No. CCCLXXX. JUNE, 1847. Vol. LXI.
NORTH AMERICA, SIBERIA, AND RUSSIA.[A]
The circumnavigation of the world is now a matter of ordinary occurrence to our bold mariners: and after a few years it will be a sort of summer excursion to our steamers. We shall have the requisitions of the Travellers' Club more stringent as the sphere of action grows wider; and no man will be eligible who has not paid a visit to Pekin, or sunned himself in Siam.
But a circuit of the globe on terra firma is, we believe, new. Sir George Simpson will have no competitor, that we have ever heard, to claim from him the honour of having first galloped right a-head—from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Pacific to the British Channel. One or two slight divergencies of some thousand miles down the smooth and sunny bosom of the Pacific, are to be reckoned as mere episodes: but Sir George soon recovers his course, plunges in through the regions of the polar star; defies time, trouble, and Tartary; marches in the track of tribes, of which all but the names have expired; follows the glories of conquerors, whose bones have mingled five hundred years ago with the dust of the desert; gives a flying glance on one side towards the Wall of China, and on the other towards the Arctic Circle; still presses on, till he reaches the confines of the frozen civilisation of the Russian empire; and sweeps along, among bowing governors and prostrate serfs,—still but emerging from barbarism—until he does homage to the pomp of the Russian court, and finally lands in the soil of freedom, funds, and the income tax.
What the actual object of all this gyration may have been, is not revealed, nor, probably, revealable by a "Governor of the Hudson's Bay territories," who, having the fear of other governors before his eyes, dedicates his two handsome volumes to "The Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company;" but the late negotiations on Oregon, the Russian interest in the new empire rising on the shore of the Northern Pacific, the vigorous efforts of Russia to turn its Siberian world into a place of human habitancy, and the unexpected interest directed to those regions by the discovery of gold deposits which throw the old wealth of the Spanish main into the shade, might be sufficient motives for the curiosity of an individual of intelligence, and for the anxious inquiries of a great company, bordering on two mighty powers in North America, both of them more remarkable for the vigour of their ambition than for the reverence of their hunters and fishers for the jus gentium.
Those volumes, then, will supply a general and a very well conceived estimate of immense tracts of the globe, hitherto but little known to the English public. The view is clear, quick, and discriminative. The countries of which it gives us a new knowledge are probably destined to act with great power on our interests, some as the rivals of our commerce, some as the depots of our manufactures, and some as the recipients of that overflow of population which Europe is now pouring out from all her fields on the open wilderness of the world.
This spread of emigration to the north is a curious instance of the reflux of the human tide; for, from the north evidently was Europe originally peopled. Japhet was a powerful propeller; and often as he has dwelt in the tents of Shem, he is likely to overwhelm the whole territory of the southern brother once more. The Turk, the Egyptian, the man of Asia Minor, the man of Thrace, will yet be but tribes in that army of the new Xerxes which, pouring from Moscow, and impelled from St Petersburg, will renew the invasions of Genghiz and Tamerlane, and try the civilized strength of the west against the wild courage and countless multitudes of Tartary. Into this strange, but important, and prospectively powerful country, we now follow the traveller. Embarking from Liverpool in the Caledonia, a vessel of 1300 tons and 450 horse power, he was amply prepared to face the perils of the most stormy of all oceans, the Atlantic. The run across lad the usual fortunes of all voyages, and within a week after their departure from terra firma they saw a whale, who saw them with rather more indifference, for he lay lounging on the surface until the steamer had nearly run over him. At last he dived down, and was seen no more. Next day, while there was so little wind, that all their light canvass was set, they saw the phenomenon of a ship under close-reefed topsails. This apparent timidity was laughed at by some of the passengers, but the more experienced guessed that the vessel had come out of a gale, of which they were likely to have a share before long, a conjecture which was soon verified.
On the morning of the 9th day, the captain, discovering that the barometer had fallen between two and three inches during the night, due preparations were of course made to meet the storm. It came on in the afternoon, a hurricane. Then followed the usual havock of boats and canvass, the surges making a clean breach over the deck; the passengers, of course, gave themselves up for lost, and even the crew are said to have been pretty nearly of the same opinion. However, the wind went down at last, the sea grew comparatively smooth, and in twenty-four hours more, they found themselves on the banks of Newfoundland. The writer thinks that it was fortunate for them that the storm had not caught them in the short swell of these shallow waters, as was probably the case of the President, whose melancholy fate so long excited, and still excites a feeling of surprise and sorrow in the public mind.
It was lost in this very storm. Next day came another of the sea wonders. The cry of land started them all from the dinner table; but the land happened to be an immense field of ice, which, with the inequalities of its surface and the effect of refraction, presented some appearance of a wooded country. On that night the cry of "Light a-head," while they were still several hundred miles from land, excited new astonishment. "All the knowing ones" clearly distinguished a magnificent revolver. The paddles were accordingly stopped to have a cast of the lead, but in another half hour it was ascertained that the revolver was a newly risen star.
At length land was really seen, and after a run of fourteen days, they cast anchor in the harbour of Halifax. But as Boston was their true destination they steered for it at once. Their progress had been rapid, for they entered Boston Bay in thirty-six hours from Halifax, a distance of 390 miles. Boston is more English looking than New York. The gently undulating shores of the bay, highly cultivated, bring to memory the green hills of England, and within the town the buildings and the inhabitants have a peculiarly English air.
As speed was an object, the party immediately left the town by the railway, passing through Lowell and reaching Nashua. This is one of the rapid growths of America. In 1819 this place was a village of but nineteen houses. It now contains 19,000 inhabitants, with churches, hotels, prisons, and banks. Here the party went off in two detachments, one in a sleigh with six horses, and the other rattled along in a coach-and-four. At the next stage the author exchanged the coach for a sleigh, a matter of no great importance to the world, but which may be mentioned as a caution against rash changes. For the first few miles the new conveyance went on merrily, and the passengers congratulated themselves on their wisdom. We must now let him speak for himself.
"The sun, as the day advanced, kept thawing the snow, till at last, on coming to a deep drift, we were repeatedly obliged to get out, sometimes walking up to the knees, and sometimes helping to lift the vehicle out of the snow. However, at length we fairly stuck fast, in spite of all our hauling and pushing. The horses struggled and plunged to no purpose, excepting that the leaders, after breaking part of their tackle, galloped off over the hills and far away, leaving us to kick our heels in the slush, till they were brought back after a chase of several miles."
The road now passed through Vermont, the state of green mountains. The country appeared striking; and Montpelier, where they breakfasted, seems to be a very pretty place, looking more the residence of hereditary ease and luxury, than the capital of a republic of thrifty graziers. It is, in fact, an assemblage of villas; the wide streets run between rows of trees, and the houses, each in its own little garden, are shaded by verandas.
In that very pleasant little book, the "Miseries of Human Life," one of those small calamities is, the being called at the wrong hour to go off in the wrong coach from a Yorkshire inn. Time and the railroad have changed all this in England, but in America we have the primitive misery well described.
The author, after forty-two hours of hard jolting, goes to bed at one o'clock to obtain a little repose, leaving orders to be called at five in the morning. He is wrapt in the profoundest of all possible slumbers, when a peal of blows is heard at his door. "In spite, however, of laziness, and a cold morning to boot," he says, "I had completed the operations of washing and dressing by candlelight, having even donned hat and gloves, to join my companions, when the waiter entered my room with a grin. 'I guess,' said the rascal, 'I have put my foot in it. Are you the man that wanted to be called at two?' 'No,' was my reply. 'Then,' said he, 'I calculate I have fixed the wrong man, so you had better go to bed again.' Having delivered himself of this friendly advice, he went to awaken my neighbour, who had all this time been quietly enjoying the sleep that properly belonged to me. Instead of following the fellow's recommendation, I sat up for the rest of the night." Whether the author possessed a watch we cannot tell, but if he was master of that useful and not very rare article, he might have saved himself his premature trouble, and escaped shaving at midnight.
On crossing into the Canadian territory, he encounters one of those evidences of popular liberty which belong to rather the American than the English side. In the village of St John's, some of the party went a-head to the principal inn, and as it was late at night, and their knocking produced no effect, they appealed to what they regarded as the most accessible of the landlord's susceptibilities, his pocket, by saying that they were fourteen, more coming, with a whole host of drivers. This appeal was the most unlucky possible, for the landlord had another sensibility, the fear of being tarred and feathered, if not hanged. On the door being opened at last, the landlord was not to be found; his brother wandered about, the very ghost of despair. The establishment was searched upside and downside, inside and outside, in vain; and they began to think themselves the cause of some domestic tragedy; but it must have been a late perpetration, for on looking into his bed, they found the lair warm.
However, after a short time, mine host returned with a face all smiles. The mystery was then explained. The election had taken place during the day, and the landlord, having taken the part of the candidate who eventually succeeded, was threatened with vengeance by the losing party. The arrival of the travellers convinced him that his hour was come, and he had jumped out of bed and hidden himself in some inscrutable corner. But a good supper reconciled every thing.
The author crossed the ice to Montreal, and had a showy view of the metropolis of the Canadas. A curious observation is suggested by Montreal, on the different characters of the English and French population. In the days of Wolf and Amherst, it was all French; but John Bull, with his spirit of activity and industry, has quietly become master of all the trading situations of the city, while the French have as quietly retreated, and spread themselves through the upper sections of it, to a great degree cut off from its commercial portions.
From Montreal the travel began. The heavy canoes were sent forward some days before, under the charge of some of the Company's officers, the light canoes waited for the author, with Colonel Oldfield, chief engineer in Canada, who was going up the country on a survey of the navigation, and the Earls of Mulgrave and Caledon, who were going to the Red River, buffalo-hunting.
All was now ready in form, and on the 4th of May the two canoes were floating on the Lactrine canal. The crews, thirteen to one vessel, and fourteen to the other, were partly Canadians, but principally Iroquois. Those voyageurs, as they are called, had each been supplied with a feather in his cap, in honour of the occasion, and evidently expected to produce a sensation on shore. But a north-wester blowing prevented the hoisting of their flags, which mulcted the pageant of much of its intended glory. These canoes are thirty-five feet in length, and five feet wide in the centre; drawing about eighteen inches water, and weighing between three and four hundred pounds; capitally fitted for a navigation among rocks, rapids, and portages; but they seem most uncomfortable in rough weather. The waves of the St Lawrence rolled like a sea, the gale was biting, and the snow drifted heavily in the faces of the party. In this luckless condition, we are not surprised at the intelligence, that at St Anne's Rapids, notwithstanding the authority of the poet, "they sang no evening hymn."
This style of travelling was not certainly much mingled with luxury. Next morning, after "toiling for six hours," they breakfasted, "with the wet ground for their table, and with rain in place of milk to cool their tea." On this day, while running close under the falls of the Rideau, they seem to have had a narrow escape from a finale to their voyage; their canoes being swept into the middle of the river, under an immense fall, fifty feet in height.
They now learned the art of bivouaching, and after a day of toiling through portages, reserving the severest of them, the Grand Calumet, for the renewed vigour of the morning, they made ready for the forest night. The description, brief as it is, is one among many which shows the artist eye.
"The tents were pitched in a small clump of pines, while round a blazing fire the passengers were collected, amid a medley of boxes, barrels, cloaks, and on the rock above the foaming rapids were lying the canoes; the men flitting about the fires as if they were enjoying a holiday, and watching a huge cauldron suspended above the fire. The whole with a background of dense woods and a lake."
Yet, startling as this "wooing of nature" in her rough moods may seem to the silk-and-velvet portion of the world, we doubt whether this wild life, with its desperate toil and its ground sleep, may not be the true charm of travel to saint, savage, or sage, when once fairly forced to the experiment. The blazing fire, the bed of leaves, the gay supper, made gayer still by incomparable appetite, and the sleep after all, in which the whole outward man remains imbedded, without the movement of a muscle and without a dream, until the morning awakes him up a new being, are fully worth all the inventions of art, to make us enjoy rest unearned by fatigue, and food without waiting for appetite. "The sleep of the weary man is sweet," said the ancient and wise king who slept among curtains of gold, and under roofs of cedar; the true way to taste that sleep is to spend a day, dragging canoes up Indian portages, and lie down with one's feet warmed by a pine blaze and one's back to the shelter of a forest.
But, as the time will assuredly come when this "life in the woods" will be no more, when huge inns will supersede the canopy of the skies, and down beds will make the memory of birch twigs and heather blossoms pass away, we give from authority the proceedings of an evening's rest, which the next generation will study with somewhat of the feeling of reading Tacitus De Moribus Germanorum.
As the sun approached his setting, every eye in the canoes, as they pulled along, was speculating on some dry and tolerably open spot on the shore. That once found, all were on shore in an instant. Then the axe was heard ringing among the trees, to prepare for the fires, and make room for the tents. In ten minutes, the tents were pitched, the fires blazing in front of each, and the supper preparing in all its diversities. The beds were next made, consisting of an oil-cloth laid on the ground, with blankets and a pillow; occasionally aided by great-coats, a discretion. The crews, drawing the canoes on shore, first made an inspection of their hurts during the day; and having done this, the little vessels were turned into a shelter, and each man wrapping himself in his blanket defied the weather and the world.
But this state of happiness was never destined to last long. About one in the morning, the cry, of "Leve, leve," broke all slumbers. We must acknowledge that the hour seems premature, and that the most patient of travellers might have solicited a couple of hours more of "tired Nature's sweet restorer." But the discipline of the bivouac was Spartan. If the slumberer did not instantly start up, the tent was pulled down about him, and he found himself half-smothered in canvass. However, we must presume that this seldom happened, and, within half an hour, every thing would be packed, the canoes laden, and the paddles moving to some "merry old song." In this manner passed the day, six hours of rest, to eighteen of labour, a tremendous disproportion, even to the sturdy Englishman, or the active Irishman, but perfectly congenial to the sinews and spirit of the gay voyageur.
A few touches more give the complete picture of the day. About eight, a convenient site would be selected for breakfast. Three-quarters of an hour being the whole time allotted for unpacking and packing, boiling and frying, eating and drinking. "While the preliminaries were arranging, the hardier among us would wash and shave, each person carrying soap and towel in his pocket, and finding a mirror in the same sandy or rocky basin which held the water. About two in the afternoon, we put ashore for dinner, and as this meal needed no fire, or, at least, got none, it was not allowed to occupy more than twenty minutes, or half an hour."
We recommend the following considerations to the amateur boat clubs, and others, who plume themselves on their naval achievements between Putney and Vauxhall bridges. Let them take the work of a Canadian paddle-man to heart, and lower their plumage accordingly.
"The quality of the work, even more than the quantity, requires operatives of iron mould. In smooth water, the paddle is plied with twice the rapidity of the oar, taxing both arms and lungs to the utmost extent. Amid shallows, the canoe is literally dragged by the men, wading to their knees or their loins, while each poor fellow, after replacing his drier half in his seat, laughingly strikes the heavier of the wet from his legs over the gunwale, before he gives them an inside berth. In rapids, the towing line has to be hauled along over rocks and stumps, through swamps and thickets, excepting that when the ground is utterly impracticable, poles are substituted, and occasionally also the bushes on the shore."
This however is "plain sailing," to the Portages, where the tracks are of all imaginable kinds and degrees of badness, and the canoes and their cargoes are never carried across in less than two or three trips; the little vessels alone monopolizing, in the first turn, the more expert half of their respective crews. Of the baggage, each man has to carry at least two pieces, estimated at a hundred and eighty pounds weight, which he suspends in slings placed across his forehead, so that he may have his hands free, to clear his way among the branches and standing or fallen trunks. Besides all this, the voyageur performs the part of bridge, or jetty, on the arrival of the canoe at its place of rest, the gentlemen passengers being carried on shore on the backs of these good-humoured and sinewy fellows.
For the benefit of the untravelled, we should say, that a Portage is the fragment of land-passage between the foot and head of a rapid, when the rush of the stream is too strong for the tow-rope.
At one of the halting-places on Lake Superior, a curious tale was told of the Indian's belief in a Providence, of which it had been the scene.
Three or four years before, a party of Salteaux, much pressed for hunger, were anxious to reach one of their fishing stations, an island about twenty miles from the shore. The spring had unluckily reached that point, when there was neither clear water, nor trustworthy ice. A council was being held, to consider the hard alternatives of drowning and starving, when an old man of influence thus spoke:
"You know, my friends, that the Great Spirit gave one of our squaws a child yesterday; now, he cannot have sent it into the world to take it away again directly. I should therefore recommend the carrying the child with us, as the pledge of safety."
We wish that we could have to record a successful issue to this anticipation. But the transit was too much for the metaphysics of the old Indian. They went on the treacherous ice, it gave way, and eight-and-twenty perished.
The Thunder Mountain on their route, struck them as "one of the most appalling objects" which they had seen, being a bleak rock twelve hundred feet high above the level of the lake, with a perpendicular face of its full height. The Indians say, that any one who can scale it, and "turn three times on the brink of its fearful wall, will live for ever." We presume, by dying first.
But the shores of this mighty lake, or rather fresh-water sea, which seemed destined to loneliness for ever, are now likely to hear the din of population and blaze with furnaces and factories. Its southern coasts are found to possess rich veins of copper and silver. Later inquiry has discovered on the northern shore "inexhaustible treasures of gold, silver, copper, and tin," and associations have been already formed to work them. Sir George Simpson even speaks of the future probability of their rivalling in point of wealth the Altai chain, and the Uralian mountains.
From Fort William, at the head of Lake Superior, the little expedition entered a river with a polysyllabic name, which leads farther on, to the "Far West." The banks were beautiful. When this country shall be peopled, it will be one of the resemblances of the primitive paradise.
It is all picturesque; the river finely diversified with rapids, and with one cataract which, though less in volume than Niagara, throws that far-famed fall into the background, in point of height and wildness of scenery. But we must leave description to the author's pen. "The river, during this day's march, passed through forests of elm, oak, birch, &c., being studded with isles not less fertile and lovely than its banks. And many a spot reminded us of the rich and quiet scenery of England. The paths of the numerous portages were spangled with roses, violets, and many other wild flowers—while the currant, the gooseberry, the raspberry, the plum, the cherry, and even the vine, were abundant. All this bounty of nature was imbued, as it were, with life, by the cheerful notes of a variety of birds, and by the restless flutter of butterflies of the brightest hues." He then makes the natural and graceful reflection—
"One cannot pass through this fair valley without feeling that it is destined to become, sooner or later, the happy home of civilised men, with their bleating flocks, and their lowing herds—with their schools and their churches—with their full garners, and their social hearths. At the time of our visit, the great obstacle in the way of so blessed a consummation was the hopeless wilderness to the eastward, which seemed to bar for ever the march of settlement and cultivation, but which will soon be an open road to the far west with all its riches. That wilderness, now that it is to yield up its long-hidden stores, bids fair to remove the impediments which hitherto it has itself presented. The mines of Lake Superior, besides establishing a continuity of route between the East and the West, will find their nearest and cheapest supply of agricultural produce in the valley of the Kaministaquoia."
One of the especial hazards of the forest now encountered them. Passing down a narrow creek near Lac le Pluie, fire suddenly burst forth in the woods near them. The flames crackling and clambering up each tree, quickly rose above the forest; within a few minutes more the dry grass on the very margin of the waters, was in "a running blaze, and before they were clear of the danger, they were almost enveloped in clouds of smoke and ashes. These conflagrations, often caused by a wanderer's fire, or even by his pipe, desolate large tracts of country, leaving nothing but black and bare trunks, one of the most dismal scenes on which the eye can look. When once the fire gets into the thick turf of the primeval wilderness, it sets every thing at defiance. It has been known to smoulder for a whole winter under the deep snow."
Another Indian display quickly followed. After traversing the lake, they were hailed by the warriors of the Salteaux, a band of about a hundred, the fighting men of a tribe of five hundred. Their five chiefs presented a congratulatory address on their safe arrival, requesting an audience, which was appointed, at the rather undiplomatic hour of four next morning. But, while the Governor was slumbering, the Indians were preparing means of persuasion more effective, in their conceptions, than even the oratory on which they seem to pride themselves very highly—"while they were napping, the enemy were pelting away at them with their incantations."
In the centre of a conjuring tent—a structure of branches and bark, forty feet in length by ten in width—they kindled a fire; round the blaze stood the chiefs and "medicine men," while as many others as could find room were squatted against the walls. Then, to enlighten and convert the Governor, charms were muttered, rattles were shaken, and offerings were committed to the flames. After all these operations the silent spectators, at a given signal, started on their feet and marched round the magic circle, singing, whooping, and drumming in horrible discord. With occasional intervals, which were spent by the performers in taking fresh air, the exhibition continued during the whole night, so that when the appointed hour arrived they were still engaged in their observances. At length the two parties met in the open square of the fort. The Indians dressed in all their glory, a part of which consists in smearing their faces entirely out of sight with colours—the prevailing fashion being, forehead white, nose and cheeks red, mouth and chin black.
The Governor and his party of course made their best effort to meet all this magnificence. Lord Caledon and Lord Mulgrave exhibited in regimentals; the rest put on their dressing-gowns, which, being of showy patterns, were equally effective. Seated in the "hall of conference," the pipes being sent round, hands shaken, and all due ceremonial having been performed, the Indian orator commenced his harangue in the style with which we have now become familiar. Beginning with the creation, &c. &c., which Sir George cut short, and suddenly dropping down into the practical complaint, "that we had stopped their rum," though our predecessors had promised to furnish it "as long as the waters flowed down the rapids." "Now," said he, in allusion to our empty casks, "if I crack a nut, will water flow from it?"
The Governor replied, that the withdrawal of the rum was not to save expense but to benefit them. He then gave them his advice on temperance, and promised them a small quantity of rum every autumn. He also promised a present for their civility in bringing their packet of furs, for which they should receive payment besides. Then followed a general and final shaking of hands, and the Congress between the English and Chippaway nations broke up to their mutual satisfaction.
The Red River settlement, of which we heard so often during the quarrels between Lord Selkirk and the Company, will yet be a great colony; the soil is very fertile (one of the most important elements of colonisation,) its early tillage producing forty returns of wheat; and, even after twenty years of tillage, without manure, fallow, or green crop, yielding from fifteen to twenty-five bushels an acre. The wheat is plump and heavy, and, besides, there are large quantities of other grain, with beef, mutton, pork, butter, cheese, and wool in abundance. This would be the true country for emigration from our impoverished islands, and will, of course, be crowded when conveyances shall become more manageable. A railroad across Canada must still be a rather Utopian conception, but it might be well worth the expense of making by government, even though it produced nothing for the next half-dozen years, for the multitudes whom it would carry through the heart of this superb country in the half-dozen years after, and for the wealth which they would pour into England in every year to come.
The settlement, however, meets, in its turn, the common chances of an American climate. In winter the cold is intense. The summer is short, and the rivers sometimes overflow and drown the crops. Still what are these things to the population, where food is plenty, the air healthy, and the ground cheap, fertile and untaxed. In fact, the difficulties, in such instances, are scarcely more than incitements to the ingenuity of man, to provide resources against them. The season of snow is a time of cheerfulness in every land of the north. In Denmark, Russia, and Canada, when the rivers close up, business is laid by for the next six months; and the time of dancing, driving, and feasting begins. Food is the great requisite; when that is found, every thing follows.
In addition to agriculture, or in place of it, the settlers, more particularly those of mixed origin, devote the summer, the autumn, and sometimes the winter also, to the hunting of the buffalo, bringing home vast quantities of pemmican, dried meat, grease, tongues, &c. for which the Company and voyaging business affords the best market.
The party now proceeded, still with their faces turned to the west, and marched for some days over an immense prairie, which seemed to them to have been once the bottom of a huge lake. A rather striking circumstance is, that nearly every height in this region has its romance of savage life. We give one of murder, for the benefit of the modern school of novelists.
Many summers ago, a party of Assinabaians fell on a party of Crees in the neighbourhood of the Beatte a Carcajar, a conspicuous knoll in this neighbourhood, and nearly destroyed them all. Among the assailants was the former wife of one of the Crees, who had been carried off from him, in an earlier foray, by her present lord and master. From whatever motive of domestic memory, this Amazon rushed into the thickest of the fight, for the evident purpose of killing the original husband. He, however, escaped; and while the victors were scalping his unfortunate companions, creeping stealthily along for a whole day under cover of the woods, he laid down at night in a hollow at the top of the Knoll. But his wife had never lost sight of him, and no sooner had he, in the exhaustion of hunger and fatigue, sunk into a sound sleep, than she sent an arrow into his brain. She then possessed herself of his scalp, and exhibited it as her prize to the victors. The title of the slain savage was the Wolverine, and the spot is still called the Wolverine's Knoll.
The Indians assert that the ghosts of the murderess and her victim are often to be seen struggling on the height.
Human nature, left to itself, is a fierce and frightful thing; and the stories of savage life are nearly all of the same calibre, and all exhibit a dreadful love of revenge. About twenty years ago, a large encampment of Black-feet and others, had been formed in those prairies for the purpose of hunting. The warriors, however, growing tired of their peaceful occupation, resolved to make an incursion into the lands of the Assinabaians. They left behind them the old men with the women and children. After a successful campaign, they turned their steps homewards, loaded with scalps and other spoils, and on reaching the top of the ridge that overlooked their camp, they gave note of their approach by the usual shouts of victory. But no shout answered, and on descending to their huts, they found the whole of the inmates slaughtered. The Assinabaians had been there to take their revenge.
On beholding the dismal scene, the triumphant warriors cast away their spoils, arms, and clothing, and then putting on robes of leather, and smearing their heads with mud, they betook themselves to the hills for three days and nights, to howl and moan, and cut their flesh. It is observed, that this mode of expressing public grief, bears a striking resemblance to the customs of the Jews. The track towards Fort Vancouver exhibited a country, which may yet make a great figure in the American world,—immense valleys sheltered by mountain ridges, and containing beautiful lakes. In one instance, their tents were pitched in a valley of about five hundred acres enclosed by mountains on three sides, and a lake on the fourth. From the edge of the waters there arose a gentle descent of six or eight hundred feet covered with vines, and composed of the accumulated fragments of the heights above; and on the upper border of this slope there stood perpendicular walls of granite of three or four thousand feet high, while among those dizzy altitudes, the goats and sheep bounded in playful security. This defile had been the scene of an exploit. One of the Crees, whom they had met a few days before, had been tracked into the valley along with his wife and family by five warriors of a hostile tribe. On perceiving the odds against him, the man gave himself up for lost, observing to the woman, that as they could die but once, they had better die without resistance. The wife, however, said, that "as they had but one life to lose, they had the more reason to defend it," and, suiting the action to the word, the heroic wife brought the foremost of the enemy down to the ground by a bullet, while the husband disposed of two others by two arrows. The fourth warrior was rushing on the woman with uplifted tomahawk, when he stumbled and fell. She darted forward, and buried her knife in his heart. The sole surviving assailant now turned and fled, discharging, however, a bullet which wounded the man in the arm.
They had now reached that rocky range from which the eastern and western rivers of those mighty provinces take their common departure. Here they estimated the height of the pass to be seven or eight thousand feet above sea-level, while the peaks seemed to be nearly half that height above their heads.
Of course, the party often felt the torture of mosquitoes, but one valley was so pre-eminently infested with those tormentors, that man and beast alike preferred being nearly choked with smoke, in which they plunged, for the sake of escaping their stings. But we advert to this common plague of all forest travel, only for its legendary honours.
"The Canadians vented their curses against the OLD MAID, who had the credit of having brought the scourge upon earth, by praying for something to fill up the leisure of her single blessedness." And if, as the author observes, "the tormentors would confine themselves to nunneries and monasteries, the world might see something more of the fitness of things in the matter."
At the close of August, the party reached Fort Vancouver, having crossed the Continent, by a route of five thousand miles, in twelve weeks' travelling.
They now made a visit to the Russian-American Company's Establishment of New Archangel. This exhibited considerable signs of commerce. In the harbour were five sailing vessels from 250 to 350 tons; besides a large bark in the offing in tow of a steamer, which brought advices from St Petersburgh down to the end of April. An officer came off conveying Governor Etholine's compliments and welcome. The party landed, and were received in the residence situated on the top of a rock. The Governor's dwelling consisted of a suite of apartments communicating, according to the Russian fashion, with each other, all the public, rooms being handsomely decorated and richly furnished. It commanded a view of the whole establishment, which was, in fact, a little village. About half way down the rock, two batteries frowned respectively over the land and the water. Behind the Bay arise stupendous piles of conical mountains with summits of everlasting snow. To seaward, Mount Edgecumbe, also in the form of a cone, rears its trunk-headed peak, still remembered as the source of smoke and flame, lava and ashes, but now the repository of the snows of an age. Next day, the Governor, in full uniform, came in his gig to return the visit to Sir George on board his steamer. The party were invited on shore, where they were introduced to Madame Etholine, a pretty and lady-like woman, a native of Finland. They then visited the schools, in which there were twenty boys and as many girls; the boys were intended chiefly for the naval service, nor did religion seem to be neglected any more than education. The Greek Church had its bishop, fifteen priests, deacons, and followers, and the Lutherans had their clergyman. The ecclesiastics were all maintained by the Imperial Government. Such is Sitka, the principal depot of the Russian-American Company. It has various subordinate establishments. The operations of the Company are becoming more extensive, and at this period the returns of the trade amounted to about 25,000 skins of beavers, otters, foxes, &c.
Among the company at the Russian Governor's, was a half-breed native, who had been the leader of an expedition equipped some years ago, for the discovery of what would here be styled the North-East passage. The Russians reached Point Barrow shortly after the expedition under Mr Thomas Simpson had reached the same point from the opposite direction. The climate seems to be sufficiently trying, and during the four days at Sitka there was nearly one continued fall of rain. The weather was cold and squally, snow had fallen, and the channels were traversed by restless masses which had broken off from the glaciers. In short nothing could exceed the dreariness of the coast.
This shore, of which so much has been said and written during the late Oregon negociations, is described as the very scene for the steam-boat. Here are the Straits of Juan de Fuca; and here Admiral Fonte penetrated up the more northerly inlets. They are the very region made for the steam-boat, as in the case of a sailing vessel their dangers and delays would have been tripled and quadrupled. But steam has also a power almost superstitious on the minds of the natives; besides acting on their fears, it has in a great measure subdued their love of robbery and violence. It has given the savage a new sense of the superiority of his white brother.
A striking instance of this feeling is given. After the arrival of the emigrants from Red River, their guide, an Indian, took a short trip in the Beaver. When asked what he thought of her, "Don't ask me," was his reply. "I cannot speak; my friends will think that I tell lies when I let them know what I have seen. Indians are fools, and know nothing. I can see that the iron machinery makes the ship go, but I cannot see what makes the iron machinery itself go." This man, though intelligent, and partly civilized, was nevertheless so full of doubt and wonder that he would not leave the vessel till he had got a certificate to the effect that he had been on board of a ship which needed neither sails nor paddles,—any document in writing being regarded by the Indians as unquestionable. Fort Vancouver—which will probably be the head of a great colony, is about ninety miles from the sea, the Colombia in front of it, being a mile in width—contains houses, stores, magazines, &c. Outside the fort, the dwellings of the servants, &c. form a little village. The people of the establishment vary in number, according to the season of the year, from one hundred and thirty to more than two hundred. Divine service is regularly performed every Sunday in English to the Protestants. But at the time of this journal there was unfortunately no English clergyman connected with the establishment.
Sir George himself now visited California, the region which the Mexican war is bringing into prominent notice. The harbour of San Francisco is magnificent, the first view of the shore presented a level sward of about a mile in depth, backed by a ridge of grassy slopes, the whole pastured by numerous herds of cattle and horses, which, without a keeper or a fold, fattened whether their owners waked or slept.
The harbour displays a sheet of water of about thirty miles in length by about twelve in breadth, sheltered from every wind by an amphitheatre of green hills. But this sheet of water forms only a part in the inland sea of San Francisco. Whaler's Harbour, at its own northern extremity, communicates by a strait of about two miles in width with the bay of San Pedro, which leads by means of a second strait into Fresh Water Bay, of nearly the same form and magnitude, and which forms the receptacle, of two great rivers, draining vast tracts of country to the south-east and north-east, which are navigable for inland craft, so that the harbour, besides its matchless qualities as a port of refuge on this surf-beaten coast, is the outlet of an immense, fair, and fertile region.
But the beauties of nature are useless when they fall into the hands of idlers and fools. Every thing in those fine countries seems to be boasting and beggary. Every thing has been long sinking into ruin, through mere indolence. The Californians once manufactured the fleeces of their sheep into cloth. They are now too lazy to weave or spin, too lazy even to clip and wash the raw material, and now the sheep have been literally destroyed to make more room for the horned cattle.
They once made the dairy an object of attention, now neither butter nor cheese is to be found in the province. They once produced in the Missions eighty thousand bushels of wheat and maize,—they were lately buying flour at Monterey at the rate of L6 a sack. Beef was once plentiful,—they were now buying salted salmon for the sea-store for one paltry vessel, which constituted the entire line-of-battle of the Californian navy.
The author justly observes, that this wicked abuse of the soil and consequent poverty of the people results wholly from "the objects of the colonisation." Thus the emigrants from England to the northern colonies looked to subsistence from the fruits of labour; ploughed, harrowed, and grew rich, and civilized. On the other hand the colonists of "New France" a name which comprehended the valleys of the St Lawrence and Mississippi, dwindled and pined away, partly because the golden dreams of the free trade carried them away from stationary pursuits, and partly because the government considered them rather as soldiers than settlers. In like manner Spanish America, with its Serras of silver, holding out to every adventurer the hope of earning his bread without the sweat of his brow, became the paradise of idlers.
In California the herds of cattle, and the sale of their hides and tallow, offer so easy a subsistence, that the population think of no other, and in consequence are poor, degenerate, and dwindling. Their whole education consists in bullock hunting. In this view, unjust and violent as may be the aggressions of the American arms, it is difficult to regret the transfer of the territory into any hands which will bring these fine countries into the general use of mankind, root out a race incapable of improvement, and fill the hills and valleys of this mighty province with corn and man.
At present the produce of a bullock in hide, tallow, and horns, is about five dollars, (the beef goes for nothing) of which the farmer's revenue is averaged at a dollar and a half. This often makes up a large income. General Vallego, who had about eight thousand head of cattle, must receive from this source about ten thousand dollars a-year. The former Missions, or Monkish revenues, must have been very large; that of San Jose possessing thirty thousand head of cattle, Santa Clara nearly half the number, and San Gabriel more than both together.
It must be acknowledged that the monks had made a handsome affair of holiness in the good old times. Previously to the Mexican revolution their "missions" amounted, in the upper province alone, to twenty-one, every one of course with its endowment on a showy scale. Every monk had an annual stipend of four hundred dollars. But this was mere pocket-money; they had "donations and bequests" from the living and from the dead, a most capacious source of opulence, and of an opulence continually growing, constituting what was termed the pious fund of California. Besides all these things, they had the cheap labour of eighteen thousand converts. But the drones were to be suddenly smoked out of their hives. Mexico declared itself a republic; and, as the first act of a republic, in every part of the world, is to plunder every body, the property of the monks went in the natural way. The lands and beeves, the "donations and bequests were made a national property," in 1825. Still some show of moderation was exhibited, and the names and some of the offices of the missions were preserved. But, in 1836, the Californians took the whole affair into their own hands, threw off the Central Government, and were "free, independent," and beggared. The Missions were then "secularized" at their ease. The Mexican government was furious for a while, and threatened the Californians with all the thunders of its rage; but the vengeance ended in the simple condition, that California should still acknowledge the Mexican supremacy, taking her own way in all that had been done, was doing, and was to be done.
The travellers had now an opportunity of seeing the interior of a Californian mansion, the house of the chief proprietor in this quarter, General Vallego.
We must acknowledge that Sir George Simpson would have much improved his volumes by striking out the whole of this description. It is evident that he was received with civilities of every kind;—he was provided with horses and attendants;—he was taken to see all the remarkable features of the estate and the habits of its people; he was feted, introduced to wife and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, sung and danced for, and smiled on and talked with, as if he had been a prince; and yet his whole account of this hospitality throws it into the most repulsive light imaginable;—cold dinners, bad attendance, rude furniture, and so forth, form the staple of his conceptions; and if his book should ever reach General Vallego's hands, which it probably will, through the zeal of American republication, we can easily imagine that he will become cautious in his hospitality for the time to come. We, at least, shall not extend the vexation of this Spanish gentleman by quoting any part of this unfortunate bevue. We say this with regret. But this style of repaying generous hospitality cannot be too distinctly reproved, for the sake of all future travellers who may want, not merely hospitality, but protection.
The next subject of description is Monterey, which has lately assumed a peculiar interest, as one of the objects of the American invasion. The Bay of Monterey forms a segment of a circle with a chord of about eighteen miles. Monterey had always been the seat of government, though it consisted of but a few buildings. But, since the revolution of 1836, it has expanded into a population of about seven hundred souls. The town occupies a plain, bounded by a lofty ridge. The dwellings are the reverse of pompous, being all built of mud bricks. The houses are remarkable for a paucity of windows, glass being inordinately dear; even parchment almost unattainable, and the artists in window-making charging three dollars a-day!
But, to the Californians, perhaps this privation of light is not an evil. While it makes the rooms cooler, it cannot, by any possibility, interfere with the occupations of those who do nothing. The bed affords a curious contrast to the rest of the furniture. While the apartments exhibit a deal-table, badly made chairs, probably a Dutch clock, and an old looking-glass, the bed "challenges admiration by snowy white sheets, fringed with lace, a pile of soft pillows, covered with the finest linen or the richest satin, and a well-arranged drapery of costly and tasteful curtains." Still this bed is "but a whited sepulchre," with a wool mattress—"the impenetrable stronghold of millions of——." We leave the rest to the imagination.
The history of "Political Causes and Effects" would make a curious volume; and it would admirably display, at once the profound agency of Providence, and the shortsightedness of human policy. It would scarcely be supposed that the devastation of Europe, and the sack of Berlin, Vienna, and Moscow, found their origin in a Spanish treaty, on the banks of the Mississippi, half a century before.
The power of France in the interior of America, which had extended from Canada to Louisiana, and which formed a line of posts for its boundary along this immense internal frontier, kept the British Colonies in a state of constant alarm; and, by consequence, in a state of continual dependence on England. But the English possession of Canada, in 1763, and the cession of Louisiana to Spain at the same period, as they lessened the alarms, loosened the allegiance of the British colonies. The next steps were more obvious. The war of the United States, in which France was an auxiliary, inflamed the French population with the hope of breaking down the strength of England and the aristocracy of France. But the expense of equipping the French allied force fell heavy on an exchequer already burthened by the showy extravagance of the Regent Orleans, and by the gross profligacies of Louis XV. To relieve the exchequer, the States General were summoned; and from that moment began the Revolution. The European war was the result of a republican government, and the conquest of the Continent the result of placing Napoleon on the throne of the empire. What further results may be still preparing are beyond our knowledge; but it can scarcely be conceived that the chain is yet finally broken.
But before we take leave of California, we must do it the justice to speak of San Barbara, which, as the author rather emphatically expresses it, is to Monterey "what the parlour is to the kitchen."
The bay is an unfavourable one, being exposed to the "worst winds of the worst season." But the town having been selected as the favourite retreat of the more respectable functionaries of the province, Santa Barbara exhibits the charms of aristocratic manners. The houses, externally, are superior to any others on the coast, and, internally, exhibit taste in their furniture and ornament. The ladies excite the author's pen into absolute rapture; their sparkling eyes and glossy hair, are, in themselves, sufficient to negative the idea of tameness or insipidity, while their sylph-like figures exhibit fresh graces at every step. This is supported by the more important qualities, of "being by far the more industrious half of the community, and performing their household duties with cheerfulness and pride."
The men are a handsome race, and the greatest dandies imaginable, completely modelled on the Andalusian Majo, and displaying the finest linen, the most embroidered pantaloons, and the most glittering jackets in the western world. Of course, it cannot be expected of any Spaniards that they should do much, and beaux so fine cannot be expected to do any thing. Accordingly, his day is spent in riding from house to house, on a horse as fine as himself, a living machine of trappings, and the nights in dancing, billiard-playing, and flirting.
In all countries where serious things are habitually turned into trifles, trifles become serious things. "The balls, in fact, seem more like a matter of business than any thing else that is done in California. For whole days beforehand, sweetmeats are laboriously prepared in the greatest variety, and from beginning to end of the festivities, which have been known to last several successive nights, so as to make the performers, after wearing out their pumps, trip it in sea-boots, both men and women displaying as much gravity as if attending the funeral of their friends."
A still more humanising portion of their tastes is their passion for music. The guitar is heard in every house. Father, mother, and child are all playing and singing; and, to the praise of their taste be it spoken, playing nothing but the fandangoes, seguidillas, and ballads of Spain; the truest, purest, and most touching of all music; well worth all the hammered harmonies of the German school, and all the long-winded and laborious bravuras of the Italian. The Spanish music is the most refined, and yet the most natural, in the world.
We are glad to see this experienced judge of men and things speaking of the Californians as "a happy people possessing the means of physical pleasure to the full," even though he qualifies the opinion by their "knowing no higher kind of enjoyment."
It is true, that the Englishman, who knows what intellectual enjoyment is, will not abandon that highest, though most toilsome, of all gratifications, for inferior indulgences; but it would be a fortunate hour for the Englishman when he could get rid of some portion of the toil that wears away his life, in exchange for the lighthearted pleasures and simple occupations of foreign existence. Nor is there any man who less prefers the dogged round of his cheerless exertions, or who is more genuinely susceptible of essential enjoyment. We even think that the cultivated Englishman has a finer relish for enjoyment than the man of any other country. The caperings of the Frenchman, or the grimaces of the Italian, have but little connexion with the mind. All foreigners seem wretched when they have no physical excitement. There is not a more miserable object on earth, than a Frenchman wandering through the streets of London on a Sunday, when he can neither see the print shops in the day, nor go to the play at night. The German is heart-broken for the same reason, and shrouds himself and his sorrow in double clouds of smoke. The Italian would worship Diana of Ephesus, or the Great African Snake, if its pageantry, or puppet-show, would enable him to get through the day of closed shops and no opera! Yet, contemptible as this restless hunting after nothings is, it would be fortunate for us if we could qualify the severity and constancy of our national toil by some mixture of the lighter pursuits of the Continent.
The fertility of California is boundless; it produces every thing that human appetite can desire. In the Mission-garden of San Gabriel were produced grapes, oranges, lemons, olives, figs, bananas, plums, peaches, apples, pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, &c. &c., while in the adjoining Mission were found in addition, tobacco, the plantain, the cocoa-nut, the indigo plant, and the sugar cane.
But Nature is nothing, in this country, without a miracle; and the history of every village probably furnishes its legend. The Missions, however, may be presumed to be the peculiar favourites of Heaven.
"When Padre Pedro Cambon, and Padre Somera, were selecting a site for the Mission, escorted by ten soldiers, a multitude of Indians, armed, presented themselves, and setting up horrid yells, seemed determined to oppose its establishment. The fathers, fearing that war would ensue, took out a piece of cloth with the image of our Lady upon it, and held it up in view of the barbarians. This was no sooner done, than the whole were quiet, being subdued by the sight of this most precious image; and throwing on the ground their bows and arrows, their two captains came running to lay the beads, which they had round their necks, at the feet of the Sovereign Queen, in proof of their tender regard." We recommend the trial of this holy Cloth on General Taylor.
But there is no limit to the richness of this region. The valley of the Zulares, in the neighbourhood, would support millions of people. Its lakes and rivers all abound in fish, its forests have all kinds of trees, some of them growing to a size which, but for the force of testimony, would be incredible. One of these is stated by Humboldt as of one hundred and eighteen feet in girth. "But this is a walking-stick compared with another at Bodega, as described to Sir George by Governor Etholine, of Sitka." It is thirty-six Russian fathoms (seven feet each) in span, and seventy-five in height; so that, if tapered into a perfect cone, it would contain nearly twenty-two thousand tons of bark and timber. In addition, the valley contains immense herds of wild horses, in troops of several thousands each. What a country will this be, when it shall fall into the hands of an intelligent people!
The last of the five posts, San Diego, is, next to San Francisco, the best harbour in the province. Thus, Upper California contains, at its opposite extremities, two of the best harbours on the Pacific Ocean; each of them being enhanced in value by the distance of any others worthy of the name, San Francisco being nearly one thousand miles from Port Discovery in the north, and San Diego six hundred miles from the Bay of Magdalena in the south.
That in the hands of any vigorous possessors this country would form a most powerful kingdom, is beyond all question; and Sir George Simpson evidently thinks that it might easily be acquired, and with a legitimate claim too, by England. But the still higher question is the policy of a perpetual increase of territory. England already has in America a larger extent of territory than she can people for five hundred years to come. But the possession of California, and perhaps of the whole extent of the Mexican provinces, is on the eve of decision; the American invasion has found no resistance that can deserve the name. The Mexicans fly in every quarter, and a few discharges of cannon put them to flight by thousands. At this moment the whole Mexican Republic, equal in size to half a dozen European States, appears to be crumbling into fragments. The rambling expeditions of the Americans are ravaging it in all directions with impunity, and armies which might have been long since annihilated by a mere guerilla war, have been suffered to march from city to city, with scarcely more resistance than a cattle-stealing skirmish. By the last intelligence, San Juan d' Ulloa has fallen, and Vera Cruz has capitulated after a siege of only three days and a half. The castle is the strongest fortification in the Western World—and, as Napoleon said of Malta, "It is lucky that it had somebody inside to open the gates for us:" the garrison of this fortress seems to have been placed there merely for the purpose of surrendering it. But, whatever may be the fate of men who had such a fortress to defend, and yet whose defence actually cost the assailants but seventeen killed! there can be but one feeling of commiseration for the unhappy inhabitants of Vera Cruz, on whom was rained, day and night, a shower of shot and shell amounting to more than seven thousand of those tremendous missiles. It is computed that the slaughter, and that slaughter chiefly of women and children, amounts to thousands. These are terrible things, even where they may be supposed the necessities of war. But here we can discover no necessity—Vera Cruz was no fortification, it was nearly an open town. We recollect no similar instance of a bombardment. In Europe, it has long been a rule of military morals, that no open city shall ever be bombarded. We believe it to be the boast of the first living soldier in the world—and we could have no more honourable one—that he never suffered a city to be bombarded; from the obvious fact, that the chief victims were the helpless inhabitants, while the soldiery are sheltered by the casemates and bomb-proofs.
At all events, we must regard the contest as decided. The Government has exhibited nothing more than a sullen resolution; and the people little more than the apathy of their own cattle; the troops have exhibited no evidence of discipline, and the only resource of the Finance has been in the wild projects of an empty Exchequer. Whether the United States will be the more prosperous for this conquest, is a question of time alone. Whether the facility of the conquest may not make the multitude frantic for general aggression,—whether the military men of the States may not obtain a popularity and assume a power which has been hitherto confined to civil life,—whether the attractions of military career may not turn the rising generation from the pursuits of trade and tillage, to the idle, or the ferocious life of the American campaigner,—and whether the pressure of public debt, the necessity for maintaining their half-savage conquests by an army, and the passion for territorial aggrandisement, may not urge them to a colonial war with England,—are only parts of the great problem which the next five-and-twenty years will compel the American Republic to solve.
At the same time, we cannot avoid looking upon the invasion of Mexico as a portion of that extraordinary and mysterious agency which is now shaking all the great stagnant districts of the world; which has already awaked Turkey in Europe and in Asia Minor; which has brought Egypt into civilised action; which has broken down the barbarism of the Algerines, and planted the French standard in place of the furies and profligacies of African Mahometanism. Deeply deprecating the guilt of those aggressions, and condemning the crimes by which they have been sustained, we cannot but regard changes so unexpected, so powerful, and so simultaneous, as the operation of a higher power than man's, with objects altogether superior to the shortsightedness of man, and amply bearing the character of working good out of evil, which belongs to the history of Divine Providence in all the ages of the world.
There is one peculiarity in these volumes which we cannot sufficiently applaud, and that is, the thoroughly English spirit in which they are written. Without weak partiality, for the reasons are every where assigned; without narrow prejudice, for the facts are in all instances stated; and without derogating from the merits of other nations, the work is calculated to give a just conception of the value of England to the world.
On his return from the Sandwich Isles—an interesting portion of his travels, to which we have not now time to advert in detail—and preparing to start from the Russian post of New Archangel by a five months' journey through the Russian empire, he gives a glance at what he has done.
"I have," says he, "threaded my way round nearly half the globe, traversing about 220 degrees of longitude, and upwards of 100 of latitude, barely one fourth of this by the ocean. Notwithstanding all this, I have uniformly felt more at home, with the exception of my first sojourn at Sitka, than I should have felt in Calais. I have every where seen our race, under a great variety of circumstances, either actually or virtually invested with the attributes of sovereignty."
After a few words on the vigour of the English blood, as exhibited in the commerce, intelligence, and activity of the United States, he returns to the immediate possessions and prowess of England. "I have seen the English posts which stud the wilderness from the Canadian lakes to the Pacific Ocean. I have seen English adventurers with that innate power which makes every individual, whether Briton or American, a real representative of his country, monopolising the trade, and influencing the destinies of California. And lastly, I have seen the English merchants of a barbarian Archipelago, which promises, under their guidance, to become the centre of the traffic of the east and the west, of the new world and the old. In saying all this, I have seen less than half the grandeur of the English race. How insignificant in comparison are all the other nations of the earth, one nation alone excepted. Russia and Great Britain literally gird the globe where either continent has the greatest breadth, a fact which, taken in connexion with their early annals, can scarcely fail to be regarded as the work of a special Providence. After the fall of the Roman empire, a scanty and obscure people suddenly burst on the west and east, as the dominant race of the times; one swarm of the Normans making its way to England, while another was establishing its supremacy over the Sclavonians of the Borysthenes, the two being to meet in opposite directions at the end of a thousand years."
He regards the gigantic power of Russia as in an unconscious co-partnership with England in the grand cause of commerce and civilisation. He also makes the curious and true remark that, notwithstanding the astonishing successes of the Normans in Europe, they were never numerous enough to establish their language in any of the conquered countries. Their unparalleled successes, therefore, seem to express the idea that those feeble bands of warriors were strengthened every where to accomplish the purposes of Providence.
We now come to the overland journey to Siberia. On the 23d of July, they reached the port of Ochotsk, where, however, they were met by masses of floating ice. Here Sir George had the first intelligence from England, which brought to his English heart the glad tidings of the birth of a Prince of Wales. They found this settlement a collection of huts on a shingly beach. The population is about 800 souls. A more dreary scene can scarcely be conceived than the surrounding country. Not a tree, and even scarcely a green blade is to be seen within miles of the town. The climate is on a par with the soil. The summer consists of three months of damp and chilly weather, during great part of which the snow still covers the hills, and the ice chokes the harbour, and this is succeeded by nine months of dreary winter. But when men find fault with such a climate as this, the fact is, that the fault is their own. Those climates were never intended for the residence of man; they were intended for the white bear, the seal, the whale, and the fur-bearing animals. To those inhabitants, they are perfectly adapted. If the rage of conquest, or the eagerness for gain, fixes human beings in the very empire of winter, they are intruders, and must suffer for their unsuitable choice of a locale.
The principal food of the inhabitants is fish. On fish they feed themselves; their dogs—which are equivalent to their carriage horses—their cattle, and their poultry, are also chiefly fed on fish. All other provisions are ruinously dear. Flour costs twenty-eight rubles the pood,—(a ruble is worth about a franc, the pood is thirty-six English pounds.) Beef is so dear as to be regarded as a treat, and wines and groceries have to pay a land carriage of seven thousand miles.
Here, too, the people drink tea in the style in which it was introduced in more primitive days into Europe. It is of the kind known as brick tea, being made up in cakes, and is consumed in great quantities by the lower orders in Siberia, being made into a thick soup, with the addition of butter and salt.
On the 27th of the month, they began their journey across Siberia. After leaving the shore, and boating the river Ochota, to an encampment where they were to meet their horses, hired at the rate of forty-five rubles a horse, on an agreement to be conveyed to Yakutsh in eighteen days, they struck into the country, which exhibited forests of pine, their progress being about four or five miles an hour. The Yakuti appear to be very industrious; young and old, male and female, being always occupied in some useful employment. When not engaged in travelling or farming, men and boys make saddles, harness, &c.; while the women and girls keep house, dress skins, prepare clothing, and attend to the dairy. They are also remarkably kind to strangers, for milk and cream, the best things they had to give, were freely offered in every village. This was the 10th of July, yet the snow was still partially lying on the ground. From day to day they met caravans of horses; and one day they were startled by the shouts of a party at the head of them. Their next sight was a herd of cattle running wildly in all directions, and the cause was seen in a huge she-bear and her cub moving off at a round trot. On this route, the bears are both fierce and numerous. The country had now become more fertile; there was no want of flowering plants, and the forests were enlivened by the warbling of birds, which, contrasted as it was with the deathlike silence of the American woods, was peculiarly grateful to the ear. In the course of the day, the vexatious incident occurred of meeting the courier, with the letters from England, which had been looked for so anxiously on the arrival of the travellers in Siberia; but the bags of course could not be opened on the road.
The presence of the Cossack, who attended the party, was of great importance in quickening the movements of the natives; but they seemed kind and good-natured, full of civility to the strangers, and not without some degree of education. The Yakuti have a singular mode of estimating distances. In Germany, a common measure of distance is the time that it takes to smoke a pipe. In this part of Siberia, they take as their unit the time necessary for boiling a kettle of a particular sort of food. They tell you, that such and such a place is so many kettles off, or half a kettle, or, as the case may be, only part of a kettle.
At last they arrive at the Lena. This is described as one of the grandest rivers in the world. At a distance of thirteen hundred versts from the sea, (three versts are equal to two miles,) it is from five to six miles wide. Its entire length is not less than four thousand versts. The word Lena implies lazy—a name justified by the circuitous flowing of its stream. At Yakutsk, the seat of the Governor, they were received with great civility in this capital of the province, latitude sixty-two north, and longitude one hundred and thirty east. The extreme temperature of summer and winter is almost beyond belief, the thermometer having, risen in the shade to 106 deg. of Fahrenheit, and in winter having fallen to 83 deg. below zero—making a difference of 189 deg. In this district are the enormous deposits of mammoth bones. Spring after spring, the alluvial banks of the lakes and rivers crumbling under the thaw have given up their dead; and the islands opposite to the mouth of the Yana, and, as there was reason for believing, even the bed of the ocean itself, teems with those mysterious memorials of antiquity. The question is, how do those bones come there? Sir George, after giving the opinions of some of the professors of geology, conceives the most natural account of the phenomenon to be, that those animals or their bones were swept from the great Tartarian pasturages of Cobi, by the waters of the Deluge, towards the ocean. We must acknowledge that this has long been our own opinion. It must be remembered that the Scriptural account states the rising of the Deluge to have been gradual. The rain fell forty days and nights. All living things would of course make their way to the heights to escape the rising inundation of the valleys. The cattle thus grouped together in immense herds, (the buffalos in the prairies at the present day sometimes exceed five thousand in one pasturage,) thus gathered into one mass, would be finally submerged, and swept away in whatever irresistible current rushed over the spot on which they stood. The frost of the region, which penetrates the earth to the depth apparently of some hundred feet, would thenceforth preserve them from decay. The tusks form an article of considerable trade, the ivory selling from a shilling to one and ninepence a pound, according to the perfection of the tusks.
One of the travellers' especial wishes was, to have visited the town of Kiachta, the place of commerce between the Russians and the Chinese. But a note from the Governor mentioned that the Chinese had suddenly stopped all communication. But a few words may be given to a commerce so peculiar. By the treaty of Nertshinsk, a reciprocal liberty of traffic was stipulated; and accordingly caravans on the part of the Russian government, and individual traders, used to visit Pekin. But the Muscovites exhibited so much of the native habits in "drinking and roystering," that, after exhausting the patience of the Celestials during three-and-thirty years, they were wholly excluded. But a cessation of five years having taken place, the Russians in 1728 obtained a treaty, by which individuals were permitted to trade on the frontier; and Kiachta was built. But public caravans were permitted to go on to Pekin. At length, in 1762, Catherine fixed the grand emporium at Kiachta.
This town, standing on a beach of the same name, is within about half a furlong of the Chinese village of Maimatschin, (about the fiftieth parallel of latitude,) being one thousand miles from Pekin, and four thousand from Moscow. Such are the enormous distances through which the eagerness for money-making drives the children of men.
The materials of the Russian traffic are furs, woollens, cottons, linen, &c., with articles in tin, copper, iron, &c.—the whole amounting to about nineteen millions of rubles. The Chinese products are tea, silks, sugar-candy, &c.—nominally to the amount of seven millions of rubles, but probably rising to thrice the value. The chief time of the market is the winter. To the chief Russian merchants this is a species of monopoly, and a most thriving one, some of them being millionnaires, and living in the most sumptuous manner, the "merchant princes" of the wilderness!
We had some curiosity to know the condition of the exiles to Siberia from this intelligent eye-witness. But he gives little more than a glance to a subject on which the public mind of England is at present so much engaged. In Russia corporal punishment is much in use; but criminals are seldom put to death. They are marched off to Siberia for every kind of offence, from the highest political crime to petty larceny. The most heinous offenders are sent to the mines; those guilty of minor delinquencies are settled in villages, or on farms; and those guilty of having opinions different from those of the government—statesmen, authors, and soldiers—are generally suffered to establish themselves in little knots, where they spread refinement through the country. The consequence is, that "all grades of society are decidedly more intelligent than the corresponding grades in any other part of the empire, and perhaps more so than in most parts of Europe."
Many of the exiles are now men of large income.—"The dwelling in which we breakfasted to-day," says the traveller, "was that of a person who had been sent to Siberia against his will. Finding that there was but one way of bettering his condition, he worked hard, and behaved well. He had now a comfortably furnished house and a well-cultivated farm, while a stout wife, and plenty of servants, bustled about the premises. His son had just arrived from St Petersburg, to visit his exiled father, and had the pleasure of seeing him amid all the comforts of life, reaping an abundant harvest, and with one hundred and forty persons in his pay!"
He adds, "In fact, for the reforming of the criminal, in addition to the punishment of the crime, Siberia is undoubtedly the best penitentiary in the world. When not bad enough for the mines, each exile is provided with an allotment of ground, a house, a horse, two cows, agricultural implements, and, for the first year, with provisions. For three years he pays no taxes whatever, and for the next ten, only half the full amount. To bring fear as well as hope to operate in his favour, he clearly understands, that his very first slip will send him from his home and family, to toil in the mines. Thus does the government bestow an almost paternal care on the less atrocious criminals."
Yet with this knowledge before the British Government,—for we must presume that they had not overlooked the condition of the Russian exiles; and with the still more impressive knowledge of the growth of our Australian colonies, and the improvement of the convicts; the new-fangled and most costly plan is now to be adopted of reforming our criminals by keeping them at home! Thus we are to save the national expenditure by building huge penitentiaries, which will cost millions of money, and to secure society from depredation, by annually pouring out from those prisons, as the time of their sentences expires, the whole crowd of villany to live on villany once more;—making the very streets a place of danger, and filling the country with hungry crime.
The only argument on the opposite side is, that the free settlers are offended by finding themselves in a population of convicts. But to this the obvious answer is, that the colonisation of Australia was originally intended as a school of reform—that the convicts have been to a great extent reformed, which they never would have been at home—that the convicts were in the colony first, and that the settlers going there, with their eyes open, have no reason to complain.
We then have a Notice on another subject, which is at present engrossing the speculations of all Europe, namely, the gold-country on the Yenissei. Krasnoyayk, the capital, stands in a plain in the centre of the district, where the mania of gold-washing broke out about fifteen years ago. Some individuals have been singularly lucky in their search. One person, after having laboured in vain for three years, and expending a million and a half of rubles, suddenly, in this very year, had hit upon a depot which gave him a hundred and fifty poods of gold—worth thirty-five thousand rubles each, or five millions and a half of rubles. Gold here measures every thing: a lady's charms are by weight, "a pood is a good girl, and two or three poods are twice or thrice as good as a wife." This province alone has, in this year, yielded five hundred poods of gold.
Ekaterineburg is the centre of the mining district of the Uralian mountains. The population amounts to about fourteen thousand, who are all connected with the mines. The town has an iron foundery, a mint for copper and silver coin, and various establishments for cutting marble, porphyry, and polishing precious stones. The neighbouring mountains appear to be nature's richest repository of minerals, yielding, in great abundance, diamonds, amethysts, topazes, &c.; gold, silver, iron, and platina. These inexhaustible treasures chiefly belong to Count Demidoff and M. Yakovleff. The Count is said to receive half a million sterling a-year from this princely property.
Hurrying now towards England, with the anxiety which every one feels to reach home as the end of a long journey seems to be nigh, the traveller passed through Kazan, second in national honour to Moscow, but found it in ashes from a late fire. He then hurried on to Nishney-Novgorod, the place of the greatest fair in the world, where the traffic brings traders from the ends of the earth, and where the trade amounts to nineteen millions sterling a-year. He then traversed the property of General Sheremetieff, an estate of two days' journey, with a hundred thousand serfs—a comfortable race when under a good master, each head of a family having a farm, and paying its rent, part in produce and part in work. The people appear to be a gay race—singing every where; singing on the roads, singing at work, and singing at cutting up their cabbages for the national luxury of saurkraut.
At length was seen looming in the west, with all its steeples and domes, the queen of the wilderness, Moscow the Magnificent—the most frequently-burned of all cities, and, as Sir George observes, the most retaliatory on the burners—it having been burned to embers four times, and each time having seen the incendiary nation ruined. It must be admitted, however, that the revenge, however sure, was slow, for it seldom occurred in less than a couple of centuries!—Napoleon's fate being the only instance of promptitude on this point.
From Moscow to St Petersburg, a macadamised road of seven hundred versts conveyed the traveller to the northern city of the Czar, where, on the 8th of October, he terminated a journey from Ochotsk, of about seven thousand miles. In eight days from St Petersburg he reached Hamburg, and in five days more arrived in London, having rounded the globe in a period of nineteen months and twenty-six days!
We have given an abstract of this work with the more satisfaction, that it not merely supplies a certain knowledge of vast regions of which the European world knows little; but that it gives a favourable view of the condition, the habits, and the temper, of the multitudes of our fellow men, spread over those immense spaces of the globe. Personally, of course, a man of the official rank and individual intelligence of the writer, might expect the hospitality of the Russian employes. But he seems to have been met with general kindness—to have experienced no injury, no obstacle, and no extortion; and, on the whole, having exhibited the good sense which disregards the inevitable annoyances of all journeys in distant countries, to have escaped all the severer ones which an ill-tempered traveller naturally brings upon himself. But the feature of his volumes on which we place the still higher value, is the honesty of his English spirit. He knows the value of his country; he does justice to her principles; he gives the true view of her power; he vindicates her intentions; and without depreciating the merits of foreign nations, he pays a manly tribute to the truth, by doing deserved honour to his own.
[A] Narrative of an Overland Journey Round the World. By Sir George Simpson, Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company's Territories in North America.
LETTERS ON THE TRUTHS CONTAINED IN POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS.
VI.—RELIGIOUS DELUSIONS: THE POSSESSED: WITCHCRAFT.
Dear Archy,—The subjects about which I propose writing to you to-day are, delusions of a religious nature;—the idea of being possessed,—the grounds of the belief in witchcraft. With so much before me, I have no room to waste. So, of the first, first.
The powerful hold which the feeling of religion takes on our nature, at once attests the truth of the sentiment, and warns us to be on our guard against fanatical excesses. No subject can safely be permitted to have exclusive possession of our thoughts, least of all the most absorbing and exciting of any.
"So—it will make us mad."
It is evident that, with the majority, Providence has designed that worldly cares should largely and wholesomely employ the mind, and prevent inordinate craving after an indulgence in spiritual stimulation; while minds of the highest order are diverted, by the active duties of philanthropy, from any perilous excess of religious contemplation.
Under the influence of constant and concentrated religious thought, not only is the reason liable to give way—which is not our theme—but, alternatively, the nervous system is apt to fall into many a form of trance, the phenomena of which are mistaken by the ignorant for Divine visitation. The weakest frame sinks into an insensibility profound as death, in which he has visions of heaven and the angels. Another lies, in half-waking trance, rapt in celestial contemplation and beatitude; others are suddenly fixed in cataleptic rigidity; others, again, are dashed upon the ground in convulsions. The impressive effect of these seizures is heightened by their supervention in the midst of religious exercises, and by the contagious and sympathetic influence through which their spread is accelerated among the more excitable temperaments and weaker members of large congregations. What chance have ignorant people witnessing such attacks, or being themselves the subjects of them, of escaping the persuasion that they mark the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit? Or, to take ordinarily informed and sober-minded people,—what would they think at seeing mixed up with this hysteric disturbance, distinct proofs of extraordinary perceptive and anticipatory powers, such as occasionally manifest themselves as parts of trance, to the rational explanation of which they might not have the key?
In the preceding letter, I have already exemplified, by the case of Henry Engelbrecht, the occurrence of visions of hell and heaven during the deepest state of trance. No doubt the poor ascetic implicitly believed his whole life the reality of the scenes to which his imagination had transported him.
In a letter from the Earl of Shrewsbury to Ambrose Mark Phillips, Esq., published in 1841, a very interesting account is given of two young women who had lain for months or years in a state of religious beatitude. Their condition, when they were exhibited, appears to have been that of half-waking in trance; or, perhaps, a shade nearer the lightest form of trance-sleep. To increase the force of the scene, they appear to have exhibited some degree of trance-perceptive power. But, without this, the mere aspect of such persons is wonderfully imposing. If the pure spirit of Christianity finds a bright comment and illustration in the Madonnas and Cherubim of Raffaelle, it seems to shine out in still more truthful vividness from the brow of a young person rapt in religious ecstasy. The hands clasped in prayer,—the upturned eyes,—the expression of humble confidence and seraphic hope, (displayed, let me suggest, on a beautiful face,) constitute a picture of which, having witnessed it, I can never forget the force. Yet I knew it was only a trance. So one knows that village churches are built by common mechanics. Yet when we look over an extensive country, and see the spire from its clump of trees rising over each hamlet, or over the distant city its minster tower,—the images find an approving harmony in our feelings, and seem to aid in establishing the genuineness and the truth of the sentiment and the faith which have reared such expressive symbols.
In the two cases mentioned in Lord Shrewsbury's pamphlet, it is, however, painful to observe that trick and artifice had been used to bend them to the service of Catholicism. The poor women bore on their hands and feet wounds, the supposed spontaneous eruption of delineations of the bleeding wounds of the crucifix, and, on the forehead, the bloody marks of the crown of thorns. To convict the imposture, the blood-stains from the wounds in the feet ran upwards towards the toes, to complete a facsimile of the original, though the poor girls were lying on their backs. The wounds, it is to be hoped, are inflicted and kept fresh and active by means employed when the victims are in the insensibility to pain, which commonly goes with trance.
To comprehend the effects of religious excitement operating on masses, we may inspect three pictures,—the revivals of modern times—the fanatical delusions of the Cevennes—the behaviour of the Convulsionnaires at the grave of the Abbe Paris.
"I have seen," says M. Le Roi Sunderland, himself a preacher, [Zion's Watchman, New York, Oct. 2, 1842,] "persons often 'lose their strength,' as it is called, at camp-meetings, and other places of great religious excitement; and not pious people alone, but those also who were not professors of religion. In the spring of 1824, while performing pastoral labour in Dennis, Massachusetts, I saw more than twenty people affected in this way. Two young men, of the name of Crowell, came one day to a prayer meeting. They were quite indifferent. I conversed with them freely, but they showed no signs of penitence. From the meeting they went to their shop, (they were shoemakers,) to finish some work before going to the meeting in the evening. On seating themselves they were both struck perfectly stiff. I was immediately sent for, and found them sitting paralysed [he means cataleptic] on their benches, with their work in their hands, unable to get up, or to move at all. I have seen scores of persons affected the same way. I have seen persons lie in this state forty-eight hours. At such times they are unable to converse, and are sometimes unconscious of what is passing round them. At the same time they say they are in a happy state of mind."
These persons, it is evident, were thrown in to one of the forms of trance through their minds being powerfully worked upon; with which cause the influence of mutual sympathy with what they saw around them, and perhaps some physical agency, co-operated.
The following extract from the same journal portrays another kind of nervous seizure, allied to the former, and produced by the same cause, as it was manifested at the great revival, some forty years ago, at Kentucky and Tennessee.