Diary in America
by Captain Frederick Marryat
After many years of travel, during which I had seen men under almost
every variety of government, religion, and climate, I looked round to
discover if there were not still new combinations under which human
nature was to be investigated. I had traversed the old continent until
satisfied, if not satiated; and I had sailed many a weary thousand
miles from west to east, and from north to south, until people,
manners, and customs were looked upon by me with indifference.
The press was constantly pouring out works upon the new world, so
contradictory to each other, and pronounced so unjust by the Americans,
that my curiosity was excited. It appeared strange to me that
travellers whose works showed evident marks of talent should view the
same people through such very different mediums; and that their
gleanings should, generally speaking, be of such meagre materials. Was
there so little to be remarked about America, its government, its
institutions, and the effect which these had upon the people, that the
pages of so many writers upon that country should be filled up with,
how the Americans dined or drank wine, and what descriptions of spoons
and forks were used at table? Either the Americans remained purely and
unchangedly English, as when they left their fatherland; or the
question required more investigation and deeper research than
travellers in their hasty movements had been able to bestow upon it.
Whether I should be capable of throwing any new light upon the subject,
I knew not, but at all events I made up my mind that I would visit the
country and judge for myself.
On my first arrival I perceived little difference between the city
of New York and one of the principal provincial towns; and, for its
people, not half so much as between the people of Devonshire or
Cornwall and those of Middlesex. I had been two or three weeks in that
city, and I said: There is certainly not much to write about, nor much
more than what has already been so continually repeated. No wonder that
those who preceded me have indulged in puerilities to swell but their
books. But in a short time I altered my opinion: even at New York, the
English appearance of the people gradually wore away; my perception of
character became more keen, my observance consequently more nice and
close, and I found that there was a great deal to reflect upon and
investigate, and that America and the American people were indeed an
enigma; and I was no longer surprised at the incongruities which were
to be detected in those works which had attempted to describe the
country. I do not assert that I shall myself succeed, when many have
failed, but, at any rate, this I am certain of, my remarks will be
based upon a more sure foundation —an analysis of human nature.
There are many causes why those who have written upon America have
fallen into error: they have represented the Americans as a nation; now
they are not yet, nor will they for many years be, in the true sense of
the word, a nation, —they are a mass of many people cemented together
to a certain degree, by a general form of government; but they are in a
constant state of transition, and (what may at first appear
strange) no amalgamation has as yet taken place: the puritan of the
east, the Dutch descent of the middle states, the cavalier of the south
are nearly as marked and distinct now, as at the first occupation of
the country; softened down indeed, but still distinct. Not only are the
populations of the various states distinct, but even those of the
cities; and it is hardly possible to make a remark which may be
considered as general to a country, where the varieties of soil and of
climate are so extensive. Even on that point upon which you might most
safely venture to generalise, namely, the effect of a democratical form
of government upon the mass, your observations must be taken with some
exceptions, arising from the climate, manners, and customs, and the
means of livelihood, so differing in this extended country.
Indeed the habit in which travellers indulge of repeating facts
which have taken place, as having taken place in America, has, perhaps
unintentionally on their part, very much misled the English reader. It
would hardly be considered fair, if the wilder parts of Ireland, and
the disgraceful acts which are committed there, were represented as
characteristic of England, or the British Empire: yet between London
and Connaught there is a less difference than between the most
civilised and intellectual portion of America, such as Boston and
Philadelphia, and the wild regions, and wilder inhabitants of the west
of the Missisippi, and Arkansas, where reckless beings compose a
scattered population, residing too far for the law to reach; or where
if it could reach, the power of the government, would prove much too
weak to enforce obedience to it. To do justice to all parties, America
should be examined and portrayed piecemeal, every state separately, for
every state is different, running down the scale from refinement to a
state of barbarism almost unprecedented; but each presenting matter for
investigation and research, and curious examples of cause and effect.
Many of those who have preceded me have not been able to devote
sufficient time to their object, and therefore have failed. If you have
passed through a strange country, totally differing in manners, and
customs, and language from your own, you may give your readers some
idea of the contrast, and the impressions made upon you by what you
saw, even if you have travelled in haste or sojourned there but a few
days; but when the similarity in manners, customs, and language is so
great, that you may imagine yourself to be in your own country, it
requires more research, a greater degree of acumen, and a fuller
investigation of cause and effect than can be given in a few months of
rapid motion. Moreover English travellers have apparently been more
active in examining the interior of houses, than the public path from
which they should have drawn their conclusions; they have searched with
the curiosity of a woman, instead of examining and surveying with the
eye of a philosopher. Following up this wrong track has been the
occasion of much indiscretion and injustice on their parts, and of
justifiably indignant feeling on the part of the Americans. By many of
the writers on America, the little discrepancies, the mere trifles of
custom have been dwelt upon, with a sarcastic, ill-natured severity to
give to their works that semblance of pith, in which, in reality, they
were miserably deficient; and they violated the rights of hospitality
that they might increase their interest as authors.
The Americans are often themselves the cause of their being
misrepresented; there is no country perhaps, in which the habit of
deceiving for amusement, or what is termed hoaxing, is so common.
Indeed this and the hyperbole constitute the major part of American
humour. If they have the slightest suspicion that a foreigner is about
to write a book, nothing appears to give them so much pleasure as to
try to mislead him: this has constantly been practised upon me, and for
all I know, they may in some instances have been successful; if they
have, all I can say of the story is that "se non e vero, e si ben
trovato," that it might have happened. [See note 1.]
When I was at Boston, a gentleman of my acquaintance brought me
Miss Martineau's work, and was excessively delighted when he pointed
out to me two pages of fallacies, which he had told her with a grave
face, and which she had duly recorded and printed. This practice, added
to another, that of attempting to conceal (for the Americans are aware
of many of their defects), has been with me productive of good results:
it has led me to much close investigation, and has made me very
cautious in asserting what has not been proved to my own satisfaction
to be worthy of credibility.
Another difficulty and cause of misrepresentation is, that
travellers are not aware of the jealousy existing between the
inhabitants of the different states and cities. The eastern states
pronounce the southerners to be choleric, reckless, regardless of law,
and indifferent as to religion; while the southerners designate the
eastern states as a nursery of over-reaching pedlars, selling clocks
and wooden nutmegs. This running into extremes is produced from the
clashing of their interests as producers and manufacturers. Again,
Boston turns up her erudite nose at New York; Philadelphia, in her
pride, looks down upon both New York and Boston; while New York,
chinking her dollars, swears the Bostonians are a parcel of puritanical
prigs, and the Philadelphians a would-be aristocracy. A western man
from Kentucky, when at Tremont House in Boston, begged me particularly
not to pay attention to what they said of his state in that quarter.
Both a Virginian and Tenesseean, when I was at New York, did the same.
At Boston, I was drinking champagne at a supper. "Are you drinking
champagne?" said a young Bostonian. "That's New York —take claret; or,
if you will drink champagne, pour it into a green glass, and
they will think it hock; champagne's not right." How are we to
distinguish between right and wrong in this queer world? At New York,
they do drink a great deal of champagne; it is the small beer of the
dinner-table. Champagne becomes associated with New York, and,
therefore is not right. I will do the New Yorkers the justice to
say, that, as far as drinks are concerned, they are above
prejudice; all's right with them, provided there is enough of it.
The above remarks will testify, that travellers in America have
great difficulties to contend with, and that their channels of
information have been chiefly those of the drawing-room or
dinner-table. Had I worked through the same, I should have found them
very difficult of access; for the Americans had determined that they
would no longer extend their hospitality to those who returned it with
ingratitude —nor can they be blamed. Let us reverse the case. Were not
the doors of many houses in England shut against an American author,
when, from his want of knowledge of conventional usage, he
published what never should have appeared in print? And should another
return to England, after his tetchy, absurd remarks upon the English,
is there much chance of his receiving a kind welcome? Most assuredly
not; both these authors will be received with caution. The Americans,
therefore, are not only not to blame, but would prove themselves very
deficient in a proper respect for themselves, if they again admitted
into their domestic circles those who eventually requited them with
Admitting this, of course I have no feelings of ill-will towards
them for any want of hospitality towards me; on the contrary, I was
pleased with the neglect, as it left me free, and unshackled from any
real or fancied claims which the Americans might have made upon me on
that score. Indeed, I had not been three weeks in the country before I
decided upon accepting no more invitations, even charily as they were
made. I found that, although invited, my presence was a restraint upon
the company; every one appeared afraid to speak; and when any thing
ludicrous occurred, the cry would be —"Oh, now, Captain Marryat, don't
put that into your book." More than once, when I happened to be in
large parties, a question such as follows would be put to me by some
"free and enlightened individual:" "Now, Captain M., I ask you before
this company, and I trust you will give me a categorical answer, Are
you, or are you not about to write a book upon this country?" I hardly
need observe to the English reader, that, under such circumstances, the
restraint became mutual; I declined all further invitations, and
adhered to this determination, as far as I could without cause of
offence, during my whole tour through the United States.
But if I admit, that after the usage which they had received, the
Americans are justified in not again tendering their hospitality to the
English, I cannot, at the same time, but express my opinion as to
their conduct towards me personally. They had no right to insult and
annoy me in the manner they did, from nearly one end of the Union to
the other, either because my predecessors had expressed an unfavourable
opinion of them before my arrival, or because they expected that I
would do the same upon my return to my own country. I remark upon this
conduct, not from any feeling of ill-will or desire of retaliation, but
to compel the Americans to admit that I am under no obligations to
them; that I received from them much more of insult and outrage than of
kindness; and, consequently, that the charge of ingratitude cannot be
laid to my door, however offensive to them some of the remarks in this
work may happen to be.
And here I must observe, that the Americans can no longer
anticipate lenity from the English traveller, as latterly they have so
deeply committed themselves. Once, indeed, they could say, "We admit
and are hospitable to the English, who, as soon as they leave our
country, turn round, and abuse and revile us. We have our faults, it is
true; but such conduct on their part is not kind or generous." But they
can say this no longer: they have retaliated, and in their
attacks they have been regardless of justice. The three last works
upon the Americans, written by English authors, were, on the whole,
favourable to them; Mr. Power's and Mr. Grund's most decidedly so; and
Miss Martineau's, filled as it is with absurdities and fallacies, was intended, at all events, to be favourable.
In opposition to them, we have Mr. Cooper's remarks upon England,
in which my countrymen are certainly not spared; and since that
publication, we have another of much greater importance, written by Mr.
Carey, of Philadelphia, not, indeed, in a strain of vituperation or ill
feeling, but asserting, and no doubt to his own satisfaction and that
of his countrymen, proving, that in every important point, that is to
say, under the heads of "Security of Person and Property, of Morals,
Education, Religion, Industry, Invention, Credit," (and consequently
honesty,) America is in advance of England and every other nation in
Europe!! The tables, then, are turned; it is no longer the English, but
the Americans, who are the assailants; and such being the case, I beg
that it may be remembered, that many of the remarks which will
subsequently appear in this work have been forced from me by the
attacks made upon my nation by the American authors; and that if I am
compelled to draw comparisons, it is not with the slightest wish to
annoy or humiliate the Americans, but in legitimate and justifiable
defence of my own native land.
America is a wonderful country, endowed by the Omnipotent with
natural advantages which no other can boast of; and the mind can hardly
calculate upon the degree of perfection and power to which, whether the
States are eventually separated or not, it may in the course of two
centuries arrive. At present all is energy and enterprise; every thing
is in a state of transition, but of rapid improvement —so rapid,
indeed, that those who would describe America now would have to correct
all in the short space of ten years; for ten years in America is almost
equal to a century in the old continent. Now, you may pass through a
wild forest, where the elk browses and the panther howls. In ten years,
that very forest, with its denizens, will, most likely, have
disappeared, and in their place you will find towns with thousands of
inhabitants; with arts, manufactures, and machinery, all in full
In reviewing America, we must look upon it as shewing the
development of the English character under a new aspect, arising from a
new state of things. If I were to draw a comparison between the English
and the Americans, I should say that there is almost as much difference
between the two nations at this present time, as there has long been
between the English and the Dutch. The latter are considered by us as
phlegmatic and slow; and we may be considered the same, compared with
our energetic descendants. Time to an American is every thing [see note
2], and space he attempts to reduce to a mere nothing. By the
steam-boats, rail-roads, and the wonderful facilities of
water-carriage, a journey of five hundred miles is as little considered
in America, as would be here a journey from London to Brighton. "Go
ahead" is the real motto of the country; and every man does push
on, to gain in advance of his neighbour. The American lives twice as
long as others; for he does twice the work during the time that he
lives. He begins life sooner: at fifteen he is considered a man,
plunges into the stream of enterprise, floats and struggles with his
fellows. In every trifle an American shews the value he puts upon time.
He rises early, eats his meals with the rapidity of a wolf, and is the
whole day at his business. If he be a merchant, his money, whatever it
may amount to, is seldom invested; it is all floating —his
accumulations remain active; and when he dies, his wealth has to be
collected from the four quarters of the globe.
Now, all this energy and activity is of English origin; and were
England expanded into America, the same results would be produced. To a
certain degree, the English were in former times what the Americans are
now; and this it is which has raised our country so high in the scale
of nations; but since we have become so closely packed —so crowded,
that there is hardly room for the population, our activity has been
proportionably cramped and subdued. But, in this vast and favoured
country, the very associations and impressions of childhood foster and
ripen the intellect, and precociously rouse the energies. The wide
expanse of territory already occupied —the vast and magnificent rivers
—the boundless regions, yet remaining to be peopled —the rapidity of
communication —the dispatch with which every thing is effected, are
evident almost to the child. To those who have rivers many thousand
miles in length, the passage across the Atlantic (of 3,500 miles)
appears but a trifle; and the American ladies talk of spending the
winter at Paris with as much indifference as one of our landed
proprietors would, of going up to London for the season.
We must always bear in mind the peculiar and wonderful advantages
of country, when we examine America and its form of government;
for the country has had more to do with upholding this democracy than
people might at first imagine. Among the advantages of democracy, the
greatest is, perhaps, that all start fair; and the boy who holds
the traveller's horse, as Van Buren is said to have done, may become
the president of the United States. But it is the country, and
not the government, which has been productive of such rapid strides as
have been made by America. Indeed, it is a query whether the form of
government would have existed down to this day, had it not been for the
advantages derived from the vast extent and boundless resources of the
territory in which it was established. Let the American direct his
career to any goal he pleases, his energies are unshackled; and, in the
race, the best man must win. There is room for all, and millions more.
Let him choose his profession —his career is not checked or foiled by
the excess of those who have already embarked in it. In every
department there is an opening for talent; and for those inclined to
work, work is always to be procured. You have no complaint in this
country, that every profession is so full that it is impossible to know
what to do with your children. There is a vast field, and all may
receive the reward due for their labour.
In a country where the ambition and energies of man have been
roused to such an extent, the great point is to find out worthy
incitements for ambition to feed upon. A virtue directed into a wrong
channel, may, by circumstances, prove little better than, (even if it
does not sink down into,) actual vice. Hence it is that a democratic
form of government is productive of such demoralising effects. Its
rewards are few. Honours of every description, which stir up the soul
of man to noble deeds —worthy incitements, they have none. The only
compensation they can offer for services is money; and the only
distinction —the only means of raising himself above his fellows left
to the American —is wealth consequently, the acquisition of wealth has
become the great spring of action. But it is not sought after with the
avarice to hoard, but with the ostentation to expend. It is the effect
of ambition directed into a wrong channel. Each man would surpass his
neighbour; and the only great avenue open to all, and into which
thousands may press without much jostling of each other, is that which
leads to the shrine of Mammon. It is our nature to attempt to raise
ourselves above our fellow-men; it is the mainspring of existence —the
incitement to all that is great and virtuous, or great and vicious. In
America, but a small portion can raise themselves, or find rewards for
superior talent, but wealth is attainable by all; and having no
aristocracy, no honours, no distinctions to look forward to, wealth has
become the substitute, and, with very few exceptions, every man is
great in proportion to his riches. The consequence is, that to leave a
sum of money when they die is of little importance to the majority of
the Americans. Their object is to amass it while young, and obtain the
consideration which it gives them during their life-time.
The society in the United States is that which must naturally be
expected in a new country where there are few men of leisure, and the
majority are working hard to obtain that wealth which almost alone
gives importance under a democratic form of government. You will find
intellectual and gentlemanlike people in America, but they are
scattered here and there. The circle of society is not complete:
wherever you go, you will find an admixture, sudden wealth having
admitted those who but a few years back were in humble circumstances;
and in the constant state of transition which takes place in this
country, it will be half a century, perhaps, before a select circle of
society can be collected together in any one city or place. The
improvement is rapid, but the vast extent of country which has to be
peopled prevents that improvement from being manifest. The stream flows
inland, and those who are here to-day are gone to-morrow, and their
places in society filled up by others who ten years back had no
prospect of ever being admitted. All is transition, the waves follow
one another to the far west, the froth and scum boiling in the advance.
America is, indeed, well worth the study of the philosopher. A vast
nation forming, society ever changing, all in motion and activity,
nothing complete, the old continent pouring in her surplus to supply
the loss of the eastern states, all busy as a hive, full of energy and
activity. Every year multitudes swarm off from the East, like bees: not
the young only, but the old, quitting the close-built cities, society,
and refinement, to settle down in some lone spot in the vast prairies,
where the rich soil offers to them the certain prospect of their
families and children being one day possessed of competency and wealth.
To write upon America
as a nation would be absurd, for
nation, properly speaking, it is not; but to consider it in its present
chaotic state, is well worth the labour. It would not only exhibit to
the living a somewhat new picture of the human mind, but, as a curious
page in the Philosophy of History, it would hereafter serve as a
subject of review for the Americans themselves.
It is not my intention to follow the individualising plans of the
majority of those who have preceded me in this country. I did not sail
across the Atlantic to ascertain whether the Americans eat their
dinners with two-prong iron, or three-prong silver forks, with
chopsticks, or their fingers; it is quite sufficient for me to know
that they do eat and drink; if they did not, it would be a curious
anomaly which I should not pass over. My object was, to examine and
ascertain what were the effects of a democratic form of government
and climate upon a people which, with all its foreign admixture, may
still be considered as English.
It is a fact that our virtues and our vices depend more upon
circumstances than upon ourselves, and there are no circumstances which
operate so powerfully upon us as government and climate. Let it not be
supposed that, in the above assertion, I mean to extenuate vice, or
imply that we are not free agents. Naturally prone to vices in general,
circumstances will render us more prone to one description of vice
than to another; but that is no reason why we should not be answerable
for it, since it is our duty to guard against the besetting sin. But as
an agent in this point, the form of government under which we live is,
perhaps, the most powerful in its effects, and thus we constantly hear
of vices peculiar to a country, when it ought rather to be said, of
vices peculiar to a government.
Never, perhaps, was the foundation of a nation laid under such
peculiarly favourable auspices as that of America. The capital they
commenced with was industry, activity, and courage. They had, moreover,
the advantage of the working of genius and wisdom, and the records of
history, as a beacon and a guide; the trial of ages, as to the
respective merits of the various governments to which men have
submitted; the power to select the merits from the demerits in each; a
boundless extent of country, rich in every thing that could be of
advantage to man; and they were led by those who were really giants in
those days, a body of men collected and acting together, forming tin
aggregate of wisdom and energy such as probably will not for centuries
be seen again. Never was there such an opportunity of testing the
merits of a republic, of ascertaining if such a form of government
could be maintained —in fact, of proving whether an enlightened people
could govern themselves. And it must be acknowledged that the work was
well begun; Washington, when his career had closed, left the country a
pure republic. He did all that man could do. Miss Martineau asserts
that "America has solved the great problem, that a republic can exist
for fifty years;" but such is not the case. America has proved that,
under peculiar advantages, a people can govern themselves for fifty
years; but if you put the question to an enlightened American, and ask
him, "Were Washington to rise from his grave, would he recognise the
present government of America as the one bequeathed to them?" and the
American will himself answer in the negative. These fifty years have
afforded another proof, were it necessary, how short-sighted and
fallible are men —how impossible it is to keep anything in a state of
perfection here below. Washington left America as an infant nation, a
pure and, I may add, a virtuous republic; but the government of the
country has undergone as much change as every thing else, and it has
now settled down into any thing but a pure democracy. Nor could it be
otherwise; a republic may be formed and may continue in healthy
existence when regulated by a small body of men, but as men increase
and multiply so do they deteriorate; the closer they are packed the
more vicious they become, and, consequently, the more vicious become
their institutions, Washington and his coadjutors had no power to
control the nature of man.
It may be inquired by some, what difference there is between a
republic and a democracy, as the terms have been, and are often, used
indifferently. I know not whether my distinction is right, but I
consider that when those possessed of most talent and wisdom are
selected to act for the benefit of a people, with full reliance upon
their acting for the best, and without any shackle or pledge being
enforced, we may consider that form of government as a republic ruled
by the most enlightened and capable; but that if, on the contrary,
those selected by the people to represent them are not only bound by
pledges previous to their election, but ordered by the mass how to vote
after their election, then the country is not ruled by the collected
wisdom of the people, but by the majority, who are as often wrong as
right, and then the governing principle sinks into a democracy, as it
now is in America. [See note 3.]
It is singular to remark, notwithstanding her monarchical form of
government, how much more republican England is in her institutions
than America. Ask an American what he considers the necessary
qualifications of a president, and, after intellectual qualifications,
he will tell you firmness, decision, and undaunted courage; and it is
really an enigma to him, although he will not acknowledge it, how the
sceptre of a country like England, subject to the monarchical sway
which he detests, can be held in the hand of a young female of eighteen
years of age.
But upon one point I have made up my mind, which is that, with all
its imperfections, democracy is the form of government best suited
to the present condition of America, in so far as it is the one
under which the country has made, and will continue to make, the most
rapid advances. That it must eventually be changed is true, but the
time of its change must be determined by so many events, hidden in
futurity, which may accelerate or retard the convulsion, that it would
be presumptuous for any one to attempt to name a period when the
present form of government shall be broken up, and the multitude shall
separate and re-embody themselves under new institutions.
In the arrangement of this work, I have considered it advisable to
present, first, to the reader those portions of my diary which
may be interesting, and in which are recorded traits and incidents
which will bear strongly upon the commentaries I shall subsequently
make upon the institutions of the United States, and the results of
those institutions as developed in the American character. Having been
preceded by so many writers on America, I must occasionally tread in
well-beaten tracts; but, although I shall avoid repetition as much as
possible, this will not prevent me from describing what I saw or felt.
Different ideas, and different associations of ideas, will strike
different travellers, as the same landscape may wear a new appearance,
according as it is viewed in the morning, by noon, or at night; the
outlines remain the same, but the lights, and shadows, and tints, are
reflected from the varying idiosyncrasy of various minds.
My readers will also find many quotations, either embodied in the
work or supplied by notes. This I have considered necessary, that my
opinions may be corroborated; but these quotations will not be
extracted so much from the works of English as from American
writers. The opinions relative to the United States have been so
conflicting in the many works which have been written, that I consider
it most important that I should be able to quote American authorities
against themselves, and strengthen my opinions and arguments by their
Note 1. Paragraph from a New York Paper.
That old, deaf English maiden lady, Miss Martineau, who travelled
through some of the States, a few years since, gives a full account of
Mr. Pointdexters' death; unfortunately for her veracity, the gentleman
still lives; but this is about as near the truth as the majority of her
statements. The Loafing English men and women who visit America,
as penny-a-liners, are perfectly understood here, and Jonathan amuses
himself whenever he meets them, by imposing upon their credulity the
most absurd stories which he can invent, which they swallow whole, go
home with their eyes sticking out of their heads with wonder, and print
all they have heard for the benefit of John Bull's calves.
Note 2. The clocks in America —there rendered so famous by Sam
Slick —instead of the moral lessons inculcated by the dials of this
country, such as "Time flies," &c., teach one more suited to American
"Time is money!"
Note 3. And in this opinion I find that I am borne out by an
American writer, who says —"It is true, indeed, that the American
government, which, as first set up, was properly republican —that is,
representation in a course of salutary degrees, and with salutary
checks upon the popular will, on the powers of legislation, of the
executive, and the judiciary, —was assailed at an early period of its
history, and has been assailed continuously down to the present time,
by a power called democracy, and that this power has been constantly
acquiring influence and gaining ascendancy in the republic during the
term of its history." —(A Voice from America to England, by an
American Gentleman, page 10.
I like to begin at the beginning; it's a good old fashion, not
sufficiently adhered to in these modern times. I recollect a young
gentleman who said he was thinking of going to America; on my asking
him, "how he intended to go?" he replied, "I don't exactly know; but I
think I shall take the fast coach." I wished him a safe passage, and
said, "I was afraid he would find it very dusty." As I could not find
the office to book myself by this young gentleman's conveyance, I
walked down to St. Katherine's Docks; went on board a packet; was
shewn into a superb cabin, fitted up with bird's-eye maple, mahogany,
and looking-glasses, and communicating with certain small cabins, where
there was a sleeping berth for each passenger, about as big as that
allowed to a pointer in a dog-kennel. I thought that there was more
finery than comfort; but it ended in my promising the captain to meet
him at Portsmouth. He was to sail from London on the 1st of April, and
I did not choose to sail on that day —it was ominous; so I embarked at
Portsmouth on the 3rd. It is not my intention to give a description of
crossing the Atlantic; but as the reader may be disappointed if I do
not tell him how I got over, I shall first inform him that we were
thirty-eight in the cabin, and 160 men, women, and children, literally
stowed in bulk in the steerage. I shall describe what took place from
the time I first went up the side at Spithead, until the ship was under
weigh, and then make a very short passage of it.
At 9:30 a.m. —Embarked on board the good ship Quebec; and a good
ship she proved to be, repeatedly going nine and a-half knots on a
bowling, sails lifting. Captain H. quite delighted to see me —all
captains of packets are to see passengers: I believed him when he said
At 9:50. —Sheriff's officer, as usual, came on board. Observed
several of the cabin passengers hasten down below, and one who
requested the captain to stow him away. But it was not a pen-and-ink
affair; it was a case of burglary. The officer has found his man in the
steerage —the handcuffs are on his wrists, and they are rowing him
ashore. His wife and two children are on board; her lips quiver as she
collects her baggage to follow her husband. One half-hour more, and he
would have escaped from justice, and probably have led a better life in
a far country, where his crimes were unknown. By the bye, Greenacre,
the man who cut the woman up, was taken out of the ship as she went
down the river: he had very nearly escaped. What cargoes of crime,
folly, and recklessness do we yearly ship off to America! America ought
to be very much obliged to us.
The women of the steerage are persuading the wife of the burglar
not to go on shore; their arguments are strong, but not strong enough
against the devoted love of a woman. —"Your husband is certain to be
hung; what's the use of following him? Your passage is paid, and you
will have no difficulty in supporting your children in America." But
she rejects the advice —goes down the side, and presses her children
to her breast, as, overcome with the agony of her feelings, she drops
into the boat; and, now that she is away from the ship, you hear the
sobs, which can no longer be controlled.
10 a.m. —"All hands up anchor."
I was repeating to myself some of the stanzas of Mrs. Norton's
"Here's a Health to the Outward-bound," when I cast my eyes forward.
I could not imagine what the seamen were about; they appeared to be
pumping, instead of heaving, at the windlass. I forced my way
through the heterogeneous mixture of human beings, animals, and baggage
which crowded the decks, and discovered that they were working a patent
windlass, by Dobbinson —a very ingenious and superior invention. The
seamen, as usual, lightened their labour with the song and chorus,
forbidden by the etiquette of a man-of-war. The one they sung was
peculiarly musical, although not refined; and the chorus of "Oh! Sally
Brown," was given with great emphasis by the whole crew between every
line of the song, sung by an athletic young third mate. I took my seat
on the knight-heads —turned my face aft —looked and listened.
"Heave away there, forward."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"'Sally Brown —oh! my dear Sally.'" (Single voice).
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'" (Chorus).
"'Sally Brown, of Buble Al-ly.'" (Single voice).
"'Oh! Sal-ly Brown,'" (Chorus).
"Avast heaving there; send all aft to clear the boat."
"Aye, aye, sir. Where are we to stow these casks, Mr. Fisher?"
"Stow them! Heaven knows; get them in, at all events."
"Captain H.! Captain H.! there's my piano still on deck; it will be
quite spoiled —indeed it will."
"Don't be alarmed, ma'am; as soon as we're under weigh we'll hoist
the cow up, and get the piano down."
"What! under the cow?"
"No, ma'am; but the cow's over the hatchway."
"Now, then, my lads, forward to the windlass."
"'I went to town to get some toddy.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'"
"'T'wasn't fit for any body.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'" —
"Out there, and clear away the jib."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Mr. Fisher, how much cable is there out?"
"Plenty yet, sir. —Heave away, my lads."
"'Sally is a bright mulattar.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'"
"'Pretty girl, but can't get at her.'"
"Avast heaving; send the men aft to whip the ladies in. —Now,
miss, only sit down and don't be afraid, and you'll be in, in no time.
—Whip away, my lads, handsomely; steady her with the guy; lower away.
—There, miss, now you're safely landed."
"Landed am I? I thought I was
"Very good, indeed —very good, miss; you'll make an excellent
sailor, I see."
"I should make a better sailor's
wife, I expect, Captain H."
"Excellent! Allow me to hand you aft; you'll excuse me. —Forward
now, my men; heave away!"
"'Seven years I courted Sally.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'"
"'Seven more of shilley-shally.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'"
"'She won't wed—'" —
"Avast heaving. Up there, and loose the topsails; stretch along the
topsail-sheets. —Upon my soul, half these children will be killed.
—Whose child are you?"
"I —don't —know."
"Go and find out, that's a dear. —Let fall; sheet home; belay
starboard sheet; clap on the larboard; belay all that. —Now, then, Mr.
"Aye, aye, sir. —Heave away, my lads."
"'She won't wed a Yankee sailor.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'"
"'For she's in love with the nigger tailor.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'" —
"Heave away, my men; heave, and in sight. Hurrah! my lads."
"'Sally Brown —oh! my dear Sally!'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown!'"
"'Sally Brown, of Buble Alley.'"
"'Oh! Sally Brown.'"
"'Sally has a cross old granny.'"
"Heave and fall —jib-halyards —hoist away."
"Oh! dear —oh! dear."
"The clumsy brute has half-killed the girl! —Don't cry, my dear."
"Pick up the child, Tom, and shove it out of the way."
"Where shall I put her?"
"Oh, any where just now; put her on the turkey-coop."
"I say, clap on, some of you
he chaps, or else get out of
"Sailor, mind my band-box."
"Starboard it is; steady so."
Thus, with the trifling matter of maiming half-a-dozen children,
upsetting two or three women, smashing the lids of a few trunks, and
crushing some band-boxes as flat as a muffin, the good ship Quebec was
at last fairly under weigh, and standing out for St. Helen's.
3. p.m. —Off St. Helen's; ship steady; little wind; water smooth;
passengers sure they won't be sick.
3:20. —Apologies from the captain for a cold dinner on this day.
4 o'clock. —Dinner over; every body pulls out a number of
"Pickwick;" every body talks and reads Pickwick; weather getting up
squally; passengers not quite so sure they won't be seasick.
Who can tell what the morrow may bring forth? It brought forth a
heavy sea, and the passengers were quite sure that they were seasick.
Only six out of thirty-eight made their appearance at the
breakfast-table; and, for many days afterwards, there were Pickwicks
in plenty strewed all over the cabin, but passengers were very scarce.
But we had more than sea-sickness to contend with —the influenza
broke out and raged. Does not this prove that it is contagious, and not
dependant on the atmosphere? It was hard, after having sniffled with it
for six weeks on shore, that I should have another month of it on
board. But who can control destiny? The ship was like a hospital; an
elderly woman was the first victim —then a boy of twelve years of age.
Fortunately, there were no more deaths.
But I have said enough of the passage. On the 4th of May, in the
year of our Lord 1837, I found myself walking up Broadway, among the
free and enlightened citizens of New York.
A visit, to make it agreeable to both parties, should be well timed.
My appearance at New York was very much like bursting into a friend's
house with a merry face when there is a death in it —with the sudden
change from levity to condolence. "Any other time most happy to see
you. You find us in a very unfortunate situation."
"Indeed I'm very —very sorry."
Two hundred and sixty houses have already failed, and no one knows
where it is to end. Suspicion, fear, and misfortune have taken
possession of the city. Had I not been aware of the cause, I should
have imagined that the plague was raging, and I had the description of
Defoe before me.
Not a smile on one countenance among the crowd who pass and
repass; hurried steps, careworn faces, rapid exchanges of salutation,
or hasty communication of anticipated ruin before the sun goes down.
Here two or three are gathered on one side, whispering and watching
that they are not overheard; there a solitary, with his arms folded and
his hat slouched, brooding over departed affluence. Mechanics, thrown
out of employment, are pacing up and down with the air of famished
wolves. The violent shock has been communicated, like that of
electricity, through the country to a distance of hundreds of miles.
Canals, railroads, and all public works, have been discontinued, and
the Irish emigrant leans against his shanty, with his spade idle in his
hand, and starves, as his thoughts wander back to his own Emerald Isle.
The Americans delight in the hyperbole; in fact they hardly have a
metaphor without it. During this crash, when every day fifteen or
twenty merchants' names appeared in the newspapers as bankrupts, one
party, not in a very good humour, was hastening down Broadway, when he
was run against by another whose temper was equally unamiable. This
collision roused the choler of both.
"What the devil do you mean, sir?" cried one; "I've a great mind to
knock you into the middle of next week."
This occurring on a Saturday, the wrath of the other was checked by
the recollection of how very favourable such a blow would be to his
"Will you! by heavens, then pray do; it's just the thing I want,
for how else I am to get over next Monday and the acceptances I must
take up, is more than I can tell."
All the banks have stopped payment in specie, and there is not a
dollar to be had. I walked down Wall Street, and had a convincing proof
of the great demand for money, for somebody picked my pocket.
The militia are under arms, as riots are expected. The banks in the
country and other towns have followed the example of New York, and
thus has General Jackson's currency bill been repealed without the aid
of Congress. Affairs are now at their worst, and now that such is the
case, the New Yorkers appear to recover their spirits. One of the
newspapers humorously observes —"All Broadway is like unto a new-made
widow, and don't know whether to laugh or cry." There certainly is a
very remarkable energy in the American disposition; if they fall, they
bound up again. Somebody has observed that the New York merchants are
of that elastic nature, that, when fit for nothing else, they
might be converted into coach springs, and such really appears
to be their character.
Nobody refuses to take the paper of the New York banks, although
they virtually have stopped payment; —they never refuse anything in
New York; —but nobody will give specie in change, and great distress
is occasioned by this want of a circulating medium. Some of the
shopkeepers told me that they had been obliged to turn away a hundred
dollars a-day, and many a Southerner, who has come up with a large
supply of southern notes, has found himself a pauper, and has been
indebted to a friend for a few dollars in specie to get home again.
The radicals here, for there are radicals, it appears, in a
"In the lowest depth, a lower deep—"
are very loud in their complaints. I was watching the swarming
multitude in Wall Street this morning, when one of these fellows was
declaiming against the banks for stopping specie payments, and "robbing
a poor man in such a willanous manner," when one of the
merchants, who appeared to know his customer, said to him —"Well, as
you say, it is hard for a poor fellow like you not to be able to get
dollars for his notes; hand them out, and I'll give you specie for them
myself!" The blackguard had not a cent in his pocket, and walked away
looking very foolish. He reminded me of a little chimney-sweeper at the
Tower Hamlets election, asking —"Vot vos my hopinions about
primaginitur?" —a very important point to him certainly, he having no
parents, and having been brought up by the parish.
I was in a store when a thorough-bred democrat walked in: he talked
loud, and voluntarily gave it as his opinion that all this distress was
the very best thing that could have happened to the country, as America
would now keep all the specie and pay her English creditors with
bankruptcies. There always appears to me to be a great want of moral
principle in all radicals; indeed, the levelling principles of
radicalism are adverse to the sacred rights of meum et tuum. At
Philadelphia the ultra-democrats have held a large public meeting, at
which one of the first resolutions brought forward and agreed to was
—"That they did not owe one farthing to the English people."
"They may say the times are bad," said a young American to me, "but
I think that they are excellent. A twenty dollar note used to last me
but a week, but now it is as good as Fortunatus's purse, which was
never empty. I eat my dinner at the hotel, and show them my twenty
dollar note. The landlord turns away from it, as if it were the head of
Medusa, and begs that I will pay another time. I buy every thing that I
want, and I have only to offer my twenty dollar note in payment, and my
credit is unbounded —that is, for any sum under twenty dollars. If
they ever do give change again in New York it will make a very
unfortunate change in my affairs."
A government circular, enforcing the act of Congress, which obliges
all those who have to pay custom-house duties or postage to do so in
specie, has created great dissatisfaction, and added much to the
distress and difficulty. At the same time that they (the government)
refuse to take from their debtors the notes of the banks, upon the
ground that they are no longer legal tenders, they compel their
creditors to take those very notes —having had a large quantity in
their possession at the time that the banks suspended specie payments
—an act of despotism which the English Government would not venture
Miss Martineau's work is before me. How dangerous it is to
prophecy. Speaking of the merchants of New York, and their recovering
after the heavy losses they sustained by the calamitous fire of 1835,
she says, that although eighteen millions of property were destroyed,
not one merchant failed; and she continues, "It seems now as if the
commercial credit of New York could stand any shock short of an
earthquake like that of Lisbon." That was the prophecy of 1836. Where
is the commercial credit of New York now in 1837?!!!
The distress for change has produced a curious remedy. Every man is
now his own banker. Go to the theatres and places of public amusement,
and, instead of change, you receive an I.O.U. from the treasury. At the
hotels and oyster-cellars it is the same thing. Call for a glass of
brandy and water and the change is fifteen tickets, each "good for one
glass of brandy and water." At an oyster-shop, eat a plate of oysters,
and you have in return seven tickets, good for one plate of oysters
each. It is the same every where. —The barbers give you tickets, good
for so many shaves; and were there beggars in the streets, I presume
they would give you tickets in change, good for so much philanthropy.
Dealers, in general, give out their own bank-notes, or as they are
called here, shin plasters, which are good for one dollar, and
from that down to two and a-half cents, all of which are redeemable,
and redeemable only upon a general return to cash payments.
Hence arises another variety of exchange in Wall Street.
"Tom, do you want any oysters for lunch to-day?"
"Then here's a ticket, and give me two
shaves in return."
The most prominent causes of this convulsion have already been
laid before the English public; but there is one —that of speculating
in land —which has not been sufficiently dwelt upon, nor has the
importance been given to it which it deserves; as, perhaps, next to the
losses occasioned by the great fire, it led, more than any other
species of over-speculation and over-trading, to the distress which has
ensued. Not but that the event must have taken place in the natural
course of things. Cash payments produce sure but small returns; but no
commerce can be carried on by this means on any extended scale. Credit,
as long as it is good, is so much extra capital, in itself nominal and
non-existent, but producing real returns. If any one will look back
upon the commercial history of these last fifty years, he will perceive
that the system of credit is always attended with a periodical blow
up; in England, perhaps, once in twenty years; in America, once in
from seven to ten. This arises from their being no safety valve —no
check which can be put to it by mutual consent of all parties. One
house extends its credit, and for a time, its profits; another follows
the example. The facility of credit induces those who obtain it to
embark in other speculations, foreign to their business; for credit
thus becomes extra capital which they do not know how to employ. Such
has been the case in the present instance: but this is no reason for
the credit system not being continued. These occasional explosions act
as warnings, and, for the time, people are more cautious: they stop for
a while to repair damages, and recover from their consternation; and
when they go a-head again, it is not quite so fast. The loss is
severely felt, because people are not prepared to meet it; but if all
the profits of the years of healthy credit were added up, and the
balance sheet struck between that and the loss at the explosion, the
advantage gained by the credit system would still be found to be great.
The advancement of America depends wholly upon it. It is by credit
alone that she has made such rapid strides, and it is by credit alone
that she can continue to flourish, at the same time that she enriches
those who trade with her. In this latter crisis there was more blame to
be attached to the English houses, who forced their credit upon
the Americans, than to the Americans, who, having such unlimited
credit, thought that they might advantageously speculate with the
capital of others.
One of the most singular affections of the human mind is a
proneness to excessive speculation; and it may here be noticed that the
disease for (such it may be termed) is peculiarly English and American.
Men, in their race for gain, appear, like horses that have run away, to
have been blinded by the rapidity of their own motion. It almost
amounts to an epidemic, and is infectious —the wise and the foolish
being equally liable to the disease. We had ample evidence of this in
the bubble manias which took place in England in the years 1825 and
1826. A mania of this kind had infected the people of America for two
or three years previous to the crash: it was that of speculating in
land; and to show the extent to which it had been carried on, we may
take the following examples:—
The city of New York, which is built upon a narrow island about ten
miles in length, at present covers about three miles of that distance,
and has a population of three hundred thousand inhabitants. Building
lots were marked out for the other seven miles; and, by calculation,
these lots when built upon, would contain an additional population of
one million and three-quarters. They were first purchased at from one
hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars each, but, as the epidemic
raged, they rose to upwards of two thousand dollars. At Brooklyn, on
Long Island, opposite to New York, and about half a mile distant from
it, lots were marked out to the extent of fourteen miles, which would
contain an extra population of one million, and these were as eagerly
At Staten Island, at the entrance into the Sound, an estate was
purchased by some speculators for ten thousand dollars, was divided
into lots, and planned as a town to be called New Brighton; and had the
whole of the lots been sold at the price for which many were, previous
to the crash, the original speculators would have realised three
million of dollars. But the infatuation was not confined to the
precincts of New York: every where it existed. Government lands, which
could only be paid for in specie, were eagerly sought after; plans of
new towns were puffed up; drawings made, in which every street was laid
down and named; churches, theatres, hospitals, rail-road
communications, canals, steam-boats in the offing, all appeared on
paper as if actually in existence, when, in fact, the very site was as
yet a forest, with not a log —but within a mile of the pretended city.
Lots in these visionary cities were eagerly purchased, increased daily
in value, and afforded a fine harvest to those who took advantage of
the credulity of others. One man would buy a lot with extensive water privileges, and, upon going to examine it, would find those
privileges rather too extensive, the whole lot being under water
. Even after the crisis, there was a man still going about who made a
good livelihood by setting up his plan of a city, the lots of which he
sold by public auction, on condition of one dollar being paid down to
secure the purchase, if approved of. The mania had not yet subsided,
and many paid down their dollar upon their purchase of a lot. This was
all he required. He went to the next town, and sold the same lots over
and over again.
To check this madness of speculation, was one reason why an act of
Congress was passed, obliging all purchasers of government lands to pay
in specie. Nevertheless, government received nine or ten millions in
specie after the bill passed. Now, when it is considered what a large
portion of the capital drawn from England was applied to these wild
speculations — sums which, when they were required, could not be
realised, as, when the crisis occurred, property thus purchased
immediately fell to about one-tenth of what was paid for it —it will
be clearly seen that, from this unfortunate mania, a great portion of
the present distress must have arisen.
The attempt of General Jackson and his successors, to introduce a
specie currency into a country which exists upon credit, was an act of
folly, and has ended in complete failure. [See note 1.] A few weeks
after he had issued from the Mint a large coinage of gold, there was
hardly an eagle to be seen, and the metal might almost as well have
remained in the mine from whence it had been extracted. It was still in
the country, but had all been absorbed by the agriculturists; and such
will ever be the case in a widely extended agricultural country. The
farmers, principally Dutch, live upon a portion of their produce and
sell the rest. Formerly they were content with bank bills or Mexican
dollars, which they laid by for a rainy day, and they remained locked
up for years before they were required. When the gold was issued, it
was eagerly collected by these people, as more convenient, and laid by,
by the farmers' wives, in the foot of an old worsted stocking, where
the major part of it will remain. And thus has the famous gold-currency
bill been upset by the hoarding propensities of a parcel of old women.
[See note 2.]
Note 1. One single proof may be given of the ruinous policy of the
Jackson administration in temporising with the credit of the country.
To check the export of bullion from our country, the Bank of England
had but one remedy, that of rendering money scarce: they contracted
their issues, and it became so. The consequence was, that the price of
cotton fell forty dollars per bale. The crop of cotton amounted to
1,600,000 bales, which, at forty dollars per bale, was a loss to the
southern planters of 64,000,000 of dollars.
Note 2. A curious proof of this system of hoarding, which
immediately took place upon the bank stopping payment, was told me by a
gentleman from Baltimore. He went into a store to purchase, as he often
had done, a canvas shot-bag, and to his surprise was asked three times
the former price for it. Upon his expostulating, the vendors told him,
that the demand for them by the farmers and other people who brought
their produce to market, and who used them to put their specie in, was
so great, that they could hardly supply them.
Fifty years ago, New York was little more than a village; now, it is a
fine city with three hundred thousand inhabitants. I have never seen
any city so admirably adapted for commerce. It is built upon a narrow
island, between Long Island Sound and the Hudson River, Broadway
running up it like the vertebrae of some huge animal, and the other
streets diverging from it at right angles, like the ribs; each street
running to the river, and presenting to the view a forest of masts.
There are some fine buildings in this city, but not many. Astor
House, although of simple architecture, is, perhaps, the grandest mass;
and next to that, is the City Hall, though in architecture very
indifferent. In the large room of the latter are some interesting
pictures and busts of the presidents, mayors of the city, and naval
and military officers, who have received the thanks of Congress and the
freedom of the city. Some are very fair specimens of art: the most
spirited is that of Commodore Perry, leaving his sinking vessel, in the
combat on the Lakes, to hoist his flag on board of another ship.
Decatur's portrait is also very fine. Pity that such a man should have
been sacrificed in a foolish duel!
At the corner of many of the squares, or
buildings, as they are termed here, is erected a very high mast, with a
cap of liberty upon the top. The only idea we have of the cap of
liberty is, the bonnet rouge of the French; but the Americans
will not copy the French, although they will the English; so they have
a cap of their own, which (begging their pardon), with its gaudy
colours and gilding, looks more like a fool's cap than any thing
New York is not equal to London, nor Broadway to Regent Street,
although the Americans would compare them. Still, New York is very
superior to most of our provincial towns, and, to a man who can exist
out of London, Broadway will do very well for a lounge —being wide,
three miles long, and the upper part composed of very handsome houses;
besides which, it may almost challenge Regent Street for pretty faces,
except on Sundays. [On Sundays the coloured population take possession
of Broadway.] Many of the shops, or stores, as they are here
called, (for in this land of equality nobody keeps a shop), have
already been fitted up with large plate-glass fronts, similar to those
in London, and but for the depression which has taken place, many more
would have followed the example.
Among the few discrepancies observable between this city and
London, are the undertakers' shops. In England they are all
wooden windows below and scutcheons above; planks and shavings within
—in fact, mere workshops. Here they are different: they have large
glass fronts, like a millinery or cut-glass shop with us, and the shop
runs back thirty or forty feet, its sides being filled with coffins
standing on end, mahogany and French polished. Therein you may select
as you please, from the seven feet to receive the well-grown adult, to
the tiny receptacle of what Burns calls, "Wee unchristened babe." I
have, however, never heard of any one choosing their own coffin; they
generally leave it to their relatives to perform that office.
I may here remark, that the Americans are sensible enough not to
throw away so much money in funerals as we do; still it appears strange
to an Englishman to see the open hearse containing the body, drawn by
only one horse, while the carriages which follow are drawn by two: to
be sure, the carriages generally contain six individuals, while the
hearse is a sulky, and carries but one.
The New York tradesmen do all they can, as the English do, to
attract the notice of the public by hand-bills, placards,
advertisements, &c.; but in one point they have gone a-head of us.
Placards, &c., may be read by those who look upwards or
straight-forward, or to the right or to the left; but there are some
people who walk with their eyes to the ground, and consequently see
nothing. The New Yorkers have provided for this contingency, by having
large marble tablets, like horizontal tomb-stones, let into the flag
pavements of the trottoir in front of their shops, on which is
engraven in duplicate, turning both ways, their names and business; so,
whether you walk up or down Broadway, if you cast your eyes downwards
so as not to see the placards above, you cannot help reading the
Every traveller who has visited this city has spoken of the
numerous fires which take place in it, and the constant running,
scampering, hallooing, and trumpeting of the firemen with their
engines; but I do not observe that any one has attempted to investigate
the causes which produce, generally speaking, three or four fires in
the twenty-four hours. New York has certainly great capabilities, and
every chance of improvement as a city; for, about one house in twenty
is burnt down every year, and is always rebuilt in a superior manner.
But, as to the causes, I have, after minute inquiry, discovered as
follows. These fires are occasioned—
1st. By the notorious carelessness of black servants, and the
custom of smoking cigars all the day long.
2nd. By the knavery of men without capitol, who insure to double
and treble the value of their stock, and realise an honest penny by
setting fire to their stores. (This is one reason why you can seldom
recover from a fire-office without litigation.)
3rd. From the hasty and unsubstantial way in which houses are built
up, the rafters and beams often communicating with the flues of the
4th. Conflagrations of houses not insured, effected by agents
employed by the fire-insurance companies, as a punishment to
some, and a warning to others, who have neglected to take out policies.
These were gravely stated to me as the causes of so many fires in
New York. I cannot vouch for the truth of the last, although I feel
bound to mention it. I happen to be lodged opposite to two fire-engine
houses, so that I always know when there is a fire. Indeed, so does
every body; for the church nearest to it tolls its bell, and this
tolling is repeated by all the others; and as there are more than three
hundred churches in New York, if a fire takes place no one can say that
he is not aware of it.
The duty of firemen is admirably performed by the young men of the
city, who have privileges for a servitude of seven years; but they pay
too dearly for their privileges, which are an exemption from militia
and jury summons. Many of them are taken off by consumptions, fevers,
and severe catarrhs, engendered by the severe trials to which they are
exposed: the sudden transitions from extreme heat to extreme cold in
winter, being summoned up from a warm bed, when the thermometer is
below zero —then exposed to the scorching flames —and afterwards (as
I have frequently seen them myself), with the water hanging in icicles
upon their saturated clothes. To recruit themselves after their fatigue
and exhaustion they are compelled to drink, and thus it is no wonder
that their constitutions are undermined. It is nevertheless a favourite
service, as the young men have an opportunity of shewing courage and
determination, which raises them high in the opinion of their brother
I made a purchase at a store; an intelligent looking little boy
brought it home for me. As he walked by my side, he amused me very much
by putting the following questions:—
"Pray, captain, has Mr. Easy left the King of England's service?"
"I think he has," replied I; "if you recollect, he married and went
"Have you seen Mr. Japhet lately?" was the next query.
"Not very lately," replied I; "the last time I saw him was at the
The little fellow went away, perfectly satisfied that they were
both alive and well.
The dogs are all tied up, and the mosquitos have broke loose —it is
high time to leave New York.
The American steam-boats have been often described. When I first
saw one of the largest sweep round the battery, with her two decks, the
upper one screened with snow-white awnings —the gay dresses of the
ladies —the variety of colours —it reminded me of a floating garden,
and I fancied that Isola Bella, on the Lake of Como, had got under
weigh, and made the first steam voyage to America.
The Hudson is a noble stream, flowing rapidly through its bold and
deep bed. Already it has many associations connected with it —a great
many for the time which has elapsed since Henrick Hudson first explored
it. Where is the race of red men who hunted on its banks, or fished
and paddled their canoes in its stream? They have disappeared from the
earth, and scarce a vestige remains of them, except in history. No
portion of this world was ever intended to remain for ages untenanted.
Beasts of prey and noxious reptiles are permitted to exist in the wild
and uninhabited regions until they are swept away by the broad stream
of civilisation, which, as it pours along, drives them from hold to
hold, until they finally disappear. So it is with the more savage
nations: they are but tenants at will, and never were intended
to remain longer than till the time when Civilisation, with the Gospel,
Arts, and Sciences, in her train, should appear, and claim as her own
that portion of the universe which they occupy.
About thirty miles above New York is Tarry Town, the abode of
Washington Irving, who has here embosomed himself in his own region of
romance; for Sleepy Hollow lies behind his domicile. Nearly opposite
to it, is the site of a mournful reality —the spot where poor Major
Andre was hung up as a spy.
You pass the State prison, built on a spot which still retains its
Indian name —Sing Sing —rather an odd name for a prison, where people
are condemned to perpetual silence. It is a fine building of white
marble, like a palace —very appropriate for that portion of the sovereign people, who may qualify themselves for a residence in it.
I had a genuine Yankee story from one of the party on deck. I was
enquiring if the Hudson was frozen up or not during the winter? This
led to a conversation as to the severity of the winter, when one man,
by way of proving how cold it was, said— "Why; I had a cow on my lot
up the river, and last winter she got in among the ice, and was carried
down three miles before we could get her out again. The consequence has
been that she has milked nothing but ice-creams ever since."
When you have ascended about fifty miles, the bed of the river
becomes contracted and deeper, and it pours its waters rapidly through
the high lands on each side, having at some distant time forced its
passage through a chain of rocky mountains. It was quite dark long
before we arrived at West Point, which I had embarked to visit. A storm
hung over us, and as we passed through the broad masses piled up on
each side of the river, at one moment illuminated by the lightning as
it burst from the opaque clouds, and the next towering in sullen gloom,
the effect was sublime.
Here I am at West Point.
West Point is famous in the short history of this country. It is
the key of the Hudson river. The traitor Arnold had agreed to deliver
it up to the English, and it was on his return from arranging the terms
with Arnold, that Andre was captured and hung.
At present, a Military College is established here, which turns out
about forty officers every year. Although they receive commissions in
any regiment of the American army when there may be vacancies, they are
all educated as engineers. The democrats have made several attempts to
break up this establishment, as savouring too much of monarchy,
but hitherto have been unsuccessful. It would be a pity if they did
succeed, for such has been the demand lately for engineers to
superintend railroads and canals, that a large portion of them have
resigned their commissions, and found employment in the different
States. This consideration alone is quite sufficient to warrant the
keeping up of the college, for civil engineers are a sine quâ non
in a country like America, and they are always ready to serve should
their military services be required. There was an inspection at the
time that I was there, and it certainly was highly creditable to the
students; as well as to those who superintend the various departments.
When I awoke the next morning, I threw open the blinds of my
windows, which looked out upon the river, and really was surprised and
delighted. A more beautiful view I never gazed upon. The Rhine was
fresh in my memory; but, although the general features of the two
rivers are not dissimilar, there is no one portion of the Rhine which
can be compared to the Hudson at West Point. It was what you may
imagine the Rhine to have been in the days of Caesar, when the lofty
mountains through which it sweeps were not bared and naked as they now
are, but clothed with forests, and rich in all the variety and beauty
of undisturbed nature.
There is a sweet little spot not far from the college, where a tomb
has been erected in honour of Kosciuscko —it is called Kosciuscko's
Garden. I often sat there and talked over the events of the War of
Independence. Many anecdotes were narrated to me, some of them very
original. I will mention one or two which have not escaped my memory.
One of the officers who most distinguished himself in the struggle
was a General Starke; and the following is the speech he is reported to
have made to his men previous to an engagement:—
"Now, my men, —you see them ere Belgians; every man of them bought
by the king of England at 17s. 6d. a-head, and I've a notion he'd paid
too dear for them. Now, my men, we either beats them this day, or Molly
Starke's a widow, by G—d." He did beat them, and in his despatch to
head-quarters he wrote— "We've had a dreadful hot day of it, General;
and I've lost my horse, saddle and bridle and all."
In those times, losing a
bridle was as bad
as losing a horse.
At the same affair, the captain commanding the outposts was very
lame, and he thought proper thus to address his men:—
"Now, my lads, you see we're only an outpost, and we are not
expected to beat the whole army in face of us. The duty of an outpost,
when the enemy comes on, is to go in, treeing it, and keeping
ourselves not exposed. Now, you have my orders; and as I am a little
lame, I'll go in first, and mind you do your duty and come in after
I passed several days at this beautiful spot, which is much visited
by the Americans. Some future day, when America shall have become
wealthy, and New York the abode of affluence and ease, what taste may
not be lavished on the banks of this noble river! and what a lovely
retreat will be West Point, if permitted to remain in all its present
wildness and grandeur!
I re-embarked at midnight in the steam-boat descending from Albany,
and which is fitted out as a night boat. When I descended into the
cabin, it presented a whimsical sight: two rows of bed-places on each
side of the immense cabin, running right fore and aft; three other rows
in the centre, each of these five rows having three bed-places, one
over the other. There were upwards of five hundred people, lying in
every variety of posture, and exhibiting every state and degree of
repose —from the loud uneasy snorer lying on his back, to the deep
sleeper tranquil as death. I walked up and down, through these long
ranges of unconsciousness, thinking how much care was for the time
forgotten. But as the air below was oppressive, and the moon was
beautiful in the heavens, I went on deck, and watched the swift career
of the vessel, which, with a favouring tide, was flying past the shores
at the rate of twenty miles an hour —one or two people only, out of so
many hundreds on board of her, silently watching over the great
principle of locomotion. The moon sank down, and the sun rose and
gilded the verdure of the banks and the spires of the city of New York,
as I revelled in my own thoughts and enjoyed the luxury of being alone
—a double luxury in America, where the people are gregarious, and
would think themselves very ill-bred if they allowed you one moment for
meditation or self-examination.
Stepped on board of the Narangansett steam-vessel for Providence. Here
is a fair specimen of American travelling:— From New York to
Providence, by the Long Island Sound, is two hundred miles; and this is
accomplished, under usual circumstances, in thirteen hours: from
Providence to Boston, forty miles by railroad, in two hours —which
makes, from New York to Boston, an average speed of sixteen miles an
hour, stoppages included.
I was, I must confess, rather surprised, when in the railroad cars,
to find that we were passing through a church-yard, with
tomb-stones on both sides of us. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts,
where the pilgrim-fathers first landed —the two States that take pride
to themselves (and with justice) for superior morality and a strict
exercise of religious observances —they look down upon the other
States of the Union, especially New York, and cry out, "I thank thee,
Lord, that I am not as that publican." Yet here, in Rhode Island, are
the sleepers of the railway laid over the sleepers in death; here do
they grind down the bones of their ancestors for the sake of gain, and
consecrated earth is desecrated by the iron wheels, loaded with
Mammon-seeking mortals. And this in the puritanical state of Rhode
Island! Would any engineer have ventured to propose such a line in
England? I think not. After all, it is but human nature. I have run
over the world a long while, and have always observed that people are
very religious so long as religion does not interfere with their
pockets; but, with gold in one hand and godliness in the other, the
tangible is always preferred to the immaterial. In America everything
is sacrificed to time —for time is money. The New Yorkers would have
dashed right through the church itself; but then, they are
publicans, and don't pretend to be good.
Boston is a fine city, and, as a commercial one, almost as well
situated as New York. It has, however, lost a large portion of its
commerce, which the latter has gradually wrested from it, and it must
eventually lose much more. The population of Boston is about eighty
thousand, and it has probably more people of leisure in it (that is,
out of business and living on their own means) than even Philadelphia;
taking into the estimate the difference between the populations. They
are more learned and scientific here than at New York, though not more
so than at Philadelphia; but they are more English than in any other
city in America. The Massachusetts people are very fond of comparing
their country with that of England. The scenery is not unlike; but it
is not like England in its high state of cultivation. Stone walls are
bad substitutes for green hedges. Still, there are some lovely spots in
the environs of Boston. Mount Auburn, laid out as a Père la Chaise, is,
in natural beauties, far superior to any other place of the kind. One
would almost wish to be buried there; and the proprietors, anxious to
have it peopled, offer, by their arrangements as to the price of places
of interment, a handsome premium to those who will soonest die and be
buried —which is certainly a consideration.
Fresh Pond is also a very romantic spot. It is a lake of about two
hundred acres, whose water is so pure that the ice is transparent as
glass. Its proprietor clears many thousand dollars a year by the sale
of it. It is cut out in blocks of three feet square, and supplies most
parts of America down to New Orleans; and every winter latterly two or
three ships have been loaded and sent to Calcutta, by which a very
handsome profit has been realised.
Since I have been here, I have made every enquiry relative to the
sea-serpent which frequents this coast alone. There are many hundreds
of most respectable people, who, on other points, would be considered
as incapable of falsehood, who declare they have seen the animals, and
vouch for their existence. It is rather singular that in America there
is but one copy of Bishop Pontoppidon's work on Norway, and in it the
sea-serpent is described, and a rough wood-cut of its appearance given.
In all the American newspapers a drawing was given of the animal as
described by those who saw it, and it proved to be almost a fac-simile of the one described by the Bishop in his work.
Now that we are on marine matters, I must notice the prodigious
size of the lobsters off Boston Coast: they could stow a dozen common
English lobsters under their coats of mail. My very much respected
friend Sir Isaac Coffin, when he was here, once laid a wager that he
would produce a lobster weighing thirty pounds. The bet was accepted,
and the admiral despatched people to the proper quarter to procure one:
but they were not then in season, and could not be had. The admiral,
not liking to lose his money, brought up, instead of the lobster, the
affidavits of certain people that they had often seen lobsters of that
size and weight. The affidavits of the deponents he submitted to the
other party, and pretended that he had won the wager. The case was
referred to arbitration, and the admiral was cast with the following
pithy reply, "Depositions are not lobsters."
Massachusetts is certainly very English in its scenery, and Boston
essentially English as a city. The Bostonians assert that they are more
English than we are, that is, that they have strictly adhered to the
old English customs and manners, as handed down to them previous to the
Revolution. That of sitting a very long while at their wine after
dinner, is one which they certainly adhere to, and which, I
think, would be more honoured in the breach than the observance; but
their hospitality is unbounded, and you do, as an Englishman, feel at
home with them. I agree with the Bostonians so far, that they certainly
appear to have made no change in their manners and customs for these
last hundred years. You meet here with frequent specimens of the Old
English Gentleman, descendants of the best old English families who
settled here long before the Revolution, and are now living on their
incomes, with a town house and a country seat to retire to during the
summer season. The society of Boston is very delightful; it wins upon
you every day, and that is the greatest compliment that can be paid to
Perhaps of all the Americans the Bostonians are the most sensitive
to any illiberal remarks made upon the country, for they consider
themselves, and pride themselves, as being peculiarly English; while,
on the contrary, the majority of the Americans deny that they are
English. There certainly is less intermixture of foreign blood in this
city than in any other in America. It will appear strange, but so
wedded are they to old customs, even to John Bullism, that it is not
more than seven or eight years that French wines have been put on the
Boston tables, and become in general use in this city.
It is a pity that this feeling towards England is not likely to
continue; indeed, even at this moment it is gradually wearing away.
Self-interest governs the world. At the declaration of the last war
with England, it was the Northern States which were so opposed to it,
and the Southern who were in favour of it: but now circumstances have
changed; the Northern States, since the advance in prosperity and
increase of produce in the Southern and Western States, feel aware that
it is only as manufacturing states that they can hold their rank with
the others. Their commerce has decreased since the completion of the
Erie and Ohio canals, and during the war they discovered the advantage
that would accrue to them, as manufacturers, to supply the Southern and
Western markets. The imports of English goods have nearly ruined them.
They now manufacture nothing but coarse articles, and as you travel
through the Eastern countries, you are surprised to witness splendid
fabrics commenced, but, for want of encouragement, not finished. This
has changed the interests of the opponent States. The Southern are very
anxious to remain at peace with England, that their produce may find a
market; while the Northern, on the contrary, would readily consent to a
war, that they might shut out the English manufactures, and have the
supply entirely in their own hands. The Eastern States (I particularly
refer to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) offer a proof of
what can be effected by economy, prudence, and industry. Except on the
borders of the rivers, the lands are generally sterile, and the climate
is severe, yet, perhaps, the population is more at its ease than in any
other part of the Union; but the produce of the States is not
sufficient for the increasing population, or rather what the population
would have been had it not migrated every year to the West and South.
They set a higher value upon good connections in these poor States than
they do in others; and if a daughter is to be married, they will ask
what family the suitor is of, and if it bears a good name, they are
quite indifferent as to whether he has a cent or not. It is remarkable,
that if a man has three or four sons in these States, one will be a
lawyer, another a medical man, another a clergyman, and one will remain
at home to take the property; and thus, out of the proceeds of a farm,
perhaps not containing more than fifty acres, all these young men shall
be properly educated, and in turn sent forth to the West and South,
where they gain an honourable independence, and very often are sent to
Congress as senators and representatives. Industry and frugality are
the only entailed estate bequeathed from father to son. Yet this State
alone manufactures to the value of 86,282,616 of dollars in the year.
As a general axiom it may fairly be asserted, that the more sterile the
soil, the more virtuous, industrious, and frugal are the inhabitants;
and it may be added, that such a country sends out more clever and
intelligent men than one that is nominally more blessed by Providence.
The fact is, without frugality and industry the Eastern States could
not exist; they become virtues of necessity, and are the basis of
others; whilst, where there is abundance, vice springs up and idleness
takes deep root.
The population of Massachusetts is by the last returns 701,331
souls. I rather think the proportion of women to men is very great.
An energetic and enterprising people are naturally anxious for an
investigation into cause and effect, a search into which is, after all,
nothing but curiosity well directed, and the most curious of all men is
the philosopher. Curiosity, therefore, becomes a virtue or a small
vice, according to the use made of it. The Americans are excessively
curious, especially the mob: they cannot bear anything like a secret,
—that's unconstitutional. It may be remembered, that the
Catholic Convent near Boston, which had existed many years, was
attacked by the mob and pulled down. I was enquiring into the cause of
this outrage in a country where all forms of religion are tolerated;
and an American gentleman told me, that although other reasons had been
adduced for it, he fully believed, in his own mind, that the majority
of the mob were influenced more by curiosity than any other
feeling. The Convent was sealed to them, and they were
determined to know what was in it. "Why, sir," continued he, "I will
lay a wager that if the authorities were to nail together a dozen
planks, and fix them up on the Common, with a caution to the public
that they were not to go near or touch them, in twenty-four hours a mob
would be raised to pull them down and ascertain what the planks
contained." I mention this conversation, to shew in what a dexterous
manner this American gentleman attempted to palliate one of the
grossest outrages ever committed by his countrymen.
Crossed over to New Jersey, and took the railroad, to view the falls
of the Passaic River, about fifteen miles from New York. This
water-power has given birth to Patterson, a town with ten thousand
inhabitants, where a variety of manufactures is carried on. A more
beautiful wild spot can hardly be conceived; and to an European who has
been accustomed to travel far in search of the picturesque, it appears
singular that at so short a distance from a large city, he should at
once find himself in the midst of such a strange combination of nature
and art. Independent of their beauty, they are, perhaps, the most
singular falls that are known to exist. The whole country is of trappe
formation, and the black rocks rise up strictly vertical. The river,
which at the Falls is about one hundred and twenty yards wide, pours
over a bed of rock between hills covered with chestnut, walnut, pine,
and sycamore, all mingled together, and descending to the edge of the
bank; their bright and various foliage forming a lovely contrast to the
clear rushing water. The bed of black rock over which the river runs,
is, at the Fall, suddenly split in two, vertically, and across the
whole width of the river. The fissure is about seventy feet deep, and
not more than twelve feet wide at any part. Down into this chasm pour
the whole waters of the river, escaping from it, at a right angle, into
a deep basin, surrounded with perpendicular rocks from eighty to ninety
feet high. You may therefore stand on the opposite side of the chasm,
looking up the river, within a few feet of the Fall, and watch the
roaring waters as they precipitate themselves below. In this position,
with the swift, clear, but not deep waters before you, forcing their
passage through the rocky bed, with the waving trees on each side,
their branches feathering to the water's edge, or dipping and rising
in the stream, you might imagine yourself far removed from your
fellow-men, and you feel that in such a beauteous spot you could well
turn anchorite, and commune with Nature alone. But turn round with your
back to the Fall —look below, and all is changed: art in full activity
—millions of reels whirling in their sockets —the bright polished
cylinders incessantly turning, and never tiring. What formerly was the
occupation of thousands of industrious females, who sat with their
distaff at the cottage door, is now effected in a hundredth part of the
time, and in every variety, by those compressed machines which require
but the attendance of one child to several hundreds. But machinery
cannot perform everything, and notwithstanding this reduction of
labour, the romantic Falls of the Passaic find employment for the
industry of thousands.
We walked up the banks of the river above the Fall, and met with
about twenty or thirty urchins who were bathing at the mouth of the
cut, made for the supply of the water-power to the manufactories below.
The river is the property of an individual, and is very valuable: he
receives six hundred dollars per annum for one square foot of
water-power; ten years hence it will be rented at a much higher price.
We amused ourselves by throwing small pieces of money into the
water, where it was about a fathom deep, for the boys to dive after;
they gained them too easily; we went to another part in the cut,
where it was much deeper, and threw in a dollar. The boys stood naked
on the rocks, like so many cormorants, waiting to dart upon their prey;
when the dollar had had time to sink to the bottom the word was given
—they all dashed down like lightning and disappeared. About a minute
elapsed ere there was any sign of their re-appearance, when they came
up, one by one, breathless and flushed (like racers who had pulled up),
and at last the victor appeared with the dollar between his teeth. We
left these juvenile Sam Patches, and returned to the town. [Sam
Patch, an American peripatetic, who used to amuse himself and astonish
his countrymen by leaping down the different falls in America. He
leaped down a portion of the Niagara without injury; but one fine day,
having taken a drop too much, he took a leap too much. He went down the
Genassee Fall, and since that time he has not been seen or heard of.]
There is no part of the world, perhaps, where you have more
difficulty in obtaining permission to be alone, and indulge in a
reverie, than in America. The Americans are as gregarious as
school-boys, and think it an incivility to leave you by yourself. Every
thing is done in crowds, and among a crowd. They even prefer a double
bed to a single one, and I have often had the offer to sleep with me
made out of real kindness. You must go "east of sun-rise" (or west of
sun-set) if you would have solitude.
I never was in a more meditative humour, more anxious to be left to
my own dreamings, than when I ascended the railroad car with my
companion to return to Jersey city; we were the only two in that
division of the car, and my friend, who understood me, had the
complaisance to go fast asleep. I made sure that, for an hour or two, I
could indulge in my own castle-buildings, and allow my fleeting
thoughts to pass over my brain, like the scud over the moon. At our
first stoppage a third party stepped in and seated himself between us.
He looked at my companion, who was fast asleep. He turned to me, and I
turned away my head. Once more was I standing at the Falls of the
Passaic; once more were the waters rolling down before me, the trees
gracefully waving their boughs to the breeze, and the spray cooling my
heated brain; my brain was, like the camera-obscura, filled with the
pleasing images, which I watched as they passed before me so vividly
portrayed, all in life and motion, when I was interrupted by—
"I was born in the very heart of Cheshire, sir."
Confound the fellow! The river, falls, foliage, all vanished at
once; and I found myself sitting in a railroad-car (which I had been
unconscious of), with a heavy lump of humanity by my side. I wished one
of the largest Cheshire cheeses down his throat.
"Indeed!" replied I, not looking at the man.
"Yes, sir —in the very heart of Cheshire."
"Would you had staid there!" thought I, turning away to the window
"Will you oblige me with a pinch of your snuff, sir? I left my box
at New York."
I gave him the box, and, when he had helped himself, laid it down
on the vacant seat opposite to him, that he might not have to apply
again, and fell back and shut my eyes, as a hint to him that I did not
wish to enter into conversation. A pause ensued, and I had hopes; but
they were delusive.
"I have been eighteen years in this country, sir."
"You appear to be quite
Americanised!" thought I; but I made
him no answer.
"I went up to Patterson, sir," continued he (now turning round to
me, and speaking in my ear), "thinking that I could get to Philadelphia
by that route, and found that I had made a mistake; so I have come
back. I am told there are some pretty falls there, sir."
"Would you were beneath them!" thought I; but I could not help
laughing at the idea of a man going to Patterson, and returning without
seeing the falls! By this time he had awakened his companion, who,
being American himself, and finding that there was to be no more sleep,
took him up, in the American fashion, and put to him successively the
following questions, all of which were answered without hesitation:—
"What is your name? where are you from? where are you going? what is
your profession? how many dollars have you made? have you a wife and
children?" All these being duly responded to, he asked my companion who
I might be, and was told that I was an operative artist, and one of
the first cotton spinners in the country.
This communication procured for me considerable deference from our
new acquaintance during the remainder of our journey. He observed in
the ear of my companion, that he thought I knew a thing or two. In a
country like America the Utilitarian will always command respect.
The 4th of July, the sixty-first anniversary of American independence!
Pop —pop —bang —pop —pop —bang —bang bang! Mercy on us! how
fortunate it is that anniversaries come only once a year. Well, the
Americans may have great reason to be proud of this day, and of the
deeds of their forefathers, but why do they get so confoundedly drunk?
why, on this day of independence, should they become so dependent
upon posts and rails for support? The day is at last over; my head
aches, but there will be many more aching heads tomorrow morning!
What a combination of vowels and consonants have been put together!
what strings of tropes, metaphors, and allegories, have been used on
this day! what varieties and gradations of eloquence! There are at
least fifty thousand cities, towns, villages, and hamlets, spread over
the surface of America —in each the Declaration of Independence has
been read; in all one, and in some two or three, orations have been
delivered, with as much gunpowder in them as in the squibs and
crackers. But let me describe what I actually saw.
The commemoration commenced, if the day did not, on the evening of
the 3rd, by the municipal police going round and pasting up placards,
informing the citizens of New York, that all persons letting off
fireworks would be taken into custody, which notice was immediately
followed up by the little boys proving their independence of the
authorities, by letting off squibs, crackers, and bombs; and cannons,
made out of shin bones, which flew in the face of every passenger, in
the exact ratio that the little boys flew in the face of the
authorities. This continued the whole night, and thus was ushered in
the great and glorious day, illumined by a bright and glaring sun (as
if bespoken on purpose by the mayor and corporation), with the
thermometer at 90º in the shade. The first sight which met the eye
after sunrise, was the precipitate escape, from a city visited with the
plague of gunpowder, of respectable or timorous people in coaches,
carriages, waggons, and every variety of vehicle. "My kingdom for a
horse!" was the general cry of all those who could not stand fire. In
the mean while, the whole atmosphere was filled with independence. Such
was the quantity of American flags which were hoisted on board of the
vessels, hung out of windows, or carried about by little boys, that you
saw more stars at noon-day than ever could be counted on the brightest
night. On each side of the whole length of Broadway, were ranged booths
and stands, similar to those at an English fair, and on which were
displayed small plates of oysters, with a fork stuck in the board
opposite to each plate; clams sweltering in the hot sun; pineapples,
boiled hams, pies, puddings, barley-sugar, and many other
indescribables. But what was most remarkable, Broadway being three
miles long, and the booths lining each side of it, in every booth there
was a roast pig, large or small, as the centre attraction. Six miles of
roast pig! and that in New York city alone; and roast pig in every
other city, town, hamlet, and village, in the Union. What association
can there be between roast pig and independence? Let it not be supposed
that there was any deficiency in the very necessary articks of potation
on this auspicious day: no! the booths were loaded with porter, ale,
cyder, mead, brandy, wine, ginger-beer, pop, soda-water, whiskey, rum,
punch, gin slings, cocktails, mint julips, besides many other
compounds, to name which nothing but the luxuriance of American-English
could invent a word. Certainly the preparations in the refreshment way
were most imposing, and gave you some idea of what had to be gone
through on this auspicious day. Martial music sounded from a dozen
quarters at once; and as you turned your head, you tacked to the first
bars of a march from one band, the concluding bars of Yankee Doodle
from another. At last the troops of militia and volunteers, who had
been gathering in the park and other squares, made their appearance,
well dressed and well equipped, and, in honour of the day, marching as
independently as they well could. I did not see them go through many
manoeuvres, but there was one which they appeared to excel in, and that
was grounding arms and eating pies. I found that the current went
towards Castle Garden, and away I went with it. There the troops were
all collected on the green, shaded by the trees, and the effect was
very beautiful. The artillery and infantry were drawn up in a line
pointing to the water. The officers in their regimental dresses and
long white feathers, generals and aides-de-camp, colonels, commandants,
majors, all galloping up and down in front of the line, —white horses
and long tails appearing the most fashionable and correct. The crowds
assembled were, as American crowds usually are, quiet and well
behaved. I recognised many of my literary friends turned into generals,
and flourishing their swords instead of their pens. The scene was very
animating; the shipping at the wharfs were loaded with star-spangled
banners; steamers paddling in every direction, were covered with flags;
the whole beautiful Sound was alive with boats and sailing vessels, all
flaunting with pennants and streamers. It was, as Ducrow would call it,
"A Grand Military and Aquatic Spectacle."
Then the troops marched up into town again, and so did I follow
them as I used to do the reviews in England, when a boy. All creation
appeared to be independent on this day; some of the horses particularly
so, for they would not keep "in no line not no how," Some preferred
going sideways like crabs, others went backwards, some would not go at
all, others went a great deal too fast, and not a few parted company
with their riders, whom they kicked off just to shew their
independence; but let them go which way they would, they could not
avoid the squibs and crackers. And the women were in the same
predicament: they might dance right, or dance left, it was only out of
the frying-pan into the fire, for it was pop, pop; bang, bang; fiz,
pop, bang, so that you literally trod upon gunpowder.
When the troops marched up Broadway, louder even than the music
were to be heard the screams of delight from the children at the
crowded windows on each side. "Ma! ma! there's pa!" "Oh! there's John."
"Look at uncle on his big horse."
The troops did not march in very good order, because, independently
of their not knowing how, there was a great deal of independence to
contend with. At one time an omnibus and four would drive in and cut
off the general and his staff from his division; at another, a cart
would roll in and insist upon following close upon the band of music;
so that it was a mixed procession — Generals, omnibus and four, music,
cart-loads of bricks, troops, omnibus and pair, artillery,
hackney-coach, &c. &c. Notwithstanding all this, they at last arrived
at the City Hall, when those who were old enough heard the Declaration
of Independence read for the sixty-first time; and then it was—
"Begone, brave army, and don't kick up a row."
I was invited to dine with the mayor and corporation at the City
Hall. We sat down in the Hall of Justice, and certainly, great justice
was done to the dinner, which (as the wife says to her husband after a
party, where the second course follows the first with unusual celerity)
"went off remarkably well." The crackers popped outside, and the
champagne popped in. The celerity of the Americans at a public dinner
is very commendable; they speak only now and then; and the toasts
follow so fast, that you have just time to empty your glass, before you
are requested to fill again. Thus the arranged toasts went off rapidly,
and after them, any one might withdraw. I waited till the thirteenth
toast, the last on the paper, to wit, the ladies of America; and,
having previously, in a speech from the recorder, bolted Bunker's Hill
and New Orleans, I thought I might as well bolt myself, as I wished to
see the fireworks, which were to be very splendid.
Unless you are an amateur, there is no occasion to go to the
various places of public amusement where the fireworks are let off, for
they are sent up every where in such quantities that you hardly know
which way to turn your eyes. It is, however, advisable to go into some
place of safety, for the little boys and the big boys have all got
their supply of rockets, which they fire off in the streets —some
running horizontally up the pavement, and sticking into the back of a
passenger; and others mounting slantingdicularly and Paul-Prying into
the bed-room windows on the third floor or attics, just to see how
things are going on there. Look in any point of the compass, and
you will see a shower of rockets in the sky: turn from New York to
Jersey City, from Jersey City to Brooklyn, and shower is answered by
shower on either side of the water. Hoboken repeats the signal: and
thus it is carried on to the east, the west, the north, and the south,
from Rhode Island to the Missouri, from the Canada frontier to the Gulf
of Mexico. At the various gardens the combinations were very beautiful,
and exceeded anything that I had witnessed in London or Paris. What
with sea-serpents, giant rockets scaling heaven, Bengal lights, Chinese
fires, Italian suns, fairy bowers, crowns of Jupiter, exeranthemums,
Tartar temples, Vesta's diadems, magic circles, morning glories, stars
of Colombia, and temples of liberty, all America was in a blaze; and,
in addition to this mode of manifesting its joy, all America was tipsy.
There is something grand in the idea of a national intoxication. In
this world, vices on a grand scale dilate into virtues; he who murders
one man, is strung up with ignominy; but he who murders twenty
thousand has a statue to his memory, and is handed down to posterity as
a hero. A staggering individual is a laughable and, sometimes, a
disgusting spectacle; but the whole of a vast continent reeling,
offering a holocaust of its brains for mercies vouchsafed, is an
appropriate tribute of gratitude for the rights of equality and the levelling spirit of their institutions.
Once more flying up the noble Hudson. After you have passed West
Point, the highlands, through which the river has forced its passage,
gradually diminish, and as the shore becomes level, so does the country
become more fertile.
We passed the manor of Albany, as it is called, being a Dutch grant
of land, now in the possession of one person, a Mr. Van Rensalaer, and
equal to many a German principality, being twenty miles by forty-eight
miles square. Mr. Van Rensalaer still retains the old title of Patroon.
It is generally supposed in England that, in America, all property must
be divided between the children at the decease of the parent. This is
not the case. The entailing of estates was abolished by an act of
Congress in 1788, but a man may will away his property entirely to his
eldest son if he pleases. This is, however, seldom done; public opinion
is too strong against it, and the Americans fear public opinion beyond
the grave. Indeed, were a man so to act, the other claimants would
probably appeal to have the will set aside upon the grounds of lunacy,
and the sympathy of an American jury would decree in their favour.
As you ascend to Albany City, the banks of the river are very
fertile and beautiful, and the river is spotted with many very
picturesque little islands. The country seats, which fringe the whole
line of shore, are all built in the same, and very bad, style. Every
house or tenement, be it a palace or a cottage, has its porticos and
pillars —a string of petty Parthenons which tire you by their
uniformity and pretence.
I had intended to stop at Hudson, that I might proceed from thence
to New Lebanon to visit the Shaking Quakers; but, as I discovered that
there was a community of them not five miles from Troy, I, to avoid a
fatiguing journey, left Albany, and continued on to that city.
Albany is one of the oldest Dutch settlements, and among its
inhabitants are to be found many of the descendants of the Dutch
aristocracy. Indeed, it may even now be considered as a Dutch city. It
is the capital of the state of New York, with a population of nearly
30,000. Its commerce is very extensive, as it is here that the Erie
canal communications with the Far West, as well as the Eastern States,
debouche into the Hudson.
We have here a singular proof, not only of the rapidity with which
cities rise in America, but also how superior energy will overcome
every disadvantage. Little more than twenty years ago, Albany stood by
itself, a large and populous city without a rival, but its population
was chiefly Dutch. The Yankees from the Eastern States came down and
settled themselves at Troy, not five miles distant, in opposition to
them. It would be supposed that Albany could have crushed this city in
its birth, but it could not, and Troy is now a beautiful city, with its
mayor, its corporation, and a population of 20,000 souls, and divides
the commerce with Albany, from which most of the eastern trade has been
ravished. The inhabitants of Albany are termed Albanians, those of
Troy, Trojans! In one feature these cities are very similar, being both
crowded with lumber and pretty girls.
I went out to see the Shakers at Niskayuna. So much has already
been said about their tenets that I shall not repeat them, further than
to observe that all their goods are in common, and that, although the
sexes mix together, they profess the vows of celibacy and chastity.
Their lands are in excellent order, and they are said to be very rich.
[I should be very sorry to take away the character of any community,
but, as I was a little sceptical as to the possibility of the vow of
chastity being observed under circumstances above alluded to, I made
some inquiries, and having met with one who had seceded from the
fraternity, I discovered that my opinion of human nature was correct,
and the conduct of the Shakers not altogether so. I must not enter into
details, as they would be unfit for publication.]
We were admitted into a long room on the ground-floors where the
Shakers were seated on forms, the men opposite to the women, and apart
from each other. The men were in their waistcoats and shirt-sleeves,
twiddling their thumbs, and looking awfully puritanical. The women were
attired in dresses of very light striped cotton, which hung about them
like full dressing-gowns, and concealed all shape and proportions. A
plain mob cap on their heads, and a thick muslin handkerchief in many
folds over their shoulders, completed their attire. They each held in
their hands a pocket-handkerchief as large as a towel, and of almost
the same substance. But the appearance of the women was melancholy and
unnatural; I say unnatural because it required to be accounted for.
They had all the advantages of exercise and labour in the open air,
good food, and good clothing; they were not overworked, for they are
not required to work more than they please; and yet there was something
so pallid, so unearthly in their complexions, that it gave you the idea
that they had been taken up from their coffins a few hours after their
decease: not a hue of health, not a vestige of colour in any cheek or
lip; —one cadaverous yellow tinge prevailed. And yet there were to be
seen many faces very beautiful, as far as regarded outline, but they
were the features of the beautiful in death. The men, on the contrary,
were ruddy, strong, and vigorous. Why, then, this difference between
the sexes, where they each performed the same duties, where none were
taxed beyond their strength, and all were well fed and clothed?
After a silence of ten minutes, one of the men of the community,
evidently a coarse illiterate person, rose and addressed a few words to
the spectators, requesting them not to laugh at what they saw, but to
behave themselves properly, &c., and then he sat down.
One of the leaders then burst out into a hymn, to a jigging sort
of tune, and all the others joined chorus. After the hymn was sung they
all rose, put away the forms on which they had been seated, and stood
in lines, eight in a row, men and women separate, facing each other,
and about ten feet apart —the ranks of men being flanked by the boys,
and those of the women by the girls. They commenced their dancing by
advancing in rows, just about as far as profane people do in L'ete
when they dance quadrilles, and then retreated the same distance, all
keeping regular time, and turning back to back after every third
advance. The movement was rather quick, and they danced to their own
singing of the following beautiful composition:—
Law, law, de lawdel law,
Law, law, de law,
Law, law, de lawdel law,
Lawdel, lawdel, law—
keeping time also with the hands as well as feet, the former raised
up to the chest, and hanging down like the fore-paws of a dancing bear.
After a quarter of an hour they sat down again, and the women made use
of their large towel pocket-handkerchiefs to wipe off the perspiration.
Another hymn was sung, and then the same person addressed the
spectators, requesting them not to laugh, and inquiring if any of them
felt a wish to be saved —adding, "Not one of you, I don't think." He
looked round at all of us with the most ineffable contempt, and then
sat down; and they sang another hymn, the burden of which was—
"Our souls are saved, and we are free
From vice and all in-i-qui-ty."
which was a very comfortable delusion, at all events.
They then rose again, put away the forms as before, and danced in
another fashion. Instead of L'ete, it was Grande ronde.
About ten men and women stood in two lines in the centre of the room,
as a vocal band of music, while all the others, two and two, women
first and men following, promenaded round, with a short quick step, to
the tune chaunted in the centre. As they went round and round, shaking
their paws up and down before them, the scene was very absurd, and I
could have laughed had I not felt disgusted at such a degradation of
rational and immortal beings. This dance lasted a long while, until the
music turned to croaking, and the perspiration was abundant; they
stopped at last, and then announced that their exercise was finished. I
waited a little while after the main body had dispersed, to speak with
one of the elders. "I will be with you directly," replied he, walking
hastily away; but he never came back.
I never heard the principle upon which they dance. David danced
before the ark; but it is to be presumed that David danced as well as
he sung. At least he thought so; for when his wife Michal laughed at
him, he made her conduct a ground of divorce.
Every community which works in common, and is provided for in the
mass, must become rich, especially when it has no children to
maintain. It is like receiving a person's labour in exchange for
victuals and clothing only, and this is all I can perceive that can be
said in favour of these people. Suffice it to say, I have a very bad
opinion of them: and were I disposed to dilate on the subject, I should
feel no inclination to treat them with the lenity shewn to them by
From this mockery, I went to see what had a real tendency to make
you feel religious —the Falls of the Mohawk, about three miles from
Troy. Picturesque and beautiful as all falling water is, to describe it
is extremely difficult, unless, indeed by a forced simile; the flow of
language is too tame for the flow of water; but if the reader can
imagine a ledge of black rocks, about sixty or seventy feet high, and
that over this ledge was poured simultaneously the milk of some
millions of cows, he will then have some idea of the beauty of the
creaming Falls of the Mohawk, imbedded as they are in their wild and
Close to the Falls, I perceived a few small wooden shealings,
appearing, under the majestic trees which overshadowed them, more like
dog-kennels than the habitations of men: they were tenanted by Irish
emigrants, who had taken work at the new locks forming on the Erie
canal. I went up to them. In a tenement about fourteen feet by ten,
lived an Irishman, his wife, and family, and seven boys as he called
them, young men from twenty to thirty years of age, who boarded with
him. There was but one bed, on which slept the man, his wife, and
family. Above the bed were some planks, extending half way the length
of the shealing, and there slept the seven boys, without any mattress,
or even straw, to lie upon. I entered into conversation with them: they
complained bitterly of the times, saying that their pay was not 2s. 6d.
of our money per day, and that they could not live upon it. This was
true, but the distress had been communicated to all parts, and they
were fortunate in finding work at all, as most of the public works had
been discontinued. I mentioned to them that the price of labour in
Ohio, Illinois, and the West, was said to be two dollars a-day, and
asked them, why they did not go there? They replied, that such were the
price quoted, to induce people to go, but that they never could find it
when they arrived; that the clearing of new lands was attended with
ague and fever; and that if once down with these diseases there was no
one to help them to rise again. I looked for the pig, and there he was,
sure enough, under the bed.
Troy, like a modern academy, is classical, as well as commercial,
having Mount Olympus on one side, and Mount Ida in its rear. The
panorama from the summit of the latter is splendid. A few years back a
portion of Mount Ida made a slip, and the avalanche destroyed several
cottages and five or six individuals. The avalanche took place on a
dark night and in a heavy snow storm. Two brick kilns were lighted at
the time, and, as the mountain swept them away, the blaze of the
disturbed fires called out the fire engines, otherwise more lives would
have been lost. Houses, stables, and sheds, were all hurled away
together. Horses, children, and women, rolled together in confusion.
One child had a very strange escape. It had been forced out of its
bed, and was found on the top of a huge mass of clay, weighing forty or
fifty tons; he was crying, and asking who had put him there. Had all
the inhabitants of the cottages been within, at least forty must have
perished; but notwithstanding the severity of the weather, the day
being Sunday, they had all gone to evening meeting, and thus, being
good Christians, they were for once rewarded for it on this side of the
As I surveyed the busy scene below me, the gentleman who
accompanied me to the summit of the mountain, informed me that
forty-three years ago his father was the first settler, and that then
there was but his one hut in the place where now stood the splendid
But signs of the times were manifest here also. Commerce had
stopped for the present, and a long line of canal boats was laid up for
want of employment.
I remained two hours perched upon the top of the mountain. I should
not have staid so long, perhaps, had they not brought me a basket of
cherries, so that I could gratify more senses than one. I felt
becomingly classical whilst sitting on the precise birth-place of
Jupiter, attended by Pomona, with Troy at my feet, and Mount Olympus in
the distance; but I was obliged to descend to lumber and gin-slings,
and I set off for Albany, where I had an engagement, having been
invited to attend at the examination of the young ladies at the
Here again is a rivalry between Albany and Troy, each of them
glorying in possessing the largest seminary for the education of young
ladies, who are sent from every State of the Union, to be finished off
at one or the other of them. Here, and indeed in many other
establishments, the young ladies now quitting it have diplomas given,
to them, if they pass their examinations satisfactorily. They are
educated upon a system which would satisfy even Miss Martineau, and
prepared to exercise the rights of which she complains that women have
been so unjustly deprived. Conceive three hundred modern Portias, who
regularly take their degrees, and emerge from the portico of the
seminary full of algebra, equality, and the theory of the constitution!
The quantity and variety crammed into them is beyond all calculation.
The examination takes place yearly, to prove to the parents that the
preceptors have, done their duty, and is in itself very innocent, as it
only causes the young ladies to blush a little.
This afternoon they were examined in algebra, and their performance
was very creditable. Under a certain age girls are certainly much
quicker than boys, and I presume would retain what they learnt if it
were not for their subsequent duties in making puddings, and nursing
babies. Yet there are affairs which must be performed by one sex or the
other, and of what use can algebra and other abstruse matters be to a
woman in her present state of domestic thraldom.
The theory of the American constitution was the next subject on
which they were examined; by their replies, this appeared to be to them
more abstruse than algebra: but the fact is, women are born tories, and
admit no other than petticoat government as legitimate.
The next day we again repaired to the hall, and French was the
language in which they were to be examined, and the examination
afforded us much amusement.
The young ladies sat down in rows on one side of the room. In the
centre, towards the end, was an easel, on which was placed a large
black board on which they worked with chalk the questions in algebra,
&c., —a towel hanging to it, that they might wipe out and correct. The
French preceptor, an old Emigre Count, sat down with the examiners
before the board, the visitors (chiefly composed of anxious papas and
mammas) being seated on benches behind them. As it happened, I had
taken my seat close to the examining board, and at some little
distance from the other persons who were deputed or invited to attend.
I don't knew how I came there. I believe I had come in too late; but
there I was, within three feet of every young lady who came up to the
"Now, messieurs, have the kindness to ask any question you please,"
said the old Count. "Mademoiselle, you will have the goodness to step
forward." A question was proposed in English, which the young lady had
to write down in French. The very first went wrong: I perceived it, and
without looking at her, pronounced the right word, so that she could
hear it. She caught it, rubbed out the wrong word with the towel, and
rectified it. This was carried on through the whole sentence, and then
she retreated from the board that her work might be examined. "Very
well, very well, indeed, Miss, c'est parfaitement bien;" and the young
lady sat down blushing. Thus were they all called up, and one after
another prompted by me; and the old Count was delighted at the success
of his pupils.
Now, what amused me in this was the little bit of human nature; the
tact displayed by the sex, which appears to be innate, and which
never deserts them. Had I prompted a boy, he would most likely have
turned his head round towards me, and thus have revealed what I was
about; but not one of the whole class was guilty of such indiscretion.
They heard me, rubbed out, corrected, waited for the word when they did
not know it, but never by any look or sign made it appear that there
was any understanding between us. Their eyes were constantly fixed on
the board, and they appeared not to know that I was in the room. It was
really beautiful. When the examination was over, I received a look from
them all, half comic, half serious, which amply repaid me for my
As young ladies are assembled here from every State of the Union,
it was a fair criterion of American beauty, and it must be
acknowledged that the American women are the prettiest in the
Saratoga Springs. —Watering places all over the world are much alike:
they must be well filled with company, and full of bustle, and then
they answer the purpose for which they are intended —a general muster,
under the banner of folly, to drive care and common sense out of the
field. Like assembly-rooms, unless lighted up and full of people, they
look desolate and forlorn: so it was with Saratoga: a beautiful spot,
beautiful hotels, and beautiful water; but all these beauties were
thrown away, and the water ran away unheeded, because the place was
empty. People's pockets were empty, and Saratoga was to let. The
consequence was that I remained a week there, and should have remained
much longer had I not been warned, by repeated arrivals, that the
visitors were increasing, and that I should be no longer alone.
The weariness of solitude, as described by Alexander Selkirk and
the Anti-Zimmermanns, can surely not be equal to the misery of never
being alone; of feeling that your thoughts and ideas, rapidly
accumulating, are in a state of chaos and confusion, and that you have
not a moment to put them into any lucid order; of finding yourself,
against your will, continually in society, bandied from one person to
the other, to make the same bows, extend the same hand to be grasped,
and reply to the same eternal questions; until, like a man borne down
by sleep after long vigils, and at each moment roused to reply, you
either are not aware of what you do say, or are dead beat into an
unmeaning smile. Since I have been in this country, I have suffered
this to such a degree as at last to become quite nervous on the
subject; and I might reply in the words of the spirit summoned by
"Now my weary lips I close;
Leave, oh! leave me to repose."
It would be a strange account, had it been possible to keep one, of
the number of introductions which I have had since I came into this
country. Mr. A introduces Mr. B and C, Mr. B and C introduce Mr. D, E,
F, and G. Messrs. D, E, F, and G introduce Messrs. H, I, J, K, L, M, N,
O, and so it goes on, ad infinitum during the whole of the day;
and this to me who never could remember either a face or a name.
At introduction it is invariably the custom to shake hands; and
thus you go on shaking hands here, there, and everywhere, and with
everybody; for it is impossible to know who is who, in this land of
But one shake of the hand will not do; if twenty times during the
same day you meet a person to whom you have been introduced, the hand
is every where extended with— "Well, captain, how do you find yourself
by this time?" and, in their good-will, when they seize your hand,
they follow the apothecary's advice— "When taken, to be well shaken."
As for the constant query— "How do you like our country?" —that is
natural enough. I should ask the same of an American in England, but to
reply to it is not the less tedious. It is all well meant, all
kindness, but it really requires fortitude and patience to endure it.
Every one throws in his voluntary tribute of compliments and good-will,
but the accumulated mass is too great for any one individual to bear.
How I long for the ocean prairies, or the wild forests. Subsequently, I
begged hard to be shut up for six months in the Penitentiary at
Philadelphia, but Sammy Wood said it was against the regulations. He
comforted me with a tete-a-tete dinner, which was so agreeable,
that at the time I quite forgot I wished to be alone.
When I left Saratoga, I found no one, as I thought, in the car, who
knew me; and I determined, if possible, they should, in the Indian
phrase, lose my trail. I arrived at Schenectady, and was put
down there. I amused myself until the train started for Utica, which
was to be in a few hours, in walking about the engine-house, and
examining the locomotives; and having satisfied myself, set out for a
solitary walk in the country. There was no name on my luggage, and I
had not given my name when I took my ticket for the railroad. "At
last," said I to myself, "I am incog." I had walked out of the
engine-house, looked round the compass, and resolved in which direction
I would bend my steps, when a young man came up to me, and very
politely taking off his hat, said, "I believe I have the pleasure of
speaking to Captain M." Had he known my indignation when he mentioned
my name, poor fellow! but there was no help for it, and I replied in
the affirmative. After apologising, he introduced himself, and then
requested the liberty of introducing his friend. "Well, if ever,"
thought I; and, "no never," followed afterwards as a matter of course,
and as a matter of course his friend was introduced. It reminded me of
old times, when, midshipmen at balls, we used to introduce each other
to ladies we had none of us seen before in our lives. Well, there I
was, between two overpowering civilities, but they meant it kindly, and
I could not be angry. These were students of Schenectady College: would
I like to see it? a beautiful location, not half a mile off. I
requested to know if there was any thing to be seen there, as I did not
like to take a hot walk for nothing, instead of the shady one I had
proposed for myself. "Yes, there was Professor Nott" —I had of course
heard of Professor Nott. —Professor Nott, who governed by moral
influence and paternal sway, and who had written so largely on stones
and anthracite coal. I had never before heard of moral influence,
stones, or anthracite coal. Then there were more professors, and a
cabinet of minerals —the last was an inducement, and I went.
I saw Professor Nott, but not the cabinet of minerals, for
Professor Savage had the key. With Professor Nott I had rather a hot
argument about anthracite coal, and then escaped before he was cool
again. The students walked back with me to the hotel, and, with many
apologies for leaving me, informed me that dinner was ready. I would
not tax their politeness any longer, and they departed.
Schenectady College, like most of the buildings in America, was
commenced on a grand scale, but has never been finished; the two wings
are finished, and the centre is lithographed, which looks very imposing
in the plate. There is a peculiarity in this college: it is called the
Botany Bay, from its receiving young men who have been expelled from
other colleges, and who are kept in order by moral influence and
paternal sway, the only means certainly by which wild young men are to
be reclaimed. Seriously speaking Professor Nott is a very clever man,
and I suspect this college will turn out more clever men than any
other in the Union. It differs from the other colleges in another
point. It upholds no peculiar sect of religion, which almost all the
rest do. For instance, Yule [Yale], William's Town, and Amherst
Colleges, are under presbyterian influence; Washington episcopal;
Cambridge, in Massachusets, unitarian.
There is one disadvantage generally attending railroads. Travellers
proceed more rapidly, but they lose all the beauty of the country.
Railroads of course run through the most level portions of the States;
and the levels, except they happen to be on the banks of a river, are
invariably uninteresting. The road from Schenectady to Utica is one of
the exceptions to this rule: there is not perhaps a more beautiful
variety of scenery to be found anywhere. You run the whole way through
the lovely valley of the Mohawk, on the banks of the Mohawk river. It
was really delightful, but the motion was so rapid that you lamented
passing by so fast. The Utica railroad is one of the best in America;
the eighty miles are performed in four hours and a-half, stoppages for
taking in water, passengers, and refreshments, included. The locomotive
was of great power, and as it snorted along with a train of carriages
of half a mile long in tow, it threw out such showers of fire, that we
were constantly in danger of conflagration. The weather was too warm to
admit of the windows being closed, and the ladies, assisted by the
gentlemen, were constantly employed in putting out the sparks which
settled on their clothes —the first time I ever heard ladies complain
of having too many sparks about them. As the evening closed in
we actually were whirled along through a stream of fiery threads —a
beautiful, although humble imitation of the tail of a comet.
I had not been recognised in the rail car, and I again flattered
myself that I was unknown. I proceeded, on my arrival at Utica, to the
hotel, and asking at the bar for a bed, the book was handed to me, and
I was requested to write my name. Wherever you stop in America, they
generally produce a book and demand your name, not on account of any
police regulations, but merely because they will not allow secrets in
America, and because they choose to know who you may be. Of course, you
may frustrate this espionage by putting down any name you please; and I
had the pen in my hand, and was just thinking whether I should be Mr.
Snooks or Mr. Smith, when I received a slap on the shoulder,
accompanied with— "Well, captain, how are you by this time?" In
despair I let the pen drop out of my hand, and instead of my name I
left on the book a large blot. It was an old acquaintance from Albany,
and before I had been ten minutes in the hotel, I was recognised by at
least ten more. The Americans are such locomotives themselves, that it
is useless to attempt the incognito in any part except the west side of
the Missisippi, or the Rocky Mountains. Once known at New York, and you
are known every where, for in every place you will meet with some one
whom you have met walking in Broadway.
A tremendous thunder-storm, with torrents of rain, prevented my
leaving Utica for Trenton Falls until late in the afternoon. The roads,
ploughed up by the rain, were any thing but democratic; there was no
level in them; and we were jolted and shaken like peas in a rattle,
until we were silent from absolute suffering.
I rose the next morning at four o'clock. There was a heavy fog in
the air, and you could not distinguish more than one hundred yards
before you. I followed the path pointed out to me the night before,
through a forest of majestic trees, and descending a long flight of
steps found myself below the Falls. The scene impressed you with awe
—the waters roared through deep chasms, between two walls of rock, one
hundred and fifty feet high, perpendicular on each side, and the width
between the two varying from forty to fifty feet. The high rocks were
of black carbonate of lime in perfectly horizontal strata, so equally
divided that they appeared like solid masonry. For fifty or sixty feet
above the rushing waters they were smooth and bare; above that line
vegetation commenced with small bushes, until you arrived at their
summits, which were crowned with splendid forest trees, some of them
inclining over the chasm, as if they would peep into the abyss below
and witness the wild tumult of the waters.
From the narrowness of the pass, the height of the rocks, and the
superadded towering of the trees above, but a small portion of the
heavens was to be seen, and this was not blue, but of a misty murky
grey. The first sensation was that of dizziness and confusion, from the
unusual absence of the sky above, and the dashing frantic speed of the
angry boiling waters. The rocks on each side have been blasted so as to
form a path by which you may walk up to the first fall; but this path
was at times very narrow and you have to cling to the chain which is
let into the rock. The heavy storm of the day before had swelled the
torrent so that it rose nearly a foot above this path; and before I had
proceeded far, I found that the flood swept between my legs with a
force which would have taken some people off their feet. The rapids
below the Falls are much grander than the Falls themselves; there was
one down in a chasm between two riven rocks which it was painful to
look long upon, and watch with what a deep plunge —what irresistible
force —the waters dashed down and then returned to their own surface,
as if struggling and out of breath. As I stood over them in their wild
career, listening to their roaring as if in anger, and watching the
madness of their speed, I felt a sensation of awe —an inward
acknowledgment of the tremendous power of Nature; and, after a time, I
departed with feelings of gladness to escape from thought which became
painful when so near to danger.
I gained the lower falls, which now covered the whole width of the
rock, which they seldom do except during the freshets. They were
extraordinary from their variety. On the side where I stood, poured
down a rapid column of water about one-half of the width of the fall;
on the other, it was running over a clear thin stream, as gentle and
amiable as water could be. That part of the fall reminded me of ladies'
hair in flowing ringlets, and the one nearest me of the Lord Chancellor
Eldon, in all the pomposity and frowning dignity of his full-bottomed
wig. And then I thought of the lion and the lamb, not lying down, but
falling down together; and then I thought that I was wet through, which
was a fact; so I climbed up a ladder, and came to a wooden bridge above
the fall, which conveyed me to the other side. The bridge posses over a
staircase of little falls, sometimes diagonally, sometimes at right
angles with the sites, and is very picturesque. On the other side you
climb up a ladder of one hundred feet, and arrive at a little building
with a portico, where travellers are refreshed. Here you have a view of
all the upper falls, but these seem tame after witnessing the savage
impetuosity of the rapids below. You ascend another ladder of one
hundred feet, and you arrive at a path pointed out to you by the broad
chips of the woodman's axe. Follow the chips and you will arrive four
or five hundred feet above both the bridge and the level of the upper
fall. This scene is splendid. The black perpendicular rocks on the
other side; the succession of falls; the rapids roaring below; the
forest trees rising to the clouds and spreading with their majestic
boughs the vapour ascending from the falling waters; together with the
occasional glimpses of the skies here and there —all this induces you
to wander with your eyes from one point of view to another, never
tiring with its beauty, wildness, and vastness: and, if you do not
exclaim with the Mussulman, God is great! you feel it through
every sense, and at every pulsation of the heart.
The mountain was still above me, and I continued my ascent; but the
chips now disappeared, and, like Tom Thumb, I lost my way. I attempted
to retreat, but in vain; I was no longer amongst forest trees, but in a
maze of young mountain ash, from which I could not extricate myself: so
I stood still to think what I should do. I recollected that the usual
course of proceeding on such occasions, was either to sit down and cry,
or attempt to get out of your scrape. Tom Thumb did both; but I had no
time to indulge in the former luxury, so I pushed and pushed, till I
pushed myself out of my scrape, and found myself in a more respectable
part of the woods. I then stopped to take breath. I heard a rustling
behind me, and made sure it was a panther:— it was a beautiful little
palm squirrel, who came close to me, as if to say "Who are you?" I took
off my hat and told him my name, when, very contemptuously, as I
thought, he turned short round, cocked his tail over his back, and
skipped away. "Free, but not enlightened," thought I; "hasn't a soul
above nuts." I also beat a retreat, and on my arrival at the hotel,
found that, although I had no guides to pay, Nature had made a very
considerable levy upon my wardrobe: my boots were bursting, my trowsers
torn to fragments, and my hat was spoilt; and, moreover, I sat
shivering in the garments which remained. So I, in my turn, levied upon
a cow that was milking, and having improved her juice very much by the
addition of some rum, I sat down under the portico, and smoked the
cigar of meditation.
The walls of the portico were, as usual, scribbled over by those
who would obtain cheap celebrity. I always read these productions; they
are pages of human life. The majority of the scribblers leave a name
and nothing more: beyond that, some few of their productions are witty,
some sententious, mostly gross. My thoughts, as I read over the
rubbish, were happily expressed by the following distich which I came
Les Fenetres et les Murailles,
Sont le papier des Canailles.
A little farther on, I found the lie given to this remark by some
Amigo quien quiera que seas, piensa que si acqui
Pones tu nombre, pronto il tiempo lo borrara
Escribe lo pues en il libro de Dio en donde.
Returning to Utica, I fell in with a horse bridled and saddled, that
was taking his way home without his master, every now and then cropping
the grass at the road-side, and then walking on in a most independent
manner. His master had given him a certificate of leave, by chalking in
large letters on the saddle-flaps on each side, "Let him go."
This was a very primitive proceeding; but I am not quite sure that it
could be ventured upon in Yorkshire, or in Virginia either, where they
know a good horse, and are particularly careful of it. It is a fact,
that wherever they breed horses they invariably learn to steal them.
Set off for Oswego in a canal boat; it was called a packet-boat
because it did not carry merchandise, but was a very small affair,
about fifty feet long by eight wide. The captain of her was, however,
in his own opinion, no small affair; he puffed and swelled until he
looked larger than his boat. This personage, as soon as we were under
weigh, sat down in the narrow cabin, before a small table; sent for
this writing-desk, which was about the size of street organ, and, like
himself, no small affair; ordered a bell to be rung in our ears to
summon the passengers; and, then, taking down the names of four or five
people, received the enormous sum of ten dollars passage-money. He then
locked his desk with a key large enough for a street-door, ordered his
steward to remove it, and went on deck to walk just three feet and
return again. After all, there is nothing like being a captain.
Although many of the boats are laid up, there is still considerable
traffic on this canal. We passed Rome, a village of two thousand
inhabitants, at which number it has for many years been nearly
stationary. This branch of the canal is, of course, cut through the
levels, and we passed through swamps and wild forests; here and there
some few acres were cleared, and a log-house was erected, looking very
solitary and forlorn, surrounded by the stumps of the trees which had
been felled, and which now lay corded up on the banks of the canal,
ready to be disposed of. Wild and dreary as the country is, the mass of
forest is gradually receding, and occasionally some solitary tree is
left standing, throwing out its wide arms, and appearing as if in
lamentation at its separation from its companions, with whom for
centuries it had been in close fellowship.
Extremes meet: as I looked down from the roof of the boat upon the
giants of the forest, which had for so many centuries reared their
heads undisturbed, but now lay prostrate before civilisation, the same
feelings were conjured up in my mind as when I have, in my wanderings,
surveyed such fragments of dismembered empires as the ruins of Carthage
or of Rome. There the reign of Art was over, and Nature had resumed
her sway —here Nature was deposed, and about to resign her throne to
the usurper Art. By the bye, the mosquitoes of this district have
reaped some benefit from the cutting of the canal here. Before these
impervious forest retreats were thus pierced, they could not have
tasted human blood; for ages it must have been unknown to them, even by
tradition; and if they taxed all other boats on the canal as they did,
ours, a canal share with them must be considerably above par,
and highly profitable.
At five o'clock we arrived at Syracuse. I do detest these old names
vamped up. Why do not the Americans take the Indian names? They need
not be so very scrupulous about it; they have robbed the Indians of
After you pass Syracuse, the country wears a more populous and
inviting appearance. Salina is a village built upon a salt spring,
which has the greatest flow of water yet known, and this salt spring is
the cause of the improved appearance of the country; the banks of the
canal, for three miles, are lined with buildings for the boiling down
of the salt water, which is supplied by a double row of wooden pipes.
Boats are constantly employed up and down the canal, transporting wood
for the supply of the furnaces. It is calculated that two hundred
thousand cord of wood are required every year for the present produce;
and as they estimate upon an average about sixty cord of wood per acre
in these parts, those salt works are the means of yearly clearing away
upwards of three thousand acres of land. Two million of bushels of salt
are boiled down every year: it is packed in barrels, and transported by
the canals and lakes to Canada, Michigan, Chicago, and the far West.
When we reflect upon the number of people employed in the
manufactories, and in cutting wood, and making barrels, and engaged on
the lakes and canals in transporting the produce so many thousand
miles, we must admire the spring to industry which has been created by
this little, but bounteous, spring presented by nature.
The first sixty miles of this canal (I get on very slow with my
description, but canal travelling is very slow), which is through a
flat swampy forest, is without a lock; but after you pass Syracuse, you
have to descend by locks to the Oswego river, and the same at every
rapid of the river; in all, there is a fall of one hundred and sixty
feet. Simple as locks are, I could not help reverting to the wild
rapids at Trenton Falls, and reflecting upon how the ingenuity of man
had so easily been able to overcome and control Nature! The locks did
not detain us long —they never lose time in America. When the boat had
entered the lock, and the gate was closed upon her, the water was let
off with a rapidity which considerably affected her level, and her bows
pointed downwards. I timed one lock with a fall of fifteen feet. From
the time the gate was closed behind us until the lower one was opened
for our egress, was exactly one minute and a quarter; and the boat sank
down in the lock so rapidly as to give you the idea that she was
scuttled and sinking.
The country round the Oswego is fertile and beautiful, and the
river, with its islands, falls, and rapids, very picturesque. At one
p.m. we arrived at the town of Oswego, on Lake Ontario; I was pleased
with the journey, although, what with ducking to bridges, bites from
mosquitoes, and the constant blowing of their unearthly horn with only
one note, and which one must have been borrowed from the gamut of the
infernal regions, I had had enough of it.
For the first time since my arrival in the country, no one —that
is to say, on board the canal-boat —knew who I was. As we tracked
above the Oswego river, I fell into conversation with a very agreeable
person, who had joined us at Syracuse. We conversed the whole day, and
I obtained much valuable information from him about the country: when
we parted, he expressed a wish that we should meet again. He gave me
his name and address, and when I gave my card in return, he looked at
it, and then said, "I am most happy to make your acquaintance, sir; but
I will confess that had I known with whom I had been conversing, I
should not have spoken so freely upon certain points connected
with the government and institutions of this country." This was
American all over; they would conceal the truth, and then blame us
because we do not find it out. I met him afterwards, but he never would
enter into any detailed conversation with me.
Niagara Falls. —Perhaps the wisest, if not the best description of
the Falls of Niagara, is in the simple ejaculation of Mrs. Butler; for
it is almost useless to attempt to describe when you feel that language
fails; but if the falls cannot be described, the ideas which are
conjured up in the mind, when we contemplate this wonderful combination
of grandeur and beauty, are often worth recording. The lines of Mrs.
Sigourney, the American poetess, please me most.
Flow on for ever, in thy glorious robe
Of terror and of beauty; God hath set
His rainbow on thy forehead, and the cloud
Mantles around thy feet. And he doth give
Thy voice of thunder power to speak of him
Eternally —bidding the lip of man
Keep silence, and upon thy rocky altar pour
Incense of awe-struck praise.
When the Indian first looked upon the falls, he declared them to be
the dwelling of the Great Spirit. The savage could not imagine that the
Great Spirit dwelt also in the leaf which he bruised in his hand; but
here it appealed to his senses in thunder and awful majesty, and he was
compelled to acknowledge it.
The effects which the contemplation of these glorious waters
produce, are of course very different, according to one's temperament
and disposition. As I stood on the brink above the falls, continuing
for a considerable time to watch the great mass of water tumbling,
dancing, capering, and rushing wildly along, as if in a hurry to take
the leap and, delighted at it, I could not help wishing that I too had
been made of such stuff as would have enabled me to have joined it;
with it to have rushed innocuously down the precipice; to have rolled
uninjured into the deep unfathomable gulf below, or to have gambolled
in the atmosphere of spray, which rose again in a dense cloud from its
recesses. For about half an hour more I continued to watch the rolling
waters, and then I felt a slight dizziness and a creeping sensation
come over me —that sensation arising from strong excitement, and the
same, probably, that occasions the bird to fall into the jaws of the
snake. This is a feeling which, if too long indulged in, becomes
irresistible, and occasions a craving desire to leap into the flood of
rushing waters. It increased upon me every minute; and retreating from
the brink, I turned my eyes to the surrounding foliage, until the
effect of the excitement had passed away. I looked upon the waters a
second time, and then my thoughts were directed into a very different
channel. I wished myself a magician, that I might transport the falls
to Italy, and pour their whole volume of waters into the crater of
Mount Vesuvius; witness the terrible conflict between the contending
elements, and create the largest steam-boiler that ever entered into
the imagination of man.
I have no doubt that the opinion that these falls have receded a
distance of seven miles is correct; but what time must have passed
before even this tremendous power could have sawed away such a mass of
solid rock! Within the memory of man it has receded but a few feet
—changed but little. How many thousand years must these waters have
been flowing and falling, unvarying in their career, and throwing up
their sheets of spray to heaven.
It is impossible for either the eye or the mind to compass the
whole mass of falling water; you cannot measure, cannot estimate its
enormous volume; and this is the reason, perhaps, why travellers often
express themselves disappointed by it. But fix your eye upon one
portion —one falling and heaving wave out of the millions, as they
turn over the edge of the rocks; watch, I say, this fragment for a few
minutes, its regular time-beating motion never varying or changing;
pursuing the laws of nature with a regularity never ceasing and never
tiring; minute after minute; hour after hour; day after day; year
after year, until time recedes into creation: then cast your eyes over
the whole multitudinous mass which is, and has been, performing the
same and coeval duty, and you feel its vastness! Still the majesty of
the whole is far too great for the mind to compass —too stupendous for
its limited powers of reception.
Sunday. —I had intended to have passed the whole day at the Falls;
but an old gentleman whose acquaintance I had made in the steam boat on
Lake Ontario, asked me to go to church; and as I felt he would be
annoyed if I did not, I accompanied him to a Presbyterian meeting not
far from the Falls, which sounded like distant thunder. The sermon was
upon temperance —a favourite topic in America; and the minister rather
quaintly observed, that "alcohol was not sealed by the hand of God." It
was astonishing to me that he did not allude to the Falls, point out
that the seal of God was there, and shew how feeble was the voice of
man when compared to the thunder of the Almighty so close at hand. But
the fact was, he had been accustomed to preach every Sunday with the
Falls roaring in his ear, and (when the wind was in a certain quarter,)
with the spray damping the leaves of his sermon: he therefore did not
feel as we did, and, no doubt, thought his sermon better than that from
the God of the elements.
Yes, it is through the elements that the Almighty has ever deigned
to commune with man, or to execute his supreme will, whether it has
been by the wild waters to destroy an impious race —by the fire hurled
upon the doomed cities —by seas divided, that the chosen might pass
through them —by the thunders on Sinai's Mount when his laws were
given to man —by the pillar of fire or the gushing rock, or by the
rushing of mighty winds. And it is still through the elements that the
Almighty speaks to man, to warn, to terrify, to chasten; to raise him
up to wonder, to praise, and adore. The forked and blinding lightning
which, with the rapidity of thought, dissolves the union between the
body and the soul; the pealing thunder, announcing that the bolt has
sped; the fierce tornado, sweeping away everything in its career, like
a besom of wrath; the howling storm; the mountain waves; the earth
quaking, and yawning wide, in a second overthrowing the work and pride
of centuries, and burying thousands in a living tomb; the fierce
vomiting of the crater, pouring out its flames of liquid fire, and
changing fertility to the arid rock: it is through these that the Deity
still speaks to man; yet what can inspire more awe of him, more
reverence, and more love, than the contemplation of thy falling waters,
Two gentlemen have left their cards, and will be happy to see me on my
route; one lives at Batavia, the other at Pekin. I recollect going over
the ferry to Brooklyn to visit the Commodore at the Navy Yard; I walked
to where the omnibuses started from, to see if one was going my way.
There were but two on the stand: one was bound to Babylon, the
other to Jericho. Buffalo is one of the wonders of America. It
is hardly to be credited that such a beautiful city could have risen up
in the wilderness in so short a period. In the year 1814 it was burnt
down, being then only a village; only one house was left standing, and
now it is a city with twenty-five thousand inhabitants. The Americans
are very judicious in planning their new towns; the streets are laid
out so wide that there will never be any occasion to pull down to
widen and improve, as we do in England. The city of Buffalo is
remarkably well built; all the houses in the principal streets are
lofty and substantial, and are either of brick or granite. The main
street is wider, and the stores handsomer, than the majority of those
in New York. It has five or six very fine churches, a handsome theatre,
town-hall, and market, and three or four hotels, one of which is
superior to most others in America; and to these we must add a fine
stone pier, with a lighthouse, and a harbour full of shipping and
magnificent steam-boats. It is almost incomprehensible, that all this
should have been accomplished since the year 1814. And what has
occasioned this springing up of a city in so short a time as to remind
you of Aladdin's magic palace? —the Erie Canal, which here joins the
Hudson River with the Lake, passing through the centre of the most
populous and fertile States.
At present, however, the business of Buffalo, as well as of every
other city, is nearly at a stand-still; the machinery of America is
under repair, and until that repair is completed, the country will
remain paralysed. America may just now be compared to one of her own
steamboats, which, under too high pressure, has burst her boiler. Some
of her passengers have (in a commercial point of view) been killed
outright, others severely injured, and her progress has for a time been
stopped: but she will soon be enabled to go a-head again as fast as
ever, and will then probably pay a little more attention to her
I went out to the Indian reservation, granted to the remnant of the
Seneca tribe of Indians, once a portion of the Mohawks, and all that
now remains in the United States of the famed six nations. The chief of
them (Red Jacket), lately dead, might be considered as the last of the
Mohicans. I had some conversation with his daughter, who was very
busily employed in the ornamenting of a pair of mocassins, and then
visited the tomb, or rather the spot, where her father was buried,
without name or record. This omission has since been repaired, and a
tablet is now raised over his grave. It is creditable to the profession
that the "poor player," as Shakespeare hath it, should be the foremost
to pay tribute to worth. Cooke, the tragedian, was lying without a
stone to mark his resting-place, when Kean came to America, found out
the spot, and raised a handsome cenotaph to his memory; and it is to
Mr. Placide, one of the very best of American actors, that Red Jacket
is indebted for the tablet which has been raised to rescue his narrow
home from oblivion.
Red Jacket was a great chief and a great man, but, like most of the
Indians, he could not resist the temptations of alcohol, and was during
the latter part of his life very intemperate. When Red Jacket was
sober, he was the proudest chief that ever walked, and never would
communicate even with the highest of the American authorities but
through his interpreter; but when intoxicated, he would speak English
and French fluently, and then the proud Indian warrior, the most
eloquent of his race, the last chief of the six nations, would demean
himself by begging for a sixpence to buy more rum.
I must now revert to the singular causes by which, independent of
others, such as locality, &c., Buffalo was so rapidly brought to a
state of perfection —not like many other towns which, commencing with
wooden houses, gradually supersede them by brick and stone. The person
who was the cause of this unusual rise was a Mr. Rathbun, who now lies
incarcerated in a gaol of his own building. It was he who built all the
hotels, churches, and other public edifices; in fact, every structure
worthy of observation in the whole town was projected, contracted for,
and executed by Mr. Rathbun. His history is singular. Of quiet,
unassuming manners, Quaker in his dress, moderate in all his expenses,
(except in charity, wherein, assisted by an amiable wife, he was very
liberal) he concealed under this apparent simplicity and goodness a
mind capable of the vastest conceptions, united with the greatest
powers of execution. He undertook contracts, and embarked in building
speculations, to an amount almost incredible. Rathbun undertook every
thing, and every thing undertaken by Rathbun was well done. Not only at
Buffalo, but at Niagara and other places, he was engaged in raising
vast buildings, when the great crash occurred, and Rathbun, with
others, was unable to meet his liabilities. Then, for the first time,
it was discovered that for more than five years he had been conniving
at a system of forgery, to the amount of two millions of dollars: the
forgery consisted in putting to his bills the names of responsible
parties as indorsers, that they might be more current. It does not
appear that he ever intended to defraud, for he took up all his notes
as fast as they became due; and it was this extreme regularity on his
part which prevented the discovery of his fraud for so unusually long
a period. It is surmised, that had not the general failure taken place,
he would have eventually withdrawn all these forged bills from the
market, and have paid all his creditors, reserving for himself a
handsome fortune. It is a singular event in the annals of forgery, that
this should have been carried on undiscovered for so unprecedented a
time. Mr. Rathbun is to be tried as an accessory, as it was his brother
who forged the names. As soon as it was discovered, the latter made his
escape, and he is said to have died miserably in a hovel on the
confines of Texas.
Embarked on board of the Sandusky, for Detroit. As we were steering
clear of the pier, a small brig of about two hundred tons burthen was
pointed out to me as having been the flag-ship of Commodore
Barclay, in the action upon Lake Erie. The appearance of Buffalo from
the Lake is very imposing. Stopped at Dunkirk to put some emigrants on
shore. As they were landing, I watched them carefully counting over
their little property, from the iron tea-kettle to the heavy chest. It
was their whole fortune, and invaluable to them; the nest-egg by which,
with industry, their children were to rise to affluence. They remained
on the wharf as we shoved off, and no wonder that they seemed
embarrassed and at a loss. There was the baby in the cradle, the young
children holding fast to their mother's skirt, while the elder had
seated themselves on a log, and watched the departure of the
steam-vessel; —the bedding, cooking utensils, &c., all lying in
confusion, and all to be housed before night. Weary did they look, and
weary indeed they were, and most joyful would they be when they at last
should gain their resting-place. It appears from the reports sent in,
that upwards of 100,000 emigrants pass to the west every year by the
route of the Lakes, of which it is estimated that about 30,000 are from
Europe, the remainder migrating from the eastern States of the Union.
I may keep a log now. —5 a.m. Light breezes and clear weather,
land trending from South to S.S.W. Five sail in the offing.
At 6, ran into Grand River. Within these last two years, three
towns have sprung up here, containing between them about three thousand
How little are they aware, in Europe, of the vastness and extent of
commerce carried on in these inland seas whose coasts are now lined
with flourishing towns and cities, and whose waters are ploughed by
magnificent steam-boats, and hundreds of vessels laden with
merchandise. Even the Americans themselves are not fully aware of the
rising importance of these Lakes as connected with the West. Since the
completion of the Ohio Canal, which enters the Lake Erie at Cleveland,
that town has risen almost as rapidly as Buffalo. It is beautifully
situated. It is about six years back that it may be said to have
commenced its start, and it now contains more than ten thousand
inhabitants. The buildings are upon the same scale as those of
Buffalo, and it is conjectured with good reason, that it will become
even a larger city than the other, as the ice breaks up here and the
navigation is open in the spring, six weeks sooner than it is at
Buffalo; abreast of which town the ice is driven down and collected,
previous to its forcing its passage over the falls.
Erie, which was the American naval dep"t during the war, has a fine
bay, but it is now falling into insignificance: it has a population of
about one thousand.
Sandusky is a fast-rising town, beautifully situated upon the verge
of a small prairie; it is between Sandusky and Huron that the prairie
lands commence. The bay of Sandusky is very picturesque, being studded
with small verdant islands. On one of these are buried in the same
grave all those who fell in the hard-fought battle of the Lakes,
between Perry and Barclay, both of whom have since followed their
Toledo is the next town of consequence on the Lake. It is situated
at the mouth of the Miami River; and as a railroad has already been
commenced across the isthmus, so as to avoid going round the whole
peninsula of Michigan, it is fast rising into importance. Three years
ago the land was purchased at a dollar and a-half per acre; now, it is
selling for building lots at one hundred dollars per foot. They handed
me a paper printed in this town called "The Toledo Blade;" a not
inappropriate title, though rather a bold one for an editor to write up
to, as his writings ought to be very sharp, and, at the same
time, extremely well-tempered.
The American government have paid every attention to their inland
waters. The harbours, light-houses, piers, &c., have all been built at
the expense of government, and every precaution has been taken to make
the navigation of the Lakes as safe as possible.
In speaking of the new towns rising so fast in America, I wish the
reader to understand that, if he compares them with the country towns
of the same population in England, he will not do them. In the smaller
towns of England you can procure but little, and you have to send to
London for any thing good: in the larger towns, such as Norwich, &c.,
you may procure most things; but, still, luxuries must usually be
obtained from the metropolis. But in such places as Buffalo and
Cleveland, every thing is to be had that you can procure at New York or
Boston. In those two towns on Lake Erie are stores better furnished,
and handsomer, than any shops at Norwich, in England; and you will
find, in either of them, articles for which, at Norwich, you would be
obliged to send to London. It is the same thing at almost every town in
America with which communication is easy. Would you furnish a house in
one of them, you will find every article of furniture —carpets,
stoves, grates, marble chimney-pieces, pier-glasses, pianos, lamps,
candelabra, glass, china, &c., in twice the quantity, and in greater
variety, than at any provincial town in England.
This arises from the system of credit extended through every vein
and artery of the country, and by which English goods are forced, as if
with a force-pump, into every available dep"t in the Union; and thus,
in a town so newly raised, that the stumps of the forest-trees are not
only still surrounding the houses, but remain standing in the cellars,
you will find every luxury that can be required. It may be asked what
becomes of all these goods. It must be recollected that hundreds of new
houses spring up every year in the towns, and that the surrounding
country is populous and wealthy. In the farmhouses —mean-looking and
often built of logs —is to be found not only comfort, but very often
The French never have succeeded as colonists, and their want of
success can only be ascribed to an amiable want of energy. When located
at any spot, if a Frenchman has enough, he seeks no more; and, instead
of working as the Englishman or the American does, he will pass his
time away, and spend his little surplus in social amusements. The town
of Detroit was founded as early as the city of Philadelphia, but,
favourably as it is situated, it never until lately rose to any thing
more than, properly speaking, a large village. There is not a paved
street in it, or even a foot-path for a pedestrian. In winter, in rainy
weather, you are up to your knees in mud; in summer, invisible from
dust: indeed, until lately, there was not a practicable road for thirty
miles round Detroit. The muddy and impassable state of the streets has
given rise to a very curious system of making morning or evening calls.
A small one-horse cart is backed against the door of a house; the
ladies dressed get into it, and seat themselves upon a buffalo skin at
the bottom of it; they are carried to the residence of the party upon
whom they wish to call; the cart is backed in again, and they are
landed dry and clean. An old inhabitant of Detroit complained to me
that people were now getting so proud, that many of them refused to
visit in that way any longer. But owing to the rise of the other towns
on the lake, the great increase of commerce, and Michigan having been
admitted as a State into the Union, with Detroit as its capital, a
large Eastern population has now poured into it, and Detroit will soon
present an appearance very different from its present, and become one
of the most flourishing cities of America. Within these last six years
it has increased its population from two to ten thousand. The climate
here is the very best in America, although the State itself is
unhealthy. The land near the town is fertile. A railroad from Detroit
already extends thirty miles through the State; and now that the work
has commenced, it will be carried on with the usual energy of the
Left Detroit in the Michigan steam-vessel for Mackinaw; passed
through the Lake St. Clair, and entered Lake Huron; stopped at a
solitary wharf to take in wood, and met there with a specimen of
American politeness or (if you please) independence in the gentleman
who cut down and sold it. Without any assignable motive, he called out
to me, "You are a damned fool of an Englishman;" for which, I suppose,
I ought to have been very much obliged to him.
Miss Martineau has not been too lavish in her praises of Mackinaw.
It has the appearance of a fairy isle floating on the water, which is
so pure and transparent that you may see down to almost any depth; and
the air above is as pure as the water, so that you feel invigorated as
you breathe it. The first reminiscence brought to my mind after I had
landed, was the description by Walter Scott of the island and residence
of Magnus Troil and his daughters Minna and Brenda, in the novel of the
The low buildings, long stores, and out-houses full of nets,
barrels, masts, sails, and cordage; the abundance of fish lying about;
the rafters of the houses laden with dried and smoked meat; and the
full and jolly proportions of most of the inhabitants, who would have
rivalled Scott's worthy in height and obesity, immediately struck my
eye; and I might have imagined myself transported to the Shetland isle,
had it not been for the lodges of the Indians on the beach, and the
Indians themselves either running about, or lying stripped in the
porches before the whisky stores.
I inquired of one of the islanders, why all the white residents
were generally such large portly men, which they are at a very early
age; he replied, "We have good air, good water, and what we eat agrees
with us." This was very conclusive.
I enquired of another, if people lived to a good old age in the
island; his reply was quite American —"I guess they do; if people want
to die, they can't die here —they're obliged to go elsewhere."
Wandering among the Indian lodges (wigwams is a term not used
now-a-days), I heard a sort of flute played in one of them, and I
entered. The young Indian who was blowing on it, handed it to me. It
was an imperfect instrument, something between a flute and a clarionet,
but the sound which it gave out was soft and musical. An islander
informed me that it was the only sort of musical instrument which the
Northern tribes possessed, and that it was played upon by the young men
only when they were in love. I suspected at first that he was
bantering me, but I afterwards found that what he said was true. The
young Indian must have been very deeply smitten, for he continued to
play all day and all night, during the time that I was there.
"If music be the food of love, play on."
Started in a birch canoe for Sault St. Marie, a small town built
under the rapids of that name, which pour out a portion of the waters
of Lake Superior. Two American gentlemen, one a member of Congress, and
the other belonging to the American Fur Company, were of the party. Our
crew consisted of five Canadian half-breeds —a mixture between the
Indian and the white, which spoils both. It was a lovely morning; not a
breath of air stirred the wide expanse of the Huron, as far as the eye
could scan; and the canoe, as it floated along side of the
landing-place, appeared as if it were poised in the air, so light did
it float, and so clear and transparent are these northern waters. We
started, and in two hours arrived at Goose Island, unpoetical in its
name, but in itself full of beauty. As you stand on the beach, you can
look down through the water on to the shelving bottom, bright with its
variety of pebbles, and trace it almost as far off as if it had not
been covered with water at all. The island was small, but gay as the
gayest of parterres, covered with the sweet wild rose in full bloom
(certainly the most fragrant rose in the world), blue campanellos,
yellow exeranthemums, and white ox-eyed daisies. Underneath there was a
perfect carpet of strawberries, ripe, and inviting you to eat them,
which we did, while our Canadian brutes swallowed long strings of raw
salt pork. And yet, in two months hence, this lovely little spot will
be but one mass of snow —a mound rising above to serve as a guide to
the chilled traveller who would find his way over the frozen expanse of
the wide Huron Lake.
As soon as our Canadians had filled themselves to repletion with
raw pork, we continued our route that we might cross the lake and gain
the detour, or point which forms the entrance of the river St. Marie,
before it was dark. We arrived a little before sunset, when we landed,
put up our light boat, and bivouacked for the night. As soon as we put
our feet on shore, we were assailed by the mosquitoes in myriads. They
congregated from all quarters in such numbers, that you could only see
as if through a black veil, and you could not speak without having your
mouth filled with them. But in ten minutes we had a large fire, made,
not of logs or branches, but of a dozen small trees. The wind eddied,
and the flame and smoke, as they rose in masses, whirled about the
mosquitoes right and left, and in every quarter of the compass, until
they were fairly beaten off to a respectable distance. We supped upon
lake-trout and fried ham; and rolling ourselves up in our Mackinaw
blankets, we were soon fast asleep.
There was no occasion to call us the next morning. The Canadians
were still snoring, and had let the fires go down. The mosquitoes,
taking advantage of this neglect, had forced their way into the tent,
and sounded the reveille in our ears with their petty trumpets;
following up the summons with the pricking of pins, as the fairies of
Queen Mab are reported to have done to lazy housemaids. We kicked up
our half-breeds, who gave us our breakfast, stowed away the usual
quantity of raw pork, and once more did we float on the water in a
piece of birch bark. The heat of the sun was oppressive, and we were
broiled; but we dipped our hands in the clear cool stream as we skimmed
along, listening to the whistling of the solitary loon as it paddled
away from us, or watching the serrated back of the sturgeon, as he
rolled lazily over and showed above the water. Now and then we stopped,
and the silence of the desert was broken by the report of our
fowling-pieces, and a pigeon or two was added to our larder. At noon a
breeze sprung up, and we hoisted our sail, and the Canadians who had
paddled dropped asleep as we glided quietly along under the guidance of
After you have passed through the river St. Clair, and entered the
Huron lake, the fertility of the country gradually disappears. Here and
there indeed, especially on the Canadian side, a spot more rich than
the soil in general is shewn by the large growth of the timber; but the
northern part of the Lake Huron shores is certainly little fit for
cultivation. The spruce fir now begins to be plentiful; for, until you
come to the upper end of the lake, they are scarce, although very
abundant in Upper Canada. The country wears the same appearance all the
way up to the Sault St. Marie, shewing maple and black poplar
intermingled with fir: the oak but rarely appearing. The whole lake
from Mackinaw to the Detour is studded with islands. A large one at the
entrance of the river is called St. Joseph's. The Hudson Bay Company
had a station there, which is now abandoned, and the island has been
purchased, or granted, to an English officer, who has partly settled
it. It is said to be the best land in this region, but still hardly fit
for cultivation. It was late before our arrival at the Sault, and we
were obliged to have recourse to our paddles, for the wind had died
away. As the sun went down, we observed a very curious effect from the
refraction of tints, the water changing to a bright violet every time
that it was disturbed by the paddles. I have witnessed something like
this just after sunset on the Lake of Geneva.
We landed at dusk, much fatigued; but the Aurora Borealis flashed
in the heavens, spreading out like a vast plume of ostrich feathers
across the sky, every minute changing its beautiful and fanciful forms.
Tired as we were, we watched it for hours before we could make up our
minds to go to bed.
Sault St. Marie —Our landlord is a very strange being. It appears
that he has been annoyed by some traveller, who has published a work in
which he has found fault with the accommodations at Sault St. Marie,
and spoken very disrespectfully of our host's beds and bed-furniture. I
have never read the work, but I am so well aware how frequently
travellers fill up their pages with fleas, and "such small gear," that
I presume the one in question was short of matter to furnish out his
book; yet it was neither just nor liberal on his part to expect at
Sault St. Marie, where, perhaps, not five travellers arrive in the
course of a year, the same accommodations as at New York. The bedsteads
certainly were a little rickety, but every thing was very clean and
comfortable. The house was not an inn, nor, indeed, did it pretend to
be one, but the fare was good and well cooked, and you were waited upon
by the host's two pretty modest daughters —not only pretty, but
well-informed girls; and, considering that this village is the Ultima
Thule of this portion of America, I think that a traveller might have
been very well content with things as they were. In two instances, I
found in the log-houses of this village complete editions of Lord
Sault St. Marie contains, perhaps, fifty houses, mostly built of
logs, and has a palisade put up to repel any attack of the Indians.
There are two companies of soldiers quartered here. The rapids from
which the village takes its name are just above it; they are not strong
or dangerous, and the canoes descend them twenty times a day. At the
foot of the rapids the men are constantly employed in taking the white
fish in scoop nets, as they attempt to force their way up into Lake
Superior. The majority of the inhabitants here are half-breeds. It is
remarkable that the females generally improve, and the males
degenerate, from the admixture of blood. Indian wives are here
preferred to white, and perhaps with reason —they make the best wives
for poor men; they labour hard, never complain, and a day of severe
toil is amply recompensed by a smile from their lord and master in the
evening. They are always faithful and devoted, and very sparing of
their talk, all which qualities are considered as recommendations in
this part of the world.
It is remarkable, that although the Americans treat the negro with
contumely, they have a respect for the red Indian: a well-educated
half-bred Indian is not debarred from entering into society; indeed,
they are generally received with great attention. The daughter of a
celebrated Indian chief brings heraldry into the family, for the
Indians are as proud of their descent (and with good reason) as we, in
Europe, are of ours. The Randolph family in Virginia still boast of
their descent from Pocahontas, the heroine of one of the most
remarkable romances in real life which was ever heard of.
The whole of this region appears to be incapable of cultivation,
and must remain in its present state, perhaps, for centuries to come.
The chief produce is from the lakes; trout and white fish are caught in
large quantities, salted down, and sent to the west and south. At
Mackinaw alone they cure about two thousand barrels, which sell for ten
dollars the barrel; at the Sault, about the same quantity; and on Lake
Superior, at the station of the American Fur Company, they have
commenced the fishing, to lessen the expenses of the establishment, and
they now salt down about four thousand barrels; but this traffic is
still in its infancy, and will become more profitable as the west
becomes more populous. Be it here observed that, although the Canadians
have the same rights and the same capabilities of fishing, I do not
believe that one barrel is cured on the Canadian side. As the American
fish is prohibited in England, it might really become an article of
exportation from the Canadas to a considerable amount.
There is another source of profit, which is the collecting of the
maple sugar; and this staple, if I may use the term, is rapidly
increasing. At an average, the full grown maple-tree will yield about
five pounds of sugar each tapping, and, if carefully treated, will last
forty years. All the State of Michigan is supplied from this quarter
with this sugar, which is good in quality, and refines well. At
Mackinaw they receive about three hundred thousand pounds every year.
It may be collected in any quantity from their vast wildernesses of
forests, and although the notion may appear strange, it is not
impossible that one day the Northern sugar may supersede that of the
Tropics. The island of St. Joseph, which I have mentioned, is covered
with large maple trees, and they make a great quantity upon that spot
I was amused by a reply given me by an American in office here. I
asked how much his office was worth, and his answer was six hundred
dollars, besides stealings. This was, at all events, frank and
honest; in England the word would have been softened down to
perquisites. I afterwards found that it was a common expression in the
States to say a place was worth so much besides cheatage.
In all this country, from Mackinaw to the Sault, hay is very
scarce; and, during the short summer season, the people go twenty or
thirty miles in their canoes to any known patch of prairie or grass
land to collect it. Nevertheless, they are very often obliged, during
the winter, to feed their cattle upon fish, and, strange to say, they
acquire a taste for it. You will see the horses and cows disputing for
the offal; and our landlord told me that he has often witnessed a
particular horse wait very quietly while they were landing the fish
from the canoes, watch his opportunity, dart in, steal one, and run
away with it in his mouth.
A mutiny among our lazzaroni of half-breeds, they refuse to work
today, because they are tired, they say, and we are obliged to procure
others. Carried our canoe over the pasturage into the canal, and in
five minutes were on the vast inland sea of Lake Superior. The waters
of this lake are, if possible, more transparent than those of the
Huron, or rather the variety and bright colours of the pebbles and
agates which lie at the bottom, make them appear so. The appearance of
the coast, and the growth of timber, are much the same as on Lake
Huron, until you arrive at Gros Cape, a bold promontory, about three
hundred feet high. We ascended this cape, to have a full view of the
expanse of water: this was a severe task, as it was nearly
perpendicular, and we were forced to cling from tree to tree to make
the ascent. In addition to this difficulty, we were unremittingly
pursued by the mosquitoes, which blinded us so as to impede our
progress, being moreover assisted in their malevolent attacks by a sort
of sand-fly, that made triangular incisions behind our ears, exactly
like a small leech bite, from which the blood trickled down two or
three inches as soon as the little wretch let go his hold. This variety
of stinging made us almost mad, and we descended quite exhausted, the
blood trickling down our faces and necks. We threw off our clothes, and
plunged into the lake; the water was too cold; the agates at the bottom
cut our feet severely, and thus were we phlebotomised from head to foot.
There is a singular geological feature at this cape; you do not
perceive it until you have forced your way through a belt of firs,
which grow at the bottom and screen it from sight. It is a ravine in
which the rocks are pouring down from the top to the bottom, all so
equal in size, and so arranged, as to wear the appearance of a cascade
of stones; and when, half blinded by the mosquitoes, you look upon
them, they appear as if they are actually in motion, and falling down
in one continued stream. We embarked again, and after an hour's
paddling landed upon a small island, where was the tomb of an Indian
chief or warrior. It was in a beautiful spot, surrounded by the wild
rose, blue peas, and campanellas. The kinnakinnee, or weed which the
Indians smoke as tobacco, grew plentifully about it. The mound of earth
was surrounded by a low palisade, about four feet wide and seven feet
long, and at the head of it was the warrior's pole, with eagle
feathers, and notches denoting the number of scalps he had taken from
The Hudson Bay and American Fur Companies both have stations on
Lake Superior, on their respective sides of the lake, and the Americans
have a small schooner which navigates it. There is one question which
the traveller cannot help asking himself as he surveys the vast mass of
water, into which so many rivers pour their contributions, which is
—In what manner is all this accumulation of water carried off? Except
by a very small evaporation in the summer time, and the outlet at Sault
St. Marie, where the water which escapes is not much more than equal
to two or three of the rivers which feed the lake, there is no apparent
means by which the water is carried off. The only conclusion that can
be arrived at is, that when the lake rises above a certain height, as
the soil around is sandy and porous, the surplus waters find their way
through it; and such I believe to be the case.
We saw no bears. They do not come down to the shores, (or travel,
as they term it here,) until the huckleberries are ripe. We were told
that a month later there would be plenty of them. It is an ascertained
fact, that the bears from this region migrate to the west every autumn,
but it is not known when they return. They come down to the eastern
shores of the Lakes Superior and Huron, swim the lakes and rivers from
island to island, never deviating from their course, till they pass
through by Wisconsin to the Missisippi. Nothing stops them; the sight
of a canoe will not prevent their taking the water; and the Indians in
the River St. Marie have been known to kill fifteen in one day. It is
singular that the bears on the other side of the Missisippi are said to
migrate to the east, exactly in the contrary direction. Perhaps the
Missisippi is their fashionable watering-place.
A gathering storm induced us to return, instead of continuing our
progress on the lake. A birch canoe in a gale of wind on Lake Superior,
would not be a very insurable risk. On our return, we found our
half-breeds very penitent, for had we not taken them back, they would
have stood a good chance of wintering there. But we had had advice as
to the treatment of these lazy gluttonous scoundrels, who swallowed
long pieces of raw pork the whole of the day, and towards evening were,
from repletion, hanging their heads over the sides of the canoe and
quite ill. They had been regaled with pork and whisky going up; we gave
them salt fish and a broomstick by way of variety on their return, and
they behaved very well under the latter fare.
We started again down with the stream, and the first night took up
our quarters on a prairie spot, where they had been making hay, which
was lying in cocks about us. To have a soft bed we carried quantities
into our tent, forgetting that we disturbed the mosquitoes who had gone
to bed in the hay. We smoked the tent to drive them out again; but in
smoking the tent we set fire to the hay, and it ended in a
conflagration. We were burnt out, and had to re-pitch our tent.
I was sauntering by the side of the river when I heard a rustling
in the grass, and perceived a garter snake, an elegant and harmless
little creature, about a foot and a half long. It had a small toad in
its mouth, which it had seized by the head: but it was much too large
for the snake to swallow, without leisure and preparation. I was amused
at the precaution, I may say invention of the toad, to prevent its
being swallowed: it had inflated itself, till it was as round as a
bladder, and upon this, issue was joined —the snake would not let go,
the toad would not he swallowed. I lifted up the snake by the tail and
threw them three or four yards into the river. The snake rose to the
surface, as majestic as the great sea serpent in miniature, carrying
his head well out of the water, with the toad still in his mouth,
reminding me of Caesar with his Commentaries. He landed close to my
feet; I threw him in again, and this time he let go the toad, which
remained floating and inanimate an the water; but after a time he
discharged his superfluous gas, and made for the shore; while the
snake, to avoid me, swam away down with the current.
The next morning it blew hard, and as we opened upon Lake Huron, we
had to encounter a heavy sea; fortunately, the wind was fair for the
island of Mackinaw, or we might have been delayed for some days. As
soon as we were in the Lake we made sail, having fifty-six miles to
run before it was dark. The gale increased, but the canoe flew over
the water, skimming it like a sea bird. It was beautiful, but not quite
so pleasant, to watch it, as, upon the least carelessness on the part
of the helmsman, it would immediately have filled. As it was, we
shipped some heavy seas, but the blankets at the bottom being
saturated, gave us the extra ballast which we required. Before we were
clear of the islands, we were joined by a whole fleet of Indian canoes,
with their dirty blankets spread to the storm, running, as we were, for
Mackinaw, being on their return from Maniton Islands, where they had
congregated to receive presents from the Governor of Upper Canada.
Their canoes were, most of them, smaller than ours, which had been
built for speed, but they were much higher in the gunnel. It was
interesting to behold so many hundreds of beings trusting themselves to
such fragile conveyances, in a heavy gale and running sea; but the
harder it blew, the faster we went; and at last, much to my
satisfaction, we found ourselves in smooth water again, alongside of
the landing wharf at Mackinaw. I had had some wish to see a freshwater
gale of wind, but in a birch canoe I never wish to try the experiment
Mackinaw. —I mentioned that, in my trip to Lake Superior, I was
accompanied by a gentleman attached to the American Fur Company, who
have a station at this island. I was amusing myself in their
establishment, superintending the unpacking and cleaning of about forty
or fifty bales of skins, and during the time collected the following
information. It is an average computation of the furs obtained every
year, and the value of each to the American Fur Company. The Hudson Bay
Company are supposed to average about the same quantity, or rather
more; and they have a larger proportion of valuable furs, such as
beaver and sable, but they have few deer and no buffalo. When we
consider how sterile and unfit for cultivation are these wild northern
regions, it certainly appears better that they should remain as they
besides skunks, ground-hogs, hares, and many others. These are priced
at the lowest: in proportion as the skins are finer, so do they yield
higher profit. The two companies may be said to receive, between them,
skins yearly to the amount of from two to three millions of dollars.
Fable apropos to the subject.
|Deer, four varieties
||45 cents per lb.
||5 dollars per skin
||4½ dollars per lb.
||12 cents per skin
||6½ dollars per skin
|Martin or Sable
||2 do. or more
|Silver and Black Fox
||4 dollars per skin
A hare and a fox met one day on the vast prairie, and after a long
conversation, they prepared to start upon their several routes. The
hare, pleased with the fox, lamented that they would in all probability
separate for ever. "No, no," replied the fox, "we shall meet again,
never fear." "Where?" inquired his companion. "In the hatter's shop
, to be sure," rejoined the fox, tripping lightly away.
Detroit. —There are some pleasant people in this town, and
the society is quite equal to that of the eastern cities. From the
constant change and transition which take place in this country, go
where you will you are sure to fall in with a certain portion of
intelligent, educated people. This is not the case in the remoter
portions of the Old Continent, where every thing is settled, and
generation succeeds generation, as in some obscure country town. But in
America, where all is new, and the country has to be peopled from the
other parts, there is a proportion of intelligence and education
transplanted with the inferior classes, either from the Eastern States
or from the Old World, in whatever quarter you may happen to find
Left my friends at Detroit with regret, and returned to Buffalo.
There is a marked difference between the behaviour of the lower people
of the eastern cities and those whom you fall in with in this town:
they are much less civil in their behaviour here; indeed, they appear
to think rudeness a proof of independence. I went to the theatre, and
the behaviour of the majority of the company just reminded me of the
Portsmouth and Plymouth theatres. I had forgotten that Buffalo was a
fresh-water sea-port town.
Returning to Niagara, I took possession of the roof of the
rail-coach, that I might enjoy the prospect. I had not travelled three
miles before I perceived a strong smell of burning; at last the pocket
of my coat, which was of cotton, burst out into flames, a spark having
found its way into it: fortunately (not being insured) there was no
property on the premises.
When the celebrated Colonel David Crocket first saw a locomotive,
with the train smoking along the rail-road, he exclaimed, as it flew
past him, "Hell in harness, by the 'tarnel!"
I may, in juxtaposition with this, mention an Indian idea. Nothing
surprised the Indians so much at first, as the percussion for guns:
they thought them the ne plus ultra of invention: when,
therefore, an Indian was first shewn a locomotive, he reflected a
little while, and then said, "I see —percussion."
There is a beautiful island, dividing the Falls of Niagara, called
Goat Island: they have thrown a bridge across the rapids, so that you
can now go over. A mill has already been erected there, which is a
great pity; it is a contemptible disfigurement of nature's grandest
At the head of the island, which is surrounded by the rapids,
exactly where the waters divide to run on each side of it, there is a
small triangular portion of still or slack water. I perceived this, and
went in to bathe. The line of the current on each side of it is plainly
marked, and runs at the speed of nine or ten miles an hour; if you put
your hand or foot a little way outside this line, they are immediately
borne away by its force; if you went into it yourself, nothing could
prevent your going down the falls. As I returned, I observed an ugly
snake in my path, and I killed it. An American, who came up, exclaimed,
"I reckon that's a copper-head, stranger! I never knew that they
were in this island." I found out that I had killed a snake quite as
venomous, if not more so, than a rattlesnake.
One never tires with these falls; indeed, it takes a week at least
to find out all their varieties and beauties. There are some sweet
spots on Goat Island, where you can meditate and be alone.
I witnessed, during my short stay here, that indifference to the
destruction of life, so very remarkable in this country. The rail-car
crushed the head of a child of about seven years old, as it was going
into the engine-house; the other children ran to the father, a
blacksmith, who was at work at his forge close by, crying out, "Father,
Billy killed." The man put down his hammer, walked leisurely to where
the boy lay, in a pool of his own blood, took up the body, and returned
with it under his arm to his house. In a short time, the hammer rang
upon the anvil as before.
The game of nine-pins is a favourite game in America, and very
superior to what it is in England. In America, the ground is always
covered properly over, and the balls are rolled upon a wooden floor, as
correctly levelled as a billiard table. The ladies join in the game,
which here becomes an agreeable and not too fatiguing [an] exercise. I
was very fond of frequenting their alleys, not only for the exercise,
but because, among the various ways of estimating character, I had made
up my mind that there was none more likely to be correct, than the
estimate formed by the manner in which people roll the balls,
especially the ladies. There were some very delightful specimens of
American females when I was this time at Niagara. We sauntered about
the falls and wood in the day time, or else played at nine-pins; in the
evening we looked at the moon, spouted verses, and drank mint juleps.
But all that was too pleasant to last long: I felt that I had not come
to America to play at nine-pins; so I tore myself away, and within the
next twenty-four hours found myself at Toronto, in Upper Canada.
Toronto, which is the present capital and seat of government of
Upper Canada, is, from its want of spires and steeples, by no means an
imposing town, as you view it on entering the harbour. The harbour
itself is landlocked, and when deepened will be very good. A great deal
of money has been expended by the English government upon the Canadian
provinces, but not very wisely. The Rideau and Willend canals are
splendid works; they have nothing to compare with them in the United
States; but they are too much in advance of the country, and will be of
but little use for a long period, if the provinces do not go a-head
faster than they do now. One half the money spent in making good roads
through the provinces would have done more good, and would have much
increased the value of property. The proposed rail-road from Hamilton
to Detroit would be of greater importance; and if more money is to he
expended on Upper Canada, it cannot be better disposed of than in this
The minute you put your foot on shore, you feel that you are no
longer in the United States; you are at once struck with the difference
between the English and the American population, systems, and ideas.
On the other side of the Lake you have much more apparent property, but
much less real solidity and security. The houses and stores at Toronto
are not to be compared with those of the American towns opposite. But
the Englishman has built according to his means —the American,
according to his expectations. The hotels and inns at Toronto are very
bad; at Buffalo they are splendid: for the Englishman travels little;
the American is ever on the move. The private houses of Toronto are
built, according to the English taste and desire of exclusiveness, away
from the road, and are embowered in trees; the American, let his house
be ever so large, or his plot of ground however extensive, builds
within a few feet of the road, that he may see and know what is going
on. You do not perceive the bustle, the energy, and activity at
Toronto, that you do at Buffalo, nor the profusion of articles in the
stores; but it should be remembered that the Americans procure their
articles upon credit, whilst at Toronto they proceed more cautiously.
The Englishman builds his house and furnishes his store according to
his means and fair expectations of being able to meet his acceptances.
If an American has money sufficient to build a two-story house, he will
raise it up to four stories on speculation. We must not, on one side,
be dazzled with the effects of the credit system in America, nor yet be
too hasty in condemning it. It certainly is the occasion of much
over-speculation; but if the parties who speculate are ruined, provided
the money has been laid out, as it usually is in America, upon real
property —such as wharfs, houses, &c. —a new country becomes a
gainer, as the improvements are made and remain, although they fall
into other hands. And it should be further pointed out, that the
Americans are justified in their speculations from the fact, that
property improved rises so fast in value, that they are soon able to
meet all claims and realise a handsome profit. They speculate on the
future; but the future with them is not distant as it is with us, ten
years in America being, as I have before observed, equal to a century
in Europe: they are therefore warranted in so speculating. The property
in Buffalo is now worth one hundred times what it was when the first
speculators commenced; for as the country and cities become peopled,
and the communication becomes easy, so does the value of every thing
Why, then, does not Toronto vie with Buffalo? Because the Canadas
cannot obtain the credit which is given to the United States, and of
which Buffalo has her portion. America has returns to make to England
in her cotton crops: Canada has nothing; for her timber would be
nothing, if it were not protected. She cannot, therefore, obtain credit
as America does. What, then, do the Canadas require, in order to become
I must not, however, omit to inform my readers that at Toronto I
received a letter from a "Brother Author," who was polite enough to
send me several specimens of his poetry; stating the remarkable fact,
that he had never written a verse until he was past forty-five years of
age; and that, as to the unfair accusation of his having plagiarised
from Byron, it was not true, for he never had read Byron in his life.
Having put the reader in possession of these facts, I shall now select
one of his printed poems for his gratification:—
From the Regard the Author has for the
Ladies Of Toronto,
He presents them with the following
To the Ladies of the City of Toronto.
How famed is our city
For the beauty and talents
Of our ladies, that's pretty
chaste in their
The ladies of Toronto
Are fine, noble, and charming,
And are a great memento
To all, most fascinating.
Our ladies are the best kind,
Of all others the most fine;
In their manners and their minds
Most refined and
We are proud of our ladies,
For they are superior
To all other beauties
And others are inferior.
How favoured is our land
To be honoured with the fair,
That is so majestic grand!
And to please them is our care.
Who would not choose them before
All others that's to be found,
And think of others no more?
Their like is not in the world round.
21st Jan. 1837.
Through Lake Ontario to Montreal, by rail road to Lake Champlain, and
then by steamboat to Burlington.
Burlington is a pretty county town on the border of the Lake
Champlain; there is a large establishment for the education of boys
kept here by the Bishop of Vermont, a clever man: it is said to be well
conducted, and one of the best in the Union. The bishop's salary, as
bishop, is only five hundred dollars; as a preacher of the established
church he receives seven hundred; whilst as a schoolmaster his revenue
becomes very handsome. The bishop is just now in bad odour with the majority, for having published some very sensible objections to the
Revivals and Temperance Societies.
Plattsburg. —This was the scene of an American triumph. I was
talking with a States officer, who was present during the whole affair,
and was much amused with his description of it. There appeared to be
some fatality attending almost all our attacks upon America during the
last war; and it should be remarked, that whenever the Americans
entered upon our territory, they met with similar defeat. Much
allowance must at course be made for ignorance of the country, and of
the strength and disposition of the enemy's force; but certainly there
was no excuse for the indecision shewn by the British general, with
such a force as he had under his command.
Now that the real facts are known, one hardly knows whether to
laugh or feel indignant. The person from whom I had the information is
of undoubted respectability. At the time that our general advanced with
an army of 7,000 Peninsular troops, there were but 1,000 militia at
Plattsburg, those ordered out from the interior of the State not having
arrived. It is true that there were 2,000 of the Vermont militia at
Burlington opposite to Plattsburg, but when they were sent for, they
refused to go there; they were alarmed at the preponderating force of
the British, and they stood upon their State rights —i.e., militia
raised in a State are not bound to leave it, being raised for the
defence of that State alone. The small force at Plattsburg hardly knew
whether to retreat or not; they expected large reinforcements under
General McCoomb, but did not know when they would come. At last it was
proposed and agreed to that they should spread themselves and keep up
an incessant firing, but out of distance, so as to make the British
believe they had a much larger force than they really possessed; and on
this judicious plan they acted, and succeeded.
In the mean time, the British general was anxious for the
assistance of the squadron on the lakes, under Commodore Downie, and
pressed him to the attack of the American squadron then off Plattsburg.
Some sharp remarks from the General proved fatal to our cause by
water. Downie, stung by his insinuations, rushed inconsiderately into a close engagement. Now, Commodore Downie's vessels had all long
guns. McDonough's vessels had only carronades. Had, therefore, Downie
not thrown away this advantage, by engaging at close quarters, there is
fair reason to suppose that the victory would have been ours, as he
could have chosen his distance, and the fire of the American vessels
would have been comparatively harmless; but he ran down close to
McDonough's fleet, and engaged them broadside to broadside, and then
the carronades of the Americans, being of heavy calibre, threw the
advantage on their side. Downie was killed by the wind of a shot a few
minutes after the commencement of the action. Still it was the hardest
contested action of the war; Pring being well worthy to take Downie's
It was impossible to have done more on either side; and the
gentleman who gave me this information added, that McDonough told him
that so nicely balanced were the chances, that he took out his watch
just before the British colours were hauled down, and observed, "If
they hold out ten minutes more, it will be more than, I am afraid, we
can do." As soon as the victory was decided on the part of the
Americans, the British general commenced his retreat, and was followed
by this handful of militia. In a day or two afterwards, General McCoomb
came up, and a large force was poured in from all quarters.
There was something very similar and quite as ridiculous in the
affair at Sackett's harbour. Our forces advancing would have cut off
some hundreds of the American militia, who were really
retreating, but by a road which led in such a direction as for a time
to make the English commandant suppose that they were intending to take
him in flank. This made him imagine that they must be advancing in
large numbers, when, the fact was, they were running away from his
superior force. He made a retreat; upon ascertaining which, the
Americans turned back and followed him, harassing his rear.
I was told, at Baltimore, that had the English advanced, the
American militia was quite ready to run away, not having the idea of
opposing themselves to trained soldiers. It really was very absurd; but
in many instances during the war, which have come to my knowledge, it
was exactly this, —"If you don't run, I will; but if you will, I
The name given by the French to Vermont, designates the features of
the country, which is composed of small mountains, covered with verdure
to their summits; but the land is by no means good.
At the bottoms, on the banks of the rivers, the alluvial soil is
rich, and, generally speaking, the land in this State admits of
cultivation about half-way up the mountains; after which, it is fit for
nothing but sheep-walks, or to grow small timber upon. I have travelled
much in the Eastern States, and have been surprised to find how very
small a portion of all of them is under cultivation, considering how
long they have been settled; nor will there be more of the land taken
up, I presume, for a long period; that is to say, not until the West is
so over-peopled that a reflux is compelled to fall back into the
Eastern States, and the crowded masses, like the Gulf-stream, find vent
to the northward and eastward.
Set off by coach, long before day-light. There is something very
gratifying when once you are up, in finding yourself up before
the sun; you can repeat to yourself, "How doth the little busy bee,"
with such satisfaction. Some few stars still twinkled in the sky,
winking like the eyelids of tired sentinels, but soon they were
relieved, one after another, by the light of morning.
It was still dark when we started, and off we went, up hill and
down hill —short steep pitches, as they term them here —at a
furious rate. There was no level ground; it was all undulating, and
very trying to the springs. But an American driver stops at nothing; he
will flog away with six horses in hand; and it is wonderful how few
accidents happen: but it is very fatiguing, and one hundred miles of
American travelling by stage, is equal to four hundred in England.
There is much amusement to be extracted from the drivers of these
stages, if you will take your seat with them on the front, which few
Americans do, as they prefer the inside. One of the drivers, soon after
we had changed our team, called out to the off-leader, as he flanked
her with his whip. "Go along, you no-tongued crittur!"
"Why no-tongued?" enquired I.
"Well, I reckon she has no tongue, having bitten it off herself, I
was going to say —but it wasn't exactly that, neither."
"How was it, then?"
"Well now, the fact is, that she is awful ugly," (ill-tempered);
"she bites like a badger, and kicks up as high as the church-steeple.
She's an almighty crittur to handle. I was trying to hitch her
under-jaw like, with the halter, but she worretted so, that I could
only hitch her tongue: she ran back, the end of the halter was fast to
the ring, and so she left her tongue in the hitch —that's a fact
"I wonder it did not kill her; didn't she bleed very much? How does
she contrive to eat her corn?"
"Well, now, she bled pretty considerable —but not to speak off. I
did keep her one day in the stable, because I thought she might
feel queer; since that she has worked in the team every day; and
she'll eat her peck of corn with any horse in the stable. But her
tongue is out, that's certain —so she'll tell no more lies!"
Not the least doubting my friend's veracity I, nevertheless, took
an opportunity, when we changed, of ascertaining the fact; and her
tongue was half of it out, that is the fact.
When we stopped, we had to shift the luggage to another coach. The
driver, who was a slight man, was, for some time, looking rather
puzzled at the trunks which lay on the road, and which he had to put
on the coach: he tried to lift one of the largest, let it down again,
and then beckoned to me:—
"I say, captain, them four large trunks be rather overmuch for me;
but I guess you can master them, so just lift them up on the hind board
I complied; and as I had to lift them as high as my head, they
required all my strength.
"Thank ye, captain; don't trouble yourself any more, the rest be
all right, and I can manage them myself."
The Americans never refuse to assist each other in such
difficulties as this. In a young country they must assist each other,
if they wish to be assisted themselves —and there always will be a
mutual dependence. If a man is in a fix in America, every one
stops to assist him, and expects the same for himself.
Bellows Falls, a beautiful, romantic spot on the Connecticut River,
which separates the States of New Hampshire and Vermont. The masses of
rocks through which the river forces its way at the Falls, are very
grand and imposing; and the surrounding hills, rich with the autumnal
tints, rivet the eye. On these masses of rocks are many faces, cut out
by the tribe of Pequod Indians, who formerly used to fish in their
waters. Being informed that there was to be a militia muster, I
resolved to attend it.
The militia service is not in good odour with the Americans just
now. Formerly, when they did try to do as well as they could, the scene
was absurd enough; but now they do all they can to make it ridiculous.
In this muster there were three or four companies, well equipped; but
the major part of the men were what they call here flood-wood,
that is, of all sizes and heights —a term suggested by the pieces of
wood borne down by the freshets of the river, and which are of all
sorts, sizes, and lengths. But not only were the men of all sorts and
sizes, but the uniforms also, some of which were the most extraordinary
I ever beheld, and not unlike the calico dresses worn by the tumblers
and vaulters at an English fair. As for the exercise, they either did
not, or would not, know any thing about it; indeed, as they are now
mustered but once a year, it cannot be expected that they should; but
as they faced every way, and made mistakes on purpose, it is evident,
from their consistent pertinacity in being wrong, that they did know
something. When they marched off single file, quick time, they were one
half of them dancing in and out of the ranks to the lively tune which
was played —the only instance I saw of their keeping time. But the
most amusing part of the ceremony was the speech made by the brigade
major, whose patience had certainly been tried, and who wished to
impress his countrymen with the importance of the militia. He ordered
them to form a hollow square. They formed a circle, proving that if
they could not square the circle, at all events they could circle the
square, which is coming very near to it. The major found himself, on
his white horse, in an arena about as large as that in which Mr. Ducrow
performs at Astley's. He then commenced a sort of perambulating
equestrian speech, riding round and round the circle, with his cocked
hat in his hand. As the arena was large, and he constantly turned his
head as he spoke to those nearest to him in the circle, it was only
when he came to within a few yards of you, that you could distinguish
what he was saying; and of course the auditors at the other point were
in the same predicament. However, he divided his speech out in portions
very equally, and those which came to my share were as follows:
"Yes, gentlemen —the president, senate, and house of
representatives, and all others ... you militia, the bones and muscle
of the land, and by whom ... Eagle of America shall ruffle her wings,
will ever dart ... those days so glorious, when our gallant forefathers
... terrible effect of the use of ardent spirits, and shewing ...
Temperance societies, the full benefits of which, I am ...
Star-spangled banner, ever victorious, blazing like—..."
The last word I heard was
glory; but his audience being very
impatient for their dinner, cried out loudly for it —preferring it to
the mouthfuls of eloquence which fell to their share, but did not stay
their stomach. Altogether it was a scene of much fun and good-humour.
Stopped at the pretty village of Charlestown, celebrated for the
defence it made during the French war. There is here, running by the
river side, a turnpike road, which gave great offence to the American
citizens of this State: they declared that to pay toll was monarchical, as they always assert every thing to be which taxes
their pockets. So, one fine night, they assembled with a hawser and a
team or two of horses, made the hawser fast to the house at the gate,
dragged it down to the river, and sent it floating down the stream,
with the gate and board of tolls in company with it.
Progressing in the stage, I had a very amusing specimen of the
ruling passion of the country —the spirit of barter, which is
communicated to the females, as well as to the boys. I will stop for a
moment, however, to say, that I heard of an American, who had two sons,
and he declared that they were so clever at barter, that he locked them
both up together in a room, without a cent in their pockets, and that
before they had swopped for an hour, they had each gained two
dollars a piece. But now for my fellow-passengers —both young, both
good-looking, and both ladies, and evidently were total strangers to
each other. One had a pretty pink silk bonnet, very fine for
travelling; the other, an indifferent plush one. The young lady in the
plush, eyed the pink bonnet for some time: at last Plush
observed in a drawling half-indifferent way:
"That's rather a pretty bonnet of your's, miss."
"Why yes, I calculate it's rather smart," replied Pink.
After a pause and closer survey. —"You wouldn't have any objection
to part with it, miss?"
"Well now, I don't know but I might; I have worn it but three days,
"Oh, my! I should have reckoned that you carried it longer
—perhaps it rained on them three days."
"I've a notion it didn't rain, not one. —It's not the only bonnet
I have, miss."
"Well now, I should not mind an exchange, and paying you the
"That's an awful thing that you have on, miss!"
"I rather think not, but that's as may be. —Come, miss, what will
"Why I don't know, —what will you give?"
"I reckon you'll know best when you answer my question."
"Well then, I shouldn't like less than five dollars."
"Five dollars and my bonnet! I reckon two would be nearer the mark
—but it's of no consequence."
"None in the least, miss, only I know the value of my bonnet.
—We'll say no more about it."
"Just so, miss."
A pause and silence for half a minute, when Miss Plush, looks out
of the window, and says, as if talking to herself, "I shouldn't mind
giving four dollars, but no more." She then fell back in her seat, when
Miss Pink, put her head out of the window, and said:— "I shouldn't
refuse four dollars after all, if it was offered," and then she fell
back to her former position.
"Did you think of taking four dollars, miss?"
"Well! I don't care, I've plenty of bonnets at home."
"Well," replied Plush, taking out her purse, and offering her the
"What bank is this, miss?"
"Oh, all's right there, Safety Fund, I calculate."
The two ladies exchange bonnets, and Pink pockets the balance.
I may here just as well mention the custom of
which is so common in the Eastern States. It is a habit, arising from
the natural restlessness of the American when he is not employed, of
cutting a piece of stick, or any thing else, with his knife. Some are
so wedded to it from long custom, that if they have not a piece of
stick to cut, they will whittle the backs of the chairs, or any thing
within their reach. A yankee shewn into a room to await the arrival of
another, has been known to whittle away nearly the whole of the
mantle-piece. Lawyers in court whittle away at the table before them;
and judges will cut through their own bench. In some courts, they put
sticks before noted whittlers to save the furniture. The Down-Easters,
as the yankees are termed generally, whittle when they are making a
bargain, as it fills up the pauses, gives them time for reflection, and
moreover, prevents any examination of the countenance —for in
bargaining, like in the game of brag, the countenance is carefully
watched, as an index to the wishes. I was once witness to a bargain
made between two respectable yankees, who wished to agree about a farm,
and in which whittling was resorted to.
They sat down on a log of wood, about, three or four feet apart
from each other, with their faces turned opposite ways —that is, one
had his legs on one side of the log with his face to the East, and the
other his legs on the other side with his face to the West. One had a
piece of soft wood, and was sawing it with his penknife; the other had
an unbarked hiccory stick which he was peeling for a walking-stick. The
reader will perceive a strong analogy between this bargain and that in
the stage between the two ladies.
"Well, good morning —and about this farm?"
"I don't know; what will you take?"
"What will you give?"
Silence, and whittle away.
"Well, I should think two thousand dollars, a heap of money for
"I've a notion it will never go for three thousand, any how."
"There's a fine farm, and cheaper, on the North side."
"But where's the sun to ripen the corn?"
"Sun shines on all alike."
"Not exactly through a Vermont hill, I reckon. The driver offered
me as much as I say, if I recollect right."
"Money not always to be depended upon. Money not always
"I reckon, I shall make an elegant 'backy stopper of this piece of
Silence for a few moments. Knives hard at work.
"I've a notion this is as pretty a hiccory stick as ever came out
of a wood."
"I shouldn't mind two thousand five hundred dollars, and time
"It couldn't be more than six months then, if it goes at that
"Well, that might suit me."
"What do you say, then?"
"Suppose it must be so."
"It's a bargain then," rising up; "come let's liquor on it."
The farmers on the banks of the Connecticut river are the richest in
the Eastern States. The majestic growth of the timber certified that
the soil is generally good, although the crops were off the ground.
They grow here a large quantity of what is called the broom corn: the
stalk and leaves are similar to the maize or Indian corn, but, instead
of the ear, it throws out, at top and on the sides, spiky plumes on
which seed is carried. These plumes are cut off, and furnish the brooms
and whisks of the country; it is said to be a very profitable crop. At
Brattleboro' we stopped at an inn kept by one of the State
representatives, and, as may be supposed, had very bad fare in
consequence, the man being above his business. We changed horses at
Bloody Brook, so termed in consequence of a massacre of the settlers
by the Indians. But there are twenty Bloody Brooks in America, all
records of similar catastrophes.
Whether the Blue laws of Connecticut are supposed to be still in
force I know not, but I could not discover that they had ever been
repealed. At present there is no theatre in Connecticut, nor does
anybody venture to propose one. The proprietors of one of the
equestrian studs made their appearance at the confines of the State,
and intimated that they wished to perform, but were given to understand
that their horses would be confiscated if they entered the State. The
consequence is that Connecticut is the dullest, most disagreeable State
in the Union; and, if I am to believe the Americans themselves, so far
from the morals of the community being kept uncontaminated by this
rigour, the very reverse is the case —especially as respects the
college students, who are in the secret practice of more vice than is
to be found in any other establishment of the kind in the Union. But
even if I had not been so informed by creditable people, I should have
decided in my own mind that such was the case. Human nature is
everywhere the same.
It may be interesting to make a few extracts from a copy of the
records and of the Blue laws which I have in my possession, as it will
show that if these laws were still in force how hard they would now
bear upon the American community. In the extracts from the records
which follow I have altered a word or two, so as to render them fitter
for perusal, but the sense remains the same:
"(13.) If any childe or children above sixteene yeares old, and of
suffitient understanding, shall curse or smite their naturall father or
mother, hee or they shall bee put to death; unless it can be
sufficiently testified that the parents have been very unchristianly
negligent in the education of such children, or so provoke them by
extreme and cruell correction that they have been forced thereunto to
preserve themselves from death, maiming. —Exo., xxi., 17. Levit., xx.
Ex., xxi., 15.
"(14.) If any man have a stubborne and rebellious sonne of
sufficient yeares and understanding, viz., sixteene yeares of age,
which will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother,
and that when they have chastened him will not hearken unto them, then
may his father and mother, being his naturall parents, lay hold on him,
and bring him to the magistrates assembled in courte, and testifie unto
them that their sonne is stubborne and rebellious, and will not obey
theire voice and chastisement, but lives in sundry notorious crimes
—such a sonne shall bee put to death. —Deut., xxi, 20, 21.
"(Lyinge.) That every person of the age of discretion, which
is accounted fourteene yeares, who shall wittingly and willingly make,
or publish, any lye which may be pernicious to the publique weal, or
tending to the dammage or injury of any perticular person, to deceive
and abuse the people with false news or reportes, and the same duly
prooved in any courte, or before any one magistrate, who hath hereby
power granted to heare and determine all offences against this lawe,
such person shall bee fyned —for the first offence, ten shillings, or
if the party bee unable to pay the same, then to be sett in the stocks
so long as the said courte or magistrate shall appointe, in some open
place, not exceeding three houres; for the second offence in that
kinde, whereof any shall bee legally convicted, the summe of twenty
shillings, or be whipped uppon the naked body, not exceeding twenty
stripes; and for the third offence that way, forty shillings, or if the
party be unable to pay, then to be whipped with more stripes, not
exceeding thirtye; and if yet any shall offend in like kinde, and be
legally convicted thereof, such person, male or female, shall bee fyned
ten shillings at a time more than formerly, or if the party so
offending bee unable to pay, then to be whipped with five or six
stripes more then formerly, not exceeding forty at any time.
"(Ministers' Meintenance.) —Whereas the most considerable
persons in the land came into these partes of America, that they might
enjoye Christe in his ordinances without disturbance; and whereas,
amongst many other pretious meanes, the ordinances have beene, and are,
dispensed amongst us, with much purity and power, they tooke it into
their serious consideration, that a due meintenance, according to God,
might bee provided and settled, both for the present and future, for
the encouragement of the ministers' work therein; and doe order, that
those who are taught in the word, in the severall plantations, bee
called together, that every man voluntarily sett downe what he is
willing to allow to that end and use; and if any man refuse to pay a
meete proportion, that then hee bee rated by authority in some just and
equal way; and if after this, any man withhold or delay due payment,
the civill power to be exercised as in other just debts.
"(Profane Swearing.) —That if any person within this
jurisdiction shall sweare rashly and vainely, either by the holy name
of God, or any other oath, and shall sinfully and wickedly curse any,
hee shall forfeitt to the common treasure, for every such severe
offence, ten shillings: and it shall be in the power of any magistrate,
by warrant to the constable, to call such persons before him, and uppon
just proofe to pass a sentence, and levye the said penalty, according
to the usual order of justice; and if such persons bee not able, or
shall utterly refuse to pay the aforesaid fyne, hee shall bee committed
to the stocks, there to continue, not exceeding three hours, and not
less than one houre.
"(Tobacko.) —That no person under the age of twenty-one
years, nor any other that hath not already accustomed himselfe to the
use therof, shall take any tobacko, untill hee hath brought a
certificate under the hands of some who are approved for knowledge and
skill in phisick, that it is usefull for him, and allso that he hath
received a lycense from the courte, for the same.
"It is ordered —That no man within this colonye, shall
take any tobacko publiquely, in the streett, highwayes or any barne,
yardes, or uppon training dayes, in any open places, under the penalty
of sixpence for each offence against this order," &c. &c.
Among the records we have some curious specimens:—
"At a Court, held May 1, 1660.
"Jacob M. Murline and Sarah Tuttle being called, appeared,
concerning whom the governor declared, that the business for which they
were warned to this Court, he had heard in private at his house, which
he related thus:— On the day that John Potter was married, Sarah
Tuttle went to Mistress Murline's house for some thredd; Mistress
Murline bid her go to her daughters in the other roome, where she felle
into speeche of John Potter and his wife, that they were both lame;
upon which Sarah Tuttle said, how very awkward it would be. Whereupon
Jacob came in, and tooke up, or tooke away her gloves. Sarah desired
him to give her the gloves, to which he answered, he would do so if
she would give him a kysse; upon which they sat down together, his arme
being about her waiste, and her arme upon his shoulder, or about his
neck, and he kissed her, and she kissed him, or they
kissed one another, continuing in this posture about half an hour, as
Marian and Susan testified, which Marian, now in Court, affirmed to be
"Mistress Murline, now in Court, said that she heard Sarah say, how
very awkward it would be; but it was matter of sorrow and shame unto
"Jacob was asked what he had to say to these things; to which he
answered, that he was in the other roome, and when he heard Sarah speak
those words, he went in, when shee having let fall her gloves, he tooke
them up, and she asked him for them; he told her he would, if she would
kisse him. Further said, hee took her by the hand, and they both sat
down upon a chest, but whether his arme were about her waiste, and her
arme upon his shoulder, or about his neck, he knows not, for he never
thought of it since, till Mr. Raymond told him of it at Mannatos, for
which he was blamed, and told he had not layde it to heart as he ought.
But Sarah Tuttle replied, that shee did not kysse him. Mr. Tuttle
replied, that Marian hath denied it, and he doth not looke upon her as
a competent witness. Thomas Tuttle said, that he asked Marian if his
sister kyssed Jacob, and she said not. Moses Mansfield testified, that
he told Jacob Murline that he heard Sarah kyssed him, but he denied it.
But Jacob graunted not what Moses testified.
"Mr. Tuttle pleaded that Jacob had endeavoured to steal away his
daughter's affections. But Sarah being asked, if Jacob had inveigled
her, she said no. Thomas Tuttle said, that he came to their house two
or three times before he went to Holland, and they two were together,
and to what end he came he knows not, unless it were to inveigle her:
and their mother warned Sarah not to keep company with him: and to the
same purpose spake Jonathan Tuttle. But Jacob denied that he came to
their house with any such intendment, nor did it appear so to the Court.
"The governor told Sarah that her miscarriage is the greatest, that
a virgin should be so bold in the presence of others, to carry it as
she had done, and to speake suche corrupt words; most of the things
charged against her being acknowledged by herself, though that about
kyssing is denied, yet the thing is proved.
"Sarah professed that she was sorry that she had carried it so
sinfully and foolishly, which she saw to be hateful: she hoped God
would help her to carry it better for time to come.
"The governor also told Jacob that his carriage hath been very evil
and sinful, so to carry it towards her, and to make such a light matter
of it as not to think of it, (as he exprest) doth greatly aggravate;
and for Marian, who was a married woman, to suffer her brother and a
man's daughter to sit almost half an hour in such a way as they have
related, was a very great evil. She was told that she should have
showed her indignation against it, and have told her mother, that Sarah
might have been shut out of doors. Mrs. Murline was told, that she,
hearing such words, should not have suffered it. Mrs. Tuttle and Mrs.
Murline being asked if they had any more to say, they said, no.
"Whereupon the Court declared, that we have heard in the publique
ministry, that it is a thing to be lamented, that young people should
have their meetings, to the corrupting of themselves and one another.
As for Sarah Tuttle, her miscarriages are very great, that she should
utter so corrupt a speeche as she did, concerning the persons to be
married; and that she should carry it in such a wanton, uncivil,
immodest, and lacivious manner as hath been proved. And for Jacob, his
carriage hath been very corrupt and sinful, such as brings reproach
upon the family and place.
"The sentence, therefore, concerning them is, that they shall pay
either of them as a fine, twenty shillings to the treasurer."
"Isaiah, Captain Turner's man, fined 5l for being drunk on
"William Broomfield, Mr. Malbon's man, was set in the stocks, for
profaning the Lord's-day, and stealing wine from his master, which he
drunk and gave to others.
"John Fenner, accused for being drunke with strong waters, was
acquitted, it appearing to be of infirmity, and occasioned by the
extremity of the cold.
"Mr. Moulend, accused of being drunke, but not clearly proved, was
Here comes a very disorderly reprobate, called Will Harding.
"1st of 1st month, 1643.
"John Lawrence and Valentine, servants to Mr. Malbon, for
imbezilling their master's goods, and keeping disorderly night meetings
with Will Harding, a lewd and disorderly person, plotting with him to
carry their master's daughters to the farmes in the night, concealing
divers dalliances; all which they confessed, and were whipped.
"Ruth Acie, a covenant-servant to Mr. Malbon, for stubornes,
lyeing, stealing from her mistress, and yielding to dalliance with Will
Harding, was whipped.
"Martha Malbon, for consenting to goe in the night to the farmes,
with Will Harding, to a venison feast; for stealing things from her
parents, and dalliance with the said Harding, was whipped.
"Goodman Hunt and his wife, for keeping the councells of the said
Will Harding, bakeing him a pastry and plum cakes, and keeping
company with him on the Lord's-day; and she suffering Harding to kisse
her, they being only admitted to sojourn in this plantation upon their
good behaviour, was ordered to be sent out of this towne within one
month after the date hereof."
Will Harding, however, appears to have met with his deserts.
"Dec. 3rd, 1651.
"Will Harding, being convicted of a great deal of base carriage
with divers yonge girls, together with enticing and corrupting divers
men-servants in this plantation, haunting with them at night meetings
and junketings, &c, was sentenced to be severely whipped, and
fined 5l. to Mr. Malbon, and 5l. to Will Andrews, whose
famylyes and daughters he hath so much wronged; and presently to depart
Thus winds up the
disgraceful end of our Colonial Don Juan
The articles of the Blue laws, which I have extracted, are from a
portion which appears to have been drawn up more in detail; but,
generally, they are much more pithy and concise, as the following
examples will show:—
"No. 13. No food and lodgings shall be allowed a Quaker, Adamite,
or other heretic.
"No. 14. If any person turns Quaker, he shall be banished, and not
suffered to return, on pain of death."
I was walking in Philadelphia, when I perceived the name of Buffum,
Hatter. Wishing to ascertain whether it was an English name or not, I
went in, and entered into conversation with Mr. Buffum, who was dressed
as what is termed a wet Quaker. He told me that his was an English
name, and that his ancestor had been banished from Salem for a heinous
crime —which was, as the sentence worded it, for being a damned
Quaker. The reason why Quakers were banished by the Puritans, was
because they would not; go out to shoot the Indians! To
"No. 17. No one shall
run of a Sabbath-day, or walk in his
garden or elsewhere, except reverently to and from church.
"No. 18. No one shall travel, cook victuals, make beds, sweep
houses, cut hair or shave on Sabbath-day.
"No. 19. No husband shall kiss his wife, and no mother shall kiss
her child upon the Sabbath day.
"No. 31. No one shall read Common Prayer, keep Christmas or
saints'-day, make mince-pies, dance, or play on any instrument of
music, except the drum, the trumpet, and the jews-harp."
I do not know any thing that disgusts me so much as
Even now we continually hear, in the American public orations, about
the stern virtues of the pilgrim fathers. Stern, indeed!
The fact is, that these pilgrim fathers were fanatics and bigots,
without charity or mercy, wanting in the very essence of
Christianity. Witness their conduct to the Indians when they thirsted
for their territory. After the death (murder, we may well call it) of
Alexander, the brother of the celebrated Philip, the latter prepared
for war. "And now," says a reverend historian of the times, "war was
begun by a fierce nation of Indians upon an honest, harmless
Christian generation of English, who might very truly have said to the
aggressors, as it was said of old unto the Ammonites, 'I have not
sinned against thee; but thou doest me wrong to war against me.'"
Fanaticism alone —deep, incurable fanaticism —could have induced such
a remark. Well may it be said, "We deceive ourselves, and the truth is
not in us."
And when the war was brought to a close by the death of the
noble-minded, high-spirited Philip; when the Christians had
slaked their revenge in his blood, exposed his head in triumph on a
pike, and captured his helpless innocent child of nine years old; would
it be credited, that there was council held to put this child to death,
and that the clergy were summoned to give their opinion? And the clergy quoted Scripture, that the
child must die! Dr. Increase
Mather compared it with the child of Hadid, and recommended, with his
brother apostles, that it be murdered. But these pious men were
overruled; and, with many others, it was sent to the Bermudas, and sold
as a slave. Stern virtues!! Call them rather diabolical vices.
God of Heaven! when shall we learn to call things by their right names?
The next time Governor Everett is called up for an oration at Bloody
Brook, let him not talk quite so much of the virtues of the pilgrim
This reminds me of a
duty towards this gentleman, which I
have great pleasure in performing. Every one who is acquainted with him
must acknowledge his amiable manners, and his high classical
attainments and power of eloquence. His orations and speeches are
printed, and are among the best specimens of American talent. Miss
Martineau, in her work upon America, states that she went up to hear
the orator at Bloody Brook; and, in two pages of very coarse,
unmeasured language, states "that all her sympathies were
baffled, and that she was deeply disgusted;" that the orator "offered
them shreds of tawdry sentiment, without the intermixture of one sound
thought or simple and natural feeling, simply and naturally expressed."
I have the Address of Governor Everett before me. To insert the whole
of it would be inconvenient; but I do most unequivocally deny this, as
I must, I am afraid, to many of Miss Martineau's assertions. To prove,
in this one instance alone, the very contrary to what she states, I
will merely quote the peroration of Governor Everett's Address:—
"Yon simple monument shall rise a renewed memorial of their names
on this sacred spot, where the young, the brave, the patriotic, poured
out their life-blood in defence of that heritage which has descended to
us. We this day solemnly bring our tribute of gratitude. Ages shall
pass away; the majestic tree which overshadows us shall wither and sink
before the blast, and we who are now gathered beneath it shall mingle
with the honoured dust we eulogise; but the 'Flowers of Essex' shall
bloom in undying remembrance; and, with every century, these rites of
commemoration shall be repeated, as the lapse of time shall continually
develope, in rich abundance, the fruits of what was done and suffered
by our forefathers!"
I can, however, give the reader a key to Miss Martineau's praise or
condemnation of every person mentioned in her two works: you have but
to ask the question, "Is he, or is he not, an abolitionist?"
Governor Everett is
Montreal, next to Quebec, is the oldest looking and most aristocratic
city in all North America. Lofty houses, with narrow streets, prove
antiquity. After Quebec and Montreal, New Orleans is said to take the
next rank, all three of them having been built by the French. It is
pleasant to look upon any structure in this new hemisphere which bears
the mark of time upon it. The ruins of Fort Putnam are one of the
curiosities of America.
Montreal is all alive —mustering here, drilling there, galloping
every where; and, moreover, Montreal is knee-deep in snow, and the
thermometer below zero. Every hour brings fresh intelligence of the
movements of the rebels, or patriots —the last term is doubtful, yet
it may be correct. When they first opened the theatre at Botany Bay,
Barrington spoke the prologue, which ended with these two lines:—
Patriots we, for be it understood,
We left our country, for our country's good."
In this view of the case, some of them, it is hoped, will turn out
patriots before they die, if they have not been made so already.
Every hour comes in some poor wretch, who, for refusing to join the
insurgents, has been made a beggar; his cattle, sheep, and pigs driven
away; his fodder, his barns, his house, all that he possessed, now
reduced to ashes. The cold-blooded, heartless murder of Lieutenant Weir
has, however, sufficiently raised the choler of the troops, without any
further enormities on the part of the insurgents being requisite to
that end: when an English soldier swears to shew no mercy, he generally
keeps his word. Of all wars, a civil war is the most cruel, the most
unrelenting, and the most exterminating; and deep indeed must be the
responsibility of those, who, by their words or their actions, have
contrived to set countryman against countryman, neighbour against
neighbour, and very often brother against brother, and father against
On the morning of the — the ice on the branch of the Ottawa river,
which we had to cross, being considered sufficiently strong to bear the
weight of the artillery, the whole force marched out, under the command
of Sir John Colborne in person, to reduce the insurgents, who had
fortified themselves at St. Eustache and St. Benoit, two towns of some
magnitude in the district of Bois Brule. The snow, as I before
observed, lay very deep; but by the time we started, the road had been
well beaten down by the multitudes which had preceded us.
The effect of the whole line of troops, in their fur caps and
great-coats, with the trains of artillery, ammunition, and
baggage-waggons, as they wound along the snow-white road, was very
beautiful. It is astonishing how much more numerous the force, and how
much larger the men and horses appeared to be, from the strong contrast
of their colours with the wide expanse of snow.
As we passed one of the branches of the Ottawa, one of the
ammunition-waggons falling through the ice, the horses were immediately
all but choaked by the drivers —a precaution which was novel to me,
and a singular method of saving their lives: but such was the case: the
air within them, rarified by heat, inflated their bodies like balloons,
and they floated high on the water. In this state they were easily
disengaged from their traces, and hauled out upon the ice; the cords
which had nearly strangled them were then removed, and, in a few
minutes, they recovered sufficiently to be led to the shore.
Let it not be supposed that I am about to write a regular dispatch.
I went out with the troops, but was of about as much use as the fifth
wheel of a coach; with the exception, that as I rode one of Sir John
Colborne's horses, I was, perhaps, so far supplying the place of a
groom who was better employed.
The town of St. Eustache is very prettily situated on the high
banks of the river, the most remarkable object being the Catholic
church, a very large massive building, raised about two hundred yards
from the river side, upon a commanding situation. This church the
insurgents had turned into a fortress, and perhaps, for a fortress "
d'occasion," there never was one so well calculated for a vigorous
defence, it being flanked by two long stone-built houses, and protected
in the rear by several lines of high and strong palisades, running down
into the river. The troops halted about three hundred yards from the
town, to reconnoitre; the artillery were drawn up and opened their
fire, but chiefly with a view that the enemy, by returning the fire,
might demonstrate their force and position. These being ascertained,
orders were given by Sir John Colborne, so that in a short time the
whole town would be invested by the troops. The insurgents perceiving
this, many of them escaped, some through the town, others by the frozen
river. Those who crossed on the ice were chased by the volunteer
dragoons, and the slipping and tumbling of the pursued and the
pursuers, afforded as much merriment as interest; so true it is, that
any thing ludicrous will make one laugh, in opposition to the feelings
of sympathy, anxiety, and fear. Some of the runaways were cut down, and
many more taken prisoners.
As soon as that portion of the troops which had entered the town,
and marched up the main street towards the church, arrived within
half-musket shot, they were received with a smart volley, which was
fired from the large windows of the church, and which wounded a few of
the men. The soldiers were then ordered to make their approaches under
cover of the houses; and the artillery being brought up, commenced
firing upon the church: but the walls of the building were much too
solid for the shot to make any impression, and had the insurgents stood
firm they certainly might have given a great deal of trouble, and
probably have occasioned a severe loss of men; but they became alarmed,
and fired one of the houses which abutted upon and flanked the church,
—this they did with the view of escaping under cover of the smoke. In
a few minutes the, church itself was obscured by the volumes of smoke
thrown out; and at the same time that the insurgents were escaping, the
troops marched up and surrounded the church. The poor wretches
attempted to get away, either singly or by twos and threes; but the
moment they appeared a volley was discharged, and they fell. Every
attempt was made by the officers to make prisoners, but with
indifferent success; indeed, such was the exasperation of the troops at
the murder of Lieut. Weir, that it was a service of danger to attempt
to save the life of one of these poor deluded creatures. The fire from
the house soon communicated to the church. Chenier, the leader, with
ten others, the remnant of the insurgents who were in the church,
rushed out; there was one tremendous volley, and all was over.
By this time many other parts of the town were on fire, and there
was every prospect of the whole of it being burnt down, leaving no
quarters for the soldiers to protect them during the night. The
attention of everybody was therefore turned to prevent the progress of
the flames. Some houses were pulled down, so as to cut off the
communication with the houses in the centre of the town, and in these
houses the troops were billeted off. The insurgents had removed their
families, and most of their valuables and furniture, before our
arrival; but in one house were the commissariat stores, consisting of
the carcases of all the cattle, sheep, pigs, &c., which they had taken
from the loyal farmers; there was a very large supply, and the soldiers
were soon cooking in all directions. The roll was called, men
mustered, and order established.
The night was bitterly cold: the sky was clear, and the moon near
to her full: houses were still burning in every direction, but they
were as mere satellites to the lofty church, which was now one blaze of
fire, and throwing out volumes of smoke, which passed over the face of
the bright moon, and gave to her a lurid reddish tinge, as if she too
had assisted in these deeds of blood. The distant fires scattered over
the whole landscape, which was one snow-wreath; the whirling of the
smoke from the houses which were burning close to us, and which, from
the melting of the snow, were surrounded by pools of water, reflecting
the fierce yellow flames, mingled with the pale beams of the bright
moon —this, altogether, presented a beautiful, novel, yet melancholy
panorama. I thought it might represent, in miniature, the burning of
About midnight, when all was quiet, I walked up to the church, in
company with one of Sir John Colborne's aides-de-camp: the roof had
fallen, and the flames had subsided for want of further aliment. As we
passed by a house which had just taken fire we heard a cry, and, on
going up, found a poor wounded Canadian, utterly incapable of moving,
whom the flames had just reached; in a few minutes he would have been
burned alive: we dragged him out, and gave him in charge of the
soldiers, who carried him to the hospital.
But what was this compared to the scene which presented itself in
the church! But a few weeks back, crowds were there, kneeling in
adoration and prayer; I could fancy the Catholic priests in their
splendid stoles, the altar, its candlesticks and ornaments, the solemn
music, the incense, and all that, by appealing to the senses, is so
favourable to the cause of religion with the ignorant and uneducated;
and what did I now behold? —nothing but the bare and blackened walls,
the glowing beams and rafters, and the window-frames which the flames
still licked and flickered through. The floor had been burnt to
cinders, and upon and between the sleepers on which the floor had been
laid, were scattered the remains of human creatures, injured in various
degrees, or destroyed by the fire; some with merely the clothes burnt
off, leaving the naked body; some burnt to a deep brown tinge; others
so far consumed that the viscera were exposed; while here and there the
blackened ribs and vertebra were all that the fierce flames had spared.
Not only inside of the church, but without its walls, was the same
revolting spectacle. In the remains of the small building used as a
receptacle for the coffins previous to interment, were several bodies,
heaped one upon another, and still burning, the trestles which had once
supported the coffins serving as fuel; and further off were bodies
still unscathed by fire, but frozen hard by the severity of the weather.
I could not help thinking, as I stood contemplating this
melancholy scene of destruction, bloodshed, and sacrilege, that if Mr.
Hume or Mr. Roebuck had been by my side, they might have repented their
inflammatory and liberal opinions, as here they beheld the frightful
effects of them.
Crossing the river St. Lawrence at this season of the year is not very
pleasant, as you must force your passage through the large masses of
ice, and are occasionally fixed among them; so that you are swept down
the current along with them. Such was our case for about a quarter of
an hour, and, in consequence, we landed about three miles lower down
than we had intended. The next day the navigation of the river, such as
it was, was stopped, and in eight and forty hours heavy waggons and
carts were passing over where we had floated across.
My course lay through what were termed the
districts; I had promised to pass through them, and supply the folks
at Montreal with any information I could collect. The weather was
bitterly cold, and all communication was carried on by sleighs, a very
pleasant mode of travelling when the roads are smooth, but rather
fatiguing when they are uneven, as the sleigh then jumps from hill to
hill, like an oyster-shell thrown by a boy to skim the surface of the
water. To defend myself from the cold, I had put on, over my coat, and
under my cloak, a wadded black silk dressing-gown; I thought nothing of
it at the time, but I afterwards discovered that I was supposed to be
one of the rebel priests escaping from justice.
Although still in the English dominions, I had not been over on the
opposite side more than a quarter of an hour before I perceived that it
would be just as well to hold my tongue; and my adherence to this
resolution, together with my supposed canonicals, were the cause of not
a word being addressed to me by my fellow-travellers. They presumed
that I spoke French only, which they did not, and I listened in silence
to all that passed.
It is strange how easily the American people are excited, and when
excited, they will hesitate at nothing. The coach (for it was the
stage-coach although represented by an open sleigh), stopped at every
town, large or small, every body eager to tell and to receive the news.
I always got out to warm myself at the stove in the bar, and heard all
the remarks made upon what I do really believe were the most absurd and
extravagant lies ever circulated —lies which the very people who
uttered them knew to be such, but which produced the momentary effect
intended. They were even put into the newspapers, and circulated every
where; and when the truth was discovered, they still remained
uncontradicted, except by a general remark that such was the Tory
version of the matter, and of course was false. The majority of those
who travelled with me were Americans who had crossed the St. Lawrence
in the same boat, and who must, therefore, have known well the whole
circumstances attending the expedition against St. Eustache; but, to my
surprise, at every place where we stopped they declared that there had
been a battle between the insurgents and the King's troops, in which
the insurgents had been victorious; that Sir John Colborne had been
compelled to retreat to Montreal; that they had themselves seen the
troops come back (which was true), and that Montreal was barricaded
(which was also true) to prevent the insurgents from marching in. I
never said one word; I listened to the exultations —to the
declarations of some that they should go and join the patriots, &c. One
man amused me by saying —"I've a great mind to go, but what I want is
a good general to take the command; I want a Julius Caesar, or a
Bonaparte, or a Washington —then I'll go."
I stopped for some hours at St. Alban's. I was recommended to go to
an inn, the landlord of which was said not to be of the democratic
party, for the other two inns were the resort of the Sympathisers,
—and in these, consequently, scenes of great excitement took place.
The landlord put into my hand a newspaper, published that day,
containing a series of resolutions, founded upon such falsehoods that I
thought it might be advantageous to refute them. I asked the landlord
whether I could see the editor of the paper; he replied that the party
lived next door; and I requested that he would send for him, telling
him that I could give him information relative to the affair of St.
I had been shewn into a large sitting-room on the ground-floor,
which I presumed was a private room, when the editor of the newspaper,
attracted by the message I had sent him, came in. I then pointed to the
resolutions passed at the meeting, and asked him whether he would allow
me to answer them in his paper. His reply was, "Certainly; that his
paper was open to all."
"Well, then, call in an hour, and I will by that time prove to you
that they can only be excused or accounted for by the parties who
framed them being totally ignorant of the whole affair."
He went away, but did not return at the time requested. It was not
until late in the evening that he came; and, avoiding the question of
the resolutions, begged that I would give him the information relative
to St. Eustache. As I presumed that, like most other editors in the
United States, he dared not put in anything which would displease his
subscribers, I said no more on that subject, but commenced dictating to
him, while he wrote the particulars attending the St. Eustache affair.
I was standing by the stove, giving the editor this information, when
the door of the room opened, and in walked seven or eight people, who,
without speaking, took chairs; in a minute, another party of about the
same number was ushered into the room by the landlord, who, I thought,
gave me a significant look. I felt surprised at what I thought an
intrusion, as I had considered my room to be private; however, I
appeared to take no notice of it, and continued dictating to the
editor. The door opened again and again, and more chairs were brought
in for the accommodation of the parties who entered, until at last the
room was so full that I had but just room to walk round the stove. Not
a person said a word; they listened to what I was dictating to the
editor, and I observed that they all looked rather fierce; but whether
this was a public meeting, or what was to be the end of it, I had no
idea. At last, when I had finished, the editor took up his papers and
left the room, in which I suppose there might have been from one
hundred to a hundred and fifty persons assembled. As soon as the door
closed, one of them struck his thick stick on the floor (they most of
them had sticks), and gave a loud "Hem!"
"I believe, sir, that you are Captain M—."
"Yes," replied I, "that is my name."
"We are informed, sir, by the gentleman who has just gone out, that
you have asserted that our resolutions of yesterday could only be
excused or accounted for from our total ignorance." Here he struck his
stick again upon the floor, and paused.
"Oh!" thinks I to myself, "the editor has informed against me!"
"Now, sir," continued the spokesman, "we are come to be
enlightened; we wish you to prove to us that we are totally ignorant;
you will oblige us by an explanation of your assertion."
He was again silent. (Thinks I to myself, I'm in for it now, and if
I get away without a broken head, or something worse, I am fortunate;
however, here goes.) Whereupon, without troubling the reader with what
I did say, I will only observe, that I thought the best plan was to
gain time by going back as far as I could. I therefore commenced my
oration at the period; when the Canadas were surrendered to the
English; remarking upon the system which had been acted upon by our
government from that time up to the present; proving, as well as I
could, that the Canadians had nothing to complain of, and that if
England had treated her other American colonies as well, there never
would have been a declaration of independence, &c. &c. Having spoken
for about an hour, and observing a little impatience on the part of
some of my company, I stopped. Upon which, one rose and said, that
there were several points not fully explained, referring to them one
after another, whereupon "the honourable member rose to explain," —and
was again silent. Another then spoke, requesting information as to
points not referred to by me. I replied, and fortunately had an
opportunity of paying the Americans a just compliment; in gratitude for
which their features relaxed considerably. Perceiving this, I ventured
to introduce a story or two, which made them laugh. After this, the day
was my own; for I consider the Americans, when not excited (which they
too often are), as a very good-tempered people: at all events, they
won't break your head for making them laugh; at least, such I found
was the case. We now entered freely into conversation; some went away,
others remained, and the affair ended by many of them shaking hands
with me, and our taking a drink at the bar.
I must say, that the first appearances of this meeting were not at
all pleasant; but I was rightly served for my own want of caution, in
so publicly stating, that the free and enlightened citizens of St.
Alban's were very ignorant, and for opposing public opinion at a time
when the greatest excitement prevailed. I have mentioned this
circumstance, as it threws a great deal of light upon the character of
the Yankee or American of the Eastern States. They would not suffer
opposition to the majority to pass unnoticed (who, in England, would
have cared what a stranger may have expressed as his opinion); but, at
the same time, they gave me a patient hearing, to knew whether I could
shew cause for what I said. Had I refused this, I might have been very
roughly handled; but as I defended my observations, although they were
not complimentary to them, they gave me fair play. They were evidently
much excited when they came into the room, but they gradually cooled
down until convinced of the truth of my assertions; and then all
animosity was over. The landlord said to me afterwards, "I reckon you
got out of that uncommon well, captain." I perfectly agreed with him,
and made a resolution to hold my tongue until I arrived at New York.
The next day, as I was proceeding on my journey, I fell in with
General Brown, celebrated for running away so fast at the commencement
of the fight at St. Charles. He had a very fine pair of mustachios. We
both warmed our toes at the same stove in solemn silence.
Sunday, at Burlington. —The young ladies are dressing up the
church with festoons, and garlands of evergreens for the celebration of
Christmas, and have pressed me into the service. Last Sunday I was
meditating over the blackened walls of the church at St. Eustache, and
the roasted corpses lying within its precincts; now I am in another
church, weaving laurel and cypress, in company with some of the
prettiest creatures in creation. As the copy-book says, variety is
Philadelphia is certainly, in appearance, the most wealthy and
imposing city in the Union. It is well built, and ornamented with
magnificent public edifices of white marble; indeed there is a great
show of this material throughout the whole of the town, all the flights
of steps to the doors, door-lintels, and window-sills, being very
generally composed of this material. The exterior of the houses, as
well as the side pavement, are kept remarkably clean; and there is no
intermixture of commerce, as there is at New York, the bustle of
business being confined to the Quays, and one or two streets adjoining
the river side.
The first idea which strikes you when you arrive at Philadelphia,
is that it is Sunday: every thing is so quiet, and there are so few
people stirring; but by the time that you have paraded half a dozen
streets, you come to a conclusion that it must be Saturday, as that day
is, generally speaking, a washing-day. Philadelphia is so admirably
supplied with water from the Schuykill water-works, that every house
has it laid on from the attic to the basement; and all day long they
wash windows, door, marble step, and pavements in front of the houses.
Indeed, they have so much water, that they can afford to be very
liberal to passers-by. One minute you have a shower-bath from a
negress, who is throwing water at the windows on the first floor; and
the next you have to hop over a stream across the pavement, occasioned
by some black fellow, who, rather than go for a broom to sweep away any
small portion of dust collected before his master's door, brings out
the leather hose, attached to the hydrants, as they term them here, and
fizzes away with it till the stream has forced the dust into the gutter.
Of course, fire has no chance in this city. Indeed, the two
elements appear to have arranged that matter between them; fire has the
ascendant in New York, while water reigns in Philadelphia. If a fire
does break out here, the housekeepers have not the fear of being burnt to death before them; for the water is poured on in such
torrents, that the furniture is washed out of the windows, and all that
they have to look out for, is to escape from being drowned.
The public institutions, such as libraries, museums, and the
private cabinets of Philadelphia, are certainly very superior to those
of any other city or town in America, Boston not excepted. Every thing
that is undertaken in this city is well done; no expense is spared,
although they are not so rapid in their movements as at New York:
indeed the affluence and ease pervading the place, with the general
cultivation which invariably attend them, are evident to a stranger.
Philadelphia has claimed for herself the title of the most
aristocratic city in the Union. If she refers to the aristocracy of
wealth, I think she is justified; but if she would say the aristocracy
of family, which is much more thought of by the few who can claim it,
she must be content to divide that with Boston, Baltimore, Charlestown,
and the other cities which can date as far back as herself. One thing
is certain, that in no city is there so much fuss made about lineage
and descent; in no city are there so many cliques and sets in society,
who keep apart from each other; and it is very often difficult to
ascertain the grounds of their distinctions. One family will live at
No. 1, and another at No. 2 in the same street, both have similar
establishments, both keep their carriages, both be well educated, and
both may talk of their grandfathers and grandmothers; and yet No. 1
will tell you that No. 2 is nobody, and you must not visit there; and
when you enquire why? there is no other answer, but that they are not
of the right sort. As long as a portion are rich and a portion are
poor, there is a line of demarcation easy to be drawn, even in a
democracy; but in Philadelphia, where there are so many in affluent
circumstances, that line has been effaced, and they now seek an
imaginary one, like the equinoctial, which none can be permitted to
pass without going through the ceremonies of perfect ablution. This
social contest, as may be supposed, is carried on among those who have
no real pretensions; but there are many old and well-connected families
in Philadelphia, whose claims are universally, although perhaps
I doubt if the claims of Boston to be the most scientific city in
the Union, can be now established. I met a greater number of scientific
men in Philadelphia than I did in Boston; and certainly the public and
private collections in the former city are much superior. The
collection of shells and minerals belonging to Mr. Lee, who is well
known as an author and a naturalist, is certainly the most interesting
I saw in the States, and I passed two days in examining it: it must
have cost him much trouble and research.
The Girard College, when finished, will be a most splendid
building. It is, however, as they have now planned it, incorrect,
according to the rules of architecture, in the number of columns on the
sides in proportion to those in front. This is a great pity; perhaps
the plan will be re-considered, as there is plenty of time to correct
it, as well as money to defray the extra expense.
The water-works at Schuykill are well worth a visit, not only for
their beauty, but their simplicity. The whole of the river Schuykill is
dammed up, and forms a huge water-power, which forces up the supply of
water for the use of the city. As I presume that river has a god as
well as others, I can imagine his indignation, not only at his waters
being diverted from his channel, but at being himself obliged to do
all the work for the benefit of his tyrannical masters.
I have said that the museums of Philadelphia are far superior to
most in the States; but I may just as well here observe, that, as in
many other things, a great improvement is necessary before they are
such as they ought to be. There is not only in these museums, but in
all that I have ever entered in the United States, a want of taste and
discrimination, of that correct feeling which characterises the real
lovers of science, and knowledge of what is worthy of being collected.
They are such collections as would be made by school-boys and
school-girls, not those of erudite professors and scientific men. Side
by side with the most interesting and valuable specimens, such as the
fossil mammoth, &c., you have the greatest puerilities and absurdities
in the world —such as a cherry-stone formed into a basket, a fragment
of the boiler of the Moselle steamer, and Heaven knows what besides.
Then you invariably have a large collection of daubs, called portraits,
of eminent personages, one-half of whom a stranger never heard of —but
that is national vanity; and lastly, I do not recollect to have seen a
museum that had not a considerable portion of its space occupied by
most execrable wax-work, in which the sleeping beauty (a sad misnomer)
generally figures very conspicuously. In some, they have models of
celebrated criminals in the act of committing a murder, with the very
hatchet or the very knife: or such trophies as the bonnet worn by Mrs.
— when she was killed by her husband; or the shirt, with the blood of
his wife on it, worn by Jack Sprat, or whoever he might be, when he
committed the bloody deed. The most favourite subject, after the
sleeping beauty in the wax-work, is General Jackson, with the battle of
New Orleans in the distance. Now all these things are very well in
their places: exhibit wax-work as much as you please —it amuses and
interests children; but the present collections in the museums remind
you of American society —a chaotic mass, in which you occasionally
meet what is valuable and interesting, but of which the larger
proportion is pretence.
It was not until I had been some time in Philadelphia that I became
convinced how very superior the free coloured people were in
intelligence and education, to what, from my knowledge of them in our
West-India Islands, I had ever imagined them capable of. Not that I
mean to imply that they will ever attain to the same powers of
intellect as the white man, for I really believe that the race are not
formed for it by the Almighty. I do not mean to say that there never
will be great men among the African race, but that such instances will
always be very rare, compared to the numbers produced among the
white. But this is certain, that in Philadelphia the free coloured
people are a very respectable class, and, in my opinion, quite as
intelligent as the more humble of the free whites. I have been quite
surprised to see them take out their pencils, write down and calculate
with quickness and precision, and in every other point shew great
intelligence and keenness.
In this city they are both numerous and wealthy. The most
extravagant funeral I saw in Philadelphia was that of a black; the
coaches were very numerous, as well as the pedestrians, who were all
well dressed, and behaving with the utmost decorum. They were preceded
by a black clergyman, dressed in his full black silk canonicals. He did
look very odd, I must confess.
Singular is the degree of contempt and dislike in which the free
blacks are held in all the free States of America. They are deprived of
their rights as citizens; and the white pauper, who holds out his hand
for charity (and there is no want of beggars in Philadelphia), will
turn away from a negro, or coloured man, with disdain. It is the same
thing in the Eastern States, notwithstanding their religious
professions. In fact, in the United States, a negro, from his colour,
and I believe his colour alone, is a degraded being. Is not this
extraordinary, in a land which professes universal liberty, equality,
and the rights of man? In England this is not the case. In private
society no one objects to sit in company with a man of colour, provided
he has the necessary education and respectability. Nor, indeed, is it
the case in the Slave States, where I have frequently seen a lady in a
public conveyance with her negress sitting by her, and no objection has
been raised by the other parties in the coach; but in the Free States a
man of colour is not admitted into a stage coach; and in all other
public places, such as theatres, churches, &c., there is always a
portion divided off for the negro population, that they may not be
mixed up with the whites. When I first landed at New York, I had a
specimen of this feeling. Fastened by a rope yarn to the rudder chains
of a vessel next in the tier, at the wharf to which the packet had
hauled in, I perceived the body of a black man, turning over and over
with the ripple of the waves. I was looking at it, when a lad came up:
probably his curiosity was excited by my eyes being fixed in that
direction. He looked, and perceiving the object, turned away with
disdain, saying, "Oh, it's only a nigger."
And all the Free States in America respond to the observation,
"It's only a nigger." [See note 1.] At the time that I was at
Philadelphia a curious cause was decided. A coloured man of the name
of James Fortin, who was, I believe, a sailmaker by profession, but at
all events a person not only of the highest respectability, but said to
be worth 150,000 dollars, appealed because he was not permitted to vote
at elections, and claimed his right as a free citizen. The cause was
tried, and the verdict, a very lengthy one, was given by the judge
against him, I have not that verdict in my possession; but I have the
opinion of the Supreme Court on one which was given before, and I here
insert it as a curiosity. It is a remarkable feature in the tyranny and
injustice of this case, that although James Fortin was not considered
white enough (he is, I believe, a mulatto) to vote as a citizen,
he has always been quite white enough to be taxed as one, and
has to pay his proportion, (which, from the extent of his business, is
no trifle) of all the rates and assessments considered requisite for
the support of the poor, and improving and beautifying that city, of
which he is declared not to be a citizen.
Although the decision of the Supreme Court enters into a lengthened
detail, yet as it is very acute and argumentative, and touches upon
several other points equally anomalous to the boasted freedom of the
American institutions, I wish the reader would peruse it carefully, as
it will amply repay him for his trouble; and it is that he may
read it, that I have not inserted it in an Appendix.
The question arose upon a writ of error to the judgment of the
Common Pleas of Luzerne county, in an action by Wm. Fogg, a negro,
against Hiram Hobbs, inspector, and Levi Baldwin and others, judges of
the election, for refusing his vote. In the Court below the plaintiff
recovered. The Supreme Court being of opinion that a negro has not a
right to vote under the present constitution, reversed the judgment.
v. Hiram Hobbs and others.
"The opinion of the Court was delivered by Gibson, C.J.
"This record raises, a second time, the only question on a phrase
in the Constitution which has occurred since its adoption; and, however
partisans may have disputed the clearness and precision of phraseology,
we have often been called upon to enforce its limitations of
legislative power; but the business of interpretation was incidental,
and the difficulty was not in the diction, but in the uncertainty of
the act to which it was to be applied. I have said a question on the
meaning of a phrase has arisen a second time. It would be more accurate
to say the same question has arisen the second time. About the
year 1795, as I have it from James Gibson, Esquire, of the
Philadelphia bar, the very point before us was ruled by the High Court
of Errors and Appeals against the right of negro suffrage. Mr. Gibson
declined an invitation to be concerned in the argument, and therefore
has no memorandum of the cause to direct us to the record. I have had
the office searched for it; but the papers had fallen into such
disorder as to preclude a hope of its discovery. Most of them were
imperfect, and many were lost or misplaced. But Mr. Gibson's
remembrance of the decision is perfect, and entitled to full
confidence. That the case was not reported, is probably owing to the
fact that the judges gave no reasons; and the omission is the more to
be regretted, as a report of it would have put the question at rest,
and prevented much unpleasant excitement. Still, the judgment is not
the less authoritative as a precedent. Standing as the court of last
resort, that tribunal bore the name relation to this court that the
Supreme Court does to the Common Pleas; and as its authority could not
be questioned then, it cannot be questioned now. The point, therefore,
is not open to discussion on original grounds.
"But the omission of the judges renders it proper to show that
their decision was founded in the true principles of the constitution.
In the first section of the third article it is declared, that 'in
elections by the citizens, every freeman of the age of
twenty-one years, having resided in the State two years before the
election, and having within that time paid a state or county tax
,' shall enjoy the rights of an elector. Now, the argument of those who
assert the claim of the coloured population is, that a negro is a man
; and when not held to involuntary service, that he is free,
consequently that he is a freeman; and if a freeman in the
common acceptation of the term, then a freeman in every acceptation of
it. This pithy and syllogistic sentence comprises the whole argument,
which, however elaborated, perpetually goes back to the point from
which it started. The fallacy of it is its assumption that the term
'freedom' signifies nothing but exemption from involuntary service; and
that it has not a legal signification more specific. The freedom of a
municipal corporation, or body politic, implies fellowship and
participation, of corporate rights; but an inhabitant of an
incorporated place, who is neither servant nor slave, though bound by
its laws, may be no freeman in respect to its government. It has indeed
been affirmed by text writers, that habitance, paying scot and lot,
give an incidental right to corporate freedom; but the courts have
refused to acknowledge it, even when the charter seemed to imply it;
and when not derived from prescription or grant, it has been deemed a
qualification merely, and not a title. (Wilcox, chap. iii. p.
456.) Let it not be said that the legal meaning of the word freeman is
peculiar to British corporations, and that we have it not in the
charters and constitutions of Pennsylvania. The laws agreed upon in
England in May 1682, use the word in this specific sense, and even
furnish a definition of it: 'Every inhabitant of the said province that
is, or shall be, a purchaser of one hundred acres of land or upwards,
his heirs or assigns, and every person who shall have paid his passage,
and shall have taken up one hundred acres of land, at a penny an acre,
and have cultivated ten acres thereof; and every person that hath been
a servant or bondsman, and is free by his service, that shall have
taken up his fifty acres of land, and shall have cultivated twenty
thereof; and every inhabitant, artificer, or other resident in the said
province, that pays scot and lot to the government, shall be deemed
and accounted a freeman of the said province; and every such
person shall be capable of electing, or being elected, representatives
of the people in provincial council, or general assembly of the said
province.' Now, why this minute and elaborate detail? Had it been
intended that all but servants and slaves should be freemen to every
intent, it had been easier and more natural to say so. But it was not
intended. It was foreseen that there would be inhabitants, neither
planters nor taxable, who, though free as the winds, might be unsafe
depositories of popular power; and the design was, to admit no man to
the freedom of the province who had not a stake in it. That the clause
which relates to freedom by service was not intended for manumitted
slaves is evident, from the fact that there were none; and it regarded
not slavery, but limited servitude expired by efflux of time. At that
time, certainly, the case of a manumitted slave, or of his free-born
progeny, was not contemplated as one to be provided for in the
founder's scheme of policy: I have quoted the passage, however, to show
that the word freeman was applied in a peculiar sense to the political
compact of our ancestors, resting like a corporation, on a charter from
the crown; and exactly as it was applied to bodies politic at home. In
entire consonance, it was declared in the Act of Union, given at
Chester in the same year, that strangers and foreigners holding land
'according to the law of a freeman,' and promising obedience to the
proprietary, as well as allegiance to the crown, 'shall be held and
reputed freemen of the province and counties aforesaid;' and it was
further declared, that when a foreigner 'shall make his request to the
governor of the province for the aforesaid freedom, the same
person shall be admitted on the conditions herein expressed,
paying twenty shillings sterling, and no more:' —modes of expression
peculiarly appropriate to corporate fellowship. The word in the same
sense pervades the charter of privileges, the act of settlement, and
the act of naturalisation, in the preamble to the last of which it was
said, that some of the inhabitants were 'foreigners and not freemen,
according to the acceptation of the laws of England;' it held its place
also in the legislative style of enactment down to the adoption of the
present constitution; after which, the words 'by and with the advice
and consent of the freemen,' were left out, and the present style
substituted. Thus, till the instant when the phrase on which the
question turns was penned, the term freeman had a peculiar and specific
sense, being used like the term citizen, which supplanted it, to denote
one who had a voice in public affairs. The citizens were denominated
freemen even in the constitution of 1776; and under the present
constitution, the word, though dropped in the style, was used in
legislative acts, convertible with electors, so late as the year 1798,
when it grew into disuse. In an act passed the 4th of April in that
year for the establishment of certain election districts, it was, for
the first time, used indiscriminately with that word; since when it has
been entirely disused. Now, it will not be pretended, that the
legislature meant to have it inferred, that every one not a freeman
within the purview, should be deemed a slave; and how can a convergent
intent be collected from the same word in the constitution, that every
one not a slave is to be accounted an elector? Except for the word
citizen, which stands in the context also as a term of qualification,
an affirmance of these propositions would extend the right of suffrage
to aliens; and to admit of any exception to the argument, its force
being derived from the supposed universality of the term, would destroy
it. Once concede that there may be a freeman in one sense of it, who is
not so in another, and the whole ground is surrendered. In what sense,
then, must the convention! f 1790 be supposed to have used the term?
questionless in that which it had acquired by use in public acts and
legal proceedings, for the reason that a dubious statute is to be
expounded by usage. 'The meaning of things spoken and written, must be
as hath been constantly received.' (Vaugh. 169.) On this principle, it
is difficult to discover how the word freeman, as used in previous
public acts, could have been meant to comprehend a coloured race: as
well might it be supposed, that the declaration of universal and
unalienable freedom in both our constitutions was meant to comprehend
it. Nothing was ever more comprehensively predicted, and a practical
enforcement of it would have liberated every slave in the State; yet
mitigated slavery long continued to exist among us, in derogation of
it. Rules of interpretation demand a strictly verbal construction of
nothing but a penal statute; and a constitution is to be construed
still more liberally than even a remedial one, because a convention
legislating for masses, can do little more than mark an outline of
fundamental principles, leaving the interior gyrations and details to
be filled up by ordinary legislation. 'Conventions intended to regulate
the conduct of nations,' said Chief Justice Tilghman, in the Farmers'
Bank v. Smith, 3 Sergt. & Rawl. 69, 'are not to be construed
like articles of agreement at the common law. It is of little
importance to the public, whether a tract of land belongs to A. or B.
In deciding these titles, strict rules of construction may be adhered
to; and it is best that they should be adhered to, though sometimes at
the expense of justice. But where multitudes are to be affected by the
construction of an amendment, great regard is to be paid to the spirit
and intention.' What better key to these, than the tone of antecedent
legislation discoverable in the application of the disputed terms.
"But in addition to interpretation from usage, this antecedent
legislation furnishes other proofs that no coloured race was party to
our social compact. As was justly remarked by President Fox, in the
matter of the late contested election, our ancestors settled the
province as a community of white men, and the blacks were introduced
into it as a race of slaves, whence an unconquerable prejudice of
caste, which has come down to our day, insomuch that a suspicion of
taint still has the unjust effect of sinking the subject of it below
the common level. Consistently with this prejudice, is it to be
credited that parity of rank would be allowed to such a race? Let the
question be answered by the statute of 1726, which denominated it an
idle and a slothful people; which directed the magistrates to bind out
free negroes for laziness or vagrancy; which forbade them to harbour
Indian or mulatto slaves, on pain of punishment by fine, or to deal
with negro slaves, on pain of stripes; which annexed to the interdict
of marriage with a white, the penalty of reduction to slavery; which
punished them for tippling with stripes, and even a white person with
servitude for intermarriage with a negro. If freemen, in a political
sense, were subjects of these cruel and degrading oppressions, what
must have been the lot of their brethren in bondage? It is also true,
that degrading conditions were sometimes assigned to white men, but
never as members of a caste. Insolvent debtors, to indicate the worst
of them, are compelled to make satisfaction by servitude; but that was
borrowed from a kindred, and still less rational, principle of the
common law. This act of 1726, however, remained in force, till it was
repealed by the Emancipating Act of 1789; and it is irrational to
believe, that the progress of liberal sentiments was so rapid in the
next ten years, —as to produce a determination in the convention of
1790 to raise this depressed race to the level of the white one. If
such were its purpose, it is strange that the word chosen to effect it
should have been the very one chosen by the convention of 1776 to
designate a white elector. 'Every freeman,' it is said, (chap. 2, sect.
6,) 'of the full age of twenty-one years, having resided in this State
for the space of one whole year before the day of election, and paid
taxes during that time, shall enjoy the rights of an elector.' Now, if
the word freeman were not potent enough to admit a free negro to
suffrage under the first constitution, it is difficult to discern a
degree of magic in the intervening plan of emancipation sufficient to
give it potency, in the apprehension of the convention, under the
"The only thing in the history of the convention which casts a
doubt upon the intent, is the fact, that the word white was
prefixed to the word freeman in the report of the committee, and subsequently struck out —probably because it was thought
superfluous, or still more probably, because it was feared that
respectable men of dark complexion would often be insulted at the
polls, by objections to their colour. I have heard it said, that Mr.
Gallatin sustained his motion to strike out on the latter ground.
Whatever the motive, the disseverence is insufficient to wrap the
interpretation of a word of such settled and determinate meaning as the
one which remained. A legislative body speaks to the judiciary, only
through its final act, and expresses its will in the words of it; and
though their meaning may be influenced by the sense in which they have
usually been applied to extrinsic matters, we cannot receive an
explanation of them from what has been moved or said in debate. The
place of a judge is his forum —not the legislative hall. Were he even
disposed to pry into the motives of the members, it would be impossible
for him to ascertain them; and, in attempting to discover the ground on
which the conclusion was obtained, it is not probable that a member of
the majority could indicate any that was common to all; previous
prepositions are merged in the act of consummation, and the interpreter
of it must look to that alone.
"I have thought it fair to treat the question as it stands affected
by our own municipal regulations, without illustration from those of
other States, where the condition of the race has been still less
favoured. Yet it is proper to say, that the second section of the
fourth article of the Federal Constitution presents an obstacle to the
political freedom of the negro, which seems to be insuperable. It is
to be remembered that citizenship, as well as freedom, is a
constitutional qualification; and how it could be conferred, so as to
overbear the laws, imposing countless disabilities on him in other
States, is a problem of difficult solution. In this aspect, the
question becomes one, not of intention, but of power; so doubtful, as
to forbid the exercise of it. Every man must lament the necessity of
the disabilities; but slavery is to be dealt with by those whose
existence depends on the skill with which it is treated. Considerations
of mere humanity, however, belong to a class with which, as judges, we
have nothing to do; and, interpreting the constitution in the spirit of
our own institutions, we are bound to pronounce that men of colour are
destitute of title to the elective franchise: their blood, however, may
become so diluted in successive descent, as to lose its distinctive
character; and then both policy and justice require that previous
disabilities should cease. By the amended constitution of North
Carolina, no free negro, mulatto, or free person of mixed blood,
descended from negro ancestors to the fourth generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person
, shall vote for the legislature. I regret to say, no similar
regulation, for practical purposes, has been attempted here; in
consequence of which, every case of disputed colour must be determined
by no particular rule, but by the discretion of the judges; and thus a
great constitutional right, even under the proposed amendments of the
constitution, will be left the sport of caprice. In conclusion, we are
of opinion the court erred in directing that the plaintiff could have
his action against the defendant for the rejection of his vote.
It will be observed by those who have had patience to read through
so long a legal document, that reference is made to the unjust
prejudice against any taint of the African blood. There is an existing
proof of the truth of this remark, in the case of one of the most
distinguished members of the House of Representatives. This gentleman
has some children who are not of pure blood; but, to his honour, he has
done his duty by them, he has educated them, and received them into his
house as his acknowledged daughters. What is the consequence? Why, it
is considered that by so doing he has outraged society; and whenever
they want to raise a cry against him, this is the charge, and very
injurious it is to his popularity, —"that he has done his duty as a
father and a Christian."
"Captain Marryat, we are a very moral people!"
The laws of the State relative to the intermarriage of the whites
with the coloured population are also referred to. A case of this kind
took place at New York when I was there; and as soon as the ceremony
was over, the husband, I believe it was, but either the husband or the
wife, was seized by the mob, and put under the pump for half an hour.
At Boston, similar modes of expressing public opinion have been
adopted, notwithstanding that that city is the stronghold of the
It also refers to the white slavery, which was not abolished until
the year 1789. Previous to that period, a man who arrived out, from the
old continent, and could not pay his passage, was put up to auction for
the amount of his debt, and was compelled to serve until he had worked
it out with the purchaser. But not only for the debt of passage-money,
but for other debts, a white man was put up to auction, and sold to the
best bidder. They tell a curious story, for the truth of which I cannot
vouch, of a lawyer, a very clever but dissipated and extravagant man,
who, having contracted large debts and escaped to New Jersey, was taken
and put up to auction; a keen Yankee purchased him, and took him
regularly round to all the circuits to plead causes, and made a very
considerable sum out of him before his time expired.
I have observed that Mr. Fortin, the coloured man, was considered
quite white enough to pay taxes. It is usually considered in this
country, that by going to America you avoid taxation, but such is not
the case. The municipal taxes are not very light. I could not obtain
any very satisfactory estimates from the other cities, but I gained
thus much from Philadelphia.
The assessments are on property.
City Tax, 70 cents upon the 100 dollars valuation.
County Tax, 65 cents upon ditto.
Poor's Rate, 40 cents.
Taxes on Horses, 1 dollar each.
Taxes on Dogs, half a dollar each.
Poll Tax, from a quarter dollar to 4 dollars each person.
It is singular that such a tax as the
poll tax, that which
created the insurrection of Wat Tyler in England, should have forced
its way into a democracy. In the collection of their taxes, they are
quite as summary as they are in England. This is the notice:
"You are hereby informed, that your property is
included in a list of delinquents now preparing, and will be advertised
and sold for the assessments due thereon. (This being the last call.)
"Your immediate attention will save the costs of advertising, sale,
"Collector's Office, No. 1, State of —."
It is a strange fact, and one which must have attracted the
reader's notice, that there should be a poor's rate in America, where
there is work for every body; and still stranger that there should be
one in the city of Philadelphia, in which, perhaps, there are more
beneficent and charitable institutions than in any city in the world of
the same population: notwithstanding this there are many mendicants in
the street. All this arises from the advantage taken of an unwise
philanthropy in the first place, many people preferring to live upon
alms in preference to labour; and next from the state of destitution
to which many of the emigrants are reduced after their arrival, and
before they can obtain employment. Indeed, not only Philadelphia, but
Baltimore and New York, are equally charged for the support of these
people —the two first by legal enactment, the latter by voluntary
subscription. And it is much to the credit of the inhabitants of all
these cities that the charge is paid cheerfully, and that an appeal is
never made in vain.
But let the Americans beware: the poor rate at present is trifling
—40 cents in the 100 dollars, or about 1¾d. in the pound; but they
must recollect, that they were not more in England about half a century
back, and see to what they have risen now! It is the principle which is
bad. There are now in Philadelphia more than 1,500 paupers, who live
entirely upon the public, but who, if relief had not been continued to
them, would, in all probability, by this time, have found their way to
where their labour is required. The Philadelphians are proverbially
generous and charitable; but they should remember that in thus
yielding to the dictates of their hearts, they are sowing the seeds of
what will prove a bitter curse to their posterity. See note 2.
Note 1. "On the whole, I cannot help considering it a mistake to
suppose that slavery has been abolished in the Northern States of the
Union. It is true, indeed, that in these States the power of compulsory
labour no longer exists; and that one human being within their limits
can no longer claim property in the thews and sinews of another. But is
this all that is implied in the boon of freedom? if the word mean
anything, it must mean the enjoyment of equal rights, and the
unfettered exercise in each individual of such powers and faculties as
God has given. In this true meaning of the word, it may be safely
asserted that this poor degraded class are still slaves —they are
subject to the most grinding and humiliating of all slaveries, that of
universal and unconquerable prejudice. The whip, indeed, has been
removed from the back of the negro; but the chains are still upon his
limbs, and he bears the brand of degradation on his forehead. What is
it but the mere abuse of language to call him free, who is
tyrannically deprived of all the motives to exertion which animate
other men? The law, in truth, has left him in that most pitiable of all
conditions —a masterless slave." —Hamilton's Men and
Manners in America.
Note 2. Miss Martineau, who is not always wrong, in her remarks
upon pauperism in the United States, observes:— "The amount,
altogether, is far from commensurate with the charity of the community;
and it is to be hoped that the curse of a legal charity will be avoided
in a country where it certainly cannot become necessary within any
assignable time. I was grieved to see the magnificent Pauper Asylum
near Philadelphia, made to accommodate, luxuriously, 1,200 persons; and
to have its arrangements pointed out to me, as yielding more comforts
to the inmates than the labourer could secure at home by any degree of
industry and prudence."
End of Vol. I.