Dziennik Chicagoski -- November 23, 1893Regarding Sugar Beet Plantations in the United States (Correspondence)
Mr. Henry Lubienski has endeavored to explain to us, in a number of articles printed in Dziennik Chicagoski, how we Poles could start a new industry here in America, enhance our own and the nation's welfare, and give employment to thousands in this time of industrial depression.
The industry referred to by Mr. Lubienski is the planting of white sugar beets and the manufacture of sugar therefrom.
The writer of this article read all of the previous articles of Mr. Lubienski and was heartened to think that the Poles would show the world something new, 2that they would outdo the Americans in business. I was glad because, in the series of articles suggesting this new industry, arguments presumably thoroughly understood were quoted, and the entire project was so beautifully represented, that the writer felt that he could not believe everything Mr. Lubienski wrote. Others thought likewise. There were a few who became so heartily interested, that they seriously considered investing their own capital and their own labor, and depending on this new industry to enrich them.
This matter become one of interest to the public, and I wish therefore to write a few lines regarding it. Before those that are employed throw away their positions, or those that are temporarily unemployed leave this city that in the rust has given them a good living, before some of you sink your small fortunes into a new undertaking, we believe it the duty of the Polish press to thoroughly debate the question and bring out its good and bad points.3
I hereby stand ready to debate the issue, and at once proclaim that I am thoroughly opposed to the views expressed in the articles written by Mr. Lubienski. I believe the planting of sugar beets is not profitable and that it is not the proper thing for us to do for the following reasons:
This sugar beet proposition is not new to us here in America. Its long history can teach us a lot. Every American knows that the farming of sugar beets or sugar cane in the United States and the manufacture of sugar therefrom have been considered unprofitable after innumerable experiments, after the expending of millions of dollars by the United States Government and yet more millions by private corporations.
In order to give impetus to a new industry that would supply a need in the country, the United States Government imposed a high duty on all sugar imported from the South, and for many years urged that private capital be 4invested in this undertaking. Wet, after many long years of experimentation, the net result has been that not oven one tenth of the needs of the population could be supplied in this manner.
Convinced then that the United States is unable to furnish a sufficient supply of sugar for the needs of the population, the Republican Administration then in power (in the year 1890), abolished the sugar tariff completely. To safeguard those who were urged to invest in this sugar industry, so that they would not lose the money they invested, the Government allowed them a "bounty" of two cents a pound, which left the situation much the same as before, with the tariff imposed.
Now comes the question, why shouldn't the farming of sugar beets and cane in the United States be as profitable as it is in other countries, notably in Russia and Poland, in Germany, Spain, and Central and South America?5
Beet raising in these countries requires painstaking care and fertile soil. But in Russia the tariff on sugar is higher than it was in the United States, and considerably higher than our own "bounty". The price of sugar is higher, and the labor, which everybody knows is so backbreaking in the cultivation of beets, is beyond comparison cheaper there than in the United States. Russia and oland, moreover, possess soil that is more suitable than that in Nebraska, and farthermore drought in Russia or Poland is practically unheard of, while in Nebraska it is a common summer occurrence. what holds true of Russia and Poland can also be said of other countries in Europe.
Let's get back to America. Of every hundred pounds of sugar consumed here, 90 percent is imported from the South, mainly from Cuba. It arrives in its raw state, and is refined here.
The Cuban climate is ideal for sugar beet raising, as it is in Venezuela, 6Central America, Jamaica, San Domingo, (where a certain Pole owns considerable acreage planted in sugar beets), and Porto Rico.
Cuban soil is so well adapted to sugar beet planting that it is sufficient to hoe and replant it one every ten years. It is a fact that the tenth year crop is as good as the first year crop is in Louisiana. The Cuban first year crop is fourfold that of Louisiana. Since the abolition of slavery in Cuba the plantations are worked by "Patrocinadas Par El Dueno," which means that the former slaves remain with their former masters, but get a couple of dollars a month over the former wage paid the slaves, which amounted to about six dollars a month in paper money, equivalent to three dollars in gold.
Chinese labor under contract has been working here for many years. Labor in Cuba is, therefore, beyond comparison cheaper than the labor of free 7citizens of the United States, While the crops are many times greater.
The Cuban situation is repeated on the west Indies and in Venezuela. So how can it be Possible, considering these facts and the additional fact that a "bocoy," meaning a barrel weighing about 1500 kilograms or 3000 pounds, can be sent from Cuba to the United States at a cost of only one dollar, or 300 pounds for one cent? We repeat, how can it be possible for us in the United States to compete with the South?
Americans who have lost fortunes in both are convinced there is no chance for competition. I share in their belief. If, however, Mr. Lubienski will find laborers willing to work for less than one-fourth of what a Negro earns in the South, and if he is able to persuade some capitalist to invest in his project, then perhaps he will succeed in part. personally, I would prefer that other than Polish capital would be interested, other labor than 8Polish, and hands that are equally black after as before washing--and I would feel sorry for them also, because after all they belong to the human race.
We submit this article, which criticises the arguments of Mr. Henry Lubienski in his articles on sugar beet farming in America, which appeared in Dziennik Chicagoski, believing that you should hear and understand both sides.
The organizing of new Polish colonies is of too great importance not to be debated from all angles before being carried into effect. We published Mr. Lubienski's articles in Dziennik Chicagoski because they presented a 9really wonderful opportunity and were based on many painstaking calculations and figures.
We made no personal comment on these articles, preferring to leave the matter of criticism in more competent hands. This correspondence deals directly with the arguments advanced by Mr. Lubienski in his articles. We hope that the project planners will deign to answer, and that from a comparison of the two viewpoints some inkling of truth will appear.
If this beet farming project is based on lasting economic foundations, it will withstand the most violent criticism; if it does not, then we will be saved from the ugly consequences of an economic mirage.
To understand the question better we wish some competent person person would accurately 10inform us as to the following:
1. How many workers and what kind of labor is necessary to farm one acre of sugar beets, and how many acres could be tilled by a Polish family of five people--husband, wife, and three children--excluding the time for other household duties and attendance at school of children under 14 years of age? 2. How would the earnings of such labor for equivalent acreage compare with the earnings of a laborer on a beet farm owned by another person? The answers to these two questions will prove whether Mr. L. M's criticism is justified. The answers will show whether an average Polish family can till the acreage, planted in beets, sufficient to guarantee the profits as submitted by Mr. L. in his articles. Or will it be necessary to hire outside labor to help in farming ten acres (see Mr. L's article)? And finally, will the earnings be equal to those earned by an average farm hand in the United States, or will it be like the cheap pay of a Negro in Cuba?11
If the latter should be true, then Mr. L. M. would be justified. Otherwise his correspondence would not withstand constructive criticism and would not be justified. We therefore leave this matter open for further discussion, believing that a matter of such importance, which is intimately associated with the lives of many of our Polish families, cannot be put into execution without due thought, debate, the clarification of misunderstood points, and a positive and complete statement that the project is based on a firm and rational foundation.
I L, III A, IV
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