There was a time when a moral, brave, and industrious people could become a powerful nation independant of climate and natural resources of country, but this, we believe, cannot occur again. Men are indeed animated by the same passions that swayed mankind in the days of the Pharaohs and Csesars, but the nations of the earth are now controlled by outward circumstances of a totally different character, and these have but recently come into existence. The invention of the steam engine and the application of its mighty power to manufacturing and commercial purposes, have made those nations the rulers of the world which have within themselves the greatest resources for maintaining the all conquering agency of steam. Commerce is President ol Nations, and Coal is his Secretary of State.— With only a superficial area of 81,500 square miles of country, and a climate by no means tavorable for agricultural productions, what would Britain be without her valuable 9,000 miles of coal fields ? Without this where would be her ten thousand woolen and cotton manufactories ; where her two thousand steamships and boats, and where her innumerable railroads and locomotives? Echo answers, where. The coal fields of the United States embrace an area of 133,569 square miles; those of Great Britain and Ireland, only 11,859; those of Spain 3,408; France, 1,719. With the exception of the British North American Colonies, which have a coal area of 18,000 square miles, the coal fields of all the other nations, in comparison with those of the United States, are mere patches on this globe. Two thirds of the commerce ol the world is carried on by the United States and Great Britain, and as no nation can be commercially powerful now without steamships, and as no long sea voyages can be maintained without coal, the coal resources of our country form a well grounded basis on which to predict the future greatness and power of our Republic. Hitherto our forests have afforded an abundance of fuel for every want, and while we have used about 4,000,000 tons of coal per annum, Great Britain has been using for a number of years more than 32,000,000 of tons ; France has been consuming 4,141,617 tons; Belgium 4,960,077 tons, and Prussia 3,500,000 tons. The great amount of coal used by England indicates her commercial and manufacturing power, in comparison with the other nations of Europe, but such a comparison with the United States, would not be correct, owing to our great resources of timber fuel. We have been informed, on good authority, however, that since we commenced to build and run ocean steamers, a few years ago, the demand for coal has increased so rapidly that no less than 17,000,000 of tons, it is believed, will be consumed per annum, within two years from the present date. Two lines of steamships—8 vessels— running between New York and Liverpool, used no less than 32,200 tons last year themselves. We ought to be grateiul that the resources of our country can meet every demand for coal, even to 100,000,000 tons per annum for thousands of years to come. The time has now arrived when the quantity of coal used by n nation, may be taken as an exponent of its power—its commercial greatness, ocean and inland. The invention of railroads has extinguished the difficulties of transporting our coal to the remotest parts ot our country where no such fuel exists, and such places otherwise uninhabitable, may be rendered cheerful and gladsome in the coldest nights of our dreary winters. In some places where silence and solitude now reign, the hopper, the spindle, the shuttle, and saw, will soon dance by the agency of coal to the music of steam. Our country is not only lavored by Providence with twelve times more coal area than any other country, but with every valuable variety of it, such as anthracite, cannel, and bituminous of every description. It is a sin-I gular fact that although our anthracite coal SR fields do not form the two-hundredth part of our coal area, that nearly twice as much 61 this coal should be used as any of the bituminous kinds. It is also not a little singular that our bituminous coals are almost unknown and but little used in our Atlantic cities. In Great Britain no person burns anthracite for domestic use; the reverse has been the rule in New York. Within the past year, however, the good qualities of some of our bituminous coals have attracted much attention, especially those are that called the " Cumberland coals." This coal is excellent for domestic purposes, making a cheerful and warm fire, very durable, and so excellent for raising steam, that they are preferred by some steamship companies to all others. Having looked over the Report ol W. R. Johnson, on the coals pf the United States, we find that he estimates them highly. The demand for them has increased to such an extent lately, that 700 tons per day are now brought (we have been told) from the mines by a single company in this city. We could do without the gold of California, lor it does not add a single real comfort to the life of man, but we could not do without our coals. The Koh-i-Noor diamond is valued at $2,500,000—a sum which could purchase 590,000 tons of coal. If this diamond was dropt into the depths ot the sea and lost forever, no one in the world would suffer for a single useful article the less, but if 500,000 tons of coals were prevented from coming to New York City this summer, 200,000 people would be reduced to a state of intense suffering during the next winter. Coals then, are the real diamonds ol our country.
This article was originally published with the title "Coal—Our Black Diamonds" in Scientific American 8, 36, 285 (May 1853)