MICHIGAN. This is one of those members of the American Union which were formerly comprised in the " North-west Territory." In the year 1640, it was partially explored by a few French traders from Canada; and the first settlement was formed at Detroit, in 1670. By the peace between France and England, in 1763, the latter, obtained possession of the territory, and, at the termination of the revolutionary war, ceded it to the United States —retaining control of Detroit, however, until 1796. It was organized as a territory of the United States in 1805; but, in the course of the war of 1812, again fell into the hands of the British, from whom it was recovered, in a short period, by the American forces under General Harrison. In 1836, it was admitted into the Union as an independent state.
Boundaries and Extent. — Bordered on the northern and eastern fronts by two of the great lakes, and parted near its centre by another, the land surface exhibits two distinct peninsulas — the base of one lying adjacent to Ohio and Indiana on the south, and that of the other commencing at the boundary of Wisconsin on the south-west. The main peninsula, known as Michigan proper, is bounded north by the waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan; east by Lakes Huron and St. Clair, and by a portion of Lake Erie, with the intermediate straits or rivers; south by the states of Ohio and Indiana; and west by Lake Michigan. The northern or upper peninsula is bounded north by Lake Superior; east and south-east by Lake Huron and the waters therewith connected; south by Lake Michigan; and south-west by the Menonomee and Montreal Rivers, which separate it from Wisconsin. The southern peninsula is 282 miles long, with an average breadth of 140; the length of the northern is 324 miles, and its mean width 60. The whole area of the state, including some 36,300 square miles of water surface, comprises about 92,500 square miles. Its geographical position is between 41° 30' and 47° 20' north latitude, and extends from 82° 25' to 90° 30' west longitude.
Government. — The governor, lieutenant governor, and senators are elected biennially, and the representatives annually—the latter numbering 54, and the Senate consisting of 18. These elections are by the people, who, by a late amendment of the constitution, elect also the judges and cabinet officers. The sessions of the legislature commence annually on the first Monday of January; and the present seat of government is established at Lansing, Ingham county. A residence of only six months in the state, immediately preceding an election, confers the right of voting on all white males who have attained their majority.
Judiciary. — Until the recent modification of the constitution, the judges of the SupremeCourt were appointed by the governor and Senate for seven years. The Supreme Court comprises a chief justice and four associate justices, one being assigned to each of the five judicial circuits into which the state is divided. These courts hold one or two terms annually in each county ; and there are also County Courts, having general common law jurisdiction,both civil and criminal. Persons charged with offences punishable by confinement in the State Prison may demand trial before the circuit judge, who in such case is to preside in the County Court. The county judges hold office four years. Probate Courts are held in each county, the judges of which, as well as those of the county courts, are elected by the people.
Education.—The subject of education has received a just share of public attention. The common school system is generously supported, and many literary institutions of a higher order have also been established and liberally endowed. At Ann Arbor is located Michigan University, which has academic branches in various other parts of the state. There are sundry colleges, maintained by different religious denominations, and generally in a flourishing condition. In 1849, the number of scholars in the state, which derived benefit from the public funds appropriated for purposes of education, was upwards of 125,000. There is a Board of Education, consisting of eight members, chosen by the legislature, which has charge of a well-endowed state Normal School, at Ypsilanti. Munificent appropriations have also been made for the erection and maintenance of asylums for the deaf, dumb, blind, and insane.
Finances. — At the opening of the year 1850, the state debt exceeded the immediate available means of payment by somewhat more than $2,000,000. During the year ending November 30, 1850, the receipts into the treasury amounted to $429,268, and the expenditures to $449,355. The revenue is derived not only from direct state taxes, but from specific taxes, charges on sales of public lands, and other sources. It was estimated by the governor, in a late annual message, that the assessment of property for purposes of taxation, instead of being based, as heretofore, on a valuation of only about $30,000,000, would be more equitably made if based upon a cash valuation; in which case the value of taxable property, it is supposed, must exceed $100,000,000.
Surface, Soil, &tc. — Michigan proper presents a diversity of surface. It is mostly either level or slightly swelling, but is occasionally rough and hilly; and towards the central points, between the eastern and western shores, is elevated to a height of some six to seven hundred feet, forming rugged and irregular ridges. On the western side of this range of eminences, the land slopes gently and smoothly towards the lake, but again rises on the coast into steep and broken sand banks and bluffs. The northern half of this peninsula is as yet but sparsely peopled ; and its soil is regarded as inferior to that of the southern portion, although most of the lands in the interior are said to be, in general, well adapted to agricultural purposes. In the settled parts, the soil is quite productive; and flax, hemp, all the varieties of grains, garden vegetables, &c., are raised in abundance. The forests yield excellent timber, of almostevery description known in this climate ; as, the oak, walnut, hickory, elm, ash, maple, sycamore, white wood, hackberry, cotton wood, poplar, butternut, cherry, &c. There are also large tracts of pine, spruce, and hemlock-trees in the northerly parts of the state. Of the upper or northern peninsula, no very great amount of knowledge has yet been obtained, beyond what is, in some degree, connected with the recent geological survey of this region. It is but thinly inhabited by permanent residents, its soil promising but poor remuneration to the cultivator. Mountains, valleys, hills, plains, forests, and rivers variegate the surface. The most lofty of the elevations ascend to a height of 2000 feet; some of the forests embrace millions of acres of pines and other evergreens; and a hundred rivers, large and small, affording valuable mill sites, flow from the uplands into the lakes, on either side of the Porcupine Mountains, the grand ridge which towers as a sort of dividing barrier between Lakes Superior and Michigan.
Rivers. — The high lands in the central parts of Michigan proper give rise to several large streams, which generally run into the lakes on either side. The principal of these are Raisin and Huron, flowing into Lake Erie; the Rouge, Clinton, Black, Saginaw, Thunder-Bay, and Cheborgan, emptying into sundry straits and bays on the east; and the still larger rivers, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Monistic, Maskegon, and Grand, which connect with Lake Michigan on the west, and are partly navigable. Small lakes, yielding plenty of fine fish, abound in the southern counties of this peninsula. Excepting the Montreal and Menonomee, which form a part of the boundary, the rivers of the northern peninsula, though numerous, are comparatively inconsiderable, so far as they have yet been explored. The most important appears to be the Ontonagon River, which flows into Lake Superior.
Internal Improvements. — The Central Railroad, extending from Detroit to Lake Michigan, and the Southern Railroad, finished as far as Hillsdale, are the principal public works of this class within the state. They were both originally projected, and partially completed, under the authority of the state, whose property they were until 1846, when they were sold to certain incorporated companies. The Central was disposed of for $2,000,000, and the Southern for $500,000. Several branches extend in different directions from the above roads, embracing an aggregate length of some 70 miles. Other works have been projected, and will doubtless be prosecuted.
Minerals. — The northern peninsula of Michigan is known to be peculiarly rich in mineral treasures. In Ontonagon River, about the centre of the region, immense masses of native copper have been found; and there are doubtless vast beds of that and other minerals that yet remain to be developed. Iron and lead are known to exist in abundance.
Manufactures. — Several millions of capital are employed in various descriptions of manufactures; but the articles produced are such, in general, as are only required for domestic use, or home consumption. Wheat flour is, perhaps, the only manufactured commodity which is exported to any considerable amount from the state. In 1849, there were 228 flouring mills in the state, which manufactured 719,478 barrels of flour. There are some hundreds of saw mills scattered throughout the several counties, which prepare for market large quantities of lumber, and some portions of this product are also sent abroad.
Indians. — There are several tribes, or parts of tribes, of the red races, dispersed in different quarters of the state, the most numerous of which are the Chippewas, which compose upwards of one half of the Indian population, and reside mostly in the upper peninsula. The Ottawas are next in numerical order; then follow the Monomonies and Pottawatamies, with a few Wyandots. These, altogether, number nearly 8000. They occupy various localities, dwelling for the most part on tracts specially reserved for their use.
Population. — Michigan, like the other North-western States, is peopled by the representatives of divers lands and races. The natives consist of the descendants of the aborigines, of the first French settlers, and mestizoes, or the offspring of white and Indian progenitors. Among the foreign population are immigrants from Great Britain, Germany, and other European countries; and there are multitudes of settlers from New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Canada. Very few of the African race are found in the state.
Climate. — There is a marked dissimilarity between the climates of the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, arising from their different geographical positions. The former is subject to great extremes of heat and cold, to sudden and severe changes, while the latter enjoys a comparatively mild and uniform temperature. Long and cold winters, followed by short and hot summers, are the principal seasons in the upper peninsula; for the transitions are so rapid as to afford but a brief interval of spring or autumn. The contrast between the two portions of the state, in this respect, is owing, doubtless, to the varied influences of the winds from the lakes. The general adaptation of the climate to human health may be said to equal that of the central portions of Indiana and Illinois. Among the diseases most common are fever and ague, and other maladies originating in malaria. In some seasons, affections of the lungs, of the bowels, the limbs, &c., prevail to greater or less extent, depending upon atmospheric agencies. The goitre, or swelled neck, is a disease peculiar to the inhabitants residing on the lake shores.
Religion. — Of the religious denominations the Methodists are the most numerous. Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, and Roman Catholics constitute the bulk of the remainder. There are, however, a few congregations of Lutherans, Dutch Reformed, Unitarians, Universalists, &c.
Curiosities. — Among these may be classed the ancient forts or mounds, the relics of former races, many of which are found in this and the neighboring states, varying in form and dimensions, and containing remains of human bodies, arrows, medals, ornaments, strangely-shaped vessels, &c., but as yet yielding no clew to the development of their mysterious origin. Certain "garden beds," so called, are found in various parts of the state, evidently of very ancient Indian origin. In many instances they cover hundreds of acres, exhibiting traces of the most careful labor in the regularity of their outlines and compartments, and the fineness of their soil, as compared with the surrounding land.