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TheLouisiana Planter 





A Confluence of Transatlantic Networks     Pages 196-199

By Laura Jarnigan



Andrew McCollum of Louisiana


Louisiana sugar planter Andrew McCollum collected newspaper articles about immigrating to Brazil, traveled there on his own in mid 1866, kept a no nonsense journal of his observations, and finally rejected the prospect as a viable option for him. Sailing from New York to Brazil, he met two Texans on shipboard who did settle there, John Caldwell and M. F. Demerett, another Huguenot surname, more commonly written as Demerest. After arriving, the three split up, Caldwel went to Parana to assess Blues colony, Later reporting “he was not much pleased with that country” . Demaret went to São Paulo and later settled at Santa Barbara. McCollum toured part of Rio province but returned largely unimpressed and was distrustful of Dunn, with whom he met. A fellow Louisianian named Roussell who was also scouting Brazil told him that Dr. Fletcher, Blue and such… ought  “all to be put in a bag and all thrown into the sea for the lies about Brazil.”


McCollum's dissatisfaction with Brazil was not a result of poor contacts. Indeed, he had access to a variety of prominent individuals, both Brazilian and foreign. In Rio, he was introduced to a Dr. Galvao--- in all likelihood with same Calvao who was Brazil's official immigration agent and who was later sent to the United States by the Brazilian government to coordinator migration efforts. McCollum's contact also included several individuals connected with the construction of a government sponsored Don Pedro II railroad, (Estrada de Ferro Dom Pedro II). One of his most notable contacts was Jacob Humbird of Cumberland, Maryland. Hambird, the Baraode Santa Maria and Nikolau Neto Carneiro( brother of the Marques do Pparana and a scion of a major coffee clan in Rio province) were the contractors on the project.


William Nona Roberts, is still the engineer who has been living in Cumberland, had determined a route for the Dom Pedro II railroad in 1857. His son later married Humbard’s daughter in a ceremony performed by Reverend Simonton. Roberts, a Presbyterian, and Simonton were both originally from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. McCollum did not meet Roberts but he did make the acquaintance of another key engineer, William J. Ellison, who was of the opinion that Brazilian planters “pretend to be willing to give up slavery.” But he did not “see how the planters are to live if slavery is abolished. Yet… It is inevitable.”  Not all Brazilian planters merely “pretended” to want to give up slavery, though. By the early 1860s, local and regional planter organizations had already been formed to study the question. By the 1880s, several of these entities were pushing for an earlier complete end to that institution than the government actually enacted.


Charles Nathan arranged for McCollum to see land in the or Oragao mountains forty miles from Rio,”If such gorges can be called lands.”  McCollum regarded the properties with a critical and practiced eye. The finger of decay is everywhere visible the meager soil exhausted and the more meager people in the same condition.”  He decided that the “want of labor is the only solution to  the question why the country going down?”  Except for hardwood trees that could be used for making furniture, but with serious transportation issues attached, McCollum dismissed the viability of this part of the province. “The land was never good and is now all exhausted coffee lands.”.


McCollum traveled on the Dom Pedro II railways to the upper Paraiba Valley region to other coffee plantations. Brazil's need for laborers was further underscored when he observed a large number of Paraguayan prisoners of war being used to work on the railroad. McCollum met with the wealthiest planter in the district “but thought his annual return of ten thousand dollars was small…… For so large an outlay. McCollum was somewhat bewildered by the attraction of coffee cultivation,” I should not like to open a coffee plantation with the certainty that it would be good for nothing in eighteen years.” This was a reference to the average lifespan of a coffee tree at that time.


In the Campos region of northern Rio province, McCollum saw sugar plantations of varying quality. There, Juliao Ribeiro do Castro was still planting lands that his great grandfather had established. McCollum was in his element in assessing the whole operation, from crop yields to labor force, machinery, and oxcarts. He concluded that Castro was not exaggerating The land’s productivity but also believed that “from what I saw…… I could do more work with the same number of hands than was being done here but perhaps this is only my American egotism.” Castro's books confirmed he did not get “as good results from planting as it is generally shown from Louisiana planting for the like period.


Castro had tried to use a device known as the vacuum pan for making sugar but gave it up due to the cost of fuel needed to produce for steam required. McCollum concluded that Castro, a model in the area, had misapplied the steam but was a “good planter.” Castro believed slavery would disappear within ten to twenty years. He hoped that North American “white labor” would replace the rapidly dying slave labor, due to Choera and other epidemics” to which were slaves were especially susceptible. His own force of 500 slaves had dwindled to 200, only 80 of whom were “working at all.”  McCallum concluded that Castro “wanted laborers and not capitalist and men of intelligent business capacity for such would come in competition with himself.” McCallum concluded that “if we settle in Brazil we must look for competition and combinations against us.”


In Rio, McCallum met another Louisiana sugar planter, one Dr. Dansereau, who did decide to migrate to Brazil. Both men encountered yet another fear among the planters they met, namely, the currency’s lack of value.” Many planters here are anxious to sell but are afraid of the money of the country. There is less confidence in the future of this country than at home.” Dansreauhad twice negotiated the “preliminaries” of contracts only to see the deals fallr through on account of this fear in the funds. The paper money… Is no better than Greenbacks and everybody is looking for a crash.” The monetary crisis had occurred in September 1864, and the government responded by issuing three times the Banco de Brazil's disposable capital in new notes, resulting in a paralysis of commerce and credit. Dansereay finally put a deal together and purchased a large sugar fazenda,, including it's 130 slaves and “all appertenances,” for the equivalent of sixty seven thousand dollars, payable in three installments between 1868 and 1870 at 6 percent interest. He anticipated the plantation would pay for itself in two years.


The northern Rio province city of Campos was the only area to elicit favorable remarks for McCollum. This was “still rich country” with a large retail trade, mechanics, several foundries for repairing machinery, and “a good deal of work being done.” Both slaves and Portuguese migrants tended the field. The Portuguese laborers had come “expressly to make a small sum with which they return to their native land and ever after live in comparative opulence.”  McCollum concluded that the rich Brazilians are looking in vain for a like class from the USA.


McCallum knew that commercial agriculture required certain synergies. Even though Campos sugar houses and cane fields put him “in mind of my once happy home,”  he was hesitant to relocate on his own, if 100 families from Louisiana could be located here and the institution of slavery insured I should think I have found a new land of promise. But with a people who do not speak my language or with whom cannot talk and in a country where everything is going to decay I must now confirm to myself I have not the courage to settle’” His perception of Brazilian culture also dissuaded him,” I have seen more idlers and idleness  in the few weeks that I have been here than in all my life put together at home. To a man that has been in the habit of making things move and with some vim the motions of this people are vexatious in the extreme and nothing but poverty can be the result of such a useless waste of time.”


McCollum concluded that the Brazilian “planters wish for laborers not gentleman to come to this country,” but he believed that the “Americans that will come to Brazil to make your fortunes by working as they hope the laborers of Brazil to be a better advantage then they are now worked.”

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