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Title: American Life - A Narrative of Two Years' City and Country Residence in - the United States
Author: Felton, Mrs. John
Language: English
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[Illustration:

Plan
_OF THE CITY_
--of--
NEW YORK
]



                            AMERICAN LIFE.

                              A NARRATIVE

                                  OF

                 TWO YEARS’ CITY AND COUNTRY RESIDENCE

                                IN THE

                            UNITED STATES.

                            BY MRS. FELTON.

                            Third Thousand.

                             BOLTON PERCY:

                      PRINTED FOR THE AUTHORESS.

                                 1843.


                                LEEDS:
                PRINTED BY D. I. ROEBUCK, GRACE STREET.



PREFACE.


In submitting these few sheets to the public, the authoress wishes to be
considered as presenting a faithful record of her observations, and of
events as they occurred within the limits of her experience, during her
continuance in the United States.

Whenever she has felt herself called upon to give an opinion, she has
endeavoured impartially to comply; and when, in delineating characters,
she has been compelled to draw upon fiction for names, in order to avoid
inflicting an injury by an unnecessary exposure; it may be concluded
with certainty that the _names alone are fictitious_, and that the
individuals represented are correctly depicted in their proper colours.

While employed in preparing this small volume for the press, that
opinion, so frequently expressed by the Americans, has often occurred to
her: viz. “That should a book be written on their country, containing
truth in its unalloyed simplicity, it would for ever lie on the shelves
of the bookseller, as no encouragement would be given in England to any
publication on _such a subject_, unless it were rendered palatable by
libels and falsehoods.” Although sufficiently convinced herself, of the
fallacy of this notion, still it has had some influence in inducing as
much caution, as if these pages were about to be submitted as a test to
decide the fate of some such experiment.

In the present edition the reader is presented with an additional
chapter, devoted, almost exclusively, to the subject of Emigration.
Indeed the authoress has endeavoured throughout, so to unite amusement
with useful information, as to make her work desirable both as a book of
utility to the emigrant, and as a volume of entertainment, to those who
prefer viewing the other side the Atlantic through the safer medium of
the press. How far she has succeeded, must be left to the judgement of a
discerning public to determine.

     _Railway Cottage, Bolton Percy._



                            AMERICAN LIFE.



CHAPTER I.

THE VOYAGE.


The day on which we sailed was clear and serene, and we gently drifted
with the tide down Belfast Lough into the Channel. Assured that I should
not be able to see land on the following morning, I kept my eyes fixed
upon the hills in the distance till darkness rendered them no longer
visible. I never undertake a voyage or a journey without experiencing a
vague feeling of melancholy--there is something so strangely depressing
in the preliminaries of departure; the packing of boxes--the arrangement
of books, clothes, and papers. Indeed the whole valedictory ceremony is
throughout a series of preparations, every way calculated to excite
sensations of sadness. I seldom visit a place, even for a few weeks,
without meeting with some agreeable associates, whose company I feel
loath to relinquish. But these ephemeral disquietudes form but a shadowy
representation of the emotions that agitated my frame, when I was
leaving the shores of Europe, with the prospect of a long, and perhaps,
a final separation. These unpleasant sensations, however, were greatly
alleviated, by considering that the presence of those whom I hold dearer
than all other earthly treasures, was with me in the vessel; I mean my
husband and my children.

The next morning, we found ourselves going at a rapid rate under the
influence of a gale, far too brisk for personal comfort. Our vessel was
rather small, but she was, what is termed by sailors “a good sea-boat;”
and for that reason alone, on account of her pitching and rolling, was
very unpleasant for passengers. The whole of the company in the cabin
were distressingly affected with nausea, and so long as the gale lasted,
we were quite in a passive and suffering condition.

This distressing concomitant of a long voyage affects individuals
variously, according to their ages, constitutions, and previous habits
of life. My personal sufferings which were very severe, were augmented
by the care of an infant of six months. I had a servant on board, but
she required as much attention from the steward as myself: and I now
discovered to my great inconvenience, what I had frequently heard others
affirm,--that very few female servants, whatever be their
representations, are capable of performing their duties during the first
week of a voyage.

The next day the gale increased to something like a storm, and for
safety, I was recommended to retire to my birth. While lying there,
helpless and almost in an inanimate state, a box which had escaped my
notice containing a compass, fell from a small shelf just above my head,
and struck me a violent blow with its sharp corner, upon my temples.
From the weight of the box, it was supposed that, had my head reclined
only one-fourth of an inch in another direction, the consequences must
have been fatal: my infant also had a narrow escape, having been removed
from my side only a few minutes before. I suffered much however, as it
was; but I ought eternally to acknowledge, with lively feelings of
gratitude, this merciful interposition of an over-ruling Providence in
my favour.

During the continuance of this storm or gale, all the passengers on
board without a single exception were laid aside--the assistance of a
female could not be obtained either for love or for money. There we lay,
helpless in our berths, and I think, I never partook of food for upwards
of two days; nor was my case in this respect, by any means singular. I
have performed long voyages both before and since, and have always been
similarly affected.

I would earnestly recommend families going abroad, who are anxious to
secure the advantage of a surgeon, to require a personal interview with
the individual who is to act in that capacity; particularly if they sail
from a foreign port. Such a precaution would often prevent much
disappointment, as the person who is introduced as “the doctor,” not
unfrequently turns out to be some vulgar fellow, redolent of rum, and
dressed in shabby black; who enjoys the privilege of a free passage, and
commonly earns the hearty contempt of all who are doomed to endure his
society.

The cabin of a packet ship bound to a distant port, is a bazaar of
character. Here are assembled individuals, the very antipodes of each
other in religion, politics, employment, country, and language. Here,
the gay and the grave, the religious and the profane, with their
peculiar prejudices and partialities, meet upon one common plane of
equality. Under no other circumstances can this take place. Boarding
houses indeed, on the Continent and in America, have some resemblance;
but there, an opportunity is afforded for selection; here, choice is
impossible. The company, be its composition ever so heterogeneous, is
confined within a circumscribed space from which there is no retreat;
and all are obliged to spend the whole of their time together in that
part of the vessel which they have selected.

Our cabin company however, was by no means numerous. Besides myself and
my family, it consisted of the captain and his wife, both originally
from Connecticut; a Mrs. Johnson, an English lady; an Irish lady from
Antrim; an English manufacturer; a young American merchant; a young
Irishman; and a youth of dubious origin, called James.

The captain and his lady were, in point of disposition, the most
unlovely specimen of Americans I ever met with, either before or since;
and were every way calculated to give us a most unfavourable opinion of
the state of society in their own country. Ever since his first voyage
to Europe, the captain had entertained a disrelish for the company of
Englishmen. This arose from two circumstances, that none but a person of
his cast of mind would adduce as distinguishing marks of the English
character. I remember, one of these grievances was, that some person on
the quay at Liverpool had applied to him the unpalatable term of
“transported Yankee,” garnished with some accompaniments by no means
complimentary. For this, and something else equally important, he seemed
to consider himself justifiable in insulting every Englishman with whom
he came in contact, and lost no opportunity of indulging himself in
every unamiable species of retaliation that he found conveniently
practicable. Morose, and remarkably ignorant, he was eternally smoking
cigars; but fortunately for our comfort, possessed the negative virtue
of sobriety. Out of his profession, he was nobody, but we had just
reason to believe that his nautical talents were of the highest order;
and to us, this was certainly a matter of the first importance.

Our private cabins, in which were our berths, were so constructed, that
every word might be distinctly heard in the public cabin. I remember
that, on the first day of our embarkation, while I was alone in mine,
changing my dress, the cabin was at that time occupied by the captain
and a few of his personal friends, who had accompanied him on the
voyage, with a view of returning in the Pilot boat. Their conversation
was about the passengers on board, all of whom, excepting myself, were
on deck at that time: I then heard the captain affirm, after alluding to
his English passengers, “_that if an Englishman were to fall over board
he would not throw out a rope to save him_.” I distinctly heard him make
this assertion, and shall never forget the sensations it produced--I
heard also his wife’s amiable _applaudissement_ of this fiend-like
expression! This last did not surprise me, as it was in exact accordance
with the judgement I had formed of her character, from the first glance
of her physiognomy. By cautioning them for the future, to be more
guarded in their private communications, I let them know I was in
possession of their sentiments; and I thought proper to point out the
way in which I obtained my information, in order to convince them that I
was above the meanness of listening.

The captain used to commence the day with doing the formidable among the
sailors. Having discharged upon these poor fellows, all the steam of ill
humour that had accumulated during the previous night, he would descend
into the cabin and take breakfast. We had frequently remarked, that
during this repast he invariably attempted to make some one of us
miserable, by indulging in some insulting remarks, artfully delivered in
the form of opinions; so, in order to defeat his amiable intentions, we
agreed to preserve a dead silence, or only to speak in the most laconic
manner possible; concluding that he could not long amuse himself with a
monologue. His advent was agreed upon to be the signal for us to prepare
to carry our designs into execution. There we sat--with nun like
gravity, quaffing our coffee in silence, as toasts are drank to the
memory of the departed!

This negative species of defence had its desired effect. Annoyed by our
taciturnity, which necessarily imposed a similar penance on himself, he
would turn in despair to his wife. Here he was either entirely
unsuccessful, or otherwise amused with an inceptive taste of matrimonial
infelicity.

This was the second month of their marriage. His wife was the daughter
of a Connecticut farmer, she was about twenty-five years of age, and
somewhat diminutive in person. Her countenance on all occasions,
preserved the rigidity of a statue, except when excited to dart a look
of malevolence; or when she endeavoured to assume an air of authority:
on this latter occasion it presented the funniest appearance imaginable.
Transplanted from the domestic employment of a small farm, to do the
honours of the cabin table, she evidently felt herself greatly exalted,
and bore her elevation with the worst possible grace. Of a mean and
suspicious cast of mind, and conscious of being alike destitute of
outward attractions and internal excellencies, she was in consequence,
jealous in the extreme, and always interpreted any little attention paid
to another, in her presence, as a direct insult offered to herself. Her
conduct to the poor black steward was marked with haughtiness and
cruelty; and if it be true what I have often heard affirmed--that vulgar
pride is found united with meanness and tyranny; certainly in this
instance, the unity of this triune cluster of graces is strictly
preserved.

The English lady, Mr. Johnson, was an amiable personage. She was, in my
judgement, as correct a personification of virtue as any with whom I
have ever met. Devout without superstition--cheerful without
levity--refined without affectation--and well informed, without literary
pretension, she might pass for a model.

The Antrim lady was a very good natured creature. She stood on equal
ground with the captain’s wife in point of educational advantages, or
rather disadvantages; but was her opposite in every thing else. She was
remarkably agreeable, and possessed that truly Christian qualification I
so much admire--an earnest desire to make every one happy. Her foibles
were the result of her unfortunately limited education. But I found in
her case, as in some others, that a redundant flow of animal spirits is
no certain evidence of weak intellects or shallow feelings.

The young Irishman was a warm hearted being. His constant amusement was
humming tunes and writing poetry. For the latter he had an unconquerable
passion. He expressed himself as being confidently assured, that he
possessed the true spirit of poetry; and that, at some time not far
distant, he should distinguish himself above the herd of mankind. He was
greatly encouraged to devote his time to the muses, by having heard it
repeatedly said in his family, that his great grandfather was a
poet--that is, that he had written something that had pleased somebody.
From this, it appears, that the poor young man, supposing poetry to be
like the gout, hereditary, and like that distemper, would sleep in the
blood for generations, and descending from father to son, would break
out after the lapse of a century--concluded hypothetically, that the
fire of poetry would some day blaze out from him, and astonish the
world.

Poets, like other authors, and some say authoresses, are reported as
never being satisfied without large draughts of unqualified praise. From
his teasing the gentlemen with his verses, it seems he possessed this
unfortunate propension; and I must admit, that if his poetry deserved as
much praise as it produced merriment, _it was excellent_!

The American merchant was a gentleman of a quiet disposition, and rather
reserved. Although both countrymen, the captain and he appeared most
cordially to detest each other.

There was a youth on board, about twenty years of age, whom the captain
called “James,” and who described himself as an Englishman. He was
ostensibly under the protection of the captain, who appeared to be
somewhat ashamed of his charge. He surpassed all, of whom I have ever
heard or read, in the vicious practice of telling falsehoods. For the
first few days he led us all into a labyrinth of misunderstandings. His
tales were so perplexingly mischievous, and their fallacy at the same
time so easy of detection, that it was truly astonishing for what
purpose he gave them utterance. The gentlemen appeared determined to
convince him by forcible arguments, that such conduct would not be
tolerated with impunity. On a particular occasion, his presence of mind
happily suggested absence of body, as the best means to avoid the
result of a discovery likely to prove unpleasant _to his feelings_: and,
as fear drove him to the forward part of the vessel, shame kept him
there--a place, no doubt far better suited to his taste than the one he
had evacuated. How the captain would account for this to his friends, I
cannot imagine; but they must know the propensity of this James too well
to believe _his_ assertions, even if called forth by a dispute
respecting _the certainty of his own existence_! He said he was an
Englishman, and _that_ we considered conclusive evidence that he was
not.

After we had been a few hours under weigh, one of the crew jumped over
board, under the influence of intoxication; a boat was immediately
lowered, and the poor foolish fellow was rescued from a watery grave.
The passengers, from a mistaken notion of good nature, had furnished
this man with what might have proved his destruction. On this occasion,
the captain exerted his prerogative in a judicious manner, by compelling
all on board to surrender their stores of spirits, &c. and not a single
glass was allowed to either officers or men during the whole of the
voyage. This caused some murmuring, particularly among the passengers,
but they soon became reconciled to what was unavoidable; and although
several declared they should perish if deprived of their daily drops,
yet incredible as it may appear, there was not a single death registered
on the ship’s books from such a cause!

The steerage of the vessel was occupied by upwards of a hundred
passengers, almost the whole of whom were Irish: they behaved
exceedingly well. Perhaps the absence of the circulating medium of
friendship (whiskey) was the principal cause of their good conduct. The
following circumstance, which fell under my immediate notice, I confess,
inclines me to adopt this opinion. Shortly after we arrived at New York,
a vessel, freighted in a similar manner to this in which we were,
discharged its living cargo on the north side of the city. The
passengers leaped joyfully on shore, vociferating cheers for the Land of
Liberty, and rushed into the neighbouring spirit stores to regale
themselves. The liquor they imbibed so effectually blinded their minds
to all distinction of _meum_ and _tuum_, that they proceeded to select
_shillaleighs_ from a cargo of hickory wood just landed, that was sawn
into lengths of four feet, and of various degrees of thickness. With
these they furiously assailed each other--the police were ordered
out--and nearly all of them were allowed, for the space of a month (I
think,) to sing praises to the “land of liberty” within the walls of a
prison. Disorderly characters are much more severely punished in the
United States than here. With us, misconduct, proceeding from
intoxication, is too frequently treated as a joke--there, it is no joke.

After the distressing nausea had ceased to torment us, we found some few
enjoyments of which we had entertained no previous expectation. Those
who have not passed a moon-light evening at sea, are unacquainted with
one of the principal pleasures of life. The solemn, yet placid moaning
of the ocean--the rich variety of light and shade, produced by the
falling of the moon-beams on the waves--the boundless expanse that lies
open to the view--the peaceful grandeur that reigns, broken only by
sounds that harmonize with the majesty of the scene--all unite to
present an association of the peaceful, the splendid, and the sublime,
of which the pencil can convey no adequate idea.

With the converse of a friend, on these delightful evenings, when the
vessel was darting over the mighty waters with the celerity of a
swallow, I seemed to enjoy more than fabled Elysian pleasures. Or when
all was still, and the ship calmly reposing on the bosom of the ocean, I
could send my thoughts eastward, over the surrounding world of waters,
and indulge in a rapturous retrospect. At these seasons, the home of my
youthful days appeared invested with its most captivating attractions.
The village green--the grove, with the distant mill--the surrounding
landscape--

    And every stump,--familiar to my sight
    Recalled some fond idea of delight.

These scenes of my childhood, as if abounding with the delights of
Paradise, would excite emotions exquisitely sublime, yet slightly
tinctured with a pleasing sadness. Wherever, through this wide world, my
wandering feet may turn; my country, and particularly the place of my
nativity, will never cease to attract my affections with a cord--fine,
indeed, and tensile as the slightest gossamer, yet strong as the
stoutest cable.

This may be called an ebullition of enthusiasm, the sole effect of
feminine weakness--but the greatest characters on earth have confessed
the power of early associations. Seneca, banished to Corsica, found his
philosophy fail in a vain attempt to reconcile him to the island; and
pathetically entreats the soil of the land of his banishment, to lie
lightly on the ashes of the living. To Seneca, Corsica was a grave. But
on the other hand, Napoleon, to whom the same island was a cradle,
declared when in exile, that if once more permitted to see the place of
his nativity, he should embrace the ground with rapture; and even if led
blindfold, he could discover it by the very smell.

Our time hung heavily on our hands, during the day. The continual motion
of the vessel prohibited us from doing exactly what we desired; but I
fear, want of inclination prevented some of us from employing ourselves,
where useful employment was really practicable. During these hours of
idleness, the gentlemen amused themselves with shooting at stormy
petrels; birds in some degree resembling the martins, and whose
residence is confined to the main ocean: _it is said_ they are never to
be seen within two hundred miles of land. Shoot _at them_, they did
indeed, about twenty times a day; but although the birds were seen in a
state of quiescence, riding upon the summit of the huge waves,
frequently within a few yards of the gun’s muzzle--not one was ever
shot. From observation, I became so confident that they would _hit
something_, that I removed my children from the deck for safety.

Some say that these birds, like the enemies of the Puritans, possess a
charm against cold lead. This attribute is perhaps, as true as that of
their eternal residence on the waves of the ocean; and is not entirely
destitute of utility, if it serve to excuse the inexpertness of nautical
sportsmen.

We had been perplexed for many days with light winds, and were driven
far northward. After we had been about twenty days under sail, and had
reached a very high latitude, the air, influenced by the neighbouring
ice-bergs, became very cold. While in this position, one star-light
night, about seven o’clock, we were surprised by the appearance of a
phenomenon in the heavens, which we, at first conceived to be an _aurora
borealis_; but it did not correspond, in every particular, with the
descriptions we have read and heard of the _aurora_. I shall here
attempt to describe it.

Let the reader imagine the arc of a circle, about 90° in length, with
its concave side turned due north. From its _convex_ side, divergent
streams of light were seen about 30° in length, equal in all points, and
distinctly shewing in brilliant display, all the colours of the rainbow.
Without shooting or darting, they remained in all their splendour for a
full hour. After that period, they gradually began to grow dim, but
preserved their position till they became no longer visible: this was
about two hours from their first appearance.

The number of porpoises that played around the ship, seemed to enjoy as
much amusement as they imparted. The rapidity with which these unwieldly
creatures move, is very surprising. From a rough calculation, made by a
gentleman on board, taking the rate of the vessel for his datum, their
speed was about thirty miles per hour. We saw some flying fish; they are
elegant little things, and when seen in a certain position, resemble the
pictorial representation of miniature angels.

A few sharks were seen darting through the water. They abound on the
American coast, and render sea bathing very dangerous. Their usual
practice is, to scour the shore with the incoming tide, in search of
food; and for that reason, it is safe to bathe only when the tide is
receding. From ignorance of this circumstance, accidents have occurred
to Europeans, which in some instances, have been attended with fatal
consequences.

Naturalists have remarked that the shark turns on its side when in the
act of seizing its prey; and that while he is changing his position, the
object of his attack _has time_ to escape. This cannot have been
recorded from actual observation. The celerity with which the voracious
creature cuts through the water, surpasses comprehension--the human eye
can scarcely follow him. I have had frequent opportunities of observing
him when seizing his prey or a bait, and witnessed experiments made in
clear water for the purpose of attesting the truth of the above
assertion; and all that I could discover, amounts to a possibility that
he may perhaps, slightly swerve his body;--but, even if so, there is
scarcely time given for an intent observer to notice the motion; and to
escape when once within his reach, is absolutely impracticable.

In descending from the north we crossed the banks of Newfoundland. These
banks are covered with water, varying in depth from twenty to sixty
fathoms. Here, innumerable quantities of fish are nourished, by
vegetable substances washed down in the Gulf Stream; and fishing smacks,
from all parts of Europe and America, assemble here at certain seasons,
to take in their cargoes. Were the whole world supplied with fish from
this quarter, it is supposed no perceptible diminution would occur. The
eagerness of the fish in taking a bait in salt water is really
astonishing; and forms a striking contrast to the caution evinced, under
similar circumstances, by the fresh water species.

A fog prevailed during our passage across the banks. This, I understood,
is by no means an unusual occurrence. We found the water here to
preserve a uniformity of appearance with that on soundings: in the main
ocean it is many shades darker in colour.

Considering the immense traffic between Europe and the New World, I was
surprised at the paucity of vessels that crossed the field of our view;
during the whole passage, we only saw three! We spoke with two of these;
one was a whaler, in search of those monsters of the deep, of which we
had seen no less than nine.

After we had cleared the banks, we were favoured with an auspicious gale
that carried us along at a rapid rate, till we were very near land; but,
before we had the happiness to enjoy the sight of that desired object,
we were surrounded by another dense fog. We continued, however, to scud
along for several hours, till the captain judged it prudent to take in
sail; observing, that according to his reckoning, we must be close upon
land; and, that if the fog would permit him to discover a particular
floating light, he would take in the vessel the same night without the
assistance of a pilot. This, however, was not the case.

This evening, we of the cabin missed several things, on arranging our
luggage for landing. To those whom such advice will benefit, I would say
“Take from your main store, as few valuables as possible, that are
conveniently portable; and furnish yourselves with common articles, if
you wish to keep your superior ones.” The chief loss of my party was in
books, spoons, and children’s forks. I had provided the two latter
articles expressly for the occasion, in anticipation of what might
occur; and those who “borrowed” them, no doubt have discovered ere this,
that “it is not all gold that glitters”--nor yet silver.

The next morning’s sun shone bright to every eye on board.--The cry of
“Land off the larboard bow” was hailed with rapturous cheers--there
indeed it was, plain enough, and only about half a league from the
vessel--and there was the floating light, dimly flickering from the head
of an old hulk, moored at a similar distance on the starboard. When we
considered the thousands of miles we had sailed--the extremes of
latitude to which we were driven (from 40° to 65°)--the impracticability
of taking an observation for the two preceding days on account of the
weather--we were surprised at the judgement of the captain, who could,
under such disadvantages, bring a vessel through a fog within a few
cables’ length of land, and declare her position!

We sailed past Sandy Hook to the usual rendezvous of all vessels bound
to the city of New York--the quarantine ground. This place is situated
about seven miles from the city; it is a narrow channel, formed by the
near approximation of Staten Island and Long Island.

Close by the water’s edge on Staten Island, stands an hospital, for the
reception of invalids from all quarters of the world. It is chiefly
supported by a capitation tax of two dollars, which is demanded from
every foreigner before he lands; and in case of default, he is taken to
prison! But more of this hereafter. We were boarded and examined by a
surgeon, who found all to be in health, except one old woman, who, to
our consternation, was discovered in the steerage dangerously ill. She
was placed in a boat, and rowed to the shore with all expedition, and
died just as she entered the hospital. Had the poor old creature
departed ten minutes sooner, we should have been quarantined, I
understand for twenty days. After remaining here for nearly twelve
hours, we weighed anchor and floated with the tide to the city.



CHAPTER II.

DESCRIPTION OF NEW YORK.--CHURCHES.--THEATRES.--AUCTIONS.--UNCLE SAM.


The bay of New York is a fine piece of water, studded with islands, and
is usually first viewed with sensations of agreeable surprise. From its
designation, I expected to find it presenting a semicircular form, like
most other bays; but to the eye of an individual entering from the
Atlantic, it assumes the appearance of a fine circular lake, about eight
miles in diameter; and, I think, that term would describe it more
correctly than the one adopted. In strict propriety, either is a
misnomer--it is an estuary. This magnificent sheet of water, by whatever
name it may be known, is bounded on the north by Manhatten Island, on
the southern extremity of which stands the city of New York.

It was just before sun set, on a delightful evening in the month of
October, allowed to be, by far the pleasantest period of a transatlantic
year, when we approached this commercial metropolis of the New World.
Here the atmosphere like that of Italy, is extremely clear; it imparts a
charming lustre to the surrounding landscape, and clothes the scenery
with an appearance of inconceivable brilliancy. Under these advantages
the prospect was most delightful. We seemed as if gently gliding over a
sea of fluid gold. In the distance, guarded by unnumbered vessels stood
the city, occupying a dignified station on the banks, and just at the
point of confluence of two of the finest rivers in the world. These, the
magnificent Hudson and the Eastern River, were seen pouring their
tributary floods of liquid light, into the bosom of this splendid
estuary. On the right, were the heights of Long Island--far off, on the
left, was Jersey City, stationed on the coast to which it gives its
name. The whole prospect, enriched by a pleasing variety of wood and
water, and viewed through the bright medium of this clear atmosphere,
rendered still more brilliant by the setting sun, combined to form a
scene most enchantingly beautiful--too grand, indeed, for the most
sanguine imagination to conceive.

My husband, with three of the other gentlemen, impatient at being
detained at the quarantine ground, had embraced the opportunity offered
by a passing steamer, of proceeding to the city before us; and, having
made arrangements for our accommodation, was waiting to receive us.
Those will sympathize with my feelings, on first setting foot on dry
land, who, like myself, have endured five weeks’ confinement in a ship;
which is indeed, nothing more than a floating prison, differing only
from a stationary one, in the probable event of a general jail delivery
by drowning.

Arrived at length and safely debarked, we soon found ourselves installed
as inmates of a genteel boarding-house, at the upper end of
Beekman-street, near the City Hall. On entering, I was a little
surprised at the appearance of the rooms--being much better furnished,
and presenting altogether a nobler air than I expected to find assumed
by a mere boarding-house, in this far-away country. After we had
forwarded our letters and refreshed ourselves, we retired to a
comfortable bed room on dry land; rendered doubly grateful, after the
tempestuous tossings of the ocean, and the fatigue produced by this day
of excitement.

The next morning we all arose early, and with glowing expectations, set
forward to perambulate the city. What strange sensations affect the mind
of a stranger, on first entering a foreign city--what an air of novelty
every thing appears to wear that the eye can rest upon! Every trifle
attracts attention, and our desires for information appear as if they
could never be satisfied.

This city of New York certainly is a noble place; it is divided into
fourteen wards, and contains about three hundred thousand inhabitants.
The houses are chiefly of red brick, and altogether its internal
appearance fully justified the impressions produced by the outline of
the previous night.

Broadway, as the principal street is called, is the leading feature, in
point of position and fashionable attraction; it runs in a direct line,
from south to north, through the heart of the city; and is, I believe,
about five miles and a half in length: its southern extremity
communicates with a fine promenade, leading to the south battery. This
fort is situated at the southern extremity of the city, just at the
termination of Manhatten Island, and at the point of confluence of the
East and Hudson Rivers. Its position, as a place of pleasurable resort,
is delightful; and from its commanding situation, it must, when
required, form an excellent post of defence. Long may it continue to be
the resort of the votaries of pleasure, rather than the theatre of
military glory.

Broadway is the fashionable lounge for all the black and white belles
and beaux of the city; its commodious and extensive _pave_, completely
covered with neat awnings, forms as agreeable a promenade, as is to be
found, perhaps, in any city in the world. Many a transatlantic poet has
endeavoured to immortalize this noble walk, and its glittering
pedestrians; but no one has succeeded in prevailing upon Pegassus to use
the _trottoir_ of Broadway.

Nearly parallel with Broadway, are several other streets, and these
again are connected with others, which intersect them at right angles.
The relative position of the streets in the old, or southern part of the
city, is somewhat confused; but nothing can exceed the regularity with
which the upper part is disposed, as a reference to the plan will
sufficiently testify. _Straightness_ is here the prevailing feature,
which, although it preserves the uniformity entire, yet never displays
street architecture so advantageously as the fine sweeping curve.

About a mile up Broadway, is the Park. This is a small enclosure of a
few acres, encircled with an iron railing, divided into walks, planted
with trees, furnished with seats, and made, every way as agreeable as it
is possible to make a small oasis of verdure, situated in the centre of
a populous city. At the upper end of the Park, stands the pride of New
York--the City Hall. It is a fine marble structure certainly, but it did
not strike me as possessing that magnificent appearance that I expected,
from a building composed entirely of marble. But tastes differ. One of
our company on this occasion, related an anecdote of an Irish gentleman,
whom he had conducted round the city. After surveying several of the
public buildings and many streets presenting architectural attractions,
all of which the Irishman had dismissed in succession with this remark,
“Very good indeed, but not like Dublin,”--he was suddenly brought within
full view of the City Hall. The Hibernian appeared struck with
astonishment, and unguardedly exclaimed, “But was this built here?”

There are several buildings of white marble in various parts of the
city; some also of brick, handsomely faced with Jersey free-stone, which
present a very genteel and substantial appearance. The air of newness
pervading the whole city, never fails to arrest the attention of the
stranger and excite admiration. Indeed, the whole of the buildings
present so clean an exterior, that they seem as if just finished. This
is accounted for by the absence of coal smoke, that impartial enemy to
architectural beauty, in the “old country,” as they here term England.

Coal is here only burned by the opulent, and although fashion has
declared in favour of its use, yet wood is the chief, and indeed, almost
the only fuel consumed here; it is certainly much healthier and cleaner,
than its sable substitute, but the matter of dollars and cents has its
share of influence.

The number of superb houses is very great: though it must be confessed
that, like the streets, their uniformity greatly detracts from the
effect they would produce under other circumstances. They appear all to
be built upon one plan; the chief feature of which is, that the dining
and drawing rooms are situated on the lower floor, and so arranged, as
by throwing open a large pair of folding doors, to form one splendid
apartment. Their furniture is magnificent in the extreme. In this, as
well as all other household embellishments, the natives pride
themselves; and certainly they succeed to admiration in their attempts
to produce a brilliant effect with slender materials.

The buildings for the celebration of public worship, are generally
denominated “churches;” I conceive this uniformity of designation is
caused by the absence of an established religion. St. Paul’s, in
Broadway, a Protestant episcopal church, is the principal ecclesiastical
edifice in the city. It is a plain modern structure composed of
free-stone, with a steeple of the same material; the east end is
ornamented by a colonnade, supporting a pediment enriched with a statue
of St. Paul. The whole is well disposed, and produces an agreeable
effect; but the interior is merely plain and neat, without any
pretension whatever to splendour. This church has the advantage of a
burial ground, a convenience somewhat questionable, and by no means
general throughout the city.

All the other churches are composed of either brick or red granite, and
appear to be erected without any design whatever to add to the beauty of
the city. There are neither domes nor towers; the steeples are by no
means lofty, and from the elevation of the surrounding dwellings, they
seem lower than they are in reality. Each of these erections shelters
one bell, or at most two; and when all these are in united operation on
a Sunday morning, the universal clanking may be conceived to be any
thing but harmonious.

Almost every sect and denomination of religion has its temple and its
supporters; but it must be conceded, that the most respectable part of
the citizens attend the Protestant episcopal churches; and the
proportion in this city, is acknowledged to correspond with that of the
larger towns in England.

There are two principal theatres, the Park and the Bowery; besides a
number of minor ones, continually springing up and declining. The
blacks, who are never behind in rivalling their superiors, contrive to
keep open one, and sometimes two theatres; where the popular characters
of Lady Macbeth, Juliet, the _fair_ Desdemona, and others, are all some
way sustained by the sable sisterhood. A lively inmate of our
boarding-house, amused us one morning at breakfast, with an account of
his last night’s entertainment at the black theatre, where a sable
“Richard” was the point of attraction. In order to please his audience,
the crooked-backed monarch politely accommodated his language to the
meridian of the place: whenever the word “York” occurred, he invariably
altered the text, and called it “New York!”--the “house of New York,”
&c. In this instance, the ladies were personated by negresses!

Rents are here much higher than in London. On investigation, I suppose
it would be found that the value of building ground in the lower part of
this city, is exceeded by no area of equal dimensions in
England--perhaps not in the world. The whole of the mercantile business
is transacted in that part of the city, which lies below the Park. On
inspecting the plan, the reader will perceive that the only direction
in which land can be obtained, is upwards, that is to the north; and, as
this is allowed by men of business, to be out of the market, the
merchant must either have his offices below the City Hall, or be
altogether excluded. The value of land in this section being
exorbitantly increased by competition, and the desire of all who have
business to transact to be as near the market as possible, joined to the
scarcity of room, combine to raise the price of land to an extravagant
height in every part of the city.

It is considered probable, that New York will at some future period,
cover the whole of Manhatten Island. The village of Brooklyn, on the
opposite coast of Long Island, and Jersey City, on the western bank of
the Hudson, are also becoming very populous from their proximity to this
grand market of the Union. A well regulated communication by steam is
kept up with these two outports of commerce; a boat starts for the
former every three minutes, and for the latter, every ten minutes during
the day.

New York, is, beyond dispute, the first commercial city in the New
World, and receives into its ports, vessels laden with the produce and
manufactures of every quarter of the globe. But the retail department of
trade is here conducted in a slovenly and most irregular manner; so much
so that it is advisable for the buyer to be acquainted with the value of
the article he intends to purchase, before he closes his bargain; or he
will run the risk of paying a penalty proportionable to his ignorance.

Auction sales are here numerous beyond conception. Hence that part of
the inhabitants having family establishments, and other extensive
consumers, supply themselves from these, as frequently as possible.
These sales are effected in the lower part of the city; and a red banner
displayed, serves as an _insigne_ of an auction sale in this city, as a
spear answered the same purpose in ancient Rome.

It is true, that goods sold in this manner, are disposed of in very
large quantities, as sales on this principle are expected to be
frequented only by shop-keepers; but this difficulty is frequently
obviated, by a few families uniting and entering into a reciprocal
engagement, to make purchases as opportunities occur, of certain
articles agreed upon by the compact. The high prices demanded in the
shops, almost compel the public to resort to this expedient in self
defence.

Some few however, make very odd kind of bargains at these sales. I
remember one of our friends, a young gentleman, purchasing at an auction
three hundred fans! This reminded me of Moses, in the “Vicar of
Wakefield,” and the gross of green spectacles: but simplicity is far
from being fashionable in this part of the world, and poor Moses would
have stood no better chance here, than in the hands of Ephraim
Jenkinson.

There are, nevertheless, a vast number of good shops, and without doubt
many are substantial and highly respectable; but still, I never could
heartily admire their system of transacting business; it required an
Englishwoman to be so provokingly cautious and suspicious, if she wished
to prevent the Yankees from being “too smart” for her. A term they use
triumphantly on every fresh display of low trickery.

Perhaps there are not, proportionably, a greater number of sharpers here
than in London; but there is certainly a marked difference in the
treatment they receive. The smile of approbation bestowed upon a clever
villain, while relating his witty rogueries is shockingly misplaced; and
in my opinion, evinces a species of moral cowardice. A severe
castigation would serve the interests of society much more effectually.
Indeed, it were better to lead the life of an anchoret at once, than to
associate with such characters as I have seen admitted into the company
of merchants, judges, and professional men. But, alas! the convenient
excuse of “business purposes,” too often serves as a mantle to cover, if
it cannot justify, a multitude of sins.

To my great surprise, on the other hand, I found the crime of smuggling
held in utter abhorrence. I rejoice at this, and from all I observed, I
think it would be exceedingly difficult to find an American that could
be prevailed upon to engage in a smuggling transaction of ever so
trivial a nature. To cheat “Uncle Sam,” as they term their government,
is with them, a crime paramount! And they never fail to treat those
foreigners with ineffable contempt, who are so perfidious as to defraud
their own governments. I have heard instances of some of our British
sharp fellows being sadly taken by surprise, through ignorance of this
peculiarity of the national character.

Without hesitation, I allow that every species of villany ought to meet
with the unmitigated condemnation of all just men. The question then
naturally arises: How is it that those who regard roguery with such
indifference, when practised on private individuals--nay, smile with
approbation, if the transaction be associated with any thing
witty--should single out the vice of smuggling, as the only one that
deserves exclusive reprobation? I leave the question open; but the
general opinion is, that as this crime is regarded by far too many on
this side the Atlantic, as a venial offence, it is placed on the
criminal code of “Uncle Sam,” through a pure love of opposition.

This appellation, “Uncle Sam,” is willingly acknowledged as the national
soubriquet of the “free-born citizens of the United States,” while on
the other hand, the terms, “Brother Jonathan” and “Yankee,” are
considered highly offensive. As the origin of this favoured term is not
generally known in England, I beg leave to insert a verbatim copy from
an American newspaper, of the baptism of this independent personage,
together with a description of his sponsors.

     “Immediately after the declaration of the last war with England,
     Elbert Anderson, Esq. of this city, then a contractor, visited
     Troy, on the Hudson, where was concentrated, and where he purchased
     a large quantity of provisions--beef, pork, &c. The inspectors of
     these articles at that place were Messrs. Ebenezer and Samuel
     Wilson. The latter gentleman (invariably known as “_Uncle Sam_”)
     generally superintended in person a large number of workmen, who,
     on this occasion, were employed in overhauling the provisions
     purchased by the contractor for the army. The casks were marked E.
     A.--U. S. This work fell to the lot of a facetious fellow in the
     employ of the Messrs. Wilsons, who, on being asked by some of his
     fellow workmen the meaning of the mark (for the letters U. S. for
     United States were almost then entirely new to them,) said, “he did
     not know, unless it meant _Elbert Anderson_ and _Uncle
     Sam_”--alluding exclusively, then, to the said “Uncle Sam” Wilson.
     The joke took among the workmen, and passed currently; and “Uncle
     Sam” himself being present, was occasionally rallied by them on the
     increasing extent of his possessions. Many of these workmen being
     of a character denominated “food for powder,” were found shortly
     after following the recruiting drum, and pushing toward the
     frontier lines, for the double purpose of meeting the enemy, and of
     eating the provisions they had lately laboured to put in good
     order. Their old jokes of course accompanied them, and before the
     first campaign ended, this identical one first appeared in
     print--it gained favour rapidly, till it penetrated and was
     recognised in every part of our country, and will, no doubt
     continue so long as U. S. remains a nation. It originated precisely
     as above stated; and the writer of this article distinctly
     recollects remarking, at the time when it first appeared in print,
     to a person who was equally aware of its origin, how odd it would
     be, should this silly joke, originating in the midst of beef, pork,
     pickle, mud, salt, and hoop-poles, eventually become a national
     cognomen.”

Besides the little information this long noisy paragraph conveys, it
will serve as a fair specimen of the loose and rambling style of their
literature, which their oratory somewhat resembles.

When a foreigner decides upon remaining in the United States, and wishes
to be naturalized, he first “declares his intentions;” that is, he has
his name enrolled in the national records, and receives documents, which
will, at the expiration of five years, if he reside in the States during
that period, entitle him to the full privileges of a native. The
expences of this affair amounts to no more than five dollars.

The immense number of emigrants invests the city with the appearance of
a miscellaneous specimen of human beings, from all quarters of the
world; yet there is a sufficient majority of native inhabitants fully
to establish a nationality of character. By the best information I could
obtain, one-fourth of the city are natives of Ireland; and, I think,
that all other foreigners may be comprised in one-sixth of the
remainder: these, with 50,000 negroes, taken from the gross population
returns, will leave about 225,000 native citizens. This may be about a
correct estimate; but it is really a very difficult question to answer
correctly, the statistical accounts are so much at variance.

Generally speaking, the Irish meet with a much better reception than the
English. So indeed, do all other foreigners; for the natives bear a kind
of family grudge against John Bull, and it has long been fashionable,
for many to evince their patriotism, by discharging their resentment on
the English, whom they consider as being more especially his legitimate
offspring.



CHAPTER III.

RESIDENCE IN NEW YORK.--FIRES.--NEGROES--BOARDING HOUSES.--DRESS.


Fires are here alarmingly numerous, and frequently of unprecedented
magnitude. The firemen are a body of volunteers amounting to between
three and four hundred. They are viewed by their fellow citizens, as a
class of respectable men; and as occupying a station somewhat similar to
our local cavalry. They spend their time in the execution of their
arduous duties, and supply their own clothes, without receiving any
remuneration, except the municipal privileges with which they are
rewarded at the completion of their septennial term of servitude. I
endeavoured to discover, if possible, what was the chief cause of these
fires; but could arrive at no positive conclusion on the subject. I
conceive the half smoked cigars, so plentifully disseminated in every
direction, by men and boys of all ages, conditions, and colours, may be
one reason; and I know of no other, unless it be the carelessness
naturally produced by the eternal use of the spirit decanter.

The rates and premiums of Insurance companies are perhaps higher here
than in any other part of the world; yet, in consequence of the numerous
demands made upon them, these public bodies are continually failing.
Custom reconciles us to all things; and fires are here so common, that
these good citizens have no idea of the sensations such calamities
produce with us. I remember an English gentleman venturing to state in
public company, that in a large market town near the place of his birth,
he only recollected one fire occurring in the space of above twenty
years. I myself have no doubt of the truth of this assertion; yet it was
received by those present, with marks of suspicion so glaringly evident,
that I felt sorry that the narrator had hazarded his credit for
veracity, without calculating upon the chances against producing proof.

Strange as it may appear, during our residence in New York and in the
country, I never heard any well authenticated case of death occasioned
by any of these fires: although first from motives of humanity, and
afterwards, from curiosity, we constantly subjected this matter to a
very close investigation. This appeared to me the more astonishing,
because it is well known that in Europe, loss of life is too frequently
the melancholy concomitant of these awful visitations.

I noticed some of their many fire engines; they are very handsome, and
very, very small. They are universally acknowledged to be more powerful
than ours. Indeed, the good citizens are very loud in their praises, and
claim the honour of some inventions or improvements connected with them;
and I will not pluck a single leaf or acorn from their civic crown, for
which they pay so dearly, but will cheerfully acknowledge that their
engines are of superior construction, and are kept in better condition
than any other in the world.

They have hit upon a very ingenious device to direct the firemen to that
part of the city where their assistance is required. Those who first
give the alarm hasten to the City Hall, whose site occupies the highest
ground in the city. The heavy alarm bell is instantly rung, and its
sound is re-echoed by most of the ting-tangs in the steeples. A ball of
crimson glass, containing a light, is then immediately exposed at the
very apex of the observatory on the hall; and its relative position to
the cupola serves as an index to point out the direction of the fire.

It is impossible to convey an exact idea of the frequency and magnitude
of these awful incidents. From the flat roof of our residence, one
evening, I saw three fires at the same time; two of them appeared to be
of considerable magnitude; the other was only an oil and turpentine
store. This united demand upon the exertions of the firemen was very
perplexing to all parties. The people at the City Hall were undecided in
what direction to place their crimson index; and so, with a view of
directing to all the three points, they kept perpetually shifting it.
The firemen, consequently, altered their course, in a corresponding
direction to that pointed out by the ball; till the confusion became
general, and the fires raged so alarmingly, that fears were entertained
for the safety of the city. At length, the municipal authorities sent
messengers, who sought out the firemen and dispersed them in proper
directions; and thus happily averted the dreadful consequences.

The removing of wooden houses with brick chimney-stacks, _en masse_, is
so commonly effected here, that to question its practicability would be
the height of absurdity: yet I understand, that even this is treated by
us with ridicule, as being a matter beyond the range of human
possibility. How then can I hope for belief, in asserting that there are
substantial brick houses in the city of New York, that have been removed
from one side of the street to the other, without in the least degree,
impeding the diurnal arrangements of their respective occupants? I will
make no such assertion--I will only state, that such houses have been
pointed out to me, and described as having been removed from a station
on the opposite side of the street; and I freely confess I am
sufficiently weak to believe it. I shall therefore content myself with
inserting one of the many advertisements I have seen, which I copy from
the _New York Gazette_, now before me; and leave my readers to conclude
as they think proper.

     “THE SUBSCRIBER, respectfully informs the public, that he carries
     on, extensively, the business of

                             MOVING HOUSES

     _of any description_; and with the utmost expedition and safety;
     having every necessary apparatus for the purpose.

                                                           J. ACKERMAN.

     220, Division-St., Sept. 22.”

This removal of houses reminds me of the removal of household furniture,
which annually takes place on the first of May. By an established
custom, houses are let from this day for the term of one year certain;
and, as the inhabitants in general love variety, and seldom reside in
the same house for two consecutive years, those who have to change,
which appears to be nearly the whole city, must be all removing
together. Hence, from the peep of day till twilight, may be seen carts
which go at a rate of speed astonishingly rapid, laden with furniture of
every kind, racing up and down the city, as if its inhabitants were
flying from a pestilence, pursued by death with his broad scythe just
ready to mow them into eternity.

I found the negroes much more numerous, and presenting a much better
appearance than I ever expected; and I am happy to say, that although
still retained in bondage in the Southern States, they are all now free
in this and the five New England States, and have been so for upwards of
fifteen years. They invariably excite a feeling of deep interest in the
minds of all Europeans. But I beheld, with acute sensations of sorrow,
their late task-masters regarding them with feelings of hatred mingled
with contempt, and as a class far below the rest of the human species in
point of moral rectitude and intellectual power. I was not prepared to
find this in a nation who are taught to lisp, with their infantile
breath, that monstrous falsehood--“All men are born free and equal.”

This maxim, the pole star of the republic, was first promulgated by
Thomas Jefferson, whose writings are acknowledged by all Democrats as
the standard of political authority. About the commencement of the
present century this same Thomas Jefferson filled the office of
President of the United States for the period of eight years; and his
memory is still held in profound veneration by a large section of the
Americans. Yet it is well known here, that this sublime character had,
by his Quadroon slaves a vast number of children of both sexes; whom he
retained on his plantation in a state of vassalage, and dying left them
so!!

It is with no feelings of pleasure that I drag the crimes of this
atrocious wretch before the public; but, I believe this fact is not
known in England, and it may serve to give some idea of the charming
things that are transacted in those regions of slavery, where both the
framer and the violator of the law are found united in the person of the
planter. Surely it may here be said, that licentiousness and tyranny
have met together; democracy and slavery have kissed each other.

The existing slavery of these “free and independent” States, combined
with the atrocious conduct of Jefferson, the progenitor of whole gangs
of slaves, forms a beautiful comment on his favourite apopthegm--

“All men are born free and equal.”

An expression which declares precisely the same doctrine, occupies a
prominent position in their national manifesto--the famous Declaration
of Independence.

The projectors of this, their _magna charta_, must have known that this
motto is founded on a fallacious basis, and will not endure the
touchstone of common sense, particularly when applied to natal
circumstances. Were the base-born progeny of that “illustrious champion
of liberty”, Jefferson, born _free_, and endowed with privileges and
advantages _equal_ to the children of his amiable contemporary,
Hamilton?[A] Or are the sons of those slaves who now groan in fetters in
the southern States of this “land of liberty”, born _free_ and invested
with _equal_ rights to the children of those Molochs, their masters? A
common understanding revolts at the comparison. Away with such sophistry
to the dark dominions of that being whence it emanated!

I regard this, not in a political point of view, but purely as a case of
Liberty and Equality, _versus_ Negro Slavery and Oppression. And were it
not for the sake of humanity, I should have viewed the whole affair with
indifference, and left the Americans to shout praises to the Goddess of
Liberty, with as much clamour as did the Ephesians of old, to their good
customer the Goddess Diana.

This despised class, the Negroes, seems to be regarded as being
destitute, not only of mental endowments, but also of the sensibilities
of our common nature. They are considered as fair subjects for the
bitterest sarcasm and contempt. Children, catching the contagion by
example and sympathy, regard them as beings that may be annoyed and
insulted with impunity; dogs are encouraged to bark at them; and, as a
crowning point, parrots are taught to curse them. I could scarcely have
believed this, but I know one elegant house, where a bird of this kind
was much admired for the charming accomplishment of thundering a
degrading curse at the head of every passing negro.

Besides their intellectual deficiencies, they are charged with a long
catalogue of moral misdoings, which more properly spring from a
neglected education than a depraved disposition. I have frequently
conversed with the females, and have always found them remarkably civil,
and grateful for any trivial act of kindness. They generally express
themselves in good language, and with an enunciation, as bold and as
clear as any Englishman. This struck me with surprise, as I had formed
my judgement of their conversational capabilities, from the dialogues
given in broken English, that I had met with in the course of my
reading. Their voices are rich and melodious, and their singing is much
admired at church, but all those that I ever saw there, sat by
themselves; and I never heard of a white man, however low in station he
might be, that would condescend to sit at the same table with a black.

There is something peculiarly interesting in the appearance of their
children, when between the ages of three and eight. I know not by what
laws blackness of skin and sinuosity of hair should, when associated,
produce an effect at once droll and agreeable. But such is the case in
an uncommon degree. All European ladies, with whom I conversed,
acknowledged this; and even the Americans were compelled to allow, that
these sable Psyches and Cupids of the kitchen are very entertaining.

But I soon found, that to converse in accents of kindness with negroes,
was not the way to secure the estimation of American society; it is
considered shockingly coarse and vulgar. On some occasions, the negro
children themselves have stood in mute astonishment, while I have patted
the head of one of their companions; and such an action has sometimes
produced a remark, on the strange taste that could induce a lady to take
notice of _such creatures_.

A fracas took place one day, at our boarding-house, arising out of a
dispute between two gentlemen; the one a German, and the other an
American. In the heat of argument, the German expressed himself thus: “I
will wager a hundred dollars, that I produce a negro that is a better
calculator than you.”--The American rose in high anger, and immediately
left the room; declaring that he would not sit at the same table with
any one, who esteemed him no better than a negro. Indeed he carried his
threat further, for he removed to another house with all possible
precipitation. The general opinion was, that the proposal of the German
was a most degrading one; and I doubt not, a more fashionable display of
resentment would have met with unequivocal approbation.

Until the Americans consent entirely to loose the yoke and let the
oppressed go free, they should cashier the stars and stripes, and adopt
the following device and motto, which would more effectually represent
the piebald character of their Republic.

Let this device be, the representation of a man wearing the cap of
liberty, and brandishing a slave whip in his right hand, while his left
displays the _Declaration of Independence_; his right foot, at the same
time resting on the naked back of a prostrate negro.--With this motto:

“All men are born free and equal.”

Negro slavery is the foulest blot on the character of the American
government, and their spiteful treatment of those who have obtained
their freedom, represents the “free-borns” in a most ungracious point of
view. It justifies a stranger in concluding that the strong arm of
compulsion has wrested these oppressed creatures from their iron grasp;
and that, like the Egyptians of old, their bond slaves have departed
much against their will. What! are these blacks indebted to their
neighbours, and is it for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction, that
all classes unite in heaping reproaches on their heads? Truth compels me
to declare, that the christian whites owe to their sable brethren a debt
that they can never, never liquidate; and those who have laboured to
rivet their galling fetters, will answer for it in that day, when some
from among the most abject negroes in the States, shall shine in the
splendour of coronation garments.

But a haughty spirit of contemptuousness seems to prevail among those,
in whose composition dulness and ill nature predominate. Thus the
Americans of this order, despise the English; the resident English
despise the Irish; the Irish unite with all the rest in despising the
Negroes: whom these despise I cannot tell, but probably all the rest
together.

A magnanimous mind will seek no excuse for treating the defenceless with
cruel contempt; and, while I freely admit the vanity of these negroes is
boundless, I contend that it is not to be cured by an indiscriminate
administration of ill treatment. Their advance in civilization will be
marked by a corresponding contempt for those frivolities, which they now
so much admire, and no doubt, they will ultimately lay them aside.

A peep into a negro ball room, as at present conducted, would certainly
provoke the risibility of a philosopher. I myself, was never so highly
favoured, but shall present my readers with a description, as nearly as
I can recollect it, given by a gentleman; just observing from what I
have seen of their mode of dressing on occasions of festivity, that I
believe the representation to be correct.--“Dark dandies, so starched
and stayed as to appear perfectly inflexible, dressed in the very tip of
fashion, with their poor heads beaming with all the lustre that
Rowland’s Macassar can dispense, may here be seen paying their devoirs
to their sable belles. These last, arrayed in fashionables fresh from
France; the articles of dress themselves preposterous, and ill adapted
to display the _attractions_ of the wearers, by their tasteless
combination, magnify the absurdity ten-fold. Here, some nymph, assuming
the name of Thalia or Aurora, may be observed, with fingers, ears, and
wrists, ringed and jewelled with a sample of all the tinsel trumpery of
Birmingham; on her head waves a huge plume of _white_ ostrich feathers;
while her dark ancles are dimly visible through a pair of _British
flesh-coloured_ silk stockings; and her waist so tightly compressed, as
to give her figure the contour of an hour-glass.” Poor creatures! they
will some day know better--till then, these things may be regarded with
the passing tribute of a smile.

Respecting this treatment of negroes, by their former owners, the whites
of America, I desire to be understood as speaking in general terms.
Some, I know, have kind masters, but all general rules admit of
individual exceptions. That negro enjoys a great advantage who lives
under kind superiors; but, if his race be held in contempt by the whole
neighbourhood, he has still the mortifying consciousness of knowing that
he will be obnoxious to indignity and insult, so long as he retains his
colour.

The greater part of the negroes are servants still. Those of them that
are steady receive excellent wages--from eight to twelve dollars per
month, with board, for a man; and from six to ten for a woman. Those who
are not in service, chiefly wander about the city carrying their
convenient apparatus for sawing wood for fuel, and, as they are seldom
employed for a longer period than two hours together, this is a lazy
life. I am sure the very bones of some must ache with idleness. Thus it
will appear that although they are the hewers of wood and drawers of
water to the whole community, they are not generally overworked. Under
existing circumstances, they are not likely to rise in the scale of
society: I did not notice a negro among the hundreds of carmen employed
in this city.

This numerous class, the carmen, keep each a horse and cart, which they
own and drive; and, as the merchants keep neither horses nor vehicles,
they do all the commercial conveyance work in the city. They are not
hired by any particular employer for any specified time, but like
hackney coachmen with us, are called when required. Their carts are much
lighter than ours; and with the assistance of four moveable posts and a
chain, they contrive to dispense with both sides and ends. Their horses
are generally very good; they appear light, and when occasion requires,
move as swiftly as our coach horses.

The heavier kind of goods are usually disposed in smaller packages, and
the whole of the business equipage seems, to my judgement, much lighter
and more convenient than with us. Their porters, carmen, and helpers of
all kinds move with greater alacrity; and, although I admit I am not a
competent judge in such matters, I consider the Americans surpass us in
these affairs.

Their vessels of all descriptions appear much cleaner and handsomer than
ours; and this superiority is maintained throughout all classes, from a
Liverpool Packet to a Long Island market boat. A Yankee vessel, see her
where you may, can be told among a thousand others; she lies upon the
water like a swan, and in the midst of shipping from all nations, she
appears like a swallow among other birds.

Their steam ships are also very large, and most beautifully fitted up
and furnished. But now a passage across the Atlantic may be effected by
steam, the naval affairs of the whole world will, perhaps, undergo a
complete revolution: yet this would be more speedily effected, were the
steam apparatus perfectly free from danger.

The city is well supplied with provisions of every kind. On a fair
average, they are about half the price that they are with us; though the
markets are subject to considerable fluctuations. They are procured
every morning from the city markets; the two principal of which are the
Washington and the Fulton; and these are again supplied most plentifully
from the country, with every thing the land produces in all parts of
the Union: together with abundance of fish, in the greatest perfection.

During the winter, the inhabitants providentially secure a good supply
of ice for summer use. Insignificant as this article may appear to us
who seldom use it, even as a luxury, it is an object of paramount
importance in a city, where the thermometer ranges for four months in
the year, between eighty and a hundred degrees. During this broiling
season, neither meat, fish, poultry, milk, nor butter, could be
preserved without its cooling influence; and as a luxury at such a
season, it is grateful beyond conception.

One of the principal causes of domestic disquietude in this part of the
world, arises from servants. Whether this be the result of the peculiar
form of the American government or not, I pretend not to determine; but
most certainly, the saying of Jefferson is as well known by this class
as their own proper names, by some of them it is as frequently repeated,
and is taken advantage of by all. If a lady requires a servant, she
usually makes her wants known at one of the many register offices that
abound in the city; or she sends an advertisement to the newspaper
office, which will be inserted for an English shilling. In either case,
she is sure of having a numerous assemblage, from which she can make a
selection. The applicants will seem innumerable, comprising individuals
of almost every nation under heaven, but chiefly from Ireland: and it
will be a wonder, if any one among them have lived in her last place
more than a month. As to character, the whole affair generally proves a
farce: I myself, could never obtain any thing more than a mere outline.

I cannot well conceive how servants can be more fickle than they are
here. Their love of liberty prompts them to change their places, almost
as frequently as they change their dresses; and as to equality, they
always demand a seat at the same table with the heads of the family, in
the country; and in many instances, in the city. Seldom indeed, can a
girl be prevailed upon to remain on the premises after tea time; for, as
her mistress spends the evening out whenever _she_ pleases, the girl
thinks she cannot do better than imitate her example. But the latter
frequently forgets to return at the time appointed, and the worst of it
is, want of punctuality arising from this cause is not always the
greatest annoyance. But, I forget myself--servants they will not submit
to be called; this term is especially resisted by the free-born
sisterhood; they are therefore, denominated _helps_, _helpers_, or
_hands_.

So much for a single servant; and a plurality is sure to increase the
perplexity. I was frequently reminded of that saying of old Elwes, “If
you keep one servant, your work is done; if you keep two, it is half
done; if three are kept you may do it yourself.” Yet, the first section
of this aphorism does not correctly apply; for the work of a mistress is
never completely done here, by either one servant or more, and must in
many parts for ever go undone, unless she do it herself.

The perplexity arising from servants, has influenced many small families
to prefer residing from year to year, in a boarding-house. Although this
custom appears very singular at first, as do all domestic arrangements
with which we are unacquainted; yet I must confess, it has its
recommendations, and upon the whole, I liked it as well as occupying a
house of my own. As our apartments in Beekman-street were not, in all
respects, suited to our convenience, we removed to a boarding-house
situated in the immediate vicinity of the City Hall, where we were
provided with permanent accommodation; and remained here during our
continuance in the city. The inmates of the house have, of course, their
own sleeping rooms; and these, according to the number of the party, or
the kind of accommodation desired. The whole company, with the exception
of the children, assemble in the public room at meal times; besides
which, there is a public sitting room; and, should a private apartment
be required for any temporary purpose, it can always be obtained in an
establishment of any pretensions.

The order of the house is (for in describing one I describe all,) to
breakfast in summer at eight, dine at two, and take tea at six. The
breakfast table is furnished with tea, coffee, and chocolate, besides
viands of various kinds, both hot and cold, and also with fish and fruit
when in season. Dinner presents nothing remarkable; the table is
supplied with much about the same fare as with us, only with a little
more attention to variety. Tea is the last repast, and a massive one it
is. Besides tea and coffee, and a second edition of the substantial cold
fare that figured at the breakfast table, there are sweetmeats and
preserves in every variety, with a countless display of cakes, the very
naming of which would appear upon paper like a confectioner’s catalogue;
while melons, or pine apples, when in season, bring up the rear. After
this, what more is required? Being accustomed to take supper in Europe
we fancied we required it here, and were accommodated, but as we found
we were the only party who partook of that meal, we felt somewhat
uncomfortable, and learned in course of time to adopt the custom of our
neighbours, which we found by experience, in this respect to be
preferable to our own.

The quality of the fare provided is usually of the very best. I have
often thought that the Americans, as a nation, sacrifice the pleasures
of intellectual taste to mere animal gratification; and notwithstanding
the variety displayed at their repasts, I found it difficult to make a
selection of food safficiently plain for myself and my children. They
rally us on our partiality for the pleasures of the table, and we
receive it with hearty good nature; but really the national joke of the
roast beef of old England comes with a very bad grace from transatlantic
epicures. Like all other establishments, boarding houses are various in
character. They differ very little from each other in the fare they
provide, but the description of the house, and the terms, are considered
a just criterion of the circumstances and quality of the company they
entertain. The terms are of every variety, from three dollars per week,
to--I know not what sum. My husband and myself paid a hundred dollars
per month; in this sum I have not included any thing connected with the
children. Perhaps, some may think the mention of this an unnecessary
display of personal parade. My reason for it is this. I have so often
heard individuals who have written on America, charged with associating
with the _canaile_ of the nation, and their testimony, on this
assumption, has been rejected by numbers, that in order to rebut this
anticipated charge I have furnished the reader with an acknowledged
standard in order to assist him in the formation of his judgement.

Besides ourselves, the inmates of this establishment consisted of two
married pairs, a brother and sister, and two single gentlemen: the
gentlemen were all either professional men or merchants. Frequently the
company was diversified, by the introduction of a lady or gentleman from
Virginia, or from some other of the southern states, who had taken a
trip hither, for the purpose of avoiding the excessive heat at home; and
sometimes two ladies would drop down the Hudson from the north for a few
week’s pleasure. Some one of the gentlemen also, would occasionally
introduce a friend fresh from the other side of the Atlantic; so that,
it was no uncommon occurrence for us to converse, on the same day, with
individuals from many different parts of the globe.

After breakfast, we used to withdraw to the sitting-room, and either
read or work with the needle; or, if more agreeable, we could retire to
our private apartments. We could spend our time either privately or in
public according to our inclinations: and with agreeable society, for
ours was remarkably so, what could be more desirable? But what became of
the children? will be a natural question. These were no source of
annoyance--they were sent to school, or attended in the nursery, or, if
of sufficient age, were admitted into the sitting-room. That woman is
not worthy of the name of either wife or mother, in whose vocabulary the
word ‘trouble’ has a place, when the comfort of her husband or her
children is the object.

So small a portion of time being occupied in affairs of a domestic
nature, leaves the ladies leisure for reading, and for the construction
of elaborate articles of fancy dress. Their fashions are imported from
Paris, which however, do not at all times appear to become them; but
here as in England, any absurdity has its charms, that is countenanced
by the recommendation of a French milliner. The gentlemen dress after
the English style, and plates of the newest London fashions, are
displayed in the shop windows of every tailor in New York.

The Americans are commonly charged with eating with voracious avidity, I
know this to be strictly true with some; but the charge does not apply
in all its disgusting details, against the members of, what is
considered, good society. The first exhibition I witnessed of this
national peculiarity was on a steam-ship tour; until then I do not
recollect that I had even heard of it. It is most true, they do not
indulge in conversation while dining; and this, not only detracts from
that sociability which at all times graces an English repast; but it
also throws a sombre shade over the whole affair.

Nothing can exceed the abhorrence with which European ladies view the
disgusting practices I now feel myself called upon to mention. The
disagreeable creatures, almost to a man, chew tobacco and spit most
incessantly. These odious practices are too universal to admit of any
palliation from individual exceptions. What pleasure can the
things--wretches I was going to write, find in this loathsome practice?
It unfits them for the society even of those females, who have the
lowest claims to respectability--it injures their health--it makes them
hateful and hated go where they may;--and I could almost wish for the
supremacy of the Pope, to predominate in America for the single purpose
of carrying into effect the edict of Urban VII. against the use of
tobacco.

It is painful to dwell on these things, but having coupled the above
foul practices and dismissed them with the thunders of the Vatican, it
would be unfair to let the master vice of the nation escape, without a
sentence of disapprobation; I mean the drinking of ardent spirits. I
will not call it the vice of drunkenness, for, all I could learn
inclines me to question the capability of the gentlemen of the Union to
commit this sin. As a nation, they are brought up from their very
infancy to drink ardent spirits, and by the time they arrive at years of
maturity they become so habituated to the practice, that spirits cease
to affect them in a manner similar to others. Who can sufficiently
estimate the blessings that flow from cheap rum? I have witnessed
infants washed in it--being attainable by all, boys have been known to
enter school under its influence--and it has slain its thousands in the
prime of manhood.

That temperance societies have improved these things, I cheerfully
admit; for the practice had produced effects so appaling, that even the
depraved shuddered to contemplate them. But still the use of the
solitary dram is not banished, even from among the higher orders of the
community.

These _evil spirits_ are here made to assume all the attractions that a
depraved ingenuity, guided by avarice, can possibly invent. The taste
is consulted either by bitter, sweet, or acid, or by a pleasing
combination of all. If the weather be cold, spices are in request; if
hot, ice is introduced to impart a grateful coolness.

I would by no means advise any young man whether ignorant or educated,
who has the least relish for these things, to cross the Atlantic; for, I
consider if he have only the slightest inclination for them here, his
life is not worth four years purchase, from the day he sets foot on the
coast of America. In the short space of two years, how many have I known
and heard of, who, by this destructive vice, have been cut off in the
flower of their days! The absent friends of such seldom know the real
cause of their death; and consumption, or some other disorder,
frequently serves as the mantle to cover the horrid aspect of the
_familiar spirit_ they have consulted, as a similar vesture veiled the
shade of the reputed prophet.[B]



CHAPTER IV.

VOYAGE UP THE HUDSON--NEW ENGLAND SABBATH DAY RACE.


Throughout the preceding chapters, I have considered our voyage across
the Atlantic, only in the light of a successful speculation; and so
indeed it was in all points but one; but that _one_ was unfortunately of
the utmost importance--I mean HEALTH. My family had enjoyed this
blessing almost without alloy, in all our previous travels, and this
circumstance, perhaps, rendered us a little impatient under the
infliction of the first reverse.

After we had remained in the city a few months, my husband was attacked
with a disorder that frequently rages here, called the chills and fever;
one distressing peculiarity of which is, that it leaves the patient for
a long time in a weak and languid condition. This was to us a
circumstance of a serious nature, for as all our earthly dependence was
founded upon his exertions, as a private teacher; if he were
incapacitated by sickness from pursuing the duties of his profession--it
required no augur to foretel the consequences. But as in other affairs,
America had not only answered, but had greatly exceeded our
expectations, we felt every disposition to give the climate a fair trial
before we totally abandoned it.

As soon as my husband was sufficiently convalescent, we amused ourselves
with visiting Staten Island, Long Island, the coast of New Jersey, and
other places within a convenient distance of the city, for the advantage
of change of scene and air; and also to select a country residence, with
the view of ascertaining the effect of the climate, under what we
conceived to be, the most advantageous circumstances. The chief of these
excursions of pleasure was our trip to Albany, the State Capital of New
York, situated about a hundred and fifty miles up the Hudson, or the
North River, as it is here generally denominated.

Since I had been in America, I had heard, with perfect indifference, the
scenery of the Hudson whispered in accents of faint praise; and as I
expected to see nothing more than a fine river winding its course
through a forest, I was totally unprepared for the pleasure that awaited
me. It is not without some faint misgivings, arising from a latent sense
of insufficiency for such a task, that I hazard an attempt to describe
this charming scenery.

Embarked on board a superb steam ship, we went at a rapid rate, and
quickly left the city in the distance. A long series of perpendicular
rocks, of various altitudes, crowned with trees and bushes, and fluted
as if by art, forms the western barrier of this noble river; on the
other side, the mansions of the opulent, with their pleasure grounds,
reflect a beauteous contrast. We now leave the dwellings of man, and the
wildness of nature seems to maintain uninterrupted sway; when suddenly
the river widens into what appears to be an expansive lake, whose glassy
bosom reflects the surrounding woods and rocks, and the tree-bearing
islets which it encircles. Again the stream is contracted by two
gigantic rocks, which lift their ‘awful form’ from each side of its
margin. We dart through this channel, and another expansive prospect
opens to our view enriched with all the charms of the former, in
addition to the blue mountains of Catskill in perspective. Here, it
seems as if nature had studied to dispose woods, rocks, mountains, and
lakes, in positions the most graceful and majestic; so sublime and
lovely are the objects that meet the eye in every direction.

Besides nature’s attractions, other interesting circumstances are
associated with the surrounding scenery. About forty miles above the
city, is the memorable district called the _neutral ground_, on the
borders of which the struggle was the fiercest during the revolutionary
war. This is the province that Cooper has chosen for the scenes of his
‘Spy.’ Here also is the melancholy spot where the unfortunate Major
Andre was captured, and the place of his execution may be seen from the
river. ‘Sleepy Hollow’ was also pointed out to us, and farther on is the
village of Rip Van Winkle of somniferous notoriety. Among these the rock
of Sing Sing, crowned with the dismal ornament of the largest prison in
world, forces itself upon our notice, and induces a feeling dashed with
rather too much sadness, to be strictly pleasing.

Before this sail up the Hudson, I conceived nothing could exceed the
beauties of the Isle of Wight, and some choice scenes on the lakes of
Scotland; but all these must certainly yield the palm to the scenery of
the Hudson. To be fully appreciated it must be seen. The surrounding
objects, indeed, may be named upon paper, but who can faithfully
describe the atmosphere!

The established regulations on board the steam ships, oblige the
gentlemen to occupy the fore cabin, and leave the ladies in
uninterrupted possession of the after one. We had therefore, no
gentlemen in our company, except when on deck. Although this division of
the sexes may be viewed with reluctance at first, by those who have
husbands and brothers on board; yet ladies are generally reconciled to
the arrangement, because they are secure from the multitudinous
annoyances, produced by the free consumption of spirits and tobacco.
However, the ladies and gentlemen dine together, and on the present
occasion, the company amounted to above two hundred. The same scenes
variously affect different persons, and this was the first time in my
life that I had dined with so large and so heterogeneous an assemblage.
I felt much annoyed by hearing the rough phrases bandied about among the
_gentlemen_, while taking possession of their places. Soon, however, the
dinner appeared, and the company commenced operation in earnest.
Although but few words were spoken, it was by no means a silent repast;
dispatch was the order of the day--I had never before seen any thing
like it--and from the effect of the queer objects that presented
themselves to my notice, I confess I felt a much stronger inclination
for laughing than feasting. But violent exertions are usually of short
duration; and in pure astonishment, I stared when the first signs
proclaimed the battle to be over. The gentlemen withdrew to their part
of the vessel, and the ladies to the deck, and to the best of my
judgement, the whole affair was concluded in less than ten minutes!

My husband and myself embraced the first opportunity of comparing notes.
The scenery and the dinner was all during the voyage, that we witnessed
in common; the former we enjoyed, the latter we did not. As all the
females were consigned to one particular quarter of the vessel, I had an
opportunity of spending about twelve hours in company with a fair
sample of the American ladies. The chilling impression left on my mind
by the image of the captain’s wife, mentioned in the first chapter, had
long since passed away; and although a full acquaintance with the
character of that worthy lady had been of singular service to me, I was
alike averse by nature and judgement, to condemn a whole nation for the
reprobated failings of a single individual. The city lady might here be
distinguished from the rest, as she paced the deck, by her close
adherence to the latest Parisian fashions; and the plain Dutch dame by
her plain Dutch dress. Otherwise, there is a greater uniformity of
external appearance, than would be seen with us, under similar
circumstances. One thing in particular, I must not omit, though I never
heard it before observed by any individual--I mean the striking
uniformity of look--the statue-like appearance of the countenance, that
prevails so universally among the women. They seem to be totally
incapable of expressing mental emotions by any visible change of
countenance, even when conversing upon excitable subjects. The cause of
this I must leave to others to determine.

My husband thus describes the proceedings in his part of the vessel:

“The fore cabin was furnished with a bar, where ardent spirits and
tobacco were supplied to those of the passengers that were destitute of
such blessings; and the regularity with which the glass circulated,
might very well illustrate perpetual motion. The gentlemen were
associated together in small groups, and were conversing on various
subjects, but chiefly on that theme of which the Americans never seem to
tire--the revolutionary war; the presence of an Englishman is almost
certain to produce a note from this string. A number were amusing
themselves by rallying a squire, as a justice of the twenty-five dollar
court is here termed, and a little dark man, who figured as the deacon
of a church. It appeared that the deacon was a farmer, and his neighbour
the squire, kept a store for the sale of almost every thing, and for the
convenience of barter, or ‘trading,’ as they call it. One cold morning
during the last winter, the deacon took six bushels of wheat to the
store of the squire, to be exchanged for as much salt as could be
mutually agreed upon. After some time and many words were spent in
manœuvering, they consented to barter measure for measure. The deacon
proceeded to mete out his grain, while the squire complaining of the
coldness of the morning amused himself by stamping upon his elastic
floor. The deacon, of course, could not object to his neighbour warming
his toes in what manner he pleased, in his own store, he therefore said
nothing, although he discovered that this stamping had consolidated his
six bushels of wheat into the compass of five and a half. The squire
then commenced his part of the contract--to measure out the salt; and a
chillness conveniently seized the toes of the deacon, which he
endeavoured to counteract by stamping, after the example of the squire.
‘Stop, stop,’ said the squire, ‘what are you stamping for?’ ‘To warm my
toes,’ was the answer. ‘But do you not see how you shake down the salt?’
‘Not more than you shook down the wheat,’ was the reply. And so, as they
acknowledged, ‘they got a fair trade between them.’”

There was a youth on board whom I regarded with curiosity; he bore so
striking a resemblance to Brom Bones, the hero of Sleepy Hollow, that
nothing was wanting but the fox’s tail in his hat to complete the
similitude. I felt an unconquerable inclination to learn something of
this ‘roystering blade,’ and for this purpose, I stepped up to a young
man, with whom he had just been conversing, and was very soon fully
gratified. From this informant I learned a few circumstances concerning
the hero in question;--that, like his model, he was fond of a spirited
horse; and that he had lately figured conspicuously in a race--not with
a goblin for a gallon of cider, but with a more substantial personage in
the form of a deacon. I quite forget his name, for the image of Brom
Bones was so correctly delineated in my mind, that it entirely
obliterated his proper name from my memory.

It is necessary here to explain that in some townships in New England, a
law is very properly enacted, against all Sunday travelling, except for
the purpose of going to, and returning from a place of worship; any
violation of which is visited with a fine of ten dollars.

A few Sundays ago, this Brom Bones accompanied with his negro in a very
light wagon[C] drawn by an excellent horse, was out on a spree; and his
road lying close by a church, he determined to push forwards in defiance
of the law, and hazard the consequences; concluding that as the service
had commenced, he should meet with no interruption. As he dashed past
the church, he saw the horses belonging to the members of the
congregation, tied up under a row of high trees, as is usual on such
occasions in the summer; but to his dismay, he also saw the deacon,
bustling through the church-yard to mount his poney, as he _guessed_, to
give him chase.

Now, as one half of the fine goes to the informer, and as it is
represented with too much truth, alas, that these same deacons are
‘given to filthy lucre,’ look to thyself Brom Bones. Away went Bones,
and away went the deacon; the one impelled by the fear of losing ten
dollars, and the other stimulated with the hope of gaining five. Nor was
the chase without spectators; for a portion of the juveniles _guessing_
at what was up, from the sound of the wheels, and the sudden absence of
the deacon, slipped out to view the sport, from the hill on which the
church stood.

Bones’s confidence in his horse began to fail, as he perceived the
deacon gaining ground, and, like the beaver in the fable, he judged it
the best policy to relinquish a part, in order to save the whole. He
hastily gave a silver dollar to his negro, directing him to display it
fully in the eyes of the deacon, and then deliberately to let it fall on
the road. The negro obeyed; and the stratagem for that time had the
desired effect. The deacon dismounted--for what deacon that keeps a
store, would be so improvident as to ride over a dollar? While his
pursuer was securing the coin, Bones exerted all his energies to escape
from his clutches. But the deacon was quickly mounted, and again in the
field.

The negro hinted to his master that the deacon’s poney was ‘blowed,’ and
that another dollar would save the ten. Bones thought the experiment
worth trying, and furnished the black with the cash. Carefully did
blackey turn it in the sun, to ensure its being seen distinctly; for he
knew the race depended upon this point, as the deacon was just upon his
haunches. He dropped it, and the deacon alighted, gathered it up, and
speedily re-mounted. Five miles had now been ridden over with the utmost
speed, and both horses showed symptoms of distress--now hope prevailed,
and now fear, in the breasts of the contending parties. At length a
‘pretty considerable’ slough at a turn in the road suddenly appeared to
the horror of poor Bones, and closed the chase in favour of the deacon.
Bones’s horse and wagon were seized as security for the fine; and his
spiritual pursuer kept the two dollars as a remuneration for his
exertions.

I cannot say I admire these incidents; I must therefore plead their
decided marks of national character as an apology for their insertion.
The latter in particular, will illustrate the indecorous manner in which
sacred and pecuniary matters are here associated, more effectually than
if volumes of sentiment were written on the subject.

Albany is the second city in the state of New York, it contains, I
suppose, about 2500 inhabitants, a very large portion of which are
Dutch; here are to be seen the oldest buildings in the United States.

In order to see as much of the country as possible, we landed on our
return from Albany, at a small town a little below west point, and about
fifty miles above New York; having decided upon proceeding through the
country towns by whatever conveyance we could obtain. This may appear a
wild-goose scheme, but I think of it with much pleasure, as, in addition
to the beauties of the scenery, which were passing lovely, we had an
opportunity of seeing the villages and their inhabitants in their
unadorned simplicity. We were fully gratified, for the enjoyment more
than compensated for the inconvenience.

The place and neighbourhood where we landed, on the west bank of the
Hudson, consists of several thousand acres almost exclusively occupied
by families of Dutch extraction. They speak both Dutch and English
fluently, are a simple hearted class of beings, read their bibles, and
most cordially hate the Yankees.

I ought to have before explained this term, “Yankee”. It is applied by
all the Americans to the inhabitants of the five New England States,
viz. Vermont, Massachusets, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and
Connecticut. These same Yankees are reported by their southern
neighbours as being remarkable for inquisitiveness and roguishness; and
many of them acknowledge this equivocal species of compliment, and admit
its justice with complacency.--While here, we were told a farm had
recently been purchased in the neighbourhood by a Yankee, and that the
Dutchmen had submitted to some pecuniary sacrifice, in order to
re-purchase it. I asked the reason, and received this answer, “We were
frightened at him.”

Families descended from the earliest settlers inhabit the banks of the
Hudson. Their furniture, manners, and affairs, conduct the mind back to
the days of the pilgrim fathers. But nothing is declining here; new
houses are building, the forest is daily yielding to the axe, and all
things are in a state of active improvement. It is not in America, that
Sultan Mahmoud’s owls can endow their sons and daughters with ruined
villages.

The farmer here spins his own wool and flax, and generally weaves his
own cloth; he mends his own farming implements, consumes the produce of
his own land, and barters the remainder for other necessaries. As he
has neither rent, tithes, nor taxes to pay, it is no wonder that his
industry enables him to live in a state of absolute profusion.

Avowedly, I have never read any work completely through that has
appeared on the United States of America, but have formed my judgement
of the character of some from common report, and the few extracts that
have fortuitously fallen in my way. It appears to me, that the
observations of the Americans, respecting many of these publications are
nearly correct, viz. That they are penned to please some particular
party, and not to promulgate a true representation of facts.

I will just state one instance, which I copy from a work that I never
saw, till my attention was called to it this very hour. The authoress is
giving an account of the American farmers, whom she honours with the
designation of “Small landed proprietors, who farm their own freehold
estates.”

     “When in Maryland, I went into the houses of several of these small
     proprietors, and remained long enough, and _looked_ and _listened_
     sufficiently, to obtain a tolerably correct idea of their manner of
     living. One of these families consisted of a young man, his wife,
     two children, a female slave, and two young lads, slaves also. The
     farm belonged to the wife, and I was told, consisted of about
     _three hundred acres_ of _indifferent_ land, but all _cleared_. The
     house was built of wood, and looked as if the three slaves might
     have overturned it, had they pushed hard against the gable end. It
     contained one room of about twelve feet square; and another,
     adjoining it, hardly larger than a _closet_: this second chamber
     was the _lodging-room_ of the white part of the family. Above these
     rooms was a loft _without windows_, where, I was told, the “staying
     company” who visited them, were lodged. Near this mansion was a
     “shanty,” _a black hole_, WITHOUT ANY WINDOW, which served as a
     KITCHEN _and all other offices, and also as the lodging of the
     blacks!!!_

     We were invited to take tea with this family, and readily consented
     to do so.(!) Her female slave set out the great table, and placed
     upon it cups of the very coarsest blue ware, a little brown sugar
     in one, and a tiny drop of milk in another; no butter, though the
     lady assured us she had a “deary” and two cows. Instead of butter,
     she “hoped we would fix a little relish with our crackers,” in
     ancient English, eat salt meat and dry biscuits. Such was the
     fare!”

This lady must have been dreaming of a witches den. Only think of two
black boys and one man, and he the owner, to do the work on a farm
comprising three hundred acres of cleared land! And what premises!
Where could the men live, while engaged in the long and arduous
employment of clearing the land? There are no workhouses here, whence
gangs of paupers may be hired at pleasure. Reflecting on what I have
seen, I much question whether such a place as this could be found, as an
abode for human beings, in any part of the Union. Consider the
fare--salt fish and biscuits--and for English visiters too! Why, the
very mice would desert such a dwelling! The whole affair assumes such an
air of improbability, that if it contain even one single atom of truth,
that atom is buried in falsehood.

But the worst feature is, that this is advanced as a sample of
farm-house fare and farm-house hospitality in the United States. Verily,
I have lived in an American farm-house, I have dined and taken tea in
several, perhaps scores, in various directions from, and within a
hundred miles of New York; yet, I never saw any thing like this! The
farmers are much more censurable for their extravagant profusion than
for their meanness. And when they entertain European visiters, they are
so fond of displaying their abundance, that it is a very rare thing for
them to allow such guests to depart destitute of substantial tokens of
their liberality. In fact, many among them take care that their male
guests shall not leave their dwellings either sorrowful or sober.

Most freely do I admit, that persons of pure intentions may be mistaken
in trivial matters, and thus innocently mislead others; but truth is
quite as easily written as spoken, and should be particularly regarded
in a narrative on the domestic manners of a foreign nation. Here, all
fictitious descriptions, isolated cases, and every thing calculated to
mislead, should be entirely discarded.



CHAPTER V.

COUNTRY RESIDENCE.--THUNDER AND LIGHTNING.--CLIMATE.--CHEAP LAW.


After various excursions and much deliberation, we fixed upon a small
estate, comprising an excellent dwelling-house, with out-offices, and
above fifty acres of land, delightfully situated on Long Island, and
within about twenty-five miles from New York. This was the most
delightful residence, both for beauty of situation and internal
convenience that I ever inhabited, but with all its attractions, it was
the scene of my severest afflictions.

The agreeable change from city to country at the delightful season of
spring, made the first few weeks pass away most pleasantly. In this
quarter of the globe, winter reigns with undisputed sway, from the first
day of November to the last of April. At the close of this period,
nature, refreshed by so long a repose and enlivened by the genial warmth
of the sun, throws off the sombre robe of winter, and suddenly appears
clad in her most lovely attire. Birds of gay plumage resembling those
of the tropics, with woodland flowers of all hues, and the bright
foliage of the forest trees, simultaneously spring into existence with a
rapidity that with us, would be considered miraculous. As an instance, I
distinctly remember the buds of the trees being firmly closed on the
28th of April, and on the 12th of the following May, the foliage of the
whole of them was as fully developed as in the midst of summer.

Strictly speaking, the American spring is confined to the first
fortnight in May. It is a most delightful season, but sadly too short.
Birds, such as for beauty, I never before saw at large, enliven the
scenery with their bright plumage. Choice flowers, thick and numberless
“as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks in Vallombrosa” are here seen,
with their rich colours enhancing each others charms by a beauteous
contrast. While myriads of butterflies, not the small pale coloured
things of northern Europe, but creatures with wings of uncommon size and
beauty, contribute their share to increase this fund of pleasure.
Neither pen nor pencil can do justice to the landscape scenery at this
period, viewed as it is, through the medium of a clear atmosphere, that
imparts a glowing warmth and renders the whole truly enchanting.

Every rose has its thorn, and the same bright sun that calls into
existence these beauties, awakens also swarms of serpents and venomous
reptiles of every kind. The bite of some of these is attended with
distressing circumstances, and others among them, such as the black
serpent and the copper-headed viper, have been known to inflict mortal
wounds. I believe I am not whimsically affected, yet I could never look
upon these dreadful creatures without shuddering, as they wriggled their
way in odious contortions just from before my feet. The caution required
to avoid stepping upon them, and the fear of some that are known to
pursue the human species, greatly detracted from the pleasure of my
woodland rambles; and, like the sword impending over the head of
Damocles, dashed all my rural pleasure with fearful apprehension.

One day while walking in the garden, I narrowly escaped a bite from a
black serpent, which our man-servant afterwards succeeding in killing;
its skin was variegated with all the darker shades of different colours
beautifully arranged: it measured five feet two inches in length. After
this, I was determined to walk in no other than a clear path.

About the latter part of May the heat of the sun becomes oppressive.
Then, farewell to pleasure. Clouds of musquitoes are ushered into
existence, and myriads of flies fill every room. Now our dress, and
almost our lives, become burthensome, we fan ourselves from morning to
night and feel for those who are not blessed with an ice-house. Although
the common flies are extremely numerous, they bear no proportion to the
musquitoes in point of annoyance. These are considered as minor evils by
some persons, but as respects myself, the sharp stinging wounds
inflicted by the latter, will not be very soon forgotten. I was confined
to the house under medical treatment for a fortnight, in consequence of
a bite I received from a musquito. Certainly this is a singular case;
but still it furnishes a proof of their noxious powers. I have often
been told, that in their visitations, they respect the persons of those
who are accustomed to drink largely of rum; but to the truth of this
assertion my eyes and understanding refused their assent. Ablution in
this liquor, it is true, is very grateful after enduring a day’s
campaign with them; and as a lotion for allaying the pain produced by
these insects, it is certainly useful.

With the hot weather comes thunder and lightning, and rain. The latter
invariably falls in torrents, and if the wheat grew as high and as heavy
in the ear as with us, it certainly could never arrive at maturity. A
transatlantic thunder storm is truly sublime and terrible. The sky first
becomes covered with black clouds, the wind blows violently, the clouds
suddenly expand, and emit what appears to be a broad stream of liquid
fire; the thunder instantaneously bursts forth with a crash, that I
suppose, all the artillery in the world could not equal. This is usually
repeated twice or thrice, and the storm exhausted by its own violence,
is suddenly succeeded by a delightful calm. Æolus rends the vail of
black clouds from the face of the sun, which now seems to shine with
increasing heat and splendour; while the earth, being previously parched
with excessive heat, and now suddenly deluged with torrents of rain,
emits clouds of vapour, that for a short time envelope the landscape in
a dense fog. This is quickly dispersed by the excessive heat of the sun;
the arid earth again thirsts for moisture, and we soon forget the storm.
The opinion prevailing in Europe respecting the salubrity of the United
States, is more favourable than an examination will warrant. My remarks
on this subject are the result of a patient and most painful
investigation, aided by experience, alas, too dearly purchased. I shall
confine my observations on the climate to the first summer we passed in
America, and the succeeding winter; which, from being more uniform than
the last year, are less liable to objection. The state of the
thermometer and the variations of the winds, I select from a diary kept
by my husband during our residence in the United States. The greatest
heat this summer was a hundred and five degrees. From mid-day to five in
the afternoon, during the months of July, August, and September, the
thermometer ranged between ninety and a hundred degrees--seldom above
the latter, and in very few instances below the former; while the
universal stillness of the air, rendered the heat quite as overpowering,
and even more so, than the state of the index warrants us to suppose.

The climate, and its effects upon the constitution, are always
distasteful subjects to the Americans. They cannot subscribe to any
other doctrine, than that which recommends theirs as the most salubrious
climate in the world. This is asserted by them with as much confidence
as if it were a self-evident truth; and all who dispute it, are in
danger of being overwhelmed by a torrent of displeasure. A physician
paid us a visit one broiling day in July, and certainly did acknowledge
that it was then hot--but, checking himself, he observed, “that the heat
was nothing to speak of--just fair summer weather--hotter, no doubt than
in England--but the perfection of summer.” We observed that the heat
had, for some days past, been above ninety-six degrees in the shade. As
we expected, he manifested symptoms of incredulity, which however, we
soon dispelled by referring him to the thermometer, then standing at
ninety-eight degrees. In the absence of positive proof like this, they
will endeavour to evade the question in any way, rather than submit to
acknowledge any fact that would jeopardize the character of their
climate. And truly it is admirable, if a Jamaica summer succeeded by a
Moscow winter, under one parallel, be acknowledged the standard of
perfection.

I discovered to my sorrow, that the morning air here is not so wholesome
as in England; on the contrary, it is considered most pernicious. This
greatly perplexed me in selecting the best time for a walk. The
physician had interdicted the matutinal breezes--the mid-day was not to
be thought of--and the evening gales were very unwholesome, and
frequently as deadly and chill as the breath of the death angel. There
are no cool evenings here in the summer as with us, so refreshing and so
pleasant, in which we may luxuriate in all the delights of an evening’s
ramble. While the sun is above the horizon, he blazes away with
insufferable heat, and his descent is mostly succeeded by a chillness
that resembles the icy hand of death to the feelings, and frequently is
such in reality to those who are often exposed to its influence. The
sudden vicissitudes of the atmosphere, I consider the most dangerous
feature of the whole affair; for, incredible as it may appear, the
mercury has fallen from ninety-five to fifty-six degrees in the short
space of three hours. A variation of twenty or twenty-five degrees, in
the same period, is by no means an uncommon occurrence.

The houses in the country are almost universally formed of wood, the
best of them are faced with shingles (thin plates of cedar,) neatly
painted: these are by no means deficient in comfort. For the sake of
coolness in summer, they are so constructed as to furnish a shaded walk
on both sides: and when flowers are trained to climb up the pillars, the
whole has a very pleasing appearance.

During the hours of mid-day, no work can be done in the fields by the
white men; the “hands” therefore, return home and doze away the time in
the out offices, and work early and late in order to atone for their
meridian slumber.

The city is preferable as a place of residence during the heat of
summer. The neat awnings that shelter the whole of the side walks prove
an agreeable protection from the powerful influence of the sun’s rays,
when it is necessary to go from the doors. During the hottest part of
the day little is done by the gentlemen, besides loitering about,
reading the newspapers, and drinking iced punch, and other mysterious
compounds; while the ladies, reclining on the sofas fan themselves,
drink lemonade, and doze. Business transactions of all kinds occupy the
early hours of the morning; then the ice carts perambulate the city, and
provisions for the day are procured. After mid-day the streets are
deserted; those who have leisure, retire to doze away the hours; the
shopkeeper closes his doors and slumbers behind the counter; a solemn
stillness reigns, and the city seem forsaken and desolate.

The twilight is of very short duration, and the setting sun is succeeded
by a greater state of darkness than with us; but, as a compensation, the
moonlight appears clearer and much brighter, and in winter, it is truly
delightful.

The scorching summer usually terminates with September; and is succeeded
by a month of the most charming weather I ever experienced. This is
October--the American autumn. Now the sun’s dreaded rays lay aside a
portion of their fiery force, the forest trees begin to change the hue
of their leaves, and, instead of green, nature’s universal livery,
colours of all shades gradually appear, from the dark purple to the
lightest yellow. The immense variety of trees accounts for the many
coloured foliage, and if variety be charming, it is here beheld in
perfection--not merely the sombre tints seen at the same season in an
English coppice--but purple, red, brown, and every colour that can be
produced on the palette of the artist.

This is likewise the season for abundance. Apples, the finest in the
world, peaches, melons, and fruit of every kind that grace the orchard,
are produced in such profusion, that even in the city they are sold for
very little more than the expense of their carriage. Maze, which is here
cultivated with singular care and judgement, is now seen in every
direction, waving its purple tassels in the breeze; and imparting a
peculiar character to the landscape scenery.

The iron reign of winter usually commences about the middle of November.
From that time till the last days of April the weather is excessively
cold, but the atmosphere it must be allowed, is delightfully clear and
pleasant to the eye. Were it a matter of choice, and were I doomed to
live in America, I should certainly prefer a perpetual winter, cold as
it is, to the broiling summer and its extreme variations, with their
dreaded consequences.

The lowest point of the thermometer this winter was three degrees below
zero. This was in January, but for several days it was below ten
degrees, and for weeks, it seldom rose higher than eighteen. Although
the cold in winter is very severe, still very little rain falls; or I
should rather say, rain seldom falls; but hail, sleet, and snow comes
plentifully in storms of considerable duration. In the absence of these
the air is cold indeed, but delightfully pure and translucent.

The changes of the thermometer in winter are neither so sudden nor so
rapid as in summer, but the winds are as fickle then, as during any
period of the year. Those from the north and the west are equally cold,
and the _north-west_ wind is dreaded in winter more than any other.
Frequently the wind will _suddenly_ veer from a particular point of the
compass to the one diametrically opposite. I never knew this to take
place in England.

According to what I have advanced, the greatest heat during this year
was 105°, and the greatest cold 3° below zero; the extreme variation
therefore, will be 108°. Hence it appears, that during the summer, New
York, which is situated about 40° of latitude, endures the heat of Egypt
or Arabia, and, in winter, the cold of Stockholm or Petersburg. Nor is
this all, for in no part of the old world, are the diurnal vicissitudes
of the atmosphere either so sudden or in such extremes. Petersburg is
cold in winter and cool in summer: Egypt is never absolutely cold--but
the climate of the eastern shores of North America is ever variable, and
alone uniform in unwholesomeness.

The _miasma_ produced by the heat of the sun, from the vegetable matter
deposited in the numberless marshes, that every where abound in an
uncleared country, is another fruitful source of disease. Then there are
sicknesses arising from local causes. With a climate marked by such
extremes of temperature, and vicissitudes so sudden, combined with the
pestilential effluvia arising from vegetable decomposition, there can be
no wonder if America is one of the most unhealthy places in the world.

Had I been in possession of these facts before I crossed the Atlantic, I
should no doubt have concluded as I am now compelled to do, by
dear-bought experience; but no work that I could meet with was
sufficiently explicit on this point; all the information I could collect
was delivered in terms too vague and indefinite to arrest the attention.

Many persons from Europe have visited the United States, for the
prudential purpose of making an experiment, prior to their removal
thither to spend the remainder of their days. They have, perhaps, landed
just in the most healthy season of the year, and their attention being
wholly engrossed by pecuniary matters, they entirely overlooked the
subject of health. Attracted by novelty and charmed with the prospect,
they have sent for their families and enrolled themselves as citizens;
but a year’s experience, attended with a few fits of sickness, dispels
the delusion, and convinces them, that the same country that appears so
pleasant to the eye of a visiter, may present a different aspect when
adopted for a permanent residence.

It is not my intention to dwell long in detailing the afflictions of my
own family from ill health, but I cannot, with justice to my readers,
omit all notice of this circumstance. We suffered the most in the
country with the bilious fever, and the distressing attacks of the
chills; but I am thankful to say, none of us sunk under these
visitations. With the exception of one little girl, myself and my family
consisting of five individuals, besides three servants, were all at the
same time confined to our beds. Many of our neighbours were in the same
condition as ourselves, and I fear some were far worse. No relief could,
therefore, be expected from that quarter. Our medical attendant was
himself at the point of death, and the attention of others was wholly
engrossed by their own connections.

So general was the epidemic, that no doubt, numbers were lost for want
of proper attention, and those few who were well, and from motives of
commisseration or curiosity, were induced to pay us a short visit,
_entertained_ us with the peculiar distresses of a long list of the
dying and the dead. I hourly expected some of us would bid adieu to this
world, and then the most I could hope for, was a silent interment in
unconsecrated ground, with no other requiem than the ocean’s deep moan
as it laved the neighbouring shore, or the sighing of the breezes on the
trees of the forest.

Providence, however, did not forsake us. One evening, a person chanced
to call who knew my husband, and at his own suggestion, took our horse
and wagon and went in quest of assistance. Contrary to our expectations,
his exertions were crowned with success. He returned with a clever
active American woman, to whom we were under great obligations, for she
acted both as physician and nurse, and soon made us all as comfortable
as circumstances would permit. From that day we began to recover, though
it was months before the dreaded disorder entirely forsook us.

In contemplating the manners, customs, and affairs of this singular
people, I am constrained to admit that there is much to admire, and many
things worthy of commendation. Among these, the general character and
circumstances of the great mass of the people stand prominently forth.
In consequence of the high price of labour of every kind, and the
comparative ease with which the essentials of life may be obtained, the
very lowest of the people are well clad, and take a laudable pride in
appearing clean and smart after the toil of the day is over. The theatre
is the grand point of attraction for numbers; others assemble in reading
rooms, or attend lectures, or religious meetings; taverns and spirit
stores have their share of frequenters; while some few congregate to
read and hear read the wisdom of Thomas Paine, and his coadjutors in the
cause of infidelity. But, in justice it must be admitted, that very few
prostrate their time to this latter purpose.

None of those ostensible instances of deep moral degradation, the
wretched offspring of infamy and want, that force themselves, as it
were, upon our notice in our densely populated cities, are to be met
with here. Nor did I ever notice any of those extreme cases of abject
destitution--so painful to contemplate, but still so numerous with us.
In fact, during the whole period of my residence in the United States, I
never saw the face of a single beggar.

There are no poor’s rates, and the few whom misfortune has rendered
proper objects for eleemosynary aid, find refuge in alms-houses
supported by voluntary contributions.

The universal diffusion of knowledge is another pleasing object of
contemplation. Public schools are numerous and well supported; and as
almost the whole population to a man, are ardently engaged in the
promotion or pursuit of political schemes, of one kind or another, it
would be a remarkable circumstance were their children incapable of
reading the newspapers.

Another grand stimulant to exertion in educational matters, is to be
found in the acquisitive disposition of the people, and their love of
commercial enterprise. Stripling tradesmen are here to be met with in
numbers, pushing their various undertakings with all the ardour and
recklessness of youth, seconded by an hereditary thirst for gain. Hence,
from one cause or another, I conceive it would be a very difficult
matter to find in any part of the Union, a native-born American arrived
at years of maturity, incapable of writing and keeping his accounts.

It were much to be wished that the planters in the south, and other
slave-owners, would bestow some little care upon the instruction of
those unfortunate beings, that the chances of power have consigned to
their charge. Yet so far are they from encouraging even the commonest
kind of instruction, that were the “schoolmaster abroad” here, he would
be saluted with one clamourous war-whoop, throughout the whole of the
slave states of this land of liberty. The legislators of Virginia in
particular, have immortalized their humanity, by making it penal for any
one to teach a negro to read, or to be found aiding, encouraging, or
abetting in such an intellectual abomination!

Yet let me not be understood as speaking of the literature of the United
States, in terms of unqualified praise. All their literary characters,
who are considered clever by us, have reaped their laurels on British
ground. As for the rest I can say very little. A few novels, written in
the angels and despair style of Charlotte Smith, and two or three
volumes of poetry were all that I ever saw. They are good things in
their way--that is, good as opiates. I remember once to have been so
scolded for speaking disrespectfully of one of their poets, that if I
may be forgiven for the past I will do so no more.

But to resume the subject seriously, I think I am safe in asserting that
there is no literature in the United States--or at least very little of
sterling merit; whatever may be the pretensions of some. For surely the
“things of a day” poured from the periodical press, in the form of
newspapers and magazines cannot with propriety be called a nation’s
literature.

And here let me observe, that the newspaper press of England is as far
superior to that of the United States, as Scott’s historical novels are
to the romances of the last century. It is also worthy of remark, that
the American press is as far below the intellectual standard of their
people, as the London press is above that of ours. Intelligence like
money, with them is more equally distributed. The merchant and his clerk
are generally on a par with respect to mental culture, while the porter
in the warehouse is very few removes below either. On the other hand,
profound scholars and men of great opulence are equally rare; and the
nation may be said to be alike free from the influence of great
capitalists and extreme destitution.

There is something pleasingly simple and patriarchal in the management
of their rural affairs. The ploughing with oxen, and the use of these
animals in treading out corn, forcibly reminds us of the scenes and
usages in scripture history. The alacrity with which the natives combine
to assist a widow, a poor neighbour, or a stranger, deserves to be
recorded in terms of the highest commendation.

As an illustration of the above remark,--suppose a farmer, from some one
of the many causes of affliction to which all are liable, becomes
incapable of cultivating his land. His neighbours repair to his house by
appointment, with their oxen and implements; turn into his fields, and
plough, sow, and harrow every acre on his farm that requires these
operations. At the conclusion of their labours, they refresh themselves,
if their friend be able to make suitable provision for such a number; if
not, they return contentedly home, satisfied with the consciousness of
having performed a meritorious action.

If their united assistance be required in harvesting the crop, it is
cheerfully given; and he who ill-naturedly withholds his aid, subjects
himself to the eternal ban of the whole community. On one occasion of
this nature, I saw nineteen ploughs at work in one field. Nothing
displays the American character in so benevolent a point of view, as
this unity of co-operation in cheerfully assisting those, whom
misfortune has deprived of the power of assisting themselves.

That equivocal species of blessing, cheap law, is another of those
peculiarities that forcibly arrests the attention of strangers. The
lawyers are here a host, surpassing in number the military, naval, and
police forces united. They comprise men of all shades of talent and
character, from the very highest to, alas, the very, very lowest.
Doubtless, as with us, they look upon their clients as tradesmen do upon
their customers, as a source of profit and honourable competition. But
in a nation of obstinate sticklers for trifles, where almost every tenth
man is a lawyer, and where a cause may be tried for ten dollars, there
is reason to fear that sharpness is sometimes thrust a little beyond the
verge of honesty by some, despite the profession being gilded with the
flattering distinction of honourable.

But the practitioners are not entirely to be blamed--the principle is
objectionable. Should any desire to witness the developement of the
cheap law system, in all the glories of its confusion, he may behold it
here. Suits at law are perpetually throwing the peace of even rural
society into convulsions. Causes are tried and re-tried, till the
expences stop the current of litigation, which a wholesome view, at the
onset, of heavy costs in perspective, would have prevented from flowing.

Many of the small country justices or “squires” as they are here called,
are elected to the office, without any regard to their legal knowledge
or intellectual capabilities. The voice of party frequently raises these
Daniels to the judgement seat; and as they obtain a criminal bonus upon
every cause, their desire to promote litigation has never been called
into question. The consequence of all this is, that the law, from being
placed within the reach of every one, is become a powerful promoter of
discord, and actions are commenced to gratify the malevolence of some,
or the oppression of others, while hatred, malice, and uncharitableness
are the certain result.



CHAPTER VI.

EMIGRATION.--CONCLUSION.


[Several individuals having expressed their regret that the subject of
Emigration had not received greater attention in the former editions of
this little work, the writer yields to the general wish, and designs
this chapter to supply the deficiency. At the same time, she feels bound
to acknowledge her obligations to her husband, for suggestions on those
subjects that lie beyond the legitimate province of her sex.]

Emigration considered as a measure of state policy, has recently
employed the thoughts of some of the most eminent characters of the age;
but I design to pass by their speculations, and confine myself entirely
to the domestic phasis of the question. It is doubtless an important
subject, and one well calculated to prove a powerful expedient, either
for good or for evil, as it ever has proved to the majority of those who
have ventured their temporal welfare upon the result.

Persons frequently take extreme views of emigration. Some to whom
novelty and adventure has charms, have invested this subject with all
the attractions a sanguine immagination could portray. These are
dangerous characters as writers, and certainly incur a responsibility in
exact proportion to the circulation of their remarks. Their florid views
of a sublunary paradise shine only in fancy. On the other hand, some who
are cased in adamantine ignorance, or home-cured in paternal smoke,
receive every remark on this subject with a sneer. These regard the
whole affair as a matter of transportation, and would starve on
patriotic principles rather than forsake the land in which they were
cradled, either for their own benefit, or for that of any one else. With
both these classes I am at issue; and leaving those to enjoy their
prosperity to whom this speculation has proved successful, I proceed to
notice some of the more prominent causes of the failure of those who
have been disappointed.

The first unpropitious speculation of this character, that I can
recollect, occurred several years since, before I knew America, to a
host of misguided individuals who emigrated purely from political
motives. They were opposed to a monarchy; and as they had been in perils
oft and in prisons oft, for the sake of their beloved republican
principles, or something worse, they flattered themselves that the
free-born citizens of the new world would receive them with fraternal
affection, and celebrate their landing with songs and rejoicing. In this
land of promise they expected to luxuriate in undisturbed enjoyment,
each under his own vine and his own fig-tree; where, safe from the
troublesome trammels of the law, they might sing “Down with all kings
and let millions be free.”

Poor creatures! How great was their disappointment. Where they hoped for
affection they were met with aversion, and contempt instead of
admiration.

A total indifference to the domestic policy of other countries is one of
the characteristics of the Americans. They are always too much engaged
in their own election schemes to notice the opinions of foreigners,
especially such as profess intemperate principles in politics and
religion. Such they regard not only with caution but even with
undisguised suspicion, as an indefineable species between the infidel
and traitor.

Is it then any wonder that these men were disappointed? Those among them
who were blessed with the means of escaping, made their exit as speedily
as practicable, while some that remained abused the government,
committed acts of violence, and closed their career in a prison.

One cause of the failure of these enterprises, may be ascribed to the
tenacity with which so many cling to the business to which they have
been brought up, and to all the peculiar modes of operation to which
they have been accustomed. It is much to be regretted that too many
import so large a share of self-confidence, and are so blindly
prejudiced in favour of whatever is considered the standard of
perfection in their own country, that they cannot allow themselves to
reflect, that what may be admired in one kingdom, may be viewed with
indifference by another people. Hence they become impatient, when from
their pardonable ignorance of local peculiarities with regard to their
respective occupations, they find themselves compelled to learn where
they expected to teach; and many sacrifice their future prospects to the
present gratification of their splenetic humour.

Now, in this case, instead of leaving the country and abusing the
Yankees to the end of their days, it would be the wiser plan for all
emigrants to conciliate the good will of their new neighbours, and yield
to circumstances which they cannot control, rather than create enemies
by a fruitless course of opposition.

The Americans, generally speaking, pride themselves upon the versatility
of their skill. One plain countryman can perform almost every operation
in the arts of common life, that a pair of hands are required to
perform: I do not mean that he can execute all he attempts in a finished
style of excellence. No; but he can transact in a respectable manner, as
many different orders of work as we should consign to twenty different
artificers. This arises from the peculiarity of their position. In a
thinly inhabited country, no one knows what he may be compelled to do in
passing through life, and therefore, every parent wisely prepares his
offspring for the vicissitudes of fortune by a judicious course of
manual instruction. Hence the use of the hands in the performance of any
office not exactly menial, is here considered no more derogatory to the
dignity of the highest character in the Union, than the exercise of the
intellectual faculties. It is on this account, that they are apt to
regard a stranger with some degree of contempt, who either from pride or
ignorance, refuses to put his hand to any thing beyond the identical
branch of business in which he has been regularly instructed. I could
adduce some striking instances in illustration of this point; but I
shall content myself by relating two that occurred within the sphere of
my own knowledge.

My husband met with one of our countrymen at Tappan, in the state of New
York, about ten days after Christmas. He was a wheelwright, had landed
eight days since, and could obtain no employment. He seemed greatly
disappointed and dejected and was just upon the eve of returning home.
The absurdity of this step was pointed out to him. He was informed that
he had landed upon a most inauspicious day--that the Americans make a
general practice of doing no manner of work, for the three weeks
following Christmas; and that, in order to give the country a fair
trial, he should remain at least till the complete expiration of that
period. To deal fairly with him, it was hinted, that even then,
possibly, he might not find _immediate_ employment in his own peculiar
craft, and if so, he was advised to apply at the shops of carpenters and
builders, where abundance of employment might be obtained by all who are
acquainted with wood work. This friendly hint settled the matter at
once. Evidently he thought it degrading to work as a rough carpenter,
even for a few weeks, and although he was offered employment in wood
work on the spot, he excused himself, observing, that he had seen quite
enough of the country, and that he would e’en return home.

“Your countrymen are a lazy saucy crew,” was the evening’s salutation of
our nearest neighbour, an opulent farmer of very industrious
habits.--There is something so venerable in the appearance of
three-score and ten, that it was not in our natures to ruffle the temper
of the patriarch by an acrimonious rejoinder. We knew he would recover
his proper feelings when he had delivered his sentiments, and till then
it would cost us nothing to wait. He took the offered chair and
explained himself in the following terms, as nearly as I can possibly
recollect.

“My son and I were carting sand from the beach this morning, when up
comes two strangers--a true born Englishman and a true born
Irishman--they asked for work. The Englishman said he could do any
thing, and the Irishman swore he could do every thing. We soon agreed;
and I left these men with my son to cart sand, while I went up the
fields to look after the blacks. At dinner time the strangers came and
asked me to set them to better work. I said _that_ must be finished
first. In short, they abused the country, and said they did not come to
America to cart sand. So I paid them their half day’s wages, and they
are gone. Pray what kind of work do farming men do in your country? Does
one man hold up the train of his mistress, and another water the roses?”

“Now,” continued the narrator, “here are a couple of men, one indeed has
grown too big for his coat, and the coat of the other is too short, but
they have a pair of hands each like ourselves, and yet they are too
proud to use them!”

We assured our ire-fraught friend, that idleness is as commonly clothed
with rags in Europe as in America; and we consoled his troubled spirit
by predicting, that our countryman with a short coat, would find it
_long enough_ before he got a new one.

I believe it is generally conceded, that emigrants who bring over with
them a considerable sum of money--say from two to ten thousand pounds,
miss the road to prosperity much more frequently than those that land
with comparatively nothing. This problem admits of an easy solution. The
mode of doing business in the United States, partakes so strongly of the
spirit of adventure, that commerce is fairly reduced to a species of
gambling speculation. On landing, the aspiring stranger finds that money
goes farther here than at home; hence he conceives himself to be a
person of greater consequence. If he have fair letters of introduction,
his society is courted by men of all shades and grades of property and
reputation; some of these may be men of substance--others so only in
appearance. Among these last, will be found a plentiful assortment of
adventurers, all ready to conduct him, through the medium of some
speculation or other, to the temple of Plutus. It generally follows,
that he embarks his property in a variety of adventures, some of which
may succeed. In this case, he extends his sphere of commercial
enterprise, and thinks it incumbent upon him to enlarge his
establishment also, and to support his pretensions to unbounded wealth
by a display of fashionable ostentation. Sooner or later, he perceives
that, through his ignorance of the thousand things that no foreigner is
expected to know, he has been floated beyond his depth--no opportunity
is afforded of retracing his steps, and he is at last engulphed in the
quicksand of irremediable ruin.

Even in my limited sphere of observation, I met with several individuals
who had landed, each with thousands at command; and it is a melancholy
truth, that not one of these is now above the second order of commercial
clerks. Truly they enjoyed one of the advantages of a republican
government, for however they might differ with respect to their notions
of political _liberty_, their circumstances presented a tolerable
specimen of _equality_; and to the honour of the new world’s hospitality
they freely acknowledged, that they had all been strangers and _were all
taken in_!

I have elsewhere observed, that the inebriate must be so thoroughly
weaned from his bad practices, as to be beyond the reach of temptation,
before he can reasonably hope to derive any solid advantages from
residing in a country, where firewaters are cheaper than milk.

The indolent form another class whom no change of country can benefit.
The smart quick step, and the general alacrity of movement practised by
operatives of all orders, would grieve the spirit of a lazy fellow who
is compelled to earn his living by manual exertion. He would discover
that the high price paid for labour, impelled the employer to look sharp
after his men--then there is the contempt of his fellows, and a thousand
other things that would combine to harrass the quiet mind of this poor
persecuted man, while against this Pandora’s box full of evils, he has
but one solitary comfort as a set-off--the distressing fever and ague
which carries off its thousands, would find him too lazy to shake!

Those who possess a moderate share of the comforts of life at home, with
a fair prospect of retaining them, should never think of emigration.
They have not been sufficiently disciplined in the school of adversity,
to estimate properly the common comforts of life, and I sincerely advise
no one to expect any thing beyond this standard.

Having described the order of persons who ought not to emigrate,
together with the causes that have conspired to blight the prospects of
the unfortunate, I proceed to notice those to whom emigration may be
beneficial, and to point out the qualities required to ensure success.

The thousands and tens of thousands in various parts of our own country,
who find the greatest difficulty in obtaining a sufficiency of
employment, and are reduced to the necessity of disposing of their time
and labour for a mere shadow of remuneration, though they are the very
persons that would reap the greatest advantage from emigration, yet the
want of the means, sorrowful thought! is with them an insurmountable
obstacle. There is however hope for the class immediately above them.
The small but industrious tradesman, the artificer, and a numerous order
of persons, who are not exactly so poor as to be absolutely incapable of
raising the means for removing, and yet from competition, and various
other causes, are kept in a perpetual state of thraldom through fear of
poverty. These and all others who are extremely anxious to bring up
their families in credit and respect, and yet in spite of the most
strenuous exertions, united to privations the most humiliating, find
themselves incapable of accomplishing their wishes. Such may peruse this
chapter with interest--let them do so with circumspection.

From all I can learn, there is no country under heaven where manual
labour, attention, and personal exertion of every kind, meet with a
richer and more certain reward than in the United States.

I have had the advantage of becoming acquainted with the experience of
great numbers: some who have won their way to affluence, and others to
the enjoyment of comparative independence, and, however they may differ
in particulars, one general line of conduct seems to have been pursued
by them all. They were steady, frugal, and industrious; and when
subordinates, _they never relinquished one post till they had secured a
better_.

It is a debated point, whether married pairs with families, or young
people are most eligible for emigration. Doubtless the experiment may be
made by the latter with far less risk of personal comfort or pecuniary
sacrifice, in the event of disappointment. But still the numerous
facilities that a new country affords, for the bringing up of children,
for their useful employment as they grow up, and the unbounded field for
exertion, and easy means of support that lies open for all when arrived
at mature years, inclines me to pronounce the chance of success in
favour of the former--provided the parents be not too far advanced in
life; for elderly people do not transplant well.

The amount of property necessary to start with, depends greatly upon the
line of life the party is desirous of following. It is of little
consequence what a _young man_ takes over for he is almost sure to lose
it; and it were better to leave him to become the architect of his own
fortunes; but a few scores or hundreds might probably be well disposed
of in securing many advantages for a married man. To these and all
others who bring over property, I would repeat the advice which I heard
the British consul once deliver on a similar occasion. PASS ONE ENTIRE
YEAR IN THE COUNTRY BEFORE YOU PART WITH A SINGLE DOLLAR IN ANY
IMPORTANT INVESTMENT. This sentence deserves to be written in letters
of gold, as those can tell who have pursued an opposite course.

But it may be asked, What would you have a man do who has only a few
scores or hundreds--it may perhaps be spent before he has attained the
knowledge required to dispose of it profitably? To such a one I would
say--_take good care of your money_. For the sake of your own peace and
the preservation of your property, give no one reason to suppose you
possess any thing worth having. Seek employment as soon as you land, and
if you cannot obtain exactly what you wish, take for the present, what
you can get. While you remain in your first place, which it is presumed,
will be in the city, you will have an opportunity of gaining for
nothing, information, the value of which you can form no adequate idea.
It is possible that at first you may obtain a place that you consider
degrading; but be assured nothing is thought dishonourable in America
but what is immoral or useless; and an undesirable post is easily
relinquished when you have secured a better.

If you are desirous of locating yourself on a farm, it will be best
first to hire yourself to a farmer. Here you will acquire information
respecting the value of land, which is more fluctuating than any other
description of property.

It is generally admitted that the intelligence which is procured on the
spot is the most accurate; for the value of every species of property is
subject to variations so sudden, and in such extremes, that a list of
particulars deserves no dependence.

Still, amid all these changes, the prices paid for labour and provisions
remain pretty steady. Of these, the following list expressed in English
money, will give a correct idea. It is drawn up with due consideration,
and the prices quoted, may be safely relied upon as being fair averages.

    Common Labourers                              4s. [symbol for "per"] day.
    Mechanics, Shoemakers, and Tailors          5s. to 6s.                “
[D] Farming Men Servants           £1 15s. to £2. [symbol for "per"] month.
[D]    “    Boys                           £1  4s. to £1 8s.           “
[D] Waiters in Shops and Clerks    £40 to £70 [symbol for "per"] year.


                              PROVISIONS.

Beef, Mutton, Veal, and Pork           2½d. to 3d. [symbol for "per"] lb.
Fine Wheat Flour                  1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d. for 14 lbs.
Tea    3s. to 5s. per lb.--Sugar      3½d. to 5d. [symbol for "per"] lb.

The price of clothing, hardware, and a variety of other matters, depends
greatly upon the judgement of the purchaser, and his acquaintance with
the random mode of doing business practised throughout the country.
Sometimes these may be obtained very cheap--sometimes they are very
dear. English gold and silver coin bear a premium of about twenty per
cent.--but let the stranger be careful _what description of paper_ he
receives in exchange.

Steam and sailing vessels, fitted up for passengers, admit of two, and
sometimes of three orders of accommodation. The _cabin_ is fitted up in
a splendid style for gentlemen and ladies; provisions of all kinds are
supplied at about thirty guineas each. A very comfortable berth may be
obtained in the _midships_ of some vessels, for five or six pounds. The
_steerage_ is the lowest; here a passage may be obtained for from four
pounds, to--I know not what sum downwards--perhaps thirty shillings. In
these two last departments, passengers are required to furnish
themselves with provisions for six weeks. Persons of circumscribed means
are advised to make enquiries of disinterested individuals on the spot,
and not pay for their passage till the vessel is just on the eve of
sailing.

CAUTION--CAUTION--CAUTION is required by the emigrant at every step:
from the contract for his passage to his final settlement in his adopted
country, this quality cannot be dispensed with.

Unfortunately the climate of the United States, was found to be so very
prejudicial to the health of my husband and family, that we were
compelled to relinquish all thoughts of remaining; and as we had given
the land of liberty two year’s trial, and had suffered nearly two year’s
affliction, we decided upon leaving those to share its blessings, whose
constitutions were better adapted to enjoy them. But it would be unjust
to conclude, that because we were unsuccessful, others will be so also.
Want of health was our calamity. In this case, I can give no opinion
with respect to others;--here individual experience can alone decide.

Let those who contemplate crossing the Atlantic carefully weigh the
contents of these pages; they were penned for the purpose of imparting
useful information, whose foundation is truth. The writer has no party
spirit to gratify; no interest to serve; and she will be as happy to
find that she has been the means of obstructing an unfortunate
speculation, as that she has promoted a happy one.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot conclude without paying a tribute of respect to the exalted
character of the American ladies. They certainly take precedence of the
other sex, both in moral excellence and intellectual refinement; and in
a religious point of view, they furnish a noble instance of consistency,
in preserving themselves uncontaminated amid the acquisitive
propensities, and unamiable manners of their sovereign lords.

Were it not for the climate, I could have spent my days there with a
fair proportion of comfort, for I met with much kindness. I cherish no
feelings of animosity against the Americans, though I have given my
opinion freely on their affairs: to this they can have no reasonable
objection; for as they allow freedom of speech amongst themselves, they
cannot consistently deny the same to a foreigner.


             D. I. ROEBUCK, PRINTER, GRACE STREET, LEEDS.


                              FOOTNOTES:

[A] General Hamilton, a man much esteemed for his virtues.

[B] 1 Sam., xxviii., 14.

[C] This vehicle is universally used by the country people; it bears
no resemblance to an English wagon, but is in fact, the lightest
four-wheeled vehicle that can be conceived.

[D] These last board and lodge in the house.


       Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

          which the upper past=> which the upper part {pg 33}

          select from a dairy=> select from a diary {pg 100}

  it extreme variations, with=> its extreme variations, with {pg 106}

              to ensure succes=> to ensure success {129}





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