From the Earth to the Moon
Chapter 11. Florida And Texas
One question remained yet to be decided; it was necessary to choose a favorable spot for
the experiment. According to the advice of the Observatory of Cambridge, the gun must
be fired perpendicularly to the plane of the horizon, that is to say, toward the zenith. Now
the moon does not traverse the zenith, except in places situated between 0@ and 28@ of
latitude. It became, then, necessary to determine exactly that spot on the globe where the
immense Columbiad should be cast.
On the 20th of October, at a general meeting of the Gun Club, Barbicane produced a
magnificent map of the United States. "Gentlemen," said he, in opening the discussion, "I
presume that we are all agreed that this experiment cannot and ought not to be tried
anywhere but within the limits of the soil of the Union. Now, by good fortune, certain
frontiers of the United States extend downward as far as the 28th parallel of the north
latitude. If you will cast your eye over this map, you will see that we have at our disposal
the whole of the southern portion of Texas and Florida."
It was finally agreed, then, that the Columbiad must be cast on the soil of either Texas or
Florida. The result, however, of this decision was to create a rivalry entirely without
precedent between the different towns of these two States.
The 28th parallel, on reaching the American coast, traverses the peninsula of Florida,
dividing it into two nearly equal portions. Then, plunging into the Gulf of Mexico, it
subtends the arc formed by the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana; then
skirting Texas, off which it cuts an angle, it continues its course over Mexico, crosses the
Sonora, Old California, and loses itself in the Pacific Ocean. It was, therefore, only those
portions of Texas and Florida which were situated below this parallel which came within
the prescribed conditions of latitude.
Florida, in its southern part, reckons no cities of importance; it is simply studded with
forts raised against the roving Indians. One solitary town, Tampa Town, was able to put
in a claim in favor of its situation.
In Texas, on the contrary, the towns are much more numerous and important. Corpus
Christi, in the county of Nueces, and all the cities situated on the Rio Bravo, Laredo,
Comalites, San Ignacio on the Web, Rio Grande City on the Starr, Edinburgh in the
Hidalgo, Santa Rita, Elpanda, Brownsville in the Cameron, formed an imposing league
against the pretensions of Florida. So, scarcely was the decision known, when the Texan
and Floridan deputies arrived at Baltimore in an incredibly short space of time. From that
very moment President Barbicane and the influential members of the Gun Club were
besieged day and night by formidable claims. If seven cities of Greece contended for the
honor of having given birth to a Homer, here were two entire States threatening to come
to blows about the question of a cannon.