Diary in America—Series One, by Captain Marryat.
In the late 1830s Captain Marryat, already a famous literary figure in North America, visited the United States and Canada, writing his observations in two Series of volumes, each containing three books.
These were published in Britain as the six books, but were published in America as two books with small print and thin paper, thus enabling the Diary to be published as two books only. It is from first editions of the American version that we have worked, though we do possess three of the British first edition of six volumes.
While some of the observations are trivial, and some even possibly misleading, there is a great deal of useful fact in these books, making them well worth looking at. There are some tables that may not reproduce well in the PDA version of these books.
Marryat used his knowledge of America to write a novel based in the more southerly part, especially California and Texas.
DIARY IN AMERICA—SERIES ONE, BY CAPTAIN MARRYAT.
Volume the First—Introduction.
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 country 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 description of spoons and forks were used at table? Either the Americans remained purely and unchangedly English, as when they left their father-land; or the question required more investigation and deeper research than travellers in their hasty movements have 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 our 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 continually repeated. No wonder that those who preceded me have indulged in puerilities to swell out 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 so 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 state of transition, and (what may at first appear strange) no amalgamation as has 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, of 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 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 Mississippi, 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 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. [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 overreaching 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, clinking 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 the 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 Tennessean, when I was at New York did the same.
At Boston, I was drinking champaign at a supper. "Are you drinking champaign?" said a young Bostonian. "That's New York—take claret; or, if you will drink champaign, pour it into a green glass, and they will think it hock; champaign is 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 champaign; it is the small beer of the dinner-table. Champaign become 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's 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 then 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 abuse.
Admitting this, of course I have no feelings of ill-will toward them for any want of hospitality toward 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 anything 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 Marryat, 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 farther 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 hospitably to the English, I cannot, at the same time, but express my opinion as to their conduct toward 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; everything 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 activity.
In reviewing America, we must look upon it as showing 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 everything, [Note 2] and space he attempts to reduce to a mere nothing. By the steamboats, 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 shows 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 enlighten 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 everything 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 undirected 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 main-spring 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 lifetime.
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 today 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 everything that could be of advantage to man; and they were led by those who where really giants in those days, a body of men collected and acting together, forming an 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 everything else, and it has now settled down into anything 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 the 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. [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 qualification, 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 times 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 own admissions.
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 Poindexter's 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 in this country, such as "Time flies," etcetera, teach one more suited to American feeling:—"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 ascendency in the republic during the term of its history."—(A Voice from America to England, by an American Gentleman, page 10.)
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER ONE.
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 so.
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 shipped."
"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?"
"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 Fisher."
"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 the way."
"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.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER TWO.
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 present circumstances.
"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 democracy—
"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 upon.
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 IOU 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 speculated in.
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.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER THREE.
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 blocks of 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 else.
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, etcetera; but in one point they have gone a-head of us. Placards, etcetera, 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 inscriptions below.
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 chimneys.
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 citizens.
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 on shore."
"Have you seen Mr Japhet lately?" was the next query.
"Not very lately," replied I; "the last time I saw him was at the publisher's."
The little fellow went away, perfectly satisfied that they were both alive and well.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER FOUR.
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 qua 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 saddle and 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 me."
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.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER FIVE.
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 Pere 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 it.
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.