MISSISSIPPI, one of the most southern states of the American Union, was formerly included in the country claimed by France as a part of Louisiana. As early as 1716, a French colony settled on the spot now occupied by the city of Natchez, where they erected a fort; but in 1729, the inhabitants, together with those of two other settlements in the vicinity, were exterminated by the neighboring Indian tribes, only three or four persons, out of 700, escaping the general massacre. The territory, for many years thereafter, remained exclusively in possession of the savages. In 1763, France ceded the whole territory east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain, the subjects of which power soon afterwards occupied and strengthened the various posts, and began to settle around them. After several changes of proprietorship, and much negotiation, during some 15 years prior to 1798, between England. Spain and the United States, the country lying east of the Mississippi, and west of the boundary of Georgia, was, in 1800, erected into a distinct territorial government. It then comprehended both Alabama and Mississippi, under the name of the latter. In 1817, a separation took place, and Mississippi, having formed a constitution, was admitted into the Union as an independent state.
Boundaries and Extent. — This state is bounded north by Tennessee, east by Alabama, south by Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, and west by Mississippi and Pearl Rivers, dividing it from Arkansas and Louisiana. It extends from 30° 10' to 35° north latitude, and from 88° 10' to 91° 35' west longitude, and contains 47,156 square miles, its extreme length being about 338 miles, and its breadth averaging 135.
Government. — The governor is chosen every two years by the people, and is eligible only for four in any period of six years. The Senate consists of 30 members, one half elected every two years; the term of service of each is four years. The representatives, 91 in number, are chosen biennially. The people also elect judges, state secretary and treasurer, chancellor, and sheriffs. White male residents in the state for one year, being 21 years of age, enjoy the right of suffrage. The legislature meets at Jackson, in the month of January, every other year.
Judiciary. — The state is divided into three judicial districts, in one of which, every two years, a judge of the High Court of Errors and Appeals is chosen for six years. Circuit Courts are held in seven different districts, by judges resident and chosen therein, and have original jurisdiction in all criminal cases, and in civil cases involving more than 50 dollars. The Court of Chancery has full equity powers.
Education. — There are several colleges in the state, which are generously endowed and in flourishing condition. Academies and other literary institutions are numerous and well sustained. Common schools are also established throughout the state. In 1840, there were 8360 white inhabitants above the age of 20 years who could neither read nor write.
Finances.—The receipts into the state treasury for the year ending 30th April, 1850, amounted to $379,402-63, and the expenditures during the same period to $284,999-58. The sources whence the revenue is derived are, a state tax, internal improvement, sinking and other funds. The chief items of expenditure are for judicial and legislative purposes. Among the enumerated items per last returns is one of 17 cents, as the contribution of the state for common schools — the support of these institutions being confided, under special laws, to the several counties. The state debt, incurred for banking purposes, amounted, in 1840, to $7,000,000.
Surface, Soil, &tc. — For about 100 miles inland, from the junction of the southern border of the state with the Gulf of Mexico, the surface is low and generally level, presenting a series of swamps and woodlands, overgrown with cypress and pines, with occasional open prairies, and flooded marshes. The land then becomes more elevated and uneven, and so continues to the northern extremity of the state, but nowhere rises to a height sufficiently lofty to deserve the name of a mountain. A vast tract of table land extends over much of the the state, terminating in the low coasts of the Mississippi River. This produces, in its natural state an immense growth of oak, rnaple, ash, and other timber, together with an undergrowth of grape-vines, spicewood, papaw, and other plants. The soil throughout is naturally very fertile, especially those alluvial lands on the river banks, which are not liable to inundation. The staple product of the state is cotton, which is raised in great abundance; and, by slight cultivation, the soil yields profusely Indian corn, rice, wheat, rye, and other grains, sweet potatoes, indigo, tobacco, melons, grapes, figs, apples, plums, peaches, lemons, oranges, &c.
Rivers. — Besides the Mississippi, which washes the western margin of the state by itswindings through a space of 530 miles, the Yazoo is the most considerable stream which flows wholly within the state ; this is 200 miles in length, passing through a healthy region, affording navigation for large boats some 50 miles, and emptying into the Mississippi near Vicksburg. Big Black River is of the same length, is alike navigable, and enters the Mississippi near Grand Gulf. Pearl River rises near the centre of the state, and in part divides it from Louisiana. There are several other rivers of considerable magnitude; as, the Tombigbee, Homochitto, Pascagoula, &c. The state has a sea-coast of 70 miles, but no harbor sufficient for the admission of large vessels. Pascagoula Bay, 65 miles long by 7 wide, affords some inland navigation; but its entrances admit no craft drawing more than 8 feet of water.
Internal Improvements. — Several railroads have been completed, or partially finished, within the state, and others have been projected. The most extensive work of this kind commences at Vicksburg, and proceeds in an easterly direction, partly across the state. Another extends from Natchez, and either intersects or is intended to intersect the former. The state presents numerous opportunities for advantageous public improvements, which in due time will doubtless be prosecuted.
Minerals. — Mississippi is probably not rich in mineral products; at least no extensive investigations of her resources in this respect have yet been made. Clay, of good quality, suited to the manufacture of pottery and bricks, abounds in various localities; and sundry descriptions of pigments have also been found. It is not known whether any coal formations, or any indications of metallic deposits, have yet been discovered.
Manufactures. — There are in the state a number of cotton factories, on a small scale, several mills of considerable importance for the manufacture of flour, and numerous other establishments, producing most of the articles required for domestic consumption or family use. The amount of capital employed for manufacturing purposes, in 1840, was less than $2,000,000.
Indians. — Large portions of the northern and eastern sections of the state are still held by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. These tracts include some of the best lands in the state, abounding in broad and fertile prairies, which are well cultivated by their owners, who possess also large numbers of cattle, horses, swine, and sheep. These Indians are intelligent and industrious, many of them being good mechanics. The females, also, are expert at spinning and weaving.
Population. — Between the years 1820 and 1830, the population of Mississippi increased more than 80 per cent.; and between the latter year and 1840, the increase was more than 175 per cent. Of a population of 175,000, upwards of one half were slaves. The people are almost exclusively engaged in agricultural employments. Population in 1850, 606,555.
Climate. — For the most part the climate is decidedly healthy. The low country is of course subject to the ordinary diseases which prevail throughout all similar regions in the Southern States. But in the upper districts, the atmosphere is pure, and the climate, though variable, is temperate and salubrious.
Religion. — The most numerous of the religious denominations are the Methodists and Baptists — the former, compared with the latter, numbering as 3 to 1. The Presbyterians are next in numerical order ; and the Episcopalians have several flourishing parishes.