there came a shout of joy, and all flocked around Étienne de Boré, overwhelming him with congratulations, and almost hugging the man whom they called their saviorthe savior of Louisiana. Ninety years have elapsed since, and an event which produced so much excitement at the time is very nearly obliterated from the memory of the present generation.